Right on time

Return of the Saanich Peninsula’s most punctual of birds means winter’s a-comin’

Jill Hawkins-French and Jim Gower

On or around every 298th day of the year, the Bufflehead ducks return to the Saanich Peninsula, alighting on their traditional feeding grounds of Roberts Bay and the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

This year was no different as the small salt water duck made a brief appearance the morning of Oct. 15 — All Buffleheads Day in Sidney and North Saanich. A crowd of people gathered at Roberts Bay to mark the occasion and to recognize some of the people key in making the bird part of the community’s heritage.

Former Sidney mayor Marie Rosko and former councillor Brenda Harfield were on hand to receive recognition for their work in helping change the Town of Sidney’s coat of arms — which today includes two Buffleheads. Rosko said the change was not popular at the time, but they persisted and now the coat of arms recognizes that Sidney and area provide a safe harbour for the Bufflehead.

Vern Jack, elected Chief of the Tseycum First Nation noted the Roberts Bay area, once a native village, was known for its food supply and abundance of wildlife. Today, he said, pollution has all but wiped out the clam and mussel beds there.

“We have to put our heads together and get the area back (in good shape),” he said.

Researcher Kerry Finley said the arrival of the ducks is a harbinger of frost.

“In two or three weeks, there will be more influx of migratory birds,” he said. “It’s a reliable prognostic of weather change in the fall.”

Local municipal and provincial representatives were on hand to praise the efforts of the Friends of Shoal Harbour in keeping the state of the sanctuary front and centre.

The Friends of Shoal Harbour host a workshop on conservation Sat., Oct. 19 at the Mary Winspear Centre at 9:30 a.m.