Getting to know the local birds

Friends of Shoal Harbour bird watching event helping to raise profile.

David Bird

It’s a bird, it’s a plane!

It was both.

A chilly walk along the Scoter Trail at Patricia Bay Park in North Saanich, saw a small group come out to a free guided bird watching tour hosted by Friends of Shoal Harbour.

A local non-profit stewardship group, Friends of Shoal Harbour have been around for 10 years, working to raise awareness about the Shoal Harbour Bird Sanctuary, which is in both Sidney and North Saanich, encompassing Tsehum Harbour and Roberts Bay.

The migratory bird sanctuary, which was established in 1931 as part of the migratory bird convention act, is one of the oldest bird sanctuaries in Canada.

Chair of the Friends of Shoal Harbour, Sue Staniforth said the sanctuary isn’t very well known and not labeled on many maps.

“It just represents a really amazing diversity of plants and animals …” she said.

This year is the second year they have held the tour.

Staniforth said they are not only trying to bring up awareness of the bird sanctuary, but also highlight some of the other areas on the Saanich Peninsula as well.

Saturday’s walk followed a trail along Patricia Bay. The group heard from expert birders who set up their scopes to get in close to view certain birds. There was also a natural history interpretation about the shellfish and sand dollars that live there as well.

Some of the birds there were surf scoters and the red breasted merganser. Staniforth said other birds that could also be found there are Sidney’s famous birds, the Buffleheads along with a variety of gulls, eagles, American widgeons and more.

After the tour, the group made their way to St. John’s United Church to enjoy a supporters tea. They heard a presentation that included some cultural history, music and poetry.

Staniforth said one of the things they are trying to do is bring awareness to the other two migratory bird sanctuaries in the region: Victoria Harbour and the Esquimalt Lagoon.

She also spoke on the partnership with Nature Canada to promote NatureHoods, which has a goal of connecting people to nature where they live.

Friends of Shoal Harbour’s partnership with Nature Canada is to establish a NatureHood program that centres on the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary and eventually to the Saanich Peninsula.