Celebrating Buffleheads

Friends of Shoal Harbour Sanctuary gather to greet ducks

MLA Murray Coell

New research into the migration patterns of the Bufflehead duck in the Sidney area shows they are more punctual than previously thought.

On All Buffleheads Day on Sunday, Oct. 14 however, there were none to be seen at Lillian Hoffar Park.

That doesn’t mean the little ducks aren’t around, says president of the Friends of Shoal Harbour Sanctuary Hugh Richards. The group held All Buffleheads Day drew a small crowd in the rain to welcome back the ducks. It is also designed, added Richards, to increase public awareness about the duck and the sanctuary’s ongoing challenges.

“The Bufflehead migration is an amazing wonder of nature that we need to recognize and celebrate,” he said.

Richards added it has been only in the last few years that the duck’s precision in its return to Shoal Harbour has become known. Protecting its winter habitat is now more important than ever, as the area is faced with both commercial and residential development impacts.

Kerry Finley, biologist and Friends of Shoal Harbour director, reported the Buffleheads “have broken their own record in punctuality, leaving the Swallows of Capistrano in the dust.”

“The world’s smallest diving duck, Buffleheads are renowned for their punctuality, both daily and seasonally, by the clock and by the calendar.”

According to Finley, who has been studying Buffleheads for some 15 years, All Buffleheads Day marks a statistical constant — the 298th day of the year when the ducks have a 67 per cent chance of arriving. He said they have no chance of arriving the next day (Oct. 15) but had an 80 per cent chance of arriving on Oct. 16.

“What it means is that Buffleheads arrive on target,’ Finley said, “or within three days, 80 per cent of the time.”

He stated he believes the pattern of consistency is due to a single variable — night length — which affects hormone levels and brings on the ducks’ migratory urge. This, he said, has ramifications in the prediction of weather patterns and the timing of their major flights from coast to coast.

What the Buffleheads might have brought to the area on Oct. 14, was a change in the weather.

As many stated on Sunday, “it’s great weather for ducks.”

 

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