Ninth Annual Birdwalk and Tea

The Birdwalk and Tea event starts with a guided bird watching tour along the shores of the Saanich Peninsula, this year electing to follow the most frequently chosen route following the Scoter Trail on the west side of the Saanich Peninsula from the seaplane docks north to the Tsecum First Nation Reserve. Nineteen species of birds were observed this year, both waterfowl and land based. See list below:

Double Crested Cormorant, Horned Grebe, Glaucous-Winged Gull, other gull hybrids, Great Blue Heron, Pigeon, Bufflehead Duck, Mallard Duck, Golden Eye Duck, Common Merganser, White-Winged Scoter, Pacific Crow, Bald Eagle, Red-Tailed Hawk, Osprey, Black Vulture, White-Crowned Sparrow, Starling, Dark-Eyed Junco

St. John’s United Church (on West Saanich Road north of the Scoter Trail has regularly provided a meeting room as well as catering the refreshments.


Friends of Shoal Harbour (FOSH) Chair, Bob Peart welcomed the attendees and thanked the St. Johns refreshment crew (very fine cookies and such). His introductory remarks are reported here in note form:

  • FOSH is a citizen-driven advocacy group inspired by (1), a predecessor developed in the Great Lakes for Hamilton Harbour and (2) a local predecessor, the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary established in 1931.
  • In addition to public engagements such as the annual spring Birdwalk and the mid- October All Buffleheads Celebration, FOSH works closely with other similar environmental groups and with the three Peninsula municipalities (North Saanich, Central Saanich and the Town of Sidney (link to the Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition)
  • Other areas of engagement are the restoration of Roberts Bay, private moorage and its annoying consequence, abandoned boats . 


Jacques Sirois, Spokesperson for the Victoria Migratory Bird Sanctuary addresses attendees at the “Tea portion ” of the 2023 Birdwalk and Tea

From Jacques Sirois: Thanks to the Friends of Shoal Harbour Bird Sanctuary for inviting me at your ninth annual walk along Scoter Trail. Thanks for your commitment and energy, which inspired me to get involved with the revitalization of historic Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary a decade ago. 2023 will be a big year for us as we prepare to celebrate the sanctuary’s centennial (Oct. 27, 2023) with various initiatives. Stay tuned.

I enjoyed having another look at the restored beach (restored for spawning forage fish like Surf Smelt and Pacific Sandlance) in Patricia Beach, a great project of Peninsula Streams and Shorelines Society (PSSS). I am looking forward to see the Mermaid Creek area restored in Roberts Bay in the future. PSSS is also a great restoration partner in Victoria Harbour MBS with projects in Victoria Harbour (Lime Bay beach) and Portage Inlet (Hospital Creek estuary), for example

Jocelyn Gifford (also active with Friends of Roberts Bay) reports on the restoration of the Mermaid Creek estuary and efforts to create fireworks-safe zones to minimize the disturbance of birds, notably blue herons in the process of raising their chicks.

Photos courtesy of Rick Searle, drawings by Farrell Boyce

FOSH Ninth Annual Birdwalk & Tea

Next Sunday (April 23) we are gathering (1:30 pm) at the south end of the Scoter Trail (parking lot on the west side of West Saanich Road just north of the seaplane port). Rain or shine for both the guided walk and the gathering for refreshments and entertainment (3:00 pm) at St. John’s United Church (go north on West Saanich Road to the top of the hill opposite Deep Cove Elementary School). Rain or shine – we’ll have tents to keep you dry – but hope for shine!

Communication from the Roberts Bay Residents Steering Commitee

Dear neighbours and friends,

The last time we wrote to you it was December 5th, 2022 and the Maud J was being raised and towed out of  Roberts Bay. It seems like a long time ago!  We hope you are all warm and dry, enjoying the winter resident birds, and noticing the signs that spring will be here soon. This email contains information about:

  • Styrofoam on our beaches
  • Forage fish spawning on our beaches
  • Fireworks and the Bird Sanctuary
  • Bamberton Quarry expansion and water lease in the Saanich Inlet

Styrofoam (Extruded Polystyrene plastic)

Around January 1st, storms and king tides brought an explosion of styrofoam washing up on local beaches, including ours. As we all know, the big pieces break up into tiny round balls that look like food to many marine creatures. Lasqueti Island residents are leaders in documenting the issue and advocating for banning or regulating the use of styrofoam in the ocean.

DSCF1707 CopyPaddle Roberts EPS on Ardwell beach.JPG

Many of us make a point of picking up bigger pieces whenever and wherever we see them to prevent further break down on the beach. Some of the Roberts Bay Paddlers were picking up chunks out on the water. On December 30, 2022, the afternoon the tide was right for several Steering Committee members and  family to meet at the Ardwell beach access and work our way north picking up what we could. We left 2 bags of styrofoam and other debris beside the full trash receptacle where Town staff are happy to pick it up on their rounds. 

RBR styrofoam cleanup 2 -30-12-2022 group.jpeg
The province of BC has recently opened a consultation process for a Provincial Coastal Strategy. We encourage everyone to let the government know your concerns.

Forage Fish spawning on our beach

Isn’t it surprising that tiny surf smelt and sand lance spawn on our beaches in the winter? A recent survey of beach sediments near the Ardwell beach access found eggs for both of these species of forage fish which form a vital link in the food chain that feeds many larger creatures including salmon and orcas.  For more information, check out Peninsula Streams Beach Program

Fireworks and the Bird Sanctuary

In the fall of 2022, our emails included information about the new Fireworks Prohibition Zones for the Roberts Bay and Kelset/Reay Creek Environmentally Sensitive Areas in Sidney.  On Halloween evening, after the excited trick or treaters went home, the Roberts Bay shoreline was quiet except for some explosions on and near the Fifth Street beach access which disturbed Great Blue Herons, other birds and pets. Outside the Prohibition zone, some nearby areas, especially in and around Resthaven Park were very noisy with explosions. The problem with this is that Resthaven Park and Resthaven Island shoreline are part of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary just like Roberts Bay.  We have asked the Mayor and Councillors to include all Environmentally Sensitive Areas, especially the new one that includes Bird Sanctuary shoreline, in the Prohibition Zone. We are also working on a public education program.with Friends of Shoal Harbour to inform our community about  the bird sanctuary and why fireworks are not appropriate nearby. 

Bamberton Proposed Quarry expansion and water lease in the Saanich Inlet

You may have read in the Times Colonist or the Peninsula News Review about these 2 controversial applications. Roberts Bay Residents is part of the Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition. Fellow Coalition member, the Saanich Inlet Protection Society (SIPS) has been taking the lead in an attempt to get BC Environment to order an Environmental Assessment of the various projects underway at Bamberton. Michael Simmons of SIPS writes: 

“We need the help of everyone interested in Saanich Inlet. Please read on.

Malahat Investment Corporation, working with Coast Mountain Resources, is seeking to significantly expand the rock quarry. They are also seeking to extend the water lease for the dock extensively and obtain permission to trans-ship hydro-carbons, contaminated soils, scrap metal and creosote poles.
The planned volume of rock is almost 500,000 tons annually. That is twice the volume that would automatically trigger an environmental assessment for a new mine. Because the permit requests from Coast Mountain Resources have been requested and approved sequentially over the years with each being under the threshold, no environmental assessment has been required. The quarry will be deeper and more extensive than previously permitted. It will extend more than 1.5km from north to south. The intended use of the dock for importing contaminated soil potentially exposes the Inlet to heavy metals, PCBs, hydrocarbons and other substances that could cause damage to the environment.
SIPS made a formal request to the Provincial Environment Assessment Office (EAO) in November to conduct an Environment Assessment (EA) of these proposals. A draft report for Environment Minister Heyman released last week recommends there is no need for an EA. We are not giving up!
SIPS request for an Environmental Assessment has been overwhelmingly supported by our local governments, including the Tsartlip First Nation, Tsawout First Nation, MLA Adam Olsen, MLA Sonia Furstenau, Islands Trust, the Districts of Central Saanich, North Saanich, and Highlands. Over 180 letters were received by the government requesting an EA.
This is a call for your help. Please tell the government that an environmental assessment is a reasonable request, will support reconciliation, and is urgently needed.” 

If you think an environmental assessment is required, submit your comments at the EAO Public Comments website page which will be open until February 14th 2023. click here.

There is lots more information in the following links:  Saanich Inlet Protection Society (SIPS),MLA Adam OlsenWillis Point Residents.  

Thank you for reading this far. Next time we write, we should have a lot of information for you about the work planned for Mermaid Creek marsh and estuary this spring and summer!

We are always happy to hear from you. Jus write to

From the Roberts Bay Residents Steering Committee

Jocelyn Gifford, Patricia Shapka, Thierry Bodson, Mary Chu, Curtis Evans, Jane Hunte

“Our vision is to build a future in which our community lives in harmony with the living wonders of Roberts Bay and where the natural beauty and  functionality of the ecosystems of the bay are preserved and enhanced to ensure that this very special place remains a safe refuge for wildlife and a source of inspiration for its present and future residents and visitors.”