As predicted, the harbinger of old Jack Frost arrived early. At 08:07, Tuesday the 11th, a drake Bufflehead appeared on Roberts Bay under fine clear weather. It was not there when I turned on the CBC News and poured my first cup of java. It must have been very hungry because it quickly settled in to intensive foraging, in the usual area just off the Bufflehead Kiosk on Resthaven.

I wouldn’t recommend trying to be a Producer and Biologist simultaneously, particularly in the week leading up to ABD. With an eye on the bay – not only for Buffleheads but all first migrants – I had to break the vigil at 10:00 for a rehearsal with Ed Peekeekoot at St. Paul’s Church. Predictably though, the Bufflehead was right on time, conveniently, and so was Ed. I mentioned to Ed that it was also called the Little Conjuror. “Like Weesakajak, the Cree trickster”, Ed laughed.

By good karma, CHEK TV host Gordy Tupper called during our rehearsal, and wondered whether we could conduct an interview, at the spur of the moment. So we met at noon, under sunny skies and crisp clear air, with a stiff Nor’Easter blowing directly into the bay.

I was happy to see the Bufflehead still bobbing amidst the whitecaps, but since the cameraman had not brought a telephoto lens, it was a challenge for me to point it out, as it was diving intensely for Green Tanaids. Say what ? said Gordy. But it made for good drama, with Mount Baker standing spectacularly in the background. Imagine a National Migratory Bird Sanctuary within that setting. Documenting the First Messenger ; Premiere L’Hivernant, Le Petit Garrot ; Wapanosipsak. The Brilliant Bullhead.

Every first sighting – in twenty seasons now – has its own small drama, but none can be as memorable as the day that Ed Peekeekoot and the Bufflehead arrived together.

Meanwhile Jacques Sirois and the intrepid from the Victoria Natural History Society kept vigil over our Sister Sanctuaries in Victoria Harbour and Esquimault Lagoon. The latest word is that the Buffleheads arrived very nearly bang on the mark of 298. We are all one.

I’m very pleased to release here the phenological histogram of ABD on its 20th anniversary.

As it turned out, the Bufflehead sensed the oncoming severe storms.

My Blitzen from Muenster greatly enhances my perceptual senses in the high auditory and olfactory range, while my Bufflehead allows me to sense the oncoming storms. A living, Distant Early Warning system on the Pacific.

K.J. Finley


All Buffleheads Day to be celebrated on the beach on Saturday, October 15, 10 – 11 am!

You will find us at the intersection of Resthaven  Drive and Ardwell Avenue in Sidney.  From the HWY 17 north exit to Sidney, go east (seaward) on Beacon Avenue, turn left (north) onto Resthaven Drive and follow Resthaven to Ardwell. Beach Access is on the east side of Resthaven Drive. Park your vehicle on Ardwell Avenue.

PowerPoint Presentation

Also celebrating the return of the bufflehead ducks and other migratory waterfowl to their winter quarters on the foreshore of the Saanich Peninsula, a concert by well-known singer-songwriter Ed  Peekeekoot at 7:30 pm, Friday, October 14 with an illustrated talk by naturalist Kerry Finley. The venue is St. Paul’s United Church in Sidney (corner of Malaview Avenue and Fifth Street).

KJFinley_All Buffelheads poster_rev1


contribution from the Friends of Shoal Harbour

Its no laughing matter. Another rare species has been spotted in Shoal Harbour Sanctuary, quickly attracting the attention of elite, world birders from the Mainland and the Island. It was identified as a Laughing Gull, a small noisy gull of the American East Coast in summer and the year round on the Gulf Coast  and northern South America. They very rarely venture north of southern California, and this was the first photo-documented record for the West coast of Canada. The rare and wary bird spent two days on the mudflats providing many their species of a lifetime.

This the second time that a rare species has been documented in Shoal Harbour Sanctuary. The last was a Black Phoebe, another species that is extremely rare outside its southern range. It was observed under similar weather and climatic conditions in late June, 2011, as La Niña weather took shape

Birders July 9th

Ardent birders from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island converged on Roberts Bay on Friday, July 9th, to add a rare bird to their lists.

Gull 2

Laughing Gull feeding on the Roberts Bay mudflats, part of Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary on July 7th 2016, 13:01:03 PDT. This is the first photo-documented record for Canada’s west coast. (On the eve of the centenary of the first Migratory Bird Treaty).

Gull 1

Laughing Gull, a yearling bird, taking off with the much larger Glaucous-winged Gull, one of our common local gulls.