The ‘Arc of the Bufflehead’ is a major feature revealing the seasonal progression of productivity at the mouth of Roberts Bay, and through this glorious spell of clear cold weather, it has been the scene of a major feast. It is a Bufflehead Co-operative overseen by a Lord Burgomeister, a kleptoparasite.
It is a co-operative because the Buffleheads work in a non-stop milling fashion to churn up the kelp detritus from depths beyond the normal diving capacity of individuals ( typically < 3 m over the tide flats).
The base of the food chain is manifest on the surface by the arc of the slick lines that form ephemerally with the tidal change, as it interacts with the bowl or bathymetry at the mouth of the bay.
Today, and for the past week, dense flocks of 100 – 150 Buffleheads, many of them drakes and yearling males, have formed regularly along the oily crescent, beyond the red mooring bouy ( shown left of the sail boat in the photo). This slick pattern is most conspicuous under certain sea and wind conditions (which our Captain, Hugh Richards, and his Chief Mate, Christine, know only too well), and its position and band width reveal the intensity of the flow. The slicks are formed by organic oils associated with marine organisms, and the focus of the activity revolves around the aggregation of Brokenback or Hunchback shrimp. In turn, the accumulation of detritus is driven by the intensity of autumn storms.
It is a “ metabiotic” co-operative because the Bufflehead ( which owes its existence to the Flicker), is creating habitat that also benefits the Red-breasted Merganser, and the Glaucous-winged Gull ( Burgomeister in German) extorts the larger organisms from the Buffleheads, in exchange for vigilance.
The present large feeding co-operative follows the first major Sou’easter of November 17th ( at Trial Island the gusts reached hurricane force), the Mourning Moon of November 23, and the King Tides that usher in the Salish Moon of Siset, the Elders moon.
Le Petit Garrot, the ‘Little Shotbolt’, ou Garrot albeole (Bucephala albeola), est le plus petit plongeur du Canada, une espece nearactique, mer a mer a mer.