The delta and outwash plain of Mermaid Creek supports a diverse plant community from Dune Grass to the Sea Asparagus beds that are occupied by overwintering prairie and boreal ducks. Chief among them is the American Wigeon, or Baldpate as it was once known, that is unique among freshwater dabbling ducks, in its voracious appetite for Sea Lettuce or Ulva. Large windrows of Sea Lettuce have been accumulating on beaches on the delta and around the end of Fifth Street, a popular viewing point, overlooking Roberts Bay.
The richness of the estuarine community is recycled through Ulva in several ways. Most notably through the digestive system of the Wigeon which explains the luxurious carpet of Sea Asparagus. Buts its the Dune Grass, which anchors the fine sands, that benefits by stranding the Ulva at the highest tide reach, and deriving abundant nutrients from its decomposition. ( Which is why the Town sometimes receives complaints about the sewery smell in the area when the plant recycling system is thrown out of whack). Another important avenue of recycling is through the amphipod – Beach Hopper community, which in turn supports Mallards that require more concentrated protein than Wigeons.
Even without maximum storm tides coinciding with strong Sou,easters in this El Nino winter, the kelp and flotsam been deposited on adjacent lawns. The rising ocean is now lapping over the pavement on Fifth on a regular basis, and the storm sewer outlet is blocked every winter from shifting sand.
Sidney’s Emergency Measures document identifies this area of Roberts Bay to be highly susceptible to flooding from storm surges, as sea levels continue to rise. An integrated management plan, involving the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Town of Sidney, should consider this eventuality, and the importance of the delta to migratory birds, as a prime resting or roosting site, as well as a source of freshwater and nutrient filtering system.
American Wigeon, Mallards and Green-winged Teal resting on Mermaid Delta, 3 December, 2016