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


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