The Buffleheads arrived early this year. They were first sighted on Roberts Bay by Kerry Finley at 7:15 am on Wednesday, October 9, a party of seven with two drakes.
The annual Buffleheads celebration wil take place at 10:00 am on Saturday, October 19. Everybody is welcome. The gathering place is in Sidney BC at the Ardwell Road beach acess to Roberts Bay. Roberts Bay is part of the 1931 Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The activities will include guided birdwatching and a childrens’ scavenger hunt. There will be maps and other displays, words of encouragement from members of local municipal councils, the Provincial Government, a progress report from the Chair of Friends of Shoal Harbour and more.. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions. Since Bufflehead ducks will have been in the area for ten days, thre is a very good chance that some will be in the vicinity to receive our encouragements.
A Bufflehead Primer courtesy of Naturalist K. J. Finley:
1.0 What are Buffleheads?
Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) are a small, black and white sea duck, with splendid iridescent colours. In summer, they inhabit the aspen parkland belt of Western Canada into Alaska. Buffleheads are strictly dependent on a woodpecker, the Northern Flicker, and have evolved their small size to fit the entrance to its nest cavity, usually in a
Buffleheads have a complex social structure and highly evolved society in which parental care is extended to both sexes.
2.0 Bufflehead Migration
Buffleheads migrate in family units headed by monogamous matriarchs and patriarchs. Because of their small size and specialized life, Buffleheads are physiologically
constrained by weather and the timing of freeze-up and melt of their ponds.
Buffleheads begin migration at dusk, leaving only under certain weather
conditions. Buffleheads migrate synchronously, precisely and overnight from coast to
coast, with the continental migration divide around the apex of Palliser’s Triangle, near the 110th Meridian (Alberta-Saskatchewan border) at the congruence of the Great Western Flyway.
Bufflehead migrations are not merely punctual, they are precisely so, revealing
order behind the apparent “veil of chaos” of weather. Although Buffleheads are renowned as Nocturnal Storm Riders, they are, more particularly, Surfers of Planetary Waves. Large-scale multivariate weather models of bird migration can, at best,
explain about 76% of timing and volume. The “Buffgorhythm”, based on planetary waves, lunar cycles and weather variables, explains more than 99.5% of Bufflehead migration phenology.
3.0 All Buffleheads Day.
All Buffleheads Day, the 297th day of the solar year (typically October 15th) is a scientific constant based on 22 years of observation in Shoal Harbour Migratory Sanctuary, in Sidney BC on southeastern Vancouver Island in the Salish Sea.
The variation around All Buffleheads Day (ABD) is very small (+/- 3.8 days). This precision may be a world record in timing; but, more importantly, the variation is nonrandom and predictable.
The prediction for 2019 ABD is an early appearance, favouring October 13th; with a late first wave of October 29th, and a normal last wave around November 7-8th.
Although celebrated only here in the Capital Region District, ABD is a national event because all Buffleheads migrate synchronously from coast to coast. Their migration is an international, circumpolar phenomenon because weather and climate have no boundaries, and it’s universal because planetary waves are just that.
4.0 The Science of All Buffleheads Day
Remarkably, Buffleheads have never appeared on the day before ABD,
hereafter referred to as Null Bufflehead Day or NBD. NBD represents the invisible planetary signal that Buffleheads are responding to. Long-wavelength (ca 2500 km) planetary waves travel slowly eastward, occurring in quasi-resonant frequencies, around the lunar cycle, increasing in amplitude after NBD. Thus, Null Bufflehead Day represents a real date in a natural calendar, the constant, resonant, planetary phenomenon, that explains ABD.
All Buffleheads Day is the first day after NBD in a natural, planetary calendar.
After ABD, Buffleheads arrive in two waves associated with increasing amplitude of the planetary waves, in resonance with the lunar cycle, creating stormy weather. One of the codes behind “Buffgorhythm” is: early bird = late first wave.
The Great Bufflehead Crash of November 4th, 1940 was caused by a major El Nino event and its interaction with the hydrology and chemistry of Big Quill Lake, a saline sea in Saskatchewan. This Crash presaged major weather catastrophes that followed: for example, the collapse of the Tacoma Bridge and the Armistice Day Blizzard.