Kerry Finley’s Introduction to All Buffleheads Day (ABD) 2021

Takeoff! (Photograph by Suzanne Huot)

Editor’s Note: Kerry Finley is a biologist and bird enthusiast whose home is located on the Roberts Bay which is located on the east side of the Saanich Peninsula and lies within the 1931 Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Kerry keeps close watch on Roberts Bay. He is interested in the comings and goings of migratory waterfowl and in particular those of the Bufflehead Duck.

October 9, Counting-down to ABD 2021 : pilot error, course correction

Flying by the seat of the pants, without the “auto-pilot” algorithm, is always a bit hair-raising. After hand-plotting the trajectory of this lunation, and reading the manual again, I’ve made a course correction. I must admit sheepishly that I forgot the code’s first maxim : Early Bird = Late First Wave.

This lunation track is bracketed on my charts by the lunar cycles of 2013 and 2002, when Buffleheads arrived early or on time. The Full Moon arises on October 20th, rather late in the month. Known as the Red Moon or Blood Moon, it is celebrated by a wide diversity of cultures, past and present in the northern hemisphere.

The Blood Moon conjures mystique and eeriness because it rises earlier in the evening and is reddish in appearance due to the atmosphere. It was the “Hunter Moon” for many native cultures because their prey were easier to see in the evening moonlight. It was the Blood Moon of the Celts, because it was when they brought their cattle down from the highlands, to slaughter and feast upon. Meanwhile in Sidney we have raucous pre-winter celebrations around All Buffleheads Day.

The lunar forecast calls for a late First Wave of migration favouring Oct. 30th, and the Last Wave to arrive early, estimated for November 4th. This contradicts my earlier uninformed forecast of an early onset of autumn and freeze-up on the prairies and indicates that the Storm Riders will be surfing on Sou’easters in late October and early November. The Last Wave indicates the onset of real winter. This coincides with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain and the start of a New Year. The church adopted this celebration as All Saint’s Day in the 9th century.

One of the problems in relying on the lunar cycle to set the seasonal calendar following equinox is that if the moon rises early in the month, it can technically be called the Harvest Moon because it is closest to the equinox. If it is late, it can be into the winter moon in more northerly latitudes. The Buffleheads adjust for this, by incorporating the resonance pattern of the planetary waves with the lunar cycle.

Thanksgiving is a fine precursor to All Buffleheads Day.

Study Area 2021 (see map below) : Roberts Bay at right on the east side of the Saanich Peninsula, and the larger Patricia Bay on the west side of the Peninsula on Saanich Inlet ( a proper fjord with a sill at the entrance and a deep interior basin).. Roberts Bay is protected from the strong Sou-easterlies and influenced by strong tidal currents around its mouth which carry sediments and organic matter into the bay.

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