Praedator

The etymology of “predator” is interesting, as is the frequency of its use in the modern lexicon. Its use has mushroomed since the late 20th century ( 1970 on ) due to its social application to human behaviour including such things as the predatory practices of corporations and the most heinous crimes of sexual “predators”. It was a term that was adapted by biologists only in the 1920s and 1930s to describe an animal that kills and eats other animals. That includes Buffleheads which are ferocious predators of Green Tanaids, and then there is the iconic Bald Eagle, more a scavenger than a predator. In its original Latin meaning it was a term to describe humans, particularly from the 15th century when praedat meant “seized as plunder”, or the noun praedator – plunder. This has serious negative connotations for the “natural predators” and this may have been intended back in a time when biologists employed the term to justify their war on predators. That’s how I earned 5 cents for every crow egg or gopher tail I collected for Ducks UnLimited in the early 1960s on the prairies.

Nobody would generally think of a Bufflehead as a predator, but it is, and in turn, it is “predated” by three predators in its salt water habitat. These include the marine subspecies of the River Otter, the Peregrine Falcon and the Bald Eagle. Of these, the Bufflehead most fears the Otter and the Falcon, and it has developed particular anti-predation tactics such as the “star-burst” formation for Otters and the crash-dive tactic for Peregrines. In general Buffleheads show indifferent attitudes to the resident pair of the Beaufort Eagles, knowing that they are not really serious threats, but every once in a while, especially in December, they become highly vigilant and take evasive action when the eagles fly over the bay. They know what intent is and that the local eagles are hungry, though they reserve their highest level of alertness when juvenile eagles ( perhaps offspring ) pass through.

Though incidents of predation are uncommon, I’ve been fortunate to observe many over the years, and all are exciting to witness. Early this afternoon while showing my son Gavin the output from my Bufflehead charts, we were interupted by a fine example of predation between the Beaufort Eagle and a Drake Bufflehead. This was a poor match and the outcome was predictable because Drakes rarely fall prey. In this case, as always, the Eagle hazed the flock leaving only the drake over the relatively shallow water over the tidal flats, and though it attempted to hover and dive in order to tire the drake, it finally gave up and the drake surfaced and flew hard to join the flock on the other side of the bay. This is when the eagle’s most impressive potential as a predator took over and it zoomed low and powerfully across the entire bay into the center of the flock, hoping to surprise a weak or young bird. It didn’t work but the display impressed my son.

So as I resumed with the Bufflehead chart display, I was again disrupted as he blurted something about another act of predation taking place directly under the bay window. I was amazed to see a Coopers Hawk lying on the surface, its wings flayed out, and an indistinct form underwater beneath it. Its prey reamined held underwater even as I had time to grab the camera but it was frightened by my movement and released its prey which I was surprised to see was the resident female Kingfisher. She took off and moved rapidly across the bay. Had I been successful in capturing the moment, it would have made a remarkable picture, a remarkable event that no one has probably ever witnessed.

K. J. Finley  December 18, 2018

unnamed[2]Eagle spots lone Bufflehead drake

unnamed[1]Eagle homes in on drake.

unnamed[3]Eagle heads for the main flock hoping to create a better opportunity.

Naturehood “Stuffies” – Our First Claimant

 

We received a box containing 40+ stuffed toys from Nature Canada on the understanding that we would find a way to distribute them in order to promote the Naturehood concept (wild nature available to urban dwellers). We came up with the challenge described in the poster below in hopes that some claimants would show up at our all Buffleheads Celebration on Saturday October 13.

challenge poster

Hapily, one person showed up to claim one of the Naturehood “stuffies”. She is Sophia Adam, age 6, pictured here in the fork of the giant cedar tree in Lillian Hoffar Park.

Sophia photo small

Her picture below is a splendid abstracted rendition of the  photograph.

sophias-painting-small.jpg

Congratulations, Sophia, we very much like your picture. At age 6, we think that you are probably not yet in Grade 3 so we should adjust our minimum entrance requirement downward to include people like you.

We have not given up on this challenge and we plan to promote it more effectively so as to be able to post more pictures (and stories) like this one.

October 13, 2018 All Buffleheads Celebration

Saturday, October 13 (Bufflehead Welcoming) and Sunday, October 14 (Migratory Bird Sanctuaries Cruise) were beautiful autumn days, ideal for our annual All Buffleheads Celebration. Yes, the first of the Bufflehead Ducks had returned to winter on the shores of the Saanich Peninsula earlier  than expected for good reasons as explained by naturalist Kerry Finley.

Kerry F.

Kerry Finley weaves a story about atmospheric Rossby waves and Bufflehead migrations

Buffleheads and their human admirers were welcomed by Sue Staniforth, President of Friends of Shoal Harbour. Our local MLA, Adam Olsen offered a First Nations welcome and spoke to the great value of the wild creatures of the Saanich Peninsula among whom we live and have lived for thousands of years. The great, often unspoken goal of all of us gathered on this fair morning is to promote this value to our human communities both here and beyond. This desire is the essence of the Naturehood concept we have come to embrace. Our Member of Parliament, Elizabeth May, a knowledgeable and tireless supporter of local environmental initiatives was also on hand to encourage us.

But we are not always solemn and we are definitely kid-friendly.  Elaine Ethier and Farrell Boyce performed another episode of the mock television nature show “You Won’t Believe This”  in which Hank-the-Heron offers some pointed comments on foreshore redevelopment. Sue Staniforth led a fun (non-collecting) scavenger hunt that encouraged kids and their parents to explore Roberts Bay and discover the many creatures we share this area with, through finding their shells, food sources, neighbours, nests and feathers! We engaged the first participant in our Nature Canada kids’ challenge – more about this in a separate post.

Adam Olsen-4345

Our local MLA Adam Olsen bridges the gap between ancient and modern ways

Elizabeth May-4336

Our Member of Parliament, Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May is an invaluable link to the wider world.

Jacques with sign-4362

Jacques Sirois (representing the Victoria Migratory bird Sanctuary) shows off an old sign reminding us of why the local Migratory Bird Sanctuaries were created.

Friends of Roberts Bay speaker-4373

Jocelyn Gifford tells us about a recently established neighborhood group, Friends of Roberts Bay. Friends of Shoal Harbour and Friends of Roberts Bay are natural allies.

Elaine and Farrell-4389

The host of the nature show “You Won’t Believe This” (Elaine Ethier) interviews guest Hank-the-Heron (Farrell Boyce).

Attendees at Ceremony-4379

Attendees of the Bufflehead Welcoming pay rapt attention. The person in the mauve coat is North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall, always a strong supporter.