November 7, 2020 All Buffleheads Celebration on Roberts Bay

Dear Readers:

Pease note that this post is still under development as we attempt to find the best way to handle links to “outside” sources (A/V clips etc.). Your reactions to this still somewhat experimental post will be helpful; you can enter them into the “comment slot” at the end of the post.

Farrell Boyce and Rick Searle

Buffleheads sighted on November 7 , 2020: three drakes and a hen. All photos and videos courtesy of Rick Searle

Notwithstanding the chilly and threatening weather, 35 – 40 people turned up at 10 am, Saturday, November 7 at the Ardwell beach access on Roberts Bay to participate in the annual All Buffleheads Celebration. The usual mid-October date is chosen to be the Saturday closest to the expected date of the arrivals of Buffleheads from their breeding grounds to winter here on the Coast. The deferral of the date of the 2020 All Buffleheads Celebration to November 7 almost guaranteed that we would see Bufflehead ducks on Roberts Bay. Other birds showed up, too: Common Mergansers, American Wigeon, Mallards and more.

While we take pleasure in observing wild birds we also enjoy this event as an affirmation of the community of people who are onside with the efforts of organizations such as the sponsoring Friends of Shoal Harbour to encourage both the enjoyment and the protection of the wild nature close to where we live. This year we had a good representation of community leaders supportive of our activities (see photos and brief video clips below) In particular we thank the Hon. Elizabeth May MP, Adam Olsen MLA (re-elected), Patricia Pearson, North Saanich Councillor and His Worship Clifford McNeil-Smith, Mayor of the Town of Sidney.

Bob Peart, Chair Friends of Shoal Harbour

The Hon. Elizabeth May MP


Adam Olsen MP
Patricia Pearson, North Saanich Councilor
Mayor Clifford McNeil-Smith, Town of Sidney
Kerry Finley, our eyes on the beach.
Jocelyn Gifford, spokesperson for Friends of Roberts Bay
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Jacklyn Barrs and Brian Koval gather a small sample of beach material, part of an integrated sample that will reveal the productivity of this beach as a supplier of forage fish

Brian Koval (Peninsula Streams) and Jacklyn Barrs (World Wildlife Fund) demonstrated how to sample a stretch of beach for the presence of the eggs of forage fish (sand lance,…..). These small fish are important to maintaining populations of water birds and larger fish. Volunteers to support this program are needed. Contact Brian at

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Brian Koval from Peninsula Streams, organizer of the Saanich Peninsula forage fish surveys.
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Jacklynn Barrs logging forage fish sampling data.

The suggestion that the Town of Sidney and the District of North Saanich work together to protect the remaining natural habitat in the 1931 Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary was forcefully expressed in the 1981 report by two BC Ministry of the Environment naturalists Susan Abs and Ken Lozowy.  Thirty years later, in 2011, the Friends of Shoal Harbour Society was formed to advocate for intermunicipal coordination of measures, notably bylaws, protecting the remaining (therefore precious) natural habitat of the Shoal Harbour Sanctuary. Nine All Buffleheads Celebrations later, have we made any progress?

Yes, we believe we have. Listed below are some of positive achievements we take pride in.

FOSH’s partnership with Ottawa-based Nature Canada as emissaries of the compelling concept “Naturehood” (nature in your neighbourhood) has been particularly fruitful.  This concept is now firmly rooted here on in the Capital Region.

We continue to organize local outreach activities such as the annual All Buffleheads Celebration in October, the annual Birdwalk and Tea in March, lectures and workshops. We also maintain a website (  and linked Facebook page featuring not only FOSH activities and concerns but also those of our companion organizations (as well as sporadic sprinkling of poems and pictures)

Raising money to enable us to develop and support local school programs that encourage students to explore their “naturehoods”. One such program, the online Migratory Bird Resource, has been created by Rick Searle and Starr Munro..

Setting up the public event in February 2020 that has led to the formation of the Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition and contributing to the development and promotion of a Bioregional Framework for the Saanich Peninsula .  Recognizing the Saanich Peninsula as a distinct bioregion is a compelling argument for Peninsula-wide bylaws protective of the natural environment, our common naturehood. The Coalition of serious and knowledgeable  people adds purpose to that argument.

And slowly and surely putting the care and management of the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary on the agenda for the Town of Sidney, the District of North Saanich and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

We believe that progress is echoed in the A/V clips of the people who spoke at the November 7 gathering and by the people who listened attentively on the day itself.

Song written and performed by Farrell Boyce

Celebrate the return of Bufflehead Ducks and other migratory birds with us 10:00 am to Noon, Saturday, November 7 (second try)

Happily, the Covid scare that caused the cancellation/postponement of the All Buffleheads Celebration scheduled for October 17 was traced back to two sniffly grandchildren. The first flight of Buffleheads arrived right on time (October 15) and more arrive each day.

It is a comfort to many of us human onlookers that the birds hold steadfast to the old
ways and will do so as long as we make a place for them. October 17, November 7
and any other day, for that matter are good days to welcome the presence of wild birds.

The event starts at 10:00 am, rain or shine. We wish we could say “everyone welcome” but with COVID-19 rules in place we can say that the first 50 people who show up can hang out with us as long as they keep the 2m/6ft rule. Masks are a good idea, too. If you arrive after the 50th person you can always go for a stroll on the beach, a good thing to do any day.

See you there!  Bring your binoculars.

Bob Peart and other keen-eyed observers scan Roberts Bay for Bufflehead ducks.

Friends of Shoal Harbour (FOSH) are looking for a new Treasurer

Returning swans

The Friends of Shoal Harbour (FOSH) is looking for a volunteer Treasurer who is interested in giving back to the community and helping to conserve a key natural element of the Saanich Peninsula. The purpose of FOSH is to educate people about and to conserve the integrity of the federally legislated Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Sidney and North Saanich.

No biology or environmental degree required but by hanging out with the FOSH crowd a person could learn some interesting stuff about the critters in our naturehood and the people who advocate for them. 

Being Treasurer takes, on average, 1/2 day per month. 

We have only 40-50 transactions a year with Coast Capital, so we don’t move around a lot of money.

The key duties are to:

i) maintain a record of our accounts;

ii) prepare the May 31 Year End Report for our members (we don’t undertake an audit process) and

iii) help submit the proper annual forms to BC and Canada re our Society and Registered Charity status.

Interested persons should contact FOSH Chair Bob Peart