Punctual ducks feted with All Buffleheads Day

Californians celebrate the punctuality of the swallows of Capistrano. So why don’t Islanders celebrate the annual arrival of bufflehead ducks?

The bufflehead is every bit as regular as the swallows, arriving in the waters of Victoria and south Vancouver Island each Oct. 15 (plus or minus a day).

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But Frank Sinatra never sang any praises to the return of the bufflehead, and tourists aren’t packing the town to await its arrival.

Now the Friends of Shoal Harbour and Nature Canada are hoping to earn some recognition for the bufflehead’s remarkable punctuality.

On Friday, B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon marked Oct. 15 as All Buffleheads Day.

“I would love to see [the arrival of the bufflehead] celebrated more,” said Sue Staniforth of the Friends of Shoal Harbour.

Staniforth said Vancouver Island communities such as Parksville, with its annual Brant Festival celebrating the spring arrival of Brant geese, have already proven the tourist potential of celebrating nature.

And the bufflehead has already been adopted by Sidney and placed on its municipal coat of arms — the only duck in Canada to be so honoured, Staniforth believes.

Given the popularity of things like bird watching and kayaking, celebrating the annual arrival of the bufflehead is a natural for the area.

Staniforth said it could also boost the protective instincts of the community, encouraging people to keep an eye on local waters such as Shoal Harbour, a migratory bird sanctuary since 1931.

The intention is not to chase away the business, boats or ships that use the ocean, she said. But a greater sensitivity for the effects of human activities on wildlife and natural systems could go a long way to protecting creatures such as the bufflehead.

Friday’s ceremony also marked the designation of Shoal Harbour and other ocean waters around Sidney as a Nature Canada NatureHood.

Alex MacDonald, senior conservation officer with the non-government Nature Canada, said they are a great addition the country’s “NatureHoods” — areas that can demonstrate the nearness and proximity of the natural environment.

“Nature is all around us,” MacDonald said.

“We can interact with it, observe it and become stewards of it.”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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