Jim Barry waits to feed the birds at Oak Bay Marina. The 83-year-old has become an institution of bird fun in Oak Bay

Jim Barry waits to feed the birds at Oak Bay Marina. The 83-year-old has become an institution of bird fun in Oak Bay

For the birds: Jim Barry a welcome sight to his feathered friends

Oak Bay resident turns bird-feeding into an institution

It’s a regular sunny Monday at Oak Bay Marina – a day local residents have come to love.

Not just human ones though; this is one day the seagulls and crows look forward to most.

Some days, Jim Barry doesn’t even have to get out of his car for the birds to spot him in the parking lot, just before the Marina Coffee House opens.

They flit above his vehicle waiting for him to get out. When he does, crows wait in nearby trees while the seagulls swarm above.

The birds aren’t usually shy with their requests. Typically, passers-by gawk at the shenanigans as some seagulls swoop to catch the treats while others rest on Barry’s head, shoulders or knees when he’s sitting.

“I can’t stand pigeons, though,” Barry says. “They dump on everything.”

Locals regard Barry as a bit of an institution when it comes to nurturing the flying inhabitants of Oak Bay. The soft-spoken 83-year-old has been making this part of his routine for a handful of years. He says he took over the role when an older woman, also known around the area for feeding birds, died. Yet Barry, who has lived in the area since he was seven, knows about a lot more than birds.

“Oak Bay used to be a place you had to know someone to get somewhere.” As a child, he says, he collected golf balls at Victoria Golf Club and caddied for a number of people who thought they were very important.

When he started playing golf as a teenager, thanks to a relationship he’d formed with the owner of the club, senior players would often give him a hard time. I might be 16, he would tell them, but I’ve got two arms, two legs and a lot of golf balls, so buzz off.

“The biggest change I’ve seen in this town is that there are a lot more rich people now. There were rich people then, but more now,” he says. “I’ve always liked birds.”

Barry meets regularly at the Marina Coffee House with a handful of old-time friends from the community, including former Oak Bay fire chief Gerry Adam, to reminisce and catch up on news. He gets there early enough to reserve their favourite table, orders his $5 drink with a $5 tip to the barista and tells her no hurry. There’s plenty of time until his wife will be by to pick him up.

It’s a routine he’s grown attached to. He could come every day, he says, but most weeks he makes it down Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the birds. Which, by the way, he calls people.

“I feed anything,” he says. “There are times I have 20, 30, 40 people (birds) around me, flying all over my head, waiting for me. They get used to you.”

Barry used to take the stairs down to the rocky shore near the marina and play country music, his favourite, from a portable radio. The birds would follow him down, all the while anticipating peanuts, bread and any treats that would make their way out of his pocket. These days, he typically corrals them in the parking lot, after he hurt his knee in a fall.

“They really do get to know you and trust you,” he says. “You stand out here with a piece of bread long enough and, you watch, they’ll come get it right from you, too.”

news@mondaymag.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria police are asking for help locating Izabel Villeneuve, 14, who was last seen Jan. 19. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating missing 14-year-old

Izabel Villeneuve was last seen in the morning of Jan. 19

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Vancouver Island this weekend

Snow on Malahat to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria says sale of the planned subdivision will increase the club’s ability to provide services and support. (Courtesy of Association for the Protection of Rural Metchosin)
Victoria Boys and Girls Club says youth would benefit from Metchosin land sale

Club says sale will guarantee supports and programs at time when demand high

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Most Read