GOING WILD IN OAK BAY: Meet Liz, Oak Bay’s fastest girl

By Jacques Sirois

She is big, fast and dark. Her plumage also suggests that she is young. She has been flying around Anderson Hill, Enterprise Channel and the Trial Islands for at least two months.

Meet Liz, a female peregrine falcon. I called her Liz because of her regal style and impeccable poise. Seeing peregrines is always a thrill and the females are much large than males.

They became uncommon in Canada by the 1970s. Their numbers diminished from the use of pesticides – a buildup of chemical in their fatty tissue left them calcium-depleted and their eggs with thinner, less protective shells. With the banning of some pesticides and better management of others, they are now relatively common again. In fact, you can see them quite often if you are fast and know what to look for.

Sometimes Liz glides smoothly in the northerly breeze above Anderson Hill before disappearing towards Mount Baker. Or she is stationary above Beach Drive, wings wide open in the southwesterly winds; this is when she is most easily seen. However, she is at her best and fastest when she hunts birds. Peregrine falcons are super-active predators and among the fastest on the planet: they can dive towards a prey at speeds exceeding 300 kilometres per hour, we are told!

Dive bombing is what she was doing one afternoon last October, above the west bluff of Big Trial Island, where she spent much time going after gulls, mostly Heermann’s and Glaucous-winged gulls. She was fast and determined, but soon moved like a missile to the other side of the island and I could not see her knock anything out of the air from my kayak.

At this point I feel that Liz knows me and waits for me to paddle around. Last week, on the north side of Small Trial Island, where 100 or so shorebirds (black-bellied plovers, dunlins, black turnstones and surfbirds) are now wintering, she came out of the blue at full speed as soon as I flushed these shorebirds from their rocks, where they usually sit real tight, for obvious reasons. She dove, surged forward horizontally then upwards, then dove again, targeting a fat plover while flushing all the nearby ducks and gulls in a state of panic, then rapidly flew off my radar screen. Again, I could not see if she had been successful. I still hope to see a positive hit one day.

There is often of lot of action on our Oak Bay oceanfront. It usually involves birds hunting birds, including peregrine falcons, bald eagles, Cooper’s hawks and merlins going after young, slow and inexperienced shorebirds, gulls, robins and sparrows.  Yes, real, hot action in Oak Bay – do not roll your eyes, just open them.

Jacques Sirois is a retired biologist for the Canadian Wildlife Service. He lives in Oak Bay and kayaks around the waterfront frequently.

Just Posted

COVID-19 exposures have been reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School, both on June 14. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Two Saanich schools report COVID-19 exposures

Exposures reported at Colquitz Middle School and Tillicum Elementary School

Sooke RCMP seized cocaine, ketamine, MDMA, prescription pills, $6,000 cash, a machete and pepper spray during a bust June 15. (Courtesy of Sooke RCMP)
Sooke RCMP seize drugs, machete, pepper spray

Man arrested near Evergreen Mall following drug deal

This conceptual rendering shows revisions to the proposed warehouse in Sidney on land under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority. York Realty, which plans to build, then lease the building, said significant changes to the the massing and height of the building respond to community feedback. Additional feedback can be submitted until June 30. (Screencap/York Realty)
Sidney warehouse proposal lands Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce endorsement

Public has until June 30 to submit additional comments after significant modifications

Staff will be reviewing public feedback from second-stage designs for cycling infrastructure in James Bay, part of the City of Victoria’s 32-kilometre network. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria sends James Bay bike lanes choice to next phase

Design modifications based on community input to be delivered to council this summer

An eastern cottontail rabbit on the UVic campus. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Wild rabbits persist at the University of Victoria

Feral rabbits are still absent, but another non-native species has arrived on campus

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

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 June 15

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

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read