Signs on the way for forgotten bird sanctuary

Visual reminders will remind people about the importance of local habitat

Jacques Sirois displays signage for the federally established Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary that includes areas of Oak Bay

Jacques Sirois displays signage for the federally established Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary that includes areas of Oak Bay

Too many of us overlook the unique natural areas of Greater Victoria and it’s time to stop and take notice, according to Oak Bay wildlife advocate Jacques Sirois.

The retired former Wildlife Service Canada employee uses his kayak to cruise the shorelines from Cadboro Bay and Ten Mile Point, all the way to Portage Inlet. He spots birds of all varieties, anchovies and oysters thought to be nearly extinct from the area, all within metres of a tideline that is part of a diverse stretch of sacred waterways. It includes migratory bird nesting grounds and an estuary, and it was all captured under the federally created Greater Victoria Bird Sanctuary in 1923. But today, the health of the sanctuary is not earning its proper due.

“It’s time we revisited this sanctuary, it was created for a reason,” said Sirios, who is chair of the Friends of the Victoria Bird Sanctuary. “It’s one of the best urban wildlife sanctuaries in Canada, and the Colquitz River is in the heart of it all.”

He even calls it, “biodiver-city.”

That includes orcas interrupting seaplane traffic in the outer harbour, seals and otters and salmons in the Gorge, and marbled murrelets in the outer harbour, Oak Bay and Caddy Bay. Or 3,000 salmon in Portage Inlet (2014).

In October, Nature Canada bestowed Sidney’s Shoal Harbour bird sanctuary with the title of NatureHood. The concept of a NatureHood is meant to inspire urban residents to connect with nature by recognizing and celebrating the wildlife habitat in urban centres with important bird and biodiversity areas.

Next on the list for a NatureHood designation is the Victoria Harbour Bird Sanctuary for its exemplary mix of wildlife in an urban setting.

“Bird sanctuaries in Victoria were originally created to stem the hunting of birds, especially the Pacific black brant,” Sirois said.

Best as we know, only about 20 brant roam at Victoria’s Clover Point, and about 100 will winter here. A century ago there were thousands, but because the brant makes for good eating, its local population was nearly wiped out. However, the brant’s survival and resurgence is well documented in neighbouring areas such as Washington State and Parksville/Qualicum.

What hasn’t been well documented, Sirois says, is the resurgence of other wildlife in the Greater Victoria region.

“I talked to people in Washington State who can’t believe we still have Olympic oysters in the Gorge,” Sirois said.

“Thirty years ago, the Wildlife Service was considering delisting the Victoria Harbour Bird Sanctuary because the waters were so polluted.

Thanks to the efforts of the Capital Regional District, Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria, Esquimalt, View Royal, the Ministry of Environment, Veins of Life Watershed Society, and countless volunteers from community groups, the Gorge Waterway in particular is as healthy as it’s been in 60 years, Sirios added.

However, there will be no help from Environment Canada. Riparian zones, such as the Colquitz, will not be enforced federally.

“Victoria is small fry compared to the big fish Wildlife Service is trying to deal with,” Sirios said.

To help facilitate the sanctuary’s ongoing protection, Sirois acquired a few dozen Migratory Bird Sanctuary signs from Wildlife Service that should have been posted in the sanctuary’s most sensitive areas 80 years ago, he said,

“If you total the Rock Bay soil contamination effort and other efforts over the last 30 years it adds up to $500 million spent in the Esquimalt and Gorge waterways. Momentum is building, we have a good thing going here. Saanich has already posted three signs on the Colquitz, View Royal is interested, Oak Bay is interested.”

The new Craigflower Bridge has a wildlife sign on top of it but only now will it have the Wildlife Service signs posted underneath for paddlers.

The Craigflower is a known passage for the herring which are considered a linchpin in the Salish Sea food chain. They draw humpbacks to the waters off of Sooke, seals (and therefore orcas) to the outer harbour, waterfowl and salmon to the Portage Inlet and tributaries.

 

 

 

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

Just Posted

Scaredy Cats television series has turned Empress Avenue in Fernwood into a Halloween themed neighbourhood. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Trick or treat! Halloween comes to Fernwood in January

New television series Scaredy Cats filming in Victoria

Saanich has awarded the tender for a youth bike skills park planned for the lot next to the George Tripp BC Hydro Substation off Lochside Drive to Bike Track Ltd. for $242,000. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich selects company to build youth bike skills track at Tripp Station Park

More than $240,000 allotted for Bike Track Ltd. to design bike park

An architectural rendering provides a look at PC Urban’s proposal for three buildings on the former Galaxy Motors property at 1764 Island Hwy. in Colwood. (Rendering courtesy of PC Urban)
Commercial/industrial development planned for former Galaxy Motors site

Colwood proposal goes to public hearing Jan. 25

Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich is calling for witnesses after its large metal gate was stolen overnight on Monday, Jan. 18. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Rural Saanich farm reports large metal gate stolen

Muddy Valley Farm gate stolen overnight by ‘at least two people’

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

The objectives of the Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society include peer support for parents and caregivers, as well as developing support services, projects, educational and employment opportunities for people with Down Syndrome. Photo supplied.
Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society offers support for families in the community

New non-profit seeking directors in cities across Vancouver Island

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Updated: Ucluelet paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Most Read