NatureHood Designation in the Victoria Capital Region and Salish Sea
This post was written by NatureHood Program Manager Jill Sturdy.
Last week I had the opportunity to visit the local NatureHood in the capital region of Victoria, BC, in the heart of the Salish Sea. I spent the day with Bob Peart, National Chair of Nature Canada and Jacques Sirois, volunteering with the Friends of Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. They took me to the three Migratory Bird Sanctuaries in the capital region, Shoal Harbour, Victoria Harbour and Esquimalt Lagoon.
We started the day visiting Shoal Harbour, one of Canada’s oldest migratory bird sanctuaries. Although much of the Bird Sanctuary is surrounded by urban development and marinas, it is still an important ecosystem that supports a rich diversity of seabirds, shorebirds and waterfowl. A local scientist discovered that Buffleheads arrive at Shoal Harbour the same day every year – October 15th. As a result, Friends of Shoal Harbour (FOSH), our local NatureHood partner, created the annual event, All Buffleheads Day, to celebrate their return.
Next, we travelled to Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary and stopped at key viewing points, where Jacques shared many stories about the history and the incredibly rich biodiversity it has to offer in the heart of BC’s capital region.
One of the stories was of the amazing environmental success of the Gorge Waterway. Thirty years ago, the Gorge was deemed unsafe for swimming due to pollution and garbage. A massive multi-year cleanup effort was made and today its pristine waters support an incredible ecosystem with eelgrass (important habitat for herring) and native Olympian oysters. I learned about the ancient Songhees First Nations story of Camossung, a young girl turned to stone by ‘Hayls’ the Transformer. Camossung is believed to have spiritual powers and is associated with protecting the local food resources of the Songhees people.
Our next stop was at the Esquimalt Lagoon Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Royal Roads University, where we had lunch with Purple Martins. Birding season in the sanctuaries is primarily during the winter months (October through May), and the shallow tidal waters of Esquimalt Lagoon provide important habitat and rich feeding grounds for migratory birds.
Visiting these NatureHoods was a great way for me to see the amazing work our local partner FOSH is doing to connect kids and families to nature through public events and school trips. Thanks in part to funding from Environment Canada and Climate Change, our NatureHood partners are able to deliver nature-based educational activities in urban centres. In BC we have four NatureHood partners including, FOSH, NatureKids BC, BC Waterfowl Society and Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Association (OSCA). This past year they were successful in connecting thousands of kids and families to nature in places, such as Alaksen National Wildlife Area (NWA) and adjacent Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in the lower mainland and Vaseau-Bighorn NWA in the South Okanagan.
The following day, a reception was held at Government House, where Her Honour Judith Guichon, the Lieutenant Governor of BC designated the vice-regal grounds as part of a NatureHood site that includes the capital region and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries. The Government House grounds contain more than 14 hectares of maintained gardens and Garry oak meadows that is open to the public year-round. What a wonderful tribute and gift to the region’s families to learn more about nature right where they live!
If you live in the Victoria capital region, be sure to get out and explore your NatureHood. You’ll discover Nearby Nature is everywhere!