The hidden landscape: A bit about birds at the Ogden Point Breakwater

Most of the people who walk the kilometre or so out the Ogden Point Breakwater (seen here from The Coho ferry from Port Angeles, WA as it’s entering the Inner Harbour of Victoria) in James Bay, Victoria, BC notice the boats, helicopters and view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Peninsula from the point. They may not realize that a hidden landscape lies beneath them. All you have to do is stop awhile and stare do
wn at the rocks and gigantic granite blocks edging both sides of breakwater, or scan the waters. And wait awhile.

If you’re lucky, you might spot an octopus, a mink or a river otter. Some have seen orcas this close to the Inner Harbour, as well as sea lions, not to mention all manner of invertebrates. Today though we’ll just talk a bit about birds, one of our favourite subjects.

In the summer you might see
the Rhinoceros Auklet—so-called because of the ‘horn’ on the base of the bill. She is easily spotted both by her silhouette and her behaviour as she floats along seemingly placidly then suddenly splays her wings and quickly ducks under the water in hot pursuit of a tasty fish. Here’s a silhouette of one landing on the water–if you look closely you can see the little horn.

Great Blue Herons can be seen “floating” on flotsam and jetsam, from stray logs to bull kelp.

You might also see a Cormorant swimming under water on the calmer side, chasing her lunch.

In wintertime, Sanderlings scour the large rock blocks looking for snacks or sipping biofilm slurpees by the seaside as the tide laps onto them. Biofilm is a slimy layer of algae, bacteria, other microbes and other organic matter and is an ecological ‘hotspot’.

With their raucous calls Black Oystercatchers are VERY noticeable even when you can’t see them and even more so when you can with their bright red bills and eyes and pink feet.

Two Kingfishers gaze into one another’s eyes on a post near the Pilot boats.

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