The Resurrection of
Dave Ages, Whaler Bay
When Islanders think about the south
arm of Whaler Bay, what comes to
mind? The log dump, the government dock, a muddy polluted bottom,
fouled water, bad smells on Sturdies Bay Road? To some extent this is
true. Its very name comes from its early role as a harbour for small
whaling vessels. Whaler Bay is also surrounded by some of the
densest development of any area of Galiano.
And yet, Whaler Bay has been going through something of a renaissance
over the last few years. A number of the area residents have recently
had septic systems installed - some as part of a building project,
others just because it was the right thing to do. This, along with the
closing of the log dump, has resulted in a significant improvement in
water quality in the Bay. In fact, its been amazing how quickly things
The water looks better, of course, and now it's the rare day when
there is any smell at all, and even when it's there it's usually just
in the old log dump area. But more importantly, the eel grass is
healthier and the bay is teeming with small fish. And where there
is a food source, feeders are quick to follow: there have been
observable increases in both water fowl and mammals over the last few
years. The last several springs have seen
Canada Geese raising large
gaggles of goslings in the bay. We are seeing more ducks, cormorants,
and goldeneyes each year. The resident heron is now often joined by
several more during the summer months. The presence of eagles and
kingfishers can now be relied upon year after year.
This past spring and summer the bay welcomed additional life -- birds
we have not seen for many years. Two osprey took up residence for a
time and a loon stayed for several weeks, putting on an amazing
underwater gymnastics display as it chased schools of fish. A Mute Swan
stayed for several months, working dock after dock demanding food
between stints of feeding on more natural foods growing in the bay.
This swan clearly had had previous human contact - maybe it was seeking
a respite from its home in Stanley Park. Sightings of oystercatchers
have also been reported.
Of course, all this activity is in addition to that of the many forest
birds in the area, from Rufous Hummingbirds to finches, Pine Siskins
and nuthatches to Piliated Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers and many
On the mammalian side, seals now regularly come up the bay from their
residence near Gossip Island. Mink are often sighted running along the
shore. The abundant raccoon population now includes the shoreline as
part of its foraging area. River Otters are regular visitors,
alternating between fish feasts and eating the mussels off of dock and
boat bottoms. Even deer can now be seen out in the exposed flats at low
tide looking for food.
The abundance of wildlife in Whaler Bay is enhanced by its gentle use
by area residents and visitors. Kayakers have made the bay a regular
stop on their travels around the Gulf Islands. It's the rare summer day
(and in the case of a few hardy souls -- spring and fall as well) that
swimmers can't be spotted. And what could be more delightful than
seeing a couple of Greg Foster's grandchildren effortlessly rowing down
the bay in one of his beautiful, handcrafted boats?
There are still some worries, of course. Some gray water still goes
into the bay from area residences and there are concerns about
pollution emanating from the new construction at the government dock.
That said, Whaler Bay has come an amazing distance in just a few years
-- testament to the ability of nature to recover from the indignities
inflicted by humans.