Tuesday 3 March 2020

Anchovies:Bounty of the Ocean

White Rock Pier
February 3 2020 

*I have been so busy lately I never got round to posting these images and video. 

In December 2018 a severe winter storm cut White Rock pier in two. Almost nine months later it re-opened to much fanfare. The long anticipated opening was greeted with much anticipation by the public but especially birders. Finally we could "get out to sea"
The timing could not have been better as it coincided with perhaps the largest congregation of Northern Anchovy ever witnessed in Boundary Bay. As of February 3 the anchovies were still hanging around the pier. An important food source, anchovies have been described as the 'Bounty of the Ocean' 
Many species including salmon, Brown Pelicans and sea lions depend on them to maintain healthy populations. A recent die-off of Brown Pelicans and California Sea lions has been tied directly to the collapse in anchovy stocks.

The iconic White" Rock"

 The pier which re-opened just before Christmas was the perfect vantage point to watch the spectacle. California Sea Lions, Harbours Seals and countless species of birds put on a show. Many, even the locals had never witnessed anything like it. The event made the national news drawing even more visitors, a boon for the local restauranteurs who had hit hard times when the pier was shut down following the storm. 

Thousands and thousands of Northern Anchovies washed up on shore. 

The wintering bird population have been taking full advantage of the situation. Normally the phenomena takes place out at sea and out of sight. Thousands of visitors have been drawn to experience perhaps a once in a lifetime spectacle.

A beachcomber walks along the beach in White Rock.
Above: Note the Glaucous Gull( the all white gull) with black tipped bill on the shoreline.
This Black Turnstone was seen feasting on the anchovies at the base of the pier.

Some of the more savvy were seen hauling away bags of the nutritious little fish for dinner. The anchovy is similar and related to the sardine, albeit the meat is darker.

Glaucous-winged Gulls and Red-breasted Mergansers on the look-out for a meal.
Although seal lions eat mostly fish they will take seabirds during time of shortage.

Everyday was different at the pier. Some days there were hardly any gulls as was the case February 2, 2020.

Other days most of the gulls were Glaucous-winged or hybrids sometimes referred to as "Olympia Gulls"
The exception was dark chocolate brown Western Gull in the foreground. 
California Sea Lions herding anchovies into a bait ball.
Impossible to accurately count, just a portion of one thousand-two thousand birds or more birds at the pier.

More about Anchovies

Anchovy Frenzy Video

"It's never NOW too late to see the anchovies
but who knows, they might return"

John Gordon 
BC Canada

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