Surf scoters duck in "raft" formation. Saturna Island. Photo by Andrée Fredette

Boat Pass Hunter: A little drama

During the winter, all kinds of waterfowl spend the winter in the waters around these islands. Here is the story of a little drama I got to witness, a while ago.

The setting: Boat Pass, between Saturna and Samuel Islands. When the tide moves in or out at Boat Pass, the current moves swiftly, like rapids…


Boat pass, between Saturna and Samuel Islands. Photo by Andrée Fredette

That day, on the strait side of Boat Pass (to the right, in the above photo),  rafts of surf scoter ducks were floating about, feeding on the fish coming through with the tidal current. Rows upon rows of them, taking turns at diving – when at the front line – to feed. Very orderly system…


Surf scoter ducks in "raft" formation, minding their own business. Photo by Andrée FredetteMinding their own business.


The hunter: a sea lion, riding the tide through the pass. Clever sea lion, using the tide to increase his speed and stealth… The only reason I spotted him was his loud breath (I was sitting on a rock, right next to the flow, at water’s edge, and he surprised me. These are really big animals, the size of a cow…).

The Boat Pass hunter: a sea lion, riding the tide through the pass for added speed and stealth. Photo by Andrée Fredette

While in the pass, at speed, he dove…

…and surfaced right in the middle of the birds.

Surf scoter ducks, escaping a predator. Photo by Andrée Fredette

The birds exploded into flight. Well, not quite flight because if you’ve seen surf scoters take off on the water, you’ll know that they need some serious flapping and “walking” on the water to take off. So their escape was not quite successful.

I am going to guess that some unlucky one (or more than one) did not make it… Score one or two for the sea lion.


Surf scoter ducks reform the raft, after the danger has passed. Photo by Andrée Fredette

Once the drama was over, the sea lion could be seen, swimming to the rocks the Belle Isles chain…

And the birds reformed into an interesting shape, and drifted off toward the islets in the distance.

Nothing to see, folks, move along.