Wanted: harlequin duck sightings in Salmo River watershed

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Submitted by: 

Angus Glass

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If you’re lucky enough to see harlequin ducks in the Salmo River watershed then wildlife biologist, Marlene Machmer, wants to hear from you. With funding from the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) and Pandion Ecological Research, the Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers are doing a harlequin duck pair and brood inventory from May to July.

A 1996 harlequin duck inventory in the watershed recorded a significant breeding population of 54 adults, with 33 males and 21 females. “An FWCP survey in 1999 first documented a decline in adult numbers and then a resurvey in 2009 confirmed a 22% reduction in the adult population,” said Marlene. “Habitat degradation and increased disturbances have likely played a role in the decline and other impacts – including the March 2019 fuel spill in the South Salmo River – put additional stress on this population.”

Sightings are sought from the public to assist in focusing inventory and stewardship attention on active sites and in detecting oiled birds. To report sightings of harlequin ducks in the Salmo River watershed, please contact Marlene at mmachmer@netidea.com or 250-505-9978.

Harlequin ducks are sea ducks that overwinter on the coast and migrate to the interior to breed. Their ability to swim in turbulent white water, where they dip and dive for aquatic insects, is unmatched. For breeding, they select undisturbed portions of rivers and streams with dense riparian vegetation. Females return to their natal streams annually and breed in the same areas, unless the sites become degraded or disturbed. They’re sensitive indicators of healthy freshwater ecosystems.

The FWCP is a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of BC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and public stakeholders to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife in watersheds impacted by BC Hydro dams. The harlequin duck project is one of 38 projects being funded, for approximately $5.8 million, by the FWCP across its Columbia Region in 2019 – 2020. For more information, visit www.fwcp.ca