A beautiful grove of Scouler’s Willows is revealed, including the remarkable “Octopus Willow”.
Kitty Islet is a popular viewpoint on local waters (McNeill Bay and Enterprise Channel) and islands (Trial Islands) in Oak Bay. It is well known for its three, much-photographed, red, blue and yellow Adirondack chairs. It is also a good birdwatching site, one of ~30 eBird hotspots in Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary https://ebird.org/hotspot/L3272905 . Indeed, this site is completely surrounded by this historic bird sanctuary, the oldest (est. 1923) in Pacific Canada.
A small tombolo connects the islet to the main shore where several Scouler’s Willows were largely hidden and smothered by invasive plants(1) until September 2019. This is when folks from various groups(2) began 43 sessions of restoration that ended in October 2020. The site’s relatively quick and extreme transformation and its beauty caught the attention of local residents. One woman explained that she had walked by for 47 years without seeing anything of interest. Now she just marvels at the beauty of the sun coming through the gnarled willows and the light coming from the glistening waters.
Possibly because the massive weight of English Ivy over many decades, many of the willows are unusually gnarled and twisted and one, the most spectacular, is now known as the “Octopus Willow”. Several tonnes and nine massive loads of invasive plants were thankfully hauled away by Oak Bay Parks’ staff during the project. Maintenance has now begun and will continue indefinitely over the next decade or two.
Several groups and agencies, public and private, have completed small and big restoration, cleanup and rewilding projects along the shores and in the waters of historic Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary in recent decades. We hope to see this continue in 2021-2030 which will be the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
Now is the time to keep restoring our remarkable NatureHood. Few activities are more tangible and positive.
(1) Mostly English Ivy and Hymalayan Blackberry, with Daphne, Spanish Bluebells Scotch Broom and St John’s Wort.
(2) Members of the Community Association of Oak Bay and Friends of Victoria Harbour Bird Sanctuary, Anderson Hill and Uplands Park.
Jacques Sirois, December 2, 2020
Friends of Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary - vicharbourbirds.ca
Partner, Greater Victoria NatureHood - gvnaturehood.com