Somenos Marsh Wildlife Refuge just five minutes from Jacquie Gordon’s Bed and Breakfast off Highway #1 north of Duncan and is an Open Air Classroom in Cowichan Valley where a group of us met Phil Jennings for an interesting tour. Phil is an enthusiastic supporter of the Somenos Marsh Society working tireless to preserve this habitat for people, plants and wildlife. He led us along a gravel walkway past a picnic bench to a raised viewing spot designed for wheelchair accessibility and overlooking part of the meadow and Mount Tzhouhalem in back ground.. An attractive sign points out the importance agriculture to wildlife with colourful pictures of songbirds, geese, herons, swans, ducks and other birds which can be seen here. The wooden walkway built by enthusiastic volunteers now makes a complete circle that takes us further into the marsh.
As we started on the walkway we noticed many of the planks had writing, the first of which gives the name ” Watts Walk”, named after one of the first contributors to the establishment of this delightful area. Other contributors used this idea as memorials to loved one and we found many familiar names as we walked along. Being a marsh area the walk way is raised well above the water, keeping feet dry even in our wet winters.
Learn the Birds’ Native Names
Posted at intervals are photos and facts of the local birds including their native names. One of my favourites the Spotted Towhee (Sxeesh) often shows up in my garden with its rosy breast and distinctive call. This valley has been home to the Cowichan peoples for thousands of years and archaeological evidence has been found on both side of the Marsh.As this is early fall the native plants such as snowberry, and wild roses provide berries for the birds to feast on. Frogs and small birds become meals for the larger birds like Coopers Hawk , Northern Harrier(Xuxumel’s), Osprey, (Ts”ihw-ts”uhw)Bald Eagles (Yuxwule‘). In summer the tree swallows ((Qw’uqw’sutsun) feed on mosquitoes and other flying insects. These are such a delight to watch as they swoop over the meadows and water. Each of the many bird houses built by volunteers for the swallows has been occupied.
Soon we will see the return of the once-endangered trumpeter swans for their winter holiday in Cowichan. These majestic birds with their brilliant white plumes and distinctive honk can be seen flying overhead, swimming on the lakes and bays and feeding in fields and marshes throughout the valley. I am always amazed when they fly over my yard on their way to nearby Quamichan Lake. You can learn more at www.somenosmarsh.com