700,000 tons of rock explode
Psshhh... Psshhh... Psshhh. We have an amazing variety of sea birds, shorebirds, song birds and waders.
Binoculars hanging off your neck, spotting scope in hand you creep along the shore of Esquimalt Lagoon east of Victoria.
Brown chickadees, winter wrens, mixed sandpipers and Steller's Jjays have entertained you on the walk down the road to the bridge crossing the lagoon. The tide is out and several gulls, terns and killdeer rest on the exposed gravel bars. Common mergansers fish along the far shore, while a flock of brant geese lift off, honking their disapproval at your appearance.
A bald eagle circles overhead, while starlings flitter back and forth under the bridge. The chance to see such a variety of birds has drawn you to this lagoon, one of the best spots on Vancouver Island for bird watching. You wander back up the road to Fort Rodd Historic Site and Fisgard Lighthouse. You pick a spot to sit and have lunch, all the while being watched by a couple of loons floating a few feet offshore.
The following day you find yourself at Somenos Marsh, a waterfowl sanctuary north of Duncan. A dozen Canada geese, ignorant of the adjacent highway traffic in their search for food, have commandeered one large pond. Brushing through the grasses, you continue deeper into the marsh, your passage disturbing families of mallard ducks, and the odd sandpiper.
Just around the bend, a great blue heron stands perfectly still in the shallows, waiting for an unsuspecting fish to swim by. Quietly, you ready your camera, focus your telephoto lens and then wait. Suddenly, the heron plunges its head into the water. Your patience is rewarded. Squirming within the heron's bill is a small fish and you quickly snap the picture. It's an award-winning shot.
Later that week, now up-island, you hop aboard a charter boat for the quick trip to Mitlenatch Island near Campbell River. This large rock in the Strait of Georgia is one huge nesting site for all types of gulls, cormorants and guillemots. A provincial park, the island attracts thousands of birds, who nest among the wildflowers and cacti.
From genteel Victoria to its rugged northern tip, Vancouver Island has hundreds of spots for birdwatching.
Among the favorites are:
Gulf Islands - The islands off the Saanich Peninsula, north of Victoria, are great for bald eagles, cormorants, hummingbirds, loons, herons and owls. Hotspots include Ruckle Provincial Park and Mount Tuam, on Saltspring Island; Active Pass, between Mayne and Galiano islands; Sidney Spit Provincial Park, off Sidney.
Victoria - The Victoria shoreline is loaded with waterfowl, from terns to Harlequin ducks. Hotspots include Odgen Point Breakwater; Willows Beach and Cattle Point. Away from the water, check out Beacon Hill Park for geese and songbirds; Mount Tolmie for eagles and other raptors.
Victoria Area - Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary, in Saanich, is probably the hottest spot on south Vancouver Island for birdwatching. The sanctuary is home to Canada geese, mallard ducks, eagles, falcon, woodpeckers and hummingbirds. Other spots include Esquimalt Lagoon, Thetis lake, Ten Mile Point, Victoria International Airport, Galloping Goose Trail, Witty's Lagoon, and Observatory Hill.
Goldstream Provincial Park - Just a short drive north of Victoria, Goldstream's heavy forests shelter all kinds of birds including Steller's Jay, hawks, eagles (particularly during fall salmon spawning season), herons, ducks, robins and other songbirds.
Duncan - The Somenos Marsh, adjacent to the Trans Canada Hwy., is shared by a variety of waterfowl and songbirds. Canada geese, Trumpeter swans, mallards, larks, robins, wrens, herons and others share the tall grasses and wetlands of this low-lying marsh. Read more about Duncan here.
Nanaimo - If you're into eagles, the Nanaimo Harbor-Newcastle Island area is your paradise. Morrell Lake Nature Sanctuary off the Nanaimo Lakes Road offers nearly 12 kilometers of easy trails and a variety of birds from waterfowl to songbirds.
Parksville - The Brant goose has become such a visitor to the Parksville-Qualicum area, that an annual festival is held every February. The best viewing spot is right along the shoreline. Read more about Parksville here and Qualicum here.
Courtenay - Trumpeter swans invade the Courtenay-Comox Valley area during the winter months, feeding off the stubble in farmers' fields. The best viewing spot is Farquharson Farms, right on the highway. Watch, too, for pheasant. Read more about Courtenay here.
Strathcona Park - The upper elevations of Strathcona Provincial Park are a great place for Whiskey Jacks. Take some bread and feel the thrill as these daring birds pluck it from your fingertips. Keep an eye open for grouse, ptarmigan and ravens.
Woodhus Slough - Halfway between Courtenay and Campbell River, the ponds and marshes of Woodhus Slough, near the Oyster River, are home to Trumpeter swans, mallards, swallows, warblers, sparrows and eagles. Nearby the ocean, look for shorebirds and gulls.
Mitlenatch Island - This huge rock in the Strait of Georgia, off Campbell River, is home to thousands of nesting gulls, cormorants and pigeons.
Johnstone Strait - While you may have gone to the Strait primarily to see killer whales, you'll not be able to miss the eagles and varied seabirds.
Scott Islands - The most determined birder may want to charter a ride to these islands off the very north tip of Vancouver Island. Three of the five islands, while off limits, do provide the chance to see tufted puffins, murres, auklets and gulls.
Botanical Beach - On the southwestern side of Vancouver Island, not far from Victoria, Botanical Beach has eagles, ducks, cormorants, gulls, ravens and shorebirds.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve - This three-section park, from the south end of the West Coast Trail north to Tofino, offers eagles, cormorants, shorebirds, songbirds, ravens, gulls and woodpeckers. Read more about Pacific Rim National Park Reserve here.
700,000 tons of rock explode
Dust, Sweat & Tears
Steel & Gold