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Spring Viewing - Migrating Populations

Spring is generally considered to be the months of March, April and May. During this time hundreds of thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and songbirds migrate through the Lower Mainland Region on their way to breeding grounds as far away as the high Arctic. Many stop for as little as a day to feed and rest before continuing their northern migration.

While these migrating bird populations are especially visible in the Fraser River estuary, this migration phenomenon can be experienced at most estuaries and wetland areas throughout the region.

The best viewing often occurs just before, and just after, high tide. The early morning and dusk periods also enhance viewing opportunities.

The actual number of spring migrants is quite spectacular, with the total number of birds reaching in the millions. For just one species, for example, you may view 30,000 to 40,000 Western Sandpiper in the Fraser River estuary on a given day. But each bird only stays an average of 2 to 3 days before moving on, and new birds arrive daily. It is estimated that the total number of Western Sandpipers passing through on migration might reach 600,000 individuals in spring and 1.2 million in the fall.

Bald Eagle Festival - 1997 Event Date Set

Despite the poor weather, including snow at two of the event sites on the Saturday, the 1996 Harrison Chehalis Bald Eagle Festival was a great success! Those who attended the December weekend event had a terrific time. A special thanks to the dozens of volunteers who helped.

The Bald Eagle and Trumpeter Swan were clearly visible in Harrison Bay at Kilby Provincial Park. With the Bushnell viewing scopes and binoculars available to participants to try, it felt like you could reach out and touch the birds.

Activities at the Harrison Bay site were protected from the weather by large tents provided by the Fraser Valley Credit Union.

The 1997 festival is set for the weekend of December 6 and 7, with at least one new site planned.

A series of wonderful prizes will again be available for those purchasing the special event passport. See you there!

Viewing Sites Listed - New Brochure in Progress

There are literally hundreds of good sites where wildlife may be viewed in the Lower Mainland Region. Wildlife are birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects. Some of the sites offer unique viewing opportunities, while others are duplicated at many sites across the region.

A new regional brochure will be available soon that provides a summary of viewing opportunities, access and other features for about 66 Lower Mainland sites.

Several grant sources have been contacted in an effort to locate the funds to print this brochure.

Urban Fish Viewing - New Brochure

With support from the Urban Salmon Habitat Program of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, a new fish viewing brochure is now available. Fish Viewing in Urban Streams provides information on 32 Lower Mainland sites where the general public may observe fish.

An important message contained in the brochure is that urban streams are year-round fish habitat. Once spawning has occurred, the eggs remain in the stream bed until the spring when juvenile fish emerge. These same streams provide critical habitat for the juvenile fish to live and to grow. Salmon fry will spend up to 1 year in local freshwater streams before they migrate to the sea. Young trout may inhabit freshwater streams for up to 3 years before migration. Therefore, the habitat in both large and small streams must be maintained and protected throughout the year.

Salmon are most visible when spawning. The Weaver Creek Spawning Channel is the best site to observe the bright red Sockeye Salmon during October and early November. Kokanee Salmon, fish that spend their entire life in freshwater, may be observed in Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park north of Whistler. The best viewing time is during September and October. In October and November a rare species of Coastal Cutthroat Trout is visible at the outlet of Ruby Lake (Ruby Creek) on the Sunshine Coast. Migrating steelhead trout may be viewed at the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park near Hope. The best viewing occurs in June, July and August.

Mission Region - Visit Our Wildlife Series

The Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce has partnered with British Columbia Wildlife Watch in the production of a new brochure that focuses on wildlife viewing opportunities in the Mission Region. This region stretches from the Stave River in the west to the Harrison River in the east, and from the Fraser River in the south to the forested mountains in the north.

Visit Our Wildlife in Mission contains general viewing and information for 8 sites. These are Rolley Lake Provincial Park, Hayward Lake Reservoir Recreation Area, Ruskin Recreation Site, Inch Creek Hatchery, Nicomen Slough, Chehalis River Hatchery, Weaver Creek Spawning Channel, and the Harrison Bay, Kilby Provincial Park and Chehalis Flats area. The location of each site is shown on a large map on the inside of the brochure.

The printing of this brochure involved the generous donation of funds from four local businesses, Fraser Valley Outdoor Adventures Ltd., Fence Post Lane Bed and Breakfast, Kilby Historic Store and Farm, and Community Futures Development Corporation of North Fraser.

For a copy of this brochure contact the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce weekdays [(604) 826-6914; 34033 Lougheed Highway, Mission, B.C. V2V 5X8].

New Bird Checklists

The list of British Columbia Wildlife Watch bird checklists is growing. Two new ones will be available by early April 1997, bringing the total to 17.

Skagit Valley Provincial Park

    About 200 bird species have been seen in this 27,948 hectare park that is located 35 kilometres southeast of Hope. In addition to birds, there are opportunities to view Columbian black-tailed deer, mule deer, and occasionally elk and moose. Small mammals are common, including snowshoe hare, beaver, pika, chipmunks and squirrels. Over 20 species of butterflies can be observed along the roadway from March to September.

    This checklist is printed with funds provided mainly from the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission (SEEC). SEEC provides funding to enhance recreation, and to protect the wilderness and wildlife values of the Upper Skagit Valley. The remaining funds are from the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks.

Burnaby Lake Regional Park

    Long known as a great place to observe wildlife, the new checklist contains seasonal viewing information for 212 bird species. Beaver are very common in the park, and are more visible in the early morning or near dusk.

    This checklist is being printed with funds provided mainly from the Burnaby Firefighters Charitable Society. The remaining funds are from the Greater Vancouver Regional District Parks Department.

Upcoming Festivals and Events - Viewing Celebrations

Many wildlife viewing festivals and events are held annually in British Columbia. Due to their popularity, many new ones are being added each year. Most have a variety of activities planned often including walks, talks, special guest presentations, or bird-a-thons.

In the Lower Mainland Region, there are now 4 festivals or viewing events with wildlife as a focus. New events are planned to begin in 1998.

Return of the Osprey Festival

    This weekend event is held at Maplewood Flats, a conservation area located in North Vancouver. It is organized by the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia. The 1997 dates are May 10 and 11. While the main focus of this event is the return of nesting Osprey to the area, there are many birds to be seen. For more information phone (604) 924-2581.

Snow Goose Festival

    In 1996 this event was expanded to include a series of activities during the month of November. It is staged mainly at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta. The focus of the event is the migrating Snow Geese, often numbering 40,000. For more information contact the Sanctuary at (604) 946-6980.

Harrison Chehalis Bald Eagle Festival

    This 2 day event includes several sites just east of Mission, with the main site located on Harrison Bay. It is organized by British Columbia Wildlife Watch. The 1997 dates are December 6 and 7. The main focus is the wintering population of between 700 and 1100 Bald Eagles. Trumpeter Swans and spawning salmon are also profiled. For more information phone (604) 826-6914.

Brackendale Eagle Festival

    In winter, thousands of Bald Eagle congregate along the Squamish River. Explore the local environment with Eagle Watch interpretive program volunteers. A special weekend of family activities and events takes place in early January. For more information phone (604) 898-5093.

There are wildlife festivals and events organized in other parts of British Columbia.

Brant Wildlife Festival

    The 1997 event is set for April 11 to 13 in Parksville and Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. The focus of this event is the migrating population of Brant. For more information contact the Festival office at (250) 248-4117, or visit their web site.

Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area Osprey Festival

    The Creston Valley area is home to Canada's largest Osprey nesting population, numbering over 60 pair. The 1997 event is set for April 25 and 26. For additional information contact the Creston Valley Wildlife Area at (250) 428-3260.

Wings over the Rockies Bird Festival

    This is a 10 day long series of events planned for the Upper Columbia River Valley in the East Kootenay for May 1 to 10. The event's focus is the return of birds to the Valley. 1997 will be the first year for this festival. Information is available from the College of the Rockies by phoning 1-888-933-3311. Detailed Information is also available on their internet web site.

Salmon Arm Grebe Festival

    A new event for 1997 being held in Salmon Arm on May 17 to 19. The focus of this festival is the Western Grebe colony in Salmon Arm Bay of Shuswap Lake. Their courtship dance is truly spectacular. For more information phone (250) 833-4886.

Trumpeter Swan Festival

    This event is usually held in early February in Courtenay. The focus of the event is a wintering population of Trumpeter Swans often numbering over 1000 individuals. For more information phone (250) 334-2205.

Wildlife and fish festivals are not unique to British Columbia. In most provinces and states across North America, you will find similar special events organized to celebrate local and migrating populations.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation [1120 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Suite 900, Washington, DC, USA 20036] publishes an annual directory of birding festivals, including many Canadian events.

Where are the Wildlife? - Wildlife Viewing Tips

How often have you stopped at a wildlife viewing site or at another suitable habitat area, and not seen any wildlife? This is usually perplexing when just the other day someone recommended that very site to you, and then listed all of the interesting things they saw. Where were the wildlife?

Wildlife are truly wild. They are unpredictable and often secretive in their activities. But you can develop skills that will give you a better chance of observing wildlife.

If you have ever sat in your back yard on a hot dry afternoon you probably did not hear many birds singing. They prefer the early morning and dusk hours. That is when food is more readily available, and the cost, in time and energy, of gathering this food is less.

The same goes for your favourite birding spot. Most birds are less active in the late morning and afternoon periods, so don't go looking for them during that time of day.

Other wildlife have their activities dictated by the times when food is available. For example, birds and mammals that feed in tidal areas must search for food when the tides are right. Other wildlife species are active only at night, beginning in the late dusk hours. This includes owls and bats. Therefore, if you learn a little something about the wildlife you are likely to see, or want to see, such as their habits and food preferences, you can improve your chances of observing them.

The following suggestions will enhance your viewing chances and will lessen the likelihood of disturbing the creatures you are attempting to see.

  • Fade into the woodwork by wearing natural colours and unscented lotions. Clothes that don't rustle are best.
  • Keep your distance and use binoculars. This allows you to observe wildlife without causing them stress.
  • Be easy to be with by moving like molasses: slow, smooth and steady. If you must advance, take a roundabout route, never move directly toward an animal. Avert your gaze as animals may interpret a direct stare as a threat.
  • Let animals eat their natural foods. Sharing your sandwich may harm wild digestive systems and get animals hooked on handouts. These animals may eventually lose their fear of cars, campers or even poachers. Watch and learn what natural foods animals prefer.
  • Think like an animal. As a rule, the border between two habitats is a good place to see residents from both places.
  • Remember, when you first arrive, wildlife will run for cover. Be patient and quiet. Wildlife will return to view.
  • Resist the temptation to "save" baby animals. Mom is usually watching from a safe distance.

Bird Tracks

Sargeant Bay Provincial Park

    This 57 hectare provincial park is located just north of Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast. From Highway 101 turn onto Redrooffs Road and continue a short distance to the park. There are 400 meters of shingle beach, a small lake with a cattail marsh, and an upland area of second growth forest. Over 150 bird species have been recorded for the park. A British Columbia Wildlife Watch bird checklist is available. Spring is a good time to visit as the many songbird species will be especially evident by their calls.

Inch Creek Hatchery

    While the spawning adult Coho and Chum Salmon are long gone, there is a lot of activity at the hatchery in the spring. Thousands of eggs collected and fertilized in the fall will begin hatching. When these small fish are big enough they will be moved into the outdoor troughs where you can see them grow. This hatchery also rears trout, and they are visible in the large tanks. An outflow pond is home to several large sturgeon, with the largest weighing in at 91 kg. (200 lb.). The hatchery is located off Lougheed Highway just east of Mission.

DeBouville Slough

    Located in northeast Coquitlam, the slough is an excellent birding area. Dykes run along both sides of the slough from the junction of Victoria Drive and Cedar Drive to the Pitt River. The highlight species is the Green Heron, a smaller cousin of the Great Blue Heron that nests in tall trees near the slough. It is almost impossible to visit this area without seeing Green Heron flying back and forth. They will be especially active in spring during nesting time. The north dyke leads along the Pitt River and links with trails in Minnekhada Regional Park and around the Addington Unit of the Pitt-Addington Marsh Wildlife Management Area.