Vancouver Island Wildlife
Have you ever scheduled a trip around a bird? This was a first for me, and the Brant Geese migration was a great excuse for an adventure on Vancouver Island. Parksville and Qualicum Beach have a festival in March and April as thousands of geese descend on the beaches on their way to Alaska. My partner had described a scene of chaos – geese, spawning herring, fishing boats and bald eagles – that had me intrigued.
It was a rainy first day in Parksville, but I started at the Englishman River Estuary, a short drive from Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park where I had camped the night before. I love hummingbirds and was treated to this cute little Rufous in the bushes beside the pathway.
In the estuary, I snapped a picture of what I thought was a beaver. On the big screen, it turned out to be a seal – cool! There were a number of different types of ducks and gulls and a juvenile bald eagle, but no Brant Geese. On to the community beach!
Definitely not the chaos I was expecting; however, there were flocks of geese flying by and one bald eagle sitting on a rocky area.
Apparently, I should have stayed as two days later, there were a few thousand geese on the beach. Such is life; the forecast in Tofino was sunny so I headed west. In Ucluelet, I camped right next to the marina. All night I could hear sea lions so went to look for them the next day.
So many different gulls and on one of my hikes, I was able to sit at the edge of a cliff and watch them soar up right in front of me.
One big learning from the trip was figuring out how to carry Chester in the backpack, as well as camera gear. My second day in Tofino, I decided to only take a 16-35 mm lens to do landscape photos. Of course, that would be the day I saw an eagle plunge into the surf, emerge with a fish, land on the beach to start eating it and then fly off. I did take some pictures, but I was pretty far away…it was fantastic to watch though!
Black oystercatchers (love that name!) were also hard to photograph with that lens, but I caught a few flying over the rocks.
Next stop was French Beach Provincial Park, about an hour west of Victoria, where I was hoping to see migrating gray whales (I think I was too early). I wasn’t sure if I was taking pictures of floating logs as I could see some dark things sticking up in the water, but not moving all that much. It was exciting to see sea lions on a bigger screen.
As a new birder, most sightings are “lifers” for me (first sightings). I added a red-throated loon, red-breasted merganser, and surf scoters to my list.
While I wasn’t completely happy with some of my pictures, it was a thrill to see such a variety of wildlife over five days. Vancouver Island is truly “where the wild things are”.
Next up: beaches (with some sunshine) and hikes. Thanks for reading!