The 2018 Brant Wildlife Festival takes flight this month, with numerous activities for the whole family.
With roots reaching back more than 25 years, the festival celebrates mid-Island spaces and species. Located on the Pacific Flyway, the migratory route of tens of thousands of birds each year, and home to the Mt. Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve, the Parksville-Qualicum Beach region is a wildlife watcher’s dream.
“We, and nature, will benefit as we learn to live consciously in this incredible area,” reflects Dr. Lynne Brookes, volunteer co-organizer of the festival.
The stars of the show are the thousands of Brant geese that visit during their spring migration from northern Mexico to their breeding grounds in the Arctic, Brookes explains. Stopping to rest and feast on eelgrass, sea lettuce and herring spawn to fatten up for the next leg of their journey, individual birds can visit for a few days to a week or more, depending on their condition. During that time, it’s imperative that people, and dogs, give the birds a wide berth – including not getting too close for photos.
While the Brant are the “poster birds” for the festival, its focus is far-reaching, reflected in the diverse line-up of events and activities, from an eagle release and birdwatching to food foraging and tours of wetland and forest areas.
“People are excited because there’s so much going on and so much to see and to do,” Brookes says.
Here’s a look at some can’t miss highlights of the festival:
March 24, Basic Bird ID and Bird-watching for Adults, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Practical workshop for beginning and intermediate-level participants at North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. Pre-register at niwra.org or call 250-248-8534.
March 24 and 25, Forest Bathing Walk, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Relax, rejuvenate and soak up nature’s restorative medicines on a slow-paced, sensory and mindful forest bathing experience with knowledgeable eco-tour guides. Pre-register with Pacific Rainforest Tours: email@example.com or 250-248-3667.
March 25, Brant in the Bay, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – View Brant geese and other birds at Parksville Community Park through the Arrowsmith Naturalists’ spotting scopes.
March 28, Winged Migration Film, 2 p.m. – Watch this epic portrait of winter bird migration, filmed on all seven continents over four years using in-flight cameras. By donation, at Eaglecrest Golf Club, Qualicum Beach.
April 3, 10 and 16, Guided Deep Bay Marine Field Station Tours, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Interactive Field Station group tours explore the green building, marine conservation, sustainable seafood, etc.; $12 per person, pre-registration encouraged:
April 7 & 8, Pacific Brant & Carving Show, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – From the Vancouver Island Woodcarvers Club, see amazing wildlife carvings and work by other top wildlife artists at Parksville Community Centre; admission $5.
April 14, Eagle Release, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – See owls, eagles, falcons and bears, and tour the wildlife garden at Errington’s North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. A rehabilitated eagle will be released into the wild at 2 p.m.; suggested donation $5/person, children 12 and younger free.
April 19, Foraging for Wild Edibles, 2 to 4 p.m. – Small-group foraging excursions from the shellfish research farm of Vancouver Island University at Deep Bay, exploring ocean delicacies, First Nations’ shellfish use, marine ecology, species identification and recipes! $30/person. Register through the Regional District of Nanaimo.
April 21, Bioblitz: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to Englishman River Regional Park/Top Bridge Park trailhead; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Milner Gardens & Woodland – Learn how to BioBlitz alongside students and community experts at Milner Gardens. If you already have some experience with species identification, head to Englishman River/Top Bridge Park. Volunteers needed at both locations: firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 22, Brant Wildlife Interpretive Park Dedication – New Brant Wildlife Interpretive Park at Qualicum Beach will be dedicated in memory of committed local naturalist Faye Smith.
April 28, Hamilton Marsh Tour, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – The Friends of French Creek Conservation Society and Arrowsmith Naturalists raise awareness of this amazing wetland with annual April tours, with Island Timberland’s permission.