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Travel Routes: Top Ten BC Autumn Wildlife Viewing Events

As summer approaches autumn, enjoy a special opportunity to view wildlife as they migrate between habitats. Here are our top ten picks for wildlife viewing activities in BC this fall:

10. Be Brave and Get to Know Bats!

BC is home to 16 species of bat, many of which swap roosts through late August in preparation for hibernation. Some bats also migrate to warmer climates this time of year. If you’ve never gotten to know the bats of your region before, this is a great time to start! Half of BC’s bat species are of conservation concern, including the Townsend’s big-eared bat, Fringed bat, Northern Myotis and Little Brown Myotis.  Visit http://www.bcbats.ca/ for more information.

9. Bird Watch at Boundary Bay on the “Pacific Flyway”
Just outside of Vancouver (close to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal) is Boundary Bay Regional Park, an internationally recognized Important Bird Area and a critical rest stop for thousands of birds using the “Pacific Flyway” migration route. In the autumn, Boundary Bay is a favourite feeding area for the small Black Brant Goose, as well as other migratory birds.

8. Catch the Bizarre Behaviour of the Turkey Vulture

Visit East Sooke park (near Sooke, just outside of Victoria) on the Island for BC’s best turkey vulture viewing. Not familiar with these strange birds? With bright red faces and black bodies, these beast-like birds have no voice box, and are sometimes known as “peace birds” because they do not kill. Just be careful if one is eating – they are epic regurgitators. All the more reason to watch from a distance!

7. Watch the Rivers Run Red: Adams Run Salmon

As mentioned earlier in this issue, October is the premier time to view salmon as they return to spawn. Check out the Adams River Run near Kamloops which will reach record numbers this year.

6. Say Goodbye to Tofino’s Gray Whales

Every January Gray Whales are born in Mexico, and eventually make the trek to Tofino where they feast for the summer. Come October and November they begin the long (16,000 - 22,000 km) journey back to the Baja where they mate and birth new calves. Catch them before they go! With many rustic and luxury accommodations options, Tofino is a fantastic place to whale watch and wish them well on their trip.

5. Spot a Rare Sandhill Crane in the Central Okanagan

Unfortunately BC’s Sandhill Crane population is on the decline, but your odds of seeing them increase during peak fall migration in late September and early October. In the central Okanagan, cranes usually pass over White Lake, flying along the west side of Okanagan Lake before leaving the valley near Peachland and heading into the Nicola Valley. Watch the skies for this rare beauty.

4. See Something Cool in a Changing Tidal Pool

Just outside of Port Renfrew is Botanical Beach, known for its amazing intertidal life. Sometimes overlooked in favour of birds and mammals, intertidal species offer a rainbow of colours and a cornucopia of shapes. Of course, you might spot a whale in the ocean, and cougars and bears on land – so be sure to look up from the tidal pools from time to time!  And please remember to leave the sea creatures where you find them.

3. Watch Great Blue Herons Leave the Nest in Stanley Park

Wildlife Blue HeronFrom mid-September to October, the largest heron in Canada makes its way to warmer climes in the south. Vancouver’s Stanley Park is home to one of the largest Great Blue Heron colonies in North America. Take a picnic to the park in September and check out the heronry (series of nests) at 2099 Beach Avenue. You’ll see young herons learning to fish and hunt to prepare for their journey south. 

 2. Welcome Winter Eagles back to Brackendale

Towards the start of winter, travel to Brackendale (near Squamish), which plays host to one of North America’s largest congregations of wintering bald eagles from November to January. Eagles can be viewed from the municipal dyke or by participating in a paid boat tour. In 1994 this area held the world record count at 3769 eagles – count for yourself and see if 2014 breaks that record!

1. See a Rare Spirit Bear

Visit the Great Bear Rainforest in September and October and catch a glimpse of the rare ‘spirit bear’ as it feasts on spawning salmon. Kermode bears, or “spirit bears” as they are also known in BC, are not albinos but rather a sub-species of the North American Black bear. To better your chances of seeing one in the wild, choose from tours with companies like Great Bear Nature Tours, stay at the Shearwater Resort and Marina, or visit the community of Bella Coola to fully immerse yourself in local nature viewing. 

Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia

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