Friday, 22 April 2016

Sea kayaking at Point Holmes during the spring shorebird migration

by Keith and Heather Nicol     
Heather with Hornby Island behind
      We finally dusted off our sea kayaks on Wednesday, April 20 after a great year of skiing at Mt Washington. Last year with Mt. Washington closing in mid February, we had our kayaks out in early March in time for the annual spring herring run!  But this we were even x-c skiing after the trails closed and had our final ski on April 16. One of our "go to" places for sea kayaking in Comox is Point Holmes since it offers a boat launch so that you can easily launch even at low tide. Also another bonus is an outdoor toilet which has been recently installed in the parking lot. Point Holmes is easy to find (it is located along Lazo Road in Comox)  and there is a large parking area for cars with benches and picnic tables overlooking the water.
A Blue Heron poses for a photo
  We put in and then headed northeast toward the Lazo Cliffs. The tide height was roughly 2.4 meters and rising and immediately we began to see evidence of some shorebirds that we hadn`t seen since last fall. They are heading north on their spring migration and so we opted to paddle along the shore to see what new birds were around. We saw many black bellied plovers but the highlight was a flock of dunlins which banked and swooped in unison. Why they don`t crash into one another in flight is impressive. If you like paddling with various birds then check out the shoreline over the next few weeks as this migration takes place. Evidently the dunlin are heading to Northern Alaska where they breed during the summer. 
A flock of Dunlin rest on the rocks at Cape Lazo


Thursday, 21 April 2016

You have just a few more days to check out the Snowbirds in Comox

by Keith and Heather Nicol  
The setting at Air Force Beach is stunning
The Snowbirds are back practicing in Comox but will be here just a few more days. We saw them today under clear blue skies and the grassy fields at Air Force Beach were packed with on lookers. The setting is spectacular overlooking the Strait of Georgia with the snow capped mountains of Coast Range behind. Check out their updated practice schedule at:  and don’t forget to bring your camera and lawn chair. You don’t need a fancy camera to capture the action since you have a front row seat for the performance. They also feature a CF 18 Hornet in a separate show. 

The Snowbirds put on a great free show!

Note the 2 outer planes are flying upside down!
The show lasts between 30 and 45 minutes.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Exploring Mack Laing Park-Macdonald Wood Park in Comox

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     April’s sunny skies and warm temperatures have brought spring out in force in the Comox Valley and so we decided to check out some short hiking trails in the Comox area. We like walking looped trails and a nice one at this time of year is the Macdonald Wood Park -Mack Laing Park area of the city of Comox. We did this walk on the April 9 and parked at the end of Croteau Road where there is a small parking lot. From there we walked toward the ocean and along a very pleasant board walk with nice benches that look out to Comox Harbour. The board walk is sheltered by trees and this spot is worth knowing about even if you just come down to sit on the benches and look out at the water.

The boardwalk at end of Macdonald Wood Park is a perfect place to rest and lookout over the harbour
   From the end of the board walk the “trail” follows the coastline and after 100-200 meters heads back into the forest at Mack Laing’s old house. There are large signs that interpret various aspects of Mack Laing Park and the trail follows scenic Brooklyn Creek. When we were there various spring wild flowers were in bloom including trilliums and fawn lilies and you could hear  wood peckers and songs of other birds filling the forest with sound. The trail winds toward Balmoral Ave where a set of stairs brings you to the road. From there we walked back to Macdonald Wood Park and took a trail back down to our car. The total loop is about 2.5 km and suited to a wide range of walkers. This makes a good short walk and we recommend it for its variety of habitats. 
There are several interpretative signs along Brooklyn Creek

Spring flowers like the trillium are in bloom

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Spring Wildflowers in their prime along the Tsolum River in Courtenay

By Keith and Heather Nicol
The Fawn Lilies come in shades of purple and white
   On Monday April 4 we had a pleasant surprise when we had a walk by the Tsolum River. There were carpets of fawn lilies and trilliums in bloom along the trails which really brightened up our walk. The trails are located behind the Exhibition Grounds off of Headquarters Road in Courtenay, B.C. Unfortunately they don’t look like they will last that long so if you like early spring flowers check out this area and don’t forget to bring your camera.
There are small fields of fawn lilies in bloom along the Tsolum River
There were also many trilliums in bloom

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Sampling some of Vancouver’s many parks

by Keith and Heather Nicol
       Over the last week of March the weather in Vancouver was stellar for taking in the city’s great parks. With temperatures into the mid teens with sunny skies, it was an ideal time to explore “nature in the city”. We had time to sample just a few locations but recommend the Lost Lagoon area of Stanley Park for anyone interested in viewing waterfowl and other bird life. We have walked the short loop around the Lagoon on two other occasions over the past 3 months and have seen a great variety of ducks near shore. On our most recent visit on March 29th we saw 2 mute swans on a nest that seemed to have 3 eggs in it. We also saw several colourful wood ducks near the foot bridge on the western end of the lagoon. If you like birds check out this area on your next visit to Stanley Park. For more information see:
Mute Swans on a nest with 3 eggs
    We also liked exploring Maplewood Conservation Area in North Vancouver. They have a few kilometers of trails on Burrard Inlet and we saw several species of ducks, a blue heron and some cormorants on our visit on March 30th. This area has a mix of habitats and they have a list of recently sited birds on one of buildings near the entry to the park. For more information see:
Heather along the waterfront at Maplewood Conservation Area
  Another favorite park to visit is Queen Elizabeth Park where we were treated to lots of trees and spring flowers in bloom.  There are 2 sunken gardens with many of flower beds and the park provides splendid vistas of Vancouver with the snow capped North Shore Mountains in background. And like the previous 2 parks it is all free. There is also a restaurant and the Bloedel Floral Conservatory on site. For more information on this gem of a park see:  
The view from QE park with Vancouver and the snowy mountains behind