Return of the Brant geese

Return of the Brant geese
by Pat Cottingham
26 March 2023

On a cool and very windy day, 5 club members caught the 0810 ferry over to Comox and met up with our informative and interesting guide, Nancy Pezel, in Qualicum Beach.  We were in search of the Brant Geese (sub species Black or Pacific Brant “Brant nigricans) arriving from Mexico to rest and refuel (on local algae and eelgrass) before continuing their migration to their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

We spend the day visiting 4 different habitats within the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Area (and 1 outside of this area).
– Near the “Little Qualicum Estuary” we saw millions of herring roe on the beach, a couple of actively feeding sea lions out in the Strait and identified 8 to the over 60 water bird species who use this area as staging grounds.  We stopped at the “Marshall-Stevenson Unit (“Estuary”) and could see the effects of overgrazing from the ever-increasing numbers of non-migrant Canada Geese and the erosion caused by the invasive Reed Canary grass.
– David set up his spotting scope at the “Seaside Nature Park” and we saw our first far-away glimpses of the Brant Geese!  Our second long-distance viewing was on beautiful Rathtrevor Beach further south.
– We spent some time at the “Englishman River Estuary” (and Uplands); now a model of successful conservation and restoration through the Nature Trust and partners.  There were multiple Blue Herons feeding throughout the channels and Tom captured a face-on photo of a hunting Barred Owl.
– Our final stop was a lovely walk, through privately-owned (Mosaic) second-growth forest in the Coastal Douglas fir zone, to the 36-hectares of “Hamilton Marsh”.  We saw swans, ducks (sorry; forgot to record species) and red-legged frogs, who apparently infuse the area with croaking song at dusk.

We had a fabulous day, despite being unable to get a clear photo of our small,  dark-headed, white-neck banded, unorganized -flying Brant Geese.  After a pleasant meal at the “Griffin Pub”, we caught the 1930 ferry home…..another great “Malaspinanats” adventure!