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Fall is Fish Viewing

Fall is the best time to observe spawning salmon in coastal rivers and streams. There are many excellent fish viewing opportunities in the Lower Mainland Region, primarily between October and December.

But what are you watching at stream side? Salmonid species use the gravel bottom of streams for spawning. The female digs a series of pockets in the gravel to form the spawning nest, or redd. These pockets can be 20 to 50 centimetres in depth. She then deposits her eggs and the male partner releases milt which fertilizes the eggs. The total number of eggs laid by each female varies by species.

You may visit a stream that is known to support salmon, and known to have salmon spawning in the fall. However, when you arrive you see nothing. Why?

Some salmon species prefer to migrate up stream at night and rest in deep pools during the day. When they reach suitable spawning habitat, it may be in a part of the stream that is not readily visible.

Also, the timing of up stream migration and spawning activities may vary significantly from year to year. The stream's water level (too low or too high) and/or the water temperature (too cool or too warm) may delay the actual arrival of fish in a given stream. It is common for fish to arrive a few weeks later than expected for these reasons.


Bald Eagle Festival

The 1997 Harrison Chehalis Bald Eagle Festival is drawing near. The final preparations are being made for this 2nd annual event to be held December 6 and 7.

There are several new additions this year, including the opportunity to take an inexpensive boat trip on the Harrison River for a different view of the eagles.

You do not need to pre-register for the event. A special newsletter outlining the festival sites and the viewing opportunities will be available for $1 each. Special 1997 event passports will be available to participants for $2 each. By visiting the sites and by collecting the minimum number of passport stamps, you can enter a draw for some terrific prizes. All funds raised from newsletter and passport sales will be used for the 1998 festival planned for November 28 and 29.


Can You Help? - Volunteers Needed

While many partners are involved in the planning of the Harrison Chehalis Bald Eagle Festival, it takes dozens of volunteers during the event to make it all happen. Volunteers will stamp event passports, provide general information, sell event newsletters and passports, and focus spotting scopes. Would you like to help?

All of the main event sites have either a warm building or a tent to protect volunteers from the weather. For the 1997 event, each day will be divided into 2-four hour shifts (if there are enough volunteers).

You will meet many wonderful families having a fun day. If you are interested in volunteering contact April Mol as soon as possible via e-mail.

See you there!


Wildlife Visit Slide Show on Wildlife

During the summer months, April Mol presents a slide show on British Columbia Wildlife Watch at the Lower Mainland Region's provincial parks that offer evening interpretive programs. During this past summer, several of the shows were visited by wildlife.

The most spectacular critter visited the interpretive area just prior to the July show in Golden Ears Provincial Park. The families that had arrived early for the slide show were treated to a close-up view of a Barred Owl sitting on an open branch five feet from the ground and about 30 feet away. He (or she) hooted, twisted his head around, fluffed his feathers, and looked intently at the forest floor for food during the five minute visit. Then, as quietly as he had appeared, he spread his wings and flew back into the forest.

Two weeks later April was at Porteau Cove Provincial Park. The interpretive area is not covered and is located in an area surrounded by trees next to the ocean beach. After the sun had set, the interpretive area became flooded with a small army of bats that kept swooping over the heads of the program participants. This visit lasted only a few minutes but was enjoyed by all.


Information Shelter - Squamish Eagle Watch

The Squamish area has British Columbia's largest wintering Bald Eagle population. Several years ago local naturalists organized a volunteer interpreter program to provide the public with information on the eagles, on the need to protect their habitats, and on the correct viewing ethics. Throughout the viewing season, on winter weekends from December to mid February, Eagle Watch volunteers are stationed on the main Squamish River dyke near Brackendale.

A new eagle interpretive shelter is now located on the dyke. This large facility is a cooperative project of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Forest Alliance of British Columbia, the Squamish Estuary Conservation Society, the District of Squamish, and many local residents and businesses.

This interpretive shelter is part of the Nature Conservancy's Eagles of Brackendale project to preserve and protect habitat for spawning coho and chum salmon, and the large eagle population that feeds upon them each winter. It is the first of several shelters planned in the Squamish area.

A series of sign panels in the 18 meter by 6 meter fir and cedar shelter contain a variety of eagle scientific facts, viewing ethics and native lore. The shelter features a spectacular cedar bas-relief image of a mature Bald Eagle poised protectively over an immature eagle and trout head. A second carving, depicting a salmon, will soon be added to the opposing lintel of the shelter.

To find the shelter follow Highway 99 north of Squamish towards Brackendale. At Garibaldi Road traffic light turn left (west), and at the stop sign turn right onto Government Road. Follow the binocular logo signs to the site. The shelter is located on the Squamish River dyke directly opposite the Easter Seal Camp. This site, known as Eagle Run, is recognized by British Columbia Wildlife Watch as a wildlife viewing site.


Kokanee - Freshwater Sockeye

Kokanee Salmon, like Sockeye salmon, turn red during the spawning period. Unlike Sockeye whose young migrate to the ocean, Kokanee spend their entire life cycle in freshwater.

During September and October you may observe spawning Kokanee in Kopp Creek off Kawkawa Lake Road in Hope, in Crabapple Creek along the Valley Trail in Whistler, and in Phelix Creek in Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park north of Whistler.

In October and November Kokanee are visible in the outflow creek of Ruby Lake (Ruby Creek). This creek is accessed from Halowell Road off the Sunshine Coast Highway at Ruby Lake. A rare population of Coastal Cutthroat Trout also spawns here.


Weaver Creek Spawning Channel - Sockeye Salmon

Experience the wonder of fish returning to the stream of their birth! Weaver Creek Spawning Channel is located about 25 minutes drive east of Mission in the Harrison Mills area.

Constructed in 1965 and operated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the channel is 2932 meters long, about the same length as the new runway at Vancouver International Airport.

This channel provides extra spawning habitat for Sockeye Salmon, and a few Chum and Pink Salmon. While migrating up stream, Sockeye turn a bright red colour, making them very easy to see. Pink Salmon use the channel every second year, in odd years (ie. 1995, 1997, 1999, etc.).

In 1996, a total of 32,000 Sockeye Salmon (19,000 females and 13,000 males) and 3200 Chum Salmon entered and spawned in the channel. At the completion of the spawning period, the channel had an estimated 76 million sockeye eggs and 4 million chum eggs. This means that in each meter of channel there were about 27, 285 eggs!

Because the water level is controlled in a channel, the percentage of eggs surviving is higher than in surrounding natural streams. In 1996, about 75% of the eggs in this channel survived to become 60 million fry. These fry emerge from the gravel between mid March and mid May, and then move downstream.

The chum fry will migrate directly to the ocean, while the sockeye fry will spend another year in Harrison Lake before migrating to the sea. This makes the year-round health of local freshwater streams and lakes very important.

Depending on the water level, fish are visible in the channel during October and November, with the best viewing from mid October to mid November. The channel compound is open daily during this period.

To reach the channel, take Lougheed Highway (Highway 7) east of Mission or west of Agassiz. Watch for signs to the channel and the Chehalis River Hatchery. At the Sasquatch Inn, turn north onto Morris Valley Road. Continue straight for 12 kilometres. Except for the last little bit, the road is paved all the way to the channel's large parking area.

If you should miss the main spawning period, a trip to the channel may still provide you with other viewing opportunities. After the fish spawn, Bald Eagle may be seen in the area most years from late November through early January. During this time you may also see American Dipper, a small slate-grey songbird that walks under water. In the cold winter months, dippers seem to congregate at the spawning channel because the controlled flow prevents the water from freezing.

When the eggs hatch in the spring, there are often dozens of mergansers and other fish-eating birds visible in Weaver Creek at the end of the channel.


Squamish Estuary - New Bird Checklist

Another new checklist is now available! The Squamish Estuary bird checklist includes the sighting frequencies for 207 bird species in four seasons, and was prepared by Jim Wisnia, a local naturalist and environmental educator. The Squamish Estuary provides habitats important to a diversity of bird, mammal and fish populations.

The estuary is a favourite spot of many avid bird watchers. It has a range of habitats, and is located at the head of Howe Sound, a deep-walled fjord. While the focus of the checklist is the estuary, the actual area covered includes upper Howe Sound north of a line from Britannia Beach to Woodfibre, and all of the Squamish River floodplain south of the Mamquam River.

Funds for the printing of this checklist were generously provided by the Squamish Estuary Conservation Society [Box 1274, Squamish, B.C. V0N 3G0] and the Squamish Credit Union. The Squamish Estuary Conservation Society is the local naturalist group. Its members are involved in many conservation related projects, including the Eagle Watch program.

This is the 18th checklist produced by British Columbia Wildlife Watch for viewing sites in the Lower Mainland Region. This growing series of brochures is very popular. At least two other checklists are planned. other new checklist is now available! The Squamish Estuary bird checklist includes the sighting frequencies for 207 bird species in four seasons, and was prepared by Jim Wisnia, a local naturalist and environmental educator. The Squamish Estuary provides habitats important to a diversity of bird, mammal and fish populations.

The estuary is a favourite spot of many avid bird watchers. It has a range of habitats, and is located at the head of Howe Sound, a deep-walled fjord. While the focus of the checklist is the estuary, the actual area covered includes upper Howe Sound north of a line from Britannia Beach to Woodfibre, and all of the Squamish River floodplain south of the Mamquam River.

Funds for the printing of this checklist were generously provided by the Squamish Estuary Conservation Society [Box 1274, Squamish, B.C. V0N 3G0] and the Squamish Credit Union. The Squamish Estuary Conservation Society is the local naturalist group. Its members are involved in many conservation related projects, including the Eagle Watch program.

This is the 18th checklist produced by British Columbia Wildlife Watch for viewing sites in the Lower Mainland Region. This growing series of brochures is very popular. At least two other checklists are planned.


Pitt-Addington Marsh WMA - Viewing Highlights

This 2882 hectare (7122 acre) wildlife management area is of special importance to wildlife. It contains three separate units. The Pitt Unit contains 1449 hectares of dyked marsh and wetlands, as well as some upland forests. The Addington Marsh Unit is 283 hectares of dyked marsh and tidal wetlands. The Pitt Lake Unit, located at the southern end of Pitt Lake, contains 1140 hectares of tidal freshwater mudflat.

There are many kilometres of dyke trails, 5 viewing towers and 3 hillside viewing pavilions. In addition to mammals, amphibians, reptiles, insects and fish, over 230 bird species have been recorded in the management area. A British Columbia Wildlife Watch bird checklist, and a general information and viewing brochure are available for the area.

The Pitt-Addington Marsh Wildlife Management Area offers viewing opportunities throughout the year. From April through September you may hear or see Sandhill Cranes. These tall, gray, heron-like birds have a dark red patch on their forehead. The management area is one of only three known Lower Mainland nesting sites.

More than 90 songbird species have been sighted. Viewing these birds can be a challenge as many are secretive in their activities. However, a chorus of distinctive songs can be heard from April through June when the males sing to attract females, and to establish territories.

Summer is the best time to look for the Osprey that nest on top of pilings in the Pitt River. From many dyke tops you can observe young Osprey growing up.

The management area is especially important for waterbirds, including ducks, geese, swans, mergansers, grebes and loons. Some waterbird species nest in the marshes, most visit the area during spring and fall migrations, and many spend the winter months. The management area and surrounding habitats, are used by wintering swans, primarily Trumpeter Swan but also a few Tundra Swan. They are most visible between the end of October and late February.

The management area is used year-round by many raptors (eagles, hawks and falcons). The most common are Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk.

The marshes are home to many beaver and muskrats. In areas where trees and large bushes are located near the dykes, beaver activity is especially evident. Both of these species are visible throughout the year.

The Pitt Unit marshes are located about 17 kilometres from Lougheed Highway in Pitt Meadows. Turn north onto Harris Road and follow the binocular logo signs. To visit the Addington Marsh Unit, turn north onto Coast Meridian Road from Lougheed Highway in Port Coquitlam. Follow the signs to the Quarry Road parking lot of Minnekhada Regional Park. Addington Marsh is reached by trail from this parking lot or from the lodge parking area.


Bird Tracks

Ruskin Recreation Site

    Located on the Stave River just below the Ruskin Dam and powerhouse. A small spawning channel has been constructed here, and Chum Salmon may be observed from early October through late November. The presence of spawning fish attracts many birds, including a large number of Bald Eagle during the winter months of November, December and January. From the Lougheed Highway midway between Maple Ridge and Mission turn north onto Hayward Street and continue straight to the recreation site.

Tenderfoot Hatchery

    This small hatchery is located just north of Squamish. A number of habitat enhancement projects have been completed in the streams near the hatchery, including small spawning channels, and a series of ponds. These ponds provide young fish with the necessary wintering and year-round habitats prior to migrating to the sea. Chum and Coho Salmon may be observed spawning near the hatchery in November and December. To reach this site, travel Highway 99 north of Brackendale, and follow the hatchery directional signs.

Nicomen Slough

    Nicomen Slough flows from the Fraser River around Nicomen Island, located about 5 minutes drive east of Mission along Lougheed Highway (Highway 7). The highway crosses this large island between the bridges at Dewdney and at Deroche. Several of the rivers and streams that enter the slough are utilized by spawning salmon in November and December. The presence of dead and dying salmon attracts hundreds of wintering Bald Eagle. The slough is also used by over 100 wintering Trumpeter Swan, and many waterfowl.