SPES Saturday: Changing Seasons, Winter Birds, Bright Nights

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StanleyParkEcologyThis post has been contributed by Rebecca Eames, Fundraising and Communications Specialist with the Stanley Park Ecology Society (“SPES”). I have been following SPES since I moved into the West End almost eight years ago and I recently became a member. I wanted to offer the team an opportunity to share their news, events, and work so I have created “SPES Saturday” where they will be contributing stories with my audience once a month.

It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Winter

Almost all of the leaves have now fallen from the trees and you might think that all the wildlife has disappeared too. But each winter Stanley Park is abundant with wildlife, in fact a whole range of different critters rely on the Park more than ever at this time of year, making the winter one of the best times for wildlife.

Look Out For Birds on the Water

The bays and inlets around the park are an essential winter stop over for a range of bird species. Ducks, geese and seabirds come in from the open ocean to enjoy the warmer water around the park over the winter.

When you’re taking a walk around the seawall keep an eye out for Black Scoters, (look for their black glossy plumage), goldeneye, common loon and if you’re really lucky the beautiful harlequin duck, which likes to hang out on areas of exposed rocky coastline.

A Varied Thrush and Surf Scoters. Photo credit: Don Enright.

Four Winter Birds You Can Find in Stanley Park

1. Surf scoter (melanitta perspicillata)
A black duck that visits the waters around the park (and elsewhere in Vancouver) in large numbers. Stanley Park is a great place to see these birds that dive to the sea bed to catch crustaceans and molluscs.

2. Pine siskin (carduelis pinus)
Although they live in the park all year, winter is the best time to see these smart yellow and brown finches, as they group up to feed on seeds.

3. Varied thrush (ixoreus naevius)
Another winter visitor to our park and a very pretty one, the varied thrush moves down from the mountains to lower elevations to escape the winter weather before heading back to breed in the spring

4. Harlequin duck (histrionicus histrionicus)
One of the most beautiful ducks in North America and a rare sight around the coast of Stanley Park. These ducks love the rocky coastline and are quite happy in the rough, fast flowing water. Their feathers trap lots of air so they bob up and down on the sea like a cork.

Be Observant When Walking Through the Forest

Some of our animals do disappear to escape the winter chill. Most of our bat species hibernate, although they occasionally wake up and hunt if it gets warm enough for the insects they eat to be active.

Others move south over the winter. The swallows and hummingbirds, which live in the park over the summer, will be spending Christmas sunning themselves in South and Central America.

But that doesn’t mean the forest is not bursting with life. Some birds like the Pine siskin are easiest to see in the winter when they form large groups to make the most of the food on offer. Look out for trees and bushes with berries as these are often popular with flocks of feeding birds.

Winter can also be a good time to spot mammals in the park. Keep your eyes open for raccoons, Douglas squirrels, coyotes and the beavers at Beaver Lake. There’s less vegetation blocking the view and the long nights mean they need to pack all their feeding into fewer hours of daylight. Prints in the damp soil can often be a great way to work out what has been around.


Festive Fun!

What better place to enjoy the holiday season than in the glorious setting of Stanley Park. Park visitors can enjoy over three million twinkling lights, festive displays and holiday music at the Bright Nights display and magical train ride through the forest. If you’re a SPES member you can ride for FREE from Monday, December 9th until Wednesday, December 11th between 7:00-9:00pm (must show a valid membership card).

Support SPES’s conservation and education work in Stanley Park by enjoying a bag of delicious organic popcorn made with real butter from our Cob House in the Miniature Train Plaza. This popular event, hosted by the Vancouver Park Board and the firefighters’ Burn Fund, runs from December 5th to January 5th. For more information about hours and tickets, please visit the Bright Nights in Stanley Park website.

For more info visit the Stanley Park Ecology Society website or call (604) 718-6523 to inquire about membership.

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