MARS: Treasures to be found in Strathcona Park, Mount Washington

One of my favourite pastimes in the summer months is to visit and enjoy the many treasures found in Strathcona Park and Mount Washington.

FEARLESS

One of my favourite pastimes in the summer months is to visit and enjoy the many treasures found in Strathcona Park and Mount Washington.

This year the area has provided a retreat from the long hot summer days, providing cooler breezes and respite from the sun amongst the trees.

With only a few more weeks of summer it is a great place to take the family to picnic or hike the trails; the area around the Raven Lodge is easily accessible to those who are not able to hike steep areas, the Paradise meadow area provides a few kilometres of boardwalk.

The boardwalk trail winds through shallow mountain lakes amongst the wildflowers many of which have identification tags.

The park is also home to many wildlife species, some take advantage of the cooler elevation in the summer months escaping the hot urban areas, others are year-round residents that are equipped to live in remote areas during harsh winter conditions.

We are fast approaching the critical time when non-migratory birds are gathering and storing their winter food supplies.

Fearless, adventuresome, inquisitive and sometimes too friendly the grey jay or “whiskeyjack” is one of the most common all-year residents that can withstand the harsh winter weather.

At the start of the trails to the meadows and the upper hiking trails there is an information hut that also has a board to alert users of up-to-date wildlife sightings. It also reminds visitors not to feed wildlife.

Grey jays are part of the “corvid” family that includes stellar jays, crows and ravens; all of these birds are highly intelligent and will remember where they find an easy source of food.

Found predominately in coniferous forests grey jays prefer balsam and fir trees. Similar in size to a robin, gray jays are designed to manoeuvre through the forest with great agility.

Their short, rounded wings and elongated tails allow them to make abrupt changes in direction; strong feet and legs provide clinging power enabling them to hang upside down on tree trunks.

As their name suggests their plumage is predominantly shades of gray, with light bodies, dark heads, pearl gray throats, cheeks and breasts. Their black beaks are surrounded by gray whiskers; lustrous brown eyes are highlighted in dark gray and unlike the stellar jay they do not have the crested head feathers.

These jays have exceptionally dense downy feathers that insulate them against the extreme weather conditions. Appearing silently out of the forest they hop from branch to branch before announcing their presence with loud raucous chattering.

On my last visit a few weeks ago I saw several family groups who had made their trek with these birds in mind having brought along special food for them.

Gray jays have been a constant companion of skiers and hikers and old homesteaders who were known to befriend these birds. However, with ever-increasing visitors to these areas the jays are become more of a nuisance due to well-meaning people wanting to hand-feed them.

They are becoming aggressive, begging for food and stealing anything that is set down on the ground. I counted a group of 10 jays that were relentless in their begging.

Natural food for these birds includes insects, berries, nuts and seeds and any carrion they may find, they cannot survive on crackers, cookies or bread. Jays have extra large mouths and are able to hold several mouthfuls of food which they take back to the trees or crevices in the rocks.

The food is wrapped in saliva before being stored in their winter “larder.” Feeding these birds people food with no nutritional value can result in starvation before the winter is out.

Although it is against the wildlife act to feed wildlife this is not commonly known, so if you do feed and bird make sure that it is something they would naturally eat, not food that is going to be detrimental to their health.

It is also a good thing to remember that birds do carry diseases that can pass to humans and I see so many people sharing their sandwiches with the birds without washing their hands! In the next few week wildlife will be starting to gather and store food and also start to work on increasing their body fat in preparation for the winter, especially the migratory birds.

Please stay away from areas where wildlife is feeding it can make the difference between life or death before they reach their destination. Fall is also a beautiful time to visit the Mount Washington area before the snow falls, please help keep our wildlife “wild.”

For more information or to report injured wildlife, visit our website at www.wingtips.org for all other information 25-337-2021.

Sandy Fairfield is the educational co-ordinator for the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS). The MARS column appears every second Thursday.

Just Posted

Comox Valley medical cannabis business growing despite impending legalization

With nearly a month to go until new cannabis legalization laws come… Continue reading

Valley Father-daughter duo share a special bond over a kidney

Annual kidney walk is set for Sept. 23 at Simms Park

Stolen Victoria vehicle crashes in Black Creek

On Sept. 15, 2018 at approximately 10:45 p.m., the Comox Valley RCMP… Continue reading

Courtenay getting a tool library

New facility allows do-it-yourselfers to borrow tools

Pacific white-sided dolphins spotted near Little River Ferry Terminal

A pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins spent the evening of Sept. 13… Continue reading

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

B.C. woman facing animal cruelty charges after emaciated dog seized

Kira, a Rottweiler, had kidney and bladder infections

Kim agrees to dismantle main nuke site if US takes steps too

Kim promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon.

Dozens speak at Vancouver hearing that could see duplexes replace single homes

The city clerk says 73 people signed up to speak at the hearing that began early Tuesday evening and adjourned hours later with 34 speakers still waiting.

North Carolina gov pleads with storm evacuees to be patient

The death toll rose to at least 37 in three states Tuesday, with 27 fatalities in North Carolina.

North and South Korea say they plan to bid for 2032 Olympics

Moon and Kim announced a sweeping set of agreements including a vow to work together to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

Russia’s reinstatement after doping scandal goes to a vote

The World Anti-Doping Agency is due to vote Thursday Sept. 20, 2018, on possible reinstatement of Russia.

Ontario wins stay on ruling that struck down council-cutting plan

The province had argued the stay was necessary to eliminate uncertainty surrounding the Oct. 22 vote, and the Court of Appeal agreed.

B.C. cannabis producer Tilray hits at $20-billion high as stock price explodes

This is the first export of a cannabis product from a Canadian company to the U.S.

Most Read