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

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Courtenay–Alberni MP Gord Johns says 12 million Canadians do not have dental insurance. Photo by Bofu Shaw, courtesy of Unsplash
Courtenay–Alberni MP, CDA consider dental care for all Canadians

Gord Johns has initiated a mail-out that asks constituents the date of… Continue reading

A 407 Squadron CP-140 Aurora, along with a Halifax-Class frigate enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea in support of Op Neon in 2019. Canadian Forces photo/submitted
407 Squadron defends Canada for 80 years

The Comox-based squadron celebrating special anniversary

Jasmine Francoeur from Comox is an aviation technician for the Snowbirds air demonstration team. Photo by Canadian Forces/submitted
Comox’s Jasmine Francoeur’s career comes full circle with the Snowbirds

“To fly out here, fly into my hometown, it’s very special and I feel very lucky”

The school board is endorsing a national coalition for healthy food in schools. Screenshot, Comox Valley Schools
Comox Valley school board backs national healthy food initiative

Coalition for Healthy School Food wants federal government to invest in food program

Comox Valley RCMP have responded to an increased amount of calls last year within the Town of Comox. File photo
Policing calls for traffic, domestic assault increasing within Town of Comox: RCMP

There were 2,806 calls for service within the town in 2020

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

Most Read