While the Brant are the “poster birds” for the annual Brant Wildlife Festival, its focus is far-reaching, reflected in the diverse line-up of events and activities, from an eagle release and river tours to nature carvings and art shows.

Brant Wildlife Festival highlights awesome nature on the mid-Island

Visit Parksville and Qualicum Beach for 2019 festival, March 19 to April 20

The 2019 Brant Wildlife Festival takes flight this month, with numerous activities for the whole family.

With roots reaching back more than 25 years, the festival celebrates mid-Island spaces and species. Located on the Pacific Flyway, the migratory route of tens of thousands of birds each year, and home to the Mt. Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve, the Parksville-Qualicum Beach region is a wildlife watcher’s dream.

“There is so much to see and do right on our doorstep,” says Ceri Peacey, community facilitator for the festival.

The stars of the show are the thousands of Brant geese that visit during their spring migration from northern Mexico to their breeding grounds in the Arctic, Peacey explains. Stopping to rest and feast on eelgrass, sea lettuce and herring spawn to fatten up for the next leg of their journey, individual birds can visit for a few days to a week or more, depending on their condition. During that time, it’s imperative that people, and dogs, give the birds a wide berth – including not getting too close for photos.

While the Brant are the “poster birds” for the festival, its focus is far-reaching, reflected in the diverse line-up of events and activities, from an eagle release and river tours to nature carvings and art shows.

Here’s a look at some can’t miss highlights of the festival:

March 23, Birds, Basic ID and Bird-watching, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Practical workshop for beginning and intermediate-level participants age 16 and up at North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. Pre-register at niwra.org or call 250-248-8534.

March 23, Wetland Birding Tours, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Take a tour with expert birder Christopher Stephens and learn about local birds and migrating species. Pre-register with Pacific Rainforest Tours: mail@rainforestnaturehikes.com or 250-248-3667.

March 24, Forest Bathing Walk, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Relax and soak up nature’s restorative medicines on a slow-paced forest bathing experience with knowledgeable eco-tour guides. Pre-register with Pacific Rainforest Tours: mail@rainforestnaturehikes.com or 250-248-3667.

March 27, Beach Seine, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Join the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society at the Englishman River Estuary to catalogue fish and other creatures to monitor the area. Pre-register by contacting rrivers@naturetrust.bc.ca or call toll free 1-866-288-7878.

March 30, Weddings for Wildlife, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Get married and support nature! Enjoy a heartfelt ceremony in public at Seaside Nature Park in Qualicum Beach with celebrants Ceri Peacey and Jane Good, and photos by Taryn Pickard of Innocent Thunder Photography, and flowers by Bronwyn Wheeler of Vertgen Farms. Newlyweds can stop at the Shady Rest for a free dessert and drink. The cost is a $250 donation per couple to the festival. Contact rrivers@naturetrust.bc.ca or call toll free 1-866-288-7878 to donate and register.

March 31, Brant in the Bay, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – View Brant geese and other birds at Parksville Community Park through the Arrowsmith Naturalists’ spotting scopes and see nature displays.

April 3, Coastal Bird Viewing and ID, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Learn all about coastal birds and view them at this event sponsored by the Arrowsmith Naturalists. Meet at Seaside Nature Park in Qualicum Beach.

April 5, Keeping the Wild in Canada, 6 to 8 p.m. – Dr. Sarah Otto will highlight the state of Canada’s birds and other wildlife, and efforts to protect them at the Bayside Resort. Pre-register by contacting rrivers@naturetrust.bc.ca or call toll free 1-866-288-7878.

April 5 & 6, Elegant Threads, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Join the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners Guild for a show and sale featuring hand-woven clothing, linens and yarns at the Commons in Qualicum Beach.

April 6, Eagle Release, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. – See owls, eagles, falcons and bears, and tour the wildlife garden at Errington’s North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. A rehabilitated eagle will be released into the wild at 2 p.m.; suggested donation $5/person, children 12 and younger free.

April 6 & 7, Pacific Brant Carving & Art Show, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Organized by the Vancouver Island Woodcarvers Club and Oceanside Wood Carvers and amazing artists, see outstanding wildlife carvings and work by other top wildlife artists at Parksville Community Centre; admission $5.

April 13, Bioblitz – Conduct a survey of plants and animals alongside students and community experts at Milner Gardens to contribute to biodiversity research. Register at www.mabr.ca

April 14, Hamilton Marsh Tour, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Bring your friends and family to explore this marsh just outside Qualicum Beach with the Friends of French Creek Conservation Society and Arrowsmith Naturalists.

April 20, Foraging for Wild Edibles, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Small-group foraging excursions from the shellfish research farm of Vancouver Island University at Deep Bay, exploring ocean delicacies, First Nations’ shellfish use, marine ecology, species identification and recipes! Pre-register through the Regional District of Nanaimo.

Find a full list of events planned throughout the festival online, and follow the festival on Facebook for updates.

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