After the Indigenous Plant Walk the day before, my Airbnb hostess Kelly Kerr invited to show me around the Beacon Hill Park, a 200 acre mix of both natural areas, formal flower beds, but above all else the site is of great cultural significance to the Lekwungen People (now known as Esquimalt Nation and Songhees Nation). In fact, the City of Victoria has adopted 2017 as a Year of Reconciliation, and a traditional longhouse will be built on a hilltop site! When the British arrived they wrongly assumed that the open meadow landscape was “natural” and unused. In fact, the Lekwungen had cultivated and maintained these shrub-free grasslands for centuries. The meadows were worked to grow camas which was their most important root crop, as well as other edible wild plants. Both common and great camas (Camassia quamash and Camassia leichtlinii) were used. This habitat was reminiscent to the English of the ideal 19th century parkland landscape that they recognised from home and was instrumental in Victoria being founded at this site!
The Beacon Hill area was apparently “one of the most productive camas territories on Vancouver Island,” The Lekwungen people both harvested bulbs for their own use and also traded with other west coast peoples. Thankfully, it is now likely that these productive and butterfly rich grasslands will be gradually restored. The album of pictures were taken in the park and along the adjacent shoreline where native families would arrive in the past for the harvest. They would harvest the bulbs in summer when the seed heads were ripe. Only the largest bulbs were harvested and the others replanted. Invasion by shrubs was minimised by regular burning. Each family had its own designated area. The practice of farming natural areas in this way was commonly practiced around the world by native peoples.
A highlight of my visit to British Columbia (apart from the plants) was to experience springtime birds in a different part of the world, and most species I hadn’t seen before. There are two albums below plus some videos showing a selection of pictures taken with my handheld Panasonic DNC-TZ80 which has an amazing zoom…
Many of the pictures in the first album from Victoria are taken from my fantastic Airbnb room which overlooked the harbour!
See further down for an album from Vancouver (mainly in the fabulous Stanley Park).
At the bottom are several videos for your entertainment including Pileated woodpecker, Rufous-sided towhee, two squirrel species, bald eagles, American wigeon, Great blue heron, Northwestern crow, American robin, White-crowned sparrow, Red-winged blackbird, Northern flicker and American goldfinch
Having a day and a half free in Vancouver before travelling to Quebec, I was keen to visit Stanley Park again! I first visited this remnant old growth forest right next to downtown Vancouver back in the late 80s and was so impressed that they had deliberately left dead trees standing and trees where they had fallen…this is what makes this place so special and rich in wildlife as these pictures taken in a 3 hour walk in the park show. I’ve also included some pictures taken in the UBC Botanical Garden (amazing to look up and see a pair of bald eagles sitting atop a tree in the middle of the garden) and also the Van Dusen botanical garden, both of which I visited on one day!
..and now some videos.
First, a drumming Northern flicker:
A downy/hairy woodpecker at Beacon Hill, Victoria
Pileated woodpecker in Stanley Park:
American wigeon, Vancouver:
Rufous-sided towhee in the UBC garden:
Hermit thrush? in Stanley Park:
Melanistic form of the Eastern Gray squirrel (introduced):
American wigeon at Beacon Hill, Victoria:
Hunting Great Blue Heron in Stanley Park:
Northwestern crow gathering nesting material:
White-crowned sparrow on cattail seed (Typha):
The catttail beds and vegetation around were teeming with birds: