Part of a flock of Brant geese flies off the Parksville shore March 6, 2018.

Parksville Qualicum Beach birders keep Brant count alive

Bird population monitored in lead-up to Brant Wildlife Festival

The annual Brant Wildlife Festival officially kicks off its six-week run Monday, March 19. But local birders have been preparing for the event through months of counts of the stubby, dark geese thorughout the Parksville Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Area.

“There were professional biologists hired (for the counts) for a number of years, through the Canadian Wildlife Services,” said Sandra Gray of the Arrowsmith Naturalists. “The Arrowsmith Naturalists have taken it over and we’re not professionals, but we are skilled observers with an interest in natural history and our community events. We want to keep the count going.”

Teams of counters canvass the shoreline from the Little Qualicum River in the north to Madrona Point in the south to track the progress of the Brant as they arrive on their annual migration from winter feeding grounds in Mexico to their breeding and nesting sites on the Arctic slope of Alaska.

The Brant population in Parksville Qualicum beach tends to peak during the annual herring run, which just took place, said Gray.

During its recent four-week count window, the Arrowsmith Naturalist teams recorded 410 Brant in the area on Feb. 16, 375 on Feb. 20 and 772 birds on Feb. 26 before the count jumped to 1,875 Brant on March 5.

“Suddenly, whoo! And it’s not wonder — there’s food,” Gray said while standing at Parksville’s beach and sweeping her arms out to encompass the last remnants of the herring fleet still plying the waters off Parksville bay.

Gray and her husband, Dan Gray, said the first Brant geese were actually spotted locally in November, and consisted of a group of 10 to 20 birds. That number grew to more than 50 in early December and to 200 by the time of the annual Christmas Bird Count held in mid- to late-December.

“They used to overwinter here,” Dan Gray said. “Then they were hunted out. Maybe this means the hunting has cut back and they’re repopulating; maybe we’ll get to see them stay over winter again.”

Sandra Gray said that Canadian Wildlife Services data going back to 1988 suggests the Brant goose population may have stabilized after a period in which the population was believed to be diminishing.

“The numbers have gone up and down over the years, but the mean has stayed about the same, which was a surprise to me,” she said. “It was interesting to note that some years the numbers have gone quite low while in other years they’re up. The reasons for that are a bit of a mystery.”

To learn more about the many events scheduled for the 2018 Brant Wildlife Festival and to find out where you can take part, check out our insert on page A4 in the Thursday, March 15 edition of The NEWS, or visit

[gps-image name=”10997966_web1_180313-PQN-M-brant-dan-gray-jr-mar6.jpg”]


Dan Gray watches large rafts of greater scaup and surf scoters off Parksville Bay during an Arrowsmith Naturalists brant goose count at Parksville Beach March 6, 2018. — J.R. Rardon photo

Just Posted

Woodyatt seeks help to pursue physics education in London

Kwalikum Secondary product gets accepted to prestigious university in United Kingdom

Nanoose Bay Catspan receives BC SPCA funding

Spay/neuter grant to address overpopulation

Solar system spending, asbestos removal in SD69 plan

Green house gas emission report received at May 22 board meeting

Gr. 7s learn about digital safety, health, consent at con in Parksville

SD69 hosts first Health and Wellness Conference for students headed to high school

Qualicum Beach east village plans take shape

Staff moving forward with east village concept

Trans Mountain pipeline: Is it worth the risk?

Concerns range from the threat of an oil spill to the impact of tanker traffic on wildlife

B.C. to spend $181M to create 200 general practitioner jobs

Jobs will go to new medical school graduates

Federal leaders trade barbs about India trip at press gallery dinner

Justin Trudeau’s infamous trip to India earlier this year was the focus of many of the jabs

B.C. VIEWS: Our poverty reduction plan is already in place

NDP has another promise it needs to appear to keep

WestJet pilot strike averted as parties agree to mediation

Pilots had warned they could go on strike starting May 19

Most Read