Unique brand of goose at the centre of annual festival

Brant geese set to arrive on their annual migration north

The Pacific Black Brant goose is the reason for the festival. Brant Fest in District 69 runs March 29 to April 10 this year.

The Pacific Black Brant goose is the reason for the festival. Brant Fest in District 69 runs March 29 to April 10 this year.

The beaches of Oceanside are always alive with wildlife, but in the spring, there is focus on a unique brand of geese and organizers are getting ready to get the party started for Pacific Black Brant.

The little black geese cause a lot of hoopla every spring in these parts and a festival in their honour will celebrate many of the gifts from nature we are fortunate to enjoy on Vancouver Island.

The Brant stop on the shores of Parksville and Qualicum Beach to feed on the herring roe that is left on eelgrass in the early spring. The fattening up ritual enables the Brant to make their trip north to Alaska and their arrival sparks an annual festival that includes a wide array of activities.

Last year the festival featured several events during March and April for children and adults, including wildlife viewing adventures, spring break nature camps, learn to bird and more.

This year’s festival runs March 29 to April 10 with many activities lined up that range from an opening night kickoff to wildlife tours to an eagle release.

For 16 years, the Brant Wildlife Festival was spearheaded by the Mid Island Wildlife Watch Society. In recent years, the society was challenged to secure the financial and human resources necessary to organize and operate the festival and now The Nature Trust of British Columbia runs the event.

This group has taken on plans for hosting a big opening night on March 29 at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre (PCCC) from 6 to 9 p.m. that will feature food stations by local chefs, local food producers, displays, live music and a live auction.

The Nature Trust is involved in coordinating the festival but a number of groups and volunteers have come forward to host other events including Brant in the Bay, Big Day Birding, Eagle Release, Family Day on the Farm, and Mount Arrowsmith Walk.

A popular event of the festival is a Kids Nature Camp at Rathtrevor March 12 to 16 for the first week of spring break.  The day camp encourages children to get to know nature up close and personal through outdoor activities and indoor explorations in the Nature House at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park in Parksville.  Allison Roberts, Park Naturalist with RLC Parks Services said they have had the camps for a few nears now and they are extremely popular.

“The camp itself is a great mixture of stuff.  We emphasize nature, and the kids are outside having a blast.  They learn things like wilderness survival techniques and we show them some incredible stuff,” she said.

She said some of the activities including learning how to fish.

“They do salt water fishing from the shore.  It is a way to get them connected with nature and we also teach conservation messages.”

She said the program is run with park naturalists so each day is filled with learning about plants and trees and nature.  Bardo, an owl who resides at the North Island Wilidlife Recovery Centre in Errington will be on site for one day and there will be some interesting art projects as well.

Roberts added they have a new art project this year called stream of dreams.  It will involve painting Brant geese that will then be displayed on the nature house.

“It will bring kids perspective and awareness of Brant,” she stated.

The camps March 12 to 16 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. are for children age six to 12 and there is only room for 20 children each day so parents should register early.

The cost: $35/day or $150 for whole week

To register: call 1-866-288-7878 ext 226 or email rrivers@naturetrust.bc.ca.