Brant Festival 2013 almost upon us

Herring Spawn Tour kicks the festival off in Parksville Qualicum Beach on Sunday

Ronda and Gary Murdock are hosting the Herring Spawn Tour

The birds are back and the 23rd annual Brant Festival kicks off this Sunday, March 10.

The festival aims to celebrate nature with a focus on our visitors, the Brant Geese. These black and white birds arrive to their Arctic breeding grounds in May and by August the families begin their journey to Izembek Lagoon in Alaska. They stay there until October or November and then make the long trek to Baja California for the winter. In January they begin moving north and usually around late February they arrive in Parksville Qualicum Beach. In March, the Pacific herring also begin to spawn, making a feast for our visitors, along with thousands of other water birds and marine mammals.

The Brant Festival begins with a Herring Spawn Tour, hosted by Gary and Ronda Murdock of Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours, longtime volunteers with the festival. The tour will lead people to places around the area where they might find some herring spawning, along with  views of the Brant and other sea birds, mammals and creatures. Professional biologist Neil Dawe, a recipient of Environment Canada’s Regional Citation of Excellence Award for his work in promoting the value of wildlife to Canadians and for his work with the Brant Wildlife Festival, will be on the tour to educate people on what they see. So not only will people see some beautiful sights, they will learn a lot as well, Gary said.

All the proceeds from the tour go back to the Brant Festival, a cause Gary Murdock said is important to him and his wife.

“We support the Brant Wildlife Festival and we think (the Brant) are really important indicators of how wildlife and our oceans are doing.”

The herring are also important, Ronda added, as they are a keystone species and a lot of things rely on them, including the salmon. The cost for the tour is $25, register by contacting the Murdocks at 250-248-3667.

The Brant Festival has added a venue to the festival this year, the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, as well as new events focused on water, all kinds of birds, and song.

The Brant Festival is coordinated by The Nature Trust of B.C., which owns a number of conservation properties in the mid-Vancouver Island area including the Englishman River Estuary. Communications Manager with the Nature Trust, Robin Rivers, said participating in the festival is a way to encourage people of all ages to learn about local wildlife and plants, and become involved.

The festival’s largest event is the Community Celebration and Reception happening on March 22 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre. More details on this and other Brant Festival events coming up in The NEWS. The festival ends April 21.