A guide to three Metro Vancouver Parks
Today’s entry is not a whole city guide, it is more of a specialized guide today. This week is a guide to three Metro Vancouver parks. Why parks? Well for starters, all travelers look for things to do in the cities they visit. An oft searched for activity is cheap or free things to do, and apart from rare entrance fees, most parks are free. Reason 2: sometimes you just want to relax and unwind. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll, a jog, a hike or even just sitting on a bench, parks are good for that. Reason 3: they can be a good place to observe nature. What you see depends on the location, size, the season, your interests, and how observant you are. Parks are good places to see wildlife, birds, insects, flowers, and probably more I can’t think of. Lastly, they are often overlooked. Sometimes people say, ‘once you’ve seen one park you have seen them all.’ Well, I beg to differ. Even parks in the same city have diversity, you just have to look hard enough.
The Lower Mainland includes several cities, which are often lumped together and called “Vancouver”. In actuality there is Vancouver, North Vancouver (City and District), and West Vancouver, which are all separate cities with their own Mayors. The “Lower Mainland” includes 75+ cities, villages and reservations. Metro Vancouver has 14 major cities, including Burnaby, Coquitlam, Surrey, Richmond, Delta, Langly, et al. People from M. V. often refer to downtown Vancouver as separate city, even though it isn’t. Vancouver is notorious for traffic jams, so all travel times are estimations.
If you are interested in birding and don’t already know https://ebird.org/home is a very good site to check out. You can check out certain areas for birds. You can use their maps to find where certain birds are, and even see if what you are looking for has been spotted. I will post the bar charts in the parks I recommend. As this is the easiest for the general public to get an idea what may be in a certain area, and the likelihood. To understand a bar chart for the layman Each bird that has been confirmed in the area is listed. With each month broken up into 4 with a green bar representing the possibility that it’s there. If there is a large bar there’s a good chance, if it is short or isn’t there then the chances are less then 1% if at all.
The following are a guide to my three favorite Metro Vancouver parks
Colony Farm Regional Park
This is my guide to one of my three favorite Metro Vancouver parks: Colony Farm
According to the Metro Vancouver Parks Website (which you can visit for trail maps and other info), there are 11km of walking trails and 8km of biking. It is 27km from downtown, which is 26 minutes by car (no traffic) or 1h15m approx by transit. A main feature, and why it has the name “farm” in the title, is the fact that there is a community garden. There are up to 45 plots which are approximately 250 square feet each and are open to the public to plant and tend as they see fit, as long as they use organic practices. This means a large variety of interesting flowers and plants to see in a small area, attracting a variety of birds and insects. If you do visit, please be respectful of people’s plots: don’t trample or pick the plants.
Aside from the gardens, there are some easy walking trails. The trails are quite wide, and the dirt is compact and are easy to bike or walk on. Dogs are allowed on a leash, as there are sensitive habitat areas so please don’t let them chase birds or swim in marshes. The Coquitlam River runs off from the main Fraser River, attracting many water birds like: herons, bitterns, ducks swallows and more. For a full list of bird possibilities including seasonal averages it goes into much more detail then I can. In a nutshell: each bird on the list has a bar graph estimating the frequency for each month. You can click on the map icon to show you the last sightings. It’s an excellent website if you are interested in birds.
The following are pictures taken from Colony farm. If you click on an image it will bring up a scroll-able gallery.
For colony farms bar chart from Ebird.org
My ratings for this park out of 10:
Trail Variety 8/10
Trail Difficulty 3/10
Bird Variety 6/10
Wildlife Variety 3/10
Flora 8/10 (because of the community garden)
De Boville Slough
This is my guide to one of my three favorite Metro Vancouver parks: De Boville Slough
While not technically dedicated parkland, I’m including it anyways because it has the qualities I think of in a park. To be honest, I don’t know why it isn’t a park. It has walking and biking trails. The plants and trails are protected and maintained, with benches and garbage cans, all accessible to the public.
As this area is on the edge of town, and becomes forested, not much further down, this area is more likely to have wildlife other than birds. While I wouldn’t say it is teeming with wildlife your chances are decent. The wildlife I have seen here include: otters, turtles, bullfrogs, coyotes, squirrels, bears and of course birds. If you are lucky enough you might even see an owl, though they are rare sightings.
Dogs are also permitted, but I must highly recommend keeping your dog leashed because as I said earlier there’s the possibility of bears. This may be the best bear advice I have seen “thebackpacker.com” Bears are dangerous, and need to be respected. Please don’t use my guide to get yourself or a bear killed. I have a large telephoto lens for a reason, so that I can keep a safe distance.
The trails are not difficult, and there are only 2 choices of trails: the right side or the left. Neither side really lead anywhere so you end up going back the same way you came. My personal choice is to take the left side, as I think it’s more scenic.You will eventually meet up with a road, if you go far enough, but it’s quite a distance either direction. It’s your choice though.
De Boville Slough’s bar chart from Ebird.org
Another clickable gallery below
My ratings for these trails out of 10:
Trail Variety 2/10
Trail Difficulty 3/10
Bird Variety 6/10
Wildlife Variety 3/10
This is my guide to one of my three favorite Metro Vancouver parks: Reifel Bird Sanctuary
This recommendation is one of those rare cases where a park has an entrance fee. The fee is more of a maintenance fee than an entrance fee. There is trail maintenance, there are bird blinds to maintain, garbage’s to take out, and habitats to manage, so to me, $5 is not unreasonable. This is probably a park that is geared more towards the birdwatcher than the average Jane or Joe. Although if you were a casual bird fan and wanted to be certain to see birds, then this is the place. Even a bird sanctuary like this, that is designed to attract birds is still subject to seasonal quiet times. Every bird you see at the sanctuary is a wild bird and can come and go as they please. Some of them do stay, but that is because the bird has become habitualized. Truth be told, if a bird decides to leave there’s not a whole lot a staff member could do to stop it.
Reifel happens to be the only place I know of, at least in Canada, that has resident Sandhill cranes. As I said there are no guarantees, but you have a pretty good chance you will see one, unless they are mating, then the park closes off that section for public safety. They are very strong, and the will not hesitate to attack you with that very spear like beak if you get near their eggs or babies. A staff member told me a photographer ignored the warnings, and was stabbed in the leg drawing blood. Just give them their space, and you should be fine. Other than cranes, you will likely find ducks of various species, and at least a couple of songbirds, if nothing else. If you are lucky enough, you can spot bitterns, a few different owl species, night crowned herons, and more.
During fall migration, there is a good chance at seeing the beautiful snow geese. One year I was there, there was reported to be 10,000+ of those lovely geese. They have maps at the entrance if you need them. If you aren’t a birdwatcher, the walk itself is also pretty good. Not at all challenging, but scenic and pretty with various trees, shrubs and wildflowers. If nobody in your family is a birdwatcher, then I doubt the entrance fee will be worth it, but if a family member drags you there, at least there is more to look at than just birds. As for wildlife other than birds, there’s not much there, beside the occasional turtle, possibly muskrats, and maybe squirrels. The main draw of this park is the birdwatching. If you or your loved one is a birdwatcher then this is probably the place to go if you go nowhere else.
Click on a picture below for a scrollable gallery
My ratings out of 10:
Trail variety 7/10
Trail difficulty 3/10
Bird Variety average 8/10
(seasonal) Wildlife Variety 2/10
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