Tour of the Seaons with a Naturalist

The mild climate in Oceanside provides year round access to nature hiking, wildlife viewing and bird watching in much of Vancouver Island’s wilderness. Subtleties mark your passage from the months of the leaping salmon, vibrant moss, herring spawning, singing frogs, brant geese, blazing flowers, alligator lizards, berries and back again. There’s plenty to do and see every month for the avid eco tourist on Vancouver Island.

The herring return to spawn in March and in hot pursuit come thousands of sea birds and hundreds of sea lions, seals and eagles. April to June is the best time for wandering down fragrant paths alight with spring wild flowers. Salmon berry, red currant, fawn lilies, bleeding heart, trilliums and violets are just a few of April’s flowers. Garry oak and streamside walks are especially lovely at this time of year. Spring is also when the bear, elk and deer come out into the peripheral hay fields to browse new growth.

Summer is a parade of berries beginning in June with the orange salmon berries and black raspberries, then trailing blackberries, red huckleberries, Himalayan blackberries, blueberries, black huckleberries and cranberries. Where there are berries, there are bears and lots of birds. More than 300 species of birds use the island and surrounding waters at least part of the year.

Summer brings some of the lowest daytime tides revealing tide pools with a colourful array of bizarre marine life. Visit during a full or new moon to take advantage of the lowest tides and the greatest variety of marine life. Snorkelling the lush eelgrass forests or wading through the sparkling phosphorescence at night are magical experiences not to be missed. Summer days are never too hot with a sea breeze nearby, comfortable ocean and lake swimming, icy rivers to dip in, cool snowfields to hike in the mountains and refreshing caves to explore. Alpine flower meadows peak in July and August, popping up as the snow melts.

The pink salmon usher in autumn in early September, followed by Chinook salmon peaking in October, then Coho salmon and Chum salmon continuing through November and December. You can watch them leaping over obstacles, jockeying for position or stare eyeball to eyeball with a 50 pound Chinook the size of a garbage can in an underwater viewing area. Black bears and eagles gather to enjoy the feast. Fall colour typically peaks in early October with brilliant yellow maples along the lakes and streams and plenty of red foliage from blueberries in the alpine. Massive bird migrations pass through in the fall, especially along the coast, so bird watching is a delight while autumn rains spark technicolour explosions of mushrooms.

The winter moisture makes the Vancouver Island mountains among the snowiest places on earth, receiving up to 10 meters of snow. When you want snow, you can have it by driving up Mount Washington between December and May and enjoy snow shoeing in the winter wonderland. The grey whale migration starts off the west coast in February and continues into May.

Unique nature exploration opportunities are available every month of the year on the island. In addition to each season’s unique features, beaver, mink, otter, seals, eagles, juvenile salmon, many bird species and tide pool life can be seen year round. During the September to May season the trails are less busy and offer some fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. Discover nature’s delights in the secret corners of Vancouver Island.