I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Camping at Little Qualicum Falls and NIWRA

Last Saturday, with our Honda Ridgeline stuffed to the brim, we headed out for some camping.  After a brief trip to the mainland we came back to Vancouver Island and made our way to Little Qualicum Falls for four nights of camping.  Fortunately someone flicked the summer switch and we had no rain and mostly clear skies for all four nights.

Little Qualicum Falls is a provincial campground located between Parksville and Port Alberni.  We arrived late afternoon and got settled in amidst complaints from my daughter who wanted to find the first available swimming hole and jump in.  During our stay we went to Port Alberni for supplies, went to Coombs for some ice cream and a browse, spent about 4 or 5 hours at Cameron Lake (c-c-cold!), did a couple of walks around the provincial park, rode our bikes through the campsite, and went for a brief swim in the river as it was technically still closed to swimming due to the high water level.  I also was happy to hear the call of a barred owl during one night's sleep.  If you want to listen check out the territorial call on this page.  Apparently the owl had a lot to say as it woke me up and I listened to it for quite some time before I fell back asleep only to hear it again at a farther distance some time later.

We enjoyed the couple of walks we did around the river.  We took lots of pictures of the falls and managed to cajole my reluctant son into having a good time even though he did not want to walk.  The trails are an easy walk and not that long, especially the loop from the Upper Campground, across the upper falls bridge, and back across the lower falls bridge.  Another loop, which takes you from the upper falls back up towards the Lower Campground, was a little more interesting as the trail was criss-crossed with roots and when I suggested that it was an obstacle course it became so much more fun.  By some miracle no one tripped as we quickly high stepped it down the trail.

After we packed up on our last day we stopped to visit the North Island Wildlife Recovery & Education Centre.  I am sure it is no surprise that this stop was one of my highlights.  According their website The North Island Wildlife Recovery Association (NIWRA) was founded " to partner with the citizens of Vancouver Island to establish a facility for the care of ill, injured and orphaned wildlife and to educate the public on wildlife and environmental issues."  I had a great time touring around their facility which is located on 8 acres in Errington.  There are many eagles in residence at the facility and a few baby black bears who are being housed until their future release.  Any animals being released have no contact with the visiting public, but there are many who call this facility home due to injuries that cannot fully heal.

As we read through the profiles of many of the birds who call the centre home it was sad to see the number of these injuries that are due to the activities of humans.  Many birds are brought to the centre each year due to gunshot wounds (approximately 60 per year according to their brochure).  Others have been hit by vehicles as they hunted for food on the roadside, or have been imprinted by humans and do not possess the skills to fend for themselves in the wild.  A couple of my favourite residents were Walla, the raven, who calls to other wild ravens in the area and passes her food up through the chain link of her shelter; Sandor, the eagle, who sat right at the front of his shelter intently checking out each person who came to see him, and; Emily, the Saker Falcon, who also sat near the front of her shelter and stared at us for as long as we stared at her.

We did not see Knut, the resident black bear, as he was resting inside a culvert in his shelter but we spent a few minutes watching the live footage of the baby bears as they played in their rehabilitation facility.  The four of us had some laughs as we watched the antics of these bears as they played in their pool, balanced on logs, and swatted at each other.  They were somewhat clumsy just like a puppy or kitten, or even my own kids, as they develop their co-ordination.  There was also some amusing video footage playing in the Wildlife Learning Centre of Knut.  He is shown chewing on logs like a dog would chew on a stick, batting around an old tire which eventually ended up around his head, swimming in his pool, and climbing.

I would highly recommend a visit to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre.  There is a mountain of information there for people interested in the wildlife of this Island.  We spent about an hour and a half wandering around the grounds and through the buildings.  On our way out we purchased a couple of paper bricks to support their bear shelter expansion.  There are many different ways you can support the centre: monetary donations, in-kind donations, volunteering, or adopting an animal.  You can help the animals by educating yourself about the wildlife in our area and learning how to reduce the human/animal conflicts that are all too common. 

A gentleman at the centre taught me one surprisingly easy way to help reduce the number of birds hit by vehicles: Next time you finish your apple do not throw your apple core out your car window.  The waste attracts rodents to the side of the road, which are prey for larger birds, such as owls, who are often hit by vehicles as they swoop in to catch their prey.

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