Natural History

Pender Island is a tapestry of diverse habitats, each with its own bird, wildlife and flora communities.

From marine shorelines and islets, patchy farmlands, forests, to the almost urban environment of Magic Lake Estates, each offers opportunity to view different species. The Magic Lake neighbourhood, with its numerous gardens and bird feeders, can produce the unexpected. Along the shore and surrounding waters, birding can be especially rich with numerous species of waterfowl, gull, loon and grebe, Black Oystercatcher and Black Turnstone to be found among the rocks. Some of the small bays often have, in season, goldeneyes, mergansers, wigeon, among other species.

Wetlands and freshwater lakes are scarce, but when examined contain species of interest. Swallows and swifts forage over the water, Virginia Rail is a rare inhabitant, Pied-billed Grebes nest as do a number of songbirds. In fall and winter, Magic Lake is especially important for wintering American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck and Common Merganser. After a short walk, Roe Lake and Greenburn Lake can produce an interesting array of species from Osprey to Wood Duck.

Open farm fields can be found on both North and South Pender. Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures may be seen soaring above the fields, Savannah and White-crowned Sparrows can be heard singing and with luck, a Wilson’s Snipe may be heard winnowing above the moister areas. The hedge rows are important habitat for many species. Check them in winter for Golden-crowned Sparrows.

Of particular interest is the Brooks – Gowlland Point complex at the south end of South Pender. Here one can find a mosaic of diverse habitats from marine waters, islets, cliffs, beach and small coves, wetlands and forest. Harlequin Ducks winter here as do loons and some pelagic species. Bald Eagles nest nearby. Salmonberry is in bloom in early March attracting hummingbirds and other songbirds throughout the dense understory. Marine mammals are often sighted in the Spring Summer Fall Winter adjacent Boundary Pass. The point acts as a minor migration funnel with uncommon or vagrant species being occasionally sighted.  (i.e. remove  Long-tailed duck).

The southern Gulf Islands are well-known as a location to observe Orca Whales in season.  The Orcas usually follow a predictable route, actively feeding as they travel.  Much information is available elsewhere, i.e. the Orca Network web site.  On Pender, the breakwater at Thieves Bay, Brooks Point, and a number of other locations offer the opportunity to view these amazing creatures.  Humpback Whales are seen occasionally and more rarely, a Minke Whale is observed.  Other marine mammals that may be observed include Harbour Seal, Harbour Porpoise,  White-sided Dolphin, and Stellar’s Sea Lion (Northern).

Along the shoreline, River Otters are frequently observed,  not to be confused with Sea Otter which does not occur here.  Other mammals include mink, raccoon, and Columbia Black-tailed Deer, a very common species and traffic hazard throughout the islands.  And yes, Norway Rats are plentiful.  A number of bats can sometimes be viewed at dusk, hawking for insects, but little study has been undertaken to determine species and abundance.