Birding in British Columbia

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Prince George Birding Locations ..and some of our favorite spots!

by Jack Bowling

Good birding locations:
Within 5 minutes from downtown Prince George

Cottonwood Island Park

Close to downtown at the confluence of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers, this is a deciduous floodplain of old cottonwood vets with an understorey of willows, red-osier dogwood, high-bush cranberry, and alders. Lots of woodpeckers year-round with the most conspicuous being Pileated and Hairy. Bald Eagles nest across the Nechako River from the park and the birds can be watched as they fish in the nearby river to feed their hungry eaglets in the summer. A great place for warblers such as Am. Redstarts and Yellow Warblers in migration in May, and later in June and July during breeding. Also watch for Vaux's Swifts zipping around the treetops, and Wood Ducks in the side channels. Note that this area is prone to frequent flooding during the river freshet during June and some of the trails may be swamped then.

Directions: From downtown, travel north to First Avenue then turn right. Take the last left off First Avenue onto River Road before going over the Yellowhead Bridge over the Fraser River. Circle back over the overpass for about 500 metres then take any of the next three or four roads to the right into the park.

Hudson's Bay Wetland

A quiet backwater minutes from downtown. Good place for ducks such as mallards, bufflehead and scaup. Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Yellowthroats sing from the cattails on the north and west sides of the slough. Muskrats are always busy. Black-capped Chickadees and Yellow-rumped Warblers in the mixed wood along the south side.

Directions: From downtown, travel east until you reach Queensway then turn right. Continue past 20th Avenue and you will se the slough shortly on your right. There is a small parking area on the southeast side of the slough just off Queensway.

Connaught Hill Park

This tall hill one sees just to the south of the downtown area can be a very birdy place, especially during passerine migration in May. The 200 metre elevation above the downtown level affords a good view of soaring raptors and gulls, while the numerous conifers and shrubs in the park provide cover and food for many warblers, kinglets, chickadees, and nuthatches. Don't be surprised if one of the several downtown Merlins cruises by. The flowerbeds are also attractive.

Directions: Can't miss this one from downtown so just head for it as best you can. The road up the hill is on the south side.

 

Good birding locations:
Within 10 minutes from downtown Prince George

McMillan Creek Regional Park

An underrated location with a good series of trails, this older growth stand of spruce and fir with a brushy understorey of deciduous shrubs provides outstanding habitat for empids such as Least and Hammond's Flycatchers, warblers such as Am. Redstart, Magnolia and MacGillivray's, White-throated Sparrows, and American Three-toed Woodpeckers. The south end of the park has a spectacular viewpoint from which one can watch soaring hawks (and if you are there the last few days of May, watch for returning Broad-wingeds), dashing Bank, Rough-winged and Violet-green Swallows, and Ospreys fishing the Nechako River below.

Directions: from downtown, travel north to 1st Avenue, then turn left (west). Stay right when you come to the end of 1st Avenue and you will go over an overpass. Remain to the right and you will pass under the overpass and cross over the Cameron Street Bridge, and older style one-lane bridge with alternating traffic. Take this bridge over the Nechako River and go straight through the light and wend your way up the hill away from the river. This road merges onto Highway 97N which you stay on for about 1 km. When you see the weigh scales on the left hand side of the road, slow down and take the first right which is Hofferkamp Road. A short ways down this road is a gravel parking lot on your right. Leave you car here and walk the 250 metres to the trails which lead to the right off the road.

Forests for the World

Situated along the western escarpment of the "downtown bowl" area, this site is a real gem. The Forests for the World (FFTW) site was cleared by P.G. beer baron Ben Ginter in the 1960s for pasture but was never used as such. Instead it grew back naturally until the site was dedicated as a demonstration type forest in 1986. Extensive trail building and conifer planting since then have created a heavily used but immensely interesting successional forest of willows, alders and birches mixed in with Douglas-firs, spruces and pines. A very good variety of birds here including Calliope Hummingbirds, Orange-crowned Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, and Dusky Flycatchers in the more open spots, Hermit Thrushes (singing all through May and June) , Warbling Vireos and Dark-eyed Juncos in the younger deciduous shrub layer, Least Flycatchers and White-throated Sparrows in the older aspen stands, Western Tanagers and Magnolia Warblers in the mixed woods, Hammond's Flycatchers and kinglets of both stripes in the taller conifers, and Lincoln's Sparrows and the ever-singing N. Waterthrushes along the ponds and lakeshores. Shane Lake is a short walk up one of the main trails and features a wooden dock and viewpoint from which numerous ducks can be seen, as well as the always busy beavers which maintain several lodges along the lakeshore (best seen at dusk in the evening).

Directions: From downtown, take 5th Avenue west until you reach Foothills Boulevard, then turn left onto Foothills. Shortly on your right, you will notice a sign which points to Forests for the World. Take Cranbrook Hill Road which appears soon on the right (this is a fairly steep hill). At the top of the hill, bear left past the house with the A-frame roof onto Kueng Road. Take this road to the end and you will be in the FFTW parking lot. Excellent viewpoint of the city from the top lookout.

Cranbrook Hill Greenway

This linear trail system along the top of Cranbrook Hill is a 25 km long trail stretching from Otway in the north to Highway 16W at its southern end. It does not take long when walking the trails to rack up an impressive bird list since the habitat varies frequently along its length. Look for Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Magnolia Warblers and Am. Redstarts, N. Waterthrushes along the creeks, Least Flycatchers, Warbling Vireos, White-throated Sparrows, Cassin's Vireos, MacGillivray's and Yellow Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, Western Tanagers, and Purple Finches to name just a few.

Directions: There are several entry points to the trail system. The easiest access is from the parking lot at the south end of the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC) grounds. To get there, take 15th Avenue west from downtown until you start climbing Cranbrook Hill and the road changes to University Way. Near the top of the hill as it flattens out, the main entrance to the UNBC campus leads off to the right. Take this exit and follow the ring road to the right around the campus and past the dormitories. Just after the dorms, you will see a gravel road leading to a parking lot which you take. Park here and the trailhead begins on the south end of the parking lot.

The Pineview area

This is wide-open farming country on the benches to the east of downtown, mostly hay and cattle ranches. The best place within easy reach of town to see Red-tailed Hawks, Am. Kestrels, Brewer's Blackbirds. Black-billed Magpies, N. Harriers, and Killdeer in the summer. Typical of the central interior, W. Meadowlarks are found along the perimeter of the airport. In winter, the area supports Rough-legged Hawks, Short-eared Owls (in mild winters), Great Gray and N. Hawk Owls, and rarely Gyrfalcons.

Directions: From downtown, travel right (east) on 1st Avenue and continue across the Yellowhead Bridge which spans the Fraser River. The road becomes Highway 16E once on the bridge. Continue on the highway up the hill past the Mr. G's store until the first traffic light at the intersection of Highway 16E and the Old Caribou Highway. Turn right on the Old Caribou Highway and continue south. You will shortly reach the airport perimeter. Take your time searching along the many roads which lead across the area.

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