SPRING: March, April, May
EARLY: Sea Animals: Herring spawn occurs, the crucial beginning of the year for much of our marine ecosystem. Many rockfish spawn.
Land Animals: Tree frogs sing in the ponds.
Plants: Early wildflowers grow on south exposed areas; wild plum and cherry bloom; early stinging nettles are ready to be picked.
Birds: Eagles lay their eggs shortly after the herring spawn; pigeon guillemots arrive at their nest sites; first warblers arrive; flocks of brant and Canada geese and ducks are seen and heard heading north; early hummingbirds seek out pink currant and salmonberry flowers.
MID: Sea Animals: Sea lions leave for the summer; newly hatched herring can be seen at Ford Cove and in bays; short-lived jellyfish and sea cucumbers appear; river otters mate.
Land Animals: Mason bees emerge from cocoons and begin collecting pollen.
Plants: Wildflowers in full splendour: trillium, chocolate lily, bleeding hearts, Easter lily, Indian paintbrush, spring gold, gold stars, camas, blue-eyed Mary, calypso orchid, orange honeysuckle and sea blush; alders and maples turn green again; pollen is shed from the maple, alder and other trees; salmonberry and red flowering currant bloom; thimbleberry, Saskatoon berry and mahonia in flower.
Birds: Purple martins return from South America; swallows return; harlequin ducks, mergansers and common loons leave for their interior nesting sites; male rufous hummingbirds do spectacular dives to impress the females (who are busy collecting cattail fluff and spiders’ web for nests); scoters, long-tailed ducks and scaups gather in huge flocks prior to migration; other seabirds and shorebirds moult to breeding plumage and assemble in larger flocks than usual; mergansers do their courtship dances; unusual migrating birds may make a rest stop in the area.
LATE: Sea Animals: Harbour seals move back onto Norris Rocks and Flora Islet after being pushed away by the sea lions; blueback coho feed on herring and grow a pound a month; eelgrass meadows become a nursery for baby fish and invertebrates.
Land Animals: The huge silk moth takes flight.
Plants: Wildflowers in full bloom; oyster mushrooms appear with the first warmer rains.
Birds: Eagles feed their voracious young; most seabirds and shorebirds leave for their nesting grounds; some non-breeding harlequin ducks stay for the summer; oystercatchers, Canada geese and pigeon guillemots are nesting; first Swainson’s thrushes are singing; juvenile purple martins arrive.
SUMMER: June, July, August
EARLY: Sea Animals: Seabirds nest on islets, glaucous-winged gulls lay their eggs on Norris and other islets.
Land Animals: Island black-tailed deer have fawns.
Plants: Bull kelp is at its maximum growth.
Birds: Eaglets become audible from the ground; lots of fledglings from chickadees, wrens, robins, finches and nuthatches; woodpeckers fledge their young.
MID: Sea Animals: Harbour seal pups are left while their mothers forage; some early migrant seabirds and shorebirds return.
Plants: Salal, ocean spray, mock orange, oxeye daisy, Nootka rose and clustered wild rose in bloom.
Birds: Peregrine falcons and merlins hunt with their young; eaglets take their first flight; pelagic cormorant chicks hatch.
LATE: Sea Animals: Elephant seal returns; winter seabirds and shorebirds start returning including loons, scoters, harlequins, Bonaparte’s gulls, greater yellowlegs and surfbirds. This is also a great time to see bioluminescence with the warm water and shorter days.
Plants: Blackberries fully ripened.
Birds: Purple martins fledge and leave for winter in South America; eagles leave for the salmon rivers.
FALL: September, October, November
EARLY: Sea Animals: The ocean’s “Second Springtime” with many short-lived jellyfish and other invertebrates reappearing briefly; main arrival of winter seabirds and shorebirds.
Plants: Chanterelle mushrooms appear with the first rains.
Birds: Large flocks of mergansers, horned grebes, rednecked grebes, greater yellowlegs and black-bellied plovers stay for a few days before they scatter to their winter feeding grounds; unusual migrants such as Heermann’s gulls, red-necked phalaropes, wandering tattlers and rhinoceros auklets are sometimes seen; common murres and Pacific loons return and are mainly visible offshore; oystercatchers assemble in flocks on rocky points; adult eagles return from the salmon rivers and reclaim their territories.
MID: Birds: Juvenile and non-resident eagles drift in gradually going wherever food is available; lots of winter resident seabirds and shorebirds.
Plants: Wild mushroom season continues until the first hard frosts; maples in fall colour.
LATE: Sea Animals: Chum salmon spawn in Beulah Creek; sea lions return to Norris Rocks and Flora Islet; lots of winter resident seabirds and shorebirds.
Land Animals: Black-tailed deer are in rut.
Plants: First big storm blows leaves off the deciduous trees.
Birds: Five species of seagulls winter around Hornby; harlequin ducks and mergansers back at Ford Cove, trumpeter swans and Northern shovelers in Strachan Lake.
WINTER: December, January, February
EARLY: Sea Animals: An elephant seal resides at Flora Islet.
Plants: Wild mushroom season continues until the first hard frosts.
Birds: Lots of winter resident seabirds and shorebirds; oystercatchers in courtship displays; Anna’s hummingbirds seek out feeders.
MID: Sea Animals: Lingcod spawn and males guard egg masses; first herring balls are seen surfacing.
Plants: First nettles grow in sunny spots.
Birds: Chickadees, fox, golden-crowned and song sparrows, purple finches, house finches, towhees and juncos return to bird feeders; juvenile and non-resident eagles drift in gradually going wherever food is available; greater numbers of non-resident eagles, gulls and seabirds assemble to wait for herring.
LATE: Sea Animals: Schools of herring surface; lingcod continue to spawn; lots of winter resident seabirds and shorebirds.
Birds: Eagles start rebuilding nests; trumpeter swans and Northern shovelers in Strachan Lake; greater yellowlegs, buffleheads and other seabirds in courtship display; smaller birds start singing their courtship songs.
A special thanks to Paula Courteau sharing her knowledge of Hornby Island wildlife and wilderness. See Paula’s wildlife photography here.