Sunday, 17 September 2017

Gulls feeding by stomping in shallow water - Comox, B.C.

Heather paddling near Pt Holmes
By Keith and Heather Nicol
    While sea kayaking near Pt Holmes near Comox on September 14, we came across some interesting feeding behavior of gulls. They were stomping their feet to churn up some sort of food. They would move their feet up and down quickly as people might do running on the spot and then the gulls would peck down into the shallow water.  Evidently they also do this on grass as well to get worms to come to the surface. It is thought that the stomping simulates rain falling and the worms come to the surface to avoid drowning where they become food for the gulls. We had not seen this behavior before but found it fascinating. Local bird expert Art Martell has identified the birds as Mew Gulls.Since video quality is not that great, it is best viewed at full screen to see the gulls stomping the sand in the shallow water.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Coastal Walking trails in the Comox Valley - Kye Bay to Air Force Beach

By Keith and Heather Nicol
     With the summer temperatures returning we decided to check out another sea side walk in the Comox area on September 13. This one goes from Kye Bay to Air Force Beach and is one of the few mostly sand beaches in this area. We parked at a medium sized parking lot at the end of Windslow Road (coordinates 49 42.456 N, 124 52.615 W) in Kye Bay. We headed to the left along the beach and even though the tide was relatively high (4.1 meters), there is plenty of room to walk. We saw a few people that had walked part way along the beach and were relaxing with a book or sun tanning. We found the best walking to be on some firm sand just above the high tide line and since we were walking in the mid afternoon much of the trail was in shade. If you want to walk route this in the sun then opt for a morning walk since the beach faces east. 
Heather walking toward Air Force Beach in the distance
     The beach has patches of gravels and cobbles but generally it is easy walking. The back shore leads up a steep cliff to the Comox airport so you hear planes landing and taking off. It is about 1.8 km to the parking lot at Air Force Beach so this makes a nice 1 hour or abit more for a return hike. (Another option is the park at Air Force Beach and walk this route in reverse- coordinates are: 49 43.333 N, 124 53.144 W for this parking lot).  
Heather walking back toward Kye Bay along the sandy shore

There is lots of drift wood to sit on along the way and the views of Georgia Strait and the mountains beyond makes this a scenic walk when you have good visibility. We ran into one woman who told us that it took her 2 years to find this beach. “For the first 2 years we lived in Comox we would drive to Parksville so our kids could play on the beach” she told us. “Then we discovered this beach and wondered why we hadn’t discovered it sooner”.  
Keith walking back on the wide sandy beach

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Glacier Greens Golf Course is in great shape

By Keith and Heather Nicol
The course was nice and green

      On Tuesday, September 12 we decided to try Glacier Greens Golf Course which is another popular golf course in the Comox Valley. The valley is blessed with many different golf courses but we had never been to this course before. The temperatures were ideal for golf – temperatures in low 20’s but we could have done with less wind-at times it was gusting at close to 50 km/hr. Although it has been a very dry summer in the Comox Valley you wouldn’t know it by playing at Glacier Greens. We were impressed with the state of the course – the tee boxes, fairways and greens were in very good shape. Some of the other courses we have played lately had very hard, brown fairways but not here. 
Heather putting on the 8th green-control tower in the background
    Although the course is not long- just over 5600 yards long from the white tee, but it certainly played longer (maybe due to the wind?).  We found the front nine to be more protected from the wind and there is a good mix of water and sand traps to force you to place your shots well. Most fairways are reasonably wide but there are enough narrow ones that again put an emphasis on straight ball hitting. Also we appreciated the good quality of the sand in the traps. Although we are usually not great sand trap play makers we did manage some good shots on this day. On the back nine we were joined by our friends Steve and Kieran who evidently had played here many years ago. We all played well on the 12 hole- a short par 3 and we had to almost move the deer off the tee box to hit our first shots. We saw deer on many holes including a few mothers with small fawns. The back nine also provides good views of the Beaufort Range and the course is right next to the Comox Airport so the control tower is a backdrop on some holes.  Although the last hole is just 316 yards (par 4) it is very tough with trees and a pond protecting the green.  The back nine also has a retention pond/reservoir that is being constructed and Bill Kelly from Glacier Greens told us that it will be finished this fall and will have some fountains in it for next season.  
Kieran teeing off on the 12th hole with a group of deer in the background
   The front nine is a par 36 and the back nine is 200 yards shorter and is a par 35. The course is known for its lessons and has 2 professionals to help you with your game including fitting you with proper length clubs.  The course is full service with a driving range, putting green, clubhouse and pro shop. There are also some great September specials so if you want to play a course that is fine shape we suggest you check out Glacier Greens. They are also one of the few courses here that are open year around so watch for other golf specials. We want to come back to play the course when there is less wind and to check out the back nine’s new retention pond water feature. For more information see:
The 18th hole was very difficult with a pond and sand traps guarding the green

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Coastal Walking Trails in the Comox Valley- Seal Bay Nature Park

by Keith and Heather Nicol

   Seal Bay Nature Park has many walking, biking and horse trails and one section that we decided to explore on Monday, Sept 11 runs along the ocean. We had not walked on any of the trails on the north side of the park so decided to access these trails from Seacliff Road. There is a small parking lot at the end of Seacliff Road (49 46.039 N, 124 58.385 W) and there is a map of the trails mounted at the park entrance.  We walked for 240 meters before turning left, following the steep trail for 220 meters down to the beach. This section of the trail is well surfaced with packed dirt and small gravel but once you reach the shore it is typical beach walking.  The views of the mountains across Georgia Strait are impressive and the beach setting offers many places to sit and relax. We saw people who had brought their lunch down to eat on the shore and others that we simply out to enjoy the cooler weather of fall. 
The trail starts off in the tall trees before winding to the beach
      At the high tide line the beach material is fairly good for walking and includes sand, gravels and the odd section of cobbles which are harder to walk on. The surface is soft like much beach walking so although distances along the shore are not long the sand can be tiring to walk in. For those interested in a shorter section of shoreline we suggest turning up at the Don Apps trail which is 600 meters down the shore. This route up is easier than the steep route down since it switchbacks frequently making the grade easier.  The Don Apps trail winds through the tall douglas fir forest which has a lovely sword fern understory. From here follow the trail to the right to the car park at Seacliff Road. This makes a round trip of about 2.2 km which might be fine for families with small children or others that want a shorter hike.
Heather having a rest on one of the many large logs that litter the beach
      We decided to continue walking along the beach for another 550 meters where we noted another trail access from Seabank Road. To get back to our car though we opted to simply head back along the beach to the Don Apps trail and up to the car park. This route was 3.3 km and took us about 1 hour of walking with 15 minutes for a short rest.  We hiked this route at a tide of 3 meters and note that a couple of trees that block the shoreline might create problems for getting around them if tides were very high. We want to get back and check out some of the other Seal Bay Nature Park trails through the fall. 
Heather walking along the high tide line with the mountains of the BC mainland behind

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Exploring the Upper Trent River Canyon near Courtenay, B.C.

  By Keith and Heather Nicol
   On Saturday, September 9 we joined Loys and Alison Maingon for a walk along the Upper Trent River canyon. We had not been into this area before so when we noted that the Comox Valley Naturalists were leading a walk into this area we decided this was a good time to check it out. After a very dry summer with little rain we ended up having showers on this day and this likely scared many people off. “Had the weather been better we likely would have had 20 or so people turn up” Loys told us. In any case we need rain and the showers actually added some nice reflections and deepened the colours of some of the leaves that were already dropping. 

Loys walks the left bank of the very dry Trent River
   To access this route drive along the inland highway to the north side of the Trent River bridge and there is a large parking area there to pull into. The coordinates are 49 36.009 N, 124 59.115 W for those using a GPS.  Follow the trail downhill for 140 meters or so to a trail that turns right. The main trail follows under the overpass but turn right to get to the upper canyon section (use coordinates  – 49 35.953 N and 124 59.062 W for this trail junction). We used a mix of footware including rubber boots, water proof sandals and hiking boots. You are basically walking along the river bed with rivulets of water now and again that need to crossed so whatever you wear might get wet. This route can only be done in the summer or early fall when water levels drop enough to allow you walk on the river bed.  Also a hiking pole might not go astray.
The river bed is mostly smooth water carved bedrock
  Once on the river bed the walking is quite easy since it is along a generally smooth bedrock surface.  Along the canyon sides the banks are composed of tightly layered shale and Loys mentioned that most of the people who come here are after fossils. The showers were steady as we walked upstream and at times we came to pools that were 1-1.5 meters deep. “We usually see cutthroat trout in the these pools” Loys told us but we didn’t see any. In fact we saw little animal or bird life. Some of the river banks have intrusions of other layers of rock that are a various angles to the main sedimentary layers. We walked for 1.1 km before we turned around. “Above this the route gets trickier and with the rain slicked rocks it might get dangerous” Loys said. This area is certainly impressive and we vowed to return with a tripod and in better weather since the photography options are worth investigating. Our walk took 1hour and 15 minutes which included time for pictures and looking at plants and for fossils. The only down side of this walk is that to get back to Courtenay you need to continue to the Buckley Bay turn off before you can return north on the inland highway to the Courtenay-Comox area. For more information on the Comox Valley Naturalists see:
There were curious bedding planes and mixtures of colours of rock along the canyon walls