Saturday, 3 March 2018

Looking for spawning herring on Denman Island

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Heather looking for herring action at Fillongley Park
Saturday, March 3 dawned sunny and calm – a rarity this winter in the Comox Valley.  We knew that this is herring season so we decided to head to Denman Island to check it out. Denman Island is a short 10 minute ferry ride so once we had made the decision to go , we quickly made a lunch, checked the ferry schedule and made the 11:00 am ferry with 15 minutes to spare. We had heard that the area around Fillongley Park was a good spot to view the frenzy that comes when the herring spawn.  Gulls, eagles, seals and sea lions all take advantage of this huge natural buffet that lasts for a short time in late February and early March.  The herring spawn in such large numbers that they colour the water green with the milt from the males. In fact the Hornby and Denman Island Visitor Guide for 2016-17 features an aerial view of this amazing natural phenomenon on their front cover. When we arrived at Fillongley Park we could see lots of gulls offshore and the distinctive barking of sea lions but when we went to the tide line we saw no spawn in the water. Perhaps they were just getting ready. 

Overlooking Chrome Island Lighthouse from our lunch spot
 From there we headed for Boyle Point Provincial Park to do our favourite hike on Denman Island which leads to an elevated view of Chrome Island Lighthouse. Along the way the road winds along the water and we kept our eye out for bird and sea lion activity just offshore but unfortunately didn’t see anything. The trail is easy walking and is about 1 km (one way) so is doable by a wide range of people.  We saw about 15 people doing the trail including a couple of families and the real highlight was looking down on an eagle’s nest at the trail’s end. Two eagles were in the tree (three at times) and since the terrain is steep you can virtually look right down into the nest. There were several photographers snapping picture after picture. With the March sun beating down and we had a perfect lunch seated on a bench overlooking Chrome Island Lighthouse.  Idyllic!  The view of the eagle’s nest is easy to find since you simply take a side trail to the right for 10 or so meters after you reach the end of the trail. Bring binoculars and a camera! If readers do see evidence of the 2018 herring run in the Comox area let us through the comments section below. It should be any day now. 

The lower eagle in the middle is on the next

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