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Little Qualicum Estuary to Nanoose Bay (BC056)

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Little Qualicum Estuary to Nanoose Bay (BC056)

Parksville, British Columbia

Latitude 49.311°N
Longitude 124.284°W
Altitude 0m
Area 169.61km²

Site Description

The IBA covers a 30 km stretch of the coast of Vancouver Island facing the Strait of Georgia, from the Little Qualicum River estuary in the northwest to Nanoose Harbour in the southeast. It extends a few km upriver along several estuaries and out into the Strait, and includes some small islands off the Nanoose Bay peninsula. Partly within its borders and partly adjacent to it are several contiguous municipalities with a combined population of over 30,000. All are growing residential areas. The shoreline, which is broken up by several river drainage basins with estuaries, is mostly rocky with large varied tidal flats of sand, rock, pools, eelgrass beds, and mud. Inland from the IBA, the land slopes gently up to the mountain range of central Vancouver Island. This is the catchment area of the IBAs major rivers (the Little Qualicum and Englishman Rivers), which includes both residential developments and large wooded tracts, some of which have been logged. At the northwest end of the IBA is the Little Qualicum River with a large estuary and, upriver, a Fish Hatchery. To the southeast of here is the Town of Qualicum Beach with its extensive sand and rocky tidal shore bordered by a highway and public footpath. Adjacent is the large private estate of Qualicum Woods, owned by the local university and maintained for its habitat, and the large tidal rocky Columbia Beach in French Creek which extends to the next major estuary where the French and Morningstar Creeks empty into the Strait of Georgia. Here there is a commercial Marina. Southeast from here is the built-up urban area of Parksville, with a community park and a major tidal beach that when uncovered at low tide extends more than 1 km into the Strait. It is bounded to the southeast by the Englishman River Estuary, a protected, undeveloped parkland. The community of San Pareil is next, followed by Rathtrevor Provincial Park. It adjoins Craig Bay which fronts many large resorts and a large condominium development. The stretch from Rathtrevor to Craig Bay has tidal flats consisting of sand, rocks, oyster beds, and tidal pools extending more than 1 km out from the high tide line. Around the corner from Craig Bay, the much deeper Northwest Bay contains an active log sort. Between this bay and Nanoose Harbour lies the peninsula of Nanoose Bay with its rocky shoreline of bays and small offshore islands. The peninsula itself is rocky and has several large hills with a variety of habitat including several large housing developments, farmland, and a large forested and lightly used area controlled by the Department of National Defense. Nanoose Bay Estuary at the western end of Nanoose Harbour has extensive tidal flats and is fed by several creeks running through the protected lands of the Qualicum National Wildlife Area.

Birds

The marine environment of the Georgia Strait with its coastline and estuaries and offshore islands and islets dominates the IBA and supports the most abundant birdlife in the area. However, most of the species associated with this environment are only seasonally present, traveling through during fall or spring migration or residing in the area during the winter months. Globally significant numbers of Brant pass through on spring migration. A sizable fraction of all individuals of the Western population of this species rest and feed for up to 30 days in this area during spring migration coinciding with the herring run. Thayer's Gull and Mew Gull are common to abundant in this IBA from late fall to mid-spring with maximum abundance during the herring run. Numbers suggest that a very significant proportion of the global population of Thayer's Gull passes through this area annually. Very large congregations of birds, of the order of a million in number, can be seen on the water during the second half of April. These include all three scoter species, Long-tailed Duck, and Pacific Loon. The relative importance of the IBA to the other species listed in the table below is under review Common marine winter residents include Bufflehead, both on salt and fresh waters, Harlequin Duck, Black Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover, and Dunlin. Long-tailed Duck is a fairly common winter resident, but usually well off-shore. Black Oystercatcher and Killdeer are among the few species resident throughout the year. Among the non-marine species, Trumpeter Swan is present from fall to spring, usually in small flocks or family groups. The 2004 Christmas Bird Count in this area found 272 individuals. Common year-round residents include Chestnut-backed Chickadee, House Finch, American Robin, Northwestern Crow, Bald Eagle, and California Quail (groups with young of up to 50 can be observed in the winter in residential areas). The latter are subject to predation by both domestic and feral cats. A number of non-marine species breed in the area during the summer, arriving in early to late spring and leaving in mid-summer to early fall. These include Turkey Vulture, Rufous Hummingbird, and passerines. The November-2005 edition of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Area Bird Checklist lists 292 species, including accidentals.

Conservation Issues

Healthy eelgrass beds are crucial to maintaining a large number of birds, mammal, fish and invertebrate species in the IBA; eelgrass supports the spring herring spawn, which in turn attracts the large spring concentrations of many bird species. The condition of the IBA's eelgrass beds is described as fairly healthy, especially in the area of Rathtrevor, but development to accomodate the increasing human population has adversely impacted some areas, e.g., Qualicum Beach. Shoreline development, such as construction of hard retaining walls, may have altered currents and wave action and led to a reduction in terrestrial vegetation. Pollution from run-off associated with urban development is a potential threat; logging and the log sort in Northwest Bay have the potential to negatively impact water quality. Disturbance from recreational use is another threat, with potential to fragment eelgrass beds. There are several docks and marinas in the IBA and numerous aquaculture ventures. The Little Qualicum Estuary to Nanoose Bay IBA falls within the boundaries of a Provincial Wildlife Management Area. Rathtrevor Park is protected, but has a large campground. There is an annual Brant Festival held at the end of March which celebrates the IBA's importance for Brant and many other waterbird species.

IBA Criteria Habitats Land Uses Potential or Ongoing Threats Conservation Status
Iceland Gull (Thayer's)
Number Year Season
160 - 9042017Spring
81 - 4082017Winter
137 - 3882016Winter
90 - 4122016Fall
80 - 3822016Spring
100 - 1,0512015Winter
125 - 2,9112015Spring
94 - 2,1172014Winter
100 - 1752014Fall
120 - 1,0002014Spring
150 - 5602013Winter
150 - 4002013Fall
141 - 7342013Spring
85 - 1,3032012Winter
2042012Fall
310 - 5282012Spring
100 - 1,6892011Winter
100 - 2002011Fall
4602011Spring
79 - 5002010Winter
3262010Fall
1,3752010Spring
131 - 6472009Winter
200 - 5002009Spring
78 - 1542008Winter
1582008Fall
151 - 6002008Spring
139 - 3732007Winter
1502007Fall
176 - 1,2802007Spring
120 - 2122006Winter
832006Fall
432 - 1,7452006Spring
7822005Winter
76 - 3002005Fall
1,3902005Spring
77 - 2542004Winter
842004Fall
150 - 1802004Spring
100 - 7702003Winter
2402003Fall
120 - 1,0002003Spring
120 - 2,0322002Winter
5002002Fall
207 - 3922001Winter
902001Spring
2502000Spring
961999Winter
1361998Winter
1191997Winter
5091995Winter
9631994Winter
7731992Winter
5281991Winter
9601977Winter
Surf Scoter
Number Year Season
6,2002018Spring
10,400 - 27,3932017Spring
8,000 - 8,6522016Spring
6,200 - 35,0002015Spring
15,000 - 35,0002014Spring
6,0002010Spring
12,0002007Spring
6,7002005Winter
28,0482004Spring
5,650 - 16,7752000Spring
4,6001973Spring
Western Grebe
Number Year Season
1,2451991Winter
1,6001977Fall
4,8001976Spring
5,0001972Fall
3,5001931Spring
??Spring
Trumpeter Swan
Number Year Season
5532015Winter
5222014Winter
2752013Winter
8602012Winter
2932007Winter
Brant
Number Year Season
8,0502047Spring
2,9002018Spring
3,0002017Spring
3,6402011Spring
3,8722006Spring
5,415 - 7,2002000Spring
2,5001980Spring
3,4731961Spring
8,0501947Spring
Bonaparte's Gull
Number Year Season
3,000 - 7,6002017Fall
4,500 - 7,2502006Winter
3,0001985Winter
??Other
Glaucous-winged Gull
Number Year Season
4,9552018Spring
4,5002017Spring
5,1052012Winter
5,1342011Winter
5,0002011Spring
5,000 - 10,0002005Spring
4,9952002Winter
6,8002001Spring
5,6301998Winter
5,0751994Winter
5,1491991Winter
1,5001985Winter
??Winter
Marbled Murrelet
Number Year Season
2141976Spring
??Other
Mew Gull
Number Year Season
3,6132018Spring
2,400 - 10,0002017Spring
6,155 - 6,8282015Spring
3,000 - 4,0002014Spring
2,7432013Fall
2,565 - 3,0002013Spring
4,5002010Spring
2,7152007Spring
2,857 - 12,3272006Winter
3,750 - 4,6002006Spring
4,4352005Spring
2,391 - 3,6542004Spring
4,0002002Spring
4,3752001Spring
3,6002000Spring
4,0001985Spring
??Spring
White-winged Scoter
Number Year Season
10,0002014Spring
6,0001985Spring
??Other
Herring Gull
Number Year Season
5,0762013Spring
Greater Scaup
Number Year Season
6,500 - 7,0002017Spring
Common Murre
Number Year Season
32,000 - 50,0002012Winter
7741974Winter
Heermann's Gull
Number Year Season
242014Fall
552008Fall
252002Fall
Western Screech-Owl
Number Year Season
12013Winter
12007Winter
12006Spring
22005Winter
12001Spring
31996Spring
Great Blue Heron
Number Year Season
562015Winter
382013Winter
372012Winter
452006Winter
372005Winter
402004Winter
432003Winter
352002Spring
341999Winter
371995Winter
381994Winter
331977Summer
??Other
California Gull
Number Year Season
5,0002014Spring
5,2082005Spring
Black Oystercatcher
Number Year Season
842011Winter
281985Winter
??Other