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Walks with Dave: Oaks Bluff Viewpoint

David Manning

Oaks Bluff Viewpoint is a grand spot for feeling above it all, with great views

and a fine spot for watching Raptors and other birds.

Before we begin our walk, in your car or standing at the trailhead, Take One. Take one moment of silence to centre yourself.

As you begin your walk, check out the signpost depicting all the Southern Resident Killer Whales that have been born since 1998.

Before achieving the viewpoint, you will have a steep climb of almost ½ kilometre, through a north facing dense canopy, made easier by many switchbacks. Remember, the goal is each step, not just getting to the top. Take your time, stop to admire the trees, the moss-covered rocks and listen to the sounds of Nature.

Eventually your climb ends at a sign advertising two viewpoints. Go left for a short stroll to Viewpoint 1. There is a bench here where you look down on Bedwell Harbour Marina on South Pender and in the distance the Cascade Mountains with spectacular snow-covered Mt. Baker in the U.S.—if there are no clouds.

Rest a bit. On the dead tree to your left I once saw a Peregrine falcon. Check out the surrounding trees. Arbutus, elegant and sensuous to my eyes, are prominent trees on sunny bluffs throughout the Gulf Islands, the only native broadleaf evergreen in Canada, often associated with Garry Oak and Douglas-fir. It has exfoliating orange-red bark. In May it has creamy-white flowers followed in late summer by masses of red berries, cherished by some birds, including Robins, Varied Thrushes and Band-tailed Pigeons. Arbutus means ‘strawberry tree’ in Latin.

Return to the junction and follow the trail to Viewpoint 2. Before arriving at this viewpoint, you will pass a small wetland on your right; I once saw a Barred Owl perched here just above the water. In spite of the fact that I was quite close, it was content to just look at me.

Soon thereafter you will arrive at the second viewpoint, where a sheer cliff drops to the ocean. There are three benches and a picnic table in this area. The views are magnificent! Many islands in Canada and the United States are visible with the stunning Olympic Mountains in the state of Washington seen in the distance, again if they are not cloud-covered. Can you identify any of the islands? And which country they’re in?

In March and April we welcome back the Turkey Vultures, when they return from the south. They nest in the rocky caves and crevices below, hoping to raise one or two chicks, with the family returning south by mid-October. A few Vultures overwinter on southern Vancouver Island. As you sit, particularly during the spring and summer weeks, look for Turkey vultures, Bald eagles, Ravens, Peregrine falcons and Violet-Green swallows, all of whom nest below. From May-October in particular you may see some Southern Resident

Orcas. The photo shows what I saw from this bluff.

Don’t rush away from this viewpoint, one of the best on Pender. Alone or with friends, be in silence for a few moments—use all your senses.

Walk to your right towards the park boundary and the fence. Examine the small grove of live and dead trembling aspen. The fruit appears with the first leaves as small greenish capsules. The flat leaf stems cause the leaves to tremble with the slightest breeze. What other trees do you see from this bluff? In the spring look for small plants like Blue-eyed Mary, Miner’s lettuce, Fringecup and others.

When you’ve had your fill of all this bluff beauty, slowly descend back down the trail, still alert to the wonders of Nature at hand. When you arrive back to your vehicle, remember to Take One.

Walks with Dave- Oaks Bluff
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