Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, British Columbia brings the abundance of nature into vibrant city life. Situated along the shore of Juan de Fuca Strait, the 200 acres of pristine parkland was originally set aside as a protected area in 1858 by Sir James Douglas, governor of the Colony of Vancouver.
Beacon Hill Park’s traditional name, given by the Songhees people, was Meeacan which means “belly.” The hill was a burial site for First Nations Coast Salish people, the original inhabitants of the Greater Victoria region. There is a sacredness that infuses the nature pathways, woodlands, and shoreline trail.
A Great Blue Heron colony has graced this park over the years. According to Beacon Hill Park History:
“The Beacon Hill Park heron colony began with a single nest in 1982. Unnoticed by most Victorians, the number of nests increased sporadically through the 1980’s and 1990’s. By 2000, when 65 active nests were counted, the colony was no longer a secret shared by a few birders. In the following years, the City of Victoria promoted the colony as a spectacular feature of the Park. Heron photos appeared in city publications, a heron webpage and “heron-cam” were added to the city’s website, informational signs were posted at the colony, numbered tags were nailed to nest trees, and the parking area immediately below the nest trees was closed during nesting to reduce disturbances.”
May 2007, a huge disruption forced the heron colony to abandon Beacon Hill Park. I understand that this sudden decrease in heron population was sparked by the death of an eagle, who had been a long-time resident.
“The presence of an eagle’s nest nearby actually serves to protect the heronry, explained Hook. “When we don’t have an eagle nesting in here, then random, marauding eagles come off the shoreline and look for an easy food source.” Victoria News
The Great Blue Herons have returned to Beacon Hill Park, where they remain for six months each year between the months of February to August where they will nest. Join me on the path to the heron colony, but shh…the herons are nesting.
Interested in knowing more about Great Blue Herons? Check out Nature Canada, one of the oldest national nature conservation charities in Canada.