Jaybanks.ca, September 7, 2015 – Vancouver Tour Review: Stanley Park Discovery Walks

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Some Vancouver walking tours are not only for tourists: they may surprise you even if you are living in Vancouver for years! Our first article from this series featured the Forbidden Vancouver walking tours that goes over the lesser-known histories of the city but now something different: The Stanley Park Ecology Society offers tourists and locals alike two-hour guided tours, which they call their Discovery Walks. These walks are offered almost every Sunday in-season, with the topics of the walks changing weekly—other than the last Sunday of every month, which is dedicated to their popular bird walk. These walks provide participants with the chance to connect with expert naturalists and the opportunity to learn about Vancouver’s ecology; from how the forest is affected by the seasons to how we—humans—are affected by the forest.

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The bird walk is an easy walking exploration wherein participants can identify birds and learn about their behaviours. Photography is permitted, and there isn’t any need to worry about the flash; the lighting in the environment is so well-diffused that camera-happy tourists and locals alike can capture images of the wildlife without guilt.

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Just because the tour happens every month doesn’t mean that tour is going to be the same.

Depending on the season, say during the migrations that come through twice a year, we may go out onto the seawall to look out for some ocean-going species. In [the warmer season] we can head straight to Beaver Lake, where you can see the hummingbirds, the jays, the robins… local species, said Celina, the Public Education and Outreach Manager of the Stanley Park Ecology Society and the organizer of the bird walks. While the bird walking tour is the most popular, there are other types of tours occurring during the seasons that provide interesting facts and educational details, a prime example of which is unusual urban behaviour in our animals.

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“The Raccoon Rascals is a tour in August where we go out and look at how [racoon] behaviour has changed since people came around and started feeding them; a raccoon with its paw out is not normal behaviour for a racoon, we’ve taught them that. We do offer, once every three months, a historical walk—these are always cultural, such as the History of Stanley Park 101, or around Valentine’s Day we have a tour based on the sinister, shady part of the park, not shying away from the harsher realities [of Stanley Park’s history],” Celina explained. These historical tours change with the seasons and provide a break from the ecology-centred tours. When asked about the structure of the tours, we were told that they are not rigidly set in stone; nature-themed walking tours are subject to nature’s schedule.

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“While all of our walking tours are ecology based, the subject varies. For example, the heron hatchlings came out, and we said ‘Let’s make this walk specifically to go and see these hatchlings.’ One of my favourites, which happens during autumn, we have a taxidermy collection… we do a life-drawing session; we bring out all of our taxidermy, invite people and to come in and draw the taxidermy… I get to lead these workshops and they really bring people in… you can go to Main Street and draw a person anytime you want, but it’s a rare opportunity to be able to have all these species in front of you to draw,” said Celina.

Stanley Park has a rich history and the Stanley Park Ecology Society offers a chance to see Vancouver’s ecology close up and with expert guidance. Be sure to add them to your list of things to do this month, and ensure you keep up to date with their ever-expanding event calendar.

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