Birding in British Columbia
by K. Slagboom
From mid September to late October, migrating raptors gather in East Sooke Park on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island. At the peak of migration, around Sept 30th, as many as 1000 Turkey Vultures can be seen kettling over the coastal hills along with a mix of other raptor species.
East Sooke Park is the staging area for south bound migrants which stop over here before crossing the 18+ miles of the open ocean of Juan de Fuca Strait on their way to Olympic National Park, Washington.
From the observation point overlooking Beechey Head and the Strait, a birder can hope to list up to 8 raptor species though its not uncommon to list more.
A bird watcher is likely to see many Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks. Other less common raptors that regularly stage here include: Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel, Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, Osprey, and Bald Eagle.
Rare raptors to our area that pass through in most years include: Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Goshawk, and Broad-winged Hawk.
The best time to hawk watch is between 10:00am and 2:00pm on warm sunny days. Remember to bring warm clothing as the lookout can become chilly since it is exposed to the cool onshore winds.
To access the hawk watch, follow the Beechey Head trail from Aylard Farm, East Sooke Park Entrance. Stay to the left for about a 20 min walk on the trail until you see an unmarked path on the right that leads forward and up to rock bluff lookout. The unmarked path leads off at the point where the "trail" changes from an old logging road (e.g. quite wide) to a (narrow) trail. It's a very noticable change.
Follow this very short path, climb the rock and you are there. If it's not, then you turned onto another path too early. There's only one lookout in this area of the park.
The exposed rock in the center of this satellite view is the location of the Hawk Watch