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Wildlife Watching In Stanley Park

05/14/2013 12:56 EDT | Updated 07/14/2013 05:12 EDT

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- April has always meant eagles to me. Although the late fall and early winter bring eagles galore to the Harrison and Squamish areas to sit by the riverside and watch for salmon, April is the season of eagles in the air. So it was fitting that when my daughter and I decided to explore Stanley Park on a lovely day early last month, one of the first sounds we heard was the little whinny of an eagle -- a small sound for such a large and beautiful bird. In this lovely park beside Vancouver's urban core, the city's natural beauty meets the urban edge, and the results are intriguing for wildlife lovers.

Stanley Park is 1,001 acres of forest that extends into the Burrard Inlet, the water that separates Vancouver from the North Shore mountains. It's one of Vancouver's most iconic views: looking up from the park onto the snow-covered peaks, or looking down from the peaks to the harbour and the ocean. Nestled right beside Vancouver's densely populated West End, the park has beautiful temperate rainforest, urban beaches with mountain views, and a seawall that bridges the two.

If you're up for a hike, you can walk around the edge of the park. The nine-kilometre (5.6-mile) seawall encloses the park, and it's a perfect long walk or short bike ride for a warm day. If you're strolling around the seawall, you'll spot many of the park's famous sights, such as Siwash Rock, a lone monument with a Douglas fir on top that stands in the southwest area of the park. And wildlife-watching opportunities abound in this place where the forest meets the ocean.

If you're out for a walk in the fields early in the morning, you might catch a glimpse of one of Stanley Park's urban coyotes. Coyotes are quite fond of the rodents that love cities, and they're a more and more frequent urban sight. Watch quietly from afar. If you come across a coyote unexpectedly, make some noise, look large, and it will likely move away.

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Stanley Park's eagles are urban sorts, feeding on other birds such as pigeons rather than the fish that other eagles like to eat. Vancouver's population of bald eagles has increased in recent years. In the spring, these eagles are busy tending their nests, rearing their young. When the eagles leave the nest, they often to move to nearby rivers to feed as the salmon runs begin for the fall.

Story by Tricia Edgar/Vacay.ca Outdoors Columnist

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