Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #2 – Birding at Sechelt Marsh

 

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The Sechelt Marsh is a great place to stretch your legs with its winding trail around a small pond. The pond is fed by both fresh and tidal water, offering a rich habitat, and an abundance of ducks, mostly Mallards together with other common species. IMG_4850

There is a small island in the middle of the pond offering protection to new arrivals, and many rarer ducks have appeared including this Canvasback.

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Springtime is wonderful for seeing new young life, paddling closely by the mother, with the male species nearby keeping a close watch for any danger.IMG_8076IMG_9314

The winding loop passes through trees and bushes surrounding the Marsh and can be good for a wide variety of passerines at any season, including Black-capped Chickadees, and White-throated Sparrows.IMG_3751

I always enjoy making several loops around the Marsh, both for the exercise as well as the opportunity to see something I may have missed.

Sechelt Marsh is located north of the town centre on Wharf Road, at Porpoise Bay. More information about birding on the Sunshine Coast can be found at http://www.sunshinecoastnature.com/

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Walking holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #6 – Escaping through Smuggler Cove

If you are looking to get away for the weekend or wanting a short side trip from Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast is a beautiful destination and Smuggler Cove, with its pristine beauty and colourful history makes for a great escape.

Shortly after leaving the parking area you’ll reach the first of several wooden walkways that cross over flooded areas and skirt around small ponds. If you’re lucky you might see beavers busily building the dams which have caused this flooding.

The 1.3 km trail winds through a diverse rain forest habitat with several twisting Arbutus reaching above the canopy, and continues with outlooks onto the cove itself, as well as Welcome Passage and Georgia Strait beyond. In the near distance you can see several islands, including North and South Thormanby and Texada.

During the summer months the cove is often full of anchored sailboats and other pleasure craft. You’ll see large boats navigating carefully through the narrow entrance to the cove, hugging the far shoreline to avoid several rocks lying just below the surface.

The cove has a colourful history dating back to the late 1880’s when it was first used to smuggle Chinese labourers into the United States to work on the expanding network of railways. The head tax required to enter the country was prohibitively expensive forcing them to resort to other means.

Later, American Prohibition, spawned a burgeoning industry for many Canadian boat operators, attempting to make ends meet during the Depression. Small, fast boats would load up with illicit liquor from stills on nearby Texada Island, to meet up with their American counterparts in international waters, 12 miles offshore. Each side of the sale would hold a torn dollar bill, to match up as proof of purchase.

Getting There:  Head north from Sechelt along the highway for approximately 10 minutes  and watch for the well-marked sign to Smuggler Cove. Turn left and follow this winding road until you reach a small parking area, where the trail begins.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – # 5 – The Sechelt Seawall

IMG_5365The seawall in front of Sechelt is one of my favourite walks and I visit it throughout the year. I captured this winter sunrise a few years ago and love its intense colours.

However, the real attraction of the Sechelt Seawall for me is the opportunity to get in a very pleasant half-hour’s exercise with an interesting and incredibly scenic walk. My walk usually starts at Snickett Park with its beautiful large-rock outcroppings and views of the Trail Islands.  There are a few heritage cottages at this end of the seawall built almost a century ago when Sechelt was a stopping point for the old Union Steamships that travelled along the coast.

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Halfway along the seawall is the grand Tori Gate, built in 2002 by the Timber Framers Guild of North America as a gift to the community. The Tori Gate serves as an entrance to the Sechelt Pier which provides a great vantage point to look back at Sechelt. There’s an interesting set of pictures depicting how the shoreline looked during the Union Steamship days, and includes a historical description of the various buildings. IMG_5935

The seawall continues along through the Sechelt Indian Band Lands, where you’ll often see fishing nets hanging up to be repaired. The real treat can be found at the end of the seawall, five majestic totems staring resolutely out to the ocean.  These totems were carved in the mid 1980’s to honour each of the four tribes which came together to form the shishálh Nation, and the fifth to celebrate their achievement of self-government status, one of the first Indian Bands in Canada to do so. The shishálh have carved over 25 totems over the past few decades and these five are fine examples of this beautiful west coast art. the totems of Sechelt

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The Birding signs of Spring on the Sunshine Coast

We’re hearing lots of old familiar sounds these days, more signs of Spring. This Song Sparrow is one of the earliest singers and also one of my favourites. He has a beautiful song, with several bright notes followed by a sequence of warbles and trills . Listen to this recording – you may recognize it as one you’ve been hearing recently.

In nearby Sargeant Bay, the red-wing Blackbirds have been singing for a couple of months. It’s the males who sing in the birding world,  to both announce territory and attract their mate. The blackbird not only has a distinctive song but also flashes its brightly coloured shoulder markings while issuing its territorial call.  Red-wing Blackbirds can be found in marshy areas, often perched upon the furry seed heads of long cattails. 

 

 

The woodpecker family doesn’t sing but that doesn’t stop the males from drawing attention to themselves as they seek their mating partner. Instead they use their beaks to drum on trees and snags in the early Spring to announce their presence.

The most obvious is the drumming of the Northern Flicker with its impressive red slash across its cheeks. This common species inhabits our gardens at Coracle Cove and has discovered that drumming on chimneys and metal flashing produces a louder sound.

While homeowners ofter worry that these birds are drilling into the wood of their houses, this isn’t the case, but rather an ageless courting ritual that does no damage.  One way to get a closer view of these colourful and interesting birds is to hang a feeder filled with a suet mixture, as we’ve done here. Be sure to have your camera ready.

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Sunshine Coast Day 4 – things to do in Halfmoon Bay

Smuggler Cove is our destination this morning – a half-hour drive up the highway, just past Halfmoon Bay. This morning’s walk should take no more than an hour and will give you a great introduction to the pristine beauty of the Sunshine Coast.

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Bring your binoculars, as the first half of this well maintained trail system is joined together with a series of boardwalks traversing over and around small marshy lakes, and offering good birding opportunities. Later the trail opens to  sweeping views of Welcome Passage and Thormanby Islands, and at this time of the year, you’re also likely to see several sailboats moored within the protected confines of the cove itself. Follow this link for more information and pictures.Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 8.52.08 AM

For lunch, drive back toward Sechelt, but turn right at Redrooffs Road, and then follow the signs  to the Halfmoon Bay General Store. Next door you’ll find the Upper Crust Bakery with a good selection of Paninis and baked sweets. Between the two stores you can put together a pretty good picnic lunch. Then carry on down to the end of this little one-lane road to the Government Wharf for the best “restaurant” view you can imagine.

After your leisurely lunch, it’s time to hit the road again, but we’re not going too far.  Continue driving along Redrooffs Road for about ten minutes and you’ll find another Sunshine Coast Secret.

Sargeant’s Bay has been a favourite of mine for a long time – a perfect horseshoe-shaped cove with piles of driftwood stacked haphazardly along a pebble beach – and most likely you’ll have the whole area completely to yourself. If you’re interested in birding, this is a rich habitat with over 150 species. Spend as much time as you like here – with benches and lots of logs on the beach, pull up a seat, relax and soak in this pristine setting.sushi bar 5517

Our dinner recommendation for tonight is Sushi Bar 5517 in Sechelt at that address on Wharf Street. If you are a sushi afficionado you will not be disappointed but they also have a great selection of other Japanese dishes. The menu offers a very broad and creative selection of sushi – one of my favourites is the Alaska roll with salmon, crab and avocado. Be sure to order the Gomaae, a wilted spinache salad with sesame-peanut dressing.

If you’re not into sushi, there are two other restaurants nearby – The Old Boot and Daphne’s. After dinner, it’s time to head back to your favourite waterside deck to watch the stars come out. Keep an eye out for those of the shooting variety.

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Eagles active at Coracle Cove

Our resident family of eagles have been extremely active lately. While their nest is hidden  in the forest, as the day begins to lighten they return to their regular perches along our shoreline to watch for breakfast opportunities, and eagerly call back and forth  to each other.

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Occasionally one of the family will perch in our big fir tree and give us a great close up. It’s a magical moment for our guests and a reminder to always have your camera ready.

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“Bandit” whom I named last year for the band of adolescent brown feathers over his eyes, will this year have his full head of white feathers. His younger brothers and sisters, however, jostle for landing space as they land in the nearby trees. Toward the end of each day, they can often be seen practicing their flight manoeuvres, chasing each other in the sky and calling out with their distinctive high-pitched whistling.

IMG_5785And sometimes, we’ll get another close-up when one of them perches on the railing leading down to our dock… all the better to catch their next meal.

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We often think of eagles as being at the top of the food chain, but only about one in ten actually survive past age three. We’re very lucky as Bandit has several brothers and sisters  Proud Parents

While all this is going on, the parents are never too far away, and should be very proud of their efforts in raising such a large family and beating the odds that Nature so often extracts.

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Watching the Great Blue Heron at dinner

Like a well choreographed musical, the Great Blue Heron has once again made its grand seasonal entrance to the stage at Coracle Cove, displaying its timeless evolutionary talents.IMG_9516 - Version 2

It brought back memories of another Spring day, when I was able to watch this beautiful bird standing patiently for several minutes, in a shallow basin of water at low tide. It was very focussed, not seeming to notice the close attention that I was paying to it at all, when suddenly its head plunged into the water.

Great Blue Heron at Coracle Cove

 

Great Blue Heron at Coracle Cove

Heron are carnivores and their long legs, neck and pointed bills have evolved to allow them to forage for their water-borne food supply. A further modification in their vertebra lets them draw their neck back into an S-shape. Standing completely motionless, they patiently wait for small fish to move into striking range, and then shoot their head and bill forward with lightning speed to spear their unwary prey.

Great Blue Heron at Coracle Cove

Unfortunately, these heron are themselves, caught in the middle of the food chain. They must be ever vigilant and on the lookout for the sharp-eyed and swift-flighted eagle. As the eagle population has increased, the ungainly flight pattern of the heron is seriously outmatched, and our heron population is now noticeably declining.  Can anything be done, or do we already interfer too much with Mother Nature?

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Taking ‘dog friendly’ to another level

 Our waterfront suite is dog-friendly!  As former dog owners ourselves, we understand the problem when you really need a weekend getaway but have the hassle of finding somewhere for Fido to stay. It’s never easy and it used to break our hearts when we had to leave our Sophie at the kennel.

We have only the one suite, so it’s really easy for us to accommodate a variety of needs,  be it parents with kids, couples &  pets, or just a quiet, romantic place to getaway for a few days.  Our guests don’t have to worry about disturbing anyone else – whether it’s excited kids or a barking dog – because you are our only guests.

But back to the dog friendly part…  what we’ve really noticed is that the dogs who come with their owners are really well behaved and it’s fun having them around. Now these two pups… talk about well behaved – check out their YouTube video . They’re welcome to stay with us anytime… as long as their owners behave themselves.

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A Taste of Sechelt – where to eat & where to shop to eat later

Recently I was invited to join a group of visitors on a guided walking tour, A Taste of Sechelt.  As a long-time resident I have to admit that I learned a few things on this tour, but I also came away with an appreciation of just how valuable such a tour would be for anyone visiting Sechelt.DSC02128

If you’re looking for ideas on where to go for lunch or dinner, or what to pick up for dinner back at Coracle Cove, this is a great introduction to Sechelt’s food scene.Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 8.40.30 AM

 

So much to see! So much to do! So much to taste! We stopped in at nine shops and restaurants to sample some of the finest foods Sechelt has to offer.

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Our first stop was Ty’s Fine Foods, which has always been one of my favourite spots for lunch. We sampled two of their in-house soups: a zesty carrot-ginger and a savoury split pea, together with a lovely flakey spinach scone. All of their products are made from scratch – no “heat and serve” soups here, and yes, they do take-out.

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Half a block down Cowrie Street we stopped in to meet Dean,  the new owner of the Sechelt Fish Market. Dean provided us with his sampling: salmon pate with a caper aioli on a delightful biscuit-style cracker. All of the ingredients were available in his store, together, of course, with a good selection of fresh, local seafood. I picked up some seasonings for my own kitchen, some Old Bay and a small tin of Maldon Sea Salt.

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Further down the road and around the corner we stopped in at Lucky’s Smokehouse where we sampled some pulled pork sliders on a fresh baked biscuit. Wow, not just a feast for the eyes, but mighty tasty as well. Here’s a picture of our happy group. In the background you can see a few of the old classic movie posters which have been used to decorate this great little spot. While there, I learned that Lucky’s also delivers, so I’ve picked up a few of their menus for my guests.

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Our next stop was the Butcher Block where we had a very interesting presentation on their products, the farms they come from and what makes them different from the mass produced products we find in supermarkets. Once again, it was an eye opener for this local boy. I was given a couple of links of their in-house Italian sausage to take home with me, which I added to a spaghetti sauce that night. Yes, there is a difference!

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Now I don’t have a dog, but if you look a little closer at this picture you’ll see why our next stop was so much fun…

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If you do have a dog or have a special friend with a dog, then you must stop in at Three Dog Bakery. They use all natural ingredients to make their special dog treats. Coracle Cove is a pet-friendly vacation rental and many of my guests like to travel with Fido when they stay with us, so I’ll be sure to recommend a visit. DSC02139

 

Our next stop was the newly opened Angelo’s Greek Grill. It was late in the day but we still had some room for these Gyro sampler’s – shaved pork on pita bread… yumm!!

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And finally, just to round out our geographical sampling, we ended the tour at Saffron, for some East Indian cuisine. The pakora was perfectly cooked with an interesting blend of spices, and sitting inside the restaurant magically transported us to another land.

Like I said earlier, so much to see, so much to do, so much to taste. A taste of Sechelt is offered by Earthly Journeys. Check out their website for other tours and give them a try.

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Restaurants in the Sechelt Area

Sheila & I both love to cook and when we go out for dinner the bar is pretty high.  These are the restaurants that we will always return to and we’re very comfortable recommending them to our guests.   While I’ve included TripAdvisor ratings to add a more measured perspective, I often find that one mediocre review can really skew the results. So take the ratings with a grain of salt… perhaps a good quality sea salt from the west coast of Sicily.

restaurants in the Sechelt area

 

The Blue Heron specializes in fresh seafood. Located on Sechelt Inlet. Wonderful food, great service and an incredible view of Sechelt Inlet all work together to make a memorable experience. It’s on the pricey side but well worth the splurge. Reservations are recommended 604-885-3847  TripAdvisor #1

Lighthouse Pub offers food that is casual but good, and in a great location. The outside deck looks onto a busy little harbour with boats & seaplanes coming and going, and an incredible view looking up Sechelt Inlet. Anything with seafood is great, especially their warm seafood salad. Live music Sundays 604-885-9494  TripAdvisor #2

Basted Baker is my new “go to” place for coffee and/or lunch. They have a very creative menu of amazing soups and biscuit sandwiches, decadent desserts and great tasting breakfast sandwiches (aka Bennies)  Their cappuccinos and lattes are the best, hands-down. There’s a great atmosphere inside. 604-885-1368 TripAdvisor #3

Daphne’s offers an extensive and varied menu with lots of authentic Mediterranean specialties. I love the slowed braised lamb. The service is warm and friendly and the outdoor seating affords good opportunities for people watching 604-885-2008 TripAdvisor #4

Ty’s Fine foods & Bistro is a great place for lunch, offering a selection of interesting soups, sandwiches and fabulous flat crust pizzas for an incredibly reasonable price. Open Friday evenings for tapas and wine 604-740-9818 TripAdvisor #6

Pebbles Restaurant is located on the Sechelt waterfront with beautiful views of Georgia Strait, Vancouver Island and the cruise ships heading up the coast each night.  Seafood is a favourite and they are famous for both their chowder and seafood salads. Fridays night is a very popular fiesta night with a Mexican theme 604-885-5811 TripAdvisor #8

Sushi Bar 5517 – This is the place to go for sushi. They have an extensive menu using the freshest of ingredients. It can get busy at lunch time- a true testament from locals who know where they can get a good meal at a reasonable price. Dinner time is quieter  604-885-0220 TripAdvisor #11

The Old Boot Eatery – the food is always good, the servings plentiful and lots of action. Great pastas, steak, and seafood. Live music on Thursdays 604-885-2727 TripAdvisor #14

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