Parc national du Bic travel diary
In collaboration with Éric Deschamps, wildlife photographer
Located in the St. Lawrence estuary, Parc national du Bic is renowned for its capes, bays, islands, and mountains that are a sight to behold, but also for its abundant white-tailed deer population. I like to go there in the spring because it’s a key moment in the annual cycle of this animal, with the melting of the snow and the renewal of the vegetation.
In the spring, the deer's hair, which had thickened for the winter, gradually thins and is shed; this is the beginning of the moult. The summer coat is quite different from the winter garb. Of course, this sparse spring coat doesn't showcase the beauty of white-tailed deer, but the season brings its own magic. This is a crucial time when deer eat a great deal to regain their strength, and in this context, the lush nature of Bic is an ideal larder!
For other land mammals such as the red fox, spring is an important season because this is the time for the babies, fed in their burrows since their birth a few months earlier, to come out and discover the world, their world. Daddy and Mummy Fox must therefore step up their efforts to hunt and feed this large family.
As for marine mammals, the end of spring signals their return to the Bic region, one of their favourite spots in the St. Lawrence estuary. After giving birth, more and more harbour seals are showing up in June, July, and August.
Oasis for birds
Spring also offers a fascinating display of avian diversity. In fact, Parc national du Bic is a key location for the migration of many species of birds because the mixture of fresh and salt water creates an abundance of food-rich marshes, while numerous bays protect the birds from the winds. These bays serve as short-term resting places for the migration of a number of species, such as the common loon, which I was lucky enough to observe at Havre-du-Bic. The loon I spotted was probably taking a break before continuing eastward to nest in a fish-laden freshwater lake. Astonishing spring observations may also be in the offing, such as this great egret which, surrounded by a dozen great blue herons, stood out by the bright white of its plumage. This is an occasional visitor, sometimes stopping at Bic during its spring and fall migrations.
Numerous flocks of scoters, common eiders, black guillemots, great blue herons, passerines, and shorebirds can also be seen at this time of year. As a bonus, Parc national du Bic is located in the middle of a migration corridor for raptors such as golden eagles, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and turkey vultures. Spring is also a time when small birds of prey are very active in feeding their broods by hunting birds that are smaller still. As a case in point, this merlin is scouting for prey.
The summer trio: respect, pleasure, and discovery
For national park employees, spring is a busy time: straightening trails, cleaning up campsites, preparing for the arrival of visitors for the summer season... While employees have their hands full, nature is already prepared to welcome the warm summer days and dance with the multiple adaptations of the ecosystem, which follow their own rhythm, with no regard for human activity.
Female white-tailed deer, for example, prepare to give birth while the males group together for the hot summer months. Like all other animals, deer are self-sufficient in the wild. Even though they live in close proximity to our activities, homes, and roads, wildlife remains fundamentally independent of us humans. We sometimes believe that because of their behavioural adaptation to human activity, wild animals need us, but this is not true. So while we may think that feeding them could only do good, it is in fact detrimental to their well-being. Yes, the closeness of wild animals, their beauty, and the sweetness of time spent in their environment make us want to interact with them, but we must remember that the less interaction the better. In other words, in nature, being a witness rather than an actor means having the well-being of wildlife at heart.
These animals share with humans the extraordinary territory of Parc national du Bic, where they live and thrive throughout the seasons. This summer, while hiking, biking, or doing any other outdoor activity, I encourage you to awaken your senses, take a closer look, and listen more carefully. Rumour has it that if you branch out, magic will happen much more often than you think!
About Éric Deschamps
After beginning actuarial studies at Université du Québec à Montréal, Éric Deschamps made a decision that would alter the trajectory of his life. He dropped statistics, said goodbye to the big city in which he had always lived, and packed his bags. His game plan? To set out on an adventure. So he moved to Cap-Chat in Gaspésie to teach himself photography. Nowadays, camera in hand, he criss-crosses the forests of Quebec in search of snapshots that are one of a kind.
You can also follow his adventures on his Facebook page Nature en vue.