Stanley Park in Vancouver - Magnolias and Glaucous-Winged Gulls

A magnolia tree in bloom in Stanley Park
A magnolia tree in bloom in Stanley Park | Source

The Beautiful Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a large and beautiful area beside the ocean in Vancouver, British Columbia. It's one of Vancouver's highlights for tourists and residents alike. There are interesting things for a nature lover to see in the park throughout the year. Even in winter a wide variety of waterfowl can be found in the park and even as early as February spring flowers are in bloom. On one enjoyable visit in spring, the beautiful magnolia flowers and the very confident gulls attracted my attention most of all.

I live near Vancouver and always enjoy visiting Stanley Park. The park contains a variety of habitats, including landscaped areas with cultivated plants, forest that existed before the park was created, rocky and sandy beaches and recreational lawns. It also contains tourist attractions, such as the Vancouver Aquarium, totem poles and restaurants with attractive views.

There are many trails winding through and around the park, including a very popular one on top of the seawall. I enjoy walking along the seawall and looking at the scenery, but the primary goal of my visits is to observe and photograph nature.

Location of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia

Pink and white magnolia flowers
Pink and white magnolia flowers | Source

The Magnolia Plant

Magnolias are loved for their large and showy flowers and their beautiful scents. The flowers are white, pink, red, purple or yellow, depending on the species and variety. Magnolias grow as trees or shrubs. Some magnolias are evergreen and some are deciduous. The deciduous varieties like the ones in my photos flower in early spring before the leaves appear.

Magnolias are named after Pierre Magnol, a French botanist who lived from 1638 to 1715. They are ancient plants that seem to have changed little over the years. They are thought to be one of the most primitive flowering plants still in existence.

Magnolias have an unusual flower and fruit structure. Since they appeared before bees evolved, magnolia flowers have developed features that enable them to be pollinated by beetles. Unlike many other flowers, magnolia flowers don't produce nectar. Instead, they produce a large quantity of a protein-rich pollen. Beetles eat some of this pollen. They also transfer pollen to other magnolia flowers on their bodies. The reproductive structures of the magnolia flower are tough, preventing them from being damaged by the beetles that crawl over them.

The unusual stamens (red) and carpels (green) of a magnolia flower in Stanley Park
The unusual stamens (red) and carpels (green) of a magnolia flower in Stanley Park | Source
Magnolia grandiflora fruit and seeds
Magnolia grandiflora fruit and seeds | Source

Magnolia Flowers

Most flowers consist of a whorl (or whorls) of petals with a whorl of leaf-like sepals underneath. The petals and the sepals are the non-reproductive parts of the flower. The reproductive structures (the male stamens and the female carpel or carpels) are located in the centre of the flower.

Magnolia flowers have a slightly different structure. Their petals and sepals look identical to each other and are known as tepals. The tepals resemble petals and are borne in multiple whorls. Many magnolias have wide tepals, but some have star-shaped flowers with narrow tepals.

The reproductive structures of magnolias look unusual compared to those of most flowers. The stamens are arranged in a spiral fashion. The carpels, which are also spirally arranged, are positioned on top of the stamens. Once fertilization has taken place, the carpels develop into a woody, cone-like fruit that contains red seeds.

Beautiful magnolia flowers
Beautiful magnolia flowers | Source

Magnolia flowers are said to symbolize dignity, strength and perseverance.

Fun Facts about Magnolias

  • Magnolia grandiflora is the state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana.
  • In some parts of Japan, the large leaves of Magnolia obovata are used for wrapping food.
  • Magnolia obovata leaves are also used as a dish for food in Japan.
  • The bark and flower buds of Magnolia officinalis are used in Chinese traditional medicine.
  • Some magnolia trees have lived for over a hundred years.
  • Magnolia trees often require ten years of growth before they flower.

Beautiful Magnolia Flowers

Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park

Stanley Park contains two bodies of fresh water: Beaver Lake and Lost Lagoon. Lost Lagoon was once part of Coal Harbour. At this time the lagoon contained salt water and intertidal mudflats. In 1916 the construction of the Stanley Park Causeway was finished. This raised road travels through the park and connects to the Lions Gate Bridge, which takes travellers over Burrard Inlet to the city of North Vancouver. The construction of the causeway separated the lagoon from the salt water of Coal Harbour, causing it to become "lost". Run off from the land eventually turned the lagoon into a body of fresh water.

Lost Lagoon is located close to the Stanley Park entrance and is easy to reach from downtown Vancouver. It has visiting and resident birds all year long and is a great place for bird watchers. Trees, shrubs, a trail and open areas surround the water. There are benches beside the water so that people can sit and enjoy the view or watch the birds. There is also a nature house on the shore of the lagoon run by the Stanley Park Ecology Society.

A weeping willow in early spring beside Lost Lagoon; this section of the lagoon is quite open and is the place where people like to feed the birds
A weeping willow in early spring beside Lost Lagoon; this section of the lagoon is quite open and is the place where people like to feed the birds | Source

Observing Birds at Lost Lagoon

On the trip where I took most of the photos in this article, I was lucky to get to Lost Lagoon when someone was feeding the birds. This meant that there were lots of glaucous-winged gulls and hybrid gulls to see and that they were all quite close by. I was very happy to notice that the person was throwing grain and peanuts for the birds to eat and not bread.

It's often recommended that birds in parks are never fed, since it can lead to problems such as over confidence in the birds when they are near humans and fouling of the environment. Feeding the birds does give people a lot of enjoyment, though.

Glaucous-winged gulls, hybrid gulls, mallard ducks and other ducks awaiting a handout at Lost Lagoon.
Glaucous-winged gulls, hybrid gulls, mallard ducks and other ducks awaiting a handout at Lost Lagoon. | Source
In the glaucous-winged gull, the wing tips in the "tail" region are light grey. In the western gull they are black. I photographed this glaucous-winged gull on a Stanley Park beach in summer,
In the glaucous-winged gull, the wing tips in the "tail" region are light grey. In the western gull they are black. I photographed this glaucous-winged gull on a Stanley Park beach in summer, | Source

The Glaucous-Winged Gull

Glaucous-winged gulls are the most common gull in Stanley Park. Their scientific name is Larus glaucescens. Other gulls can be seen in the park too, however, and so can many hybrids. The readiness of the gulls in the Pacific Northwest region of North America to interbreed can create identification problems. In addition, in the non-breeding season the heads and necks of adult glaucous-winged gulls are flecked with brown patches instead of being pure white, which can make identification difficult. Another problem is that the juveniles of each gull species have variable appearances depending on their age and look different from the adults. It's no wonder that many people avoid identification problems by calling any gull that they see a "sea gull"!

Identification tips for a glaucous-winged gull include the following.

  • An adult gull has a yellow bill with a red spot near the tip of the bottom mandible.
  • The head, chest and belly of a breeding bird are white.
  • A breeding bird has a pink ring around each eye.
  • The back and the wings are medium grey in colour.
  • The bird's legs are pink.

The glaucous-winged gull and the western gull are quite similar birds and often interbreed. The glaucous-winged gull has medium grey wing tips that match the colour of its back while the western gull has black wing tips. Some birds have wing tips that are too dark for a glaucous-winged gull and too light for a western gull and are likely hybrids.

A glaucous-winged gull on a rooftop in Vancouver
A glaucous-winged gull on a rooftop in Vancouver | Source

Part of a complex of closely related forms, (the glaucous-winged gull) interbreeds freely with Western Gull at the southern end of its range, and often with Herring Gull and Glaucous Gull in Alaska.

— The Audubon Society
This bird at Lost Lagoon may be a glaucous-winged gull/western gull hybrid, since its wing tips are dark grey instead of medium grey.
This bird at Lost Lagoon may be a glaucous-winged gull/western gull hybrid, since its wing tips are dark grey instead of medium grey. | Source

Diet of a Glaucous-Winged Gull

The glaucous-winged gull lives on the coast of the Pacific Northwest area of North America. It can be seen from Alaska to Washington, usually near the ocean but sometimes inland. The bird has a very omnivorous diet. It feeds on fish, intertidal animals such as sea stars, crabs, mussels, limpets and barnacles, eggs, baby birds, small mammals, some plant matter, carrion and food left in garbage. It often drops hard-shelled animals on rocks while flying in order to break them open. The gull forages both on land and in the ocean.

An adult gull preening
An adult gull preening | Source

Glaucous-Winged Gulls and a Hybrid Feeding on Spawning Salmon

Glaucous-Winged Gull Reproduction

The glaucous-winged gull requires at least four years to develop its adult plumage and reach reproductive maturity. The nest is built on the ground on rocky islands or on cliffs. The gull usually nests in colonies. Pairs may sometimes nest on the roofs of buildings, however, especially when a roof is flat. The male and female both build the nest. They may mate with each in multiple breeding seasons.

The female generally lays two to three eggs. The eggs are yellow-green in colour and have brown or grey streaks or blotches. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs and feed the youngsters. The babies are covered in down and may take their first step out of the nest when they are only two days old. They don't move far from the nest until they are more mature, however. The youngsters fledge at around six weeks of age and leave the colony about two weeks later.

A juvenile glaucous-winged gull has a black bill and mottled brown plumage
A juvenile glaucous-winged gull has a black bill and mottled brown plumage | Source

Visiting Stanley Park

Stanley Park is located very near to downtown Vancouver. In fact, it's very feasible for a person with normal mobility to walk from downtown Vancouver to Stanley Park by travelling along any road that heads west. The mountains that can be seen from the downtown area represent north.

One of my favourite routes to the park starts at Canada Place. This is the name for both a road and a tourist/visitor area. Canada Place is located by Burrard Inlet and contains a pier with a promenade and cruise ship berths, a marina, a float plane terminus, the Vancouver Convention Centre, the giant Olympic Cauldron and luxury hotels. A picturesque walking and cycling trail starts at Canada Place and travels to Stanley Park beside the inlet. There are many great scenes for photographers along this route. If someone feels very energetic, a wall along this trail combined with a walk around Stanley Park makes a lovely day trip.

Buses and taxis travel from downtown Vancouver to Stanley Park. The bus system is run by an organization called TransLink. The organization also operates SkyTrain, an LRT (Light Rapid Transit) system that operates in Vancouver and adjoining cities. One SkyTrain line runs between the Vancouver International Airport and downtown Vancouver. The TransLink website contains useful information for visitors, including a trip planner. It's not hard to explore Vancouver by public transit, and the rewards are very worthwhile. There's a lot to see in the city, including the beautiful Stanley Park.

Two juvenile gulls at different stages of development with a pair of mallard ducks in the background; a juvenile gull looks more and more like an adult as it matures
Two juvenile gulls at different stages of development with a pair of mallard ducks in the background; a juvenile gull looks more and more like an adult as it matures | Source

© 2015 Linda Crampton

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Comments 50 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

It really is a beautiful inner-city park, and anyone visiting Vancouver must stop there and enjoy it. Thanks for sharing it with us, Alicia.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Bill. As always, I appreciate your visit.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

Another beautiful look into the world of nature. Great read.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, Larry.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 20 months ago from Pennsylvania

Those photos are magnificent.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for such a lovely comment, Maren Morgan!


Rachel L Alba profile image

Rachel L Alba 20 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

Really, really beautiful. I wish I lived near there or that there was a park like that here too. The pictures are also so beautiful. I voted up and beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Blessings to you.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment and the votes, Rachel! I appreciate your visit.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 20 months ago from southern USA

Thank you for taking us along on your out and about trip to Stanley Park! Such a beautiful park and all of the gorgeous trees in bloom. Those magnolias look like what we call Japanese Magnolias for they have a pint tint, so beautiful. I love all of your wonderful photos and video too!

It is interesting to know that the magnolias came along before bees, wow!

Thank you for the interesting facts about the gull.

You are blessed to be able to get out and about so much to share with us all, then we are blessed in return.

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Blessings


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 20 months ago

Love the beautiful photos.

Voted up for gorgeous!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the lovely comment, Faith. I appreciate your kindness and the votes and the shares so much! Blessings to you.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, poetryman6969. I appreciate your comment and vote a great deal!


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 20 months ago from Massachusetts

Hi Linda. We visited Vancouver and Stanley Park years ago and really enjoyed our time there. It's a beautiful city. Thanks for the tour.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Bill. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to Vancouver. It is a beautiful city. Thanks for the comment.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

This was just lovely, Alicia. Beautiful travelogue and lovely photos too. Voted up for beautiful!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, Kristen! I appreciate your visit, comment and vote.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 20 months ago from Dubai

Enjoyed reading about this park, great photos! The Magnolias are so beautiful and learned about the Glaucous Winged Gull, thank you for sharing this.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Vellur. I appreciate your visit and comment a great deal.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 20 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

I love this virtual tour and your pictures are just beautiful! This is very interesting and I learned so much! I would love to visit here some day!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, Sheila. I hope you make it to Stanley Park one day. It's definitely worth a visit for people in the Vancouver area!


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 20 months ago from California

This is beautiful! I have never been there!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, Audrey. I hope that you are able to visit the park one day, too!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 20 months ago from England

Beautiful place and wonderful Hub Alicia, I learn so much from reading your hubs, and I would love to visit Stanley Park, it sounds amazing!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit and the kind comment, Nell. I think Stanley Park is wonderful, especially for someone who loves nature.


truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 20 months ago from New Orleans, LA

Wow looks so beautiful. Nice that you live close to such an amazing place. Great job on the pictures. That weeping willow is so huge. Some of those birds look like they are posing.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, truthfornow. Thanks for the visit and the comment. I know what you mean about the birds! It's quite easy for me to get close to them when they're expecting food, as long as I approach slowly and carefully.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 20 months ago from San Diego California

I have seen one Glaucous winged gull on a pelagic birding trip here in San Diego. Just remembered I have a picture of that bird somewhere, one of the few decent ones I have managed to get. Otherwise it is mostly Western Gulls here, although Heermans are becoming more common. Interesting facts on the Magnolia, we have lots of those but I'll look at them differently now. Great hub!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the comment and for sharing the interesting information, Mel. I hope I can visit San Diego again some time. One visit isn't enough!


L'Elzet Gites profile image

L'Elzet Gites 20 months ago from L'Elzet Gites, Cevennes, Languedoc, South France

Looks beautiful. Great job with the photos too


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, L'Elzet Gites.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 20 months ago from USA

What a beautiful park! I love magnolias since having lived in the Louisiana years ago, and the gulls are beautiful. You did a lovely job capturing them in photos and providing information. Voted up and more!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, Flourish. I appreciate your comment and the votes!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 20 months ago from The Beautiful South

Just love this. Your magnolias look like the Betty we have here in NC; only much paler. I have never seen any like that and thought I had seen them all so thank you! The Betty is my favorite but a bloom from the White in the right formation is about the most beautiful thing I can imagine!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Jackie. Thank you for the comment. I love magnolia flowers. They are so beautiful! I hope you have a happy Easter.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 20 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

I looove magnolias, and have always associated them with the southern states. They are a “tough” flower, but also gentle and delicately beautiful. I enjoyed this article, and learned things I never knew before about this unique flower.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the visit and comment, Genna. I agree - magnolias are very beautiful.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

I recall that you have written about Stanley Park before. It was wonderful to hear about the magnolias, as well as the glaucous-winged gulls, which I really don't know. Thanks for another installment about your wonderful park.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, Deb. Yes, I've written several hubs about Stanley Park. There's so much to see there!


Rachel L Alba profile image

Rachel L Alba 20 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

Hi Alicia, You're so fortunate to be able to visit such a beautiful park. It's a little bit of Heaven on earth. I loved every part of your hub, pictures, information and videos. The video of the pink magnolias against the very blue sky was especially beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I voted up.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Rachel. I appreciate your lovely comment. Thanks for the vote, too!


Rangoon House profile image

Rangoon House 20 months ago from Australia

The magnolia is a beautiful flower. Unfortunately it is too hot and humid where I live to grow, but it's lovely to admire from a distance. Thank you.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment, Rangoon House. I'm happy to meet you.


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 20 months ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

After experiencing an unusually cold, snowy and long winter I found your hub a pleasurable experience. Although our crocuses still haven't blossomed, they at least have made it up through the cold earth.

The magnolia's in your photos are breathtaking. I especially found the magnolia grandiflora seed interesting. It resembles an alien. Trees in blossom are gorgeous. Last year I was fortunate enough to visit Washington, D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival. It was marvelous.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, pagesvoice. Cherry blossom festivals are wonderful! Thank you very much for the kind and interesting comment.


drbj profile image

drbj 20 months ago from south Florida

This informative hub, Alicia, was absolutely 'loverly.' Enjoyed every single photo and fact. Thank you for your time and effort. Voted Up.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the lovely comment, drbj! I appreciate the vote as well.


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 16 months ago from India

Weeping willow looks gorgeous.

I like the other photos also

Thanks for sharing


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 16 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, thumbi7. I appreciate your visit.


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 9 months ago from Ontario, Canada

Really beautiful. When I first visited Canada, this was one of the places that left a lasting impression on me. I haven't seen anything like it then. It is great to see it again even just in pictures. Thank you.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 9 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, aesta1. I appreciate your comment. Stanley Park can certainly leave a lasting impression! I think it's a beautiful place.

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