Nature Facts: Eagle Creek and Squint Lake in Burnaby, B.C.

Last updated on January 8th, 2022

Nature walks in my area are always enjoyable. The last day of 2018 was sunny, which made a nice change from the rain that we had been getting. For my daily walk, I decided to follow the trail that travels beside Eagle Creek and goes to Squint Lake in North Burnaby. The creek travels near the bottom of my road and into Squint Lake Park, which is located next to the lake. There are always interesting things to see and photograph along the route. I took all of the photos below (except for the first one) on New Year’s Eve.

A sunny view of Eagle Creek later in the year when it was bordered by sword fern and other plants

Eagle Creek

Eagle Creek starts on Burnaby Mountain, where it collects water from a watershed. I live near the base of the mountain. The creek travels down the mountain, follows a route near my home, and then drains into Squint Lake. The creek that leaves the lake and drains into the much larger Burnaby Lake is also referred to as Eagle Creek.

In some places, Eagle Creek flows through a culvert or a special above-ground channel that has been created for it. For much of its journey near my home, however, it flows through its natural environment. Even here, it varies in appearance. At some points it travels through a ravine, as in the photo above, and at others it’s right beside the viewer.

After a period when some of the creek was in bad condition, the water condition is now improved and young salmon can sometimes be seen in the water. I also see mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) and Pacific great blue herons (Ardea herodias fannini) there. On one occasion, I found a crayfish by the creek.

English holly against a winter background

English Holly

The predominant colours of nature in winter here are dark green, brown, very pale yellow, and grey. It’s so nice to see some brighter colour in the form of holly berries beside the creek. English holly (Ilex aquifolium) is classified as an invasive plant where I live, so I shouldn’t admire it. Its glossy leaves and bright red berries are such a cheerful sight in winter, though, especially during the Christmas season.

The species is dioecious, which means there are separate male and female plants. I see both types on my walk to the lake. The flowers of the plant are white. I have to admit that the species does seem to be spreading because I’m seeing more holly bushes than I used to, including some very near to the start of my walk along the Eagle Creek trail.

English ivy on a tree trunk

English Ivy

English ivy (Hedera helix) is another plant that is sometimes invasive in my part of the world. Like holly, it isn’t a major problem in my neighbourhood at the moment, but it is becoming more common. It’s an attractive plant that grows on tree trunks and over the ground. Cultivated varieties of the plant are popular in gardens.

The familiar, lobed leaves represent the juvenile and vegetative stage of the plant. The stems of the adult and reproductive stage produce oval leaves with a pointed tip. The plant produces yellow flowers and purple berries. It’s interesting to see, but its ability to spread is a concern.

The western sword fern is common where I live.

Western Sword Fern

Unlike the previous two plants, the western sword fern (Polystichum munitum) is native to my area. The fern often grows in the understory of coniferous forests. Like English ivy, it exists in a cultivated form as well as a wild one. The plant is evergreen and can therefore be seen at any time of the year, but it’s an especially lovely sight when other plants are missing.

The fronds of a western sword fern grow in clumps and emerge from a common structure in the ground. The result is a very noticeable plant. The leaflets or pinnae of a frond have a lobe at their base. They are attached to the stipe, or stem, at a single point instead of by the whole base of the leaflet.

Rows of round reproductive structures can be seen of the underside of the leaflets. Each one is called a sorus and contains multiple sporangia, or spore sacs. The sori (the plural of sorus) are pale green at first and turn brown later. The sporangia and spores are interesting to examine under a microscope if one is available.

A bridge over Eagle Creek as it flows towards Squint Lake on the right

The Bridge into Squint Lake Park

I enjoy photographing the bridge into Squint Lake Park in any season. (There are additional ways to enter the park.) If someone walks straight ahead after crossing the bridge, they’ll reach playing fields, a children’s playground, washrooms, and a continuation of the trail, which travels beside the golf course. The trail is bordered by interesting plants even when the golf course can be seen, especially in the growing season.

The trail to the right after crossing the bridge leads to a parking lot and tennis courts. The trail to the left travels beside the creek and eventually the playing field. It also contains an interesting wet patch of ground where skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) appears every year. I always look forward to its appearance in spring.

A crow watching me from the other side of the bridge into Squint Lake Park

Northwestern Crow

Northwestern crows are common where I live. They are confident and clever birds and are always interesting to watch. It would have been nice to have gotten a better photo of the one above, but I didn’t have a camera with a telephoto lens with me. I tried to use a slow and non-threatening approach to get as close to the crow as I could.

Until recently, the northwestern crow was classified as Corvus caurinus. Now the American Ornithological Society has decided that it’s really a subspecies of the American crow and have re-classified it as Corvus brachyrhynchos. The term “northwestern crow” and the bird’s former scientific name are still widely used where I live, however.

In some places, I can get very close to the birds. One site where this is possible is at and near a local shopping centre. Here the crows are very interested in edible items that humans drop onto the ground and in ones that people are eating. They know that accidents can happen as people eat.

In winter, several thousand crows roost in the trees by another local body of water. It’s awesome to see a mass of crows flying to their roost at dusk, especially when they’re backed by a dramatic sky.

Douglas fir cones and leaves

Douglas Fir

When I reached the lake, I found a couple of Douglas fir trees that had dropped their cones and a few branch tips, enabling me to get the photo above. The scientific name of the Douglas fir is Pseudotsuga menziesii. The tree is a conifer. It has leaves in the form of needles and bears cones. The needles are relatively soft and surround the stem. Male and female cones are borne on the same tree. The three-pronged bract above each scale of a female cone is distinctive. An old tale says that the bracts represent the legs and tail of a mouse hiding in the cone. The tree is not a true fir, despite its common name.

Squint Lake in winter

Squint Lake

Eagle creek drains into Squint Lake. The creek continues at the other end of the lake and carries the water to Burnaby Lake. Squint Lake is small. In fact, before the golf course was created, the local people used to joke that the lake was so small that you had to squint to see it. This gave the lake its name.

The public can still visit Squint Lake, even though the far side lies next to the grass of the golf course and the near side is next to golf course facilities. A path and seats are located next to the water. People can’t walk on the grass unless they are golfing. The small dots at the back of the water in the photo above are birds. At the right time of day, the lake has an interesting collection of aquatic birds in winter.

The fountain at Squint lake

The photo above shows part of the golf course and the fountain in the lake. In spring, summer, and autumn, attractive landscaping is on show at the golf course. Mallards can be seen all year on the lake, and crows often pay a visit. Other types of ducks and Canada geese (Branta canadensis) can often be seen on the water during summer as well as a wider variety of birds in the trees.

Although the area around the creek, the lake, and the golf course is more attractive at other times of the year when flowers are in bloom and other plants are reproducing, even in winter it’s interesting. Walks beside the creek and the lake are always enjoyable.

2 thoughts on “Nature Facts: Eagle Creek and Squint Lake in Burnaby, B.C.

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