I was first attracted to Virginia Lake as a fabulous location to observe and photograph Ospreys, while they dive for trout. I have seen as many as six of them fishing the lake’s very shallow waters all at the same time during the spring and summer breeding season. It’s such an Osprey-heavy hotspot, I had the pleasure of guiding and assisting a UK-based documentary film crew at the lake when they shot Osprey fishing footage for the documentary film Canada: A Year in the Wild, which is now available on Amazon Prime.
This wonderful birding location is within walking distance of my house. I have spent a lot of time there over the past decade and have been constantly surprised by the concentrated variety of local and rare species that are attracted to the sheltered wetlands area at the lake’s west end, where a small stream flows into it. It’s not uncommon to be torn between what to photograph at any one moment, with an Osprey hovering overhead and about to dive in for a trout, while a rare Purple Gallinule wades across the wetlands in the foreground, a Belted Kingfisher perches on a nearby overhanging branch, and a Boreal Chickadee forages on a spruce tree behind you.
Virginia Lake is a birdwatcher’s oasis within the city boundary, despite not officially being parkland. It’s not difficult to imagine yourself miles within the interior of the boreal forest backcountry while observing and photographing the birdlife from the lake’s wetlands area. Despite being conveniently located near many amenities within the historic city of old St. John’s, it is surrounded completely by boreal forest. The houses built on the north and east sides of the lake are set well back, and most of the original spruce- and fir-treed shoreline is still intact.