You’d Never Guess This Unspoilt Wilderness Was Just Outside Montreal

Îles-de-Boucherville National Park provides a welcome opportunity to reconnect with nature.

Iles De Boucherville - Downy WoodpeckerPhoto: Sarah Gagliano Taliun
An industrious downy woodpecker.

After spending a few years in Michigan for work, my husband, Daniel, and I have called Montreal home since late 2020. We enjoy outdoor activities in all seasons including hiking, cycling, kayaking and snowshoeing. Upon our arrival in Montreal, one of our first errands was purchasing an annual pass to gain access to the numerous national parks scattered throughout the surrounding area. Visits to several of these parks, located either very close or within an hour or so drive from the city, have allowed us to combine our enjoyment of the outdoors with my husband’s recently acquired passion for wildlife photography.

Iles De Boucherville - Female DeerPhoto: Sarah Gagliano Taliun
A female deer enjoying a snack.

Discovering Îles-de-Boucherville

Last spring, we discovered the Îles-de-Boucherville National Park. The park, which is located just outside of Montreal, is made up of a series of five small islands, and the allure of this beautiful outlet for getting up close to nature draws us back week after week.

Iles De Boucherville - EgretPhoto: Sarah Gagliano Taliun
An egret in flight.

The islands are full of wildlife, ranging from abundant populations of white-tailed deer to a large variety of song and water birds of all shapes and sizes. There are more than 20 kilometres of marked trails, in addition to opportunities for boating, fishing and camping. We tend to arrive at the park early in the morning for better photo opportunities. The park’s islands are surrounded by the St. Lawrence River and contain a mixture of farmland, forest and marshland.

Iles De Boucherville - GroundhogPhoto: Sarah Gagliano Taliun
A curious groundhog.

Wildlife at Îles-de-Boucherville

As the weather continues to warm up, the expansive marshes and flood plains permit frequent sightings of water-loving mammals and birds including groundhogs, muskrats, great blue herons and egrets. We have yet to spot a beaver, but we have seen the large dams in the water that give away their presence.

Iles De Boucherville National Park - Pileated WoodpeckerPhoto: Sarah Gagliano Taliun
A gorgeous pileated woodpecker.

One early spring morning at the start of our hike, we were greeted by a loud persistent “knock-knock” sound coming from the trees. We did not have to wait long before spotting the source of the commotion—a pileated woodpecker, given away by his large size and the vibrant red plumage on the top of his head. Not much further down the path just at the side of the trail, we spotted another species of woodpecker, the much smaller downy woodpecker, half hopping, half flying from tree to tree looking for her next meal.

Black Crowned Night HeronPhoto: Sarah Gagliano Taliun
A black-crowned night heron.

By the marshes, we were lucky enough to spot a black-crowned night heron. These red-eyed herons typically hunt when it is dark, but they can occasionally be seen in the daytime looking for much-needed additional calories during the breeding season.

Iles De Boucherville -Yellow WarblerPhoto: Sarah Gagliano Taliun
A pretty yellow warbler.

In late spring, when the trees have just gotten their full set of leaves, many fast-flying and tiny, bright yellow birds—yellow warblers—can be seen in the treetops. The vivid colour of their feathers creates a stark contrast to the greenery around them.

Iles De Boucherville - Male DeerPhoto: Sarah Gagliano Taliun
A close-up of a male deer.

Single or small groups of two or three deer can be seen in less dense patches of forest. At this time of year, the bucks’ new antlers are still small stumps. All of this activity is accompanied by the pleasant melody of song sparrows. If you stop and look closely, you will spot several of these small brown birds, camouflaged by the tree branches on which they perch.

Iles De Boucherville - Song SparrowPhoto: Sarah Gagliano Taliun
A tiny song sparrow.

Our favourite wildlife encounters at the park have been unexpected, including a flock of turkey vultures, and a lone red fox gracefully disappearing into the bush, but unfortunately not very interested in posing for a photo. We look forward to returning to this spectacular park throughout the course of the seasons to capture many more special wildlife moments.

After you’ve explored Îles-de-Boucherville, check out these great day trips from Montreal.

Originally Published in Our Canada