A day on Mitlenatch

Glaucus-winged gull, Mitlenarch Island, 2015 - A. Bryant

A day on Mitlenatch
by Cindy Dalcourt, 9 May 2015. 

On a beautiful, sunny morning 12 members carpooled to Lund where we met Captain Mike Moore aboard the Misty Isles for a trip to the B.C. Park nature preserve Mitlenatch Island. The very personable Captain briefed us on what the trip would consist of and shared his vast knowledge of the area and surrounding islands as well.

Mitlenatch is approximately half way between the coast and Vancouver Island and its name means “calm waters all around” in the Coast Salish language. Being in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island it is considered semi-arid, even having prickly pear cactus growing on it. When the tides come in around Vancouver Island from the north and the south they meet at Mitlenatch, bringing with them lots of nutrients and sea life. This attracts all kinds of fish, sea mammals and birds. It is home to the largest seabird colony in the Strait of Georgia.

Upon arrival at the island we were divided into two groups. The first group went ashore and were met by members Janet May and Heather Harbord who were volunteer wardens for B.C. Parks that week. They toured a small part of the island keeping to the existing trails as the island has a very sensitive ecosystem. They walked through a meadow full of spring flowers including common camas and chocolate lilies. In small groups they went into a bird blind where they could watch the gulls more closely. The surrounding cliffs were full of birds, courting and nesting. They ended their tour at the rustic cabin where Janet and Heather were staying.

During this time the second group did a circumnavigation of the island by zodiac where they were curiously watched by large groups of noisy stellar sea lions. They also saw harbour seals as well as many different kinds of birds including Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, and Pigeon Guillemots. The birds were nervous about the presence of a few eagles and displayed some interesting flying manoeuvres to distract them. When the zodiac came back to shore the two groups exchanged places and were once again off to explore.

Too soon it was time to reboard the Misty Isles and after a snack of tea and cookies we arrived back in Lund. Everyone agreed that we had a wonderful day.