Chris Mann – “What are Exoplanets and how are they studied?”

Chris Mann – “What are Exoplanets and how are they studied?”
by Tom Koleszar, 21 Jan 2021.

Chris is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal (UdeM) currently studying extra-solar planets, or “exoplanets.” His talk started with an introduction to the domains of astronomy and the methods used in the study of the cosmos. He then focussed in on planets and especially exoplanets, describing what they are and how they are found and studied. It is a field of research that is still very young, but progressing rapidly, especially as new tools and technologies become available.

We got a flavour of what is out there – several thousand exoplanets have been identified to date, with more coming all the time. The variety of sizes, orbits, and compositions discovered to date is astounding! Towards the end, Chris gave us a quick overview of his own work, using a telescopic array in New Mexico to verify and detail discoveries made by an orbiting observatory.

In closing, Chris answered all sorts of questions on exoplanets and other space subjects in a very knowledgeable manner. Thank-you Chris!



March Lake old-growth

March Lake old-growth
by Nancy Pezel, 27 Sep

After about an hour’s drive up logging roads, 13 members enjoyed a leisurely walk along a newly constructed portion of the Sunshine Coast Trail (SCT) just north of March Lake.  The overcast skies provided perfect conditions for hiking and photography.

After walking approximately 15 m off an existing logging road, we were onto the SCT and into a 65 year old western hemlock, Amabilis fir and western red cedar forest that established after logging and a fire in the 1940s, likely at the time the Spring Lake logging camp burned to the ground.

A little further along the trail we came into the old growth forest, evidenced by the more open canopy and resulting increase in understory vegetation, varying ages and heights of trees, a lack of first growth stumps and no evidence of the fire.  The understory vegetation consists of a few varieties of blueberries, false azalea, some salal and numerous moss species.  This forest is in a protected Old Growth Management Area and consists of western hemlock, Amabalis fir and some smaller and large diameter yellow cedar.  The larger trees are estimated to be 257 years old, but the forest only averages 28 m in height.  The tallest trees in the area are approximately 38 m tall, and we thought those might include the larger yellow cedar, and a large diameter white pine.  It is unusual to find yellow cedar growing at this 600m elevation, but it is likely because of the colder climate in the low lying areas around March Lake and nearby wetlands.  At the far end of the old forest, we enjoyed our lunch on a series of boardwalks PRPAWs had constructed over a wet area.  A perfect spot for social distancing!  As we walked back towards the vehicles, we took a short side trail down to March Lake to enjoy the views and see some of the late season flowering Gentians, as well as sundews and other wetland vegetation on the shore of the lake.

When we got back to the vehicles we were surprised to find that one of Tom’s tires was completely flat!  Apparently it takes 1 can of sealant, 1 small air compressor (thank you Claudia!) and 13 naturalists to fix a tire when the spare can’t be lowered from it’s spot under the vehicle!!

Gail Schofield – “indigenous plants inspire”

by Gail Schofield, 15 Sept 2020.

Here’s a 2 page newsletter about new developments at the Lang Creek Gardens.  In spite of Covid, we’ve found a way to move forward with projects and signage installation.

We remember meeting you at the gardens for a tour this time last year – it feels like a lifetime away!

We hope your members well and finding interesting ways to stay busy and safe….



Tom Koleszar – “the new Emma Direct Trail”

Tom Koleszar – “the new Emma Direct Trail”
by Tom Koleszar, 20 August 2020.

I recently explored the newly cleared trail up to Emma Lake called “Emma Direct”, and another club member had asked me to submit a report on it – so here it is!

The trail starts about 600m up Branch A800 at an elevation of 200m (the turn off is roughly 4km past the head of Goat Lake on the Goat Main).  From there you proceed 2.5km along the old A800 road, enjoying several waterfalls and views along the way. After the road ends, the trail continues another 3km up through regenerating forest and older subalpine forest until you reach Emma Lake 1150m higher than where you started, coming out right behind the cabin.  The trail itself is rough – as is typical of a new trail – and quite steep, but the end makes it all worthwhile.  There are a couple of spots where ropes are emplaced to assist with steep sections, and even a short tunnel through boulders!  Less than 1km before Emma Lake, there is a side branch to Scrub Lake – a worthwhile diversion to a picturesque little spot!

The views of mountains and lakes, along with the creeks and ponds and wildflower meadows, make this a truly wonderful and popular spot.  We passed groups of all ages from children on up both coming and going (the children didn’t have to carry packs, and seemed the happiest of all!).

Special thanks to the Knuckleheads Winter Recreation Association for all their hard work on the trail, and to PRPAWS for lending them some of the necessary equipment to do the work.


Tom Koleszar – “Slide Mountain”

Tom Koleszar – “Slide Mountain”
by Tom Koleszar, 17 August 2020.

Slide Mountain is an impressive peak about 40km NNE of Powell River, near the head of Powell Lake. At 2105m, it is one of the highest peaks in the area. I selected an area 2.5km NE of the peak along a ridge extending out towards the Eldred Valley for a day of hiking in an untouched alpine area. We were dropped off by helicopter near a small lake at 1370m elevation, in a spot with a magnificent view of the north face of Slide Mtn.

Our day’s hike was a circumnavigation of the lake, beginning with a sometimes very steep and rocky ascent of the ridge along its SW side. We eventually crested the ridge (1580m) overlooking the upper Eldred Valley with a view to Mt Alfred – it was a great lunch spot! After lunch we descended the opposite side of the lake on more gentle slopes and through heather meadows. When we got back down to the lake, it was time for a VERY refreshing swim (there was still snow at the other end of the lake!). We then had a couple of hours of relaxation and photography until the helicopter arrived to take us home.

We encountered many wildflower areas – mostly pink and white heather, but also saxifrage and others as well. The few trees were gnarled old yellow cedars and mountain hemlocks. At the higher levels there was still plenty of snow (this was in mid August) melting, and thus water running everywhere. Lots of mosses and waterfalls! However, we did not see any wildlife – only some goat tracks in a drying pond.

For the geologically inclined, Slide Mtn is a fascinating area. Though we spent the day hiking on Mid Cretaceous (~100 million years old) granitic rocks, Slide Mtn itself is composed of a mix of Triassic aged (200-250 million years old) basaltic volcanic rocks and Lower Cretaceous (100-150 million years old) interlayered volcanic and sedimentary rocks.


Alpine Adventure

Alpine Adventure
by Tom Koleszar, 9 Aug

On Sunday, August 9 – one day later than planned due to inclement weather – twenty Malaspina Naturalists enjoyed a helicopter field trip to the alpine country of the South Powell Divide.  Flying from the airport and from a staging area a few kilometers past the head of Goat Lake, we spent the day on a ridge by a small unnamed lake (elevation 1560m) above Carol Lake.  It was good that we waited the extra day, as the weather turned out to be wonderful!

After everyone arrived on the ridge, we spent the rest of the morning exploring the area near the lake and learning about the geology and ecology of the alpine country.  Due to the higher elevation, several kinds of wildflowers were still in evidence, and thought there wasn’t much wildlife (other than flies and mosquitoes!) some of the group did spot some Ptarmigan.  The geology included Coast Plutonic Complex diorites along with Bowen Island Group volcanic and sedimentary rocks.  There were few trees at that level – only stunted and twisted Mountain Hemlock and Yellow Cedar showing how hard life is for them up there!

After lunch, we had some free time to explore as we wished, or just relax and enjoy a beautiful alpine day.  Some hiked a bit, and some just cooled their feet in the chilly lake waters.

Special thanks go to Nancy Pezel for helping with the trip, our drivers who took folks to the staging area over many kilometers of dusty roads (John Pezel, Clive Deary, Nancy Pezel, Cal Smith, David Bedry, and Simon Goede), and also to Pilot Matt Larocque of Oceanview Helicopters for safe flying and interesting tours!

Andrew Bryant – “Heron and Neowise at Mowat Bay”

Andrew Bryant – “Heron and Neowise at Mowat Bay”
by Andrew Bryant, 13 Jul 2020.

Having seen some wonderful images of Comet NEOWISE from around the world, I thought I’d dust off my trusty Nikon and take a stab at it myself.  My immediate impressions were:

Wow: there sure were a lot of people at Mowat Bay at midnight on a Monday!  I think most people were inspired, as I was, by this being a one-in-6800 year event.

I suspect the entire Powell River “camera community” was there.  Along with others.  There were dogs, and flashlights, and a whole lot of conversations going on.  Complete with fast cars peeling out with impressive exhaust systems.  Man.  I’m so very glad to be old.

Because nobody else noticed the heron just sitting there.  Quietly.
Not twenty feet away.
While the heavens unfolded above.

Thank you, Mr/Mrs Heron.  Let’s see what we can do to return the favor.

Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound
by Heather Harbord, 11 Jul

Brandishing our masks, six members boarded Misty Isles at Lund for a day trip to Desolation Sound.  Two of the 8 passengers mandated by Covid-19 regulations had got sick the day before and were unable to come.

A steady rain started but after several months locked down at home because of the pandemic, we were happy to be outside and the tarp spread across the ship’s boom was an added bonus.  Leaving Lund, we proceeded north up Thulin Passage but were unable to get close enough to the pictograph because a wide log boom was tied up below it.

After rounding Sarah Point, we welcomed the calmer seas and lighter rain.  With hot coffee and teas in our hands, we slid along the north side of Mink Island and were lucky enough to see the snowfield below Mt. Denman.  The peak itself remained shrouded in cloud all day.  This was the same weather Captain Vancouver encountered when he named the place in 1792.

Captain Jonas explained how the food chain works from plankton to orca.  He also showed us the entry in Andrew Scott’s Raincoast Place Names describing how Mink Island’s name was changed to Repulse Is and then won back by a petition signed by neighbours from Lund to Refuge Cove.

At the end of Mink Island, orange tents lit up several levels of the Curme Islands which is not a good place for boats the size of Misty Isles to visit because the water is either too shallow or too deep to anchor.  As we approached  the narrow channel between Otter Is and the mainland to enter the outer part of Prideaux Haven, a pair of Marbled Murrelets dived but most other birds and the whales stayed away all day.

The rain stopped so we toured Melanie Cove where the initial settler, Mike Shutler, built his cabin in the 1890s, well sheltered behind a small island.  Black Oystercatchers screamed round the anchored yachts, just as they did when Wylie Blanchet and her children visited in the 1930s.  Several of us had read her popular book The Curve of Time which Jonas passed around.  Parts of the inner waters of the cove were populated by large numbers of Moon Jellyfish.

Before leaving the area, we stopped to admire the sleek bodies of a small herd of silvery Harbour Seals on Pringle Rock named after the Columbia Coast Mission captain who ran up on it.

More coffee and tea plus thoughtfully provided little bags of two each of the famous Samantha’s cookies enlivened the voyage back past Portage Cove, Zephine Head and Sarah Point.  During the run down Thulin Passage we bucked a strong southeasterly wind but reached Lund on time at 5pm.

Heather Harbord – “Willingdon Beach Trail”

Heather Harbord – “Willingdon Beach Trail”
by Heather Harbord, 7 Jul 2020.

In my anti-Covid battle, I try to boost my immune system by tramping along either the Sea Walk or the Willingdon Beach Trail twice a week.

Here are some of the plants I identified recently along the Willingdon Trail.  Towards the far end of the trail, where there are less people, there are lots of bird songs.  Swainson’s Thrushes are much in evidence.  There must be lots of nests in the undergrowth probably well hidden from the trail.  Occasionally there’s the loud hollow rat-tat-tat of a Pileated Woodpecker.

Heather Harbord – “McFall Creek Trail”

Heather Harbord – “McFall Creek Trail”
by Heather Harbord, 7 Jul 2020.

Walking in the woods behind  the Complex, I noticed several prime clumps of Indian-Pipes (Monotropa uniflora) which all that rain has brought out.  Sometimes called ghost flowers, these white clumps, 5-25cm high, lack chlorophyll and have to feed on the nearby conifer trees via the fungi which connect their roots to them.

To find them, start at the Triple Bypass Loop and walk north on the McFall Creek Loop.  Between the picnic tables and  the bridge, there are several easily seen clumps beside the trail.  Look at the pictures on our website before you go.  In a few days, the 2 cm long white flowers will turn upwards, withering to dark purple and black.  In this phase, they are more difficult to see.

Also, watch for the similar yellowy-pink Pinesap (Hypopitys monotropa), which you may also spot.



Tom Koleszar – “The new March Lake trail”

Tom Koleszar – “The new March Lake trail”
by Tom Koleszar, 18 May 2020.

In mid May we walked most of the new March Lake trail.

This is a new section of the Sunshine Coast Trail constructed last Fall to go around the north and west sides of March Lake, and part of it goes through an old growth forest. This forest is unusual in that it has a great deal of Yellow Cedar at a relatively low altitude (and believe me, this made for hard work on the build as it is a very hard and heavy wood!).

There is also lots of blueberry, and everything is covered with moss!  The trail also goes right by a giant Western White Pine.  Though the trail does not go right down to the lake, a side branch (an old quad route) does.  At the lake there is a bench to sit and enjoy the view, and the shore is surrounded by wetland shrubs – for us, the swamp laurel had almost finished flowering and the Labrador Tea was not quite out yet!

Finding the access to this section is not easy, but our plan is to take a field trip here when we are able.



Tom Koleszar – “Lost Lake”

Tom Koleszar – “Lost Lake”
by Tom Koleszar, 5 May 2020.

In early May we walked into Lost Lake to look at the bogs along the shore, and especially to see the flowering Bog Laurel (also known as Swamp Laurel).

We were not disappointed – their pink flowers were in full glory!  The shore of Lost Lake is easily accessible from the Sunshine Coast Trail, coming either from Inland Lake or Haywire Bay (see attached map).  If you approach from the Inland Lake side, you will pass a very large Western White Pine not too far from the Lake – see if you can spot it!

The bogs themselves can be a bit of a challenge to move around on and require some care, but are a fascinating place to see whether from the shore or the bogs themselves. There is even a brand new bench from which to enjoy the view (donated by Scott and Margo Glaspey and installed by the Sunshine Coast Trail Crew).



Glyn Williams-Jones – “Mt. Meager Volcano”

Glyn Williams-Jones – “Mt. Meager Volcano”
by Tom Koleszar, 13 Feb 2020.

Glyn is the Chair of the SFU Department of Earth Sciences & Co-Director of the Centre for Natural Hazards Research.  His talk was all about the Mt. Meager volcano which lies near the upper Pemberton Valley, only 115 km NE of Powell River.  During his visit to Powell River, Glyn also spoke to the emergency planning committee of the Qathet Regional District.

Glyn gave us an overview of the Mt. Meager complex and its most recent eruption 2360 years ago, which was comparable in size and style to the Mt. St. Helens 1980 eruption.  He then covered the recent (2010) landslide and the potential for much bigger future slides in the Mt. Meager area.  These are very significant natural hazards!

The volcano is currently degassing, with three new fumaroles having recently opened through the ice cover.

Given its relative proximity to populated areas, Mt Meager is the focus of much current research, including ice mapping, numerical modelling, subsurface imaging, and activity monitoring.  And it may even become a NASA test site, testing equipment for missions to icy outer solar system moons!



Mark Koleszar – “Geological tales of Iceland”

Mark Koleszar – “Geological tales of Iceland”
by Andrew Bryant, 17 Oct 2019.

Mark recently completed his Masters thesis at the University of Iceland, entitled “Flat-topped volcanic edifices in Vonarskarð, Central Iceland, and on the Kolbeinsey Ridge“.   You can learn more about his research here, or read his full thesis here.

Geology is one thing.  Iceland is something else.

Over the course of three years, Mark got to visit places that few humans have ever seen – indeed his principal field study areas are about as remote as it gets.  Iceland is a place of wonder; waterfalls, volcanoes, ponies and puffins.  And Mark (and family) are very talented photographers.

So I think it best to let the images speak for themselves.

Strokkur Geyser, Haukadalur Valley
Click on the image to see it in action!
– T. Koleszar



Lang Creek Fish Hatchery and Native Plant Garden

Lang Creek Fish Hatchery and Native Plant Garden
by Paul Miniato, 6 Oct

A warm sun pushed through the clouds as about 15 of us began our tour of the Hatchery.  David Bedry explained how the operation of the facility meshed with the lifecycle of the salmon.

Needing different water temperatures, the various species – except Sockeye, which can’t spawn in this watershed – would naturally push varying degrees upstream.  Now, all fish are diverted through the monitored facility, where Chinook, Chum, and Coho are counted, sorted, and processed to harvest eggs or sperm for incubation.  Tyler from the Powell River Salmon Society showed us a couple of salmon awaiting their turn in the building, while more waited below the diversion.  Pink Salmon are left to spawn naturally, and a few were visible in the man-made spawning channel nearby.  David explained that the PRSS has an enviable record for egg survival rates.

No bears appeared, although they are expected along with the eagles as the Coho run surges later in October.  As we toured the beautiful grounds, we were entertained by the croak of a startled heron, as well as cartwheeling ravens.  We ended our walk in the Native Plant Garden, where Michael Stewart recapped the history of the ten-year-old garden as well as plans for new signage to make it more accessible to school groups.  Michael was on-hand to answer questions about native plant gardening.  We learned how challenging it can be to know you are planting endemic species rather than hybrids.

Thank you, David and Michael, and to all the volunteers who have put so much into this area.  Both leaders stressed the need for new volunteers as existing ones fall away and the workload remains.  Offers appreciated!

Mushroom forage – 2019

Mushroom forage – 2019
by Nancy Pezel 29 Sept

Sixteen members met at Squirrel Crossing on this perfect fall day to learn about mushrooms.  After handing out an introduction to mushrooms and showing us a stack of reference books she suggested to help with identification, Izi Loveluck guided us up a loop trail to point out examples of a variety of different mushrooms.

There we found some summer Oysters (Pleurotus ostreatus) growing on an alder log, which Izi said was unusual to still be out at this time of year.  She pointed out a patch of Lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum), which are very unique in appearance and easy to identify.  Lobster mushrooms are edible but she cautioned that they colonize other mushrooms, so could colonize toxic mushrooms which would make them toxic as well!

We were able to compare a Chanterelle spp. (edible) to a similar looking Gamphydrus (toxic), and differentiate the two by their gills.  We then split into small groups and searched for mushrooms on our own.   After an hour we regrouped and laid out the specimens we had gathered.

David Bedry generously provided his stove so Izi could cook up some of the Chanterelles we had found and an Oyster mushroom.  The secret to cooking mushrooms we were told, is to fry them up in a dry pan so most of the moisture evaporates, then add lots of butter!


Mike Demuth – “Cold Matters: Cryospheric Change and Related Hydro-ecological Functioning”

Mike Demuth – “Cold Matters: Cryospheric Change and Related Hydro-ecological Functioning”
by Tom Koleszar, 26 Sep 2019.

Mike is an Emeritus Research Scientist in Glaciology and Cold Region Environments who lives part-time in Lund.  Mike’s talk introduced us to Earth’s cryosphere and then focussed on mountain glaciers.  More can be learned about the cryosphere here.

We learned a great deal about how to measure glaciers and track changes to their mass balance over time – not a simple task!  Direct field measurements shown included stake farms, digging pits, and drilling holes through the ice – in all kinds of weather!  Remote sensing through photography, Lidar, and satellite measurements is also very valuable today.

The talk then turned to focus on the results – the dramatic changes taking place today in most of the world’s alpine glaciers.  Warming conditions and changes to precipitation patterns can be seen very clearly in the ice measurements – one advantage of cryosphere research is that it is easy to eliminate weather noise for climate data.  The changing ice mass then has pronounced hydrology effects downstream on resource industries, agriculture, wildlife, recreation, and domestic water supplies.

In closing, Mike paid homage to some of the original 19th century workers in glaciology, and showed some more great pictures of some nice days – and not so nice days – in the field.

Marmots on Mt Washington

Marmots on Mt Washington
by Pat Karis 20 July

On Saturday ten of  us caught the early ferry to Comox in search of Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis) on Mount Washington.

We rode the chair lift to the top of the mountain, where club members were treated to an informative talk on the marmot by Dr. Andrew Bryant, who wrote the first, 2nd and 3rd recovery plans for this endangered species while simultaneously spending two decades asking – and answering – scientific questions.  Starting with “where do they live and how many of them are there?

While Dr. Bryant spoke, the group was surrounded by assertive and inquisitive whiskeyjacks looking for a handout…
Later on, we traversed part way down the mountain, where we all enjoyed the spectacular scenery while having our lunch .. after our rest, Dr. Bryant, resumed his chats and discussions along the way, stopping periodically to look and listen for the elusive marmot…

Unfortunately, and much to our disappointment, no wild marmots were spotted, although there was evidence along the way, that there had been activity around their burrows.  It was a noisy day on the side of the mountain, with a lot of heavy machinery making its way up and down the mountain that day, probably spooking the marmots into a safer and quieter retreat.

A quick walk-by of the captive-breeding facility (which is not open to the public) eventually yielded a few marmots…but…according to Andrew: “these captive marmots are being well-managed…but if you ask me…nobody should see their first Vancouver Island marmot in a cage…and you’re standing way too close”.

By the time we reached the parking lot (it’s a 5 km walk and a 780 m descent), everyone agreed that they were much better informed of the plight of the Vancouver Island marmot, our information session today bringing new awareness to our already delicate ecosystem and what we need to do to bring it into balance.

Thank-you very much to Dr. Bryant for all of his insights and dedication over the years – a truly informative and enlightening outing.

Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound
by Nancy Pezel 13 July

As Nadia brought us up alongside the Misty Isles in the dingy, what a surprise to find Mike would be our captain for the day!  With the aid of his charts, Mike explained about the currents, tides, deep waters, and warm fresh surface waters that make Desolation Sound such a popular spot for boaters.

As we headed up through Thulin Passage we stopped briefly at a pictograph;  Mike explained that mineralization of the rock helps coat and preserve the “paint” that the local First Nations made from red oxide traded to them by interior First Nations.   As we entered Desolation Sound, we learned how Captain Vancouver came to name it on a dreary day during his voyage in 1792.  After squeezing by Otter Island, a headwind picked up and the clouds threatened rain, so we sought shelter and anchored at the south end of Melville Island.  There we enjoyed a delicious lunch while two bald eagles watched us from their perches atop a Douglas-fir tree.  Tom, Captain Mike and Sarah also enjoyed a brief swim in this sheltered spot.

With bad weather ahead of us in the distance, we headed into Prideaux Haven to have a quick look at how many boats were occupying “downtown” Desolation Sound (I counted 18), before we turned back and across Homfray Channel , to Refuge Cove on West Redonda Island.   After a brief visit and chance to stretch our legs, we started back towards Lund, this time passing by the Powell Islets.  There we saw some gulls with chicks, a few cormorants and some seals.   And then, just as we were turning towards Lund we saw a small pod of Orcas!

Although the threat of rain surrounded us most of the day, somehow Captain Mike was able to keep the ominous dark clouds and rain at a distance the entire trip!  It was a wonderful day enjoyed by all!

Powell Lake – its natural and not-so-natural history

Powell Lake – its natural and not-so-natural history
by Tom Koleszar 22 Jun

Its 0900 Saturday morning and 12 intrepid naturalists embark on the Catwalker for an all day trip up Powell Lake to learn about the lake and enjoy the beautiful scenery!  We made 4 stops on the way up to the head, including one at Captain Byrne’s cabin at Olsens Landing for a much needed break! (The other stops were in the middle of the lake a few kms up, just past the first narrows, and off Beartooth Creek).

At these stops Nancy and Tom talked about the lake waters (the deep salt layer), forestry practices along the lake (visual impacts, OGMAs, ungulate winter ranges, etc.), the geology and geography of the lake area, and the lake history (which includes many homesteaders and colourful characters!).

At the head we got off the boat for a nice lunch in the sunshine and a short walk up the road to a bridge over the upper Powell River – which offers spectacular views of the lake and the river!  After that its back on the boat for a run down to the second narrows and a look at the Rainbow Lodge and then on to the Narrows area for a stop at a small dock and a swim (all those who went in said the water was great!).  After that we had one final stop off the Fiddlehead area for a discussion on the history of the farm, and then back to the Shingle Mill at 1530.

I think everyone had a great day, and thanks to Captain Byrne for the expert handling of his boat and the use of his cabin!  It seems like this is one trip we’ll have to do again!

A Seaside Amble

A Seaside Amble
by David Bedry, 15 June 2019.  

With an array of field guides in hand, David Bedry and a small group of parents and Young Naturalists explored the tide pools below the Westview viewpoint.

Three parents with four children had a great time wading and splashing in the tide pools with dip nets, using collection jars to show off their finds.  The most popular creatures were small crabs, but they also found some sculpins and a few flatfish.

Towards the end everyone made it down to the water where one of the parents waded out and found a sea star and jellyfish.

A wonderful morning enjoyed by all!

Our new Forestry Museum display

Our new Forestry Museum display
by Andrew Bryant, 30 May 2019

Some “events” just fall into your lap.  Others take hard work and persistence.  This one had elements of both.

In May of 2018 we were approached by Nikita Johnston of the Powell River Historical Museum and Archives.   It appears that our existing “display” had “seen better days”.  Nikita kindly wondered whether we wished to “update” it.

Things happened fast.  The Club Executive quickly approved a $400 budget and a “design-team” was duly formalized.  Nikita generously offered a “booth” instead of a “wall”.

So Nancy, Lois and I spent the better part of a year designing stuff, building stuff, arguing about stuff, and kicking ideas around to the point where we needed to design stuff all over again.  More than once.

Personally my favorite moment was having to chop the legs off a carefully-crafted display cabinet…because, well, nobody’s perfect.  Stealing a crab from the “contorted-pod-evening-primrose” field-trip comes in at a close 2nd..and watching Lois’s face when she dropped that sea-urchin and it shattered?  Oh.  The horror.

In the end it all came together (including the sea urchin).  And we came in under-budget.
I’m struck by how much Powell Riverites like to “give back”.

  • Thanks to Rona (once again), who seem to like us and are never shy of donating $50 worth of lumber or hardware to a worthy cause.
  • Thanks to Western Forest Products, who color-printed the satellite images at large size (to do this commercially would have been hugely expensive).
  • Thanks to PR Glass, who special-ordered a piece of lexan, taught me how to drill it, and made a $65 contribution on a $110 sale.

Ooh ya.  I love the nature of our small town.

In search of the Contorted-pod Evening Primrose

In search of the Contorted-pod Evening Primrose
by Nancy Pezel 25 May

We left the rain behind us as we drove towards Lund, patches of blue sky amongst the clouds promised good weather on our adventure.  After fueling up on cinnamon buns and coffees we took the short water taxi ride to Savary Island.  From the wharf we walked a few kilometers on a meandering road through some surprisingly lush looking western red cedar forests, which transitioned into drier Douglas-fir forests before emerging onto Duck Bay on the south side of the island.

Andrew explained that Savary Island is one of the best examples of coastal sand dune ecosystem, with feeder bluffs (eroding 25 cm/year!) and accumulation areas.  These ecosystems provide habitat for one of the rarest and most endangered species in Canada, the contorted-pod evening-primrose (Camissonia contorta).  A large part of this sand dune ecosystem on the island was successfully protected in 2018.   Today’s mission was to find some of these rare plants.

We had a wonderful day searching, exploring the beach, enjoying the views, and with the help of our local guide Jayne, discovering some unique Douglas-fir trees.   The contorted-pod evening primrose, however remained elusive.   Savary is such a beautiful place, we might just have to try again Andrew!

Barbara Sherriff “Moai and volcanoes of Easter Island…and Patagonian glaciers”

Barbara Sherriff “Moai and volcanoes of Easter Island…and Patagonian glaciers”
by Andrew Bryant, 23 May 2019.

The Club’s very own Barbara Sherriff, well-known for her globetrotting adventures, recently returned from another epic voyage – this time to Easter Island and the glaciers of Patagonia!

Always the consumate educator, Barbara provided a hugely informative and highly amusing talk, deftly switching from tidbits about geology (did you know the Moai all wore “hats” of red volcanic scoria carved from a single quarry at Puna Pau?) to social commentary (why we could all benefit from adopting aspects of  “Bird Man Culture“).

In turn, we learned about:

  • Why there’s an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean
  • Where the Rapa Nui people came from
  • What happened to them
  • What the giant statues represent
  • The difference between a Moai and an Ahu
  • How the Moai were made
  • How they were moved
  • Why they were toppled
  • What happened to the native trees

Whew.  And if that weren’t enough, we were then taken on a side-trip to the glaciers of Chile and Argentina, where we got to witness something truly amazing…Barbara up at sunrise…

…and this…

Birding by Ear Part IX

Birding by Ear Part IX
by Pierre Geoffray 18 May

A group of ten enthusiastic members practiced our “ear-birding” skills along the trails of Wildwood Bluffs.  We started at the Italian Hall in second growth forest, where a variety of birds were singing, among them many Yellow Warblers and Black-headed Grosbeaks and the first Swainson’s Thrush of the year.

Next we moved to the newly cleared and seemingly abandoned construction site where the big piles of slash had already been colonized by the McGillivray’s Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers and other specialists of early-successional forests.  We then followed the path leading onto the Bluffs overlooking the ocean where we listened to the songs of Townsend’s and Audubon’s Warblers, Cassin’s Vireos and Hammond’s Flycatcher.  Here we had brief but good views of a Western Wood-pewee, a bird which favours dry habitat and is becoming increasingly rare in our area.

From the Bluffs we descended into the coastal forest bordering the shore where we heard but did not see another set of birds dependent upon this different habitat.  In the shade of the tall firs and cedars and in the thick understory below them, the clear clear song of the tiny Pacific Wren resounded for us while Golden-crowned Kinglets, Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Pacific-slope Flycatcher were calling from the canopy.

All through the morning the Warbling Vireos kept singing, the many Black-headed Grosbeak being their only serious competition in today’s chorus.
Some birds were new for the year (Cedar Waxwing, Western Wood-Pewee, Willow Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush). Others were just plain beautiful to watch like the male Common Yellowthroat that sang endlessly while perched on a snag, the Western Tanager with his bright orange head, the male MacGillivray’s Warbler that paused for us…

In all we detected 39 species (the full list is here) and walked 5.3 kilometres in four hours…Overall a great walk with great people in a beautiful environment.

Thanks to all the participants.  See you next year!

Mitlenatch 2019

Mitlenatch 2019
by Duane Sept, 4 May

Twelve keen adventurers boarded the Misty Isles at Lund for a day trip to Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park.  The owner/operator Jonas Fineman was our trusty captain and our guide was guide George Sirk.  George was the original naturalist for Mitlenatch in 1969 and he returned again in 1971.

After heading out the captain brought his boat in for a close look at Major Islet – a rock-covered mini-island.  There we had a wonderful look at the late spring profusion of wildflowers that found enough soil to thrive between the boulders.  The species viewed from a distance was Yellow Monkey Flowers and Sea Blush.

At Mitlenatch Island we were able to watch California Sea Lions, Northern (Steller) Sea Lions as well as Harbour Seals.  The California Sea Lions were certainly the most vocal with their barking as they are so well-known for.  The captain anchored at Camp Bay on Mitlenatch Island to land by the volunteers’ cabin where we were greeted by our volunteer host.  Our naturalist, George gave us an excellent orientation for the island as well as a viewing of the gull blind.  George is a very knowledgeable individual that provided both information on each of the many species encountered as well as natural history and human history for the area.

On Mitlenatch the late wildflower season provided us with an amazing array of species including: Sea Blush, Yellow Monkey Flower, Chocolate Lily, Common Camas, Meadow Death-camas, Chickweed, Many-flowered Shootingstar and Blue-eyed-grass,

The list of birds observed on our trip included, Bonaparte’s Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Northern Shoveler, Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Black Oystercatcher, Northwestern Crow and Orange-crowned Warbler.  We returned to Lund after a wonderful homemade lunch of soup, salad, tea and cookie.  An amazing day –with wonderful weather and lots of the natural world to view!

Ambrose Lake Ecological Reserve

Ambrose Lake Ecological Reserve
by Andrew Bryant, 27 Apr

Well, we’ve talked about doing this trip for years – and finally did it.  Thirteen of us took the Saltery Bay ferry and shuttled to the trailhead using “Tom’s Uber” .  We walked a couple of km along a well-maintained trail to Ambrose Lake Ecological Reserve – and then the music died.

Ambrose Lake proved to be a very nice lake.  With no trail around it.   And if indeed this ecological reserve has “bog charactistics” as the relevant on-line documents indicate, well we didn’t see any of them.

So instead of that nice bouncy feeling of walking upon a floating mass of sphagnum moss and finding those delightful insectivorous plants such as Sundews or Pitcher plants…we just turned around and walked back…

Highlights?   The Osprey was nice.  The Black-throated grey warblers (heard but not seen) were nice.  The view from the ferry was nice.
It was a nice day out.   But as a field-trip?

Well, I don’t think we’ll be planning to do it again anytime soon.

Jeff Belcher “B.C. Wildfires: past and future”

Jeff Belcher “B.C. Wildfires: past and future”
by Andrew Bryant, 25 Apr 2019.

Jeff Belcher works for the BC Wildfire Service.  He spent the first ten years working in the interior of the province out of Williams Lake and Alexis Creek.  He grew up in Courtenay, so made the move to Powell River just over a year ago to be closer to home and enjoy the unbeatable coastal lifestyle.

Jeff’ spoke about the 2017/2018 wildfire seasons, with specific reference to “his” area, the Coastal Fire Centre (CFC).  The thing that impressed me the most was the scale of things.  We’re talking about huge areas of forests (almost 17 million hectares) and resources (210+ people) – not to mention aircraft, trucks, chainsaws, and other personnel drawn in from across the Province – or across Canada – or even from Australia or South Africa!

By comparison with other Fire Centres, the Coastal Fire Centre had a “quiet” 2018 season, with “only” 297 fires and ~150,000 hectares burned.  The Northwest Fire Centre had fewer fires (150) but these burned an extraordinary 843,000 hectares.   Equally impressive were the trends over time.  In a word, they’re up.

Jeff provided some helpful links, for example to the B.C.’s FireSmart Program, which seeks to educate landowners about how best to protect their own properties.   He also shared some fascinating graphics…some of the smoke you saw last August…may having been coming from Siberia!

Steve Gordon – “Goats, grizzlies and goshawks: adventures of a habitat biologist”

Steve Gordon – “Goats, grizzlies and goshawks: adventures of a habitat biologist”
by Andrew Bryant, 21 Mar 2019.

Steve works for the B.C. Ministry of Environment as a “Habitat Biologist” based out of Nanaimo.   He prefaced his talk as “not to be interpreted as expressing government policy”…and then told his story.  And what a story it is.  He’s served variously as a “Land Use Planning Biologist”, “Ecosystem Section Head”, “Field Operations Supervisor”, “Forest Ecosystem Specialist”, and “Habitat Protection Officer”.

But the bulk of his career, and the bulk of his talk, has been related to mountain goats.

As part of his M.Sc. research at Royal Roads University, Steve spent two years observing mountain goats in their natural habitats high in the backcountry behind Powell River.  His focus was to evaluate the impact of helicopter-logging on the behaviour of these magnificent beasts.

In biological terms, mountain goats are quite unusual.   The species (Oreamnos americanus) is the only species in the genus.   They live in impossible terrain.  Where death is a  single mis-step away.  That’s what mountain goats do.  That’s what mountain goats are.   Life on the edge.

Oh.  And Steve did it too.  It rather looks like he enjoyed it.


David Hancock – “Understanding the lives of Bald Eagles”

David Hancock – “Understanding the lives of Bald Eagles”
by Andrew Bryant, 28 Feb 2019.

David has spent most of his life studying west coast and arctic wildlife, but is most well-known for his work with Bald Eagles, beginning with his pioneering population surveys during the early 1960s while a graduate student at UBC.

Although a world travelor, published author and interested in all birds of prey, David has focused much of his recent efforts following the bald eagle adaptations to the urban environment.  In 2006, he and fellow Director Dr. David Bird founded the Hancock Wildlife Foundation, which promotes the conservation and appreciation of wildlife and their habitats through science, education, and stewardship.

Today David is involved with various Bald Eagle projects, including his pioneering programs broadcasting live streaming web cameras to the general public and consulting on Bald Eagle mitigation programs, where he brings his ecological understanding of “Speaking for Eagles” to the business table.

Presently, he is helping develop the Bald Eagle Tracking Alliance in the Fraser Valley – a project he spearheaded with the HWF. David has developed a monitoring database of over 400 pairs of nesting Bald Eagles in the Lower Fraser Valley that enables an understanding of competing eagle territories.  You can even follow tagged eagles in real-timecheck it out.

An amazing body of work, and an amazing speaker.