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, 25 Apr 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.


Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls

Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls
by Nancy Pezel, 23 Feb

After a few sleepless nights worrying about the snowy weather forecast for the day of this trip, 12 of our members were happy to board the Sunshine Coast Tours boat at Saltery Bay under high overcast skies!

As we travelled up Jervis inlet, one of the deepest inlets of the area at 2000 ft, Captain Bryce Christie stopped at a few special waterfalls, rock faces and 2 pictograph sites.  He readily shared his extensive knowledge of First Nations history and legends, geology, forestry, aquaculture and history.  We were able to sit back in comfort, listen and learn, and just take in the beautiful scenery of this rugged inlet, surrounding snow covered mountains, and distant glaciers.

Once we passed by Malibu Camp and through Malibu rapids, we boated up the 5 miles of Princess Louisa Inlet.  This steep sided, narrow fjord carved out by glacial action, has walls of granite rising straight out of the water to heights of more than 8,000 feet.   At Princess Louisa Provincial Park we were able to take a short walk to Chatterbox Falls and enjoy our lunch in the covered area or at the bench with the spectacular view of the falls and inlet, before returning to Saltery Bay.  We were even treated to a few glimpses of sunshine.

A wonderful day enjoyed by all!

Jason Leane – “Citizen Science And The Discovery Of Novel Fungal Species”

Jason Leane – “Citizen Science And The Discovery Of Novel Fungal Species”
by Andrew Bryant, 21 Feb 2019.

Jason Leane is not a scientist – he works as a technologist at Brooks Secondary – but citizen-scientist he most assuredly IS.  So a lifelong interest in science and biology has translated into a most unusual and interesting hobby…and a fascinating talk for us!

In a nutshell, the advent of quick and affordable gene sequencing technology has allowed us to classify species based on genetics as opposed to physical features.  That’s why Jason has a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine in his kitchen…yes you heard that right…
yes, he’s been literally cooking DNA…
and learning lots in the process.

Jason’s been examining local mushrooms.  It seems he’s been finding some that may be slightly mis-categorized, wildly mis-named, or suspiciously far from their known habitat.  He may even have found a new species  – or ten.

Because as more data emerge, in the fungal world at least, we’re discovering that we’ve been wrong.  A lot.  Luckily, in science, being wrong means you get to learn something.  We learned a lot…from the largest organisim on Earth to amazing, real-time DNA analyes using a smart phone.

Amazing.  Keep on cooking!



Beach Trail Forest History

Beach Trail Forest History
by Tom Koleszar, 19 Jan

On a cool Saturday morning, 14 naturalists lead by Rod Tysdal gathered at the Willingdon Beach Trail (the old Michigan & Puget Sound railroad grade) for a leisurely walk up the trail.

Along the way we examined much of the old logging equipment displayed there.  Rod is very knowledgeable with regards to logging history and practices, and we all learned a great deal!  He also had many fascinating forestry stories to tell!  We also talked about the trees and plants along the way, learning something of the forests that were native to the coast in the Powell River area.

All in all, a great way to spent a Saturday morning in winter!

David Bedry – “Nature photography: basics and more”

David Bedry – “Nature photography: basics and more”
by Andrew Bryant, 19 Jan 2019.

Long-time club member and skilled photographer David Bedry provided an informative look at “getting it right” when creating images…no matter what gear you use.

He began with a 1979 Kodak film called The Beginnings of Photographic Composition.  If that sounds dated or dull, well…trust me it wasn’t!  Indeed, it was solid introduction to the principles of good photography…which David’s been kind enough to expand upon here.

In a nutshell, whether you shoot with a smart phone, a basic point-and-shoot, or a high-end DSLR, these principles (framing, lines, balance, rule of thirds, etc) will improve your photography.  Because they’ll make you think about the shot before you pick up the camera!

The second part of David’s talk was solid fun.
We explored a diverse selection of his own images – combined with his humorous and candid appraisal about why this particular shot is a keeper and why, oh my word…
this one’s a dud.

Nicely done.



Andrew Bryant – “The operation was successful (sort of): reintroducing Burrowing Owls, 1989-90”

Andrew Bryant – “The operation was successful (sort of): reintroducing Burrowing Owls, 1989-90”
by Lois Bridger, 22 Nov 2018.

Andrew provided a humorous look at the hands-on, and sometimes very labour-intensive methods needed to reintroduce a species.   The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is one of only four species officially listed as “endangered” or “threatened” under the BC Wildlife Act.  They were considered “extirpated” from the province by the late 1970s.

The first reintroductions occurred at Vaseux Lake in 1983 and 1984.  Later ones took place near Osoyoos.  Andrew worked on Burrowing Owls for two years – while struggling to finish his thesis at the University of Calgary and simultaneously chasing marmots on Vancouver Island!

Burrowing Owls rely upon other burrowing animals such badgers.  With much of the area being farmed, there are now fewer of those than there once were.  Artificial burrows can solve that problem.  Andrew and his team had to work in a treacherous environment as they crossed paths with rattlesnakes, fires, ticks and the particularly hazardous spines of cactus!  The work could also be demanding, as they had to dig out the burrows in order to access the owlets.  One burrow entrance was a whopping 22 feet long – not easy work on a hot summer day!

The process of gaining the required permission from Washington State was an enormous undertaking – not to mention the paperwork involved in transporting owls across the border. Andrew had to first survey the owls in Washington State in order to collect the owl families for the reintroduction project.  Occasionally there were fatalities which were always heart wrenching whether they happened during transportation or due to predators (mostly coyotes, weasels and other owls) after the reintroduction.  Habituation pens in Osoyoos did increase success but losses still occurred.

The population did increase but not enough to make the population viable, and after the project ended in 1990 the numbers again declined.

The story, however, doesn’t end there.  Andrew recently discovered that a group of volunteers (Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC) has been again trying to reintroduce the burrowing owls.  With their improved design for artificial burrows they are having some success.

So with the perseverance of many there is still hope that the Burrowing Owls will make a comeback!


Return to Stillwater Bluffs

Return to Stillwater Bluffs
by Andrew Bryant, 10 Nov
. 2018

Fifteen of us carpooled our way out to one of Powell River’s nicest remaining natural areas – the Stillwater Bluffs.

Ably led by long-time resident, climber, and friend-of-the-bluffs Jason Addy, the morning began with unsettled November weather…with just a few drops of rain and some hints of sunshine peaking through the grey skies here and there.  The trail is well-maintained and not too arduous, although care is needed when the rocks are slippery.  It’s a place where paying attention to where you step definitely matters.

Interspersed among the impressive granite were some equally impressive Douglas Firs and extensive patches of reindeer lichen (Cladina), that delightful example of symbiosis between fungus and unicellular algae that just looks…weird.

Indeed, ecologically-speaking, it’s a very interesting place, which is why various levels of government have it listed on the local map of “sensitive ecosystems” and why a grassroots group seeks to acquire it for parkland.

The views from the top of the climbing bluffs were impressive, as were the sea lions hauled out at McRae Rocks.
Truly a nice day out!

Tla’amin Fish Hatchery Tour

Tla’amin Fish Hatchery Tour
by Cindy Dalcourt, 5 Nov
. 2018

28 Members made their way to the Hatchery this morning where we met up with Lee George, the Hatchery manager. There were a lot of fish, both dead and alive in the river as well as in the spawning channel and the fish ladder. We did not get to see the actual egg taking as they finished that work last week. George spoke to us in front of the community smoke house where he told us all about the life cycle of the salmon, what happens at the hatchery and how they are working towards raising and releasing more and more fish in this river and in the area. The statistics were astounding. He was an interesting and informative speaker who has a real passion for the salmon. He told us that many different types of salmon come to spawn in this same river at different times.

At a table an elder quickly butchered a Chum salmon and showed us the traditional way of attaching it to a spit with cedar sticks so it was ready to be placed in front of a fire for cooking or into the smoke house for smoking. We moved on to the open fire where there was another band member speaking about the bar-B-Qing of the fish and other interesting facts. From there we went to the underground/underwater viewing area and could see the salmon swimming. Some already looked to be in very rough shape. We walked the grounds and banks of the river and eventually made our way to the community gym where we were treated to fish soup, bannok and barBQed salmon. There were some handicraft displays but we missed the drumming, dancing etc. as we had spent extra time at the hatchery as it was so interesting. Some of us finished off by going down to the ocean to see where the fish were actually entering the river. There were eagles too numerous to count as well as seabirds and sea lions taking advantage of all the fish.

What a wonderful way to spend the morning. I was very impressed with everything the hatchery is doing to keep the salmon returning to this area for all to enjoy.

Jackie Hildering – “Lessons learned from killer whales”

A Mother Hunting T140 in pursuit of a Pacific White-Sided Dolphin. Mammal-eating Killer Whales diverged from other populations ~700,000 years ago. ©Jackie Hildering;
“A Mother Hunting” – T140 in pursuit of a Pacific White-Sided Dolphin.
– Jackie Hildering

Jackie Hildering – “Lessons learned from killer whales”
by Andrew Bryant, 2 Nov 2018.

Jackie Hildering (aka “the Marine Detective“) of the Marine Education and Research Society packed the Senior’s Centre with her dynamic talk about orcas, and how they’ve changed us.

With a mixture of history, science and irony, Jackie delivered a powerful talk indeed.

I was astounded to learn, for example, that the U.S. Navy sent pilots out to attack orcas with depth charges and gunfire in 1955, austensibly to aid the local Icelandic fishermen.  Nor was I aware that both “transient” and “resident” descriptors are misnomers; the terms “inshore mammal-eating” and “inshore chinookaholics” more accurately reflect what these populations actually eat and how they behave.  The “offshore” orcas with their ground-down teeth are a different matter – they eat sharks.

Much of Jackie’s talk was disheartening.  Orcas are in big trouble, and as with so many other ecological problems, it’s not just one thing.  Persistent chemicals, noise pollution, declining food resources, tourism, and other factors.  In short, Orcinus orca is suffering a “perfect storm” of issues.  So while there’s some good news – human attitudes have changed swiftly and dramatically over the course of only a few decades – the question remains:

Have they changed enough?



Bird watching with Clyde

Bird watching with Clyde
by Janet May, 28 Oct

Clyde Burton led Young Naturalist bird enthusiasts to the estuary where we crept up on a dozen killdeer and saw a rare Eurasian widgeon!

Clyde had egg samples for all to feel and a hooded merganser.

As we said goodbye, a kingfisher scolded us and a pair of eagles twittered their approval.

Heather Harbord & Barbara Sherriff – “Heather and Barbara’s Trip to Tuktoyuktut”

Heather Harbord & Barbara Sherriff – “Heather and Barbara’s Trip to Tuktoyuktut”
by Andrew Bryant, 18 Oct 2018.

Heather unfortunately couldn’t make it – but Barbara stepped up and gave a marvellous account of their epic trip to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. via the Dempster Highway.

What an adventure!  Barbara was funny, informative, and vivid.  I can only imagine what it would be like to encounter a “road closed” sign under such circumstances.  For me, the best parts were the history of the Gold Rush (now I know what paydirt means), the intricacies of the geology (how the gold got there was really neat), and the technology of extraction (I had no concept of just how laborious and time-consuming a process it was).

The weather was not the best, and there were a few disappointments, but it sure looked like a lot of fun.   We laughed to learn why it’s called “Chicken, Alaska” (because they couldn’t spell “ptarmigan”), the drunken buildings of Dawson City taught us about the problems of building on permafrost, and hey, what’s not to like about a place that has pingos?

Fantastic, wonderful stuff.  I wanna go.


Mushroom Festival at Madeira Park

Mushroom Festival at Madeira Park
by Michael Stewart, 13 Oct

It was a beautiful morning as we travelled by ferry to Earls Cove.

From there, we went to the southern area of Pender Harbour and had a short but amazing hike along the ocean in Francis Point Provincial Park.  We did some bird watching and found a few mushrooms in this wonderful park.

Next we went to Madeira Park to attend the mushroom festival.  Besides the display of about 100 species of local mushrooms with Duane Sept in attendance, there was a demonstration of dying wool with mushrooms, several cooking demonstrations with trial samples, and a variety of vendors.

After a leisurely snack sitting in the sun of a local cafe, we explored a couple of other areas by car including Egmont.  We then returned by ferry to Saltery Bay.

the Club – “Highlights of 2017-18”

the Club – “Highlights of 2017-18”
by Andrew Bryant, 20 Sept 2018.

We tried something a bit different for our AGM this year.  Rather than kick off the new Malanat-year by bringing in an outside speaker, we thought we’d take the opportuity to reflect on the year that’s been – and what a year it was!

There were a total of 16 field-trips, not to mention the Young Naturalists,and special events like the Christmas Bird Count, Coastal Waterbird Surveys, Seedy Saturday…and more!

Nancy, Tom, David and yours truly provided the commentary as we travelled, vicariously, over some of the terrain we explored over the past year.  There was rather a lot of it.  What was also impressive were some of the statistics.  Doing all this stuff required a lot of time, effort and attention.

It was a good reminder…it takes work to build a club!


Alpine Adventure – Take 20

Alpine Adventure – Take 20
by Tom Koleszar, 18 August 2018

Twenty of us recently enjoyed a helicopter trip into our local alpine country.  Flying from the airport and from a staging area near Goat Lake, we spent the day on a ridge top between Diane and Joan Lakes, near Mt Baldy.  It was a great day as we were able to find a window of wonderful weather amidst all the forest fire smoke we’ve been having!

We spent the day exploring the ridge, enjoying the views, and sampling the blueberries (they were everywhere!). After everyone arrived on the ridge top, we spent the rest of the morning on a tour of the area learning about the geology, geography, shrubs, and trees, though we were a bit late for most of the wildflowers (there was some saxifrage, but most others were already done).

The ridge itself and the surrounding mountains provided excellent examples of the geology, including Coast Plutonic Complex diorites along with Gambier and Vancouver Group volcanic and sedimentary rocks.  Lichens and mosses were common, as were heathers, different kinds of blueberries, and rhododendrons in areas with a bit more soil.  It was obvious that the trees up there have a very hard life, but we identified lots of Mountain Hemlock and Yellow Cedar (some very old!), along with a few Subalpine Fir and an occasional Mountain Ash!

After lunch, we had some free time to explore as we wished, or just relax and enjoy a beautiful alpine day.  Our group included everyone from experienced local climbers remembering past days all the way to those seeing our alpine areas for the first time, and I think a great time was had by all!

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, Lee Edmunds, Nancy Pezel and Simon Goede), and also to Pilot James Mode of Oceanview Helicopters for safe flying and interesting tours!

Elephant Lake old-growth

Elephant Lake old-growth
by Lois Bridger, 28 July 2018

Getting to the old-growth took some doing!

There were 29 of us in a convoy of vehicles driving up to an elevation of 900 metres.  Nancy and Tom led the hike along part of the Sunshine Coast Trail.  We were fortunate to also have a few knowledgeable foresters along on the hike who were happy to provide us with additional information.  We also had some visitors from Alberta and Iceland and crossed paths with some happy Sunshine Coast Trail hikers from Penticton.

We stopped at various locations as Nancy pointed out the various old-growth trees found at this elevation.  With tape measure in hand we measured a particularly large Yellow Cedar and estimated it’s age at 1500 years.  At higher elevation trees don’t grow at the same rate as they do lower down.  We learned about Sika Alders, Mountain Hemlock, Western White Pine and Pacific Silver Fir to name a few.  We saw some unusually large bracket fungi.

We paused for lunch at a flat estuary on the shore of Elephant Lake with great views of one the few remaining high elevation old-growth forests in this area.  As we dined several colourful dragonflies provided an aerial display.  In the shallows close to shore we discovered some rough-skinned newts and were entertained by their response to us.  When feeling threatened they twirl over and over displaying their bright orange underbelly.

On our return journey we took a different route offering some fantastic, albeit hazy, views of the Saltery Bay area.  A great end to a wonderful outing.