Rand Rudland – “Melanesian marvels”

Rand Rudland – “Melanesian marvels”
by Andrew Bryant, 
21 April 2016. 

Rand Rudland, MD,  is just one of those people who’s hard to pin down. Physician to high arctic communities, whitewater rafting guide, globetrotting birder, Antarctic explorer, and Director of the Sunshine Coast Natural History Society,  Rand visited Powell River to speak about his recent travels in Melanesia.

As Ship’s Physician aboard the Spirit of Enderby, he was able to visit some of the most remote places in the southwest Pacific – islands with exotic names like Nissan, Mussau, VanikoroDuff, Bipi, and Espiritu Santo – together with places that might resonate for some – like Guadalcanal, the Coral Sea, and Rabaul.

Did I mention that Rand is also a very talented photographer?

Although he mostly focused on birds – and the incredible level of endemisn to be found there – he also regaled us with images of seldom-seen tribal “sing-sings”, artifacts from the second world war, scary spiders, even scarier snakes, gorgeous butterflies, orchids, flying fish, and some of the happiest children in the world!

It’s not every day that you have a guest speaker casually say “oh and that’s a Superb Pitta…I think that’s only about the 4th or 5th time this species has ever been photographed…sorry for the poor quality, but the jungle was a bit dark, and it was about 42° C in the shade…”

A talk not to be missed.  A more detailed description of his adventures was published in his own club’s wonderful Marsh Wrenderings, which I’ve made available here.

Tamsin Baker – “Herons and Dunes”

Tamsin Baker – “Herons and Dunes”
by Andrew Bryant, 26 Feb 2015. 

Tamsin Baker holds degrees in Animal Ecology (from UBC) and Environmental Management (from Royal Roads).   She presently serves as Stewardship Coordinator with the South Coast Conservation Program, which is a portal that connects small, local, project-oriented groups with governments and scientific researchers.  Yes, and they arrange to talk to naturalist clubs too!   Accordingly, Tamsin visited Powell River to discuss two projects with which she is involved.

First she spoke about Great Blue Herons in our area, providing an overview of their taxonomy (we mostly see the smaller,  coastal Ardea herodias fannini subspecies here), nesting behavior, distribution, population trends, and threats to them.   Herons are a good example of how different branches of government deal with threatened species, so we learned about their status both provincially, federally (COSEWIC and SARA), and internationally.

In particular, Tamsin stressed the importance of ongoing, local monitoring efforts of particular nests or nest-colonies in order to provide researchers and governments with accurate information about what is happening “on the ground”.   The Heron Working Group can be found here, guidelines for surveying and monitoring heron nests can be found here, and you can view an interactive map of heron nests using the British Columbia Great Blue Herons Atlas, which is part of the wonderful Community Mapping Network.

In the second part of her presentation, Tamsin described the intriguing characteristics of coastal sand dune ecosystems, including their requirements for formation (it turns out they need “feeder cliffs”, “accretional features”, and “helpful tides”).  She also described their consequently incredibly patchy distribution within the Strait of Georgia, and the wondrous accumulation of botanical and animal marvels that are likely to be seen in our backyard (or at least on Savary) for those who seek to learn when, where and how to look.

An excellent and comprehensive report prepared for the Coastal Sand Dune Recovery Team can be found here, with a shorter, less technical synopsis prepared by the B.C. Government available here.

Thank you Tamsin…for adding even more species to our club’s collective  “I’d really like to see one of these and learn more about it” life-list!

Bill Merilees – “Madagascar”

Bill Merilees – “Madagascar”
by Andrew Bryant, 22 Jan 2015. 

Bill Merilees of Nanaimo is a prominent British Columbian naturalist, educator, activist, conservationist and author of books such as Attracting Backyard Wildlife and (with co-author C.P. Lyons) the updated version of Trees, Shrubs and Flowers to Know in Washington and British Columbia.

He recently visited Powell River to share some of his many unusual experiences — in this case his globe-trotting adventures in Madagascar!

Bill visited that island twice, in 1998 and 2003,  and his talk focussed primarily upon the rich and largely endemic flora and fauna to be found there.   Illustrated with his beautiful 35 mm slides, Bill also presented a very human story of history, agriculture, and the huge economic and conservation challenges facing people inhabiting that part of the world.

There were more than a few laughs, and some great teaching moments for me (“imagine Vancouver Island…only 20 times as long…and with 22 million people”).   Small wonder that Bill is known for his narrative abilities…there were stories of seriously prickly plants, leapin lemurs, finicky frogs, and fascinating life histories of all shapes and variety.

Come to think of it, Bill…your life-history is pretty fascinating too!