Comox Estuary Tour #2

Comox Estuary Tour #2
by Pat Cottingham
, 3 Oct 2022

An enthusiastic group of 12 spent a stunningly beautiful, warm and calm day on the Comox Estuary and in the Baynes Sound area.  We went over as foot passengers from Westview and boarded bus transport at Little River….to take us to Comox Harbour to link up with Duncan Cameron (skipper of the “Twee Schoenen”/Comox Harbour Tours) and our engaging and very informative guide for the day, Caitlan Pierzchalski. She is a Marine Biologist, with a graduate degree in Ecological Restoration, and is the Executive Director of “Project Watershed” ….an organization that is involved with a multitude of habitat improvement and restoration projects. Many of their projects are connected with other grassroots, provincial and federal agencies and many involve the input from the K’omoks First Nation; traditional territory of the Sahtloot, Sasitla, Leeksun and Puntledge peoples.
On our slow trip up the Comox Estuary (where the Courtney River meets the sea; and fresh and salt water mix), Caitlin provided fascinating historical, cultural, and physical details to set a context for what we were viewing. We were hoping to see the remnants of the fish weirs that an earlier earthquake unveiled …. but the tides were too high. It was a great day for our birders however, as there was a plethora of canada geese (they are one reason we need to restore the foreshore eel grass areas; agh), common mergansers, surf scoters (not scooters as I thought), american wigeon ducks and others that I missed making notes on; sorry!
We were able to see the progress of a major Project Watershed/K’omoks First Nation habitat restoration project… “Kus-kus-sum”… at the site of the former Field Sawmill. Instead of using this vacant site for residential and retail development, significant monies were raised through community fund raising, donations and multiple grants to buy the land from Interfor and commence work on restoration and conservation of the site. It really is an impressive and awesome endeavour to provide fish and wildlife habitat, attenuation, carbon sequestration as well as recreation and educational opportunities.
We had time for a leisurely trip towards Baynes Sound; checking out Tree Island and viewing the lovely beaches. We returned home slightly sunburned, totally relaxed, and again thankful to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

Comox Estuary Tour #1

Comox Estuary Tour #1
by Cindy Dalcourt
, 19 Sept 2022

A beautiful sunny fall day with calm seas for 12 of us to head over to Comox for our first ever trip with Comox Harbour Tours.  On the way there we were lucky to see whales spouting in the distance on both sides of the ferry.  As we had walked on we were met on the other side by our Captain, Duncan Cameron and boarded the arranged bus transport to Comox harbour.

Once aboard we met Cailin Pierzchalski – Director of Project Watershed www.kuskussum.ca who was our guide for the trip.  She was a wealth of knowledge about everything we saw.  The estuary is very shallow but with the draft of this boat we were able to go up the Courtenay River to see where Project Watershed is restoring the former Field Sawmill site back to native vegetation.  There was a lot of equipment working and it is a huge project funded by grants from many different agencies.  It was inspiring to hear of all the restoration work that has been done in the estuary area.

We saw a lot of seals and many different types of birds including turkey vultures enjoying a meal on shore.  We also learned that the Canada Geese are one of the main contributors to the destruction of the foreshore eel grass areas.  We definitely enjoyed our day and hope to make use of this tour company again in the future.

Alpine Adventure #5 – Slide Mountain

Alpine Adventure #5 – Slide Mountain
by Tom Koleszar
, 8 August 2022

Our scheduled field trip day of August 6 had beautiful weather, however, our helicopter was taken to fight wildfires near Bute Inlet, so we could not go! After much discussion and planning and rescheduling, we managed to get a full trip up to Slide Mountain two days later – still in wonderful weather with no smoke!!

Twenty members were landed by helicopter near a small lake just NE of Slide Mountain at 1350 metres elevation. The weather was sunny and warm (quite warm in the afternoon!) with excellent visibility. The views were spectacular. After everyone was assembled at our destination, we spent a hour before lunch learning about the local environment (flora and fauna, rocks and landforms, etc.). The area was mixed sub-alpine forest and open areas of rock and low bushes (mostly heather and blueberries). There can be impressive wildflower displays in some years, unfortunately the late snow pack this year meant little was blooming when we were there. Indeed, the lake was still almost completely frozen! A few birds were seen, and some goat trails and droppings were noted – but by far the most abundant wildlife species were the flies and mosquitoes!

After an enjoyable lunch in the sunshine, we had a couple of hours of free time to explore. Some relaxed near the landing area, while others explored around the lake or along adjacent ridges. It was a wonderful day, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves a lot – whether they were new to the alpine country or just renewing an old acquaintance.

Thanks again to our drivers who got everyone to the staging area safely and to Nancy for bring the extra helicopter fuel, and especially to Ben, our Oceanview Helicopters pilot, who got everyone on and off the mountain safely.

Desolation Sound (aboard the Misty Isles)

Desolation Sound (aboard the Misty Isles)
by Howard and Lois Bridger
, 23 July 2022

Leaving Lund at full capacity with twelve passengers, our Captain Jonas and assistant Tosh.

We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day. The temperature was perfect and the few clouds were scattered over the mountain tops. We motored around Sarah Pt., past the Curme Islands to Prideaux Haven where we discovered we were not alone.

Referred to, by Jonas, as “the parking lot” for good reason.  It seems Desolation Sound is a popular spot!  Fortunately, this trip is all about the spectacular scenery of which there was plenty.

Many small islands, narrow channels and the majestic coastal mountains filled our views. Jonas and Tosh regaled us with many stories of First Nations, early settlers and the natural history of the surrounding area.

Sightings included, Marbled Murrelets, Pigeon Guillemots, Bald Eagles, Harlequin Ducks, nesting Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, stunted Old Growth forests on rocky islands, a seal nursery, many stands of beautiful and large Arbutus trees and more.  We arrived back in Lund feeling relaxed and saturated with coastal beauty.

 

Powell Lake’s Natural and Not So Natural History

Powell Lake’s Natural and Not So Natural History
by Nancy Pezel and Tom Koleszar
, 10 July 2022

We conducted this trip on two separate days aboard the Tla’amin Braves II with Captain Bryce.  The weather was OK on both days, just a brief shower on Sunday afternoon.  The lake was relatively calm and the clouds generally high enough to see the surrounding hilltops, if not always the highest peaks.

Our first stop was just south of Cassiar Island where Nancy provided some information about the logging and fire history around the lake that has resulted in mainly second growth Douglas-fir Forests.  Tom then explained how the last ice age created the “fjord” we now call Powell Lake, with its series of deep basins (350+m) separated by shallow sills, and that two basins still have 200m of salt water at the bottom.

On route to the next stop, Elvis gave us a photo op before Nancy talked about how cutblocks have to meet the Visual Quality Objectives (VQO) designated by the government in scenic areas like Powell Lake.

At Olsens Landing, we stopped at the dock which was a floating garden of bog plants, including sundews, Labrador Tea, Bog Laurel, some sedges and a few western red cedar saplings.  Bryce told us about the Tla’amin people’s use of the lake as well as how his job as a Guardian has a very long history with his people.  After a brief geology lesson, Tom told us about the early farmers in the Olsens valley.

After cruising to just north of the Beartooth Valley, Nancy pointed out and talked about the protected Old Growth Management Areas and protected Ungulate Winter Ranges as Mountain Goats hang out on the west side of the lake here in the winter.  Tom then spoke about the different types of rock in this area compared to the other areas of the lake, and how these were formed.

We had lunch at the head of the lake, then walked up the logging road to the bridge over the Powell River.  A lot of berries were eaten for dessert along the way.  We saw a bear both days, though it was happy to sit among the berry bushes and watch us walking up the road.  The rushing water and rock formations at the bridge were spectacular.   Before we left the head, Tom told us some stories of the eccentric characters that inhabited the area.

As we headed back, we made some stops at scenic waterfalls and travelled down the east side of Goat Island where we saw Rainbow Lodge and learned of it’s history.  After a brief stop at the Narrows towards Goat Lake, we continued on the last leg of our journey, stopping off Fiddlehead to hear about the farm and see the octagonal cabin from the hippy era that had been skidded down to the lake and is now a float cabin.

Thank you to Tom, Nancy, Captain Bryce and his crew for an interesting and enjoyable day on Powell Lake!

Low tide exploration (aboard the Misty Isles)

Low tide exploration (aboard the Misty Isles)
by Howard and Lois Bridger
, 26 June 2022

It was a fair weather day as the Misty Isles, with Captain Jonas, naturalist George Sirk and a full contingent of twelve naturalists headed out from land towards Hernando Reef.

Bird sightings included, a pair of rarely seen Caspian Terns, a Peregrine Falcon, Kingfisher, Harlequin Ducks, Purple Martins, Nesting Glaucous-winged Gulls, Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, Bald Eagles, Turkey Vultures, Ravens, Crows, and more.

Stellar Sea lions, Harbour Porpoise and Seals were also sighted.  Using the zodiac we were escorted to the reef where we disembarked and spent several enchanting hours exploring the reef off of Hernando Island.

Sharon Shultz donned her wet suit and snorkeling gear to see what treasures awaited in the deeper depths.  The reef was abound with intertidal life; many crabs, bivalves, corals, sponge, jellyfish, fish, sea stars, barnacles, hydroids, seaweeds and seagrasses.  On our way back to the harbour we cruised the East side of Hernando Island past the Twin Islands off of Cortez, around the Powell Islets and back through the Copelands.

Another adventure aboard the Misty Isles comes to an end.

 

Streams and Trees

Streams and Trees
by Tom Koleszar
, 29 May 2022

Fifteen club members headed into the back country to learn about riparian areas and find some big trees.  After leaving Lang Bay, we drove for an hour to get to the canoe route portage at the head of Windsor Lake.  Here we parked and walked the ~1km route down to the lake, learning about the stream running through the valley and the forests around it.  Most of the area around the stream has never been logged but was burned ~120 years ago, leaving some very interesting snags behind!  We had lunch down at Windsor Lake before heading back up to the vehicles and on to our second stop.

To get to our second stop – the big trees – we had to go a few km down the Rainbow Main, then up an unused spur road that Nancy and I had previously cleared out – and it’s a good thing I had my saw as I had to clear it again to get the vehicles through!  At this stop we saw a group of very old, very tall (~80m) Douglas Firs.  This area was burned ~90 years ago, and most of the forest dates from that time, except for a handful of old giants!  Though these trees are not large enough to be protected by the provincial government big tree regulations (the largest was “only” 2.05m in diameter) they are being protected by the TFL holder Western Forest Products.  We were able to clamber up the steep hillside to get up close and personal with the trees and measure their diameters. Nancy described the trees and the area history for us, and measured one of the tree’s height for a guessing contest – which David Bedry won!

 

Mitlenatch (aboard the Misty Isles)

Mitlenatch (aboard the Misty Isles)
by Sharon Shultz
, 7 May 2022

The Misty Isles, her Captain Jonas Fineman and Naturalist George Sirk picked us up at the Lund Marina and took us on a lovely day trip to Mitlenatch Island. Twenty seven (27) species of birds were spotted during our trip. The camas, monkey flowers and sea blush were in full bloom as well as many other plants. The weather held until we returned to Lund. Twelve club members enjoyed this trip and each other’s company for the day. Here are some of their comments:

● Impressions of the trip:
○ Very knowledgeable guide and captain which added so much fun and interest to the trip.
○ The trip was very well organized and we were very well informed about safety as well as where we were going.
○ Very relaxing and laid back.
○ Amazing trip, gorgeous scenery, knowledgeable guides.
○ Can’t wait to go on the next wonderful Misty Isles trip. I learned so much in such an entertaining way from George.
○ My third trip to Mitlenatch Island and continues to be amazing…new info, new friends, fabulous.
○ Wonderful trip, George gave a wonderful explanation of the gulls, how they train their chicks and how they protect their property (spot).
○ My third trip on “Misty”, interesting conversation, a lovely day as usual.

● One thing I learned was:
○ What the Camas was used by First Nations & How seagulls breed.
○ Camas bulbs were edible and used by natives for many years.
○ The difference between Pelagic and Double Crested Cormorants is that at breeding time the Pelagic have white feathers which show when they fly.
○ Learned how to recognize Blue Camas and Death Camas and also sea blush.
○ Red dot on seagull’s nose is chick bullseye to peck and cause regurgitation of food.
○ The hierarchy and separation of species while living in close proximity to each other.
○ Plant life was very diverse – much more than I imagined. I was surprised to see the prickly pear cactus. Would love to make many more trips to witness the various flower seasons. Also loved learning about the history of the island. Loved George’s stories about his experiences on the island as well as his knowledge about the flora and fauna.

 

 

Mrs and Mr Moss – getting to know them

Mrs and Mr Moss – getting to know them
by Tom Koleszar
, 1 May 2022

Fifteen of us gathered at the Inland Lake parking area to begin to get to know the mosses of this area with trip leader Rod Tysdal.  Rod is a retired forester, and spent the last few months delving into the world of mosses – buying new books and dusting off old ones – to prepare for this trip.   Before we started out, he gave us an introductory talk aided by samples and other materials in the back of his truck.

We then proceed around the lake to the Lost Lake Trail, looking at mosses in the forest on the open rocky areas and collecting samples of many different kinds as we went.  Rod provided us with a guide sheet including a little songs entitled “Hylocomium Splendens” which we sang to the tune of “I’ve been everywhere, Man”.  Its probably just as well there was no one else on the trail to hear us!  Once we reached Lost Lake, we gathered together all our samples and learn to identify them and a little bit about their different natures.

We topped it off with lunch at Lost Lake, enjoying the scenery and more discussions about mosses and other things before heading back.  Rod did his usual wonderful job, and everyone really enjoyed the trip.   A special thanks to Rod, and also to Nancy Pezel for coordinating the trip.

 

Birding by Ear (Part XI)

Birding by Ear (Part XI)
by Andrew Bryant
, 30 Apr 2022

Nine of us gathered at the Italian Hall to marvel at the wonders of spring migration – with an expert.

Iwan van Veen was at the top of his game and I think we had 20+ species before leaving the parking lot.  He kept careful track and by days end had recorded 35 species.  His eBird report is here.

For me the highlights were the Townsend’s Solitaire, not seeing any smoke coming from the mill!

Lang Bay Hatchery and Nature Garden

Lang Bay Hatchery and Nature Garden
by David Bedry
, 17 October 2021

We met at Lang creek on a drizzly morning where we were met by Phil and Tesarlatwo of the hatchery’s staff.  With our overnight down pour they had been up all night.  They had been monitoring the rising creek levels and keeping the water intake for the building free of debris.

Phil gave an introductory talk about the facility.  It is where eggs and milt are harvested from the fish.  The eggs and milt are then transported to the hatchery which is at the paper mill.  Four species return to Lang creek.  Pink salmon are left to spawn on their own while chinook, coho and chum are sorted and stored in the egg take collection building.  Eggs are harvested when the eggs mature for the different species.  Chinook mature first followed by the chum and then the coho.

All the fish are diverted through the building where a count of the fish occurs. After the eggs and milt of selected fish of each species are collected, the rest of the fish in storage are released back to the creek to continue their trip up the creek to spawn on their own.

Micheal Stewart then gave a talk on the Native Plant Garden which is beside the parking lot.  A recent donation from Powell River Community Forest allowed the Naitive plant society to install new plant identification signs.

 

Mitlenatch day-trip

Mitlenatch day-trip
by Winnie Ferrier
, 24 August 2021

Eleven of us arrived at 10:00 am in Lund to meet Misty Isles for a day on Mitlenatch.  The day was sunny and the ocean calm. After a safety talk by Jonas, our skipper, we were underway.  As we journeyed we were given archeological and historical facts of Mitlenatch by George, our guide for the day.  George was an employed Naturalist on Mitlenatch from 1969 to 1971 and told us many interesting and entertaining stories.  Jonas offered everyone a hot drink and homemade cookies baked by his wife, Amy.  As we passed Major Island we viewed harbour seals lounging on the rocks, and a pod of   porpoises appeared off our port side.

We were greeted on arrival at Mitlenatch around noon by the waving on shore of three volunteer wardens; Shirley Cole, Janet Southcott and Janet May. They are all members of the Malaspina Naturalist Club and gave us a grand tour of the island, including their quaint and tidy cabin.  George informed us that he had built the extra room on the cabin in 1969, calling it his honeymoon suite, as the original cabin had only room for a single bed, and he was living there with his new bride.

We were walked to the bird blind to watch glaucous-winged gulls with their new broods that would have hatched around July 1st.

Many of the flowers on the island had gone to seed but we did see yellow flowering gumweed, and plants of prickly pear cactus and Oregon sunshine.

Jonas shuttled us back to our anchored Misty Isles in the dingy and a few of us took a refreshing swim off of the boat.  Next we circumnavigated Mitlenatch, scanning for birds and sea life. These included numerous Double-crested and Pelagic cormorants around the cliffs where they nest, Black Oystercatchers, and a colony of Stellar’s sea lions. We were fortunate to see a migrating peregrine falcon hidden in the shadows of a rock face. George enthusiastically pointed out two surfbirds just as our boat pulled away from the island.  We made our way back to Lund, arriving around 5:30 pm. After hardy thanks to Jonas and George we set off to our vehicles while the Misty Isles made her return to Cortez Island.

 

Alpine Adventure #4 – Ironface

Alpine Adventure #4 – Ironface
by Tom Koleszar
, 14 August 2021

After being rained out last week, we got out today.  The wildfire smoke threatened, but we were largely clear in the mountains further from the coast.

Twenty members were landed by helicopter at 1660 metres elevation in the meadows between Ironface Peak and Mount Alfred.  The weather was sunny and warm with some smoke drifting in during the afternoon.  After everyone was assembled at our destination, we spent a hour before lunch learning about the geology (several interesting rock samples were spirited away into backpacks!) and the flora of the area.  At that elevation few trees – mostly mountain hemlock – were present, but we did identify several kinds of wildflowers and other plants.  Due to the later trip date and dry summer we were passed the peak flower time, however.

A few birds were seen, and some bear scat was spotted – but the most abundant wildlife encounters were of the “flying insect” variety.

After an enjoyable lunch in the meadows, we had a couple of hours of free time to explore, and many started out by making snow angels in one of the remaining snow patches (yes, we are still kids at heart!)  After that, people wandered the area around the meadows and along the ridge, and one even made it all the way to the peak of Ironface (1920m).

All in all, a great day was had by everyone.  Thanks again to our drivers who got everyone to the staging area safely and to Nancy for bring the extra helicopter fuel, and especially to Tag, our Oceanview Helicopters pilot, who got everyone on and off the mountain safely.

 

Misty Isles low tide trip

Misty Isles low tide trip
by Tom Koleszar
, 24 July 2021

On a nice sunny day, 9 naturalists set sail with Captain Jonas and Naturalist George Sirk on the Misty Isles for a tour of the Hernando Reefs on a very low tide.

On the way they passed by Major Rock with all its bird and marine life.  Many different species were spotted there and throughout the day – George even got quite excited about some of them!

Arriving at the reef, Misty Isles anchored offshore and everyone was taken to shore by zodiac.  There they spent several hours exploring the reef and all its life – copious marine plants and crabs, sea stars, and even a sea cucumber and baby seal!

You had to get your feet wet on this trip and some wonderful underwater photos were taken.  After returning to the boat, everyone had time for a swim before beginning the return journey.  On the way home, they sailed past the Copeland Islands, witnessing yet more birds and seals.

Everyone was very happy to have had a wonderful day on the water.  Many thanks to Jonah and George for making the day possible!

 

Life’s a beach

Life’s a beach
by Tom Koleszar
, 18 July 2021

After being postponed due to heat two weeks ago, we finally got to go on our beach field trip on Sunday.  The tide was nice and low, and the day warm and sunny (but not too hot!)

Michael Stewart lead us on a walk along the beach at Lang Bay, learning about beach life and finding many interesting things in the sand, amongst the rocks, and in the tide pools.  David Bedry added to the afternoon by helping us explore the sand in more depth and learn more of the shellfish, too.  We also found out a little bit about the nature of beach sands and how they move and evolve.

All in all, it was a wonderful day at the beach, and thanks again to the trip leaders for such an informative day.

Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound
by Pat Karis
, 13 June 2021

Eight Malaspina Naturalists arrived at Lund to take a boat trip to Desolation Sound.  Our captain ”extra-ordinairre” Jonas shared with us that he had left Whale Town on Cortez Island, that morning, 2 and a half hours prior to arriving in Lund…at 9:45.

After a few minutes of instruction around protocol inside and outside of the boat, we proceeded to get settled — unloading our gear and finding a comfortable place to sit.  There were outer decks open to all with lots of seating space.  Sitting inside was also an option that one member chose.  A little history about the Misty Isles ~ she is 43 feet in length and is a GAFF rigged schooner with a certified capacity for 12 passengers and two crew members.  She is also a ”well-loved and respected member of the west coast maritime community and a Desolation Sound icon !!

Shortly after leaving Lund, we headed north into the Copeland Islands where we drifted past many historically significant landmarks.  The weather was warm and overcast, to begin with, with many changing cloud formations floating past us above.  Later on, we ventured into Prideaux Haven, where we dropped anchor for lunch.  One of our very hot crew members, Sharon, decided to dive off the top of the boat, cooling off in the ocean waters.  We enjoyed our lunches that we brought.  Jonas’s wife surprised us with individual packages of cookies that she had baked just for us., to be served with the tea/coffee that was provided by the Misty Isles.  Yum, delicious — what a nice treat!!

Indeed, the Misty Isles is well maintained and very comfortable.  And the hospitality and knowledge of our host/captain was very impressive.  At times the boat was put on automatic pilot, so Jonas could mingle with us and point out places of interest.  At one point, we decided to venture up to and into Refuge Cove.  Unfortunately, our schedule/time didn’t allow us time to disembark from the the ship, but we did have time to sail in past some of the local shops and landmarks, etc.   Next Time!!

After a full day of being out on the water, our crew sailed back into Lund.  A great day was had by all .. thank-you, Misty Isles for another awesome day out on the water — we’ll tell our friends and other members what a great time we had !!

 

 

Fun with ferns

Fun with ferns
by Tom Koleszar
, 5 June 2021

On Saturday eight intrepid members of the Naturalist Club braved the weather to explore the world of ferns with trip leader Rod Tysdal.

Rod is a retired forester, and he dusted off a lot of his old knowledge – and even bought a new book – to prepare for this trip.  Before we started out, we had a little test on fern identification – which a few of us even passed!

Rod provided us with a little guide sheet (complete with original poetry), then led us on a wonderful guided walk up Blackwater Creek to David Lam Falls looking at ferns (and other forest life) all along the way.  We learned how to identify several different kinds of ferns ( Licorice, Deer, Sword, Spiney Wood, Bracken, and Lady ferns), as well has where they like to live and how they propagate.

We topped it off with lunch at David Lam Falls, enjoying the waterfall scenery before heading back to the vehicles.  Rod did a wonderful job, and everyone really enjoyed the trip.  We hope we can entice him back for more trips in the future!  Thanks Rod!  And a special thanks to his wife Vicki who assisted Rod on the trip, and had to put up with him during all his preparations!

 

 

Birding by Ear – Part X

Birding by Ear – Part X
by Andrew Bryant
, 8 May 2021

Some field-trips will be remembered for being “pre COVID” and some will be remembered as being “post COVID”.   And frankly, birds don’t care.

Accordingly, Pierre and I took 8 members over 7 km of uneven terrain and had a great day over an area formerly known as the “Wildwood Bluffs”. Pierre writes: “It was a good outing the other day. People seemed more focused than in the past and there was real interest in learning something out of it.”

I don’t have a species/abundance list.  I was supposed to get one via e-Bird, but…it didn’t happen.  UPDATE 10 July 2021: It took a while, but here it is!

So here you get one person’s impression of a fine day out.  And it WAS…a fine day out.   I’m not a “bad” birder…but placed side by side by Pierre, well we would have gotten the common stuff…but would have missed most of it!

Accordingly, next year we’ll be starting a wee bit earlier…at 0630.

 

 

March Lake old-growth

March Lake old-growth
by Nancy Pezel, 27 Sep
 2020

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!!

Alpine Adventure

Alpine Adventure
by Tom Koleszar, 9 Aug
 2020

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!

Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound
by Heather Harbord, 11 Jul
2020

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.

Lang Creek Fish Hatchery and Native Plant Garden

Lang Creek Fish Hatchery and Native Plant Garden
by Paul Miniato, 6 Oct
 2019

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
 2019

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!

Delicious!!

Marmots on Mt Washington

Marmots on Mt Washington
by Pat Karis 20 July
 2019

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
 2019

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
 2019

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!

In search of the Contorted-pod Evening Primrose

In search of the Contorted-pod Evening Primrose
by Nancy Pezel 25 May
 2019

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!

Birding by Ear Part IX

Birding by Ear Part IX
by Pierre Geoffray 18 May
 2019

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
 2019

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
 2019

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.