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.

Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls

Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls
by Nancy Pezel, 23 Feb
 2019

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!

Beach Trail Forest History

Beach Trail Forest History
by Tom Koleszar, 19 Jan
 2019

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!

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.

Mushroom Festival at Madeira Park

Mushroom Festival at Madeira Park
by Michael Stewart, 13 Oct
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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.

Alpine Adventure – Take 20

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

Desolation Sound

Desolation Sound
by Andrew Bryant, 28 June 2018
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After our traditional pit-stop at Nancy’s Bakery, nine of us boarded the Misty Isles in Lund for a cruise up Desolation Sound.

Ably skippered by Jonas and deck-handled by Karie, we travelled north on the lee side of the Copeland Islands.  We mostly ignored the impressive big-money homes at “Bliss Bay”.  Instead we focussed on pictographs, marbled murrelets and that wonderful little island that, at least aboard the Misty Isles crew, has come to be known as “Littlenatch”.

Ooh ya.  Harbour seals, Pigeon Guillemots, Marbled Murrelets, apparently a few nesting Glaucus-winged Gulls, oystercatchers, assorted shorebirds, and some evidence of recovery from the sea-star “wasting” event of 2014.

We dropped anchor and lunched at the “slot” before entering Homfray Sound and Desolation Sound Marine Park.  Hopes of great views of Mt. Denman were dashed by the weather.  Oh well.   We then proceeded SW to Refuge Cove, where we endulged in some local shopping and local snooping…

All in all?  Another great day out.

P.S: Special thanks to Heather Harbord (coordinator) and Mike Moore (Misty Isles) who generously refunded payments to 3 of our members who couldn’t make this trip.  Thank you!

Courtenay Museum and Trent River Fossil Hunt

Courtenay Museum and Trent River Fossil Hunt
by Nancy Pezel, 9 June 2018
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After enjoying coffees and conversations on the ferry trip to Comox, our group of 12 members met Pat Trask at the Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontological Centre for a tour and up-close look at some of the fossils and dinosaur reproductions Pat showcased during his presentation.

Many of these prehistoric marine reptiles were first discovered in the Comox Valley!  Although many of the bones and fossils found on Vancouver Island are stored in the basement of the museum, the skeletal reproductions are based on those finds as well as comparisons made of dinosaurs found elsewhere in Canada and around the world.  These were some very dangerous looking creatures!

After getting inspired by what we could find, we met at the Trent River and walked down to the banks of the river with safety glasses, chisels and hammers.  After getting some instructions from Pat and his student, we picked away at the loose sedimentary deposits for an hour before a torrential rain descended upon us.

A few members of our group were lucky enough to find some small fossilized shells embedded in the shale.  After a stop across the street from the museum for coffee and treats, we returned to watch an interesting video about the life of a plesiosaur, before heading back to the ferry.

It was a good day and we were not discouraged by the weather or lack of making the next big dinosaur discovery.  We now know where to look next time we are on the island!!

Mitlenatch Island trip

Mitlenatch Island trip
by Winnie Ferrier, 2 June 2018
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On Saturday twelve of us carpooled to Lund to begin an awesome adventure.   We were greeted by Skipper Mike Moore, and then shuttled by zodiac to the Misty Isles, already moored in Finn Bay.

There we were welcomed aboard by Jonas who is skipper-in-training, and Karie, their crew member.  We set off towards Mitlenach under cloudy skies and a cool temperature but Mike pointed out to us that there was a patch of blue sky over our destination and was confident that we would have sunshine.  While we were underway Mike gave us both a geographical and historical lesson of the islands that we were cruising past.

While we were anchoring we witnessed an exciting display of several California sea lions porpoising out of the water in succession. There were exclamations of excitement and cameras were quickly pulled out.

We were divided into two groups, with six participants being taken ashore with Karie for a walkabout on the island and six of us going with Mike and Jonas in the zodiac to circle the island by water.  As it was mating season there was an abundance of harbor seals, and both California and Stellar sea lions for us to view.  We saw large groups basking on the rocks and as we continued around a corner we were witness to about 50 juvenile male California sea lions tussling with each other, pushing their competitors off of the bluffs and into the water.  Our trip continued with Mike pointing out marbled murrelets, pigeon guillemots, black oystercatchers, bald eagles and a passing belted kingfisher.  We saw rookeries of pelagic cormorants on cliff faces and the larger double-crested cormorants nesting on the tops of the cliffs.

Our turn ashore started with Mike picking up from the shallow water a beautiful moon snail with its body, including its siphon, exposed for us to see.  We had a pleasant stroll with Karie along the assigned island paths, looking at numerous wildflowers along the way.  Amongst them were purple brodiaea, blossoms of wild onions and a gorgeous yellow bloom of a prickly pear cactus.  The most prevalent was the wild tiger lily which was scattered amongst the high grasses and along the edges of our pathways.  The sunshine, which Mike had promised, exemplified their beautiful colours.  We had the opportunity to climb up to a bird blind and watch mating glaucous winged seagulls.  Nature in action!  After a short visit to the cabin of the volunteering stewards of the island we returned to the shore where we were all again deposited back on Misty Isles.

On the return trip to Lund Mike had more stories and history to share and we were all treated to chai tea and Mike’s wife, Samantha’s delicious home made cookies.

Hernando Reef trip

Hernando Reef trip
by Cindy Dalcourt, 18 May 2018
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Arriving early in Lund, most of us treated ourselves at Nancy’s Bakery before boarding the Misty Isles.

Enjoying the bright sunshine and calm water we were off to a good start, made even better when an Orca passed us by shortly after leaving the harbour.  On the way to the reef captain Mike and Rick Harbo (the previous night’s speaker) gave us information and answered our questions.

It was a short crossing and we anchored just offshore while we waited for the tide to get to it’s lowest point so we could go ashore.  Waiting on the boat we were surrounded by Harbour Porpoises, a few coming so close we could see and hear them breathe.  It was also the perfect place to watch the many Eagles in the sky and on the rocks.

In time we took the zodiac to shore where we spend the next few hours turning over rocks and bringing what we found to Rick who was a wealth of knowledge.  He had a plastic viewing box that we could drop in whatever we found and then we could see it close up from different angles.  We saw many different kinds of starfish, sea snails, jellyfish, crabs, midshipmen and so much more.

Across the reef from us on the Vancouver Island side we were just able to make out a pod of Orcas that the whale watching boats were surrounding.  They were there for at least an hour, but unfortunately just a little to far away to see clearly.  There was a little excitement when suddenly rows of seals started to swim towards us from further down the beach. Rick mentioned that the Orca’s were transient and therefore meat eaters so maybe the seals were being cautious.

When it was time to leave we passed a sleeping sea lion floating in the water.  His bark let us know he was not too happy to have been woken up.  As we still had some time left Mike took us on a tour of the Copeland Islands, heading back into Lund just as the long weekend boat traffic starting to pick up.

Spring Wildflowers

Spring Wildflowers
by Nancy Pezel, 12 May 2018
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The weather was perfect for our group of 12 members to enjoy a lovely walk searching for spring wildflowers.

David Bedry led the group down the Browne Creek Trail to Dinner Rock Bluffs and the campground.

Along the sunnier edges of the forest we saw Pacific dogwood and Saskatoon berry in bloom.  Sally spotted some striped coralroot as well.  Death Camas were just beginning to flower in some of the grassy openings, while the Monkey flowers and chocolate lilies were in full bloom.  Nodding onions provided a culinary treat.

Carpets of sea blush dotted the tops of the bluffs as we got closer to the ocean.
And we sure enjoyed those ocean views!