A Mitlenatch day-trip

A Mitlenatch day-trip
by Marg Reckenberg, 29 June 2017.

What a warm, sunny, calm day as the twelve of us set out for Mitlenatch Island aboard the Misty Isles with Captain Mike Moore and assistant Amy.  We left Lund Harbor at 10 am after a quick stop at Nancy’s Bakery.  Then we were on our way, for the 2 hour trip past Major Rock, then through Baker Passage between Hernando Island and Twin Island.

Mike showed us our course on the marine map and told us interesting tidbits about the islands that we past.  We saw lots of white jellyfish in the water en route and an eagle skimming along the water with a large fish.  The eagle could not get airborne and had to struggle just to land his fish on shore.  Mike explained the optical illusion of Mitlenatch looking close but, in fact, it took us another 45 min. before we arrived.

The Island is surrounded by a fairly shallow rocky shoal so we anchored and half our group went ashore by zodiac.  (Note from Misty Isles crew – remember to bring water shoes as a dry docking is not always possible).  The group on shore looked at wildflowers – including one prickly pear cactus in bloom – the island has a desert-like climate and we visited the naturalist cabin and then the nesting areas of the seagulls and many of us saw for the first time gull chicks scooting under their Moms.

Meanwhile the other half of the group went around the island in the zodiac with Mike.

He was wonderful at pointing out the nests of Pelagic and Double-crested Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, Harlequin ducks, Pigeon Buillemots, and Great Blue herons as well as crows, ravens, eagles and gulls.  We saw plenty of harbor seals and Stellar sea lions.  From their growling noises we understood where they got their name.  Then these huge sea lions began to take to the water – and soon afterwards we saw a nearby humpback whale.  If this wasn’t bonus enough we saw a humpback further away breaching.

It just doesn’t get better than this.  Of course, the two groups switched places halfway through the allotted time.  At the end of the leisurely afternoon we headed back to Lund.  Of note, on our return trip, was a brown scummy substance, widely spread across the water.  Mike thought this was likely an algae bloom that the changing tides brought our way.  It gave the boat’s wake a muddy appearance.

We returned, feeling that the day had been truly magical!

Mitlenatch Island

Mitlenatch Island 
by Tom Koleszar, 19
 July 2016.

On July 19 the Malaspina Naturalists made the annual trip out to Mitlenatch Island, departing from Lund once again aboard the Misty Isles with Captain Mike Moore. The weather was a bit cooler and windier that we are used to in mid-July – but at least the wind meant we had the opportunity to raise the sails!

Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park protects the largest seabird colony in the Strait of Georgia, and, since its boundaries extend 300m from shore, all marine life near the island as well.

The group split into 2 parts and took turns going ashore and viewing the island and its wildlife from the zodiac. The group ashore saw a few wildflowers still blooming, but the highlight was viewing the gull chicks from the bird blind. We were able to see many ~2 week old chicks at very close range! Unfortunately due to the blustery weather, the zodaic was not able to circumnavigate the island. We had to stay mostly on the north and west sides, but still saw lots of seals and many seabirds, including Glaucous-winged Gulls, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants, Pigeon Guillemots, and Black Oystercatchers. Insome places the rocks and cliffsides were covered in nesting cormorants!

We all had a great time at Mitlenatch Island, and then enjoyed a relaxing trip back to Lund on the Misty Isles (complete with tea and cookies!).


Gulls with Art Martell

Gulls with Art Martell
by Heather Harbord, 18
 March 2016. 

Ten members accompanied Art Martell to Willingdon Beach and Sliammon on Friday.

On the way down to the creek mouth at Willingdon, we stopped to look at a lone Mew Gull with magnificent mirrors on its tail feathers.  At the creek, we found three mature California Gulls which loomed clear in Art’s scope showing off their heavy bills with red and black spots. Unfortunately and eagle put all the gulls up and the Californias did not return, leaving only a small huddle of Mews.

Out at Sliammon, we saw Thayers Gulls, Glaucous-winged and Glaucous-winged x Western crosses.  Also, Art identified a group of Glaucous-winged x Herring Gull crosses which we likely would not have noticed without him.

He reminded us that among the previous night’s slides were some showing that dark or light eye colour by itself is not a sufficient identification mark.  It must be combined with size, beak configuration, shade of grey on the back and tail feather mirrors which all have to match.

Gulls likely to hybridize are those whose breeding colonies overlap such as Glaucous-winged and Western in the Pacific North West or Glaucous-winged and Herring (Larus smithsonianus) in the Gulf of Alaska.  The progeny of the former migrate up the centre of Georgia Strait and the latter come down from Alaska in the winter.

75% of Puget Sound gulls are Glaucous-winged x Western crosses and in the Seattle area are often referred to as Olympic Gulls.  Unlike popular beliefs about hybrids, these gull hybrids are not sterile and can reproduce with each other quite happily and continuously causing further confusion among birders.  A new species could be in the process of evolving.


Art Martell – “An Abundance of Gulls”

Art Martell – “An Abundance of Gulls”
by Andrew Bryant, 
17 March 2016

Dr. Art Martell worked for decades as a research scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, publishing numerous papers on caribou, small mammals, ticks, birds and other creatures. Now retired to the Comox Valley, Art visited us to provide an introduction to the diversity and characteristics of gulls found in the Salish Sea.  The photos above show our more common species.

Once one accepts that “there’s no such thing as a seagull”, it soon becomes apparent that identifying gulls is tricky – and becoming good at it takes work.

Starting with the basics, Art began by “narrowing down the field”, noting that of the 25 or so species which have been found here, only 8 are commonly encountered.  Much can be quickly learned from the general size, shape and “gestalt” or “jizz” of the bird.  Is it small, with a delicate, even dainty flight pattern?  Is it medium gray, or is it distinctly paler than others in the flock?  Much more can be determined by learning the common ones first, and then determining what a given bird is not!

 A handy gull ID chart can be found here.  Like anything else, but especially with gulls…practice is good!  

Art’s complete talk is below (note that you can enlarge slides to full-screen, and go backwards or forwards at will – hover over the 1st slide to see the controls).

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