Mitlenatch aboard the Misty Isles

Mitlenatch aboard the Misty Isles
by Sheila Peters
13 May 2023

Saturday, May 13, 2023 was a gorgeous day for 12 club members to join captain Jonas Fineman and naturalist George Sirk on the Misty Isles trip to Mitlenatch Island.

Just out of Lund, Major Islet was bright with monkey flowers and sea blush and noisy with both Steller and California sea lions. Some lucky folks saw harbour porpoises off Hernando Island.

Jonas provided delicious cookies, tea and coffee while we circumnavigated Mittlenatch before anchoring at Northwest Bay. The sound and smell of sea lions filled Camp and Echo Bays, quite an increase from George’s 1969 summer working there when he saw just one. Both species of cormorants were on their separate nesting sites nearby and glaucous-winged gulls staked out their territory on rocky outcrops around the island.

Walking the trails, we saw abundant camas and chocolate lilies. Jonas explained how the many First Nations that used the island would mark the flowering blue camas, a rare source of starch, in the spring to be sure they didn’t dig up the death camas by mistake when they returned in the fall. Other plants included Hooker’s onions, monkey flower, sea blush, yarrow, trailing blackberry, cascara, Indian celery and stretches of flowering Saskatoon shrubs, providing welcome shade where the trails curved through them. Two volunteers welcomed us, pointing out the sea lion skeleton assembled near their cabin. No snakes, though.

Throughout the trip, we saw 27 bird species including a common murre, four rhinoceros auklets, marbled murrelets, double-crested and pelagic cormorants; Bonaparte, ring-billed, mew and glaucous-winged gulls; surf and white-winged scoters, crows, oyster catchers, a Caspian tern, Brant and Canada geese, a Pacific loon, harlequins, and an eagle.

Thanks to our guides for sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm. And special thanks to Jonas for making the time for two of us to swim, a relief after the afternoon walks in the +25 heat.

Bengul and Cal Smith have kindly provided links to their Flickr accounts featuring more photos of the trip.



The Mitlenatch Island Stewardship Team has a great website with more information about the island:


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.



Mitlenatch 2019

Mitlenatch 2019
by Duane Sept, 4 May

Twelve keen adventurers boarded the Misty Isles at Lund for a day trip to Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park.  The owner/operator Jonas Fineman was our trusty captain and our guide was guide George Sirk.  George was the original naturalist for Mitlenatch in 1969 and he returned again in 1971.

After heading out the captain brought his boat in for a close look at Major Islet – a rock-covered mini-island.  There we had a wonderful look at the late spring profusion of wildflowers that found enough soil to thrive between the boulders.  The species viewed from a distance was Yellow Monkey Flowers and Sea Blush.

At Mitlenatch Island we were able to watch California Sea Lions, Northern (Steller) Sea Lions as well as Harbour Seals.  The California Sea Lions were certainly the most vocal with their barking as they are so well-known for.  The captain anchored at Camp Bay on Mitlenatch Island to land by the volunteers’ cabin where we were greeted by our volunteer host.  Our naturalist, George gave us an excellent orientation for the island as well as a viewing of the gull blind.  George is a very knowledgeable individual that provided both information on each of the many species encountered as well as natural history and human history for the area.

On Mitlenatch the late wildflower season provided us with an amazing array of species including: Sea Blush, Yellow Monkey Flower, Chocolate Lily, Common Camas, Meadow Death-camas, Chickweed, Many-flowered Shootingstar and Blue-eyed-grass,

The list of birds observed on our trip included, Bonaparte’s Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Double-crested Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant, Northern Shoveler, Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Black Oystercatcher, Northwestern Crow and Orange-crowned Warbler.  We returned to Lund after a wonderful homemade lunch of soup, salad, tea and cookie.  An amazing day –with wonderful weather and lots of the natural world to view!

Mitlenatch Island trip

Mitlenatch Island trip
by Winnie Ferrier, 2 June 2018

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.

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!

Return to Mitlenatch and Twin Islands

Return to Mitlenatch and Twin Islands
by Tom Koleszar, 23 May 2017.

Twelve of us boarded the Misty Isles at Lund for a 2 day trip with Captain Mike Moore and naturalist leader George Sirk.  We sailed south around Savary Island and Mystery Reef, finding hundreds of Pacific Loons and Common Murres, along with many other sea birds. From Savary we continued on to Mitlenatch Island, where we split into 2 groups – half going ashore and the other half circumnavigating the island in Mike’s zodiac.

There was a profusion of sea lions, seals, and cormorants and other sea birds for the zodiac groups, and many wildflowers and gulls for the island groups.  The second activity for each group was cut a bit short by a sudden (but forecast) change in the weather.  Strong northwest gale force winds came up suddenly and forced a quick return to the boat, and then made the trip from Mitlenatch to Twins Island a very interesting ride!  We made it in safely, however, and then were treated to a fantastic salmon dinner at the Twin Islands lodge by Captain Mike, Amy, Samantha and host Mark Torrance.

After a very comfortable night, some of us went for a pre-breakfast bird walk lead by George Sirk, then all enjoyed a wonderful breakfast provided by Mike’s crew.  After breakfast, our host Mark gave us a tour showing what he is doing to make his place environmentally friendly and sustainable – solar and micro-hydro power systems, extensive gardens, etc. – a very informative morning!  The walk then continued down through the dry forests of South Twin Island (where guide George continued our bird and plant education) to Iron Point (where trip participant Tom Koleszar gave a summary of the area geology).  From there it was back to the lodge for a great lunch, and then on to the boat for the trip back to Lund – and we put up the sails for this nice, relaxing final stage of the journey!

Special thanks to Captain Mike Moore and guide George Sirk for a great couple of days of learning, to Amy and Samantha for the great meals, and to our host at Twin Islands Mark Torrance for opening his place to us and showing us around.  We all learned a lot and had a great time.  Thanks also to Heather Harbord for making all the trip arrangements for the Club.

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!).


Twin Islands and Mitlenatch

Twin Islands and Mitlenatch
by Heather Harbord, 26
 May 2016. 

Ten members boarded the schooner, Misty Isles, at Lund on May 26th bound for Mitlenatch and Twin Islands.  It was great to have extra time on Mitlenatch especially as the Tiger Lilies were coming into bloom in the meadow and the Glaucous-winged gulls were beginning to sit on eggs.  The Stellers and California sea lions, Harbour seals, Pelagic and Double-crested cormorants, Black Oystercatchers and a few Pigeon Guillemots gave star performances which we watched from the zodiac.   As the wind was a bit strong we only circumnavigated the southern part of the island on both sides of Camp Bay instead of going all the way round.   As usual, Mike and his staff gave a knowledgeable presentation of what we were seeing supplemented by two of us (Janet May and I) who had been wardens the previous week.

We then went on to Twin Islands stopping at the rock where the Arctic Terns had been seen for the previous four years.  Unfortunately, they did not return for us.  The lodge at Twin Islands was fascinating and we enjoyed Mike Yip’s talk and photos of butterflies and birds. He is a wonderful photographer and some of us bought his books which he gave us a special rate on.  The following morning, we were on the go at 7am for a bird walk with Mike.  We did a bit too much exploring and didn’t have much time to spend at the swamp in the centre of the southern island where there was a Kingfisher and a Red-winged blackbird.  In the well-fenced garden a wobbly fledgling robin looked down on us from a tree.

After breakfast, the owner of the lodge, Mark Torrance, showed us his solar power system which he can control from his computer.   This was quite fascinating.  As we sailed away after lunch, we put up the red sails, got into the dingy and admired our handywork.

Thanks, Mike and Jonah, for another wonderful trip on Misty.


A day on Mitlenatch

A day on Mitlenatch
by Cindy Dalcourt, 9 May 2015. 

On a beautiful, sunny morning 12 members carpooled to Lund where we met Captain Mike Moore aboard the Misty Isles for a trip to the B.C. Park nature preserve Mitlenatch Island. The very personable Captain briefed us on what the trip would consist of and shared his vast knowledge of the area and surrounding islands as well.

Mitlenatch is approximately half way between the coast and Vancouver Island and its name means “calm waters all around” in the Coast Salish language. Being in the rain shadow of Vancouver Island it is considered semi-arid, even having prickly pear cactus growing on it. When the tides come in around Vancouver Island from the north and the south they meet at Mitlenatch, bringing with them lots of nutrients and sea life. This attracts all kinds of fish, sea mammals and birds. It is home to the largest seabird colony in the Strait of Georgia.

Upon arrival at the island we were divided into two groups. The first group went ashore and were met by members Janet May and Heather Harbord who were volunteer wardens for B.C. Parks that week. They toured a small part of the island keeping to the existing trails as the island has a very sensitive ecosystem. They walked through a meadow full of spring flowers including common camas and chocolate lilies. In small groups they went into a bird blind where they could watch the gulls more closely. The surrounding cliffs were full of birds, courting and nesting. They ended their tour at the rustic cabin where Janet and Heather were staying.

During this time the second group did a circumnavigation of the island by zodiac where they were curiously watched by large groups of noisy stellar sea lions. They also saw harbour seals as well as many different kinds of birds including Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatchers, and Pigeon Guillemots. The birds were nervous about the presence of a few eagles and displayed some interesting flying manoeuvres to distract them. When the zodiac came back to shore the two groups exchanged places and were once again off to explore.

Too soon it was time to reboard the Misty Isles and after a snack of tea and cookies we arrived back in Lund. Everyone agreed that we had a wonderful day.


Mitlenatch visit

Mitlenatch visit
by Heather Habord, 15 June 2013.

Participants not only got to visit the island, they get there on the trusty Misty Isles with Mike Moore.   Mike is an expert captain who shared all kinds of coastal stories.   His wife is the botanist who led the on-shore trip.   The spring flowers were out in all their glory – tiger lilies, blue-eyed grass, death camas, Oregon sunshine etc.   Gulls, cormorants and guillemots were nesting and visible from the specially-constructed bird blind.

As volunteer wardens, Claudia Boelke, Janet Southcott and I were already there to greet everyone.   As usual, half the group went ashore with the naturalist to look at the wildflowers and nesting areas, while other half circled the island in the zodiac to get close up views of seals, sea-lions and the cormorant rookery.

The weather was glorious.  We weighed anchor about 3pm and were back in Lund just after 5:30pm.   The cost per person was $131.25.

Mitlenatch Island

Mitlenatch Island
By Heather Harbord, 2 June 2012.

Ten members boarded the Misty Isles at Lund at 10 am and motored to Mitlenatch over calm seas as the wind did not warrant raising the sails.  Half the group went ashore while the other half circumnavigated the island by zodiac.  Although we saw both California and Steller’s sea lions there were very few of them and only one California was hauled out.  There were lots of seals and pigeon guillemots sporting their bright red legs and mouths.

Unlike other years, there were no eagles on the island and very few crows and ravens so the double-crested and pelagic cormorants were nesting in peace without having to defend their eggs from predators.  On shore the glaucous-winged gulls were courting and beginning to nest.  Pink Hooker’s onion, white death camas, blue-eyed grass and orange tiger lilies were on show along with some healthy clumps of cacti.  We arrived back at Lund having not seen a single porpoise, dolphin or orca which is unusual for this trip.

Mitlenatch with Mike Moore and the Misty Isles

Mitlenatch with Mike Moore and the Misty Isles
by Heather Harbord, 31 May 2009.

In what has become somewhat of a Club tradition, Captain Mike Moore took us aboard the Misty Isles and we set our for Mitlenatch Island.

We followed our usual routine, with half of the group going ashore to see the nesting areas through the newly-constructed bird blind, and the other half circumnavigating the island thanks to  Mike’s zodiac inflatable and seafaring skills.  We saw both Califonia and Steller’s sea lions, nesting cormorants and pigeon guillimots.

The groups switched halfway through the day, so participants got to experience both the aquatic and the terrestrial marvels!