In search of the Contorted-pod Evening Primrose

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

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!

Tamsin Baker – “Herons and Dunes”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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