Hosted by Burke Mountain Naturalists
Report by Janet Snell: Photos by Bengül Kurtar & Janet Snell
This past week-end (Oct. 3 to Oct. 6), the BC Nature Fall General Meeting was hosted by Burke Mountain Naturalists in the Pitt River area bordered by the Fraser River, Pitt River wetlands and the rugged Coastal Mountains. It is an area greatly impacted by the development of the Lower Mainland. This was an opportunity to see the work being carried out by local organizations – and how much remains to do.
BC Nature holds general meetings twice a year and membership in this organization is included in a Nature Vancouver membership. From Thursday evening to Sunday morning, there were presentations by local naturalists and scientists as well as numerous field trips. The General Meeting is typically held on Saturday afternoon with members participating in important resolutions votes. For example, a resolution passed to issue a press release that BC Nature joins the young people of the world in demanding urgent action to address the climate crisis.
This is a really excellent way to get to know a particular region in BC as the field trips are led by local people. As well, it is an opportunity to get to know people from around the province who are also keenly interested in the natural world. On the Friday and Saturday nights, there were excellent dinners and socializing opportunities. As one of the club representatives to BC Nature, I have been to several of these conferences (Kelowna, Cowichan Valley) in the past two years and feel like I know these regions in a much richer way now.
The next meeting will be held in Princeton from May 28-31 and hosted by the Vermillion Forks club. Joining a BC Nature general meeting week-end is a great opportunity to: sample new birding locations, explore unique ecosystems or to experience some new hiking locations. Participate in the full week-end program or just for a day.
Here is a sampling of some of the presentations and field trips from the week-end.
Pinecone Burke Provincial Park
Ian McArthur, Burke Mountain Naturalists
“The Burke Mountain Naturalists club was formed in 1989 by local residents who called for protection of critical habitat areas including local mountain slopes referred to as Greater Vancouver’s “backyard Wilderness”, now Pinecone Burke Provincial Park.” https://www.burkemountainnaturalists.ca/
As one of the field trips in the conference, a group of us accompanied Ian McArthur on a hike along the Woodland Walk in the Pinecone Burke Provincial Park. The park extends from Pitt River northwards and then west towards Squamish. Hiking opportunities range from day-hikes and mountain bike trails to remote backpacking trips into the alpine Pinecone Lake area.
We saw remnants of the old growth forest in the form of massive stumps of cedar and Douglas fir. Untouched old growth remains intact farther north into the park. We learned about the history of the particular trails and the relationship of BC Parks and volunteers in maintaining those trails.
What We Know About Bats in BC
John Saremba, Burke Mountain Naturalists
The Burke Mountain Naturalists do an impressive amount of work in many different areas. We were given a comprehensive review of their work with bat roosts, observations, data recording and really cool apps that allow you to identify bats on the basis of their echolocation clicks.
Things that I learned: Bats can live from 10-20 years. They are able to purr (this bit of information was shared by someone in the audience based on their visit to a bat sanctuary)
“Burke Mountain Naturalists has a bat monitoring team that conducts scheduled outings during the spring and summer to visit specific locations to detect and count bat populations in the area. Bat monitoring sessions are conducted on a scheduled basis by BMN members.
The bat species most commonly detected include Little Brown Myotis and Yuma Myotis bats, as well as California, Big Brown, Hoary, Silver Haired, and Townsend Big-eared bats. The bat count information collected by the team is provided to the Ministry of Environment, BC Community Bat Program, and Metro Vancouver Regional Parks.” https://www.burkemountainnaturalists.ca/bat-monitoring/
Precious Frog – Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Project
Aleesha Switzer, Fraser Valley Conservancy
The historic draining of many of the wetlands in the Lower Mainland area also resulted in the devastating reduction in many amphibian species. In particular, the Oregon Spotted Frog, which inhabits the wetland shallows, is very susceptible to predation by invasive bullfrogs.
“The Oregon Spotted Frog is Canada’s most endangered amphibian, with fewer than 500 breeding females in the wild. In Canada, this frog is found only in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley and is federally listed as endangered.
The latin name of the species, Rana pretiosa, means Precious Frog, and is a reminder of the spectacular appearance of the frog. With its bright golden eyes, the Oregon Spotted Frog is beautiful and truly precious in many ways. By conserving this species, we are ensuring that the rich wetland habitat the Precious Frog depends on still exists and contributes to global diversity.
The Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Team coordinates efforts to assess, conserve, manage, and recover the Precious Frog in Canada.” https://www.preciousfrog.ca
Sandhill Cranes of the Fraser Valley
Myles Lamont, Terra Fauna
Sandhill Cranes, essentially unchanged for 10 million years, are under threat in the Lower Mainland. Where once thousands would gather here in the Pitt Polder and other wetlands, now only an estimated 10 pairs are remaining in our region. Myles Lamont, an independent researcher, described the current threats to this crane species as; monoculture agriculture such as blueberry fields, historic drainage of wetlands and the ongoing injury of the birds due to golf ball strikes. He is asking the public to report any sightings to http://cranesightings.com.
John Reynolds, SFU, Chair of Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)
John Reynolds, an SFU professor, gave a presentation on the use of iNaturalist and a description of his work with COSEWIC. Following this, he led a field trip to Golden Ears Park where we were able to try out the steps in using iNaturalist to identify and document plants, animals and fungi. He suggested to take photos as usual and then upload them at home using our laptops. This is a great way to link into an international population of citizen scientists while learning wildlife identification.
Since the conference, I have created a profile on iNaturalist and submitted 3 photos (2 moths, 1 moss) that I took with an Iphone. Within an hour, I received a “research grade” confirmation of the moss and suggestions as to the moth identifications. So far, I have learned that there is a Hemlock Looper moth, a False Hemlock Looper Moth and a Phantom Hemlock Looper moth.
Paddling the Katzie Slough
Lina Azeez, Watershed Watch Salmon Society
Another field trip was led by Lina Azeez from the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. This group is involved in efforts to rehabilitate waterways in the Fraser River watershed in the Lower Mainland. We learned that the Katzie Slough was a transportation route between the Katzie First Nation Summer and Winter village sites. As well, it was part of the rich wetlands that characterized the area. It is viewed by many now as a drainage ditch and is cut off from the Pitt River by concrete infrastructure. https://watershedwatch.ca/connected-waters/
We also learned that the waterway is currently threatened by fertilizer run-off and movement and survival of fish and amphibians is hampered by the infrastructure that maintains water levels. A very sobering lesson was given when our canoe trip was prematurely ended due to the complete blockage of the waterway by the invasive weed, Parrotfeather.
I would highly recommend these BC Nature week-ends as fantastic learning opportunities that are located “in our own backyards”. Local groups are having a positive impact in educating, documenting and rehabilitating many of these areas.