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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Capercailzie in Pitt Meadows

So what in the world is a capercailzie you say? read on:

The Daily Colonist 9 December 1919

Saw Capercailzie near Pitt Meadows

Famous game bird, imported 12 years ago from Scotland, reported not to be extinct here, as supposed.

Sportsmen and naturalists alike will be interested in the statement 
Mr. Arthur Robert Sherwood, (1862-1945) president of the Natural History Society of Victoria, [ VNHS ] that capercailzie were seen In the neighborhood of Pitt Meadows, Vancouver during the past Summer.

      Mr. Sherwood and Mr. Alfred Edward Crickmay,(1875-1954) of Vancouver, were present at the releasing of capercailzie at Pitt Meadows in 1907. From that time up to the present there has been little reference to the imported birds, which seemed to have disappeared. Mr. Crickmay however, asserted that he had seen one of these big game birds in the vicinity during the Summer of this year, and as the capercailzie is very much larger than any other species of grouse, there is little reason to suppose that he was mistaken.

     As a game-bird it was at one time practically extinct In Scotland, but was re-Introduced and is still to be found in other parts of Northern Europe, and its survival over a period of twelve years In British Columbia would indicate, that the conditions here are suitable, provided it is given sufficient protection.

 --- o ---
 The Daily Colonist 20 January 1920

Some facts regarding birds of Province.

Members of Natural History Society given data relating to Native and Alien feathered inhabitants.
. . .
Blue Jays [ Stellar's Jay ]

There has been during this last Summer and Fall a very unusual number of blue jays in the vicinity of towns, and even on the streets. Several reasons are advanced for this, one being that these birds, being accustomed to living in the thickets and forests, have been driven out by forest fires, and another being that there is a peculiar lack of fir cones on which they feed.
 The latter reason appears to hold in the vicinity of Sproat [ Sproat Lake ], where the jays left the woods to feed in the gardens on small fruit and insects. It was noted that the squirrels did the same, for apparently the same reason.
Blue jays do not migrate, so that they would not be there merely on their way south. This curious appearance in towns is being taken up and correspondence entered into with residents in different parts of the Province.

Blackbirds  [ Brewers blackbird ]

These are reported to be becoming more plentiful on the Island, and flocks of them can be seen flying about farms and other cultivated areas and feeding in the plowed fields. They have come over from the Mainland, where they are very common, having come there from the Prairies and the East, following the cultivation and transportation of wheat. The name of the blackbird here is Euphagus cyanocephalus, and the male is noticeable for the beautiful blue purple sheen of its feathers and the eye which is almost white.
Crows are, as usual, very numerous.
The California quail has taken very kindly to the country, especially amongst the broom in the vicinity of Victoria. It gets both food and shelter from the broom, and may be seen running about almost anywhere in the city parks and empty lots.

British Birds.

The English songbirds which were introduced by the society in 1912 do not seem to have thrived, except as regards the skylarks which are to be heard quite often in the northeastern parts of the city, near the Normal School. Other birds have been reported at long intervals, but hardly any really authentic information has been forthcoming. The fact that the birds had such a miserable long passage from England must account for their not having been a success.

     Much interest was taken in a report that a Capercailzie had been observed at the head of Pitt Meadows, and a general discussion arose, during which evidence for and against the probabilities of this bird having become acclimatized in the mountains to the north of the meadows.

     The question of the effect of change of environs on bird life was discussed and a number of members gave interesting facts about the appearance or disappearance of various birds in the last ten or twenty years. Small birds which formerly lived in the eaves of old houses in Victoria and fed off the streets have gradually moved away to the suburbs on account of the paving of the streets.

Birds Driven Away

The purple martin, which was very common in 1902, and used to build under the old lamp posts, have been driven away by the sparrows, and they in turn have been driven out by the paved streets. Night hawks [ Common nighthawk ] are also leaving for pastures new.

    Barn swallows, too, have gone on to the land.   The hardy little English sparrows,[ House Sparrow ] who seem to be able to stand anything, have also left the paved streets, with their coating of oil.

      Two instances of the imported being noted are those of the Chinese starling [ White-shouldered Starling, Sturnus sinesis ] and the ringdove. The Chinese starling has thrived wonderfully in the eastern suburbs of Vancouver, and the Lower Mainland, having apparently accidently been brought over from China. A member was surprised one day to find a ringdove [ Eurasian Collared Dove ] in his chicken house. It must have come on a ship to Victoria.

      A very interesting letter from Mr. Higgs, of Saturna,[ Saturna Island ], on the subject of a tame puffin which he had, was read, and brought up the subject of tamed wild birds and some interesting facts regarding them. Mrs. McIlroy spoke of losing a pet canary from a cage in Victoria and finding some two years afterwards the same bird clinging to the cage, evidently glad to get back home after two Winters in the open.
First appearance of various flowers and plants were reported. It is hoped that anyone observing the coming of Spring flowers, either in the woods or in outside cultivation, will send word to that effect to some member of the society, as a record book is kept year by year for this purpose.


Alien Animals in British Columbia, by: G.C. Carl and C.J. Guiguet

Excerpt about the Capercaillie:  In 1906, 14 Capercaillie were released near Cowichan Lake  on Vancouver Island, and eight were liberated near Lake Buntzen  on the mainland. Stock was obtained from Denmark and released by Mr. Chaldecott (see note 1) and Mr. Musgrave.

Present status in British Columbia: These introductions failed, and the capercaillie does not occur in British Columbia now. This species is a very large tree-loving grouse, somewhat resembling the blue grouse [ Dusky Grouse ] but much larger. It is native to the pine forests of northern and central Europe and Asia. It was once indigenous to northern Scotland and Ireland, but was exterminated there in the late 1700’s. It was reintroduced in 1837 and still occurs there.

Western Capercailzie, Capercaillie, Tetrao urogallus

And now for some more recent fun, a Youtube video:  Swedish reporter chased by angry Capercaillie

English Skylark

In the fall of 1903, 100 pairs of skylarks, Aluada arvensis were released near Victoria by the Natural History Society of British Columbia; in 191 an additional 49 birds were liberated in the same areas. Others are said to have been released about the same time on the Lower Mainland at the mouth of the Fraser River (Brooks and Swarth, 1925 ). Prior to this, in 1908 or 1910 a G.H. Wallace is said to have imported a number of skylarks, along with other British birds which included Red breasts, Blue tits, Linnets, and Goldfinches. These were apparently released at various points on the Saanich Peninsula. None but the skylarks survived. I n1919 a Mrs. E.A. Morton is said to have released five imported skylarks at Oak Bay. Present Status in British Columbia: Established in suitable grasslands in the vicinity of Victoria, on the Saanich Peninsula, and sometimes on Sidney Island. Much of the habitat occupied by the skylark was usurped by housing and other projects in the 1960’s with a subsequent population decline....

Note: (1)
 Francis Millar Chaldecott (1864-1949) was a solicitor, early settler in Point Grey and one of the organizers of the Municipality of South Vancouver.  Member of the  Vancouver Angling and Game Association., active in the community, and apparently liked to release alien animals into the environment. photo: 1929  Van Archives A26622

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Minnekhada Farm CBC

 Three BMN members, Victoria, Pamella, and Niall did the annual:
Minnekhada Farm , Christmas Bird Count,(CBC)   ( from Cedar Drive,(starting at DeBoville Slough) to Minnekhada Farm, along Quarry Road, Gilleys Trail, Cedar Drive, Deboville Slough )
This years  bird count results are the numbers on the left, and last years in brackets on the right.
     Bold is showing that this species was not counted in 2012

American Wigeon           0 (2)
Mallard                        43 (83)
Ring-necked duck        6 (0)
Common Goldeneye   1  (0)
Great Blue Heron          3 (1)
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1 (0)
Red-tailed Hawk          2  (2)
Belted Kingfisher           0 (1)
Northern Flicker           4  (3)
Steller's Jay             2 (1)
Northwestern Crow        1 (1)
Black-capped Chickadee     1  (31)
Bushtit        0  (31)
Pacific Wren       7  (1)
American Dipper       0  (3)
Golden-Crowned Kinglet       2  (4)
American Robin           30  (2)
Varied Thrush        0  (22)
European Starling    1  (0)
Spotted Towhee   8  (0)
Fox Sparrow  1  (0)
Song Sparrow   10  (2)
Dark-Eyed Junco  27  (31)
Pine Siskin  0  (31)

     Counted 17 species,  and 18 last year, but not all the same species.
Total number of birds was 252, in 2012; and 179 this year.

Bird nests in the stables at Minnekhada Farm, nearly every fire sprinkler head support
had this style of nest, associated with it.

We have to keep out of the areas with the naturalist bears in them.

As we walked along Cedar Drive, we came across a squished Norway rat on the road and within a few metres of it was a Roughskin newt also in the middle of the road. A very sluggish salamander it was in the cool temperatures, rescued by Pamella and put onto the road verge to hopefully find a safer place to hang out, rather than the center of the road. We also spotted a Eastern grey squirrel at Minnekhada Farm, not a welcome visitor in this area.

And some pictures from Pamella Zevitt of the adventure...

Roughskin newt

Roughskin newt

Mist over the ponds at Minnekhada

Good example of the visibility on the count day

Niall with a little friend on his shoulder

On the way back, my ancient boots decided enough was enough, and self-destructed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

BMN Silent auction, and Mossom Hatchery fire

 A good turnout considering the variable weather we have been having.  Still the auction generated nearly $2,000 for a good cause.
The bake table bringing in a record amount, plus the books, Wilderness Committee calendars, and Norma & Don's greenery, our final total should be up around $2000.  Well done, everybody!!
Most if not all of these funds going to the Oiled Wildlife Society of B.C.

Norma G., was selling holly, evergreens, cones, made somewhere near $100 for the wildlife.

Some of the participants, members

Music too! deck the halls with balls of holly, fala,fala,la,,,,

Followed the next day by the huge loss to the community of the venerable Mossom Creek Hatchery, started by BMN members, Ruth Foster and Rod MacVicar  back in 1976.

UPDATED: Vows to rebuild Port Moody's Mossom Creek hatchery after fire
Support pouring in for Mossom Creek Hatchery
 Council offers $10K to rebuild Mossom Creek Hatchery
     Port Moody hatchery volunteers get a bit of good news
          Donations pouring in for fire-damaged hatchery in Port Moody  ( pictures )

Update: Mossom Creek Hatchery destroyed by fire

Port Moody will hold special meeting to discuss Mossom Creek grant
CBC short video clip  Salmon hatchery burned down

Community support to rebuild, is probably larger than even the Society thinks it is. 

It will rise from the ashes like a Phoenix, and be better than ever. The loss of the library, and especially the memorabilia is particularly devastating though. Hopefully enough of the history remains in the community, so that the community can help rebuild the memories.

 An account has been set up with TD Canada Trust for donations. Contribute at any branch of the bank into account 539-5000965. Businesses can be issued tax receipts. A fundraiser is expected to be announced in the new year.
People with photos, newspaper clippings or any other material related to the hatchery are asked to email the images to

      Mossom Creek is named after this fellow: Mossom Martin Boyd, a lumberman from Bobcaygeon, Ontario who owned a portion of the property that Mossom Creek runs through, and who also  held numerous land holdings in B.C.; Port Moody... especially the Lake Cowichan area on Vancouver Island, where extensive logging operations were carried on.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ridge Park

I had heard that the City was doing some fire suppression work in Ridge Park in Coquitlam's Westwood Plateau area, and went for a look. WOW, I knew some of the problem areas already, but was surprised at seeing that the actual ridge area was also under their destructive ways . No idea why the ridge itself needed work done on it, no homes, and fires in the past have always been stopped by the rocky nature of the ridge area with its thin mineral soils; make work project I guess. I guess that Ridge  Park will never be allowed to just be itself and slowly heal from all the past human-induced damages again, a slow festering open wound seems to be the prescription that the Parks department has chosen to take. Sad for all users of the parks, and especially the wildlife that struggles to live there, they will have to work much harder now to survive.
 See the extent of the prescribed forest prescription HERE and HERE (pdf) 
I saw a young Douglas Squirrell that was obviously distressed by all the activity nearby, acting very erraticly
 Some pictures near the High Knoll, no homes near here at all:

High Knoll

Between High Knoll and Low Knoll

Trail to Low Knoll viewpoint is now a road, (just a matter of time now before someone falls from the cliffs)

  Links to some pictures:  Picture near the viewpoint (Low Knoll) more of a fire hazard now than before, when they were standing upright; go figure !

This next area burnt in the 1970's and was aerial planted, and is filled today with young trees mostly under 10 metres tall, and filled with "ladder-fuels",(the branches still remaining on the young trees, which can be a problem when and IF a fire occurs, by allowing the fire to reach the tree tops easily and travel faster.)  It was always totally beyond me why the City allowed homes to be built in this area without a decent firebreak between the forest and the homes, ( there is NONE, wooden fences too, courting disaster )

Boundary near creek clearly visible in this Image
Clearing near the power lines .   Below the area away from homes they appear to just be cutting the trees and leaving them in place, without chipping them. Nearer to homes they appear to be chipping the trees where access is easy, leaving fairly deep piles of wood chips in a few places, that will take forever to break down.

Further down it appears that Wildlife trees are also being cut down, ouch !

Friday, November 15, 2013

Eagle Mountain - Woodfibre gas pipeline

Seems like yesterday that this pipeline was built, and already they are expanding it, typical bad planning, but hey, only the environment suffers from all this activity, right?

Local paper article:  FortisBC seeks environmental approval for twinning project

The Environmental Assesment Office :   Eagle Mountain - Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project
Where you can find the numerous documents, and open house information, the usual,,,

I am sure that they will leave the area in worse shape this time than last, the land is still attempting to heal itself along the Right of Way from the last onslaught of activity.

UPDATE:   So the truth about this matter is slowly being made public. The pipeline twinning is to go to the old Woodfibre site, near Squamish,  where the gas will be compressed, probably by burning a portion of the gas, and put onto ships for Singapore.     Pressure for quick LNG approvals may trigger backlash

Public comments  (PDF)

Sounds like a done deal, Squamish will have to learn to deal with the noise from the compressors, which can be quite scary sounding sometimes, and also the huge amount of gas pollution from them. I loved the vague concept that the proponent will look into using electricity to power the compressors; something that has not been done yet in western Canada, and probably never will be. It would be slightly better for the environment though.

Am I alone in noticing how vague the proponents prospectus about this matter is? But hey our Premier apparently embraces the gas industry, maybe she has inhaled a little too much H2S?

A few of the many groups who are opposed to many aspects of the proposal:
Future of Howe Sound society ( FHSS )
Squamish Streamkeepers
Sea to Sky clean air society

Way back in 1989 there was the,  Coquitlam Watershed Pipeline Inquiry ( 1989 ) (102Mb, PDF)
[ Warning this file can be glacial in downloading. ]

Monday, October 28, 2013

NO to coal

No rest for the wicked they say, so to that end a few merry souls marched off to New West to host Take Back Our Port rally on Sunday   Beautiful weather too. 
Some background about the numerous issues facing the environment:    FRIDAY FEATURE: Port giant needs to step away from enviro table: Biologist, mayor;
Potential coal export expansion, aviation fuel delivery plan, tunnel replacement leads to question; how much power does Port Metro Vancouver have?

Numerous issues being debated as usual, never just a simple one task to be dealt with, but all with a common thread of potential damage to the environment we cherish.

A few of the numerous groups involved:  Voters Taking Action on Climate Change --- Wilderness Committee --- Dogwood Initiative --- BMN --- Texada Stickleback Group  --- Communitiesandcoal. . . .

Some of the television media coverage:  CBC:   Hundreds protest Fraser River coal facility
  GLOBAL:   Environmental groups, concerned residents, say ‘no to US coal’ and Surrey port expansion

Some pictures:
The Texada Stickleback under threat by the proposed expansion, and change of use of a LaFarge Canada Aggregate quarry on Texada Island to store the dirty coal.
( Larger Pic )

Fiberglass Killer Whale, chasing the paper mache Stickleback.
( Larger Pic )

Giant paper mache Sandpiper

Part of the BMN contingent.

Overlooking part of the crowd.
( Larger Pic )

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oil and the Second Narrows bridge

The Second Narrows bridge (the railway bridge) has been replaced a few times through the years and has always been a chokepoint in Burrard Inlet that many large ships have had problems navigating through.

I can remember this event well The 1979 collison from a Oil tanker (scroll down in the story ) with the span, which put it out of service for many months.
This was a very close call in 1979 with the MV Japan Erika, that many people have totally forgoten about (I have some pictures taken from the water of this accident, I will have a look for them soon, and post some of them up. Rare close up views).
              Some earlier accidents, and by no means complete either.

Damage to Second Narrows bridge by the Calmar Shipping Lines, "Losmar".
Photo: Leonard Frank, 3 May 1930. Van. Library 12357

 Damage to Second Narrows bridge by the Calmar Shipping Lines, "Losmar".
Photo: Leonard Frank, 3 May 1930.  Van. Library 12358

 S.S. "Losmar", after knocking down a span of the Second Narrows bridge. April 1928.
       Photo: donated by C.M. Rolston.      Van. Archives A24374

 Accident "Norwich City" collision with Second Narrows bridge 23 April 1928
Van. Archives A00490

  Accident "Pacific Gatherer" collision with Second Narrows bridge. Tug "Lorne" standing by.
 Photo: Stuart Thomson 19 September 1930.   Van Archives  A00818

Accident "Pacific Gatherer" collision with Second Narrows bridge, 19 September 1930.
  Tug "Lorne" standing by.     Photo: Stuart Thomson.  Van Archives  A00820

 Aerial view of Burrard Inlet. ca. 1942-1945. Cropped slightly, note  how the inlet narrows here, a perfect place for a bridge, the Iron Workers Memorial bridge will not be finished until 1960.
 Photo: R.C.A.F.   Van. Archives A66600

  Province Newspaper, Second Narrows bridges. Van Library 39713

Nothing much has changed here, the bridge was fixed from the 1979 incident, studies were generated as usual but not much done, other than tugs now assist ships through the area, BUT the ships, especially when combined with the weather, tides, etc, are far more powerful than the tugs can sometimes control.
 ( personal experience )

Groups like Burke Mountain Naturalists (BMN), Raincoast Conservation Foundation, (RCF),
Conversations for Responsible Economic Development, (CRED) and Pipe-up
 among many others are spearheading the opposition to expansion of this type of traffic through the Port of Vancouver. Contact the groups and also your local M.P., M.L.A. and local politicians and voice your concerns.

 UPDATE: As promised above, a few pictures of the 1979 incident, these have never been seen in public.

 Eastern side of Second Narrows bridge, 1979 (Flickr pic)

Western side of Second Narrows bridge, 1979 (Flickr pic)

Southern pier of the Second Narrows train bridge, 1979 (Flickr pic)
Northern pier of the second Narrows train bridge, 1979 (Flickr pic)

Marine cranes at work… Repairs to the heavily damaged Canadian National Railway bridge across Burrard Inlet resumed Monday when workers returned to their jobs after a work stoppage Sunday. Twenty members of International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers refused to work when they discovered a shim under the northeast leg had come free.
The problem was corrected and the bridge declared safe for continued repair.
The span was knocked out two weeks ago by a Japanese freighter.
photo: Peter Battistoni; Columbian Photo.  Record ID 67030

Forest Ethics   has created a website to track the local oil tanker traffic   

A good way to look at most of the larger vessels transiting the area is to look at Marinetraffic com 
which is a better way really to look at the shipping traffic since it gives a better sense of the scale of it, and the traffic congestion in the harbour. Remember there is much more work boat, small boat traffic than the larger ships.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

What's at stake? Tar sands oil to and from our coast

The Burke Mountain Naturalists, (BMN) and the Raincost Conservation Foundation, (RCF) are hosting
 an evening of discussion along with the showing of two short films at the Evergreen Cultural Centre
in Coquitlam  on the evening of        September 22, 2013  from  6:45 to 9.30 pm.
 Tickets $10 or $5 for students and seniors.
Find out more in this one page information poster
Tri-City News: Burke Mountain Naturalists bring pipeline debate to Tri-Cities

 The night's theme will be about oil pipelines, and the shipping hazards of oil along our coast.

What's at stake?     Tar sands oil to and from our coast

Groundswell – A small film about making a big stand

Hemp & Company                 Pasta Polo                  Measure Accounting  

Forest Ethics Advocacy             Patagonia             Georgia Strait Alliance            Sierra Club BC 


A very good online mapping application from the Wilderness Committee showing the proposed Kinder-Morgan oil pipeline routes,
 will help you understand the scope of the proposed oil pipelines in the lower Coastal area.

For the Folks who live in the Tri-Cities, Burnaby area download this Google Earth kmz file  to view the existing and proposed routes through the area.
  The file contains 2 fly-over tours.
Instructions: It will download and open in Google Earth, (if you have it installed ) a folder named: Tour; double-click and it will open in Google Earth, expand the folder named KmlFile at the bottom of the PLACES listing, on your left. Double-click Start-Tour, away we go to see the existing 60-year old oil pipeline !
 And after that, you can also view a possible alternate new oil pipeline route according to the Wilderness Committee by double-clicking New-Routing

Friday, August 23, 2013

Burke and Widgeon a hiker's guide

BMN member and local hiker Lyle Litzenberger has recently published a book about Burke and Widgeon Creek areas.    Newspaper article:  Burke, by the book

      Burke and Widgeon   a hiker's guide
          Lyle Litzenberger
             pebblestone publishing 2013
                  ISBN  0981125808, 9780981125800

And a dedicated website for the book: BurkeandWidgeon

Buy the book information

Long overdue, I hope that this book is widely read and enjoyed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Golden Ears Park management plan

Golden Ears Provincial Park is in the process of gathering comments from the public for their
 Park Management Plan. have a look at this last link, and download the Draft Management Plan (PDF), and then comment online if you wish or at the public open houses.

Only two Public open houses

January 29, 2013, 6-8 PM (Vancouver) UBC Robson Square,   Room C-225
January 31, 2013, 6-8 PM (Maple Ridge) Maple Ridge Public Library,  Fraser Room

Comment period closes on February 15, 2013

Some historical background information:

This is the most interesting report, this forms part of the early planning ofr the park.
 Report on administration and improvements in Garibaldi Park 1952 (PDF)

Golden Ears Park Bird checklist 1995

The concept for Golden Ears-Mount Judge Howay 1976 (PDF)

Golden Ears Provincial Park trail user survey 1984 (PDF)

 An interpretation plan for Golden Ears Provincial Park 1976 (PDF)

Study of the tributaries of the North and south Alouette Rivers 1996

Forest regeneration on Timber Berth "W", Alouette Lake, New Westminster Land District: history map study, 1940 re-examination   1944  (PDF)  this is today's Malcom Knapp Research Forest