Friday, March 29, 2013

Bog, Beach, Bluff Explorations Were a Blast!

Last week we went out on three explorations in a row, to see various sides of Bowen: the forest, the estuary, and the open bluffs. We normally go every Friday afternoon, but decided to do an intensive series during Spring Break, so that within a very short time we could experience both the diversity and interconnections of our local landscape. So we started off with Fairy Fen.

Fairy Fen
Standing at the edge of the fen, trying not to trample the plants.
Just outside the fen, the springy ground gives way suddenly to very deep little holes.
Formerly called Mystery Fen, this developing bog was once a lake, but over millenia has been filling in with sphagnum moss, its great depth (over 21 feet) providing ample substrate for a great number of interesting plants, including Labrador Tea, which we plenty of. This plant-growth in turn helps stabilize the surface of the lake, creating a fen, the surface of which is springy, due to the great amount of water, held in the sphagnum, beneath. On the outermost edges of what was once the lake, trees have grown, creating an open-floored forest of mostly hemlock, which gives way to infrequent mud-holes and open water-holes, which the younger members of our group happily pushed sticks into, to measure the depth of. A variety of interesting fungi were found, as well as ground pine (club moss), the remnants of a long-ago landslide, and some interesting bedrock formations.

Measuring mud holes. This one was about 50cm deep.
Lovely purplish fungus.
Hmm... interesting!
Some of the kids had to wait for the adults as we slowly picked our way down the hillside.
Hemlock forest growing outside the fen, with mud-holes clearly evident!
Hiking around the fen.
Will exploring under rocks with some of the kids.
Mothers' Beach

On the second day of the series, we went to Mothers' Beach and the Lagoon, which is a rich estuary. An estuary is a confluence of a fresh-water river and the salty ocean, which supports all sorts of microbial, small visible and larger life, around the resulting marshes and mud-flats. We were joined by naturalist Will Husby, who in his enthusiasm helped us to find, identify, and observe some of the many life-forms, including various types of ducks, geese, swans and seabirds, scuds (aka sand-fleas), an orange sea- worm, shore-crabs, sea snails and hermit crabs, evidence of beaver-logging, and of course the many budding and sprouting plants that announce the spring!

Will explains the nature of estuaries.
Watching bird interactions.
Shore crabs!

Mt. Collins Bluffs
Shoes off!

With great thanks to Jean Jamieson and Marion and Jim Moore, who welcomed us to visit their properties, we joyfully hiked up through the forest, past a barely-blooming wild flowering currant, and out onto the arbutus-spotted bluffs of Mt. Collins. Further up, we saw the eastern side of Bowen Island, the cove, and Mothers' Beach from above, and sat between the pine trees, having a snack. Some of the kids were so enthusiastic about the warm weather and soft moss that they took off their shoes and socks to experience it more thoroughly! We walked around a bit, up top, discovering some lovely elegant mushrooms, reindeer lichen, and mysteriously ravaged-looking salal, which looked as though they'd been hit by a plague of locusts. We could not explain this! And eventually, of course, we hiked back down, discovering gorgeous trees, rock-formations, and an interesting deer-skeleton, along the way.
What a beautiful day! Whytecliff park on the left, Deep Bay and Sandy Beach in the middle, and the sailboats in the cove on the right. And between that at the foreground? The beautiful hillside we just hiked up!
Carefully exploring in and under a pine.
Arbutus on the edge.
Coming down from the mountain.
We have seen our lovely landscape!

We will go again, someday.
But for now we're coming down.
Filled with joy!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Upcoming Events: Geology of Howe Sound and Bog, Beach, Bluff

The Nature Club began the year in style with our traditional AGM potluck and an excellent presentation by UBC marine mammal expert, Professor Andrew Trite, explaining why BC Steller sea lions are thriving whilst their Alaskan relatives are in sharp decline. The answer appears to be food quality, since they thrive on high food value fish such as herring, whereas low value foods such as pollock cause them to have lower birth and infant survival rates. This suggests that the hard work of the Fish and Wildlife Club and other stream keepers associations, restoring herring spawning grounds in our area, will pay off in terms of increased sea mammal activity around Bowen and in the Sound. At the AGM we also heard about the exciting adventures planned for this year, beginning with two Nature Club events in March.

The remarkable mountain wall rising above Howe Sound
On March 17th at 7pm, Bob Turner will be discussing our local geological landscape. Living on Bowen, with its rocky shores and beaches full of pebbles, we encounter lots of geology to look at and questions to ponder. Our shoreline bedrock can be pale-coloured, or dark grey, or full of layers –what’s the difference? Smooth bedrock surfaces abound – is this the work of ancient glaciers? And how big was the glacier that carved our rock? Many pebbles that you find on a Bowen beach are different from Bowen bedrock – so where did they come from? Elsewhere, curious layers of clay contain marine fossils, yet are high above the sea. And what about Bowen Island – how old is it? Has it always been an island? Our island rocks formed in the Jurassic Era – could we find dinosaur bones here? Across the waters of Howe Sound near Squamish are the famous climbing cliffs of Stawamus Chief. Why are these granite walls so steep? Rising even higher is Mount Garibaldi, a giant volcano that erupted violently 12,000 years ago, yet it doesn’t look like a volcano at all. Could it erupt again? And asking a really big question – why do we have mountains along the coast of BC? Why isn’t our coast flat like Nova Scotia?
Our geological curiosity can range from the nature of a pebble to the origin of our coastal mountains. This talk explores the geological wonders that are all around us. So bring your questions and your local rocks. This event is free and open to non-members; contact the club for further details.
During spring break, Emily van Lidth de Jeude will be leading a (F)unschool mini camp called Bog, Beach, Bluff on March 19, 20 and 21; 2-4pm. The mini-camp is for people of all ages and will explore three different Bowen ecosystems. First, participants will hike into Fairy Fen, where there is evidence of early logging on Bowen, will look at the slow transformation of a small lake into rainforest, and find some of the deepest mud around in the bog and fen. On the second day local Naturalist Will Husby will join explorations of the estuary by Mother’s Beach and the lagoon, and help discover and identify various creatures that live there. And finally the group will hike up a bluff, starting in the forest down below and emerging to look out and see our island from above.
This activity is free, and for Nature Club members only. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Contact Emily van Lidth de Jeude at 9563 or email the Nature Club (address to the right, in the sidebar) to register for Bog, Beach, Bluff.