Category Archives: Outdoors

Outdoors on Vancouver Island

Ladysmith Western Purple Martin Open House

There will be a Purple Martin Open House at the Ladysmith Community Marina on Sunday, July 21st, 2013. You can see the largest active colony of purple martins in BC right here on Vancouver Island at the Ladysmith Community Marina.

It is a great time of year to see adult birds feeding their young. On Sunday there will be opportunities to participate in banding of the purple martin nestlings and other activities such as story time.

Purple martins are the largest swallow found in North America. They begin to fly south in early August and they fly all the way down to South America arriving in October.

Close to extinction:

By 1949, purple martins had disappeared from the Lower Mainland and in 1985 only 5 breeding pairs remained on Vancouver Island.

There are many reasons for their disappearance including: loss of habitat, pesticides, and invasive species such as European starlings. In a single incident in Brazil, reported in 1989, 50,000 purple martins were killed from eating insects which had been sprayed with pesticides. All these factors contributed to the near extinction of western purple martins.

Purple Martin Boxes in Ladysmith
Purple Martin Boxes in Ladysmith

The purple martin colony in Ladysmith has increased in size from 5 to about 60 breeding pairs.

A volunteer nest box program to rebuild the western purple martin population was started in 1985 with the installation of nest boxes at Cowichan Bay when martins were seen nesting in piling cavities at this estuary. These boxes and others located around Esquimalt Harbour rescued the BC purple martins from the brink of extinction.

There are now over 145 volunteers actively involved in this western purple martin recovery program. Below is a webcam at the Ladysmith Marina so people can see inside an active purple martin nest.

Purple Martin webcam in Ladysmith
Purple Martin webcam in Ladysmith

Invasive Yellow Flag Iris in Buttertubs Marsh Nanaimo

Vancouver Island is being choked out by invasive plants. The City of Nanaimo has set up a helpful calendar for the month of May and you can volunteer at a location that is convenient or you can set up your own work party and add it to the list.

So far there are nine work parties organized and hopefully some local high schools will have time to participate.

There are many problem areas but one that has been overlooked is how to rescue the Buttertubs Marsh which is overrun with Yellow Flag Iris.

For some reason Yellow Flag Iris is not listed on the City of Nanaimo’s website but it is listed on the Saanich Website and it looks like they have a program for removal. Why doesn’t Nanaimo have a program to eradicate it from Buttertubs Marsh?

Yellow Flag Iris spreads in thick groups and chokes out native wetland plants. It has no value for food or habitat and it compacts the soil and changes the drainage. It will destroy the marsh.

Yellow Flag Iris
Yellow Flag Iris in Buttertubs Marsh in Nanaimo

All plant parts of the Yellow Flag Iris are poisonous, so wear gloves!

Yellow Flag Iris will come into bloom in June and it is urgent to try to get this plant eradicated now.

Save Linley Valley West: card of thanks

Rally in the Valley March 24, 2013
Rally in the Valley March 24, 2013

Here is a card of thanks from Team Save Linley Valley West:

“Many thanks to the 120-plus people who joined the Rally for the Valley on March 24th, braving chilly weather to show their support for protecting Linley Valley West’s fragile ecosystems. It was especially heartening to be joined by many advocates for other at-risk areas in Nanaimo that are important to the lives of residents and creatures who live here.

Save Linley Valley West is committed to continuing to work towards protecting the almost 300 acres of wetland, woodland and cliffs and ensuring a continuous habitat with the eastern side of Linley Valley, preserved a decade ago by a similar citizen initiative.

Thanks are also due to members of the media who continue to inform Nanaimo about Linley West and its potential for our city.”

Save Linley Valley West – Rally for the Valley

Proposed development in Linley Valley West
Proposed development in Linley Valley West

Two years ago, concern about a new housing development encroaching on the west side of Linley Valley prompted a group of Nanaimo citizens to form Save Linley Valley West  to protect the rest of Linley Valley West’s fragile forest and wetland ecosystem from any further incursions.

With community support, the efforts of Save Linley Valley West (SLVW) generated over 4,000 signed petitions to save Linley West, and in early 2012, prompted a short-lived council decision to explore options for protecting Linley West lands as a nature park. There was no official explanation for council’s reversal of that decision shortly afterwards.

Western Painted Turtle - Linley Valley West
Western Painted Turtle – Linley Valley West

Recently, professional biologist Joe Materi’s bio-inventory of almost 300 acres of Linley Valley West confirmed the area’s “high overall conservation value” as home to sensitive ecosystems and threatened species. The study also notes that the extent and diversity of Linley West landscapes provides “habitat connections between lakes, wetlands and adjacent forest patches that are key to persistence of native amphibians and mammals” and “intact connections for a variety of wide-ranging wildlife”.

But now, hope for a continuous protected ecosystem is threatened by a proposed 352-unit housing development for 81 acres of sensitive woodland, cliffs and wetlands that has a wide diversity of plants and birds. Moreover, development plans show roadways adjacent to waterways and storm sewers draining into ponds, an arrangement that often causes contamination of wetlands.

Over 10 years ago, the combined efforts of Nanaimo citizens and local governments successfully protected a significant portion of the east side of Linley Valley as habitat for wildlife and a quiet walking space for residents.

Rally for the Valley, 2 p.m. Sunday March 24, at Alta Vista and Cascara (near Lost Lake Rd) is a chance to show support for protecting the rest of this unique ecosystem.

For more information, visit the Save Linley Valley West on facebook.

Buttertubs Marsh in Nanaimo – What’s New?

What’s new at Nanaimo’s Buttertubs Marsh Conservation area? Some new signage is going up on the west side of the trail loop and you will also see the chain link fences have been removed.

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and City of Nanaimo and jointly purchased 63 acres of wetlands west of the Buttertubs, known as “West Marsh.”  The City of Nanaimo contributed $430,000 for this marsh area.

Since 1976 when the Buttertubs Marsh was designated for conservation, there has been numerous local stewardship groups who have worked on habitat enhancement projects. Yet sadly so many invasive species have found their way into the wetlands.

Here’s a challenge  – will someone organize a Daphne Day Pulling Party at the Buttertubs Marsh?

ButterTubs Marsh Nanaimo - Daphine - New Signage
Buttertubs Marsh Nanaimo – Daphne on  east side –  new sign at West Marsh area

Upgrades to Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park

One of the perks on the mid island is Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park in Parksville.

The campsites at Rathtrevor are getting additional layers of gravel and new concrete pads, as well as replacement picnic tables. Also, a playground is getting upgraded.

Rathtrevor Park
Upgrades at Rathtrevor Prov. Park – playground, picnic tables – beware of the massive pot holes in the parking lot you could lose a wheel.

The total cost for the upgrades is $2.5 million. A contract worth $900,000 was awarded to Rogers Trucking dba JB Contracting based in Lantzville.

The original picnic tables were made from solid old growth wood. Lack of basic maintenance had reportedly led to rot starting on the inside of the picnic tables.

The new picnic tables will be built by Nanaimo based MacKay Precast Products.

Construction workers are scheduled to be operating in the park until March 1, 2013.

The current camping fee is $30 per night.

Backround: Rathtrevor takes its name from Rath, an Irish family who homesteaded on the land. William Rath was a gold prospector who arrived in 1886 with his wife and baby daughter. They cleared the land in 1895 and built a cabin and barn. William Rath died in 1903 leaving behind Elizabeth and five children. Elizabeth ran a farm on the land and eventually operated a campground. Rathtrevor Campground became Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park in 1967.

Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park, south of Nanaimo, has once again been passed over. A provincial election is looming this year; consequently it’s time to spend money in the most rewarding political riding.

picnic table
Original picnic tables from 1967 that have been removed.