Hornby Island Natural History Centre

Helliwell Park Bird Walk with Art Martell

About eighty people gathered to catch a glimpse of some of the forest and shoreline birds at Helliwell Park. We sought, listened, and enjoyed their presence under the guidance of Art Martell. Art is an ornithologist and keen birder locally, nationally, and internationally, who has a cabin on Hornby Island.

Our group had several sightings, beginning with a pileated woodpecker by the parking lot. We also spotted and heard a warbler, turkey vultures, oystercatchers chasing off turkey vultures, harlequin ducks, and chestnut back chickadees – a year-round resident and the only chickadee found on Hornby and Vancouver Island. The group also enjoyed seeing a group of seals lying on the rocks near the oystercatchers.

It was a hazy morning due to smoke in the air from wildfires and along with a long dry spell, the birds were quieter than usual. Art informed us that they were conserving their energy. Birds have very delicate respiratory systems and their lungs work differently than those of mammals. They have two small lungs within which are air sacs that keep the lungs constantly inflated. Whatever they breathe is circulated through their bodies.

Although it wasn’t a peak time for bird sightings, Art was able to share a plethora of knowledge with us. He knows a lot about our feathered friends as the volunteer Caretaker for the K’omoks Important Bird Area and active member of the Comox Valley Birders Group (which has a yearly bird count since 1919 in the Comox Valley), BC Field Ornithologists, and Bird Studies Canada. He was also the Regional Coordinator for the BC Breeding Bird Atlas and prior to retirement, worked as a wildlife research scientist and manager with Canadian Wildlife Service. Art was also the first Canadian National Coordinator for the North American Bird Conservation Initiative.

One of the topics he discussed was new to many of the attendees: birding ethics and the problem of smartphone bird call apps. Today, many people are using bird call apps on their smartphones to attract birds. While this may be okay with minimal usage by one person in a large forest, the problem begins when you have an area, such as a park, with many people moving through each day using the apps. Hearing the calls repeatedly, the birds are tricked into believing that there is a competitor in the area. They then expend energy to make their presence known to the “other bird”. Usually, the person playing the call is unaware of the problem and is just enjoying the excitement getting a response back from the bird. However, this response, especially when in a public environment, is provoked by stress. Birds need their energy for finding food, building nests, feeding their babies, and so on. While it is wonderful to become more familiar with the natural world, we also have to be careful not to endanger it in the process.

Another interesting topic covered was the changes in bird migration due to climate change. There has been an increase in particular species in certain areas. For instance, fifty years ago we would not see house wrens here, but with a natural migration northward, they have become more common.

Fortunately,  Helliwell Park provides an important habitat that we can retain for forest birds. Here are some photos from the morning. As you can see, it was a large and enthusiastic crowd!

 

Summer 2017 Photos

Speaker Series

Nature Walks

 

Thank you to the speakers and nature walk leaders for sharing their knowledge with us: Sandy McLachlan, Jane Watson, John Nemy, Art Martell, John Cox, and Kihan Yoon-Henderson. And thanks to everyone who came out and participated in the nature talks and activities!

Lessons Learned from Killer Whales: A Talk with Jackie Hildering

 

Join us for this must-see, inspirational presentation on Lessons Learned from Killer Whales.

Presenter Jackie Hildering is an acclaimed educator who will trace back the human social evolution with Killer Whales, discussing how these whales are powerful indicators of human value systems. It will be all about the capacity for positive change and common solutions to socio-environmental problems. And yes, she will discuss the dilemma of naming them “Killer Whales” vs. “Orca”. Many of you will remember her highly engaging and motivating presentation on Humpback Whales last year.

All proceeds will go to the work of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre (https://hornbynaturalhistory.com) and the Marine Education and Research Society (http://www.mersociety.org) of which Jackie is a co-founder.

Presenter:
As an educator, avid diver and underwater photographer, Jackie is also known as “The Marine Detective” with recent on-camera experience including being featured on Animal Planet’s “Wild Obsession” series and in the BBC productions “New threat to Canada’s Pacific humpback whales?” and “Ingenious Animals”. She is based in Port McNeill, NE Vancouver Island.

Details:
Wednesday, October 4th at the Hornby Island Community Hall
Doors open 6:30 PM.  Program begins 7:00 PM.
Admission $15.  Free for ages 18 and under.
Tickets for sale at the Gas Bar.

For more information contact hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com

Photo ©Jackie Hildering; “A Mother Hunting” T140 mammal-hunting Killer Whale chasing Pacific White-Sided Dolphins.

Unusual Hornby Resident! A Yellow-headed Pileated Woodpecker

This rare yellow-headed Pileated Woodpecker lives by the Shire on Hornby Island. They are so unusual that local bird expert, Art Martell, says it’s the first he has seen. According to Art, it is likely a genetic mutation that will probably not proliferate due to natural selection. The bird is an immature female pictured here with a mature female. Note the punkish hairdo-like crown.

Speaker Series: “Sea otters – A very natural history”

Thursday, August 17th with Jane Watson, marine biologist

Sea otters, prized for their thick fur, were hunted to extinction in British Columbia in a commercial fur trade that started in the late 1700s and lasted until sea otters were protected in 1911. Otters were reintroduced to BC from 1969 to 1972 when 89 Alaskan sea otters were released off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island in a series of three translocations. Since their “repatriation”, the Canadian sea otter population has grown and spread; today there are over 5000 sea otters along the outer coast of BC and north end of Vancouver Island. The return of sea otters, which has resulted in dramatic changes to coastal ecosystems, has not been without controversy. Sea otters depend on a thick fur and a prodigious appetite to stay warm in their chilly ocean environment and it is these two features – their luxurious fur coats and enormous appetites – that have made sea otters both loved and hated. In this talk, we will explore the biology and ecology of this important and charismatic species– in what is truly a very natural history.

Jane Watson grew up on the BC coast, and knew from a very early age that she wanted to be marine biologist. She completed her B.Sc. at the University of British Columbia in 1981 and her Ph.D. at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1993. She recently retired from teaching biology at Vancouver Island University but remains active in research. She has spent more than 30 summers studying sea otters and kelp on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

This presentation is the final talk of the Summer 2017 Thursday Expert Speaker Series Schedule. Admission is $5.00 per person. Ages 16 and under attend free. The talk begins at 2:00 pm in the Community School Library (entrance through the Natural History Exhibit door).

Pictured above: Sea otter. Photo by Erin Rechsteiner

Nature Walk – “A Tidal Investigation”

Tuesday, August 15th – “A Tidal Investigation”:

Exploring Hornby’s rich shoreline ecosystem

This walk will be led by Kihan Yoon-Henderson, summer host/coordinator at the Hornby Island Natural History Centre. Pre-registration is essential as space is limited to 12 participants for each walk.

For inquiries or to register, email Kihan at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre. $10 per person. Children 16 and under attend for free.

Location:
This walk will be held at Lunar Beach. The walk begins at 10:30 am.  Lunar Beach is at the end of Anderson; we will meet near the end of Anderson – Kihan from the Natural History Centre will be there to meet you. When you register, we will send you a map!
See you there!
Pictured above: Grassy Point. Photo by barb biagi.

Bird Walk – Hearing, seeing and enjoying our local birds

Thursday, August 10th with Art Martell

Meet at Helliwell Provincial Park at 9:00 am.  The walk will be about 3 km. and take about 2 hours.  Bring binoculars if you have them. No dogs please.

Art Martell is retired in the Comox Valley and has had a cabin on Hornby Island for over 25 years. He is the Volunteer Caretaker for the K’omoks Important Bird Area and is active in the Comox Valley Birders Group, BC Field Ornithologists, and Bird Studies Canada. Art was also a Regional Coordinator for the BC Breeding Bird Atlas. Before retirement, Art worked as a wildlife research scientist and manager with Canadian Wildlife Service and was the first Canadian National Coordinator for the North American Bird Conservation Initiative.  Art is a keen birder who enjoys birding locally, nationally and internationally.

This birding expedition is part of the Summer 2017 Thursday Expert Speaker Series Schedule. Admission is $5.00 per person. Youth 16 and under attend for free. The walk goes from 9:00 am – 11:00 am, Helliwell Park.

Nature Walk – “Walking with Trees”

Tuesday, August 8th, 10:30 am  – “Walking with Trees”

Exploring the forests of Hornby

This walk will be led by Kihan Yoon-Henderson, summer host/coordinator at the Hornby Island Natural History Centre. Pre-registration is essential as space is limited to 12 participants for each walk.

For inquiries or to register, email Kihan at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre. $10 per person. Children 16 and under attend for free.

Location:
This walk will be held at Helliwell Provincial Park. We will meet at the head of the trail at 10:30am, right next to the parking lot. (Kihan will be there waiting to meet you.)
See you there!

To view the full summer nature walk schedule, visit Nature Field Trips.

Speaker Series – “A preview of the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse”

July 27th: “A preview of the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017”

John Nemy, public astronomer from Island Stars Observatory on Hornby island, BC, will present a show about eclipses and the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse. Learn how to safely observe your star, Sol the sun and what you might expect to see from Hornby Island or from the “Path of Totality”!  There will be music, images and live narration about the lives of stars and how living next to a star shapes our lives on planet Earth.

Admission is $5.00 per person. Ages 16 and under are admitted free. The presentation begins at 2:00 pm in the Community School Library, located at 2100 Sollans Rd. Please enter through the Natural History Centre door.

This event is part of the Natural History Centre’s Expert Speakers Series.

Nature Walk – “Hornby Rocks!”

Tuesday, July 18th, 10:30 am  – “Hornby Rocks!”

Exploring Hornby’s unique geology

This walk will be led by Dr. John Cox, geologist, and Kihan Yoon-Henderson, returning summer host/coordinator at the Hornby Island Natural History Centre. $10 per person. Free for ages 16 and under. Pre-registration not required.

Location:
This walk will be held at Sandpiper Beach. We will meet at the entrance to the beach at 10:20 am.
Please Note: Make sure to bring water and appropriate footwear. The walk occurs on the beach and not on a trail. The sun can be very hot: a hat and sunscreen are beneficial. The walk lasts about 1 1/2 hours (with an option to leave earlier after 1 hour). Thank you! Enjoy the walk.
For any inquiries, contact hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com.

To view the full summer nature walk schedule, visit Nature Field Trips.

Speaker Series – “Hornby Island: 75 Million Years in the Making”

July 20th: “Hornby Island: 75 Million Years in the Making”

From an early age, Sandy McLachlan has been captivated by the majesty of Hornby Island and the hidden world locked in stone beneath the waves of her shimmering shores. Over 120 years of beach combing has seen Hornby surrender an astounding array of fossils with some of the greatest preservation in the North Pacific. This presentation will touch on recent advances in our understanding of the island’s ancient ecosystem and the importance of our local fossil heritage.

Sandy is a paleontologist completing his MSc through the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria. A research associate with the Royal BC Museum, Sandy is actively investigating invertebrate and microfossil insights into the West Coast Cretaceous fossil record.

Bring your Hornby Island fossils for a fossil ID session after the talk!

Admission is $5.00 per person. Ages 16 and under are admitted free. The presentation begins at 2:00 pm in the Community School Library, located at 2100 Sollans Rd. Please enter through the Natural History Centre door.

This event is part of the Natural History Centre’s Expert Speakers Series.

Nature Walk – “Walking with Trees”

Tuesday, July 11th, 10:30 am  – “Walking with Trees”

Exploring the forests of Hornby

This walk will be led by Kihan Yoon-Henderson, summer host/coordinator at the Hornby Island Natural History Centre. Pre-registration is essential as space is limited to 12 participants for each walk.

For inquiries or to register, email Kihan at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre. $10 per person. Children 16 and under attend for free.

Location:
This walk will be held at Helliwell Provincial Park. We will meet at the head of the trail at 10:30am, right next to the parking lot. (Kihan will be there waiting to meet you.)
See you there!

To view the full summer nature walk schedule, visit Nature Field Trips.

Otter-Gate! Sweet Video of River Otter Family

It was earlier in the spring that we noticed we had a new resident living under an out building ..first we smelled her..phew! Then we saw her…a big, lovely otter returning from our pond with duckweed on her back making her way back to her new home under our shed. We would watch her do this several times a day over the next few months. Well…we did hope our pond would attract wildlife!

The photo shows her enjoying a swim. The video shows something even more exciting…mama returning from the pond with her two little ones! It was one of the first times we had seen them. We call this video “Otter-Gate”…watch mama rescue her baby once she finally notices it’s not with her! After that, we fixed the gate so there would be no more mishaps.

We were never able to see the new family swimming together and now they’ve gone on to explore the big wide world together. We miss them but our yard sure smells much better.

– Norma and Neil Wilson, Hornby Island

Summer 2017 Events Calendar

We are pleased to announce that the Summer 2017 Natural History Events Calendar is now available! This year’s topics include Hornby Island fossils, the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse (and what to expect on Hornby), a Helliwell Park Bird Walk, and Sea Otters!

The Exhibit’s Summer hours of operation begin Saturday, July 1st.

Our Thursday Expert Speakers Series is held in the Community School Library (entrance through the Natural History Exhibit door). Admission to each presentation is $5.00/adult; free for children 16 and under. Read the 2017 speaker biographies and summaries here.

The Nature Field Trips on Tuesdays are an excellent opportunity to discover shoreline and forest ecosystems as well as Hornby’s unique geology.  These field trips are great fun for the whole family and will enhance your visit to our beautiful island.  Pre-registration is essential as space is limited.  For inquiries or to register, please email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre.  $10 per person; free for children 16 and under. Special guest Dr. John Cox, known for his fabulous geology walks on Hornby Island, will be joining returning Nature History Centre host, Kihan-Yoon Henderson, for the two “Hornby Rocks!” field trips.

Bob McDonald Makes Waves at the Community Hall

Bob McDonald of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks recently gave a lively and educational talk at the Hornby Island Community Hall. He was back on the island offering another generous fundraising event for the Natural History Centre. The talk “Gravitational Waves and Other Weirdness in the Universe” was fascinating and generated some interesting discussion. Bob’s message of getting children away from their devices and out into forests and streams – into the dirt! – was also very powerful. We greatly appreciated his support through this event which helps us continue the tradition of nature education on Hornby Island. One-hundred percent of funds raised from ticket sales go towards Natural History programming.

Much appreciation also to all the volunteers and the event attendees, and of course, to Bob McDonald for taking the time to visit the island and give this presentation.

We’d also like to give a special thank you to Amanda and Rob of Hornby Island Diving for their donation of a boat tour for our membership draw, which was held after the talk. And Congratulations to the winner, Ron McMurtrie!

 

  

In this video, Bob McDonald explains how many children today are nature deprived and why he supports the Natural History Centre and getting kids to a forest or river and into the dirt!

 

Thanks to barb biagi for the video and photos.

Fall – Spring Hours

From September-June, the Natural History Centre is open on Thursdays from 12:30pm – 3:30pm, excluding most holidays.

Tours are also available by appointment. To book a tour, please email hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com or phone Tina at (250) 335-2853.

Fossil Fun with the Stewards

On a fossil-focused day at the Hornby Island School, the primary students took the opportunity to visit the Natural History Centre and nurture their inner paleontologist. The students were given a tour of the mosasaur and giant ammonite fossils and other fossil displays. Then they created some of their own rock-like relics.

In this video, Natural History Steward Tina Wai offers tips for identifying fossils and opens up stones to reveal the multi-million-year-old concretions inside.

 

A Day of Taxidermy for New Songbird Display with Laurel Bohart

Laurel Bohart, the Natural History Centre’s long-time taxidermist, recently spent a couple days at the Centre helping us choose and prepare birds for the new small bird display. Laurel will take several birds back to her home on Cortez Island to work on. One of these will be a beautiful Western Tanager, our new ambassador bird, brought from Rudy and Sharon Rogalsky and picked up by barb biagi. There will be two of the tiny Golden Crowned Kinglets found by John Yearsley on Ford Cove Hill, mounted with the one we already have, making a little group. She is also mounting the violet-green swallow brought to the Centre by ornithologist Art Martell. While most of these birds will arrive in July, during this visit Laurel brought two cowbirds, a male and female, and mounted them on a small branch.
Below are some photos of Laurel working at the Natural History Centre.

 

The Natural History Centre welcomes donations of birds for our displays. They must be recently deceased (one or two hours) and put inside two bags and immediately into the freezer. We only accept those that have died from natural causes for the collection.

Marvelous Moon Snail Collar

Although this may look like an old-fashioned shirt collar made out of sand, it is actually an egg case of the Moon Snail and contains around 300,000 eggs. From April to September, when the female Moon Snail is ready to lay her eggs, she buries herself in the sand. Gathering the sand close to her shell, she exudes a gelatinous mixture embedded with her eggs, hardening the sand into a rubber-like collar. Wen the collar is finished, she pushes it upward and it appears like magic on the surface of the ocean floor. The whole process takes about 20 – 40 minutes. The embedded eggs soon hatch into larvae as the collar degenerates. The larvae join other floating zooplankton until they are ready to settle down and grow into Moon Snails.

This Moon Snail Collar can be found in the Tidal Treasures display at the Natural History Centre.

Photo by Barb Biagi.

 

“Gravitational Waves and Other Weirdness” with Bob McDonald

On Saturday, June 10th, we are excited to welcome back Bob McDonald, the host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks and award-winning science journalist and author, for a presentation on “Gravitational Waves and Other Weirdness in the Universe”. This event will be held at the Hornby Island Community Hall and is a fundraiser for the Natural History Centre. Doors open at 6:15 pm. The presentation begins at 7:00 pm. Refreshments will be available for purchase.

Tickets are $15.00. Youth under 18 years are admitted Free (but please obtain a ticket to ensure seat availability).

Advance tickets are sold through the Gas Bar and the Natural History Centre at the School during open hours (NHC spring hourse are Thursday from 12:30 – 3:30). You can also reserve your tickets by mailing a cheque to Natural History Centre, 2100 Sollans Rd. Hornby Island, BC V0R1Z0. Please make cheque out to Hornby Island Community Programs with the memo “Natural History”.