Hornby Island Natural History Centre

Welcome Back Summer Coordinator and Host – Kihan Yoon Henderson!

We are delighted to welcome Kihan Yoon-Henderson back to the Natural History Centre for her third year as the Summer Coordinator! Kihan has strong environmental, cultural, and social awareness combined with a powerful ability to communicate and inspire people. Kihan will begin when the Centre opens full-time in July. See her message below.

“I’m looking forward to seeing both new and familiar faces at the Natural History Centre again this summer, and to be involved in the Hornby community for another season. I am currently completing my undergraduate studies in Human Geography at the University of British Columbia, and am passionate about environmental sustainability, social justice and community based organizing. In addition to this, this past year I was fortunate to go on exchange for a semester to Yonsei University in South Korea, as well as to travel and learn in other regions of Asia. As I have been coming to the Island since I was born, this position and the community involved means a great deal to me. It excites me to have the chance to explore Hornby’s incredible and rich natural history with all of you. See you in July!”

Kihan will also be leading two nature field trips called “Walking with Trees” at Helliwell Park.

Local Climate Change Presentation with Dr. Richard Hebda

A very special speaker will be joining us at the Hornby Island Community Hall on June 1st. Long time BC climate researcher Dr. Richard Hebda will give a presentation called “Climate Change, Ecosystems, and Adaptation for the Future of Hornby Island.

Richard Hebda is the Royal BC Museum’s former Curator of Botany and Earth History. He has a PhD in Botany and has taught in various environmental science departments at Uvic. He studies plant fossils and their distribution over time and place to shed light on the condition, history and evolution of BC’s landscape and climate. He also studies ethnobotany of BC First Nations, restoration of natural systems and processes, ecology and origins of Garry Oak and alpine ecosystems and botany of grasses.

Tickets will be at the gas bar on Wednesday afternoon. Cost for this fundraising event is $15 per adult. Free for 18 and under. Event begins at 7:00 pm. Doors: 6:30 pm. Tickets will also be available at the door.

Hope that you can join us for this exciting opportunity to learn about climate change in our local context.

Read more about Dr. Hebda here.
Richard Hebda Poster
Camas at Grassy Point photo: barb biagi.
Helliwell Park in the snow photo: Kihan Yoon-Henderson.

Spring Birding with Art Martell and Daniel Donnecke

The Natural History Centre recently held our first spring birding event. On April 6th, Art Martell and Daniel Donnecke gave presentations on the island’s local forest and shore bird residents. In “Learning Bird Songs”, Art introduced our ears to the intricate world of bird songs, while Daniel provided a beautiful and engaging slideshow about “Birding on the Shores of Hornby.” The next day, despite dire storm warnings, birding enthusiasts ventured out on early morning walks. The 10 am group lucked out with beautiful sunshine. Altogether, 50 bird species were heard or seen in the air, the sea, the shore, and the woods. We are grateful to Art and Daniel for their expertise and generosity. Many thanks to everyone who attended.

Photo by barb biagi.

Hornby Island Spring Birding Event, April 6th and 7th

On Friday, April 6th and Saturday, April 7th, we will be joined by two local experts to celebrate, enjoy, and learn about our shoreline and forest birds, while connecting with other birdwatching enthusiasts. We hope you can join us for this wonderful opportunity.

Hornby Island is a vibrant location for birding. It is an important part of the K’omoks Important Bird Area which supports globally significant numbers of several species of waterbirds. Each year, announcing the arrival of spring, the herring spawn attracts and supports tens of thousands of seabirds annually. The relatively low density of settlement and the large area of protected land on Hornby supports greater densities of forest birds than most other areas of the Comox Valley.

Friday, April 6th 
6:00 pm (doors) – 8:10 pm: Evening Celebration and Presentations
Hornby Island Community Hall
Cost: $15
Learn from two local birding experts, connect with other birding enthusiasts, and enjoy delicious snacks during the intermission.

6:30 pm – 7:15 pm
“Learning Bird Songs”
with Art Martell

Focusing on how to listen and learn the songs of some common forest species (with sound recordings). People may wish to bring their field guide along to refresh their memory of the birds.

Art 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.

7:15 pm – 7:25 pm
Intermission

Light snacks and beverages for sale.

7:25 pm – 8:10 pm
“Birding on the Shores of Hornby Island”
with Daniel Donnecke

A slideshow on our common alcids, cormorants, loons, grebes, seaducks and a few winter shorebirds. 

Daniel has been an avid birdwatcher for over 10 years. He is an active member of Rocky Point Bird Observatory where he volunteers in the field and on the board. Daniel coordinates the South Salt Spring Island / Sidney Christmas Bird Count and conducts regular shorebird surveys on Sidney Island. He is spear heading Rocky Points youngest project: the seawatch, which aims to generate baseline data of seabirds using the Strait of Juan de Fuca via land based observations. Daniel teaches chemistry at Camosun College in Victoria.

Saturday, April 7th
Birding Expedition 

Cost: $10
The Saturday portion of this event is by registration. You can register by email: hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com or in person at the Friday evening event at the Hall. Please register early if you wish to secure a spot as space is limited. After you have registered, we’ll send you the time and location once they are finalized. We plan to go out in the morning when the forest birds are singing. Payment can be made on the Saturday.

This event is a fundraiser for the Hornby Island Natural History Centre.

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Photos by barb biagi.

Plant Propagation Work Party

The Natural History Centre volunteers have been assisting with a native plant plant propagation project at Helliwell Park. In spring 2017, several volunteers each grew a variety of native plant species at their homes for the project. In the fall, joined by twelve older students, and accompanied by biologists Erica McClaren and Bonnie Zand, the group planted several hundred plants and pulled weeds in the allotted zones at the park. A total of 1100 to 1300 plants were planted, including Blue Wildrye (Elymus glaucus), California Brome (Bromus carinatus), and Woolly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum).

In February 2018, the group met at the Room to Grow and once again prepared plugs for another round of planting which will happen this fall!

natural history newsletter 2

Summer Job Opportunity

The Hornby Island Natural History Centre is seeking a Host/Coordinator for eleven weeks from June 18th through September 1st. This position is suited for students in the areas of Environmental Studies, Biology, Education, or related fields, with excellent communication and organizational skills. Applicant must be under thirty years of age and a student returning to studies full-time in fall 2018.

Click here to download the job posting: Summer Student Employment 2018

Closed Due to Maintenance

The Natural History Centre is closed due to maintenance. We will re-open in the spring.

Plant Propagation at Helliwell

The Natural History Centre has been assisting with a plant propagation project at Helliwell Park. Last spring, the stewards each grew a variety of native plant species at their homes for the project. Finally, the time came to plant them in the allotted zones at the park! It was a fine warm day on October 26 to be in the park with the twelve older students, accompanied by biologists Erica McClaren and Bonnie Zand, and Norma and Neil Wilson of the NHC. The group planted several hundred plants as well pulling plenty of weeds in the planting zones. Erica talked to the students about the science behind the project. It was a great learning experience for everybody. A total of 1100 to 1300 plants were planted, such as Blue Wildrye (Elymus glaucus) plugs, California Brome (Bromus carinatus) plugs, Woolly Sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum) plugs.

Halloween Animal Art: Owls and Bats

In the spirit of Halloween, the younger students visited the Natural History Centre for a bat and owl activity. It was a great opportunity to let the kids really observe while learning interesting facts about these fascinating creatures. The students discussed the various attributes and shapes they saw. Then they drew with focus and concentration. We were impressed by the level of detail and the quality of their drawings.

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.