Hornby Island Natural History Centre

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.

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.

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”.

Exhibit Display Upgrade

Changes are coming to the Natural History Centre! We are very excited to have received a British Columbia | Canada 150: Celebrating B.C.’s Communities Contributions to Canada grant for upgrading and developing our displays and infrastructure in the Exhibit. Thanks to the BC Museums Association (on behalf of the Province of BC, with support from Heritage BC) for this wonderful opportunity. This upgrade will help us create a more permanent and lasting legacy for our community and its visitors.

Membership Draw 2017

Sign up for a membership with the Natural History Centre and be entered to win a boat tour with Hornby Island Diving! The draw will be held at the Community Hall on June 10th, during the event with Bob McDonald.
Membership cost is $10 and lasts one year from the sign-up date.

There are several options to join:
1) Come to the Natural History Centre during our spring open hours, Thursdays 12:30 – 3:30.
2) Find us at the Co-op porch (dates will be posted).
3) Sign up at the June 10th event with Bob McDonald.
4) Send a cheque made out to Hornby Island Community Programs (memo: “Natural History”, 2100 Sollans Rd. Hornby Island, V0R1Z0. Please let us know you have mailed a cheque if you aren’t sure it will arrive by Thursday, June 8th so we can include your name in the draw.

Thank you for supporting the Hornby Island Natural History Centre.

Seasons Greetings

Warmest winter wishes from the Natural History Centre! Please note that we area closed for December and will reopen with regular hours when the school opens in January 2017.


Nature Activities

A young naturalist is someone who loves exploring and learning about nature. Sound like you? Then read on!

maple magic

Young naturalists love to explore and learn about nature.

Whether you are in the woodlands or the urban environment, wildlife can always be found. To be a young naturalist means that you desire to know more about your surroundings and the plants and creatures that share them. In fact, you are never too young or too old to explore the natural world. All you need to be a young naturalist is a keen interest in nature, and perhaps, for the very young naturalist, someone to guide you in the beginning. Below are a few activities to help you get started, from keeping a nature journal and identifying nature, to becoming a fossil hunter or helping animals have a safe habitat. 

Keep a Nature Journal
Hornby Island Deer by Sharon Colling

Black-tailed Deer on Hornby Island. What wild animals inhabit your backyard? Photo by Sharon Colling.

A nature journal is a wonderful tool for beginning your young naturalist career. All you need is a notebook, a pen, and some pencil crayons if you like to colour. In your notebook, record interesting sightings and interactions you have with plants and animals. When you go for a walk in the park, the beach, the mountains, or the forest, observe and sketch plant or animal life. Jot down rough notes or interesting facts you learn from posted signs or gathered from trusted sources like wildlife speakers or books. Later, beneath your sketches, write captions or journal entries listing observed details and your own impressions.

nature journalNature Journal Activity: Wild Neighbors
What kind of animals live in your neighborhood? Do you see these animals in the spring, in the fall, or all year round? Do they migrate? How do these animals find shelter, what do they eat, and where do they have their babies?

Identify Nature

Found an animal, plant, or fossil that you’d like to identify? Write down a description or make a sketch in your notebook, and bring it to the natural history centre. We’ll do our best to help you identify it. Get help from our identification guides or email us a description and photograph of your item for feedback from an expert. You can also check out these Nature Identification Resources:

spotless lady bug on lavender

Spotless Ladybug on Lavender. Photo by Rachelle Chinnery.

Bird ID
Insect ID
Plant ID
Vancouver Island Frogs ID Guide
Vancouver Island Snake ID Guide
Vancouver Island Salamander ID Guide.
Ethnobotanical Plant Identification Quiz: Complete this quiz while taking a walk through the Nature History Centre’s plant garden.

Also be sure to check out this excellent identification guide specific to the central coast: http://www.centralcoastbiodiversity.org

Become a Fossil Hunter
Giant Ammonite

Giant Ammonite found on Hornby Island.

Fossils are clues to life in the past. Fossils are like a photograph of an animal at a particular point in the history of the Earth. Fossils also help us understand what kinds of environments existed millions of year ago. When fossil hunting, look for concretions–rounded rocks embedded in layers of stone in sedimentary rocks. These nodules often house fossils. They can be found on the beach, especially at low tide along the water line or trapped in tide pools.

Tip – Look for concretions with horizontal cracks.  These are the most promising.
Tip – It is important not to hammer into rock faces or cliffs for fossils. Look, learn and leave is the best policy to protect our environment for future generations.

Help out with Animals’ Homes

Some animals build or find special homes in their habitat. Due to global warming, deforestation, and extinction, many animals today can use an extra hand with creating a safe habitat. Below are some ways that you can help with animals’ habitats.

apis melliera saffron crocus Rachelle ChinneryBuild a Bee Home
A “bee house” provides an important shelter young for bees. They are simple and fun to make. Since many native bee species are wood dwelling, yet unable to make their own nesting holes, caring humans can provide bee boxes for our neighbourhood pollinators to lay their eggs. We can also ensure that our yards offer nesting materials: dead wood, leaves, and undisturbed soil. The Lifecycles Bee Project offers detailed instructions and pictures on helping bees and making a bee home. Download Home for Bees.

monarch butterfly Plant a Wildlife Garden
One of the greatest pleasures of a wildlife garden is getting to observe the various species that are drawn to it. When you leave parts of your garden untouched, you create a safe area for wildlife to visit or make their home.
Tip: Leaving out a pile of logs will make a hideaway for insects which in turn attract birds and other animals.
Tip: Include trees, hedgerows, long grass, and a range of shrubs to improve nesting spaces, essential cover, and diversity of various critters in your garden.
Read more about creating a  flourishing wildlife friendly garden.

Little_brown_bat_in_cave_myotis_lucifugusInstall a Bat House
Bat houses offer a safe home for bats and are a fun, educational project. Building a bat house is also one of the most effective and environmentally friendly ways to reduce the mosquito population near your home. In fact, little brown bats are voracious consumers of insects eating up to 50% of their body weight a night.  Since many of their preferred meals are insects with an aquatic life stage, they prefer to roost near water. This plan to build a bat “rocket house” suitable to our area is certified by Bat Conservation International. Download Home for Bats.

Hornby Island Tide Pools Sharon CollingKeep the Environment Clean
To help wildlife of all kinds, remember to clean up after picnics and recycle your newspapers, aluminum cans, glass, and plastic. Beware of Plastic! Sea mammals can swallow plastic bags, but they cannot digest them, so this could cause animals to die. Dispose properly of plastic six-pack holders so that animals like ducks don’t get their necks caught in them and be careful of items like balloons. Don’t let them  go, especially if you live near the ocean. Some animals might think the balloon is food and try to eat it.

Pictured Above
Student at Big Tribune Bay Beach Cleanup by Barb Biagi.
Fall Maple Leaves, Black-tailed Deer, and Stones Under Water by Sharon Colling.
Honey bee and a Moth on a Saffron Crocus and Spotless Ladybug on Lavender by Rachelle Chinnery.

A Special Sighting

This summer a boy named Zempei who is very knowledgeable about raptors and wished to spot a barred owl while on Hornby Island visited the Centre with his family. One of the Natural History stewards suggested that, when the family go walking in Helliwell Park, they follow the sound of excited robins and other birds, for where there are barred owls there are often birds trying to chase them away from their nests! Fortunately upon following the sound of birds chirping Zempei and his family spotted this beautiful barred owl perched in the pine trees. Zempei’s dad Aaron McLeish took these photos. We appreciate his mother Yuki for sharing these lovely pictures with us.

Drawing of an owl at the Natural History Centre. Photo by Zempei, age five.

Drawing of an owl at the Natural History Centre. Photo by Zempei, age five.

Humpback Comeback!

What a great evening! After a huge storm and 18 hour power outage on Hornby Island, the power came on just in time to accommodate the 126 islanders who came out to hear Jackie Hildering speak on humpback whales at the Community Hall.

Jackie presented on the Humpback Comeback and the research of the Marine Education and Research Society.  She shared an impressive depth of knowledge combined with the ability to deliver in a dynamic and passionate presentation with a real message of hope for the environment. She also discussed learning to reduce threats to the whales through the MERS “See a Blow? Go Slow!” campaign. One attendee commented at the end of the talk that it was the “best presentation” she’d ever been too. We hope that Jackie will return to speak on orcas next year!

Jackie also gave a fun presentation at the Hornby Island Community School to the school kids the day before. Thanks to Jackie for sharing her knowledge and beautiful photographs with us all.

Below are photos and videos from Jackie’s presentation at the school taken by Barb Biagi.


Jackie Hildering gives a talk on the beauty and biodiversity in our ocean at the Hornby Island Community School.

Jackie with Hornby Island students.

Whale baleen shown by Jackie during her presentation at the Hornby Island Community Hall.

Jackie introduces her talk at the Hornby Island Community School.

Jackie discusses animal jaws, wolf eels, and adaptation – cool!

The Pacific spiny lumpsucker – cool and fun!

Jackie shares stories of octopuses and shows the students a viral photograph she took of an octopus-human hug.

Humpback Comeback! A talk with Jackie Hildering

On Friday October 7th, join us at the Community Hall for a talk on the Humpback Comeback! Jackie Hildering will provide an informative and entertaining discussion on Humpback Whales and the research of the Marine Education and Research Society. Please join us! Especially if you spend time on or near the ocean witnessing the return of these giants.

Doors open at 6:30 pm. Presentation at 7:00. Attendance is Free. Donations to the Natural History Centre gladly accepted. Refreshments available with proceeds to the Parent Advisory Council (PAC).

Photo by Jackie Hildering, “The Marine Detective”.

Summer 2016 Photos

Speaker Series
Nature Walks
Nature Art Tent