Hornby Island Natural History Centre

Hornby Island Bee Pollinator Report

In early October, fifteen widespread sites on Hornby Island of various sizes were surveyed for any insects which play a role in pollinating our trees, vegetables and flowers. Biologist Bonnie Zand completed specimen collection for the Ministry of the Environment’s Pollinator Survey, which was facilitated by the Hornby Island Natural History Centre. The purpose of the study is to understand reasons for declines in many important species, especially bees. Locations include Helliwell and Big Tribune Parks, Ford Cove and Heron Rocks Orchards, and the rest being private land ranging from 1/2 to 28 acres. Ideally, such a project would be most effectively done earlier in the year, but funding issues caused delays. Bonnie asked a number of questions of each owner related specifically to their use of land, including what, if any pesticides were used, and not one reported using any. This says a lot about land stewardship in our thoughtful community.
An important piece of advice Bonnie gave several of us is to not cut all of our grasses down at once, but to do areas in rotation so that there is always some left long for habitat and egg laying. Piles of cut brush may contain eggs and larvae of several species, so to not burn it all if we must clear.
Results are being compiled and studied this fall and will be presented to owners and the community in a workshop in the winter to help guide us in pollinator conservation for the coming year.

Bird Outing Report

Black Turnstone on Hornby Island. Photo by Barb Biagi.

Black Turnstone on Hornby Island. Photo by Barb Biagi.

Art Martell, one of our summer 2015 speakers, brings groups over from the Comox Valley occasionally to spot birds. He has an amazing amount of knowledge to share. The list below is of species that the group heard or spotted during the walk. As the list makes clear, we have an abundance of natural diversity on Hornby!

From Comox Valley Nature: Fifteen birders enjoyed a beautiful day on Hornby on Sunday. First we went to Sandpiper Beach for shorebirds, then to Art and Sue’s cabin for lunch, and then a walk around the Helliwell Provincial Park loop trail. Highlights were many Black Turnstones, a few Black Oystercatchers and a Surfbird at Sandpiper Beach. Nearby a Western Meadowlark was seen.

The following 49 species were seen or heard on Hornby:

Canada Goose
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Common Merganser
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle
Black Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Greater Yellowlegs
Black Turnstone
Surfbird
Common Murre
Pigeon Guillemot
Marbled Murrelet
Mew Gull
California Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Rock Pigeon
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Merlin
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pacific Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
European Starling
American Pipit
Orange-crowned Warbler
Dark-eyed Junco
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Western Meadowlark
Red Crossbill
Pine Siskin

Photo of a black turnstone by Barb Biagi.

Weather and Climate Change Experiments

This summer the natural history centre was joined by several excellent environmental speakers. One of these was climatologist Ed Wiebe, a research associate in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at UVic and manager of the Vancouver Island School-Based Weather Station Network.

DSCN3033

As part of his presentation on weather and climate change, Ed demonstrated several weather experiments for the crowd.

Ed’s presentation appealed to kids and he invited them to help with each demo.

Ed Wiebe experiments

Outdoors, a garbage can demo showed how air pressure affects cloud formation. When struck, the air inside the can was pushed out along with the smoke (cloud).  It formed a ring called a torus that was propelled 25 to 30 feet intact. This propelled ring occurred because the air pressure inside the ring was higher than outside and prevented it from collapsing.

smoke bucket

Back indoors, a cloud formation experiment showed how, in order to become visible, moisture needs to cling on to particles such as smoke in the air.

An experiment with pop cans demonstrated the effects of differences in air pressure. Moisture/air expands when heated and contracts when cooled.

 

Thanks Barb Biagi for capturing the presentation with these photos and videos.

Nature Walk – Cedar: Tree of Life (Video)

In this video, the Natural History Centre’s 2015 Summer Coordinator Willow Hunt-Scott discusses the First Peoples practice of mindfully pulling cedar bark.

This video was taken on the “Cedar: Tree of Life” nature walk.

Student Tours

Earlier this summer a class from Saltspring Island visited the Centre as part of a Hornby Island tour. The visit was organized by their teacher Sarah Bateman. Sarah kindly sent us these photos.

Below, Natural History Centre Steward Tina Wai leads a group of students through the exhibits.  They have just been to the free store and some are wearing their new free store finds.

natural history summer bateman 2015

Students then participated in hands-on activities with clay.

Natural History Steward Sally Englund showed students the bird display area.

It was a fun filled nature day.

 

New Donations for Shell Midden Exhibit

This modified scraper was found by Mary Mackenzie in the Spring of 2015. It was in the midden at Little Tribune beach. Thanks to Mary for donating it to our shell midden display along with several other items that can be viewed at the Natural History Centre!

 

 

Summer Displays 2015

A gallery with some of our Summer 2015 displays. One week of summer hours still remains. Click on any photo to begin the slideshow.

Hairy Woodpecker Nest

The woodpecker display at the natural history centre includes two red-breasted sapsuckers, a Northern flicker, and a hairy woodpecker nest.

The woodpecker display at the natural history centre includes two red-breasted sapsuckers, a Northern flicker, and a hairy woodpecker nest.

Take a stroll through the woods on Hornby and there’s a good chance you will come across a hairy woodpecker, the most familiar and widespread woodpecker in North America, or hear their rhythmic drumming in the trees.

Our featured treasure for August is a hairy woodpecker nest. This nest is located in the bird display at the Natural History Centre.

DSCN7533

Hairy woodpeckers prefer to nest in deciduous trees by excavating cavities. Both the male and female pecked away with their strong beaks at this tree to create a home for their young.

Inside the hairy woodpecker nest on which hinges have been installed.

Inside the hairy woodpecker nest on which hinges have been installed.

Instead of bringing grass or twigs to soften the nest for three-six delicate eggs and young, woodchips were simply left in the nest. The hairy woodpecker would only use the nest once, but it was by no means vacant for long!

hairy woodpecker female

A Female Hairy Woodpecker on Hornby Island. Photo by Barb Biagi.

 

Nature Art

There is lots of new visitor art at the natural history centre this summer.
Natural history visitors are always welcome to sketch and be inspired by nature!

Natural History Seal Art

2015 Seal, by Callum.

For an extensive list of creative nature activities to do at home with your kids, check out these 60 Nature Play Ideas. “For the days that you can’t get outdoors and explore nature first hand, go and gather some natural materials from your local woods, fields or beach and gets creative at home! Bring the nature home and let the connection with the natural world continue whatever the weather.”

Nature Walk – “Salish Seashore: Our Living Coast”

August 18th – “Salish Seashore: Our Living Coast”

Discover the importance of the oceanic life that share our home.

The Nature Field Trips on Tuesdays are great fun for the whole family and will enhance your visit to our beautiful island.  Pre-registration is essential as space is limited to 6 participants for each walk.  For inquiries or to register, email Willow at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre.  $10 per person. Family rates are available. Hosted by Willow Hunt-Scott.

Speaker Series – “Life in a Raindrop and Beyond”

August 13: Neville Winchester, “Life in a Raindrop and Beyond: From Microarthropods to Grizzly Bears: A Celebration of Biodiversity”

Journey into one of the last great wilderness areas on our planet — the enchanted Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia — and discover the rich tapestry of life that occurs in the smallest organisms living high in rainforest canopies, as well as some of the largest forest inhabitants that depend on the area’s rivers and estuaries. Join Dr. Neville Winchester for a look through the ‘eyes’ of a raindrop in this unique presentation on rainforest diversity.

Admission by donation ($5 suggested). Presentation begins at 2:00 pm at the Hornby Island Community School. Enter through the Natural History Centre door. Afterwards, we’ll have a tea break followed by short talk about Dr. Winchester’s recent work in the Galapagos.

Dr. Neville Winchester is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor (research entomologist) in the Geography Department and a teaching staff member in the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Victoria.  His special areas of research and interest include diversity of arthropods, ancient rainforest ecology and conservation biology.  Currently he is on the Board of Directors for the International Canopy Network (ICAN), is a Project Manager and Principal Investigator for New World Forests for the Global Canopy Project (GCP). He has served as the President of the Entomological Society of British Columbia, scientific committee member for the Biological Survey of Canada, and is a member of the Entomological Society of Canada and The Society for Conservation Biology.  His doctoral work in the Carmanah Valley was instrumental in its eventual protection as a provincial park and he continues to demonstrate the uniqueness of these areas, with emphasis on the organisms that live in the canopies of British Columbia’s ancient rainforests.  As well as doing research in temperate ecosystems, he has done high canopy work in French Guiana, Gabon, Malaysia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Panama and just recently in Ethiopia as part of an international biodiversity project.

This events is part of the Thursday Expert Speakers Series.

Nature Walk – “Cedar: Tree of Life”

August 11th – “Cedar: Tree of Life”

Explore the many ways First Peoples use cedar: baskets, clothing, and art.

The Nature Field Trips on Tuesdays are great fun for the whole family and will enhance your visit to our beautiful island.  Pre-registration is essential as space is limited to 6 participants for each walk.  For inquiries or to register, email Willow at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre.  $10 per person. Family rates are available. Hosted by Willow Hunt-Scott.

Speaker Series – Plight of our Forest Birds

August 6: Art Martell, Changes in Abundance of Some of our Common Forest Birds”

Join Art Martell, ornithologist and Important Bird Area Caretaker, to learn about the phenomenon of forest bird disappearance.

Presentation begins at 2:00 pm at the Hornby Island Community School. Enter through the Natural History Centre door. Admission by donation ($5 suggested).

Art Martell is retired in the Comox Valley and is the Volunteer Caretaker for the K’omoks Important Bird Area.  He is active in the Comox Valley Birders Group, BC Field Ornithologists, and Bird Studies Canada. Art was a Regional Coordinator for the BC Breeding Bird Atlas and is the author of a number of species accounts in the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia. Before retirement, Art worked as a wildlife research scientist and manager with Canadian Wildlife Service and Environment Canada 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.  He has had a seasonal cabin on Hornby Island for 25 years.

This events is part of the Thursday Expert Speakers Series.

Nature Walk – “Plants as Food and Medicine”

August 4th – “Mother Earth’s Gifts: Plants as Food and Medicine”

Walk through the forest and learn more about the plants used by First Peoples.

The Nature Field Trips on Tuesdays are great fun for the whole family and will enhance your visit to our beautiful island.  Pre-registration is essential as space is limited to 6 participants for each walk.  For inquiries or to register, email Willow at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre.  $10 per person. Family rates are available. Hosted by Willow Hunt-Scott.

Speaker Series – “Water Issues on Hornby”

July 30th: John Cox, “Water Issues on Hornby – how can a geologist help?”

Join us at the Hornby Island Community School Library for a talk with John Cox, back by popular demand. John will present an overview of previous Hornby groundwater studies, briefly consider geological well data and groundwater controls and then facilitate a discussion which will potentially assist groundwater management in the future.

John Cox has taught at Mount Royal College/University in Calgary for over thirty years. He received  Distinguished Faculty Awards in 1994 and 2012 and a Student Association Teaching Excellence Award in 1995. He is currently a Full Professor and coordinator of the Geology degree program. His research interests are in Sedimentary Geology, more specifically in the Cretaceous rocks of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin and most recently, the Nanaimo Group rocks of the Gulf Islands. He is also interested in the teaching and learning of geology in post-secondary institutions and elsewhere.

Admission by donation ($5 suggested). Presentation begins at 2:00 pm. Enter through the Natural History Centre door.

This event is part of our Thursday Expert Speakers’ Series.

Nature Walk – “Salish Seashore: Our Living Coast”

July 28th – “Salish Seashore: Our Living Coast”

Discover the importance of the oceanic life that share our home.

The Nature Field Trips on Tuesdays are great fun for the whole family and will enhance your visit to our beautiful island.  Pre-registration is essential as space is limited to 6 participants for each walk.  For inquiries or to register, email Willow at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre.  $10 per person. Family rates are available. Hosted by Willow Hunt-Scott.

Speaker Series – Weather and Climate Change

Mt. Douglas Park, 2014. Photo by Ed Wiebe.

July 23: Ed Wiebe, “The Vancouver Island School-based Weather Station Network and Climate Change”

Join us at the Hornby Island Community School Library for this dynamic and fun presentation, suitable for all ages.

Admission by donation ($5 suggested). Presentation begins at 2:00 pm. (Enter through the Natural History Centre door). 

Ed Wiebe is a Research Associate in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria. He participates in research on climate, climate change, and computer modelling. Ed also manages the Vancouver Island School-Based Weather Station Network. The weather station network has provided around 150 weather stations for schools on Vancouver Island. Along with the weather stations web sites are available to view the data collected on the network in near real time. As part of this project Ed often speaks to children in Grades 4 and 5, and sometimes to adults as well, about weather, climate, and climate change.

This event is part of our Thursday Expert Speakers’ Series.

Nature Walk – “Cedar: Tree of Life”

July 21st – “Cedar: Tree of Life”

Explore the many ways First Peoples use cedar: baskets, clothing, and art.

The Nature Field Trips on Tuesdays are great fun for the whole family and will enhance your visit to our beautiful island.  Pre-registration is essential as space is limited to 6 participants for each walk.  For inquiries or to register, email Willow at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre.  $10 per person. Family rates are available. Hosted by Willow Hunt-Scott.

Nature Walk – “Plants as Food and Medicine”

July 14th  – “Mother Earth’s Gifts: Plants as Food and Medicine”

Walk through the forest and learn more about the plants used by First Peoples.

The Nature Field Trips on Tuesdays are great fun for the whole family and will enhance your visit to our beautiful island.  Pre-registration is essential as space is limited to 6 participants for each walk.  For inquiries or to register, email Willow at hornby.naturalhistory@gmail.com, call 250-335-1021, or come to the Centre.  $10 per person. Family rates are available. Hosted by Willow Hunt-Scott.

Nodding Onion in Bloom

The natural history treasure of the month is the nodding onion (allium cernuum). You can see its long grass-like leaves topped by nodding umbels of pink flowers currently in bloom in our ethnobotanical garden.

The herb is used for both medicinal and culinary purposes. When cooking, the strong smell and flavor is removed and bulbs become sweet. The leaves are edible (either raw or cooked) and have a strong onion flavour. They are tasty in salads. Many First Nations people use the onion medicinally. The plant is also a bug repellant: it deters moths and when the juice is rubbed on skin it repels mosquitos and other bugs.

This summer the NHC is adding signage in the garden and a native plant display inside the centre. Visitors can learn about each of the plants in our growing collection (and some that are not). Learn more about the ethnobotanical garden.

Bee on Nodding Onion

A bee on nodding onion at the Natural History Centre’s ethnobotanical garden. Photo by Sarat Colling.