copyright © A.L. Mol  2003
Binoculars Butterflys

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Butterfly - Which One?

We all enjoy the beauty of a fluttering butterfly as it makes its way from plant to plant. But most of us are lost when it comes to figuring out what butterfly just went by!

There is a new butterfly identification booklet, Butterflies of the North Cascades, now available through British Columbia Wildlife Watch and BC Parks. Illustrated in the booklet are 32 common species that occur in Skagit Valley Provincial Park in B.C., and in Ross Lake National Recreational Area and the North Cascades National Park in Washington. Many of these species are common elsewhere.

The key to identifying which butterfly species you are observing may rest on the presence or absence of an eyespot on the hindwing, or by the colour of a bar on the wing tip. For example, is that swallowtail butterfly an Anise Swallowtail or a Western Tiger Swallowtail? Both have a yellow strip that runs along each side of their body. But the Anise has an obvious eyespot with some red on the inside tip of the hindwing, near the end of the body.

Another key to helping you identify butterflies is the plant you find them on. Most adult butterflies seek out specific plants on which to lay their eggs. Learning to identify these "host" plants will help you to find butterflies in areas you visit.

Favourite host plants for many species include stinging nettles, thistles, lupines, bleeding heart, violets, wild mustards (native Arabis), red flowering currant, ocean spray and willows. A careful look at host plants may reveal the presence of butterfly eggs, usually laid singly, and rarely in pairs. Or you may find a small caterpillar that has hatched from its egg and is feeding, or a chrysalis (pupa) from which the adult will emerge.

For swallowtails, the caterpillar spins the silk chrysalis in late summer and overwinters in the chrysalis to emerge as an adult when conditions are right in the spring, usually May. Some adult butterflies will live for only a week or two, while others hibernate locally or migrate to the southern states and Mexico.

This booklet was produced, with colour photographs, by Denis Knopp and Lee Larkin of BC's Wild Heritage Consultants. The funds to print the booklet were provided by the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission.

Program Expands

Through the continued generous support of the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund (HCTF), the British Columbia Wildlife Watch program will continue for another year.

In addition to being active in the Lower Mainland, many projects will be completed on Vancouver Island, including the Gulf Islands. Look for more binocular logo signs and new brochures and interpretive signs. There will also be site information added to the web page for the Vancouver Island sites.

The HCTF funds are handled by the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia (WBT) through a partnership with British Columbia Wildlife Watch. For more information on WBT, a provincial non-profit society, write #124 - 1489 Marine Drive, North Vancouver, B.C. V7T 1B8 or phone 604-924-2581.

Indian Arm Provincial Park - New Viewing Guide

The best way to experience the wonders of this provincial park is by water. A new wildlife viewing guide booklet is now available to help park visitors appreciate the ecological significance of the park, and to highlight viewing opportunities throughout the year.

Viewing opportunities on land and in the water are summarized for four habitat areas, deep and open water, intertidal and shoreline, the Indian River estuary and mountain slopes.

Park visitors may see Harbour Seal, Coastal Black-tailed Deer, bats and a wide range of birds. The intertidal areas may be covered in barnacles, mussels, anemones, sea stars and seaweeds. Chum and Pink Salmon may be seen in the Indian River.

The Indian Arm Provincial Park - Wildlife Viewing Guide is a joint publication of British Columbia Wildlife Watch and BC Parks, Lower Mainland District. The funds to print this booklet were provided by BC Parks, Lower Mainland District and Canada Trust's Friends of the Environment Foundation, Vancouver Chapter. The Canada Trust funds were obtained by the Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia.

Similar wildlife viewing guide booklets are available for Birkenhead Lake, Bowron Lake Provincial Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park.

Sidney Spit Provincial Marine Park

This relatively small park, only 400 ha in size, offers day-trippers and campers a diversity of viewing opportunities. Sidney Spit Provincial Marine Park is about 4 km offshore from Sidney, near Victoria, on the northwestern end of Sidney Island. Access is by a passenger ferry service or private boat. There are 20 walk-in campsites that are very popular.

The upland areas, shorelines, saltwater lagoon and 2 km long spit are visited by over 150 bird species. As many as 1,000 Brant may be seen in the lagoon area during spring migration. All three cormorant species are present, while Rhinoceros Auklet are numerous during the summer months. There is particularly good viewing of Pigeon Guillemot, Oldsquaw, Black Scoter, Common Murre and Marbled Murrelet.

The park is an important feeding, resting and roosting site for migrating shorebirds, including Western Sandpiper and Black-bellied Plover. The best viewing periods are from the middle of March through May and from the middle of July through October.

The spit is used by some birds for nesting, including many ground-nesting species such as the Common Nighthawk. During the summer months, you should look before putting your foot down lest you walk on a nest full of eggs or young!

One of the viewing highlights of the park is the large population of Fallow Deer. Their impact on the island is easily noted as every edible plant and tree is pruned to as high as the deer can reach.

The deer were originally imported to nearby James Island in the early 1900's. They swam over to Sidney Island.

Between 1906 and 1915 the Sidney Island Tile and Brick Company operated on the island. Broken red bricks are scattered throughout the park. However, most are located along the beach near the brick foundations of two company buildings.

For more information on this park contact the Malahat District office of BC Parks at 250-391-2300. For the sailing times and rates of the Sidney Spit ferry call 250-727-7700.

Coquihalla Canyon - Steelhead Migration

The summer months of June, July and August provide opportunities to observe the upstream movement of summer Steelhead Trout and Bull Trout. The Kettle Valley Railway trestles in the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park allow visitors to see into the deep pools between the waterfalls. A careful observer will see large steelhead swimming around. This recreation area is located a short drive from downtown Hope off Kawkawa Lake Road.

Up and Running, but More Coming - Web Page Highlights

After several months of development, the British Columbia Wildlife Watch Home Page is up and running. However, there is still lots of information yet to be added. For now, there are nine main sections listed on the home page:

  1. program information
    • contains basic information on the British Columbia Wildlife Watch program and the latest figures on the economic value of watching wildlife in British Columbia
  2. viewing sites by region
    • contains links to viewing site information for each region of the province
    • at present there is information for almost all of the Lower Mainland Region sites with Vancouver Island information to be added soon
    • for each site there is a contact address to obtain more information on the site
  3. festivals and events
    • contains a list of known viewing festivals and special events, including fish viewing events
    • where known there are links to home pages of some events as well as mail, phone and e-mail contact information
  4. publications
    • contains a list of known publications, many produced and available through British Columbia Wildlife Watch, that contain viewing information
    • there are region, site and species specific brochures, as well as many bird checklists
    • included is a separate list of commercially available publications that contain wildlife viewing information for British Columbia and many other provinces and states
  5. bird checklists
    • contains a list of known bird checklists for each region of British Columbia
    • for the 18 Lower Mainland Region checklists produced by British Columbia Wildlife Watch there are links to a copy of each checklist, and to information on the other viewing opportunities (mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects) available at the site
    • where known there are links back to the managing agency of the site
  6. fish viewing
    • contains a link to the fish viewing opportunities for each region and a fish viewing etiquette section
    • at present only the Lower Mainland portion is complete, and includes a large table listing the 32 sites in the Fish Viewing in Urban Streams brochure, plus a contact address for each site to obtain more information
  7. newsletters
    • contains links to the British Columbia Wildlife Watch newsletters produced, including all articles and active internet links and e-mail addresses
  8. other sites of interest
    • contains an extensive and growing list of links to other web pages, including sites with viewing information for other provinces and states
    • there are links to many agencies, specific programs and organizations in both Canada and the United States
  9. viewing tips
    • a list of tips to enhance your viewing activities, and to reduce your impacts on wildlife and their habitats

Visit often, and be sure to e-mail your comments and suggestions on the information provided.

Somenos Marsh - Fundraising Book

On June 21st, Father's Day, the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society hosted a special evening in Duncan to launch a new book, Somenos ... the Grandfathers Spoke to Me. It is filled with photographic images of Somenos Marsh taken by Paul Fletcher and with inspiring words from many individuals.

Only 2,000 copies were produced, and all of the $25 per copy price will go towards the Society's land acquisition activities, specifically, a parcel of land on which a Nature Centre is planned.

Somenos Marsh is identified as a viewing site, and over 200 bird species have been observed. During winter, the lake and flooded fields provide critical habitat for hundreds of Trumpeter Swan as well as flocks of Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail and Green-winged Teal.

For information on purchasing a copy of Somenos ... The Grandfathers Spoke to Me contact the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society [Box 711, Duncan, B.C. V9L 3Y1; phone 250-746-8383; fax 250-746-9710; e-mail].

Stamp River Provincial Park - Fish in Late Summer

While some salmon don't reach spawning areas in streams off the Fraser River until October, there are summer viewing opportunities at Stamp River Provincial Park.

The most visible salmon species is Sockeye Salmon. From late June to early September sockeye may be observed as they move up the Stamp River and through the fish ladder on their way to spawn in the upper Stamp River and Great Central Lake.

Small runs of Coho and Chinook Salmon may also be observed. Coho are seen from mid August to December. Chinook migrate upstream from mid September to mid November.

Salmon runs attract many wildlife species that feed on the dead and dying fish carcasses or on fish eggs. At Stamp Falls, Black Bears are possible. Be alert and make lots of noise when you visit during the spawning season.

Other viewing includes American Dipper, Glaucous-winged Gull, Bufflehead, Harlequin Duck, Common Merganser and Belted Kingfisher. Common forest residents are Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Varied Thrush, Red Squirrel and Mule Deer.

How did the river and the park get their name? According to British Columbia Place Names by G.P.V. and Helen B. Akrigg, the name Stamp is after "Captain Edward Stamp, an Englishman who first visited Vancouver Island in 1857 and began placing orders for timber for the British market".

This provincial park is located on the Stamp River about 13 km from Port Alberni. Pass through town and turn right onto Beaver Creek Road and follow the park directional signs. There are 20 vehicle/tent campsites. More information on the park can be obtained from the Strathcona District office of BC Parks [Box 1479, Parksville, B.C. V9P 2H2; phone 250-954-4600; fax 250-248-8584].

Bird Tracks

Swan Lake/Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary

    Located in a Victoria suburb, this small lake and marsh offer a range of birding opportunities, including Marsh Wren, ducks and the rare Green Heron. This is one of the best sites in Victoria to observe muskrats. Mink and river otter are observed also. There is a Nature House on site and interpretive programs are offered. For more information phone 250-479-0211. Access is off McKenzie Avenue just east of the Pat Bay Highway (Highway 17). A trail network circles the lake.

Buttertubs Marsh

    Beaver, Muskrat, Painted Turtle, Virginia Rail and American Bittern may be found in this small marsh plus typical marsh birds such as wrens, ducks, geese and songbirds. There is trail access around the marsh, and a large tower and several small lookouts enhance viewing. In May and June the Yellow-flag Iris can't be missed. The site is located just 2 km from downtown Nanaimo. From Highway 1 turn west onto Comox Road, which becomes Bowen Road. Turn left onto Buttertubs Drive and continue to the parking lot.

Active Pass

    This narrow stretch of water between Galiano and Mayne Islands is a good area to look for wildlife, especially from a BC Ferry. Harbour Seal are commonly seen, while orcas and Dall's Porpoise are possible. Bald Eagle often dot the trees in the pass or soar overhead, particularly from November to May. In late summer and early fall, look for large concentrations of Bonaparte's Gull, and in winter for Pacific Loon and Brandt's Cormorant. Summer birds include Pigeon Guillemot and possibly Marbled Murrelet and Rhinoceros Auklet.