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HAT Returns to Matson Conservation Area in Full Force with the Help of Funders

Sunday group shotThis past weekend, November 4th & 5th 2017, Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) returned to the Matson Conservation Area to restore the last remaining Garry Oak Ecosystem in the Victoria Inner Harbour - but we were not alone! Not only did we have the help of many dedicated volunteers, the event was sponsored in part by a generous grant from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation (TD FEF) and native plant seeds funded by Wildlife Preservation Canada. 

This is HAT's thrid round of funding provided by a grant from TD FEF, and we are incredibly thankful for their continued support! 

The TD FEF grant of $12,600, handed over as a giant cheque, will allow us to continue our restoration work in the Greater Victoria region, including Matson. The Matson Conservation Area is especially unique, as it encompasses the last intact Garry Oak Ecosystem along Victoria's Inner Harbour. Few of these diverse assemblages of flora and fauna remain and their protection is a primary conservation priority in our region.

Wendy chq smOur back-to-back habitat restoration days took place along the scenic Westsong Walkway in Esquimalt, near the Westbay Marina. Saturday was spent removing invasive grasses and other weeds from the conservation area. Sunday was dedicated to enhancing the rocky meadow by planting and seeding native wildflowers, shrubs, and grasses. Our planted and seeded species were carefully selected to enhance wildlife habitat for pollinators like birds, butterflies and bees. We also had an amaznig volunteer turnout, including many TD employees. Saturday saw nearly 20 people, and Sunday nearly 40. It was wonderful to see both old and new faces! HAT is always happy to welcome those interested in volunteering. Just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information and to sign up for our many events and regular enews! 

Habitat Acquisition Trust has been protecting and restoring natural habitat at the Matson Conservation Area with community support for 12 years. A dedicated stewardship group, called the Matson Mattocks, have spent thousands of hours of volunteer time, restoring this local treasure for over 10 years, and the Friends of Matson Lands stewarded the land before them.

"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of restoring this land side by side with volunteers who are committed to maintaining our natural areas. We're still battling invasive plants, but the land is healing and providing some excellent foraging habitat for wildlife including the vital pollinator species."

– Wendy Tyrrell, Habitat Management Coordinator

PlantingThe urban location of this park places pressures on this special natural space, but thanks to the caring hands of habitat stewards these lands nestled next to the city provide a wonderful showcase of community restoring habitat for nature. Providing recreational space for residents of Esquimalt and beyon. Matson Conservation Area is home to hundreds of Garry oak trees, hummingbirds, and pollinators like the Lorquin’s Admiral and at risk Moss’ Elfin Butterflies.

Habitat Acquisition Trust gratefully accepts donations in support of local conservation and habitat restoration. You can lend your support by visiting hat.bc.ca/donate or calling 250-995-2428. For more information on volunteering email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. today.

 

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The Scoop on Who's Roosting Where

Yuma Myotis photo by Christian EngelstoftDuring annual bat counts, Habitat Acquisition Trust volunteers and Bat Habitat Stewards collect guano samples from beneath the bat roosts. That’s a polite way of saying, we collect bat poop.

Not to whisk away to fertilize gardens and restoration sites, but in the name of citizen science. The guano collected gets sent off for genetic analysis, to determine the species of bats living at each roost. We can’t tell what bats are living in a colony when they whoosh out of their homes at night and we don’t want to disturb the bats by physically capturing them. So this provides a safe means of understanding who’s roosting where.

This genetic analysis, coupled with listening devices that interpret bat calls called Echometers is allowing HAT to build a more comprehensive understanding of bat populations. On their own, Echometers are most useful for sites where there isn’t easy access to collect guano. Since the listening devices can pick up bats roosting in nearby trees, and since the device sometimes narrows the calls down to several different species.

Little brown bat smallSome of the bat colonies HAT’s team of dedicated Bat Counters monitor are home to multiple different species. At a particular site there are Yuma (first photo by Christian Engelstoft) and Little Brown Bats (second photo) living in the same roost. Perhaps we could learn from our little bat friends about coexistence too!

From the 2016 field season, the BC Community Bat Program sent away 151 guano samples from across BC for analysis. 135 of the samples successfully yielded DNA for analysis. 80 of the 135 samples were Little Brown Myotis bats. The rest of the samples belonged to Yuma Myotis (21 samples), Big-brown Bat (16 samples), California Myotis (2 samples), Long-legged Myotis (5 samples), Long-eared Myotis (7 samples), and Silver-haired Bats (1 sample). Amongst the bat DNA, deer mouse and red squirrel were also found.

silver haired bat in wood shed approved for HAT use small closeupOf the 11 sites where HAT volunteers and bat stewards were able to collect guano the results were:

- 5 Little Brown Bat colonies
- 1 Yuma Bat colony
- 2 Big Brown Bats
- 1 California Myotis
- 1 Western Long-eared Myotis
- 1 Long-legged Myotis

Each of these species have different characteristics as part of their roles and adaptations to their surroundings. Even though telling bats apart without genetic analysis can be a real challenge, even for experts.

Facts about these species:

Western Long eared Bat Myotis Evotis credit Jennifer KrauelLittle Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus) primarily feed on tiny insects, without hard shells like midges, caddisflies, and moths. They do their foraging over calm waters like lakes and ponds.

Sadly for the Yuma Myotis (Myotis yumanensis), in May 2017 the deadly White-nose Syndrome was detected in this species in the second recorded case of the fungal disease in Washington State. Currently, eight species of bats have been discovered affected by the disease. Yuma Myotis maternity colonies, where females gather together to raise pups, have been documented to have over 1,000 individuals in some places in BC.

Big Brown Bats (Eptesicus fuscus) forage mainly above fields, trees, water, and open spaces. They focus their feeding efforts on moths, beetles, termites, caddisflies, lacewings, carpenter ants, and midges.

Myotis californicus credit Alan derCalifornia Myotis (Myotis californicus) Bats are one of the smallest bat species in BC. Their maternity colonies for pup-rearing mothers are small and usually only have about 20 individuals. (fifth photo by Alan Der)

Long-eared Myotis Bats (Myotis evotis) have been recorded hibernating in caves and mines in the Western United States, and there is a record of one found in a garage in Oregon during December. So keep an eye out for these little guys during the winter, so we might better understand their cold-weather habits. They feed both by catching bugs in flight or by picking bugs off the ground and trees. (fourth photo by Jennifer Krauel)

Long-legged Myotis Bats (Myotis volans) are active all night long, even when it’s cold outside. They are more tolerant of lower temperatures than other bats. (fifth photo by J.N. Stuart)

Silver Haired Bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans) are solitary tree roosters that make their homes in forests and grasslands in logs, beneath bark, and in abandoned woodpecker holes. (Third photo)

Myotis volans long legged myotis credit J.N. StuartIf you see bats roosting over winter we would like to hear you reports at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., so we can better understand the winter-time habits of bats on South Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Habitat Acquisition Trust’s Community Bat Program is funded by LUSH, MEC, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF), and people like you.

If you would like to support the Community Bat Program’s continued work with these incredible animals, please donate online today at http://hat.bc.ca/bats or call 250-995-2428.

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Matson Conservation Area Invasive Plant Removal and Replanting

Poster small imgThe countdown is on for our Matson Conservation Area Invasive Plant Removal and Replanting event! 

Fall is the ideal time to clear out invasive plants and get native species in the ground, and this weekend we'll be doing exactly that! On November 4th and 5th, you can find HAT and our hard working volunteers at the Matson Conservation Area along the Westsong Walkway in Esquimalt. We are dedicating this weekend to restoring and enhancing the last remaining Garry Oak Ecosystem in Victoria's Inner Harbour.

Quick details: 

What: Invasive plant removal and native species planting 

When: Saturday, November 4th, 11am to 4pm (optional stroll to Spinnaker's Brewpub at 4:30pm); Sunday, November 5th, 10am to 3pm 

Where: Matson Conservation Area, Westsong Walkway, Esquimalt

RSVP: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Saturday, Nov. 4th, will be a full day of invasive species removal, where we pull out pesky weeds to make room for native species to thrive. To celebrate our hard work and end the toil with the weeds, we will end the day with a stroll down the beautiful Westsong Walkway to Spinnaker's Brewpub for a refreshing beverage and social hour. There's nothing like a good old fashioned "pull and pour"! The following day, on Sunday, Nov. 5th, we'll be replanting the meadow with native species carefully selected to promote pollinator species. We will focus on planting and seeding native wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs on the meadow's rocky outcrops and forest edges.

This is a very special event for HAT, and we'd love to have your help! As the saying goes, many hands make light work - especially when you are dispersing thousands of wildflower seeds! Our volunteers make these events possible, and we are very grateful for your participation. Feel free to join us this weekend one or both days. Just make sure to RSVP via phone or email, at 250.995.2428 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For further details, be sure to visit our event calendar, as well as our Facebook page. 

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank our generous funders, for without them we would not be able to host these community restoration events. This event was made possible by TD Canada Trust's Friends of the Environment Foundation, as well as a wonderful pollinator seed grant from Wildlife Preservation Canada. Will sucessful planting, we will be adding to the ecological diversity of the area as well as providing food and shelter for pollintors and other species of wildlife. Essential components of a healthy, happy Garry Oak Ecosystem! 

We hope to see you there! 

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Guest Feature: The Snake Tree

The Snake Tree, by Alexis Grange

Deep Roots Farm, Yellow Point, Vancouver Island

Garter Snakes Alexis GrangeThe full moon is due at midnight. That afternoon, GoldenRose, my friend Noël and I are bent over an onion bed, harvesting and chatting with each other. All of a sudden Goldie breaks the conversation. “Look at the snakes! There are two, oh three gardener snakes!” she says, all excited.

We turn around and rush to the fence where we see two snakes disappearing into the bush.

“Have you guys ever seen so many snakes on the farm?” Goldie asks with a mischievous smile. About to reply, we raise our heads and see another long, black, yellow and red body slithering around a branch of the plum tree in front of us.

“Look, there is one in the tree!” shouts Goldie. “And two! Three! And another on the blackberry bush! And one on the ground coming out the onion bed!” we call out, as we spot more and more. We count as many as ten snakes at the same time.

“Wow, this one has a frog in its mouth!” Noël cries out, impressed by the scene. We look down to see the body and legs of a Pacific tree frog in the process of being swallowed by the tiny head of the snake. I reach for my camera and click a few pictures. They seem clear, and I’m excited to have recorded this unusual phenomenon.

garter snake eating frog Alexis Grange“This is the first time I’ve seen so many snakes at one time in my life!” says Goldie, although she has worked on her farm for two years. I squat down to take more pictures, looking carefully around to make sure that I’m not stepping on a snake, or that one doesn’t fall on my head and try to eat me. I haven’t seen many snakes in my life in France, and they still feel dangerous. A minute has passed, and we are feeling incredulous, our minds trying to analyse the weird happening. “What’s going on?” we ask each other.  “They are not even afraid of us, they are crawling right beside us”, Noël observed.

“I think they are hunting!” says Noël, sounding quite sure of himself. Goldie has no idea. “I hope this is not a bad thing for my garden”, she says with concern.

“It looks like a snake invasion. There are dozens of them!” I continue, “I wonder when they are going to stop showing up?”

Not sure about any of our theories, and feeling overwhelmed by the mystery, we stay there observing, like a good audience. They effortlessly glide on the leaves of the bush like a bird flies in the sky. Most are going round and up and down, like dancers in a small ballet. Soon we understand that the same snakes are appearing at different spots. They disappear inside the bush and reappear sliding up and around the vertical branches of the plum tree. After five minutes Goldie and Noël go back to work while I stay watching, mesmerized by the scene. I‘m feeling that something unique, much bigger than us, is unfolding before our eyes and I don’t want to lose a crumb of it. I’m an observer, but at the same time I feel like touching one. I reach for the tail of a snake passing unworried on the ground, but at the moment of catching it my arm softened and failed to grasp it. The thrill of trying to catch one makes my heart pulse faster, fear and excitement starting to slither inside me like a spicy venom.

Garter Snakes in Bushes Alexis Grange

“They can’t bite you”, Goldie had assured me earlier, but my mind is stronger than my will and I’m afraid of grasping it.

I go back to the vegetable beds to finish my shift, volunteering one more hour in the garden. My mind gets obsessed with the snake gathering, and the idea of catching one. After I finish working I stop at the plum tree on my way to the house. They are still here; I’m standing shaking in front of the spectacle. I watch for five minutes and then do a quick search on my Smartphone with the words “gardener snake gathering”.

The research shows me that it is usual for Common Garter snakes to gather in some places where they will hide for the winter; they usually sleep together in cracks in the bedrock. I find a video of the “Narcisse snake pit gathering” in Manitoba, the biggest in the world, with tens of thousands of them. The video shows children playing with the snakes. I feel like an idiot. If children can do it so can I!

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Cyclists Aim to Ride 50km for bats in Big Bat Bike Ride - dressed as bats!

Big Bat Bike Ride Poster 2017As Halloween approaches, local cyclists keen on our furry night-flying insect controllers are planning the Big Bat Bike Ride for October 29 dressed as bats. The goal is to raise awareness and funds about the plight of our bats and to collect pledges to adopt local bat colonies through the HAT for Bats Campaign.

Paige Erickson-McGee and Alanah Nasadyk are leading the Batty Bike Crew in costume on the 50 kilometre bike ride from Centennial Square to MyChosen Café in Metchosin, departing at 11:00am. Everyone is welcome to join, bat costumes are encouraged but optional. There is a 4 km pup ride from the Square along the Galloping Goose Trail to the Selkirk Trestle for those smaller riders, or join for all or part of the full 50 km ride to Metchosin and back.

“Who isn’t a little intrigued by bats? Our local bat populations are in trouble and they need our help. We can all make a difference to bats, and we hope to raise $1,000.00 for the HAT for Bats Campaign and spread the word about how important our bats are to us. They eat all those mosquitoes eating us! An important natural pest control” says Paige Erickson-McGee, co-leader of the Big Bat Bike Ride.

The funds raised will go towards the HAT for Bats Campaign, with the goal to raise at least $1,000.00 to protect local bat colonies at risk of being removed or destroyed.

Habitat Acquisition Trust is reaching out to the community with this campaign to continue its important work with local bats. You can support the HAT for Bats fundraiser by sponsoring a bat colony for $100.00, which covers the cost of building a bat house that can support up to 200 bats.

Community members can also team up with HAT to fundraise by collecting donations from their friends and neighbours, hosting their own mini-fundraiser event, or create a donation box to be carried during trick-or-treating.

Why do bats need homes? It can be tricky finding a safe place to live nowadays if you’re a bat. Habitat loss and loss of old dead trees due to development and deforestation have reduced bats’ options for finding suitable homes.

Three out of the ten bat species found on Vancouver Island are considered at risk of eventually being lost forever if they remain on their current trajectory. Habitat Acquisition Trust’s (HAT) Bat Stewardship Program helps people on South Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands care for bats by providing bats with the habitat they need. Through the Bat Program HAT has collaborated with community members to install 90 bat boxes to provide safe bat habitat in our region.

Photo 1 Alanah and PaigeWhy are bats taking shelter in human-built structures? The primary reason is a loss of natural roosting habitat in the form of large old hollow trees. Many of these trees are removed during development or cleared in parks as a safety precaution to avoid injury by falling trees.

In the winter, local bats have been reported to hibernate in caves or abandoned mines, at specific locations on Southern Vancouver Island are unknown.

The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) was emergency listed as Endangered on the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2014 because of sudden and dramatic declines across the eastern portions of the ranges.

These declines are the direct result of White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in eastern North America during their winter hibernation. It is currently not known to exist in bat colonies west of the Rockies, but detected in Washington State and expected to arrive in BC imminently.

Residents from Southern Vancouver Island are urged to contact Habitat Acquisition Trust at the BC Community Bat Program Hotline: 1-855-9BC-BATS ext 12 if bats are seen hibernating this winter.

“Programs like this have been in place to collect information from the public on bat populations in BC with the intention of aiding in the conservation of bats and their habitats” says Mandy Kellner, Coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program. “Reports from citizen scientists about bat hibernacula are extremely important for bat conservation in the province.”

Map of the ride route is available on the Facebook page. For more information or to support the Big Bat Bike Ride visit hat.bc.ca/bats or call HAT directly: 250-995-2428 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For info about bat box building or bats in houses, visit www.bcbats.ca

Find the event on Facebook: Big Bat Bike Ride
Sponsor the riders on their own page: Big Bat Bike Ride Fundraiser

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