Matson Conservation Area Update - July 2017

Wendy Tyrrell, Habitat Management Coordinator
Summer Breeze Makes Me Feel Fine…

The Matson Conservation Area (MCA) is in full summer mode and for some, this brings up a vision of brown, dying vegetation and tall wild grasses. True, the warmth of the sun heating up the soil and the longer days bring an end to the spring wildflowers - but it’s really not the end for our local birds, bees, butterflies and other insects & pollinators! The wildflowers are going to seed (senescing) and will provide a major source of food for the wildlife that call MCA home. We can proudly say, thanks to the hard work of Matson’s worker-bees, the Mattock’s - that the wildlife have more of their favorite meals on the menu this summer and fall! With less English ivy, English holly and Laurel daphne, the native plants that have evolved over time alongside our native wildlife are making a strong come-back! Clearing out these introduced plants provide the opportunity for native plants to take hold again.

matson saskatoon photosImagine the food chain that is happening right outside the downtown core… the river otters feed on the voles, the voles feed on the grasses & bulbs, the Anna’s Hummingbird is feeding on insects, the insects are eating the leaves and seeds of dying plants, the Pileated woodpecker feeds on the caterpillar, the
SaskatoonLorquin’s Admiral Butterfly is feeding on the Saskatoon berries and the caterpillars are feeding on the bitter cherry leaves… and so on, and so on!

lorquins admiral matsonSo, look closely, between the grasses and camas seed pods, and you will see the more subtle, but no less beautiful wildflowers and shrubs of our summer season here on Vancouver Island such as: Harvest brodiaea, fool’s onion, mock orange and oceanspray. Take a moment to sit on the wall facing the meadows and take a deep breath and inhale the smells of summertime. Watch for a moment, see what you can discover.

Then, maybe go one step further…think about joining the Matson Mattock’s habitat restoration volunteer group one of these Wednesday mornings (9-11am) to see what they are up to. I’m sure they’d love to show you around and introduce you to some of the beauties popping up where the weeds used to be… and show you how to get a little dirty removing ivy and orchard grass! There’s something to be said about the feeling of instant gratification when pulling weeds and increasing the food source for our local wildlife.

Happy Summer to all,

Wendy

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Planning for a Kinder, Greener Future with The Stacks at Garry Oak Corner

Small Camas Stacks 2017Taking deep calming breaths, close your eyes and imagine your favourite natural area… Now imagine protecting that place, and all of the features that make it special… What if we told you that people in your community are preserving their important places like yours? What if we told you that you could to?

Mike and Anne Stack own a beautiful property with a natural area in Saanich that was originally owned by Anne’s Father. Growing up on the land, watching as the surrounding farmer’s fields and rural space transformed into an urban space, Anne and Mike decided to do something about the fate of their forest. To do this, the Stacks have willed their property to the Habitat Acquisition Trust, so that a conservation covenant can be placed for the protection of its natural features. A truly thoughtful gift to leave to our community.

Before Anne’s family owned the land, it is recorded in the Saanich Archives as a fox farm built in 1901, called Rock Mount Fox Farm, and owned by the Elder family. Today their corner lot stands out with its display of greenery, including Garry oaks and Oso Berry bushes, with Fawn lilies and Camas below, growing among the exposed and mossy rock. One particular rock stands out among the rest and Mike tells us, “I always think of this as an amazing piece of rock, it’s been there since the ice age.” A glacial erratic! The Garry Oak Corner, as we call the Stacks' natural habitat, is a piece of the important urban forest. Ann explains, “The whole area was very rural, but as time went on, you know, other people’s traditions came, so this seems like a wonderful piece of property today.

As Anne’s family neighbourhood was subdivided and developed around them, Mike tells of an encounter, “a couple of years ago a real-estate chap walked up to me and said, ‘I can make you a rich man,’ and I replied that I am a rich man. He had no idea what I was talking about. Being responsible for this is so much richer than tiny bits of paper money.

Mike and Anne Stack 2017 smallPreserving neighbourhood community and spreading kindness is important to Mike and Anne, it’s plain to see as Anne tells us, When they subdivided around us, our neighbours were blocked a little bit, so we let them come through our yard. I think it keeps a sense of community, and that’s why we decided once we passed that it would be nice to have this path and this natural part protected”.

I always thought the woods were magical, even as a child making forts. But I know once we’re gone we’ll have no control of what happens, but this covenant at least gives us some ability to preserve it. Places like these in the urban areas are getting smaller you know, there are only small pockets of nature left, it’s worth preserving.

In their day-to-day life, the Stacks are wonderful stewards of their land for nature too. When one of their trees died, they asked arborists to top it and leave the rest as a wildlife tree with a native plant garden around the base. Anne has been planting native species like Red Flowering currants to enhance their natural area too. This spring, Anne even signed up for a native plant class at the Horitculture Centre of the Pacific saying, “we thought we could learn more about the native plants for this space.

The Stack’s naturescape has also been a help to nature as the host site of environmental studies. In the late 1970’s, when their trees had a Gall Wasp infestation, the city took notice and entomologist Bob Duncan and his colleagues came from the Pacific Forestry Centre to study the wasps. “It sounded like the oak trees were being rained upon with the sound of all of them chewing.” The Cooper’s Hawks that make the area home were also banded for a study done by Andy Stewart of the Ministry of Environment. While visiting with the Stacks this Spring, a hawk flew by and alighted on a high oak branch bringing excitement and awe to each of us present.

Stack 2017 small native plant garden

Stack 2017 small Red Flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum

The forested area of the Stack’s property is adjacent to Saanich land. In the past, Strawberry Vale School students, the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team, and the municipality teamed up to remove English Ivy there. With growing interest in and understanding of the value of urban forest in the community Ann hopes that this partnership can be rekindled to fight back the returning English Ivy.

It’s a nice feeling for us, that this is a continuing project that will go on long after we are gone.” Mike tells us. “Right now, we’re just happy that if anything happens to us that it’s set and HAT would protect the land. Some of the most peaceful, calm moments of my life have been to walk through all of this at dawn.” Anne shares.

Mike is pleased to see the direction that people in the Habitat Acquisition Trust community are going, “It’s amazing, I started teaching in the very early 70’s, and during the 80’s it was most disheartening. Everyone wanted to be rich, everyone wanted to be a player in the dot com era. I’ve been looking at new letters from HAT and seeing that young people are more interested in going green now than anyone! Certainly it’s the educational aspect of HAT, getting young people involved which really hits me.

Before we parted from a lovely visit with Mike and Anne, Anne told us, “HAT has a good perspective of what they are able to accomplish which allows them to accomplish more than when organizations try to do everything.

If Habitat Acquisition Trust can inspire and educate the future generations of Habitat Stewards, while helping people protect their precious natural areas for the benefit of our entire community, then we are all thrilled with everything we are accomplishing for you. We thank you, and both Anne and Mike, for the opportunity to protect nature together.

If you would like more information on creating a legacy for nature in your will, like Mike and Anne, we would be happy to sit down and chat at your convenience. Habitat Acquisition Trust can be reached at 250-995-2428 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can access online information about planning the positive impact you will leave for the Earth here. There are many ways to look after yourself, your family, and nature with a thoughtful gift. Speaking to your lawyer or financial advisor soon to create a plan can give you peace of mind.

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Welcome to Summer Interns Salia Wilson and Jordana Herron!

Salia Wilson Summer Intern 2017 Member LunchWith the summer just beginning, we are grateful to the Canada Summer Jobs program for allowing us to bring in two Summer Interns!

Salia Wilson (pictured right) comes back to us for a second term as Conservation Intern. We are glad to have her knowledge from the previous year's Good Neighbours backyard stewardship project in Sooke, to bring to the Metchosin Shoreline Good Neighbours Project this year.
Last year Salia helped out with everything from organizing habitat restoration and a beach cleanup at French Beach to removing thistles for Western Painted Turtles. Welcome back Salia!

Also joining us this summer is new Land Protection Intern Jordana Herron (photo right). Jordana began volunteering with Habitat Acquisition Trust this spring and quickly dove into invasive species pulls, amphibian surveying at Goldstream Park with Dr. Kristiina Ovaska, and more in a manner of weeks. We are pleased to welcome her to our team! 

jordana smallerJordana grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but has been working seasonally in BC since 2009. The beauty and biodiversity of BC left such an impression on her that, when she decided to go back to school, Jordana chose the Environmental Technology program at Camosun College for it's focus on sustainability and field work. Jordana enjoys that Victoria has so many opportunities to volunteer with conservation activities, like checking up on the Western Red-backed salamanders at Goldstream park as she's pictured doing in the photo on the left. Jordanas says, "The Land Protection Intern position at HAT feels like the perfect fit and I hope it will lead to a career in conservation."

Visit the staff bios page here for more information

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Zen to Create Life: How to Bring Wildlife to your Zen Garden

Contribution from Freelance Writer and Landscape Gardener, Sally Writes

Zen gardens are a representation of life. They incorporate natural elements to create a miniature landscape of the real world. Not only can these gardens use elements of life to stimulate meditation, but it can also promote and encourage wildlife visitors such as birds. Just like the humans that meditate in Zen gardens, our winged friends here on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands can also be attracted to the elements of Zen.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Joanna Preston

Joanna Preston Volunteer Owl ProgramWe would like to recognize Joanna Preston for taking a leadership role in volunteering and supporting Habitat Acquisition Trust, particularly through the organization of and extensive participation in Western Screech Owl monitoring.

Thank you Joanna for giving your time to the understanding of these threatened owls and to our community!

Checking nest boxes placed by HAT with Biologist Tania Tripp this past week Joanna remarked, "we got a Screech Owl in box #22! So amazing to see her and know we have a Screech Owl nesting in Greater Victoria using one of our boxes!"

Reflecting on what inspires her about volunteering with us Joanna shared, "HAT made me realize I can contribute in a meaningful way to conservation initiatives and wildlife programs with real positive results. The HAT staff are awesome to work with and super knowledgeable, and in the short few months I've volunteered for HAT, I've learned a lot."

Joanne says, "I got involved with the Western Screech Owl nest box program this year and was inspired by how many land owners in Greater Victoria are so passionate about getting involved and wanting to protect this species at risk by installing owl nest boxes on their property. The Screech Owl population in Greater Victoria has declined witht he loss of forest that once provided natural cavities to nest in, and with the increase in predators such as Barred Owls, so this is a species that could benefit from our help.

Western Screech Owl close Ladner BC Credit Anthony Bucci and send him link

I helped install dozens of nest boxes this winter and checked up on a few of them later in spring using a tiny camera on the end of a long pole. I hoped, rather than expected, to find a Screech Owl inside one of the nest boxes. After inspecting several nest boxes and finding them either empty or occupied by squirrels, we found one! The last nest box I checked with Tania Tripp on June 2, a female screech owl stared back at us on the camera monitor, with at least one baby! I was ecstatic! If one nest box provides a safe nesting place for a pair of Screech Owls to raise a family in Greater Victoria, to me the nest box program is a success."

 "As a wildlife biologist and mother I feel my volunteer work at HAT is a great way to contribute to conservation efforts and teach my daughter the values of service in our community that connects with our passion for nature." - Joanna Preston

Habitat Acquisition Trust's staff, contractors, landowners, and volunteer Owl Monitors owe Joanna a great big thank you for all she's done to make our owl expeditions possible. It is with many helping hands and minds that we run programs like the Western Screech Owl project, and we are grateful to everyone involved. Joanna stands out to us as someone who has gone above and beyond like a Western Screech Owl flies above, carrying out an essential role in our natural environment.

Thank you so much Joanna! 

Western Screech Owl Photo by Anthony Bucci.

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