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Update on Screech Owl Stewardship

by HAT Volunteer Meg Lovett

The first phase of HAT’s Western Screech Owl Stewardship Project is complete! 

HAT’s Western Owl Screech Project is focused on monitoring and providing habitats for the native species. Unfortunately, this owl is under threat due to severe habitat loss and increased populations of their main predators, i.e. the Barred Owl.  

As a new addition to the HAT team, I tagged along with a seasoned expert in wildlife biology and long-time HAT volunteer, Ben, to visit 11 properties around the Greater Victoria Region to clean up the 80 or so installed nest boxes for the upcoming breeding season. Together we trekked – and at times stumbled –  through the second growth forest, ladder and GPS in hand, to locate the boxes. Most of the boxes we found had been providing occupancy to our other local residents such as squirrels or northern flickers, who had left them full of all sorts of debris. Unfortunately for them, we cleaned out their nests and put down new, dry shavings in hopes of attracting the Western Screech Owls with a comfortable and safe place to nest. Furthermore, for each box, we recorded observations such as the condition of the box, the signs of use and the level of noise surrounding the box. Now that the boxes are ready for nesting, we will check back in about a month’s time to see if the owls have taken to the boxes for their breeding season of mid-March to mid-May. 

Having previously known little to nothing about owls in general, let alone the Western Screech Owl, I have now found myself becoming very passionate about the conservation of these little owls and have been able to learn so much over the past few weeks.  At HAT, we will all be keeping our fingers crossed to hopefully share the same good news as last year in finding chicks in some of the nest boxes! 

HAT would like to thank the property owners for their involvement with the Western Screech Owl Project. 

Additionally, if you think you have may have heard the distinctive “bouncing ball, whistling hoot” of a Western Screech Owl, please contact HAT at 250-995-2428 as it would greatly help in our efforts!

Screech Owl monitoring season is almost here! If you're interested in taking part in monitoring some of our winged neighbours, stay tuned here, or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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HAT's Music Bingo @ the Fernwood Inn!

What a hugely successful and fun evening we all had for our FIRST EVER music bingo at the Fernwood Inn.

A sold out event, last Wednesday evening (4 March) HAT and members of the conservation community came out in force to support conservation on southern Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands, and with everyone having been so excited and full of energy, don’t be surprised if we do it again before the year is out!

The master DJ-ing from a music bingo pro, Scott, had the whole room at the Fernwood Inn dancing and singing along to the tunes, making it a great chance for all of us to get to know each other a little better, and to give the community and HAT staff another chance to be together with a great energy!

How lucky are we that we have such fabulous support from everyone who attended and also from our wonderful sponsors?

We would love to send our gratitude to our sponsors, many who offered some fantastic prizes to make the bingo a little more interesting. Special thanks to: Il Terazzo Ristorante, Il Covo Trattoria, Phillips Brewing & Malting Co., Fernwood Coffee Company, Wildfire Bakery, and the Bateman Foundation Gallery of Nature. This event truly wouldn’t have been as special without your support.

Congratulations to the many winners!!

The pictures tell it all.

Of course we have to thank Mike from the Fernwood Inn for donating the space for the event! Thanks also to Scott our DJ for making it such a fun evening and Sean Gorman for connecting us with Scott.  Thanks also to the great Fernwood Inn staff who seemed to be having as much fun as the players. 

The money that we made from this fundraiser will stay in the community and go towards our ongoing efforts to support the environmental initiatives we have been developing over the past few years.

Finally, an extra-special Thank You to Lee Colwill for all your work organizing this event and communicating with sponsors. It really couldn’t have happened without you!

Members of the HAT Staff with event organizer Lee Colwill

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Volunteer Spotlight: Claire Matthews

Volunteer Spotlight: Claire Matthews

In 2019, the Land Protection Coordinator had a secret weapon in the ongoing battle of untangling the mysteries of the HAT archives. This secret weapon was none other than the unassuming-by-day Claire Matthews.  During her summer break from the rigors of working at Hansard, Claire took on the task of sorting through stacks of paper files, maps, photos and random notes on the multitude of conservation inquiries that have come into the office since HAT’s inception in the 1990s.

From her cozy home office, Claire engaged her Nancy Drew-like sleuthing skills, teasing out important information, bringing order to boxes of hardcopy files, creating concise summary documents and populating a critical information database. This work will help HAT in an array of current and future protected-areas planning projects, and HAT’s Land Protection program has greatly benefitted from Claire’s skills in research and editing and her attention to detail.

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Public help needed to monitor for winter bat activity

For Immediate Release -

 

Public help needed to monitor for winter bat activity

WANTED: Reports of dead bats and of bats flying during winter

Date: Feb 4, 2020

BC bats are threatened by disease, and researchers are again asking for the public to help. White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease responsible for the death of millions of bats in eastern North America, has moved to the west coast.

Confirmed in Washington State just 150 km south of the BC-US border, the presence of the fungus is very worrisome for the health of our bat populations. The disease has near 100% mortality for some species of bats exposed to the fungus, including the locally familiar Little Brown Bat. Just this year, WNS has been confirmed for the first time in a fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes) in King County, Washington. This finding brings the total number of bat species confirmed with the disease in North America to 13. Although devastating for bats, WNS does not affect humans.

The Southern Vancouver Island Community Bat Program run by Habitat Acquisition Trust in collaboration with the BC government is requesting the public’s help in monitoring winter bat activity. “We believe that our bats hibernate in relatively small groups across the province” says Paige Erickson-McGee, Bat Stewardship Coordinator for the program. “Detecting WNS in our province will require many eyes on the ground.”

The typical first sign of this disease is bats flying during the winter, an unusual sighting at a time of year when bats should be hibernating. Another sign of the presence of WNS is the appearance of dead bats outdoors as they succumb to the effects of WNS.

“We are encouraging the public to report dead bats or any sightings of winter bat activity to the Community Bat Project (CBP) toll-free phone number, website, or email below. Bat carcasses will be submitted for testing for White Nose Syndrome and would provide the earliest indication of the presence of the disease in BC” says Erickson-McGee. Reports of winter bat activity will help focus research, monitoring and protection efforts.

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Annual General Meeting 2020

It is always a great pleasure to spend the evening with members of the HAT community, and every January the Annual General Meeting gives us a chance to check in with you folks, to come together for a bit of business and some socializing. It is also a chance for the HAT board to report to you, HAT's members, about how we are doing as an organization. This year we spent a rainy Thursday evening at Hatley Castle in Colewood, in several ways a meeting point between where HAT works in Metchosin, the Highlands, and the Saanich Peninsula.

For those of you that weren't able to make it to the AGM on January 30th, though we are sad to say goodbye to two of our board members Pia Archibald and Rick Kool, we are pleased to announce the addition of 3 new members to the HAT Board. We would like to welcome Katie Bell, Charlie Gordon, and Pierre Iachetti who were elected last week and will be joining the HAT board at their next meeting in March.

We were also lucky enough to enjoy a reading by HAT supporter & member Anny Scoones. Anny is a local author known for her wit, humour, and her keen observations of life on Vancouver Island. Reading from her latest release, Island Home, Anny had us all in stitches, giving us a pause between business items. Two lucky winners also won copies of Anny's books which she kindly provided for a door-raffle.

With this year's AGM behind us, HAT staff are looking forward to other events that focus on our community like the HAT Member Lunch that will be taking place this spring, as well as the Conservation Connections Forum, and Volunteer Appreciation Day later on in the year.

If you would like to take a look at HAT's Annual Report 2019, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will be happy to send you a copy!

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