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Havenwood Park Blog

Gary Neilson, friend of Havenwood Park and volunteer extraordinaire, has started a new blog to "help promote and share ideas on the conservation and recreational values" at Havenwood Park.  He has already posted some beatiful pictures of wildflowers in Havenwood, and a video showing broom encroachment on the wildlfower meadows.

Check it out and leave comments at

Here is one of Gary's pictures, shamelessly stolen from his blog of Chickweed Monkey Flower.

Gary Neilson -


Major Gas Spill at Goldstream

I’ve spent some time at Goldstream over the years, as a naturalist with the Nature House, as an inexperienced birder with binoculars, and as a father with my children.  During my years as a naturalist, I spent a lot of time with the salmon run, and I thought I had dissected chum salmon for school children on every conceivable kind of day.  Most vividly I remember the mornings so cold I couldn’t feel my fingers as took out a salmon’s heart to show children how strong this hidden muscle had be for the salmon struggle its way through the river current after a hard life at sea.  I know there were warm days, and sunny days.  Still, it’s the cold late November and December days filled with the smell of dead salmon, the cry of gulls, and frozen fingers that I remember best, and that I looked forward most to sharing with my children.

40,000 litres of gas, spilled into the Goldstream River, and carried into the Estuary and Saanich Inlet, is a shocking reminder of how quickly these a special places can be damaged or destroyed.  Salmon have been spawning in Goldstream for thousands of years.  That I be would be able to share that experience with my children in 2 or 3 years seemed a given.  But, after a few hours one weekend, there are now doubts.  It seems likely at least one year class of Chum salmon is gone.  Maybe two years of Coho, who were already struggling at Goldstream (Coho spend a full year in the river, so those hatched in last spring may still have been near enough to be effected, in addition to this year’s young).  Time, ultimately, will tell us what the full impact will be.  That time will be anxious, worried, uncertain – and at least 4 years long.

A few years ago, I left my position at Goldstream to work for HAT.  While I no longer freeze my fingers inside dead salmon each fall, I still have ties to Goldstream, both personal and professional.  HAT raises money each year to send children to the fall salmon run.  Over 40,000 children have attended a free Salmon Run school programs because local businesses (Goldstream Chums – get it?) have donated money to fund these iconic programs.  It’s an experience Victorians have grown up with for generations.  Ask anyone who has grown up here, and chances are they visited the Goldstream Salmon as a kid, and remember a program with a naturalist.  What happens now, 1 weekend and 40,000 litres of gas later?

During this uncertain and anxious time, this is certain – HAT will continue to support school programs at Goldstream, and we hope you, with the Chums, will too.  Now, more than ever, children need to experience the majesty and beauty of that ancient forest and its meandering river, and rich cycle of life it supports.

-Adam Taylor



Upcoming family events this summer

April 16 - Visit the HAT booth at Westshore Mall to get your free airphoto map of the Bilston Watershed! Meet volunteers from the Bilston Watershed Habitat Protection Association.

April 16 & 17 - Swan Lake Native Plant Sale Saturday and Sunday -  visit the HAT table for a free Native Plant Guide

April 17 - Gardening with Nature (10am -12 | Guided Walk) featuring HAT biologist Todd Carnahan and CRD Parks interpreter Heather Chatwin at Witty's Lagoon - recieve a free copy of Gardening with Native Plants! to register: 250 995 2428

April 17 - Witty's Beach Clean Up (1:30 to 3pm) Meet at end of Witty's Beach Rd. Contact person: Todd (250) 893 6099.

April 21 - Earth Day at City Centre Park in Langford! Off the Grid Music and Art Festival

April 30 - Metchosin Bioblitz! Metchosin residents will conduct a 24 hour search for life in their neighbourhoods. Featuring local experts on birds, bugs, bats, and blackberries! Presentations starting at 7pm in the Municipal Hall summarizing their findings. Visit the HAT table at the Community House for hot tips on where to find turtles and other species in Metchosin parks.

May 01 - Blooms with a View (1:00 pm - 2:30 pm | 12 years+)  Tower Point is alive with blooms poking their heads up in seaside meadows. Follow a CRD Regional Parks’ interpreter along the shoreline trail that offers spectacular views both at your feet and on the horizon. This walk is for the wildflower novice. Meet in the Tower Point parking lot off Olympic View Dr. Take BC Transit #54 or #55

May 8 - Beach Snoop at Low Tide (1:00 pm - 2:30 pm | All ages) A CRD Regional Parks’ interpreter will help you discover fascinating beach creatures at low tide. Be prepared to wade up to your knees in the pools (bring sandals or beach shoes). Meet by the kiosk at the end of Witty Beach Rd. Take BC Transit #54 or #55

May 22 - Life's a Beach (Guided Walk 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm | 5 years+) The tide is way out! That means the sea can no longer conceal its strange and wonderful creatures. Join a CRD Regional Parks’ naturalist for a tidal exploration. Be prepared to get your feet wet (bring sandals or shoes). Meet by the kiosk at the end of Witty Beach Rd. Take BC Transit #54 or #55

June 4 - What Have You Seine Today? (10:00 am - 11:30 am | Guided Walk | All ages)  Join a CRD Regional Parks’ naturalist as we use a seine net to see what lives deeper in the ocean: fish with horns and much, much more. Be prepared to get your feet wet (bring sandals or beach shoes). Meet by the information kiosk at the end of Witty Beach Rd. Take BC Transit #54 or #55

July 17 - Low tide Birding Workshop at Witty's Lagoon, co-hosted with Deb Theissen of CRD Parks. Bring your binoculars or train our high-powered scopes on birds in several habitats. Info: 250 995 2428 volunteer opportunity for expert birders to host a spotting scope station - call Todd to register 250 995 2428 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Visit the CRD parks web page for more fun times at the Witty's Beach this summer.


Baby Turtle Makes a Break for the Water!

Tiny painted turtles leave their ground-based nests in March and April, after spending the winter underground. This hatchling has just emerged from a nest near Beaver Lake - she must hurry to reach safety before predators find her. Please report all turtle observations to HAT at 250 995 2428 to help save this endangered species.




Calling all Citizen Scientists - Check your boards and roads!

Spring is here: the wildflower meadows are getting ready to burst, and the songbirds are trilling with all their might. This is when the Sharp-tailed Snake is most active, seeking out meals of molluscs when the ground is wet, but warming.  Western Painted Turtles are waking too.  Young turtles, which have been resting in their nest over the winter, are emerging to travel to nearby lakes and wetlands where they will grow.

For Habitat & Snake Stewards now is the most important time of year to check your boards.  The Sharp-tailed Snake is famously elusive, but early spring is your best hope of finding one these small, harmless, and critically endangered snakes. While checking your boards, please bring a camera if you can, and remember not to disturb natural cover.  If you are fortunate enough to find a snake, take some pictures and send them to HAT!

Sharp-tailed Snake, photo by Moralea Milne

For everyone on the roads, please watch for Western Painted Turtles – young and old.  The young turtles are especially difficult to see. Slow moving (they are turtles), and only about the size of a quarter, it’s extremely easy to accidently squish the young turtles.

Photo by Christian Engelstoft

It is even more important to watch for adults, which can be roads this time of year.  They are easier to see, at about the size of a dinner plate, but not whole lot faster.  Turtles take a long time to mature, and if a lake population loses just one breeding female a year, even a healthy population of turtles can be quickly decimated.   If you see any turtles on the road, please take pictures and let the HAT office know.

Which brings us to slugs.  Lots of slugs are active this time of year, as my garden can attest (no Sharp-tailed Snakes in my garden unfortunately), but what about the Blue-grey Taildropper?  Little is known about the spring habits of this small, endangered, blue-grey slug that lives in the leaf-litter on the forest floor.  When the Blue-grey Taildropper is spotted (a rare occurrence at the best of times), it is usually in the late fall or early winter.  However, this may be because that’s when biologists are looking for the slug.  If you have slug boards out, please check them, and send us photos of any small, blue-ish slugs you find.

Blue-grey Taildropper, photo by Kristiina Ovaska

While these endangered species are difficult to find, citizen scientists have, and continue, to contribute important knowledge that can help us save these species.  Even if you don’t find an endangered species in your yard or park, it’s a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the spring air.

-Adam Taylor


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