Volunteer Spotlight: Catriona Dempsey

This month the HAT office team would like to shine the volunteer spotlight on:

Catriona Dempsey



for taking the time to help us with our Western Screech-Owl Monitoring Project! Catriona has been a driving force in our Western Screech-Owl monitoring project this year, leading night monitoring surveys, and both co-ordinating and the installion of Audio Recording Units and nest boxes in the Highlands, Sooke and Metchosin and Greater Victoria Area.   Thank you Catriona for volunteering your time as a Western Screech-Owl action hero for local conservation, we are amazed by your generosity, organization, and determination.

Paige Erickson-McGee, shares her gratitude for Catriona, “Catriona Dempsey has been a valuable addition to the Western Screech-Owl Team Leaders. After training under HAT’s owl biologist Tania Tripp at Madrone Environmental,Catriona has contributed over 75 volunteer hours of nest box installation and monitoring, owl surveying, habitat assessments, and analyzing audio recording data. She keeps the owl project running, and her enthusiasm for wildlife conservation is inspirational. We wish her all the best studying human-wildlife interactions with grizzly bears in Banff National Park this summer!"

Catriona shares a little bit of her Habitat Acquisition Trust volunteering experience with you:

When Catriona first got introduced to HAT she says, "I first started working with HAT last spring. I was fortunate to be hired for a co-op work term with a Duncan-based consulting company (Madrone Environmental Services) monitoring Western Screech-Owls under the supervision of an extremely knowledgeable and dedicated owl biologist, Tania Tripp, who has been working with HAT extensively on the owl monitoring program. Over the course of the term we helped HAT to put up nest boxes and conducted night time owl surveys. I was also responsible for installing Audio Recording Units on properties to record owl calls every night. It was very exciting to be a part of the first year that HAT has monitored using these devices and I have learned so much! After my work term ended I missed being a part of the owl monitoring project very much. So, this spring I decided to return to owl work with HAT and contribute as much as I could while finishing off the last semester of my degree. I am always looking for ways to blend my science background with my love of working with people and HAT is an excellent fit."

Recalling her experience volunteering with HAT Catriona tells us that "[her] favourite moment so far has been finding a female Western Screech-Owl using a nest box put up by HAT. We were checking all the boxes on a property with our specialized camera attached to a pole. I completely didn’t expect to see an owl in the box. By that point I had checked dozens of boxes and I was very much expecting to see the inside of an empty box on the screen. When a female owl appeared on the screen I was shocked. It was an indescribably amazing feeling to see an owl looking back at me and the surprise made the moment even better. I am happy that it looks like that owl and her mate are back in the area this spring and will likely be nesting in a box again. Giving even one owl a place to nest has made the entire project so very worthwhile. "


If she could share something to others about being part of the HAT community Catriona would want other to know: "As a student, volunteering has given me hands-on experience that I could never gain in a classroom. But, more importantly, it gives me renewed passion for conservation and reminds me why I am studying in the field that I have chosen. There are so many people working with HAT (landowners, volunteers, and HAT staff) who are passionate about conservation and extremely generous with their time and I find working with them all so inspiring. It is also very rewarding to be helping with a project that directly benefits a threatened species. I have grown to love Western Screech-Owls and I want to see them thrive here in Victoria. "

Executive Director, Jill Robinson shares her gratitude as well giving, "A huge thanks to Catriona for her amazing contribution to HAT’s owl project. We are so thankful for her time, energy and expertise, making a powerful impact on the conservation of Western Screech Owls and local landowner stewardship."

Thank you Catriona for sharing your insights as well as volunteering to support local conservation with us at HAT, it's always a joy to work together.


Office Closed on Monday March 26, 2018

Please note that the HAT Office will be closed on Monday March 26, 2018. If you require assistance, please leave us a message at (250) 995-2428 or an e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will return your message upon our return to the office on Tuesday. 

Thank you and have a lovely weekend! 


Spring Break Fun at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary

trumpeter swan and cygnets swan lake

It's Spring Break! Looking to spend some time outdoors with your kids this week? Victoria Natural History Society and Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary are hosting fun nature events that are sure to keep your kids happy and engaged! 

Discover a host of Spring Break Drop-in activities from 12 noon to 3 pm at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. Enjoy family friendly crafts & activities, a Wildflower Walk, and an exciting Snake Break showcasing the wonderful array of snakes who call the Nature House their home. The Nature House will also be open regular hours throughout Spring Break.
*this is a hike to the summit of Christmas Hill. Participant will leave from the Nature House at 12:15 pm. Sturdy shoes, water and a snack are recommended. Hike recommended for ages 7 and up!
Unplug and get outside this spring break with VNHS and Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary!
See Swan Lake's website calendar for details. 


New to the HAT team: Meet Ashlea!



New to the HAT team: Meet Ashlea!

Greetings one and all, my name is Ashlea Veldhoen (sounds like "Veltoon") and I am very happy to say that I have recently come into the position of Community and Development Coordinator with HAT.  

Who I am, and how I got here...

If people were to describe me, they'd probably say I was crazy about dogs, birds and the protecting the environment.

Originally from the suburbs of Burlington, Ontario, I had always longed for adventure, connecting with nature and having a better understanding of the world around me. Throughout my life I was continually inspired by my family to love and cherish the natural world and the plants and animals found within them. My mother, father and grandmother were the biggest influences in my life when it came to developing my passion for animals. Starting with pets, my passion expanded to encompass birds and wildlife, so much so that by the time I had reached high school, I was pretty certain I wanted to work to protect the animals I so loved. This led to my two diplomas in Ecosystem Management at Fleming College, my Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science at Trent University, and eventually to HAT! And as you can likely guess, I still hold a very special place in my heart for dogs. 

This past fall, my partner and I decided to move to BC for a change of pace. We had both visited Victoria the year prior and had fallen in love with the atmosphere. I mean, how great is a city where you can see more than 7 stars at night and experience beautiful wild trails on a short distance outside of it? I love it here. 

So, after I had finished my summer contract as the Beach Stewardship Co-ordinator with Wasaga Beach Provincial Park in Ontario, we packed up our car, roof pod, and mini-trailer with the contents of our tiny cottage, threw in some camping gear and helped the dog up onto the pile of blankets that would be his seat, and we were off and running. Through the rugged North of Ontario, we saw the fall colours begin to appear. We drove north of Lake Superior, which was absolutely stunning. The inland lakes and forests surrounding the area were crystal clear and lush. We then travelled through the prairies, where a small farm seemed like hundreds and hundreds of acres and witnessed thousands of Snow Geese congregating on the ephemeral lakes along the highway. Our little car trekked through the Rockies to Jasper and the Icefields Parkway, where we were able to see herds of Bighorn Sheep, elk (wapiti), and the clear blue-white ice of giant mountain glaciers for the first time. We travelled through the Okanagan Valley - which was another first for me - and then hopped onto the ferry at Tsawwassen. After 10 days of driving and a ferry ride, we had made it to Victoria. It wasn't long after we moved that that we began volunteering within the community and joined several organizations to meet new friends - through whom I learned of the Community and Development Coordinator position! Now that it's almost Spring and the plum and cherry blossoms are in bloom, it feels like the perfect time for new beginnings. 

With that, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to HAT for the opportunity to work in furthering the conservation of nature on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands. It is an honour and a privilege to have this position and look forward to working together with the HAT and everyone interested in conserving the natural world for now and for generations to come.   

Sincerely yours in conservation, 

Ashlea Veldhoen 
Community and Development Coordinator
Habitat Acquisition Trust


Hitting the ol' dusty trail

Paige and Alanah Big Bat Bike Ride 2017 2A departing letter from Community and Development Coordinator, Alanah Nasadyk

If you’ve spent enough time roaming around Greater Victoria since the late ’90s, like me, you probably recognize the metal signs with blue dragonflies proudly displayed on fence posts and properties dotting the landscape. These Good Neighbours habitat steward signs were my first introduction to Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT).

If you love to ramble in the hills and meadows of south Vancouver Island, like me, then you’ve probably taken in the joys of nature protected by HAT, and maybe without even knowing it. Looking out through the alders at glistening Ayum Creek, perhaps kayaking by Ayum Estuary with it’s bustling birds and other seaside wildlife. Losing yourself and your concerns, but hopefully not your way, in the Sooke Hills to find the mossy summit of Mount Quimper, the tallest summit in the Capital Regional District on Mount Empress, or the swimming snakes, newts, and Red-legged Frogs of Shields, Grassy, and Crabapple lakes. The Sooke Hills were already one of my favourite places in the world when I found out that Habitat Acquisition Trust protects them. It made my heart sing to be a part of the organization that watches over such magnificent, interconnected landscapes.

alanahbatToday I am looking back at being a part of this incredible HAT community, as I prepare to depart. There is so much that I will miss, but I’m not straying far. This summer I led my third annual bat counting team, and this time, as we sat back in lawn chairs with our eyes training on the darkening sky, I was among HAT volunteers that are my friends and neighbours. Friends I made before joining the HAT team and friends I made along the way. One night, we were scolded by curious young Great Horned Owls. They were up in a snag making a raucous as if to say, “look at me – not those silly bats!” Just one of many amazing moments here with HAT.

The work that HAT does is also about helping people’s dreams, and wishes, and legacies unfurl through meaningful conservation activities. With HAT, I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of the people that fostered and envisioned this organization from the very beginning. I have had tea with the people who are gifting their land to HAT to set aside a better future, who have named nature in their will to build a legacy where habitat is protected, and who have spent their last few weeks on this Earth giving their precious time to steward the land through restoration. Every day I come into the HAT office I smile and every day here I get to send my heartfelt gratitude to our donors and volunteers that make it all happen. Even though I’ll miss being in the office alongside the incredible people I call my colleagues, and behind the scenes setting connections in motion, my heart and gratitude will always be in it. I look forward to seeing the work we’ve all contributed to continue to take root and grow, as I know it will.

Thank you all for making my work with HAT fulfilling and inspiring, I’ve learned so much. I’ll be hitting the ol’ dusty trail for some new adventures now, and finding new ways to pitch in to keep our home vibrant and thriving. Now it’s my turn to say to each of you, keep up the good work and thank you for all you do for nature in our community. 


Read more: Hitting the ol' dusty trail

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