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. 


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Hugh Mogensen gives the gift of nature

As a homeowner, naturalist, or outdoors enthusiast, you may have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some of our most threatened populations of Sharp-tailed Snakes or Western Painted Turtles on Vancouver Island.  You may be familiar with the elusive call of the Western Screech Owl, or the distinctive swoop of our local bats. For others, you may still be waiting for that extra special wildlife encounter.  As a member or supporter of Habitat Acquisition Trust, you are likely familiar with our programs that aim to shed light on many of these threatened animals and take action to enhance, protect, and restore their precious habitats. What you may not be as familiar with, are the humble heroes that make this important work possible: the people that make significant contributions that support our habitat stewardship programs.

Helen and Hugh MogensenOne person that has made a significant and lasting impact on HAT’s Species of Concern Program is Hugh Mogensen. People like Hugh Mogensen are the reason we are able to take significant strides in protecting, restoring and enhancing habitat for wildlife. Not only was Hugh’s generous donation impactful, but it also helped leverage matching funding to create an even more meaningful and sustainable contribution to species of concern in our region. The momentum created by these caring gestures empowers other people in the community to come together and reach shared conservation goals.

In 2012, Mr. Mogensen gifted $50,000 to Habitat Acquisition Trust. Since then, his generosity has gone towards everything from uncovering rare Sharp-tailed Snake habitat, installing safe nesting grounds for Western Painted Turtles, and increasing awareness and knowledge of our local threatened bat populations through coordinated citizen science projects. Hugh’s gift is a lasting legacy for nature that has made a positive contribution to conservation and a lasting mark on the community.

As it turns out, Hugh has been not only supporting HAT’s efforts to protect local wildlife, but he has been lending a helping hand in his own personal way as well. “I was driving along Oldfield Road in Saanich when I saw a turtle crossing. There was a car coming, so I stopped to let them know, and help the turtle across the road. It was a father and his kids, he was glad that we stopped them. We got to show the children the turtle before it went on its way,” tells Hugh.

We can’t thank Hugh enough for his thoughtfulness, but he confesses, “My wife Helen was the real philanthropist, she was a very generous person. I am more practical. You know, I’ve looked after my children quite well. I pay a lot of income tax. So, I get some satisfaction to give some money away and pay less taxes.” Donating to HAT can be a prudent way to ensure that your contribution to society goes towards what matters to you the most, and you can feel really good about it too. (Top right photo: Helen Mogensen, left, Hugh Mogensen, right)

Hugh was first introduced to Habitat Acquisition Trust through his son-in-law, Biologist Christian Engelstoft. Christian Engelstoft is an expert Biologist working with HAT that has extensive experience surveying reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. Christian’s palpable passion for better understanding and protecting wildlife inspired Hugh to support local conservation. It’s the caring supporters like Hugh that have helped HAT take positive leaps that make lasting contributions to science and habitat protection in our region.

Mr. Mogensen also manages the Hugh and Helen Mogensen Foundation. A fund established through the Victoria Foundation that allows Hugh to donate the interest each year to charity. There are so many wonderful ways a person can make a difference, and all it takes is a little inspiration and kindness. Hugh’s gift to habitat stewardship is a shining example that we are so glad to honour.

If you would like to be a champion for nature like Hugh, and want to make your own personal difference for local conservation, Habitat Acquisition Trust welcomes your support. You can make a gift online at any time, or set up a meeting to plan a special gift by calling 250-995-2428 or sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information, visit our website, www.hat.bc.ca/donate or drop by the office, 825 Broughton St, Victoria.

Thank you to everyone that makes protecting nature in our region possible, we’re making a difference together every day. For the people we love, the wild places that shape us, and the wildlife that inspires us.


Read more: Hugh Mogensen gives the gift of nature

Local Business Partners 2017

So many local businesses have supported HAT in a variety of ways. From donating food for volunteer events and gardening equipment for restoration, to sponsoring the events and programs that make conservation in our region possible. Every contribution makes a big difference to nature. Thank you for your support! 

The businesses listed below have taken a leadership role this year in keeping our region vibrant and healthy with their forward-thinking sponsorship of nature initiatives with HAT. Our thanks go out to them for making it possible to take action where wildlife need it most. 

See our sponsors from 2016 here.

Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 250-995-2428 to talk about customizing a partnership for nature today. Be recognized for your good work in our community.


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Volunteer Spotlight: Jane Hansen

17218661 10158379114525274 2702086341886518418 o 1This month the HAT office team would like to shine the volunteer spotlight on Jane Hansen for taking the time to share her expertise on GIS (Geographical Information Systems) with HAT. We affectionately nickname her GIS Jane for her exepctional skills. Thank you Jane for volunteering your time as a GIS action hero for local conservation, we are amazed by your kindness, helpfulness, and tenacity.

Paige Erickson-McGee, shares her gratitude for Jane, “Jane has been immensely helpful in the mapping department, making the impossible seem possible! She brings a lightness and sense of accomplishment to a daunting task. Her passion for mapping and problem solving is an inspiration! Thank you Jane for everything you do for HAT.”

Wendy Tyrrell, HAT's Habitat Management Coordinator adds, "Working with Jane allows me to envision the possibilities of merging on-the-ground restoration with future management planning. She is a blast to work with, always smiling and helpful and her enthusiasm is contagious!"

Land Acquisition Coordinator, Barb von Sacken includes, "Jane has with warmth, humour and her confidence boosting response of “That’s a good question” to all manner of queries helped to streamline how we organize our data for the covenants program. Our new data structure has tremendously helped in my day to day work. Thanks Jane!"

Executive Director, Jill Robinson shares her accolades and gratitude as well saying, "Jane has been an incredible addition to our HAT team, as a fun and friendly office presence, as well as her thoughtful and enthusiastic approach to problem solving! She thinks outside the box and her experience and knowledge has been a tremendous value to our various programs in data management and mapping. A huge thank you to Jane for her time, energy and resources."

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

When Jane first got introduced to HAT she says, "I went to the HAT website and read about their conservation efforts: I was hooked! They do it all, they work to protect and restore natural areas and - maybe even more importantly - HAT engages the public in their work, who ultimately need to be included to help make conservation stick.

I continue to volunteer because what they do works and I am a believer in what HAT does."

Jane Hansen ResizeRecalling her favourite experience volunteering with HAT Jane tells us that she and Executive Director, Jill had discussed using GIS analysis, HAT spatial data, and other land use layers to help identify potential conservation areas that would creat contiguous conservation zones. Recently Jane worked with Stewardship Coordinator, Paige Erickson-McGee to help do just that with planning HAT's Good Neighbours landowner stewardship program work in the East Sooke Wildwood Watershed this year.

Jane says, "HAT does so much more than just land conservation. They work to protect species at risk, and they are an active part of the community holding seminars to share information. They are kind and grateful for all the people that come out to help make their work, work."

If she could share something to others about being part of the HAT community Jane would want other to know: "Don't feel shy about coming into this office to check it out or offer lend a hand. When anyone walks through their door, the staff members are warm, kind and inviting. They make you feel a part of the cogs that make the wheel turn. You are important to the functionality of the system and they appreciate it. You will learn, you will laugh."

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


Read more: Volunteer Spotlight: Jane Hansen

Do you give a hoot about Western Screech Owls?

Western Screech Owl close Ladner BC Credit Anthony Bucci and send him linkOWL UPDATE: When February arrives, dozens of volunteers will drive to wooded areas in and around Victoria at dusk and stay out late, listening. They are part of a project launched in 2015 by the Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) to monitor numbers of the endangered coastal sub-species of Western Screech Owls. February to April is the birds’ breeding season and the volunteers will be listening for their distinctive courtship calls in areas where they have been known to nest in the past or have been recently reported.

Listening for owls at night is labour-intensive, but it is a labour of love for HAT volunteers and staff. In 2016, over 40 volunteers spent a total of 54 hours and travelled 60 km of survey route to discover just 4 territories where the owls were active. Last year, they got some help from technology. Automated recording units were placed at likely spots, with microphones programmed to turn on at sunset and off at midnight. The sound files they collected were analyzed by computer and helped identify two additional territories for the rare owls.

Once more commonly heard in the Greater Victoria region, Western Screech Owls numbers have fallen by over 90% in the last 10 years. There are several reasons. Habitat changes have led to an increased population of Barred Owls, which have displaced their smaller cousins. Free-roaming outdoor cats not only kill owls but their prey food of small rodents and birds. Rodenticides may also have an impact and have been found in the bodies of most owls.

In addition to its census activities, the HAT project works with landowners to encourage conservation of suitable habitats where owls can breed and find food. HAT volunteers have also begun building and installing nest boxes for owls that can be monitored in future years to gauge the success of the program. Already, two of these boxes have become home to breeding Western Screech Owl pairs, which is encouraging. In January 2018, HAT is hosting an owl monitoring training session with local Scouts, who will learn to assess nest box use at their very own Camp Barnard. Anyone wanting to become a citizen scientist — by listening for hoots, building nest boxes, or helping in other ways — is encouraged to contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or sign up to be a volunteer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

We are in need of funds to purchase Audio Recording Units and Wildlife "Peeper" Cameras for checking nest box success. If you would like to help these owls, sponsoring one of these units will help immensely!

Audio Recording Units - $250 donation

Wildlife Peeper Camera - $650 donation

Sponsor an owl box - $65 donation

Donate Now

The Habitat Acquisition Trust Western Screech Owl Project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program and by donations from people like you. Readers are encouraged to make a donation in support of Western Screech Owl conservation at hat.bc.ca/donate or by calling 250-995-2428.
Written by HAT Volunteer, Eric Grace in collaboration with HAT Staff.


Read more: Do you give a hoot about Western Screech Owls?

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