May 29, 2004

Vancouver Philharmonic Features Fine Cellist

The Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra ended its 40th anniversary season with a concert tonight that featured a wonderful performance by cellist Carina Reeves.

The programme began with Mozart's Symphony in C major, KV 425 "Linz." The orchestra performed it ably, however somehow this symphony didn't engage me.

The second half, however, was a feast. It began with Beethoven's "Coriolan" Overture, which was magnificent, and ended with Reeves performing the moving Concerto for Violincello and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 85 by Sir Edward Elgar.

I had not heard this piece before, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Reeves and the orchestra played with a controlled intensity that resulted in a deserved standing ovation.

Posted by Paul at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2004

Rescuing Old WP Files From Ancient Mac

The other day as I was cleaning my office I ran across my old Macintosh PowerBook 145B notebook computer, sporting a teeny 10" monochrome screen, 8MB of RAM, and an 80MB hard disk.

I plugged in the power cord and fired it up just for fun, only to have a cascade of memories come pouring down as I explored the HD.

This chunk of technology dates way back to my Tokyo days, and runs a hacked Japanese System 7.1 with English overlays. I used to carry it around with me on my English-teaching rounds, tapping thoughts and observations into Word Perfect whenever I had some down time.

I haven't used it in at least seven or eight years, and haven't used any Mac in that time either, but I need to rescue those files. I recall Macs had a utility to transfer files to DOS-formatted 3 1/2" floppy disks, and I am now in the process of scrounging a few to see if it will work. I can't remember the last time I used a floppy disk!

What an adventure....

Posted by Paul at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2004

Canadian Environment Awards 2004

Joan Carne and Louise Towell, founders of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, are among three finalists for the 2004 Canadian Environment Awards for Environmental Learning.

The Canadian Environment Awards was established in 2002 through a partnership between the Government of Canada and Canadian Geographic Enterprises, which manages the program and publishes the annual digest-sized awards magazines. The Canadian Environment Awards 2004 is also supported by 14 Canadian corporations.

Posted by Paul at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2004

Lots of 'Good' Bugs in Byrne Creek Today

Yumi and I checked the Byrne Creek habitat today, and just after we arrived, the water from the heavy rain stopped spilling over into the overflow pond. As the pools in the spillway began shrinking we noticed they were crawling with mayfly nymphs. It was amazing, there were hundreds upon thousands of them!

We called our buddy bug lover Maho, and she came down and joined us. We were scooping up mayfly and midge larva with a small glass jar and transferring them to a bigger jar. We were scooping mayflies and baby stickleback out of the overflow pond with a little aquarium net. It was astounding.

The poor little bugs were being left high and dry as the pools in the spillway evaporated.

Dunno where they all came from, but it might be interesting to do a sample bug count at a location or two ASAP for interest's sake. We also saw many caddisfly larva below the footbridge....

We're talking a lot of Category 1 Pollution Intolerant bugs here! We also think one of the bugs we got was a riffle beetle, which is also Category 1.


Posted by Paul at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2004

New Coho Fry ID'd in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I netted and photographed new fry in Byrne Creek today, and were surprised to see they were coho salmon, about 3.5 - 4cm long.

We first netted and photographed coho fry on March 2 this year, so why are these new babies popping up 2 1/2 months later? Streamkeepers counted only 6 coho spawners last autumn, between Nov. 20 - 29. I suspect this means a few late coho entered the creek in mid to late January, and were not noticed, for we had quit regular spawner patrols at the end of the year.

The other surprise was that we netted them in two places, Tag 518 about midway between the wooden footbridge and the Brynlor stairs, and also between Tags 532/533 way up near the Hell Hole. That likely means coho spawned a lot higher up the creek than we had thought.


Aaiiii! Help! I've been trapped by streamkeepers!

No animals were harmed in taking this photograph -- this little fellow was returned to the creek in good health :-).

Posted by Paul at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2004

Stream of Dreams Receives Environmental Leadership Award

Louise Towell and Joane Carne of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society received the 2004 Environmental Leadership Award tonight at a Burnaby Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission meeting.

The city nominated the society for the award, which comes from the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association.

The award was presented at a BCRPA conference, was accepted on the society's behalf by a Burnaby Parks commission member, and passed on to Joan and Louise tonight.


From left, Louise, Joan and Parks Chair Leslie Roosa.

Posted by Paul at 09:45 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2004

Too Much Burnaby Development?

Several Byrne Creek Streamkeepers showed up for a rezoning meeting at Burnaby City Hall this evening.

There are huge development plans slated for the Marine Way/Byrne Road area, which is already congested.

Many citizens expressed concerns about storm water management, increased traffic flows in an area that already has traffic problems, and the drawing of shoppers away from established town centres.

They questioned the need for yet more malls and big-box stores, accessible mainly by cars, in an area that has few local residents. Why create more traffic flow, more pollution, and more impervious surfaces in an area that used to be a natural bog?

The city has been on a big kick to "revitalize" the Edmonds area, which is a 5-minute drive up the hill from these new developments. Developments which could starve Edmonds Town Centre and a lot of businesses on Kingsway.

I own my own business, we're members of the Board of Trade, I'd place myself slighty to the right of centre in the political world, but I think Burnaby is getting too much "building permit" growth on its brain.

The whole affair tonight had the feel of an act in a play, and I'm sure the development is a done deal. Sad.

Posted by Paul at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2004

Japanese City Councillors Visit Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers hosted a group of seven city councillors from Okayama City in Japan this morning. They were in Vancouver and Burnaby on an unofficial visit and wanted to meet a volunteer group working on environmental issues.

It was interesting to see a group of men in suits with nearly no English-language abilities loosen up and have a great morning with a bunch of T-shirt clad streamkeepers. We are fortunate to count two Japanese volunteers in our group, Maho Hayashi, and my wife Yumi, who helped AK Travel Canada Ltd. owner Masaaki Kawabata interpret throughout the morning.

Our visitors quickly shed their ties as we explored the creek, and initial awkwardness on both sides blossomed into animated exchanges of questions and answers about storm drains vs sanitary sewer systems, flap gates and tides, city contributions and volunteer work, and even some mutual "testing" of playground equipment and a seesaw in Ron McLean park.

We presented our guests with our own brochure, a City of Burnaby storm drains brochure, and a Japanese-language streamkeeping synopsis and history of Byrne Creek prepared by Yumi and Maho.

Louise Towell and Joan Carne, streamkeepers and founders of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, gave each councillor a small dreamfish. We were also pleasantly surprised when they all bought Byrne Creek Streamkeeper T-shirts!

This was the second time that Byrne Creek Streamkeepers have hosted a group from Japan through Masaaki's auspices, and we'd like to thank him.

Posted by Paul at 06:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004

Amazing Fish Website

I just ran across an amazing fish website called FishBase.

Here's the intro blurb on their search page: "28,500 Species, 188,300 Common names, 36,300 Pictures, 33,200 References, 1,090 Collaborators, 9 million hits/month."

I can see myself spending hours on this site :-).

Posted by Paul at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

Released Coho Smolts Die in Byrne Creek

We got an e-mail yesterday from a Burnaby environmental services worker that there were about 250 dead coho smolts in the Byrne Creek sediment pond. My wife Yumi and I called fellow streamkeepers Bert and Bob, and we were all down at the habitat yesterday afternoon.

Yumi and I walked down the ravine, checking the creek along the way, and found one dying coho smolt about 10m d/s of the footbridge.

Good news: We also saw live coho smolts and cuts in some pools, coho fry between the footbridge and the old weir, chum fry below the old weir, lots of chum fry below the new weir, tiny fry (new cuts?) below the new weir.

We counted 254 dead smolts in the sediment pond.

There were also live fry, coho smolts and cuts in the sediment pond, so perhaps the few live coho smolts we saw are indigenous and tougher having grown up in the occasionally polluted water.

Yumi and I then went through the spawning channel. Growth was very thick in places and it was hard to access all portions, but we came up with a total of 32 morts, mostly in the pools.

When we came out the bottom end of the spawning channel, we could see at least 25 morts in the overflow pond, and it would probably be safe to double that figure.

There were three morts visible from Meadow Bridge.

We then ran into Bob, and he joined us in going further downstream. There were four morts u/s of Byrne Bridge, and a crow snagged one of them as we watched, and carried it away.

It was difficult to walk the creek below Byrne due to thick growth. We gave up about two-thirds of the way to Marine Way, as we had not seen any morts. Saw one live small-smolt-sized salmonid in the creek about halfway between Byrne and Marine Way.

So of the several thousand coho smolts schoolchildren released last week, the death toll was:

Conservative total: 315
Probable total: 350
Possible total: 400+

We call this the "first flush" effect. It's the first heavy rain after a fish release that carries all sorts of stuff into the creek from storm drains. Oil and antifreeze from leaking cars, soap from washing cars, pesticides, herbicides, you name it.

If it's not too bad, the native fish survive, however it appears that it doesn't take much to kill hatchery fish that grew up in a pristine environment.

You can see my photos of a first flush in May 2003 here.

Posted by Paul at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2004

Stream of Dreams Places My Mug in the Paper

I spent a couple of days at Marlborough Elementary last week helping to install a new Stream of Dreams art/environmental fence display, and my mug hit the paper.

Louise Towell and Joan Carne, the women who founded and run the Stream of Dreams educational program did most of the work, along with the amazing mothers running the volunteer side. I just showed up to help attach the art with aluminum wire to the chainlink fences around the school under their artistic supervision.

You can see me here :-).

Posted by Paul at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

Rain Brings Heavy Silt Flow to Byrne Creek

Executive Summary: A heavy rain resulted in a silty, dark brown flow in Byrne Creek today, with water visibility in pools down to about 10cm. It looked like a river of chocolate milk.

I called it in to the city. Environmental services officers checked up on it, and advised me that there were similar flows in many Burnaby creeks today, and chalked it up to the rain.

I could see schools of fry swimming at the surface of the sediment pond, and the occasional coho smolt/cutthroat jumper, but no mortalities, so the fish were surviving.

Details: I reached the bottom of the stairs in the ravine in light rain at about 10:35. The water was nearly opaque, with a dark brown flow. At 11:00, still in light rain, the flow out of the culvert under Southridge Dr. into the sediment pond was brown and visibility was nearly zero. Just as I was recording a water-flow gauge reading, the sediment pond began to overflow.


On a good day, the water in the above photo would look crystal clear.

I decided to backtrack. At 12:00 Griffiths Pond near Edmonds Skytrain station was murky and the flow from the fish ladder was very bubbly. At 12:15 Susan's Pond was murky, however the inflow didn't look that bad.

I checked the pipes under Griffiths Ave. and the Edmonds line was dirty as usual, yet the pipe that passes the creek beneath the street was even dirtier. That's when I called it in to the city, and the rain stopped at about the same time.


I returned home and had lunch, and then drove down to the sediment pond, concerned about the smolts schoolkids released into the creek last week. At 1:10 p.m. I couldn't see any mortalities. I saw smolt-sized fish jumping, and fry swimming near the surface, leaving ripples behind their schools.

Levels were down considerably from an hour and a half earlier, with the surface about 12-15cm below overflow. I took another gauge reading.

I walked the spillway and found 4 dead chum fry that had floated over and were trapped when the water receded.

I drove down to the Fraser Foreshore Park to check the outflow, and at 2:30 there was a dark sediment plume extending from the creek, distinctly visible at least 5-7 meters out into the river. There was a lot of stuff going down the creek today!


Posted by Paul at 08:18 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2004

Invasive Turtle

My wife and I finally managed to sneak up and get a good enough angle on the turtle in the overflow pond near the Byrne Creek spawning habitat to identify it as a red-eared slider.

We have a red-eared pet that we got in Japan some seven or eight years ago, and we soon learned they are not native either to Japan, or Canada.

When we moved to Canada in 1999, we had to get an import permit from the Feds, and a possession permit from the BC provincial government. We are not allowed to breed Midori, our pampered princess, nor are we allowed to set her free in the wild.


The above photo shows Midori on my lap a few days ago.

It's sad to see pets discarded, or escaped into the wild. Especially ones that are not native to our area. Nurturing reptiles is a major responsibility, one that we, and obviously many other people, were not aware of when they succumbed to the cute scrambling of baby turtles in some pet shop.

We love Midori, we spend a lot of time on her, and now know that she could live to 30 or even 40 years.

That's a BIG responsibility.

We encourage other potential turtle buyers to think about this. Your initial $10 or $20 investment could result in many years of care....

Whatever you do, please don't dump your reptile (or any other beast) into your local creek or pond. There's a good chance it's not native and could either die, or multiply with drastic consequences to local species.

If you can't handle it, call your local SPCA, Wildlife Rescue, Streamkeeper,
Birding, whatever nature group.

Someone will know of a better option. :-)

Posted by Paul at 08:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2004

Blog Consumed by Streamkeeping!

When I started this blog in January 2004, I wondered how it would develop. Should I start separate blogs for different topics, or rely on categories to keep things organized?

Recently, the bulk of my posts have stemmed from volunteering with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, and, since I joined the board, the Stream of Dreams Murals Society.

That's fine, however I want to continue commenting on other topics as well.

It's interesting how the blogging process plays out. It tells you what you're interested in and where you are investing your time.

Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM | Comments (1)

May 06, 2004

Are People Really Reading This?

According to 1&1, the hosting provider that this blog resides on, I received over 140 unique visitors yesterday.

It was the first time I had bothered to check the stats, and I was astounded.

Yeah, I know, that's a tiny figure, yet it's far beyond my expectations of my wife, my mother, and a few friends :-).

Posted by Paul at 08:19 PM | Comments (2)

Goshawks Nest In Byrne Creek Ravine Park

Northern goshawks are nesting in Byrne Creek Ravine Park in Burnaby, likely of the "regionally important" yellow-listed subspecies.

My wife and I first noticed them a couple of weeks ago, when we saw one sitting about 20m up in a tree tearing apart a midsize bird and eating it. A second one flew by every few minutes to try to grab a bite, only to be fended off.

We noticed one of them flying to a large nest about 20m off a major path. A few days later we went out to check on the nest, and as we were standing there we suddenly heard a hawk cry, and within seconds noticed one circling way above us.

We decided it would be best to move on, and were glad we did, for the second bird suddenly appeared, zooming by at tree-top level. They can be very aggressive in protecting their territory!

Later that same day we saw one of the goshawks drive off an eagle that was circling above the park.

Today we walked down to the nest again. Just a few seconds after we stopped and raised our binoculars, I heard a hawk cry. Looking up, we saw one circling, and felt the hair rise on our necks as we sensed the second nearby.

We quickly trotted down the path to put some distance between us and the nest.

It appears the goshawks do not feel threatened as long as people using the path keep moving. But if you stop and stare at the nest, they respond immediately.

It's exhilarating to have such wildlife in an urban area!

There is more info on goshawks in BC here.

Posted by Paul at 07:18 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2004

Students Release Coho in Byrne Creek

A grade 2 class from Stride Elementary in Burnaby led by Ms. Alesi released coho smolts into Byrne Creek today with the assistance of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

The plucky 7 and 8-year olds walked all the way down the south slope to the ravine, made multiple trips up and down from the DFO fish truck parked beside Southridge Drive to the creek, and then marched all the way back up the hill again. Way to go, kids!

The smolts came from Bell-Irving Hatchery at Kanaka Creek.

Thanks to the parent volunteers; John, Jane, Bert, Bob, and Yumi from the streamkeepers; Chris and Yota from Burnaby environmental, and Maurice from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Posted by Paul at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2004

Marlborough Stream of Dreams Up

It's up! Over 1,000 fish, and wetland plants and animals.


I spent a second day at Marlborough Elementary helping to install a new Stream of Dreams art/environmental fence display.

I admire the fortitude and stamina of all of the parent volunteers who "twisted" the fish onto the fences. I couldn't believe how many unused muscles I rediscovered working on this project :-). Each piece takes anywhere from one to three, or occasionally even five or six, aluminum wire ties to secure to the fence.

Those ties have to be wound up tight, and crimped so they don't stick out and possibly injure anyone.

This was my first Steam of Dreams installation, however I suspect it's not my last....


Posted by Paul at 07:48 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

Streamkeeping, Stream of Dreams Keep Us Hopping

Whew! It's been a busy few days.

Saturday Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were at the Noons Creek Fingerling Festiveal most of the day. The crowds were a bit thin, but we used the time to our advantage, working on a report on the state of the creek, and planning for the Ugly Bug Ball sponsored by Department of Fisheries and Oceans Community Advisors for streamkeeping volunteers

Sunday evening there was a Stream of Dreams Murals Society board meeting, and then my wife and I spent today helping attach dreamfish to the fence around Marlborough Elementary in Burnaby.

I guess I'll just have to get up earlier in the day to keep this blog going!

Posted by Paul at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)