November 27, 2004

Safeway Kicks Off Fundraising for Stream of Dreams

The Safeway store on the corner of Kingsway and Royal Oak in Burnaby has decided to make the Stream of Dreams Murals Society its fundraising beneficiary for the 2004-05 year.

Today was the official fundraising kickoff, and nearly a dozen SDMS board members, staff and volunteers helped Safeway employees tell customers about the initiative from 10:00 - 5:00.

We had a display set up and served wild pink salmon on crackers.


Every now and then, a few of us would wander through the store carrying fish on sticks. Here are (L-R) Jane, Joan and Louise by the seafood special :-).


I would like to thank the staff at Safeway for choosing our project! I look forward to working with everyone over the next year. Your assistance is greatly appreciated in helping our society achieve its mission of educating communities about their watersheds, rivers and streams, while dazzling them with the charm of community art.

Posted by Paul at 06:36 PM

Edmonds Santa Parade

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers took part in the 2nd annual Burnaby Edmonds Lions Santa Claus Parade this morning.


It was foggy and cool, however we all had a great time. We marched along yelling "Co ho ho, Merry Fishmas!" while waving fish on sticks. Every now and then some of the marchers would break into a circling trot, shouting "Salmon run! Salmon run!"

This year we added a float.


My wife Yumi brought up the rear carrying her fish lanterns, assisted by Rob.


Posted by Paul at 06:21 PM

November 25, 2004

How Do You Count Fish?

When we talk to people about streamkeeping, and in particular monitoring salmon that return to spawn in Byrne Creek, a common question that arises is: "How the heck do you count fish in the creek? How do you know you're not counting the same ones over and over again?"

I usually start off my reply by saying that we can recognize individual fish -- that sets the hook as people stare at me in disbelief. OK, I'll explain how we really do it, however sadly it is true that we can sometimes recognize fish from day to day.

I say sadly, because Byrne Creek is still recovering from a toxic spill several years ago that entered a storm drain and killed everything in the creek, and is constantly battling the pressures of existing in an urban environment. So far the most spawning salmon streamkeepers have seen return in one year was 72 in 2002. So yes, we do occasionally recognize individual fish from day to day, particularly if they have some distinctive marking or injury.

But back to how we really count fish.

Salmon die after they spawn, so we find their carcasses. Of course a few get washed away, a few get buried in silt, and a few are dragged off into the bush by coyotes and raccoons, but we patrol often enough that we likely spot over 95% of the "morts," or dead fish.

When we find dead spawners, we measure them, cut them open to confirm sex and see if they have spawned, and -- here is the key point -- we cut the bodies in half so we do not double count. We return the processed carcasses to the creek where they provide nutrients and food for other animals.

So, particularly in a situation like ours where we are dealing with at most a hundred or so fish -- and we hope several hundred in future years -- we get pretty accurate counts.

"But on your website you have counts for 'spotted' and 'processed.' How does that work?"

That's also quite simple. There are distinct areas in the creek, such as the artificial spawning habitat, the sediment pond, spans between bridges, culverts, etc., in which it is fairly easy to spot fish and count them, especially if you have at least two sets of eyes at work. We patrol in an upstream direction, because it is much more likely for a spooked fish to run downstream than up.

Initially the "spotted" count is likely not that accurate, however our data starts to firm up over time as the salmon spawn and begin to die.

Eventually we can simply add live fish spotted during a patrol to the total of dead fish processed to get a "spotted" total. And so far the "spotted" totals and the "processed" totals over the years have been very close when the spawning season ends, though we know that we don't find and process every dead spawner.

Posted by Paul at 07:18 PM

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.11.25

By chance Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Bob, Rusty, Yumi and I all converged on the habitat at the same time today under clear blue skies. Yumi and I usually patrol on Wednesdays, however it was raining and the water was too high and murky yesterday to see much.

We saw 3 live spawners and processed 1 dead coho.


Area covered: Marine Way (Tag 505) to bottom of ravine stairs (Tag 521). The water was still quite high, with the sediment pond still overflowing at 1:30. Visibility was marginal in the sediment pond, poor in the habitat, and fair in the creek.

1 dead coho, E-T 53cm N-F 67cm, all fins, male, partly spawned, in the sediment pond (Tag 514).

2 live spawners in the sediment pond, likely coho. Could have been more but difficult to see.

1 live coho, likely female, at the slide in the ravine, about 15m d/s of Tag 517.

We did not notice any new redds, or nests of salmon eggs.

Posted by Paul at 07:10 PM

November 24, 2004

Young Naturalists Tour Byrne Creek

Joan, Yumi and I took a group of young naturalists on a tour of Byrne Creek Wednesday afternoon. The projected group of a dozen dwindled to five boys and two mothers -- perhaps the cold, steady rain had something to with it :-).

The ones who did show up were game though, and spent over an hour touring the ravine and artificial spawning/rearing habitat. We even managed to spot one salmon that had returned to spawn, though the water was high and murky.

They asked a lot of questions and it was fun leading them around the creek.

Posted by Paul at 03:02 PM

November 22, 2004

Smooth Strata AGM

We had the Annual General Meeting for our strata corporation this evening, and as the outgoing president I was pleased that it went quite smoothly, considering that the owners were facing their first increase in fees in many years.

They accepted the budget, with its 4.7% increase, acknowledging that projections showed that the complex would be facing increasing costs in the future as it ages.

The issue that got the most heated attention was the perennial strata problem of parking. All of the lanes in our townhouse complex are designated fire lanes with no parking at any time. Yet there are vehicles parked on them nearly every evening, and things get particularly bad on Friday and Saturday nights. So far we have not towed anyone, preferring a nonconfrontational approach of warning letters. However, owners at the meeting wanted to crack down.

The other issue is owners using visitor parking, which is against the rules. There are several people who are doing this regularly, and again while we've been trying to handle this with warning letters and fines, owners want to put an end to it, and that may entail some towing.

I'm back on council for the coming year, and I'm sure it will be an interesting one!

Posted by Paul at 10:46 PM

November 18, 2004

Dr. Kees Groot on Migration, Orientation, and Navigation of Salmon

Dr. Kees Groot spoke on the Migration, Orientation, and Navigation of Pacific Salmon at an event sponsored by the West Vancouver Streamkeepers Society and the North Shore Streamkeepers this evening.

He is an excellent speaker and enthralled the audience with tales of his experiments that led to several discoveries about salmon migration. The variety of indicators the fish use to travel is amazing, raning from the sun, the moon and stars, the earth's magnetic field, smell etc.

What is also amazing is how closely timed the migrations are. Salmon born in fresh water migrate to the ocean and head straight out as far as 3,500km at a rate of 40km/day until they reach their ranges. Then several years later, they come back to the exact place they were born.

There is much more to the story of how they navigate, but suffice it to say that if you ever have a chance to hear Groot speak, go for it.

Posted by Paul at 10:26 PM

November 17, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.11.17

Here are our Byrne Creek Streamkeeper official spawner patrol results.

We have seen enough fish to pass last year's total!
There is a coho redd in the spawning channel near Tag 510!

Processed 3 dead chum today, for a total of 60 chum processed, and 2 coho processed, for a grand total of 62 spawners processed.

Live fish seen today: 4 coho, 3 chum.

So that's at least 69 spawners in Byrne Creek this year.

Area covered: Meadow Bridge (below Tag 508) to bottom of ravine stairs (Tag 521). Clear skies, water visibility excellent.

Mort Details:

1 dead chum, E-T 55cm N-F 63cm, all fins, female, spawned, right at Tag 512 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 58cm N-F 70cm, all fins, male, spawned, right at Tag 513 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 56cm N-F 66cm, all fins, female, spawned, Sediment Pond (Tag 514).

Live Details:

2 coho, male and female, hanging around near a gorgeous redd 3m d/s of Tag 510 in the habitat spawning channel. They have cleaned a beautiful patch, just hope it is not in vain if it gets totally buried by sediment.... They are the first spawners we've seen using the habitat in a couple of years.

We'll have to monitor this area in the spring and see if we spot any fry. We noticed the redd and then saw water move *upstream* as the fish skedaddled. We quietly observed the pool at Tag 510 for awhile and they were hiding under/behind one of the stumps. Saw a small coho, likely female, dart in and out several times, and a much larger coho, likely male, once.

2 coho in the Sediment Pond, judging from size another male/female pair.
3 chum in the Sediment Pond.

Thought we might have heard something in the Southridge culvert, but no visual confirmation. Didn't see or smell anything (aside from previous morts) in the ravine.

P.S. For bird lovers, we saw two small accipiters, likely either sharp-shinned hawks or Cooper's hawks in the habitat. The sun was behind them, so we couldn't identify them positively, however when they flushed, they definitely had the long tail-to-body ratio of accipiters.

Posted by Paul at 07:41 PM

November 15, 2004

Extra Attic Insulation Has Immediate Benefits

Over the last two days we added an extra R20 of insulation to our attic, bringing it up to a total of about R40. In the process we discovered that one area in the attic had been completely bare.

There have been immediate results. There used to be a temperature differential between the main floor and the top floor of 3-4C, and now it is only 1C. That makes for a huge difference, because while the basement and main floor use forced air, the upstairs has expensive electrical heat.

We've also noticed that the furnace is working much less, easily maintaining 20C with only a few minutes of heating every few hours.

Posted by Paul at 09:15 PM

November 14, 2004

Adding Attic Insulation

Heading into our fourth winter in our townhouse, my wife Yumi finally convinced me that we had to add insulation in our attic. I hate working up there -- it's dark, cramped, dusty, and potentially dangerous. However, our top floor is heated by electricity, and poor Yumi was freezing in her office as she disliked the cost of electric heat.

Our attic had about 15cm of blown cellulose insulation, which works out to about R20, when new homes in cold climates should have as much as R50. It rarely gets below freezing here in Burnaby, but R20 is on the low side.

After exploring several websites, we decided to add a layer of R20 fiberglass batts.

I figured we needed about 675 square feet of coverage, which works out to 9 bags of R20 23-inch batts. We decided to start with 5 bags, which proved to be a wise decision, as even with the back seats down we barely squeezed 4 bags into our Subaru Outback, and tied the fifth onto the roof rack.

We also bought a respirator and some high-quality disposable masks, along with safety goggles.

We ran a halogen work lamp up the hatch, and hauled several 2 X 8s and 2 X 6s up and laid them out to provide walkways. Boosting the bags of batts up was a chore, as they barely fit through the hatch.

We then got to work, starting at the far end. Of course there was an obstacle course of awkward framing to wiggle through. Yumi opened up bags and passed me batts that I laid in place, being careful not to cover the soffit vents.

I have a low melting point, and even though the temperature in the attic was around 7C, I was soon sweating profusely, and my goggles began fogging up. I soon discarded them, trading off itchy eyes for any sight at all. Then my respirator began filling up with sweat and slipping around on my face -- what fun!

When I reached the area above Yumi's office, I was astounded to discover there was no insulation at all above part of her room! No wonder her office was frigid. The bay windows had been repaired some time in the past, and apparently the workers never bothered to replace the insulation above them.

We got nearly half the attic done today, and it already feels a bit warmer on the top floor. My thighs and lower back are stiffening up from all the squatting and crawling around, but Yumi is happy :-).

Posted by Paul at 06:24 PM

November 10, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.11.10

Yumi and I patrol Byrne Creek every Wednesday to find spawning salmon. Today's bottom line: 10 dead chum processed, 3 live chum seen, 1 dead cutthroat processed.

The details:

Area covered: John Mathews confluence (Tag 506) to bottom of ravine stairs (Tag 521)
Started at 10:00 a.m. overcast and foggy, cleared steadily as the day went on.

1 dead chum, E-T 56cm N-F est. 67cm (nose partly gone), likely female, internal organs all eaten, 10m d/s of Byrne Bridge, Tag 507.

1 dead chum, E-T 61cm N-F 73cm, all fins, female, spawned, right below lower side of Byrne Bridge, Tag 507.

1 dead chum, E-T 57cm N-F 65cm, all fins, female, spawned with a few dozen eggs left, 8m u/s of Tag 510 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 54cm N-F 63cm, all fins, female, spawned with a couple of eggs left, 3m d/s of Tag 512 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 58cm N-F 68cm, all fins, female, spawned, 3m u/s Tag 513 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 55cm N-F 66cm, all fins, male, spawned, 3m u/s of stop log at the upper end of the Sediment Pond, Tag 514.

1 dead chum, E-T 57cm N-F 69cm, all fins, male, spawned, in pool right below the stop log at the upper end of the Sediment Pond, Tag 514.

We took the two above fish and planted them in the ravine between Tags 517 and 519.

1 dead chum, E-T 59cm N-F 73cm, all fins, male, spawned, 30m d/s of the footbridge, Tag 516, in the ravine.

1 dead chum, E-T 65cm N-F 80cm, all fins, male, spawned, 10m u/s of Tag 517 in the ravine.

1 dead chum, E-T 59cm N-F 69cm, all fins, female, mostly spawned with a few hundred eggs left, right at Tag 520 in the ravine.

3 live chum in the Sediment Pond

I believe that brings the total number of chum confirmed to 47 and sighted to 50.

We could not find the female coho that had been hanging around the slide. Her time is probably about up, and there was a strong fishy smell just d/s of the footbridge, but we couldn't find anything in that area.

We found 1 dead cutthroat about 65m d/s of Byrne Bridge. N-F 38cm, male. He had a stab wound in his side, likely a heron, though I wonder if a heron could swallow a fish that big!

Posted by Paul at 07:24 PM

November 08, 2004

Burnaby RCMP Southeast District Commander Tours Byrne Creek

Yumi and I had the pleasure of giving the new commander of the Southeast Burnaby District a tour of Byrne Creek today.

RCMP Staff Sergeant John Buis took a couple of hours out of his busy schedule to learn about how the revitalized creek, streamkeeper volunteers and the Stream of Dreams Murals Society are a powerful source of hope and positive energy in a troubled neighbourhood.

We processed two chum salmon that had spawned and died, talked about what streamkeepers do, and what some of our concerns are. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day, perfect for a walk in the ravine.

A theme that popped up was "focusing on the positive." We have a wild and crazy streamkeeping group that firmly believes in having fun. There is enough doom and gloom in the world!

It will take time to resolve some of the problems that plague the Edmonds area where Byrne Creek's headwaters are, however I am very happy that the RCMP is taking the time to learn about community groups such as the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

Thanks for sharing your time with us today John!

Posted by Paul at 07:05 PM

November 05, 2004

Evergreen Urban Biodiversity Meeting

I attended the Evergreen Urban Biodiversity and Restoration panel tonight at UBC Robson Square in Vancouver.

It was sponsored by Evergreen.

The main speaker was Mike Houck, Director, Urban Green Spaces Institute and a naturalist with the Audubon Society of Portland. He talked about creating coalitions between groups to protect and enhance urban nature. He was a very dynamic and interesting speaker.

By changing city planning etc., the population of Portland grew by 31% from 1990-2000, yet land use increased only 3%. Houck talked about the importance of mapping, and how people love to see where they live in relation to pockets of nature on maps. Some of the groups he works with have developed databases of where concerned people live, so that they can call up hundreds of bodies for specific city/county hearings -- a neat idea. He said getting different NGOs trusting each other and working together (say housing + environmental) had a huge impact on elected officials who usually try to turn groups against each other.

Houck also mentioned how for decades the Portland Parks Department had basically viewed everything as recreation, yet it recently created an Ecosystem Management division.

A few related sites:

FAUNA, Friends and Advocates of Urban Natural Areas

Coalition for a Sustainable Future

The Ecological Cities Project

The Green Streets Handbook

Chicago Wilderness

Other speakers included Susan Haid from the GVRD who spoke about its
Biodiversity Conservation Strategy

And Patrick Lucey of Aqua-Tex Scientific Consulting who spoke about urban stream assessment and restoration, and stormwater management.

All of the speakers were very good, including Denise Philippe from Evergreen.

There was not much time for comments/questions from the audience, and unfortunately several of those who did get to speak were of the "doom and gloom" sort, seething with barely controlled rage. C'mon people, lighten up!

Posted by Paul at 11:05 PM

November 04, 2004

Stream of Dreams Wins Burnaby Award

I am pleased to announce that the Stream of Dreams Murals Society won the Community Service Award tonight at the Burnaby Board of Trade Business Excellence Awards Gala!

In his welcoming speech, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan also singled out Stream of Dreams for winning the Gold Canadian Environment Award for Education this year. Stream of Dreams founders Joan Carne, Louise Towell and I spoke to the mayor after the event and he appeared genuinely pleased with the success of our program.

Our society got plenty of publicity in front of over 400 members of the lower mainland business and charity community tonight.

Posted by Paul at 10:35 PM

November 03, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.11.03

Area covered: Byrne Bridge (Tag 507) to bottom of ravine stairs (Tag 521).
Sunny with scattered clouds, mid-afternoon.

Saw 24 live salmon, 23 chum and 1 coho.

Processed 6 dead chum.


1 dead chum, female, E-T 51cm, nose eaten away N-F likely around 61cm. No eggs, save for some teeny undeveloped ones in sacs. Severely abraded tail and anal fin, so she'd been working hard. Just u/s of Meadow Bridge, halfway between tags 507 and 508. Could not do complete fin count, as top part of tail also eaten.

1 dead chum, male, E-T 56cm N-F 68cm. All fins. Partly spawned (one sac emptied). Tag 508 in the spawning channel.

1 dead chum, male, E-T 59cm N-F 73cm. All fins. Spawned. Tag 509 in the spawning channel.

1 dead chum, female, E-T 55cm N-F 65cm. All fins. A few eggs, also undeveloped ones still in sacs. Tag 510 in the spawning channel.

1 dead chum, female, E-T 60cm N-F 69cm. All fins. 1 normal egg inside plus some undeveloped still in sacs. In the SedPond, Tag 514.

1 dead chum, male, E-T 60cm, N-F 75cm. All fins. Spawned. In the SedPond, Tag 514.

Live fish:

1 chum d/s of Meadow Bridge. Getting weak.

17 live chum in the SedPond and at the lower end of the Southridge culvert. Mix of oldies and newcomers.

2 live fish 15m d/s of Tag 517 in the ravine at lower end of slide. 1 was a coho, likely female. She had what looked like a small bite taken out of the back of her neck. This is the "mystery" silver-coloured fish we saw yesterday. Today she was taking on coho colours. The other fish was larger and a couple of meters downstream of the coho. It was near a deep pool and was hard to see. At first we though it may be a male coho, however we eventually thought we could see vertical patterns like a male chum. Time will tell....

Other streamkeepers say they saw a coho in the above area today, however they didn't notice a bite mark on the neck, so there could well be another coho.

2 live chum 15m u/s of Tag 517. This is the couple we saw yesterday. They appeared to be done spawning and were hanging around protecting their redd.

2 live chum 15m u/s of Tag 521 at the bottom of the ravine stairs. We first saw them there yesterday, and they were still actively spawning. Lots of splashing. They've been a big hit with several passersby when we point them out.

Posted by Paul at 08:01 PM