June 02, 2014

Nature Photos Near Parksville, Coming Home from SEHAB Meeting

After the SEHAB meeting, I took a few hours to do some shooting around Parksville, including the beaches and Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. I then caught an evening ferry back to the mainland.

Beaches north of Parksville




Englishman River Falls Provincial Park







On the ferry heading home









Posted by Paul at 03:01 PM

May 28, 2014

Sockeye to ‘Overwhelm’ Fraser River? Yeah, right… NOT

Whenever I see headlines like "Projected Sockeye Run Could Overwhelm Fraser River" I shudder and shake my head. Ain't no such thing. This is the "human management mind" in action.

Damn, we may not be able to freeze, can, smoke them all.

What crap.

Why the hell should we freeze, can, smoke them all?

Were sockeye runs "overwhelming" the Fraser River 100 years ago? No. 200 years ago? No. For the last century, or more, it's been humans overwhelming the sockeye, and other salmon runs.

Let's celebrate massive returns of sockeye. Let's fish them for First Nations, let's fish them commercially, let's allow sport fishers at them, too.

But we also have to let them spawn and die. Let's allow their decaying carcasses to enrich our rivers and streams, and feed wildlife other than our selfish human selves, and enrich forests, and meadows, and marshes.. 

Posted by Paul at 09:36 PM

May 24, 2014

Katzie Slough Tour in Pitt Meadows, BC

Took part in an interesting tour of Katzie Slough in Pitt Meadows, BC, today. Some history, some watershed lore, some personal recollections, and fighting the good fight to preserve and enhance urban biodiversity. Thanks to Watershed Watch Salmon Society organizer Lina Azeez and tour leader Scott Magri.

I have an album of tour photos on Flickr available here.

Posted by Paul at 09:32 PM

May 21, 2014

Leafy Byrne Creek Ravine Park

On today's photo ramble I kept a 70 - 300mm zoom on my Nikon DSLR (105 - 450 mm equivalent), and concentrated on isolating leaves in the forest.











Posted by Paul at 07:40 PM

Birds, Bugs, and Bees on Byrne Creek Walk

My circumnavigation of the Byrne Creek trail in SE Burnaby this afternoon produced several animal photos.


This pileated woodpecker was using the metal top of this light standard to drum up
a girlfriend and/or warn off territorial encroachers.


More and more millipedes are steadily appearing in the 'hood. An inquisitive ant circled
this one several times before finally giving up and leaving.


Bumblebee hanging out on the job.


A brace of bees a'buzzing.

Posted by Paul at 07:26 PM

May 20, 2014

Young Mallards Eat Dead ‘First-Flush’ Coho Smolts on Byrne Creek

Unfortunately we had yet another "first-flush" kill of juvenile coho smolts on the creek in SE Burnaby, BC, over the last day. Whenever we release hatchery coho smolts, we're always on edge, hoping there is no rain for a week or so following. That's because the first rain after release that washes all the crap off our roads and into the creek tends to kills a significant proportion of the newly released fish. Indigenous coho and trout appear to survive just fine, so it seems to be an acclimatization issue with a certain proportion of the hatchery fish. Today I counted 40 dead smolts following yesterday's shower. That's not bad -- in previous years we've enumerated as many as 400-500 morts. This year's batch had six days to acclimatize and start moving downstream before the first flush of accumulated pollutants such as gas, oil, antifreeze, brake-lining dust, pesticides, and whatever other toxins that make it onto our urban streets.

I should point out that I also saw lots of live fish ranging from fry to smolts, so they are likely coho and cutthroat trout that hatch and and are resident in the creek.

byrne_creek_coho_smolt_first_flush_kill_1 _20140520

On happier note, in contrast to the dead "first-flush" coho juveniles, I was pleased to see that the mom mallard and ducklings that have been hanging around the Byrne Creek habitat seem to be doing well. She still has six ducklings, and they're getting to be of a size where predation is gradually becoming less of a worry. I dunno about the little ones, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mom hasn't scarfed a good feeding of dead coho smolts. Yes, I've seen mallards eat dead smolts before.



And then, as I was going through my photos, I noticed something dangling from a duckling's mouth. I did a massive crop on the photo, and yep, even the ducklings are scarfing the dead coho yearlings!


Posted by Paul at 02:32 PM

May 18, 2014

Tiny Fry Spotted in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

Yumi and I saw two distinct size groupings of fry in Byrne Creek on a walk today. There were dozens in the 5 - 7 cm range, and then there were a few smaller ones in the 3 - 4 cm range. I would guess that the larger ones are salmon, likely coho by appearance, and the smaller ones may be cutthroat trout, since the salmon spawn Oct - Dec and the trout spawn Feb - May. Incubation time for trout is 6 - 7 weeks, so that would be about right if they spawned a couple of months ago.

Here's a shot of one of the smaller ones:


Posted by Paul at 06:26 PM

May 15, 2014

Touring Students on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

I led three tours of art students from Byrne Creek Secondary in SE Burnaby today over to Byrne Creek. We didn't have oodles of time per tour, but we spent time at Griffiths Pond looking at the fish ladder and talking about streamkeeper activities, and then went over to the old homestead and talked invasive plants, etc. It was a great day, almost verging toward too warm. But I got my exercise walking back and forth three times : -).


Talking about the Stream of Dreams installation on the Skytrain pedestrian overpass near
Edmonds Station.


Scrambling down to Griffiths Pond to view the fish ladder and talk streamkeeping.


Posing for photos near the old homestead. Kids click everything and everywhere
these days!

Posted by Paul at 03:34 PM

May 14, 2014

Manning Park Beasts and Birds

Saw mammals large and small at Manning Provincial Park. I stayed in the car for the bear photos. The ground squirrels were way more aggressive, because they expect a constant flow of handouts. Not from me, though.


Black bear


Black bear butt - this is the end that you want to see moving away from you,
particularly if you're not in your car


Too darn cute for their own health!




A turkey vulture on the prowl.

Posted by Paul at 07:38 PM

This butterfly/moth has both camo and party modes

Not sure if this is a butterfly or a moth, but it's very cool. When its wings are spread it's vivid orange with black spots and trim, and when it closes them, it blends right into the ground.



Posted by Paul at 07:13 PM

May 07, 2014

South Burnaby Photo Ramble

I took a walk down Byrne Creek Ravine in SE Burnaby this afternoon to enjoy the sunshine. I didn't feel like lugging my DSLR gear, but ended up taking lots of shots with my pocketable Canon Elph 520HS.






Salmon fry - possibly chum released last week with schoolkids






A tree-climbing snail. At certain times of the year you see lots of snails climbing
trees in Byrne Creek Ravine Park.

Posted by Paul at 04:37 PM

Fisheries Protection Program Presentation in Parksville, BC, May 30

The Salmon Enhancement & Habitat Advisory Board will host a Friday Night Forum in Parksville, BC, on May 30, on the new Fisheries Protection Program.

Please plan to attend a presentation on the Fisheries Protection Program being held in Parksville on May 30th 2014 at 7:00 pm. We are very pleased that DFO's Adam Silverstein is able to come out to present at this focused meeting.  The Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board (SEHAB) is hosting this evening event as a part of our ongoing Friday Night Forums series.


We are hoping you and members of your organization can make it out to hear Adam, in an informal setting. Adam has been firmly engaged in SEP over the years and is well versed in your efforts. He is supportive of community, salmon and salmon habitat and will be providing an overview of the changes to the act, the policy and the program.

Fisheries Protection Program Presentation

Friday May 30th, 2014
7:00 - 10:00 pm

Light refreshments will be served

Parksville Civic & Technology Centre

132 E Jensen,
Parksville, BC

If you can please RSVP to info@SEHAB.org so we can plan the refreshments, chairs etc. BUT if you find yourself able to attend last minute please come even if you hadn't sent an RSVP. This is an important topic and DFO staff is stretched as you can imagine.

Posted by Paul at 11:55 AM

April 27, 2014

Lovely Walk Along Spanish Banks, Vancouver

Yumi and I took advantage of the sunshine to take a walk along Spanish Banks beach in Vancouver today.



















Posted by Paul at 06:10 PM

April 24, 2014

Wild Salmon Appear to Come Last in DFO Mission Statement

Hmm, was reading the Department of Fisheries and Oceans "Mission, Vision and Values" webpage today and found that

The Department:

supports strong economic growth in our marine and fisheries sectors by supporting exports and advancing safe maritime trade;

supports innovation through research in expanding sectors such as aquaculture and biotechnology; and

contributes to a clean and healthy environment and sustainable aquatic ecosystems through habitat protection, oceans management, and ecosystems research

So where would wild Pacific salmon fit on that list, which I presume is prioritized? Wild fish appear to come dead, no pun intended, last. . .

Posted by Paul at 01:10 PM

April 22, 2014

CamRanger Arrived Today

I ordered a CamRanger wireless camera control unit a week or so ago, and it arrived today. Too late to play with it, just plug in the battery and get it charged up for upcoming adventures.

What's a CamRanger?

It's a small wireless device that plugs into many models of Nikon and Canon DSLRs, and enables remote control of most camera functions via a smartphone or tablet. Cool!

It's been highly recommended by several photo mags for closeup and nature photography.

It also functions as an intervalometer, so it will be fun to play with blossoming flowers, growing plants, etc.

Posted by Paul at 09:13 PM

April 14, 2014

Byrne Creek Fish Trapping Results Best Ever

Volunteers with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers in SE Burnaby trap fish twice a year to see what's living in the creek. Please note that this trapping is done with the permission of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and all fish are released unharmed.

The trapping this year was done over the April 12 - 13 weekend. Streamkeepers were happy to enumerate a record number of fish in 12 traps: 87 juvenile fish in total, with 82 cutthroat trout and 5 coho. All traps in the 12 locations had fish.

This is great news, for Byrne Creek has seen many fish kills over the years from pollutants entering storm drains. Fortunately, we haven't had a kill for several years now, knock on wood, and these results bear that out.

Posted by Paul at 06:40 PM

March 27, 2014

DFO Study Shows Habitat Compensation is Lagging Badly

The link below leads to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans report (PDF) that basically says that habitat compensation is not working as it should. According to the abstract:

  • No net loss of habitat isn't working
  • Critical and important habitats are affected the most
  • DFO needs to better address "proponent non-compliance"
  • DFO needs to "incorporate science-based monitoring"

And this was published in 2012, before the watering down of the Fisheries Act and accompanying regulations. Before the shutting of habitat offices and decimation of science staff.

Thanks to a fellow SEHAB board member for this lead.

Posted by Paul at 05:01 PM | TrackBack

Welcoming Edmonds Town Centre Redevelopment in Burnaby

I don't know how often watershed stewards welcome development, but as a volunteer streamkeeper I'm looking forward to some major redevelopment in the upper Edmonds area of Burnaby that impacts Byrne Creek.

Why am I excited? Because two huge areas -- the former Safeway distribution/warehousing site, and the present Value Village site -- are presently nearly 100% impervious. They are basically asphalt or concrete from corner to corner. Impervious areas are bad for urban creeks and watersheds because any rain that falls on them shoots directly into drains and into the creek. These massive flows cause erosion, and carry pollutants into the waterways.

Urban watersheds are much healthier when rain is allowed to percolate into the ground, where it is naturally filtered and passes slowly into creeks as ground water.

So I figure that with 2010s standards and best management practices, as opposed to 100% impervious 1950s and 60s standards, things can only improve.

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society has been appearing at development open houses and forums, and we've made great contacts with the developers, not to mention our long-standing ongoing relationships with the City of Burnaby Planning and Engineering Departments. With everyone working together, I think we will see some fantastic, creek-friendly amenities happening along with the planned developments.

I'm excited about the opportunities that may include "daylighting" or opening up some of the upper creek where it was piped decades ago, and other potential benefits such as rain gardens, roadside swales, infiltration ponds and galleries, etc. These would not only be beneficial to the health of the creek, they would also provide beautification that would positively impact property values. Win - win, eh?

Posted by Paul at 03:59 PM

March 22, 2014

Evergreen Urban Watersheds Forum

Enjoyed the Evergreen Urban Watersheds Forum and Field Trip the last two days.

Day one was in downtown Vancouver. There were short, inspirational presentations from several stewardship groups, lots of organized activities ranging from strengths/weaknesses analyses to brainstorming on how urban watersheds could look 50 years from now and what would it take to get there. Also great networking. I had a great time chatting with folks from many stewardship groups.

Today there was a field trip to visit a couple of sites on the North Shore:

Dr. Ken Ashley from BCIT presenting estuary restoration work being done in McKay Creek in City of NorthVan http://t.co/6khKyQ81EX

Forum field trip today at Creekway Park with biologist Nick Page from Van Park Board http://t.co/YOYslrdhpJ

Note: the above two links and photos courtesy of the Evergreen BC Twitter feed.

Some info on the program and list of participants here:


Posted by Paul at 04:38 PM | TrackBack

March 14, 2014

Burnaby Posts Impressive Public Engagement Schedule for Enviro Strategy

The City of Burnaby has had an Environmental Sustainability Strategy underway for some time now, to supplement the Social and Economic Sustainability Plans that it has produced over the last few years. I was named to the Steering Committee, and have greatly enjoyed the process, ably facilitated by well-organized Burnaby staff and consultants.

The other day I noticed that that an impressive list of public engagement events has been posted to the ESS website. With such a wide variety of venues over so many days, there's no excuse for citizens to say they aren't being consulted. Make your voice heard!

Check out the engagement opportunities here.

Posted by Paul at 07:43 PM

February 25, 2014

Snowy Photo Ramble in Ron McLean Park, Byrne Creek

I took a 1-1/2 hour walk through the snow this afternoon in SE Burnaby. Lovely day!

Photos here.

Posted by Paul at 08:37 PM

February 06, 2014

Run of River Studies

I recently ran across a press release by the Wilderness Committee highlighting that the State of California has excluded British Columbia run-of-river (ROR) hydro projects as qualifying under its environmental standards:

"On January 15th, 2014, the California Energy Commission adopted a final report that excludes private run-of-river hydro projects in BC from the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Basically, the report confirms what we have known all along: that BC river diversion projects don’t meet California’s environmental standards when it comes to producing electricity, because of British Columbia’s lax environmental laws and the significant impacts the projects have on our rivers, streams and fish."


There have also been a couple of other ROR reports released recently.

A review done by the Pacific Salmon Foundation (download PDF).

And a review by Watershed Watch Salmon Society (download PDF).

Trying to sort it all out, but my gut tells me ROR is death by a thousand cuts.

Posted by Paul at 02:13 PM

January 03, 2014

Landscapes, Birds along Fraser Foreshore Park in Burnaby

Been fighting a bad cold for nearly a week, and finally felt good enough to get out and walk the cameras in the rare west coast sunshine this afternoon. Created two Flicker sets:




Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM

December 26, 2013

Gulls Chow Down on Salmon at Tenderfoot Hatchery

Yumi and I celebrated Boxing Day by driving up to Squamish BC to look for eagles and spawning salmon. Saw only a couple of eagles, but there were hordes of gulls chowing down on expired salmon that had returned to spawn near the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery.

On our way back home we stopped and explored some of the Squamish estuary.

Posted by Paul at 06:25 PM

December 24, 2013

Pre-Xmas Walk Around Icy Rice Lake

Yumi and I took a walk around a frozen Rice Lake in North Vancouver today. The foggy atmosphere made for some interesting shots.

Posted by Paul at 05:20 PM

December 08, 2013

Icy Byrne Creek

Ice forms amazing patterns in flowing water. A few shots taken in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby as I was checking for spawning salmon.

Posted by Paul at 12:36 PM

November 30, 2013

My Heart Goes Out to DFO Staff

As more and more bad news about Canada's politically hamstrung Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and new implementation of the recently gutted Fisheries Act and its new regs comes my way, I just want to say that I really feel for the fine, upstanding, hardworking DFO staff that I know and work with as a volunteer, on the ground, and in the community. I wish them well as they struggle to protect the fish, wildlife and habitat that I know they love, under the present uncaring political regime.

I guess that sentiment may put me on Harper's "terrorist environmentalist" list. So be it. I've probably been on it for years already anyway, just for volunteering as a streamkeeper, and caring about biodiversity in my community.

Posted by Paul at 10:38 PM

November 21, 2013

MP 'Stunned' as Canadian Govt Ignores Own Research, Yet Again

I normally don't post letters written by MPs of any party on my blog, but this one by Nathan Cullen hit too close to home. As a longtime volunteer streamkeeper, I certainly understand his frustration. I've highlighted one paragraph in particular to start off this post:

"It is particularly stunning given that the report, submitted to the panel last week, was authored by a federal government agency, and yet the federal government is now saying it refuses to take into account its own information when ruling on this project. It begs the question of why we even have a federal government agency devoted to ensuring the health and viability of our fisheries and our waters when the research and recommendations they produce are ignored by the very same federal government."

[note that Joe Oliver is the Minister of Natural Resources and Gail Shea is the acting Minister of Fisheries and Oceans]

Open letter to Joe Oliver and Gail Shea regarding humpback whale protection

21 November 2013

Dear Ministers,

This is an open letter regarding the 21 October 2013 report, entitled Recovery Strategy for the North Pacific Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Canada, from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on a recovery strategy for humpback whales in Canada. As you are likely aware, it is part of the DFO’s mandate to help this species recover from a century of whaling that nearly drove the species into extinction. The report identified four areas of “critical habitat” for humpbacks, one of which is at the mouth of the Douglas Channel, the gateway from Kitimat to the Pacific Ocean. The report also identified vessel traffic and toxic spills as two of the greatest threats to the recovery of this species.

Thus, it was with shock and dismay I recently learned of the decision by the federal joint review panel for the Northern Gateway project to ignore the report as evidence in its ruling, as though vessel traffic and the potential for toxic spills were not two of the primary environmental concerns surrounding this proposal.

It is particularly stunning given that the report, submitted to the panel last week, was authored by a federal government agency, and yet the federal government is now saying it refuses to take into account its own information when ruling on this project. It begs the question of why we even have a federal government agency devoted to ensuring the health and viability of our fisheries and our waters when the research and recommendations they produce are ignored by the very same federal government.

The purpose of the joint review panel hearings is to weigh the available scientific evidence in determining whether this project will negatively impact habitat and endangered species. The purpose of the work of the DFO is to ensure that information is considered when the government is weighing projects which will impact habitat and endangered species. The decision by the JRP to ignore the DFO report is not only wasteful indifference; it’s a double-play failure and abrogation of the duty of both of your departments to protect endangered species and our natural environment.

I wish I could feign some measure of surprise on this matter. But like many Canadians, I have come to see this kind of negligence as not only a passing tendency of the Conservative government but as a very intentional aspect of the government’s resource and environmental policy.

When the government of Canada ignores its own science on endangered species protection, it’s no wonder why Canada has lost all credibility on environmental stewardship among both its own citizens and the international community.

Nathan Cullen
MP Skeena—Bulkley Valley

Posted by Paul at 02:50 PM

City of Burnaby Presentation on Proposed Pipeline Expansion

The City of Burnaby's Environmental Sustainability Strategy Steering Committee was briefed by City planning staff a week or two ago on the ramifications of the Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline proposal.

Mayor and Council have directed that the presentation be delivered to all City committees, and I saw an updated version last night before an Environment Committee meeting.

Mayor and Council basically oppose the proposed KM TMP expansion, for several reasons. I'll try to recall some of the highlights of the presentation:

1) From an original plan to approximately double TMP capacity, the latest proposal is to triple it.

2) The terminus in Burnaby would triple Aframax tanker berths from 1 to 3.

3) The original proposal called for nearly all, if not all, new capacity to be built on the original right of way (ROW). The latest proposal calls for significant sections to be built in new ROWs, and it appears that parts of all of the proposed routes within Burnaby would run through residential and park/conservation areas.

4) The tank farm in Burnaby would expand dramatically in capacity. If I recall correctly, the capacity would be the highest of any tank farm along the entire route from, and including, Edmonton.

5) The added pipeline now appears to be designated nearly all for heavy crude, whereas previously a mix of products was proposed.

6) Nearly all, if not all, of the additional capacity is designated for export, and there are not even guarantees that the present Chevron refinery in Burnaby would get product (my understanding is that it has resorted to getting some product by rail shipment to keep itself at an efficient level of operation).

7) When you add up all the various levels of spills insurance provided by various organizations, they total $1.3 billion, and just one even partial Aframax tanker spill could be well over that amount. Any cleanup/compensation that exceeds $1.3 billion means that taxpayers pick up the tab.

8) The KM proposal calls for the City of Burnaby Fire Department to be first responders to any spill, fire, etc. The FD is saying they don't have the capacity, and that they are not told ahead of time what product is moving through the pipe at any particular time.

9) Burnaby already has experience with a significant KM spill (pipeline penetrated by backhoe) that was ruled as the fault of KM and a contractor, and was basically due to human error in conjunction with poor maps.


Posted by Paul at 12:14 PM

September 23, 2013

Wonderful Afternoon Photo Ramble in South Surrey, BC


Posted by Paul at 09:17 PM

September 16, 2013

Stand up for Science Rally–Vancouver—Photos, Audio

I attended the Stand up for Science Rally in Vancouver today. Excellent speakers and loud crowd.

You can see my Flickr set of photos here.


I recorded an MP3 audio file of nearly the entire event that (24MB) is available here.

Note: if you click the audio link, that may play the file in a minimalistic window in your browser. If you want to download the MP3 file so you can play it with your music player of choice, right-click the link above, and choose "save link as" or "save target as".

Speaker timing:

Pamela Zevit, MC, interspersed throughout

Joe Foy, National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee
0 ~ 3:35

Dr. David Suzuki, Author, geneticist, environmentalist and award winning broadcaster
3:45 ~ 16:35

Fin Donnelly, River's advocate, Member of Parliament, Federal Critic for Fisheries
17:00 ~ 25:10

Tzeporah Berman, Author, former co-director of Greenpeace International's Global Climate and Energy Program, Director Forest Ethics Advocacy
25:22 ~ 37:20

Dr. Sarah Otto, Department of Zoology, population genetics and evolutionary biology UBC
37:35 ~ 51:55

Alexandra Morton, Scientist, Researcher, activist
52:10 ~ 1:05:10

Dr. Thomas Kerr, co-director of the Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative UBC
1:05:15 ~ 1:13:27

Dr. Craig Orr, Scientist, researcher, Executive Director Watershed Watch Salmon Society
1:14:00 ~ 1:22:25

Dr. Lynne Quarmby, professor of molecular biology & biochemistry, Simon Fraser University
1:22:30 ~ 1:28:00

Posted by Paul at 03:34 PM

September 03, 2013

Stand up for Science Rally–Vancouver

Monday, September 16, 2013

11:00am until 1:00pm

Vancouver Art Gallery - North plaza on Georgia Street

Fed up with the erosion of science in Canada? Want our government to support science in the public interest? Think that decisions should be based on evidence and facts instead of ideology? Join us on September 16th to Stand up for Science!

It's time to stand up for science in the public interest in Canada. In recent years we have seen cuts to many important scientific institutions, science funding has shifted focus towards the commercialization of research, and government scientists have lost the ability to communicate their research to the public.

Science matters to Canadians. Good science, when coupled with good decision-making, keeps our water and air clean, keeps us healthy, keeps our food safe and prepares Canada for the future. Science in the public interest is crucial for our well-being and long-term prosperity.

To make the public aware of this, and to call on the Federal government to make a strong commitment to science in the public interest, Stand up for Science Vancouver will take place along with rallies across the country on September 16th 2013.

It's your future - make it your science.
Confirmed Speakers:
Dr. David Suzuki, Author, geneticist, environmentalist and award winning broadcaster.
Tzeporah Berman, Author, former co-director of Greenpeace International's Global Climate and Energy Program, Director Forest Ethics Advocacy
Alexandra Morton, Scientist, Researcher, activist
Fin Donnelly, River's advocate, Member of Parliament, Federal Critic for Fisheries
Joe Foy, National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee
Dr. Sarah Otto, Department of Zoology, population genetics and evolutionary biology UBC
Dr. Craig Orr, Scientist, researcher, Executive Director Watershed Watch Salmon Society
Dr. Thomas Kerr - Co-director Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative, UBC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
Dr. Bob Evans, internationally recognized health economist
Everyone who cares about the future of science in Canada!

Posted by Paul at 10:00 PM

August 20, 2013

My YouTube Rant about People Dumping Green Waste in Burnaby Parks

Posted by Paul at 09:12 PM

July 26, 2013

Drinking Wasps, Blackberry Bees near Byrne Creek

Lots of insect life along Byrne Creek on a walk over lunchtime today. Saw lots of wasps drinking from the creek. They'd land on a stone, and edge down toward the water and then their tails would twitch as they drank. Also lots of bees on blackberry blossoms.





And some cool-looking algae

Posted by Paul at 08:20 PM

July 09, 2013

Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Pond Life

Whenever I have an hour to spare, I love going down the hill for a stroll in Fraser Foreshore Park in south Burnaby with camera in hand. Water attracts so much life!










Posted by Paul at 08:50 PM

June 20, 2013

Seven-Day Vancouver-Alaska Cruise, Day 2

Apparently I didn't take many photos on day 2, which was mostly cruising up the Inside Passage
during the night toward our first stop at Juneau, Alaska. But here are some of our stateroom,
and a whale and some other wildlife.


Our cosy stateroom


We liked the location, speed, weather, and other data tracking on the TV.
For me, a bottle of Jim Beam to sip before retiring to bed; for Yumi, a bottle
of white wine. If you look closely, you may see an upside-down photographer in the
makeup mirror.


Yumi checking out the interior


Yumi with Uncle Stefan


And the highlight of the day, a minke, no, a humpback, a minke,
no, the consensus ended up a humpback whale! One of a pod of
several. Would that ghostly whiter shape alongside be a youngster?


Porpoises, no, dolphins, no, porpoises, oh, heck, frolicking beasties
splashing in the water

It's when you encounter photography situations like this that you
want an even longer lens!

Posted by Paul at 08:10 PM

June 11, 2013

Inflate Your Life Rafts in South Burnaby!?

I ran across some interesting signs on my Byrne Creek walk in southeast Burnaby over lunch today. The Byrne Creek Ravine trail was "closed" with signs saying "Flooding Danger: This Trail Closed Due to Fraser River High Water."

Uh-huh. And it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and lo, the Fraser River rose and turned Burnaby into an ocean.

Couldn't they find signs that simply said "Trail Closed Due to Construction"? (What's actually happening is that they are repairing the stairs into the ravine.)

For those who know, it looks ridiculous. For those who don't, I'd hate to give them the impression that the Fraser can back up Byrne Creek all the way up the ravine!


The above shot is near the intersection of Southridge Dr. and Marine Dr.
It's about 1.5 km from the Fraser River, and at an elevation of about 10-12 m
above sea level.


This shot is near the top of the trail close to Brynlor Dr. It's over 2 km
from the Fraser River, and at an elevation of around 70 m above sea level.

Posted by Paul at 09:03 PM

June 02, 2013

Commemorative Pavers for Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Founders

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society purchased commemorative pavers in the courtyard of Burnaby City Hall awhile back to honour our four founding "elders." Yumi and I checked them out today when we met at City Hall to go on a birding tour around Deer Lake.



BTW, the spelling on the third paver is LLOYD, not LLYOD.
We did submit the proper spelling on the form, so we'll ask for
a free correction.

Posted by Paul at 05:20 PM

May 31, 2013

Turtle Exhausted After Laying Clutch of Eggs

Midori, our red-eared slider, has been laying eggs off and on over the last month. Usually it's one or two at a time, but the other evening we found her with half a dozen on the carpet and a few in her tank.


Folks are bound to have questions about this so let me attempt to anticipate a few:

  • Are turtles good pets? No, not really. They are a lot of work and are a long-term commitment. We've had Midori for over 15 years now, and she could live another 30 years. They are also potential carriers of salmonella. Dori is probably clear, but we wash our hands after touching her, or changing the water in her tank (which we do at least once, and sometimes two or three times a day, depending on how much she eats and poops.) Like I said, a lot of work. . .
  • Aren't red-eared sliders invasive in BC? Yep, they are. When we moved to BC from Japan (which at that time, and perhaps to this day, has no pet turtle regulations), we had to get an import permit from the federal government, and a possession permit from the BC government. We are not allowed to breed her, or set her free in the wild. Yes, I know that sounds crazy as hundreds of unwanted pet sliders have been released all over the lower mainland over the years.
  • Why is she laying eggs if she has no mate? When she reached sexual maturity, she began producing eggs in numbers varying from a dozen to three or four dozen every year. They're just not fertilized.
  • Why is she dropping her eggs willy-nilly wherever she happens to be? We've tried to provide more "natural" spots for her, like boxes of dirt, or sand, but she's never used them.
  • More on keeping reptiles as pets here.

All that said, we got Midori when she was so small that she appeared to almost imprint on us to some degree, and she's very cuddly for a turtle. After that last batch of eggs, she fell asleep in her tank for a day. When she came out, she immediately crawled over to us, wanting "uppie." She fell asleep wrapped in a towel on Yumi's lap yesterday evening, and then we put her in a basket with a warming gel pack. She slept for 14 hours straight, and didn't appear until almost lunchtime today.

Posted by Paul at 11:13 AM

May 24, 2013

Lush Spring Colours Paint Byrne Creek

A photo ramble along Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby this afternoon. . .















We are so fortunate to have Byrne Creek in our "back yard."
When working and volunteering gets crazy, and I'm feeling overwhelmed,
there's nothing like a photo ramble to exercise the body and mind.

A 3-hour photo hike is like 3 hours of Tai Chi:
up, down, stretch, squat, balance on rocks and slopes. . .

And, er, focusing on photography engages a whole 'nother part of my mind.
It's refreshingly exhausting!

Posted by Paul at 10:49 PM

May 22, 2013

Environment Week Events in Burnaby & Public Input Into Enviro Strategy

This in from the City of Burnaby:

Mark your calendars!  There are some exciting community events just around the corner!


Environment Week 2013

Sunday, June 2 to Saturday, June 8

Burnaby's annual week of fun-filled environmentally-themed community activities.  The main event, Environment Festival, is on Saturday, June 8 at Burnaby City Hall in the outer courtyard.  Come on out to learn, participate and enjoy!




Environmental Sustainability Strategy 'Plan-It' Event

9am to 2pm, Saturday, June 8

Burnaby City Hall, in the outer courtyard

Help us create a plan for a greener future!  The City of Burnaby wants to hear about your priorities and ideas to protect and enhance the environment in Burnaby as input to the Environmental Sustainability Strategy (ESS).

  • Learn about what the City does now!
  • Place landmarks on our giant Green Map of the City!
  • Take part in other fun events for kids, youth and adults!
  • 'Plan-It' is part of the Environment Festival. 
  • Enjoy food, activities, music, exhibits, and prizes - fun for the whole family!



Call for ESS Community Engagement Volunteers

Submission deadline: May 29

Monday, June 3 to Sunday, June 30

The City of Burnaby is looking for individual volunteers to assist with Environmental Sustainability Strategy (ESS) community engagement events taking place over the month of June 2013.

Check out this great opportunity to help make your City a greener place!


Posted by Paul at 11:21 AM

May 20, 2013

Reifel Ramble on Victoria Day

The Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary was crowded this holiday Monday, but we still saw lots of birds.

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A series of shots of a blackbird chasing away a crow:

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Heron in flight

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Sandhill cranes in flight

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My how puffed up and handsome am I. Hey! I said. . .

Posted by Paul at 09:32 PM

May 14, 2013

‘Beautiful Byrne Creek’ Presentation at Burnaby’s Tommy Douglas Library

To help mark the City of Burnaby's Environment Week celebrations, the Tommy Douglas Library is generously hosting a presentation by the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society on June 6 at 7:00 p.m.

This year's Environment Week theme is  "Nature in the City" so it's a great partnership.

I'll be putting together a snappy PowerPoint of some of our best photos, videos, and maps, to help cover the following points, and more:

  • Overview of Burnaby's waterways
  • Byrne Creek -- an oasis in the city
  • Fish and wildlife in Byrne Creek Ravine Park
  • Streamkeepers -- what do they do?
  • How can my family and I help keep our creeks healthy?

We'll also have posters, maps, and a display of streamkeeper gear.


Hope to see you there!

Posted by Paul at 04:24 PM

May 05, 2013

Tiny Spider Nabs a Fruit Fly

I noticed a bit of action near the door to my office when I entered a few minutes ago. A tiny spider was chasing a fruit fly, and I was rooting the spider on - we've been invaded by fruit flies the last day or two (one just went merrily skipping across my computer screen as I was typing). Not sure if they're from our worm compost out in the garage, or if they came with some potted plants purchased recently.

Go spiders!


That's the tip of my index finger to give some indication of how small
the hunter and prey are.

Posted by Paul at 08:32 PM

Burnaby Rhododendron Festival at Deer Lake

It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day for the Rhododendron Festival at Burnaby's Deer Lake Park today. It felt like summer!

It's a great place to take photos, and the counter on my Nikon D300 cycled back to zero today, the second time that's happened, so I've taken over 20,000 shots with it.



















Posted by Paul at 02:25 PM

May 03, 2013

Honking Spider Sparks Excitement

I came across an intimidating spider in the garage this evening. After taking a deep breath, I caught it in a glass jar, and then Yumi and I transferred it to a square glass case for better photos. Sure hope it's not in my dreams tonight!

After shooting a few photos, we released it outside.




Posted by Paul at 09:22 PM

April 28, 2013

Alice Lake Spring Stroll

To take the edge off of my increasing wanderlust as spring progresses and the roads and trails call, we headed up to Alice Lake Provincial Park just north of Squamish, BC, today. We had only a few hours, but it was enough to get out of town for a bit, and take a stroll around the lake. From June through September this park is crowded, and sometimes the road is closed when the parking lots fill up. But in April we saw only half a dozen other people on the lake trail.











Posted by Paul at 08:05 PM

April 25, 2013

Cherry Blossoms in SE Burnaby

We lost "our" cherry tree recently, one that graced our balcony in our townhouse complex in SE Burnaby, because its roots were causing damage. We still have some along the path in front of our place, though. Today Choco the cat was crying for a walk, and a nibble on the grass. She's an indoor cat, and has the harness routine down pat - she knows if she goes out that she has to wear it. She meows by the door, and then waits patiently as we snap it on.

Today as she meandered around near the front door - - she never goes far - - I took a few shots of the lovely blossoms.







Posted by Paul at 02:56 PM

April 18, 2013

‘Southgate’ Development Concept for SE Burnaby

The City of Burnaby and Ledingham McAllister are working on concepts for redeveloping the former Safeway warehouse lands in SE Burnaby - an area of nearly 50 acres. You can check out the Southgate Neighbourhood Concept online and contribute your comments.

I attended the Community Open House on April 18, and was impressed with some of the progressive ideas being put forth. I have volunteered with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers for over ten years, and we've been keeping a close eye on any potential development in the upper watershed. We've attended open houses on area development plans and parks proposals for years, and have submitted lengthy written responses to the City in the past.

Streamkeepers would like to see the creek "daylighted" or brought back up from pipes in which it was buried in that area over 50 years ago. Byrne Creek originally ran from near Kingsway and 10th, and passed through what used to be a thriving wetland in what is now Ernie Winch Park.

Several streamkeepers attended the initial open house, and chatted with the developer, and staff from Burnaby's Planning, Engineering and Parks departments. I was reassured that there definitely will be water features, but there is still some question as to how "hard" or natural they will be. "Hard" means things like concrete pools and channels rather than living, natural ones. . .

There is also some question as to how Ernie Winch Park will be added to. Years ago it appeared that there were plans to expand the park itself substantially once the Safeway lands changed hands, but now other options are in play as well, such as spreading smaller pockets of green space throughout the upcoming development. I haven't made up my mind which way I'd prefer. Need to see more plans.

The proposed development interests me not only from a streamkeeper perspective. I also have a passion for sustainability, particularly when it comes to the environment and urban planning. I sit on Burnaby's Environment Committee as a citizen representative, on the Burnaby Board of Trade's Environmental Sustainability Committee, and was recently named to the Steering Committee for Burnaby's in-progress Environmental Sustainability Strategy. Along with streams and urban biodiversity, we also need communities that promote walking, cycling and taking transit, and initial ideas regarding Southgate take such concepts into full consideration.

I think that Southgate, done well to its fullest potential, could become another UniverCity - the multiple award-winning green development near Simon Fraser University on Burnaby Mountain.

Now wouldn't that be something all Burnabarians could be proud of!

Posted by Paul at 10:03 PM

April 11, 2013

Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver AGM and Spring Forum 2013

The ISCMV AGM and Spring Forum 2013 was an informative event with great networking held on April 11 at the Richmond Oval. There were lots of stimulating speakers and it was wonderful to see lots of capable folks elected to the board. It was also my first time to visit the Richmond Olympic Oval, and it's a very impressive facility.

I first became acquainted with invasive species through streamkeeping, as volunteers have their hands full with battling invasive plants that wipe out swaths of native vegetation along local creeks and streams, creating monocultures that have a huge negative impact on local ecosystems.

The ISCMV events provide up-to-date methodologies and case studies on various ways to manage invasive plants, and are also a great place to meet folks from municipalities, regional governments, senior levels of government, and volunteer groups. It's always interesting and educational to learn what approaches people are taking in different places, and hearing about their successes, and tips to avoid exacerbating problems.

Posted by Paul at 09:07 PM

April 10, 2013

Picked up Mason Bees from City of Burnaby Parks

I picked up a teeny box of mason bees from City of Burnaby Parks this afternoon. They have a cool "adopt a bee condo" program where they will install "bee condos" in City parks as long as citizens volunteer to monitor and maintain them. My wife and I are happy to play a small part in this. Bees are wonderful creatures that we cannot live without - seriously, their role as pollinators is hugely underappreciated by society. Without them we'd be sadly lacking in fruits and vegetables, not to mention all the other things that we depend on healthy plants for.

I was surprized at how tiny the box was. We're to keep it in our fridge until we have steady daytime temperatures of at least 11-12 C, and then we are to install them in the box in the park next door.


Posted by Paul at 03:06 PM

April 09, 2013

Burnaby City Hall Cherry Blossoms

Leaving Burnaby City Hall after an Environment Committee meeting tonight I snapped this quick photo of the lovely cherry blossoms in the evening dusk.


Posted by Paul at 08:12 PM

April 01, 2013

Deer Lake Circumnavigation on Sunny Easter Monday

Yumi and I walked around Burnaby's Deer Lake today, enjoying the sunshine, and the flora and fauna.


From the northeast with Metrotown and towers along Kingsway off in
the distance.


Deer Lake Brook.


Heron taking off at Deer Lake rookery.


Towhee - these shy birds can be difficult to photograph.


Playing "spot the pheasant in the bushes."


Posted by Paul at 09:14 PM

March 31, 2013

Each Species’ Extinction Diminishes Me. . .

A FB friend of mine just posted that the Black Rhinoceros has been poached into extinction.

She cited this article.

I wonder when our supposedly superior species will stop killing animals for superstitious reasons.

Perhaps it's time to update Donne, and here is my humble effort:

Each species' extinction diminishes me,
For humans depend on nature,
Though little we know it.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Posted by Paul at 09:19 PM

Elgin Heritage Park Walk

One of our favourite places to walk and watch birds is Elgin Heritage Park in South Surrey. The combination of forest, meadow, ponds and estuary makes for a lot of varying habitat in a small area.





Note: this flower was not plucked, just held and tilted momentarily
to display the insects inside.





We saw three garter snakes in one small area. Perhaps a den nearby?
They seemed a tad less spooked than usual at the sight of humans - -
perhaps it was their first foray into the sun this year?





Posted by Paul at 07:37 PM

Herons Roosting Near Burnaby City Hall

A few years ago herons began roosting in a forest near Burnaby City Hall, and they're back building nests again this year. It's amazing watching these large, wading birds take to the trees with awkward grace.

NOTE: These shots were all taken at a respectful distance so as not to disturb during this key season. We never left the sidewalk.


They're not quiet going about their business.



There are lots of nests.


Coming in for a landing. One of a couple brings twigs to a nest.





A crow was also getting in on the nest-building action.

Posted by Paul at 07:08 PM

March 30, 2013

Lunch in New Brighton Park

We were out and about today running errands and ended up at Fujiya where we loaded up with ten musu (deep fried tempura prawn wrapped in sesame-oil flavoured rice and nori), chicken kara-age (breaded deep fried chicken), and a box of two of sushi.

We headed over to New Brighton Park to picnic in the sun, but it proved to be cold and windy.


Looking across to the north shore mountains


A lovely bee/waspy thingy - a yellowjacket?


Looking west from the park


Looking east toward the Ironworkers' Bridge

Posted by Paul at 08:50 PM

March 29, 2013

Mourning a Tree

The cherry tree that reached up beside our garage to grace our 2nd-story balcony, and that was the subject of many photo shoots posted to this blog, is gone.

The roots of the 25-year-old-plus beauty were causing problems with foundations and plumbing in our townhouse complex.


Choco le chat, enjoying that lovely tree several years ago. . .

Here's a post back from 2010 in its memory.

Wish they would have at least let it blossom with us one more time. . .  Just another week or two, but we must force nature into our work cycles.

I knew it was coming, and was tough when the chainsaws and mega-chipper fired up. . . But later I felt pretty misty.

Posted by Paul at 10:28 PM

March 24, 2013

Sunday Ramble in West Vancouver’s Lighthouse Park

Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver is one of our favourite place to get away for some rambling in deep woods near the sea. Yumi loves to explore the tidal pools, and there are lots of opportunities for photography.









Posted by Paul at 07:10 PM

March 18, 2013

Cat Love

Late in the afternoon, Choco the cat plants herself on the stairs to the front door and waits for Yumi to come home from work.

Today, Choco expanded her mommy-love repertoire.

She'd been lazing in the sun on her cat tower in an upstairs bedroom, and to take advantage of those rare rays, I'd moved up from my basement office to the living room, and was studying some research in relation to a job for a client. Suddenly I heard her bouncing down the stairs, eagerly meowking with every bound. She reached the bottom of two flights just in time to hear the key go in the lock.

I guess she saw Yumi coming. . .

I suspect many folks would think that's pretty impressive, for a cat.

But I've been blessed to experience deep cat love before. In my early teens I had major back surgery. I had to leave my hometown and travel to Toronto Sick Kids Hospital, and was away from home for nearly two months. When I returned, it was to a skin-and-bones cat that had almost pined away for me while I was gone.

It was amazing how the cat revived when I returned. I was in a cast from hips to armpits and he sat on me, slept on me, left me just long enough to eat and take care of his business. . . He was my best buddy.

Give and you shall receive. There's lots of love to go around, particularly when accompanied by respect and understanding.

Posted by Paul at 09:58 PM

March 17, 2013

Chum Fry Identified on Sunny Spring Stroll Along Byrne Ck.

Yumi and I took advantage of this sunny day to look for fry - salmon babies - in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby where we volunteer as streamkeepers. Pina, another volunteer, had seen fry nearly a week ago, so we knew they were popping out of the gravel where they'd been laid as eggs by spawning salmon last fall.

Please note that it is illegal to net fry, and streamkeepers do so for ID purposes only with permission from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Here are few shots of the chum fry we saw today, and the burgeoning spring colours.


My heart soars to see the creek running clear and bright.


A sighting of the blue-earmuffed, red-gloved, rubber-booted
Japanese-Canadian streamkeeper!


And there they are, a school of chum fry. Whew! This is so rewarding
to streamkeeper volunteers to see the salmon life-cycle perpetuated
in a troubled urban creek.






Posted by Paul at 09:39 PM

March 15, 2013

BC Streamkeeper Workshop 2013 Registration Open

The biennial SEP Community Workshop is back for 2013. It'll be on Bowen Island from May 17-19. I've attended at least three of these over the years and they're always a great combination of learning and fun. In a first for me, I'll be speaking at this year's event on the topic of social media, public relations, and media relations for non-profit groups.

You can find out lots more, and download registration forms here.

Posted by Paul at 12:00 PM

March 08, 2013

Hello Kitty? What You Got Kitty? You Go Kitty!

Yesterday I was sitting in the living room watching TV when the cat came up the stairs from the basement with something dangling from her mouth. My first thought was she had a humungo hairball and that she had come to me because she was choking, but I then realized it was a mouse. Being the strong, brave, 200+ pounder that I am, I yelled: "Honey, Choco's got a mouse. Help!"

No, silly, I wasn't afraid of the mouse -- I knew Yumi would want to rescue it, and for that we needed a net or gloves, because I wasn't going to grab a potentially diseased rodent with my bare hands.

Yumi came running with an aquarium net, and there ensued a game of "get the cat to drop the mouse, the mouse plays dead for 1.5 seconds and then takes off, Choco recaptures the mouse. . ."

On the third attempt we successfully separated mouse from cat while directing mouse into net. Whew!

We opened the front door, placed the net on the walk, and disentangled the mouse. It lay there unmoving.

"Oh, it's dead," cried Yumi.

"Give it another second or two," quoth I.

Sure enough, given another moment unhanded, the dead mouse miraculously revived and sprinted off into the bushes.

Good Karma is coming our way, eh?

The cat was peeved that we'd freed its new playmate, and after fruitlessly searching the living room, repaired downstairs to stand watch on the storage space beneath the stairs where she'd nabbed the invader.

I posted a synopsis of the above on Facebook, and several people assured me that the cat was just fixated on the site of her conquest, and her behaviour didn't indicate the presence of more mice.

We went to sleep last night with the cat still under the stairs.

We woke up this morning with the cat snoozing guard in front of the half-open door to the storage beneath the stairs.

Then tonight Choco came up the stairs with another catch. The net had been misplaced, but eventually another game of "drop the mouse, cat recaptures mouse, etc." resulted in another rodent being freed into the great outdoors. We lavishly praised the cat, for fear she'd stop bringing us any remaining mice alive, and would simply kill anything she found in private . . .

Which is what cats do, but she's a well-fed, well-loved, well-exercised and played-with indoor cat, so setting the mice free outdoors contributes to the natural, wild, foodchain, eh?

I've been surprized that she's been "gentle" enough with her recent catches to bring them to us alive. So is she honouring her "parents"? Or is she bringing us live mice to train her "kids"? : -)

Yumi found some dry Halloween gourds in the storage under the staird with gnaw marks, and we'll have to check what else may have attracted mice down there. We keep our camping kits there in plastic containers, but perhaps one has cracked open. There's also the earthquake kit right beside the back door in a large backpack. Will have to check if that's been breached, too. . .

But thanks, kitty!

Posted by Paul at 08:23 PM

March 07, 2013

Mason Bee Condo Presentation at Cameron Rec Centre in Burnaby

I received an invite from City of Burnaby Parks to attend a presentation on adopting mason bee condos installed in parks, and I snapped up the opportunity to learn more. There were two presenters from the Pollinator's Paradise program run by the Environmental Youth Alliance.

A few of their key points were that bees are in trouble due to development, pesticides, etc., yet through their pollination services, it's estimated that they contribute to 1/3 of the food we eat. Yes, a third!

The Blue Orchard Mason Bees used in the program are very docile and since the monitors do not work with them in their active stages, as honeybee keepers do, there is next to zero risk of stings. Basically monitors just keep an eye on the condos to see if they are being utilized, and at the end of the season they collect the nests and protect them in a cool, dark place, until setting them back out in the spring.

If I remember the figure, the economic value of pollinators is considered to be around $1 billion annually in Canada.

The City of Burnaby's mason bee program installs "bee condos" in parks, as long as folks step up to monitor and care for them. I was happy to see Burnaby City Councillor Anne Kang at the presentation, and she was excited to share that Taylor Park Elementary School was taking part in the program.

My wife and I are interested in joining the program, and perhaps getting other volunteers from the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers involved as well.

Posted by Paul at 08:34 PM

March 01, 2013

Nominations for City of Burnaby Environment Awards 2013 Now Open

The 2013 City of Burnaby Environment Awards nomination process is now open ( www.burnaby.ca/environmentawards ).

Submission deadline for nominations: Monday, April 15, 2013

There are six (6) categories: Business Stewardship, Communications, Community Stewardship, Green Choices, Planning and Development, and Youth.

Posted by Paul at 12:55 PM

February 24, 2013

Streamkeepers Collect Trash near Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

Nine volunteer streamkeepers showed up in the cold, steady rain this morning to pick up trash along Southridge Drive in SE Burnaby on a steep slope just above the salmon habitat.  We filled the hatch of a Subaru Outback full with bags of garbage.

The City of Burnaby long ago installed a lovely bin with trash, paper, and recyclable glass and plastic compartments at the bus stop there, but evidently lots of uncaring folks are still tossing their trash down the slope. A rough on-the-fly analysis shows that many of these uncaring folks are customers of McDonald's and Tim Horton's, just down the hill.


Posted by Paul at 08:07 PM

February 18, 2013

Final Salmon Spawning Results for 2012 for Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

I have finally compiled all of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers' spawner patrol reports for the 2012 season. Salmon typically spawn in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby from mid-October to mid-December. Unfortunately, numbers have been on a downward trend for many years, and after a small uptick in 2011, last year saw another disappointing drop. Here's the report:

Final spawner numbers for Byrne Creek for 2012:

Female spawned        0
Female unspawned    0
Male spawned        5   (with four of these being jacks )
Male unspawned        2
Total of 7 coho

Female spawned        7
Female unspawned    0
Male spawned        11
Male unspawned        1
Total of 19 chum

Grand total of 26 spawners (down from 36 "processed" in 2011)

Noted several distinct redds over the season, 2 near the bridges, 3 in spawning channel, 2 in lower ravine

Final spawner numbers for Byrne Creek for 2011:

Female spawned        9
Female unspawned    4
Male spawned        5
Male unspawned        3
Total of 21 coho

Female spawned        2
Female unspawned    1
Male spawned        5
Male unspawned        7
Total of 15 chum

Grand total of 36 spawners

Noted 14 large redds spread between the artificial spawning channel and the lower part of the ravine.

Previous years for comparison:
2010: 5 chum/8 coho total 13
2009: 6 chum/4 coho total 10
2008: 25 chum/8 coho total 33
2007: 15 chum/7 coho total 22
2006: 27 chum/8 coho total 35
2005: 17 chum/26 coho total 43
2004: 67 chum/24 coho total 91

1) We patrolled the creek 26 times between mid-October to the end of December, compared to 22 times in 2011.

2) Fish arrived "on time" this year, with chum spotted from Oct. 15, while they were "late" in 2011, first observed on Oct. 24.

3) As you can see, we while we had several spawned coho males, we did not "process" any coho females. We did see at least one coho "couple" exhibiting spawning behaviour, so obviously a few morts were eaten or washed away. We realize it can be difficult to determine if male fish have spawned or not, but if sacs are empty, or loose, we call them spawned. If firm and full, not spawned. We will see if we can spot any coho fry this spring.

4) Chum were a bit bigger on average this year than last year, when they were on the small side. Interesting that 4 of the 7 coho males appeared to be jacks.

5) While of course we miss a few fish to predation and heavy flows, our methodology is consistent from year to year. We patrol the spawning stretch from Byrne Bridge up to the bottom of the stairs in the ravine at least twice a week, and "process" every carcass that we find. Processing entails determining species, measuring length, and cutting open to confirm sex and spawned/unspawned status.

6) Streamkeepers have training from the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, and permission from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conduct spawner patrols on the creek. Please note that it is illegal to harass or harm spawning salmon. Dogs? Please keep your owners out of the creek from mid-October through April when the eggs laid by salmon in the creek will have hatched.

Posted by Paul at 02:37 PM

February 13, 2013

Byrne Creek Observations in Upper Watershed Feb. 13, 2013

I took a wander around the upper part of the watershed of Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today. It's an area I don't get to that often, as streamkeepers tend to focus on the lower, larger ravine park. There was a major slide on the bank of the creek on 18th some time ago, so I checked out the remediation work. They've done a major retaining wall, but the slope itself is still in progress. The matting is temporary and will eventually be replaced with planted native vegetation. I was surprised at the new stony "beach" though. Dunno if that's permanent to help prevent further erosion. . .


The retaining wall along the street, looking toward Edmonds Skytrain Station.


The matting and the "beach".


Another view of the matting and beach.


A rain garden near the corner of Edmonds and Griffiths. What's with the plastic?
I sure hope the whole thing isn't lined with it, that defeats the purpose. . .

UPDATE: City staff say the plastic is just along the edge.

Posted by Paul at 09:09 PM

January 23, 2013

SAD Cat?

Are cats susceptible to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? As the relentless rain drags on, she's taken to sitting on a blankie on my desk right under the lamp as I work. Yeah, I know, she loves me and wants to be with me. OK, the lamp is warm even though it's a CFL. All of the above?


Posted by Paul at 02:45 PM

January 21, 2013

Foggy Byrne Creek Walk

It was foggy across the Lower Mainland of BC today, and SE Burnaby was no exception. My lunchtime walk of the Byrne Creek ravine loop near Edmonds Skytrain Station was a phantasmagoria of eerie, soft, lighting.


Swings at Ron McLean Park


Ron McLean Park


Sun barely visible just above the tree line at bottom


In Byrne Creek ravine



Playground equipment at Taylor Park


The opaque "view" from Taylor Park


Stairs at the Green development


Japanese walnut on the old homestead


Looking north across Byrne Creek ravine toward our townhouse complex

Posted by Paul at 08:51 PM

January 13, 2013

Kitty Drops a ‘Dangler,’ Daddy Steps on It

Tonight the cat left what I call a "dangler" on the mat in the basement bathroom where her litter is. She is the cleanest cat I've ever had, and rarely does this, but a few times a year I guess some poop momentarily clings to her furry behind, or as she turns to cover her production, an unexpected latecomer slips out. 

And of course she can't pick it up and toss it in the litter, eh? All she can do is give the errant turd a sniff and slink away.

Usually it's no big deal. I find a small, dry, nugget on the floor and dispose of it. But tonight I didn't see it, and it was still fresh, and I stepped on it.


The ensuing sock, mat, and litter-box cleanup was animated, and when I went upstairs when I was done, the cat was feigning sleep. (At this time of day she's usually chomping at the bit to run, and chase, and play.)

I patted her on the head and said, "It's OK, accidents happen."

She looked up with such a mortified expression that I nearly laughed, for fear of melting. Methinks these beasts are more aware than we often give them credit for.

Posted by Paul at 08:22 PM

January 01, 2013

Foggy Foray to Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

On a foggy New Year's Day afternoon, Yumi and I took a 3-hour tramp around the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, BC. Lots of waterfowl and other birds, and the highlight was a tiny saw-whet owl tucked into an evergreen. There were lots of sandhill cranes - over a dozen spread out in several groups around the sanctuary.


Is that ringwraiths I hear?! I was looking for birds!












Wood duck and doppelganger







Posted by Paul at 08:35 PM

December 30, 2012

Bountiful Birds at Boundary Bay

We zipped down to Boundary Bay to check out the snowy owls. There were still a few to be seen, but they were far off from the dike, so few shots to make. I was dismayed to see that some photographers are still heading way out into the marsh off the dike. Shame. These birds are starving, barely surviving, and thousands of people come down to see them. Ninety-nine percent respect the signs to stay on the dike. . . There is too much pressure on snowy owls, so please stay on the trail!

There were lots of smaller owls, and plenty of other raptors to photograph. One little owl on a fence pole attracted dozens of photographers, and every time it turned its head, shutters buzzed like rattlesnakes!


Mt. Baker in Washington State in the distance









Posted by Paul at 06:54 PM

December 29, 2012

Cool Whidbey Island Conservation District Advert

Just noticed this in a brochure we picked up while camping in Washington State earlier this year. Wow, this is so great! I'm not aware of anything quite like this in BC, and why not?


image from Whidbey Island Farm Tour 2012 Brochure

WICD Mission Statement

The Whidbey Island Conservation District serves the residents of Whidbey Island by providing voluntary, incentive-based options for conserving natural resources through educational outreach as well as technical and financial assistance to provide a healthy environment for present and future generations.

WICD priorities and goals include:

  • Protection and improvement of surface and groundwater quality
  • Assisting good stewardship of Farm & Forest land
  • Watershed planning and implementation
  • Riparian restoration and enhancement
  • Fish and wildlife habitat enhancement
  • Conservation education

Posted by Paul at 08:36 PM

December 19, 2012

Snow Falling in SE Burnaby

Here's a short video I shot around noon today of snow falling over our townhouse complex in SE Burnaby, BC, with the majestic trees of Byrne Creek Ravine Park in the background. Days like this really make me appreciate working from a home office!

Nothing fancy here, just my teeny Canon SD780IS pocket camera handheld with live narration.

Posted by Paul at 12:29 PM

December 18, 2012

Melting Snow, Byrne Creek Ravine Park

I wasn't able to get out for a creek ramble until after lunch today, so I missed the best of the snow in SE Burnaby.


Ron McLean Park is the best thing we have nearby for tobogganing.
It isn't much of a slope, but enough to have fun!


Predictions of more snow look accurate as dark clouds loom.



Blue sky to the south.


Someone made a cute snowman near the back gate to our complex.


I love how melting snow beads on foliage.



You can see an upside-down forest in this droplet.

Posted by Paul at 04:40 PM

December 12, 2012

Burnaby City Council Appoints Environmental Sustainability Strategy Steering Committee

I am honoured to be asked to work with a great group of people on the Steering Committee for the City of Burnaby's Environmental Sustainability Strategy.


Image from City of Burnaby

Press Release from the City of Burnaby website

City of Burnaby ESS Website

Steering Committee members

Related Burnaby Now story

Posted by Paul at 04:19 PM

December 11, 2012

Restoring Salmon, Wildlife Habitat in Oregon Boosts Economy, Jobs

According to Ecotrust, restoring salmon and other wildlife habitat in Oregon over the last decade has had a combined effect of nearly $1 billion in economic activity and 6,400 jobs. You can download the succinct report.

I'd like to see such a clear, brief report for BC.

Posted by Paul at 01:46 PM

December 09, 2012

Eagles, Salmon, Dippers Near Squamish, BC

We took a drive up to the Squamish BC area and back today, looking for eagles, salmon and other wildlife.
It was rainy and snowy, but we had a great time.


One of our first stops was the bridge over the Cheakamus River on the way to the Tenderfoot Hatchery,
where we spotted this dipper, likely searching for salmon roe. We admired its hardiness against the
near-freezing water.



A huge spawner.


Eagle flying along the Cheakamus



Masses of dead spawners near the hatchery


And an eagle taking a break from foraging on the dead fish


There were plenty of gulls taking advantage of nature's buffet, too


There were around 100 eagles visible from the Brackendale site


Wishing for a longer lens! : -)

Posted by Paul at 09:51 PM

December 08, 2012

Fallen Leaves, Tai Chi in Ron McLean Park in Burnaby








Posted by Paul at 02:39 PM

December 07, 2012

Morning Moon Peeks From Behind Clouds

I happened to glance out the balcony window this morning and saw a lovely moon peeking out from behind dark clouds. I ran and grabbed my camera, ran outside, and fired off half-a-dozen shots before it disappeared.


Posted by Paul at 08:33 AM

November 26, 2012

Ordered New Byrne Creek Streamkeepers ‘Business Cards’

A few years ago volunteers with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society in Burnaby, BC, thought it would be useful to make up a "business card" that would be easy to carry and hand out to the public when we're out and about on our activities in the park and along the creek. The cards proved to be handy, so we're printing another batch at Rosewood Printers on Edmonds St. in SE Burnaby - supporting local businesses.

Here's the proof for our latest double-sided card:


We leave a space for volunteers to write in their own name or email address. Works well!

Posted by Paul at 09:16 PM

November 14, 2012

DFO is MIA in Celebrating Success

We are having an amazing chum salmon year in Burnaby and neighbouring cities. People are reporting spawners in creeks where they haven't been seen in 50+ years. Newspapers and TV newscasts are featuring enchanted kids with sparkling eyes marvelling at seeing salmon in their neighbourhoods.

Chum have moved up the Brunette River, up the new Metro Vancouver fish ladder at Caribou Dam, through the dredged Burnaby Lake (a City of Burnaby initiative that I initially had qualms about, but am now reassessing), and up Still Creek beyond the Burnaby border and well into Vancouver. Some reports say it's been 80 years since salmon have spawned that high up Still Creek, which for decades wasn't much more than an open sewer.

As of last weekend I understand Stoney Creek in NE Burnaby, the most productive stream in the city, had counted over 750 chum back.

And not a peep from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on how much of this is due to decades of local streamkeeper volunteers and the DFO's Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP), of hard-working DFO staff on the ground, of DFO Community Advisors and volunteers at hatcheries, of doggedly rehabilitating and stocking urban and suburban creeks and streams year after year after year, of collaborations between stewards, the City of Burnaby, Metro Vancouver and DFO in making culverts more fish friendly, of tackling pollution issues and sanitary/storm cross-connects...

Why can't DFO publicly promote such success? Hard-earned success and cooperation from volunteers and all levels of government? It's a shame that nothing can be officially said by DFO Pacific without approval from Ottawa.

SEP is likely one of the most popular and cost-effective government programs in history, leveraging contributions by tens of thousands of volunteers in BC. It should be seen as something to celebrate and emulate.

I should include the "full disclosure"  bit: I am a volunteer streamkeeper and president of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society, a member of the Salmon Enhancement & Habitat Advisory Board to DFO, and a citizen representative on the City of Burnaby's Environment Committee.

UPDATE: (Nov. 23, 2012) Happy to see that DFO has published some positive PR on the SEP website. Let's keep it up! Chum salmon make stronger-than-usual return in 2012.

Posted by Paul at 07:33 PM

November 08, 2012

Oily Road Wash Enters Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

I was down near the corner of Meadow Ave. and Byrne Rd. in SE Burnaby the other day, looking for spawning salmon, when I came across a clogged storm drain on the street. The pooling water was quite oily, and when I cleared the drain, the visual effect of the oily flow down the drain and into the creek was gut-wrenching. Our urban creek are subjected to this again and again.

There are solutions, or at least ways to ameliorate this. Lobby your local governments to dump curbs in favour of roadside swales and rain gardens!

Posted by Paul at 08:31 PM

November 02, 2012

Wild Salmon Policy Receives Boost From Cohen Commission

I am very pleased that the recently released Cohen Commission Report sets out strong, specific, deadline-driven recommendations for Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans in regard to the long-languishing Wild Salmon Policy. Created with extensive stewardship-community input, the WSP has had no funding and no one driving it within DFO. Yet it is clear that if you do not assess and classify salmon stocks, and do not protect their habitat, we will continue to see wild salmon in decline.

Justice Cohen came out with two basic recommendations regarding the WSP:

1) Cohen recommends the appointment of a "new associate regional director general" responsible for implementing the WSP, and,

2) that "The Government of Canada should establish dedicated Wild Salmon Policy funding sufficient to carry out the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' implementation plan and to cover ongoing operational costs."

If that's not clear enough to DFO's political masters, here's the entire WSP recommendation section from the Cohen report, and I suggest that the federal government would ignore these recommendations at its peril. Tens of thousands of volunteer stewards, First Nations, commercial and sport fishers, and tourism operators representing annual economic value in the hundreds of millions of dollars are watching very closely how the government will respond.

Cohen Recommendations in Regard to WSP

New position of associate regional director general

4  The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should immediately create a new position in the Pacific Region at the associate regional director general level with responsibility for developing and implementing the Wild Salmon Policy implementation plan recommended under Recommendation 5; and supervising the expenditure of funds provided under Recommendation 6 for implementation of the policy.

Wild Salmon Policy implementation plan

5  The new associate regional director general should, by March 31, 2013, publish a detailed plan for implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy, stipulating

what tasks are required;
how they will be performed and by whom;
when they will be completed;
and how much implementation will cost, as set out in a detailed itemization of costs.

Wild Salmon Policy funding

6  The Government of Canada should establish dedicated Wild Salmon Policy funding sufficient to carry out the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' implementation plan and to cover ongoing operational costs.

Annual report on progress in Wild Salmon

Policy implementation

7  The new associate regional director general responsible for implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy should, by March 31, 2014, and each anniversary thereafter during implementation, report in writing on progress in implementation of the policy, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should publish

that report on its website. Each annual report should invite responses from First Nations and stakeholders, and all responses should be promptly published on the DFO website

Wild Salmon Policy: strategies 2 and 3

8  By January 31, 2013, the new associate regional director general should decide whether the Habitat Management Program (Ecosystem Management Branch)* or the Science Branch should take the lead role in implementing strategies 2 and 3 and what support should be provided by the other branch. The new associate regional director general should also identify who is responsible for, and set deadlines respecting, the

following activities:

preparing habitat status reports;
monitoring and assessing habitat using the habitat indicators and benchmarks developed by Stalberg et al.;? and
finalizing habitat indicators and benchmarks where possible.

The new associate regional director general should coordinate with the Habitat Management Program to ensure consistency in implementing both this Recommendation and Recommendation 41.

Wild Salmon Policy: Strategy 4

9  In order to begin integrated strategic planning under Strategy 4 in relation to Fraser River sockeye without further delay, these key deliverables should be completed according to the following schedule:

By March 31, 2013, identification of red zone Conservation Units under Strategy 1, based on the Grant Draft Paper 2011.?

By September 30, 2013, preparation of overview reports for the Fraser River watershed and marine areas relevant to Fraser River sockeye salmon, based on the best available information at that time. Knowledge gaps of concern to the drafters should be identified in the overview reports and a plan developed to address those knowledge gaps.

By December 31, 2013, development of habitat indicators and benchmarks for assessment for the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait, Johnstone Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound.

10  As part of the implementation of Strategy 4 in relation to Fraser River sockeye, these key deliverables should be completed according to the following schedule:

By March 31, 2013, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should complete a socioeconomic framework for decision making in the integrated strategic planning process; it should also integrate meaningful socioeconomic input into fisheries management decision making, beginning with planning for the 2014 fishing season.

By January 31, 2014, integrated strategic planning processes should begin for Fraser River sockeye salmon using the best currently available information and following the procedure outlined in Appendix 2 (A structured five-step planning procedure) of the Wild Salmon Policy.

By March 31, 2013, response teams should be formed for all Conservation Units in the red zone and for those that could significantly limit fishing and other activities.

By December 31, 2014, response teams should complete plans for the protection and restoration of priority Conservation Units, and in developing such plans, they should give full consideration to approaches beyond curtailing fisheries.

Posted by Paul at 08:18 PM

October 30, 2012

Girls From Byrne Creek Secondary Rock on Spawner Tour of Byrne Creek

I was impressed with the good cheer and fortitude of half a dozen girls from Byrne Creek Secondary who went on a spawner patrol on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby in the steady rain this afternoon. Thanks to Louise from Stream of Dreams for arranging the tour.

Lu suggested meeting at the footbridge in the lower ravine at 3:00 p.m. so I got there about an hour early to scout the creek for fish for the students to see.

We watched a pair of chum spawning near Tag 517 in the lower ravine, and then watched another pair about 10m upstream of the weir in the lower ravine. A lone female chum was still beneath the log in the pool between 517/518.

The girls and their teacher were enthralled and peppered us with questions.

Then the piece de resistance: I'd found a dead coho in the spawning habitat earlier, and we walked over and processed it together.  It was a male, unspawned, 46cm, between Tags 511/512, likely a jack as it had no spawning colouration and was on the small side. We inspected its internals together to the best of my ability (I'm not a biologist!).

It was missing its adipose, so we took its head for delivery to a Sport Head Recovery Depot:

I was impressed by the girls' enthusiasm, even during the bloody bits.

As we were processing the coho we saw a spawner zoom up the overflow and jump into the sediment pond! Way cool! I cannot believe how cooperative the fish are being in getting ooos and aaahhs from the crowd this year!

I look forward to participating in more of the Stream of Dreams project at Byrne Creek Secondary.

NOTE: It is illegal to interfere with spawning salmon. Please observe from a distance. Streamkeepers have training, and authorization from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to process dead spawners to collect species, size, and spawning data.

Posted by Paul at 06:36 PM

2012 BC Water Sustainability Grant Award to Stream of Dreams for Byrne Creek Project

Great news! Post from Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia:

The 2012 BC Water Sustainability Endowment Fund grant is awarded to Stream of Dreams Murals Society for "Mapping Where We Live," a project they are undertaking in collaboration with Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and Byrne Creek Secondary students in southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek watershed.

Check out the cool video.

Posted by Paul at 08:23 AM

October 26, 2012

Invasive Plant Presentation, Nov. 17 in SE Burnaby

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers will host a presentation on invasive plant species by the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver, Saturday, Nov. 17, starting at 10:00 a.m. at the Tommy Douglas Library near the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds in SE Burnaby. The length and depth of the presentation may vary by audience experience, and will likely run around 2 hours. If there is time and interest, we may follow up with a walk along part of Byrne Creek Ravine Park to view sites where streamkeepers have been battling invasive plants for years. This event is free, and open beyond BCSS membership, but please RSVP to the Invasive Plants Team, so we know how many people to expect, and in case we need to limit numbers.

Posted by Paul at 09:31 PM

October 19, 2012

Interviewed by Burnaby Now on Salmon Returning to Burnaby Creeks

Interviewed by Burnaby Now on salmon returning to spawn in urban creeks in Burnaby: 'Struggling against incredible odds'.

Posted by Paul at 06:37 PM

October 18, 2012

Botched Print Job Results in, ah, Art?

Objet trouve : this is what happens when you print a photo of autumn leaves in Byrne Creek, and you put the Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Glossy into the printer upside down. You throw the resulting wet piece of paper in the trash, and then a few minutes later you glance over and notice that the runny result is quite nice. Offers? :-)


The original photo was framed vertically, so here's that perspective:


That's not bad, either!

And, ta-da, here's the original shot:


Posted by Paul at 09:17 PM

Video of Chum Salmon Spawning in Byrne Creek

I shot this video on Oct. 16 of the two chum spawning in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby in the lower ravine area.

Posted by Paul at 04:35 PM

October 16, 2012

Byrne Creek Oct. 16 Spawner Patrol Turns Up 6 Chum Salmon

When the sun popped out today, I had to drop everything and head out on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby to check on spawners. I'd spotted two chum on Oct. 15, so I knew they were moving upstream from the Fraser River.

I saw a total of six chum today, and four of them were paired off in two "couples". One pair were working on a redd (nest) in the lower ravine, and the other pair were courting in the sediment pond.

It's a glorious time of year to be out, and the fish make it especially exciting.


The pair in the lower ravine. The female was slowly digging a depression into
the gravel and cobble with her tail, while the male stayed close by to protect his mate.


This is what happens when you inadvertently nearly step on  a salmon.

I knew there was a chum male hiding just above the culvert at the lower end of the ravine,
because I'd seen him pass under the footbridge earlier and then retreat back downstream.
As I inched along the bank I spooked him before I saw him. I instinctively pointed my camera
in the fish's direction as it exploded downstream, and hit the shutter release several times without
even trying to frame the action. This was the best of a bunch of blurry shots!


Here's the above fish about half an hour earlier, swimming under the footbridge.

Posted by Paul at 08:31 PM

Autumn Colors Make For Gorgeous Salmon Patrols

We're lucky that the salmon run in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby from mid-October, when the autumn colours are still vibrant. A few non-fishy shots from my spawner patrol today.


Now isn't that a nice path to amble along?






Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM

October 12, 2012

The Rain is Whispering ‘The Salmon are Coming’

As I sit here this evening listening to the rain outside my home-office window, I feel a little thrill of excitement. Because after a long dry spell, the rain means salmon will start moving upstream to spawn, including in the creek beyond our back fence -- Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby.

We have two species of salmon in our urban creek, chum and coho, and if there is rain, they return from the Pacific  Ocean and start their final journey like clockwork, arriving in our creek within a few days of mid-October each fall, and continue as late as mid-December.

It's a bittersweet time of year -- sweet because the salmon bring with them seeds for new life, and bitter for it means their own deaths.

As streamkeepers, we'll start patrolling the spawning reaches of the creek, getting out at least three times a week, to enumerate the numbers of spawners, and their species, sex, and size. After they die, we measure them, cut them open to check on spawning success, and then cut them in half (so we don't double-count any) and return their carcasses to the waters, for they bear in their flesh nutrients from the ocean that help sustain a multifaceted food web.

The salmon in Byrne Creek are also an affirmation that we, humans, can turn things around and undo some of the environmental damage we've done. Decades ago Byrne Creek was dead. Cut off from the Fraser River, it was devoid of fish. Then the City of Burnaby cut a new channel in the lower reach and installed gates that move with the tides. Volunteers and Fisheries and Oceans Canada began re-stocking the creek with chum and then coho, and cutthroat trout also repopulated the waterway.

It's an ongoing struggle with numerous pollution events poisoning the creek over the years through street drains, but given clean water, the salmon do come back, they do spawn successfully, and their progeny do hatch in the spring. This cycle of life is a sight to behold in our urban area.

Some of the fish that will be arriving soon were hatchery raised and released by schoolchildren a few years ago. Some were born in the creek, and are coming home. All will do their best to plant the eggs and seed for a new generation, and then die.

Welcome back.

Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM

September 13, 2012

Volunteer Organization of the Year Awarded to Byrne Creek Streamkeepers

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society in Burnaby, BC, was pleasantly surprized to receive a Volunteer Organization of the Year award from the Washington-British Columbia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

Dr. John Morgan of Vancouver Island University, President-Elect of the WA-BC chapter wrote: "At our recent annual general meeting in Victoria, the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were selected for the Volunteer Organization of the Year, awarded to volunteers in the BC-Washington region who have made exemplary contributions to fisheries conservation, education and science. Congratulations!"

According to its website, the American Fisheries Society is "the oldest, largest, and most influential association of fisheries professionals in the world", and its "mission is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals."

The streamkeeper group was honoured to receive such recognition after thousands of hours of volunteer work over many years, working with partners including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the City of Burnaby, and the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation that provides training in streamkeeping modules.

As a streamkeeper, it is particularly gratifying to be recognized by a professional association for efforts as citizen scientists. The Byrne Creek group has over a decade of data collected on salmon spawner returns, aquatic invertebrate counts, resident fish trapping, invasive plant species mapping, etc.

Stephanie Avery-Gomm, a graduate student at UBC, and WA-BC chapter student representative, presented the award at a BCSS monthly meeting on Sept. 13, 2012.



Posted by Paul at 10:11 PM

September 03, 2012

Person Damaging Sensitive Areas of Byrne Creek Alarms Streamkeepers

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society in conjunction with the City of Burnaby Parks Dept. sent out the following press release on Aug. 31:

Repeated damage near the banks of Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby has dismayed streamkeepers who help protect and restore this urban oasis, and monitor its salmon and other wildlife.

"We're seeing trails cut, branches torn off, trees cut down, salmonberry bushes and ferns torn out--it's distressing," said Paul Cipywnyk, president of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society. "Our members put in hundreds of volunteer hours every year and we've planted some of those trees with City permission. It's so sad to see someone thoughtlessly cutting them down."

Cipywnyk said streamkeepers have been reporting damage to City staff, and are documenting it with photos. "City staff are also appalled and are very supportive," said Cipywnyk. "We're working together to quickly come up with ways to educate folks that such behaviour is unacceptable."

Burnaby Parks sees similar damage--usually created unintentionally by park users who go off trails to create a short-cut route or to explore new areas, or by dog owners who allow their pets to roam off-leash. Departing from designated trails, park users destroy plants and wildlife habitat. The City reminds all park users to respect the environment and stay on trails and keep their pets leashed at all times.

Unfortunately, the damage this time seems much more deliberate and there is not much that can be done unless someone reports the person in the act.

Burnaby RCMP say citizens should not personally intervene if they witness such acts, and ask them to call police.

Cipywnyk notes that members of the public are coming forward with sightings and descriptions of at least one person observed doing such damage. "We thank everyone who has contacted our group, and we encourage the public to pass any tips on to Burnaby RCMP."

"We hope the person or persons involved will read this and stop their destructive behaviour," Cipywnyk said. "We don't aim to be punitive, we just want the damage to end. We're hoping this is not malicious and that perhaps someone simply doesn't understand the negative impact of such actions. We are very fortunate to have jewels like Byrne Creek Ravine Park in our midst, and we should treat such green havens with respect."

-- 30 --

We received plenty of coverage in the local papers and on Global TV. As of two weeks later, it seem that fresh damage is diminishing, so we hope the message got through.

Burnaby Now: Burnaby streamkeepers upset over creekside damage

Global TV: New trails being cut out in Byrnaby's Byrne Creek by a mysterious stranger

Burnaby Newsleader: Damage near Byrne Creek alarms streamkeepers, city

Posted by Paul at 09:21 PM

August 01, 2012

Dragonflies & Frogs in Burnaby’s Foreshore Park

After working with a client for a couple of hours this morning, I skipped out this afternoon for several hours of "shooting" pond life in Burnaby's Fraser Foreshore Park. It was a gorgeous sunny day. I love ponds and wetlands for their biodiversity. Water truly is life.


















For the photographers out there, all shots handheld with a
Nikon D300 and 70-300mm zoom lens. Aperture priority
at f8 to f11, with exposure compensation ranging from -0.3
to + 1.0, depending on the background. ISOs in the 400 - 1,250
range despite the bright sunshine to ensure shutter speeds
fast enough to stop motion. No post-processing aside from

Posted by Paul at 07:52 PM

July 31, 2012

Post-Work Stroll in Fraser Foreshore Park in Burnaby

I picked up two three-piece chicken dinners from KFC with a discount coupon today. Yeah, not the healthiest choice, but what the heck, it's my birthday tomorrow, and I always celebrate by eating badly for a couple of days : -). I intercepted my wife at the skytrain station on her way home from work and we drove down to Burnaby's Fraser Foreshore Park for an impromptu picnic.

After we had our romantic meal watching tug after tug towing log booms up the river, we stretched our legs by walking over to the mouth of Byrne Creek, and the Glenlyon pond just west of the outfall. The pond is a great place to see waterlife, unfortunately much of it invasive, including non-native pumpkinseed fish and possibly bullfrogs, judging the occasional massive croak one hears. There are also smaller native frogs, and lots of assorted dragonflies.

A few shots taken with my pocket Canon SD780IS today.






There are two little frogs in this "where's Waldo" picture : -)

I was amazed at how relaxed a couple of these frogs were. The SD780IS
maxes out at the equivalent of a 105mm lens on a 35mm film camera,
but I managed to get the camera within a meter of these sun-stunned beauties.

I haven't been down by the foreshore ponds for months, so I may
play hooky tomorrow on my birthday after I take care of a client
meeting in the morning. I'd love to go back with my DSLR and
telephoto zoom. . .

Posted by Paul at 09:12 PM

July 28, 2012

Flora ’n Fauna Fotos from Campbell Valley Regional Park

Yumi and I spent a wonderful afternoon at Campbell Valley Regional Park today. It's part of Metro Vancouver's fabulous regional parks system. We visit Campbell Valley several times a year, but today we tried a couple of trails that were new to us. The park has a great variety of mini ecosystems to explore: ponds, marshy river, forest, meadows, etc. The "walk" turned into more of a "trek" but we emerged back the parking lot after several hours tired, but happy.

Here's a bunch of photos:


The pond and gazebo near the nature house


Lots of different kinds of bees in the nature house flower garden











Posted by Paul at 08:56 PM

Byrne Creek Crayfish, Ladybugs, Invasive Plants

Yumi and I tackled some invasive Policeman's Helmet along Byrne Creek this morning. Over about four summers, streamkeepers have managed to battle the plant to near victory in one stretch in the lower watershed. We've focussed on this stretch because the prolific plant would literally suck the creek dry around here. This summer we found just a few plants, and bagged them before they could spread their thousands of seeds. After completing that volunteer task, we checked out some other parts of the creek and were gratified to see hundreds of gradually growing salmonid fry - and a crayfish.


Yumi is about 5 1/2 feet tall, so those Policeman's Helmets
behind her must be pushing 8 to 9 feet, or well over 2 meters


There were hundreds of ladybugs near where we were working.
Some were just out of the larval stage, with husks around. Many
of the ladybugs were hanging out on stinging nettle - obviously
it doesn't affect them like it does us!


Here's the crayfish. It was a good size and very active.


And a cool green bug

Posted by Paul at 01:31 PM

July 02, 2012

First Annual Celebration of Safety & Culture on the Fraser River

I couldn't find a link to this event online, so I have taken the liberty of scanning the PDF and reproducing it, along with some of its information converted to text. Sounds like an interesting, educational, and community  building event.

The First Annual "Celebration of Safety and Culture on the Fraser River" will take place on Saturday, August 11, 2012, from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. at Island 22 Regional Park in Chilliwack. This Celebration is a family event hosted by the Fraser Valley Regional District in cooperation with the Fraser River Peacemakers and Fraser Valley First Nations' organizations.

The "Celebration of Safety and Culture on the Fraser River" is intended to promote safe river practices and highlight the many groups who use and are connected to the Fraser River. The event will feature displays, activities and demonstrations from a variety of river user groups and relevant organizations. Groups that will be on site at this event will include:

Please mark this event on your calendar to make sure that you don't miss this great opportunity to learn more about safety and culture on the Fraser River. Admission to this event is free, and food and drinks will be available.
If you have any questions regarding this event, please email parks@fvrd.bc.ca.

(Note: the hyperlinks tagged for the above  groups were researched and added by me, so any landing errors are mine. I could not find web pages for the two FN listings.)


Posted by Paul at 06:34 PM

June 28, 2012

Slashing of Canadian Fisheries Habitat Staff So Wrong, So Sad

As the word spreads that our present government in Ottawa somehow sees fit to slash Department of Fisheries habitat staff by a third, I suspect tens of thousands of volunteer stewards across British Columbia, and the rest of Canada, are reeling.

Having volunteered for over ten years and hundreds of hours as a streamkeeper, this news is devastating.

Here is a synopsis from retired DFO biologist Otto Langer of DFO habitat staff cuts announced internally today.

Today all DFO habitat protection and management staff in Canada are receiving letters that they are now red circled ie they are being affected by Bill C 38 with it's budget and habitat legislation and program cuts (ie DFO downsizing) and many will soon not have a job. Yesterday all staff in BC - Yukon were advised of this happening in a telephone call from Pacific Regional Director General Susan Farlinger. Staff were directed to not discuss this with anyone and only DFO Ottawa was allowed to comment on the issue.

132 habitat staff across Canada will be fired (laid off) in the next few months in that many will have to compete for remaining jobs. In Pacific region they now have 92 staff and that is to be reduced to 60 staff - ie 32 will be laid off ie an approx. 33% cut in staff. Also all habitat office locations in Pacific Region are to be closed down with the exception of Whitehorse, Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Vancouver and Nanaimo. That means offices such as those in Mission, Campbell River, Prince George, Nelson, Williams Lake, Smithers, Port Hardy, etc are to be shut down. If the Enbridge and the natural gas lines go across northern BC there will be no habitat staff in Prince George or Smithers, etc and the closest offices will be Prince Rupert or Kamloops. The office in Part Hardy did look after salmon farming issues.

This puts DFO back where it was in the early 1980s ie 5 offices in BC and even less staff than they had in 1983 with many giant projects such as Enbridge, gas lines, gas liquification plants, New Prosperity Gold Mine, Site C Dam on the Peace River, Panamax tankers of jet fuel up the Fraser River, Roberts Bank Port expansion, etc. now being proposed and pushed along. Never in the pasts 50 year history of habitat protection have we seen such great cuts in staff the face of upcoming massive industrial development that can and will harm habitat and our fisheries of the future.

Finally, Ottawa has given all DFO habitat staff directions to remove their name Habitat Management Program title from their organization and from their offices etc. in that they are now to be called the Fisheries Protection Program.

In summary this puts DFO back to where they were in the late s1970s in terms of habitat staff numbers in Pacific Region but with next to no legislation to protect overall habitat and a greatly reduced presence in the field where the habitat damage takes place. Their efforts will of course be distracted over the next year or more in that staff will have to compete for the surviving 60 positions and put their minds to what do can do for a living when laid off and where do they move to to get a job to support their families etc. I am told the then very low morale of the staff was destroyed by Bill C 38 and now it received its final blow and morale and willingness and direction to do their jobs can now be measured in negative quantities. . .

Cheers Otto Langer

PS. All DFO habitat protection offices from Quebec to the BC - Alberta border ie Central and Arctic Region will also be drastically cut and all offices will be shut down except in Ottawa, Burlington, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife. It is indicated that of 63 DFO offices in Canada with habitat staff (now - fisheries protection staff) most will be closed and the number of offices having 'habitat' type program staff will be reduced to 14 for a giant geographic area - ie Canada.

This will impact volunteers, but I really feel for the Fisheries field staff on the ground and on the water -- in my experience they are wonderful, hard-working folks with huge hearts who really care about what they do. I cannot imagine the impact this is having on them and their families, much less the morale and productivity of the organization as a whole. And Pacific region was already understaffed with unfilled openings in many positions before this latest round of cuts.

Posted by Paul at 09:16 PM

June 14, 2012

Video Interview about Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers from Neilson Grove Elementary on Vimeo.

A video interview of moi, conducted by kids at Neilson Grove Elementary as part of a school Stream of Dreams project. Great fun! To see lots of other interviews of local stewards from many groups try this link:http://vimeo.com/search?q=Neilson+Grove+Elementary

Posted by Paul at 09:51 AM

June 12, 2012

Morning Birds at Lac La Jeune Provincial Park

I didn't realize until I was breaking camp this morning that I'd slept within meters of a downy woodpecker nest at Lac La Jeune Provincial Park. I caught a flicker of motion out of the corner of my eye as I was getting ready to roll out, and saw a pair of adults passing food into a tree cavity. I waited for an hour, but the closest I got to getting a decent shot was when I was coming back from a bio break - take your camera everywhere! : -)


Next up was a mountain bluebird


Posted by Paul at 08:55 AM

June 11, 2012

Tunkwa Provincial Park–Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Saw this stunning yellow-headed blackbird as I was leaving Tunkwa Provincial Park.



Family of Canada Geese


Posted by Paul at 09:00 PM

April 22, 2012

Deer Lake Ramble Sees Mink, Birds, Beauty–and Death in the Afternoon

Yumi and I took a two-hour ramble around Burnaby's Deer Lake Park this afternoon. We were amazed to see a mink snag a frog in broad daylight just a few feet away from us. That was the highlight of the afternoon, but there were plenty of other great views in this gem of an urban park.


Starting the lake-round trail clockwise from the beach area



Fishing from the comfort of a chair!


We've still got some great blossoms around


We saw several raptors patrolling the park. An osprey?



The north shore Lions in the background


Tree-climbing snail


OK, not a great shot, but I had to prove that we did see the elusive
pheasants that you can often hear, but rarely see, in the park. We
saw two today, a couple skulking in the bush.


The invasive red-eared sliders were out in force enjoying some rays


And here's the mink. Little one, but lethal. . .


Hard to see, but the mink bounced into the water and came up
with a frog that it carried under the log. We heard a soft crunch
or two, and saw no more.


Another frog, further down the lake


Awwww. Mallard duckling, one of eight out cruisin' with mom.


Mother and child of another species enjoying the park : -)


A handsome crow at the end of our circumnavigation of the lake trail

Posted by Paul at 06:23 PM

April 20, 2012

Byrne Creek Ravine Flowers, Plants, Bees

We are in the midst of a kitchen reno, and the other day I placed my Nikon D300 DSLR and 18-200 lens on top a cabinet that I had assembled. Choco the cat chose that moment to jump up and investigate said cabinet, and slid into the camera, knocking it 39 1/8" onto a carpeted floor. The camera seems to be OK, but the front element of the lens was loose, so I took it in to the Nikon Canada service centre in Richmond, BC. $199 + tax to fix. Ouch, but better than laying out some $800 for a new lens.

So today I was "limited" to my 70-300 (105-450mm equivalent) zoom on my lunchtime creek walk, but I had fun seeking opportunities to capitalize on the telephoto zoom's shallow depth of field, perspective flattening, and ability to narrowly isolate elements in scenes. A few of today's shots:












These are all hand-held, natural shots, with no flash, and no
artificial backgrounds. Just "normal" manipulation of exposure.
ISOs in the 400-1,000 range, because I don't like lugging a tripod
around. But that may change when I try to blow shots like these
up to 11 X 14 and beyond. Lugging that tripod will be critical then . . .

Posted by Paul at 01:48 PM

April 10, 2012

My Annual New Westminster, BC, Flower Foto Extravaganza

Yes, folks, it's that time of year again, when flowers on the promenade near the New Westminster, BC, Quay, are in full bloom. The gardeners always do a wonderful job of planting. Check it out soon if you're in the hood.

















Posted by Paul at 09:39 PM

April 02, 2012

Coho Fry Spotted in Byrne Creek

My wife Yumi spotted some coho fry in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC, on March 24. She carefully netted, photographed, and released a couple of fry. Note that streamkeepers do this with permission from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans - otherwise it is illegal to net fry.


Posted by Paul at 08:36 PM

March 31, 2012

Los Angeles, Western States Road Trip–Part 2

Another day on the road heading south to LA. Note that we did this trip in mid to late March, and I'm posting photos now starting a couple of weeks later.

One place we greatly enjoyed along the way despite the poor weather was MacKerricher State Park in Northern California. We spent several hours walking the boardwalks, watching birds and seals, and even passed through the mouth of a whale!







Posted by Paul at 08:40 PM

March 30, 2012

Los Angeles, Western States Road Trip–Part 1

Over ten years had passed since our last road trip to LA where my sister lives with her husband and kids. It was well past time to visit them, so we cobbled together a little over a week for my wife, and two weeks for me. The plan was to drive down the coast, taking five days to get there, including a couple of days in San Francisco, then Yumi would fly home after a couple of days in LA. I'd spend a few more days with my sis, and then drive back.

Unfortunately, we hit one of those wet patches that now and then covers the entire west coast. We had rain, snow, and wind all the way down, but still enjoyed being on the road.

We left one evening after work, and made it as far as Olympia, WA, the first night. The next day was the first of a couple on the coast. Unfortunately is was rainy, foggy, and cold, and let me tell you, though I generally love driving, it was a bit nerve-wracking on some parts of the narrow, twisty coast road, particularly in fog.

But here are a few shots of some fun along the way. The Avenue of the Giants.



Posted by Paul at 08:25 PM

February 29, 2012

Milky Green Substance Enters Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

When I went for my afternoon walk today, I was dismayed to see Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby running a whitish-green color. We'd had rain and snow, but the "normal" color of wash off the road following rain is brown. There was no noticeable smell, and I didn't observe any fish dead or in distress.

I called my observations in to City of Burnaby environmental staff.

I first saw the discoloration when I reached the bottom of the stairs into the ravine around 3:30 today. I checked the forebay of the rain garden on Southpoint Dr. and the water there was clear. Then I checked Griffiths Pond near the Edmonds Skytrain Station around 4:05 and the discoloration was evident there, though diminished.

I also posted the news to the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers mailing list, and another streamkeeper, Garnet, traced the greenish flow all the way upstream to where the creek now comes to light from storm pipes in the Edmonds area.


Photo I took in the ravine


Photo sent by streamkeeper Garnet where the creek daylights

Posted by Paul at 09:06 PM

February 19, 2012

Campbell Valley Chickadees

One of our favourite places to interact with birds in the lower mainland is Campbell Valley Regional Park, part of Metro Vancouver's lovely park system. The chickadees in this park are handfed regularly, so it's great fun to feed them and take photos.






Posted by Paul at 08:33 PM

February 11, 2012

Streamkeepers Collect GPS Reference Points on Byrne Creek

Volunteers from the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were out again this weekend, collecting GPS reference points on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC. We installed reference tags along the creek over a decade ago so that we had set geographical points to relate our data collection to. Some of those tags had disappeared over the years, and some were badly faded, so last weekend we began installing fresh tags, and also taking GPS coordinates at each tag.

We have approval from the City of Burnaby to refresh the tags, since much of the creek is in a municipal park.

It's quite strenuous working one's way up the ravine as there are no trails in a good portion of it. We locate the old tags, install new ones, take GPS readings, and also take a set of photos at each tag so we can compare views over time. We want the GPS coordinates so that we can easily share our data collections online through GIS applications such as the Community Mapping Network and Google Earth.

Today's highlights were coming across a heron and a raccoon.


I am always amazed at how these awkward-looking birds
are so graceful and balanced when perching in trees


This raccoon came ambling along right up to our group. I don't know
if it simply didn't hear us, but it was comical when it suddenly realized
it had walked within a few meters of us, and beat a hasty retreat.


We ran into it again a hundred meters or so up the creek,
where it had taken refuge in a tree.


Yumi doing a pH sample.


Garnet GPS-referencing a photo on his iPhone.


John holding an old hub cap. Wonder if it's an antique?
People used to use ravines as convenient places to dump garbage
and get rid of unwanted appliances and vehicles. Thankfully we've
cleaned up most of it over the last decade or so, but we still run
across "archaeological middens."


Yumi collected six bags of garbage along the way.


Me taking a reading with my trusty Garmin 60Csx. Even in the depths of
the ravine with lots of tree cover, I could usually get 5-6 meter accuracy,
though occasionally that drifted to 7.


L-R: Garnet, Dave and John collecting data at a reference point.


Posted by Paul at 08:02 PM

February 07, 2012

Lovely Afternoon at Historic Stewart Farm in South Surrey

I took advantage of the sunshine to head down to the Historic Stewart Farm in South Surrey for some rambling exercise and photography.





There were lots of golden-crowned sparrows, if I've got my ID right:





A kingfisher







Posted by Paul at 08:17 PM

February 05, 2012

Snowy Owls, Other Birds at Boundary Bay

Yumi convinced me to go to Boundary Bay today to see if there were any snowy owls left. I'd been in a boycotting mood after hearing about the masses of photographers, some of whom appeared to be overly eager to get a good shot and were harassing the birds. . . But though there were a lot of people out there today, 99% were respectful, with only the odd one or two encroaching on the mud flats. There were enough owls left to get some good shots from the dike.





The following individual entertained us for half an hour with
grooming activities








That was hard work, time for a nap. . .

There's something so engaging about a yawn. We yawn. Dogs and cats
yawn. Our turtle yawns. . . So nice to see an owl yawn.




For the photographers out there, all of these were shot handheld with a Nikon D300 and an AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm lens at around ISO 1,250. Yeah, shoulda brought a tripod. The Boundary Bay area is a good place for "lens envy." :- ) There were plenty waaayy bigger than mine!

Posted by Paul at 08:26 PM

February 04, 2012

Quick Walk in Burnaby’s Foreshore Park

I took advantage of the sun today to take a quick walk in Burnaby's Foreshore Park. There were lots of people out enjoying the late afternoon rays.




Posted by Paul at 08:21 PM

January 23, 2012

The Three Lovely Ladies in my Life

The wife, the turtle, and the cat snuggle up together while watching TV.


What had them all so engrossed? Cesar Millan's dog show on TV : -)

Posted by Paul at 10:00 PM

January 18, 2012

Rick Mercer Tackles ‘Radicals’ & Northern Gateway Pipeline Issue

Hilarity, free speech, and democracy, ensue.

Hey, aren't at least the last two supposedly among conservative values?


Posted by Paul at 09:57 PM

January 15, 2012

Snow in South Burnaby, Jan. 15, 2012


Ron McLean Park



Trees are confused this year as these alders are prepared to pollinate,
only to be hit by snow


More budding plants in the snow




Heading down into the ravine


An old stump from logging many decades ago



Byrne Creek looks even more lovely, dusted with snow


Yumi checks out a pool in the creek

Posted by Paul at 09:27 PM

Trusty Taiga Gore-Tex Jacket Gets Deserved Wash

After some three months of patrolling Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby for spawning salmon, I gave my Taiga Gore-Tex jacket a thankful wash today. It was muddy, it was, um, a tish rank, but it's served me well for at least six or seven years now, if not longer.


Posted by Paul at 09:01 PM

January 12, 2012

Byrne Creek Spawning Salmon Data for 2011

Some good news!

Here are our final spawner numbers for Byrne Creek for 2011:


Female spawned         9
Female unspawned    4

Male spawned         5
Male unspawned    3

Total of 21 coho


Female spawned         2
Female unspawned    1

Male spawned          5
Male unspawned    7

Total of 15 chum

Grand total of 36 spawners

Also noted 14 large, distinct redds (nests of eggs) spread between the artificial
spawning channel and the lower part of the ravine.

For comparison:

2010: 5 chum/8 coho total 13
2009: 6 chum/4 coho total 10
2008: 25 chum/8 coho total 33
2007: 15 chum/7 coho total 22
2006: 27 chum/8 coho total 35
2005: 17 chum/26 coho total 43
2004: 67 chum/24 coho total 91


1) We patrolled the creek 22 times between mid-October to the end of
December (average of ~2.2 times/week).

2) Fish arrived late this year, and the run extended later than usual.
Spotted our first fish (coho jack) on Oct. 24, and last fish, a spawned
coho female, on Dec. 30. Usually we start seeing fish from around
October 15-17, and rarely see anything past mid-December.

3) As you can see, we don't get an even match between spawned females
and "spawned" males. We realize it can be difficult to determine if male
fish have spawned or not, but if sacs are empty, or loose, we call them
spawned. If firm and full, not spawned.

4) I haven't got this all in Excel yet, so hard to do other comparisons,
but we had the sense that fish were smaller this year, both chum and
coho. If I flip through my notes, nearly all fish (eye to base of tail)
were in the 46-54cm range, with only a couple larger with the largest at
58cm. We certainly used to get larger fish of both species.

5) While of course we miss a few fish to predation and heavy flows, our
methodology is consistent from year to year. We patrol the spawning
stretch from Byrne Bridge up to the bottom of the stairs in the ravine
at least twice a week, and "process" every mort we find.

Looking forward to fry-spotting in a few months!

Posted by Paul at 09:51 PM

January 06, 2012

Good News Story on Salmon Spawning in Byrne Creek in Burnaby Now

The Burnaby Now interviewed me about spawner numbers in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC. In a nutshell, this is the first salmon spawning season in several years in which streamkeepers have counted in increase in salmon. After terrible combined chum & coho numbers of just 13 in 2010 and 10 in 2009, we found 36 this year. More details in this post.

And here's the Burnaby Now story.

Posted by Paul at 02:37 PM

December 31, 2011

Salmon Spawning Season Ends on Byrne Creek?

Happy New Year everyone!
It appears the salmon spawning season on our beloved Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby may be over. I found one dead coho female yesterday (unusually late in the year), and today Yumi and I didn't see any salmon, dead or alive.
It was a good season, though. Over the course of 22 creek patrols from Oct. 15 to Dec. 31, streamkeepers tallied 36 salmon, 15 chum and 21 coho - those are fish that have been found dead (salmon die when they return to fresh water to spawn), measured, sexed, and cut open to see if they have spawned or not. That's the first upturn in several years on our battered urban creek, and nearly triple the count of only 13 last year.
There are also at least 14 redds, or nests of eggs laid by salmon in the creek, so we can look forward to seeing baby fry in the spring, assuming the water stays free of pollutants.
Thanks to all the volunteers!

Note: streamkeepers are trained to monitor spawning salmon, and collect data on live and dead fish. It is illegal to interfere with, or harm, spawning salmon.

Posted by Paul at 02:14 PM

December 30, 2011

Soap Enters Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

Here's a simple video I made when I ran across soap coming into Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby via a street drain today.

Posted by Paul at 07:07 PM

December 28, 2011

Let Us Not Forget Derek’s Last Post

As the year ends, I've been reviewing events of 2011 that moved me, and one was the death of Derek K. Miller, and his "Last Post."

I don't want to say much, because there are plenty of folks in EAC, and in particular EAC-BC, who knew Derek way better than I had the chance to. I heard him speak several times, and I followed his powerful blog, but we didn't have a personal relationship.

Derek's Last Post bears reading again, for it stares death, and life, in the face.


It's also a reality check. Are we spending the precious moments of our lives following our passions, and contributing as best we can to positive change in our world?

UPDATE: Dawn, another EAC member and editor, remembers this post as particularly moving:

For me, the post I most remember is Endgame
I never met Derek in person, just in emails and on his blog.
But his writing and his story really affected me.

Posted by Paul at 08:06 PM

December 27, 2011

Low Eagle Counts Near Squamish

Despite the rain, Yumi and I went up to the Squamish area to look for eagles today. Glad we went for while it was pouring in the lower mainland, it was only drizzling around Brackendale.

Unfortunately, the volunteers at the eagle run pavilion said numbers were low yet again so far this year, continuing several years of declines. The eagles depend on salmon that return to spawn, and while apparently spawner forecasts are up this year, the volunteers said that hasn't been reflected on the ground, or, er, in the water, so far.

Here's a shot taken today:


Unfortunately is was overcast and raining, so not much snap, tonally or colour-wise. Also had to juice the ISO on my Nikon to 3200 to enable handheld shots at 300mm (450mm equivalent on a 35mm film camera).

Posted by Paul at 07:13 PM

December 18, 2011

Burnaby Mountain Sunset

Sun setting over west Burnaby and Vancouver as seen from Burnaby Mountain. The "totem poles" in some of the photos are Kumui Mintara, or the "Playground of the Gods." They are Ainu creations from northern Japan.







All shots taken with my wee, pocket Canon SD780IS, because it was supposed to be a romantic evening with the wife so the Nikon DSLR gear was left at home. Needless to say, the wife, too, was soon snapping away with her matching SD780IS. Now that's romantic! : -)

Posted by Paul at 08:04 PM

December 17, 2011

Huge Shelf Fungus Found in Byrne Creek

While we were patrolling for spawning salmon on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, Yumi came across this huge shelf fungus. It had fallen off, or been washed off, some tree it had been growing on, and was on a small gravel bar in the creek. After a few moments admiring its size, we placed it in the forest to continue what was left of its life cycle, and its contributions to the environment around it. It might be "dead", but no point in taking it home as a trophy, when its own decay will contribute to the riparian zone.


Posted by Paul at 10:40 PM

December 04, 2011

Japan Trip—Day 6 of Photos—Aomori Fall Colours

Continuing photos from our Japan trip in October, we finally made it up to Yumi's parents' place in Aomori, near the northern end of Japan's main island. We borrowed their car, and headed out to explore the autumn colours of the famous Oirase area.


There are usually a couple of swans hanging around in this river near
Yumi's parents' place












Yumi on the bank of the stream


Two bees, or not to bee : -)




A raptor soars near Lake Towada

Posted by Paul at 08:26 PM

December 02, 2011

Fraser Foreshore Park in Burnaby

Late afternoon ramble along Fraser Foreshore Park in south Burnaby.








Posted by Paul at 07:27 PM

November 30, 2011

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol Nov. 30

It was a glorious morning to patrol for spawning salmon on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today. Clear and sunny, with the air crisp and clean, the water clear. When you get focused on finding fish, you almost forget you're in the middle of a city.




A huge redd, or nest of eggs, laid by spawning salmon. It may be hard
to imagine, but three older farts in their 50s & 60s stood in awe at this
beautiful sight for a couple of minutes. This represents success-to have
salmon return to the creek against incredible odds, and lay the seed for
a new generation.

Posted by Paul at 02:53 PM

November 19, 2011

Autumn Colors Lend Poignancy to Dead Salmon Spawners

Late autumn is a visually glorious time. For many runs of Pacific salmon, it's also a time of death, and laying the seeds of rebirth, in a natural cycle.

While I accept death, it upsets me when salmon make it all the way back to where they were born, yet die before they can spawn, and lay the basis for a new generation in "my" creek, the creek that I and dozens of other streamkeepers devote thousands of volunteer hours to.

Today my wife and I saw nine salmon in the creek that flows through our urban watershed--Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby. One chum, spotted with fungus and near death, stolidly guarding her redd, the nest that she'd carved out of the gravel in the creek. Several expired coho, unfortunately most not spawned before death. And five live coho attaining their magnificent spawning colours, and still full of life, though they too, will expire soon.

I've got cans of salmon in my cupboard. I've got a couple of pink salmon in my freezer that I caught while fishing this summer. But I still hold a nearly reverent sense of wonder for these lovely fish that have travelled so far to come back to this struggling, oft polluted little creek in a big city.


Leaves and remnants of snow in Ron McLean Park near the tennis courts





A striking coho male


A coho female. We knew as soon as we pulled her body out of a pool
that she had not spawned. The bulge evident in her belly indicated
she was full of eggs


The stoic chum mum, nearly dead, but still watching over her redd

As always, I NOTE that it is illegal to interfere with spawning salmon,
and that streamkeepers have training, and permission from DFO, to
monitor and collect data on spawners.

Posted by Paul at 10:13 PM

November 18, 2011

Vestiges of Autumn Leaves, Dripping Water Along Byrne Creek

As I did a patrol for spawning salmon along Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today, I kept stopping to take shots with my teeny Canon SD780Is pocket camera.









Posted by Paul at 02:14 PM

November 17, 2011

Coho Salmon Dying Before Spawning in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek - Again

The following photo shows a gorgeous male coho in full spawning coloration found in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby this morning. There was a female coho, dead and full of eggs, just a few dozen meters away. Unfortunately, yet again we're seeing coho dying before they can spawn. Can't get the timing right? Urban pollution?
NOTE: It's illegal to disturb spawning salmon - volunteer streamkeepers are trained to patrol creeks and collect data for DFO.


It's so sad to see these lovely fish unable to fulfill their natural life cycle. They have travelled from creek to ocean, and back to creek, over several years and perhaps thousands of kilometers. They have overcome incredible odds - on the order of a thousand to one - to survive from egg to alevin, from alevin to smolt. To move out into the ocean as smolts and survive predation and fishing, and grow from perhaps 10cm to 60cm or more, and  make it back to the creek where they originated.

Posted by Paul at 03:35 PM

November 06, 2011

Remembering Burnaby Streamkeeper Jennifer Atchison

There was a ceremony of remembrance, dedication of a park bench, and a potluck gathering to honour Burnaby streamkeeper extraordinaire Jennifer Atchison today. Unfortunately, I and a couple of other folks were at a SEHAB (Salmon Enhancement & Habitat Advisory Board) meeting, and arrived late, but were generously excused, for Jennifer would have understood. She was active on the SEHAB board in her time.

I posted about Jennifer's passion and passing here, just over a year ago.

Here are a couple of shots of the bench overlooking Stoney Creek, which she loved so much.




Posted by Paul at 07:13 PM

October 26, 2011

Great Presentations on Rain Gardens & Stormwater Pollution at Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

A few things that struck me today at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver:

Rain Gardens & Bioswales

The City of Delta has an agreement with its school board to build two rain gardens a year on school property, with kids doing the planting. The woman speaking from Delta said, "We're done with pilot projects. We know these things work. We want to make green infrastructure standard practice." Delta figures it spends around $15,000 per school rain garden.

Kitsap County over the border offers residents up to $500 in incentives to put rain gardens on private property, along with free technical consultations, and has a dedicated "rain garden program manager." How cool is that? She said a private homeowner can put in a rain garden starting at under $1,000. From a target of 100 private-property rain gardens this year, they've already signed up 76 homeowners. She also has a database with each rain garden in it, its location, how large an area it drains, what watershed it's in, what kind of soil it's in, GIS mapping data, estimates of how much each site can infiltrate, etc., etc. Yowza!

Various counties in Washington State are training and deploying "Rain Garden Ambassadors" and "Rain Garden Mentors" to educate citizens and encourage acceptance of rain gardens in neighborhoods.

The Puget Sound area has a target of 16,000 rain gardens by 2016: http://raingarden.wsu.edu/

PDF of a Washington State University "Low Impact Development" manual here:

Effects of Copper Pollution from Road Wash on Fish

A researcher at WSU contacted me before the conference because she found stuff on my blog and on the Byrne Creek website about coho dying unspawned in Byrne Creek. She is researching that issue, and also the impact of pollution on coho smolts, and wanted to know if we could meet while she was in Vancouver for the conference.

I went to her session today and she's discovered that even minute concentrations of copper in water from road wash (brake lining dust, etc.) can impair or even destroy salmonid sensory organs including the lateral-line sensors, and the olfactory sense. The impairment happens quickly.

Posted by Paul at 08:47 PM

October 08, 2011

Paradise Valley Road

After spending the morning editing, I had to get out and clear my head, so I took a quick jaunt up to the Squamish area. I like checking out a few creeks and rivers up that way for spawning salmon, and sure enough, I could smell them before I could see them.


Spawner seen through the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery fence


Paradise Valley Road



Posted by Paul at 07:31 PM

September 22, 2011

BC ‘Salmon-Safe’ Launch–PSF Invitation

I received the following from the Pacific Salmon Foundation today by email, and am reposting it here. The text and image are from PSF:

You're invited to the official launch of Salmon-Safe in British Columbia

Working with farmers to keep B.C.'s streams healthy for Pacific salmon to thrive

Wednesday | October 5 | 2011 | 3:00 - 4:30pm

At the Main Street Station Vancouver Farmers Market 1100 Block Station Street (along Thornton Park across from the VIA Rail Station and near the Main St Skytrain Station)

Complementary tasty creations generously prepared by Two Chefs and a Table, featuring seasonal produce from Salmon-Safe farms!

Salmon-Safe is a third-party certification program that recognizes farmers who adopt conservation practices that help restore Pacific salmon habitat in rivers and streams. The Pacific Salmon Foundation and Fraser Basin Council are the delivery partners for Salmon-Safe in B.C. The Salmon Safe initiative is funded in part by: Royal Bank of Canada Blue Water Project and the Living Rivers Trust Fund


Posted by Paul at 01:02 PM

September 21, 2011

Stealth Bomber Moth

Saw this cool-looking moth on our garage door yesterday.


Posted by Paul at 04:01 PM

September 20, 2011

Burnaby World Rivers Day 2011

Note: the following information and images are from the Rivers Day organizers.


Sunday, September 25th, 11:00 - 3:00PM

You are invited to World Rivers Day,  a global event celebrating our planet's rivers. This year is the 6th anniversary of World Rivers Day and the 31th anniversary of Rivers Day in BC. Enjoy your time at BCIT's Burnaby Campus and learn more about Guichon Creek right here in Burnaby and the importance of our world's waterways.


Enjoy the following FREE activities (ongoing from 11:00 to 3:00 pm):

discover BCIT's latest stream improvements along Guichon Creek

help enhance the natural riparian habitat with Evergreen (and horse and buggy rides to the site!)

learn more about your local environment from a wide range of informative displays

browse tasty farmers market vendors

see live raptors with the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society

enjoy a City of Burnaby ecosculpture exhibit

experience a portable climbing wall

Where is it this year?

This year the event is located at BCIT's Burnaby campus; between Canada Way and Deer Lake Parkway near Willingdon Avenue and Wayburne Drive in Burnaby (see map).

How do I get there?

Take transit, carpool or ride your bike!

Take the #25, #123, #130 or #125 bus (www.translink.ca). It's a short walk to the event site. Or ride your bike: the event is located on Burnaby's North-South Bikeway and near Willingdon Urban Trail. (www.burnaby.ca/cycling). Or you can car-pool! Visit the Jack Bell Ride-Share program website at www.ride-share.com to find your ride-match. Vehicle parking is also available and located nearby.



Drinking water will be available on site. Plastic bottled water is being discouraged this year in support of Metro Vancouver's Tap Water Campaign. Bring your eco-friendly bottle!

For more information visit: www.burnaby.ca/worldriversday


As part of World Rivers Day in Burnaby this year, help remove invasive plant species along STONEY CREEK with the Stoney Creek Environment Committee in North-East Burnaby. Go to www.scec.ca for more information.

Posted by Paul at 12:06 PM

September 19, 2011

A Slew of Salmon-Related Articles

East coast fishermen protest #Salmon farms, want to protect sensitive lobster habitat from pollution.: http://bit.ly/n5lW2Y

DFO not getting enough $ to properly study Fraser River salmon returns - Vancouver Sun: http://bit.ly/qtRcnW

Too many seals, sea lions shot at BC fish farms, say critics - Vancouver Sun: http://bit.ly/oRo69o

Fish caught in BC show no Fukushima contamination - Vancouver Sun: http://bit.ly/nQiplz

Salmon supported as BC Official Emblem - Vancouver Sun:http://bit.ly/o2ev0o

Article on coho salmon spawner mortality in urban streams. Similar issues on Byrne Creek in #Burnaby: http://bit.ly/o7nar3

Sockeye Feel the Heat - how rising temps affect salmon - Tyee: http://bit.ly/p9hHVl

As Feds slash Enviro Canada budget, international scientists worry about impact on climate research - CBC: http://bit.ly/pD2iLT

How does climate-change research relate to salmon? Heat. Salmon become prone to disease and exhaustion when water temperatures exceed around 20C.

And a good news story! Fish return to once-toxic dead zone near Britannia in  Howe Sound: http://tinyurl.com/5v4x3lr

Posted by Paul at 08:29 PM

September 13, 2011

Gray Day Fishing at Confluence of Fraser, Sumas in BC

Cousin Stacy took me fishing yet again. The day started out overcast and gloomy, and I got a few moody shots in the low light:



A heron competing with several boats

The day eventually cleared up somewhat and Stacy limited out on pink salmon, while I managed to land two.

A few more trips, and I'll be developing into a real salmon fisherperson : - ).

Seriously, as  I mentioned in a previous post, Stacy is a great coach, and he's a CMA to boot, so he takes continual improvement seriously!

Posted by Paul at 09:07 PM

September 09, 2011

Caught My First Salmon

I've never been an avid fisherman, but it's something that's always suited the camping / canoeing / hiking portfolio of activities that I love. I did some fishing as a kid growing up in Saskatchewan, mostly for perch and pike. I've lived in BC for over ten years now, and while my wife and I have done some lake fishing from shore and from canoe, we've never caught anything.

We've both volunteered as streamkeepers for around ten years, so we know and love salmon. We do eat them, though, so I figure there's nothing wrong with catching and killing a few salmon myself, given buying the license and having the opportunity.

I've been fortunate this summer that a cousin who is a focussed, experienced fisherman, and who has a boat, has taken us fishing several times on the Sumas and Fraser Rivers. Thanks, Stacy! He's also a great coach. I caught my first salmon, a pink, yesterday, and today I threw it on a cedar plank on the BBQ. Yum!


Me with my first pink.


Stacy with one of three he caught that day.

The other factor that makes such days wonderful, is that we both love to be out of the city, and on the water.

P.S. All you folks out there who buy salmon steaks, or beheaded & gutted carcasses, I encourage you to get a whole fish and have it bleed all over your kitchen sink while you eviscerate it. You can have your own "reality" experience without turning on the TV. Very educational for any kids around, too.

Posted by Paul at 09:05 PM

September 08, 2011

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society Holds First AGM

After over a decade of protecting and enhancing Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers became a registered BC society last year to fulfill volunteer insurance requirements. Today we held our first Annual General Meeting.

Here is the new board of directors as elected last night. Thanks to Abby Schwarz and Maho Hayashi, who stepped down, and thanks to John Sneep and Yumi Kosaka for coming aboard! Also thanks to all those continuing.

Paul Cipywnyk, President
Frank Williams, Vice President
Dave Burkholder, Treasurer
Yumi Kosaka, Secretary
John Sneep, Director at large
Joan Carne, Director at large

Here's my president's report as given to the AGM:

After operating for over ten years on an informal basis, the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers became the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society on June 11, 2010. We are breaking new ground here tonight with our first Annual General Meeting.

I am very pleased to have completed a year as president of the "new" society with everyone's support. I have to thank all who have volunteered with our group, and in particular I want to thank my mentor, Joan Carne, for teaching me so much about the creek, about cooperative community activism, and how to achieve things by bringing together as many people as possible, including all levels of government.

The inaugural board of directors for our first year:

Paul Cipywnyk, President
Frank Williams, Vice President
Dave Burkholder, Treasurer
Abby Schwarz, Secretary
Maho Hayashi, Director
Joan Carne, Director and Honourary Past President

As one of its first motions, the new board appointed Bert Richardson, Bob Fuller, and Lloyd Longeway as honourary lifetime members of the society in recognition of their founding roles in restoring and enhancing Byrne Creek. Joan Carne was also recognized with a Leadership Certificate for having chaired the informal group for over a decade.

Aside from gaining official registered non-profit society status, the activities of our group have changed little. We still paint yellow storm-drain fish, we still count bugs, we monitor returning salmon spawners, we remove invasive plant species, we do educational outreach at public events including creek tours, etc.

We also advocate for the preservation and restoration of the creek with all levels of government, and appreciate our good relations with the City of Burnaby Engineering, Parks and Planning departments, not to mention the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and in particular our Community Advisor, Maurice Coulter-Boisvert. We also work closely with the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, and other NGOs.

Rather than go through a long list of our activities over the last year in an Operations Report, I would simply refer people to our Byrne Creek Watershed 2010 Status Report (5.7MB PDF file) that is available for download from the website. I also have a copy here tonight should anyone like to view it.

I thank all the volunteers, and the folks who have said they will remain on the board of directors, and those who have put their names forward to join it.

Posted by Paul at 10:49 PM

September 07, 2011

Metro Vancouver Updating Regional Parks Plan

Metro Vancouver is looking for public input on updating its Regional Parks Plan. Here's some info I received from the MetroVan mailing list:

Regional Parks contribute to a healthy, sustainable region by conserving the natural assets of the region and promoting a healthy society.

The 2005 Regional Parks and Greenway Plan is being updated in 2011 because:

  • many actions in the 2005 plan are well underway or complete,
  • some actions have changed in scope or detail and need to be reconfirmed, and
  • a new format and actions are needed to ensure consistency and integration with Metro Vancouver's overall suite of sustainability plans.

Learn more about the Draft Regional Parks Plan

We are seeking feedback from regional stakeholders and the public.  Join us for the discussion:

Open House: (pre-registration not required)
Date: Wednesday, September 14th
Time: 6:00 - 8:00 (presentation starts at 6:30)
Location: Metro Vancouver Head Office, Information Centre
               4330 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC

Webinar: Thursday, September 15th, 11:30 - 12:30
Register online

Please provide comments by Monday, September 19th, 2011

Posted by Paul at 04:02 PM

September 04, 2011

Long Weekend Fishing on Fraser River

Cousin Stacy took us fishing today in his jet-drive river boat. He'd taken me out a couple of days ago, and today Yumi joined us. It was a glorious day, albeit slightly frustrating, as people all around us were hauling in salmon, and we brought nary a one into the boat. I had three on line, but lost them all. Keep that line tight! I don't fish often, and am not used to playing fish on single barbless hooks - they can shake them right quick if you slack up just a smidge. Most of my fishing was done as a kid in Saskatchewan where treble barbed hooks were usually used - at least a few decades ago. . . Yet I appreciate the single barbless, because you're way more likely to accomplish a successful "catch and release" than with any barbed hook, much less a treble.  Anyway it was great to be out on the water! Thanks cuz!



Me in front of the boat



Posted by Paul at 08:08 PM

August 20, 2011

Final Summer Bug Count on Byrne Creek Reveals Some Beauties

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers finished a third and final summer weekend of bug sampling this morning, with samples from the last three of nine sites that we've been sampling twice a year for at least ten years.

These bug surveys give an indication of water quality, using a standard methodology in The Streamkeepers Handbook, which can be downloaded from the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation. Unfortunately, Byrne Creek rarely rises above the "poor" level, as it receives a lot of polluted runoff from its urban environment.

Here are a few of the more rare aquatic bugs (larval stage) that we found in the creek this summer:


Crane fly


Caddis fly



Posted by Paul at 08:10 PM

August 07, 2011

Burnaby, Hope, Lytton, Lillooet, Duffy Lake Road, Whistler Daytrip

Lovely day for a trip up the valley, up the canyon, back to the coast via the Duffy Lake Road, and home down Howe Sound. I love how you can travel just a couple of hours in BC and come across such distinct biological & geographical zones.


The blue Thompson enters the muddy Fraser at Lytton








Naxwit Picnic area near BC Hydro Seton Lake Recreation Area















Seton Lake




Duffy Lake


Posted by Paul at 07:35 PM

August 06, 2011

Smart Little Bunny

We've caught glimpses of this rabbit several times over the last months in our townhouse complex. I'm assuming it's the same one as it's always around the same area. I find it interesting how it seems to survive right next door to an urban ravine, while outdoor cats disappear left and right.


Posted by Paul at 08:06 PM

August 01, 2011

Evening Clouds from Balcony in SE Burnaby

A lovely show this evening as seen from our balcony.








Posted by Paul at 09:25 PM

July 27, 2011

Metro Vancouver Ecological Health Action Plan–Open to Comment

Received the following interesting info from Metro Vancouver today (I've shortened it a bit):

Over the past decade Metro Vancouver has been working towards expanding and aligning regional efforts to improve our quality of life while supporting the integrity of our natural environment. The wide range of services Metro Vancouver provides the region and its related investment in public infrastructure and lands creates a unique opportunity for us to promote and support actions that improve our ecological health.

Join us to discuss our draft Ecological Health Action Plan.

The draft Ecological Health Action Plan is a pragmatic next step based on short-term actions clearly within Metro Vancouver's mandate. The document describes how Metro Vancouver has incorporated ecological health into our regional plans and strategies, four areas of opportunity for improving ecological health and 15 initial projects.

Link arrow Learn more about the Draft Ecological Health Action Plan

Open House: (no registration required)
Date: August 9th, 2011
Time: 6 pm - 8:00 pm (presentation at 6:30)
Location: Metro Vancouver Head Office, Information Centre
               4330 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC

We welcome your feedback. Please provide comments by August 15th, 2011

Posted by Paul at 04:53 PM

July 19, 2011

Coyote Kits in Byrne Creek Habitat

When I was down in the Byrne Creek habitat checking the sediment flow from the broken water main on Southpoint Dr. in SE Burnaby, I ran across a family of coyotes sunning themselves. The mom took off immediately, but the kits were curious until she called them away.



I continued home back up the ravine.




Posted by Paul at 08:42 PM

Southpoint Water Main Blowout Dumps Sediment in Byrne Creek

The City of Burnaby called me this afternoon to let streamkeepers on Byrne Creek know that a water main had blown out on Southpoint Drive in SE Burnaby, and that a significant amount of sediment had entered the creek through the storm-drain system. I went to check it out, and was relieved to find no dead or distressed fish. While sediment is not good for the creek, at least it's not toxic, and fish can usually find refuge in tributary creeks. When I got there, I'd missed the main action. Crews were doing a good job of cleaning the roads and patching holes.


I presume the above was the site of the break.


While much of the road had been cleaned up,
the flow down the hill was still evident.


It must have been quite the flow, because it deposited
gravel over the curb a hundred or more meters away.


Here you can see the flow where it had hit the new rain garden
at the Southpoint cul-de-sac.


The top of the rain garden looking downhill
toward Southridge Dr.


Some of the flow bypassed the rain garden
and caused some significant erosion along the path.


You could even see where water had flowed
along Southridge Dr. toward Byrne Park Dr.


This is the sediment pond in the Byrne Creek artificial spawning
habitat. The hole at the top is where the sediment flow entered the
creek through stormwater pipes.


A reverse view from the one above. As of around 4:00 pm,
the water entering the pond was clear.

Posted by Paul at 05:04 PM

July 10, 2011

Saving Dragonfly from ‘Indoor’ Cat

Yes, Choco the cat is supposed to be a completely indoor cat. That's to protect her from the coyotes in the ravine just outside our back gate, and to protect birds from her natural instincts, well-fed as she may be. Cats are cats, and love to chase. . . But we do let her out on the balcony, and in an unsupervised moment today, she managed to snag a lovely dragonfly.

Yumi soon rescued the dragonfly, which wasn't too worse for wear. In the photo below, one wing appear off kilter, but after the shock wore off, it straightened out, and the lovely little darling buzzed off into the ether. Fly, fly my dragonfly - and catch, and eat, as many mosquitos as you can : -).



Posted by Paul at 08:56 PM

July 04, 2011

Firefighting Foam Enters Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby Again

Late afternoon today I saw an email from a fellow Byrne Creek Streamkeeper that there was a car on fire near his apartment and that firefighters were responding with foam. I had just come home from a walk around the creek and had not noticed anything. I pulled out my stormdrain map of the Byrne Creek watershed and noted that the area he referred to was right on the edge of the escapement. So I ran back outside and checked Griffiths Pond near the Edmonds Skytrain station. Sure enough, there was lots of foam coming down the fish ladder, spreading over the pond, and flowing downstream.

Here's how it looked at 5:15 p.m.:


Now we streamkeepers are a bit sensitive because runoff from a house fire in the watershed back in November 201o did kill a lot of fish in the creek. That was attributed to chemicals stored at the house, as firefighting foam is said to be non-toxic.

I did not see any dead fish at 5:15, and resolved to check again later in the evening. Here's how the pond looked at 7:15 p.m.:


Much of the foam had dissipated. I checked carefully in and around the pond again, and did not find any dead fish, or any in distress. I saw one alive, swimming just fine. I worked my way slowly down the creek about 75 meters, and also did not see any dead or distressed fish, and saw several darting about alive.

I'll check again in the morning, but, knock on wood, perhaps we have escaped yet another kill in our creek.

UPDATE [July 5, 2011]: I checked the pond this morning at 7:30 a.m. and it was clear. I am pleased to report that I did not see any dead or distressed fish. I also checked the sediment pond near Meadow and Southridge in the artificial spawning habitat, and again saw no dead or distressed fish. I did see several dozen live ones, ranging in size from about 8cm to 30cm. I should also acknowledge that I did not have time to backtrack the flow of the foam, so it is an assumption on my part that it was related to the fire in the upper watershed. I am assuming it was from the fire due to the timing of the foam's appearance, and its quantity.

Posted by Paul at 09:12 PM

July 03, 2011

Reifel Bird Sanctuary Ramble

Yumi and I went to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary this morning - one of our favourite places around BC's lower mainland.


Barn swallow


Barn swallow tail feathers












Heron with fish


House sparrow








Posted by Paul at 08:03 PM

July 02, 2011

Mom Black Bear & Cubs

Saw this mom black bear and cubs grazing at the side of the road on northern Vancouver Island on the May long weekend. Needless to say, I took all my photos from inside the car.


Posted by Paul at 07:18 PM

Campbell River Estuary Shorebird

These shots are from a tour of the Campbell River estuary on Vancouver Island the May long weekend. The tour was part of the 2011 SEP Workshop (BC Streamkeepers' Conference). Even with my bird books, I'm not sure exactly what this is.


Side view


Front view


In flight

Posted by Paul at 07:04 PM

June 24, 2011

Water for Life Benefit Concert on Global BC TV Sat. 6/25, 7pm

Don't miss this great show that combines the passion of BC and World Rivers Day founder Mark Angelo with the uplifting music of Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright, and the Dreamband, along with a choir of 160 kids from Burnaby schools.

My wife and I caught this show live at the Michael J Fox Theatre in SE Burnaby, and are looking forward to viewing it again on Global BC TV.

Posted by Paul at 09:05 PM

June 19, 2011

Taking Turtle to Vet

Our red-eared slider Midori has not been her usual bouncy self this cold, wet spring. Ever since we brought her out of hibernation she's been listless and slow, and not even very interested in food. About a week ago my wife noticed that Midori's legs looked swollen. Sure enough, they did appear puffed up. What to do? This was our first "medical issue" with Midori in 15 years, from Toonie-sized baby to her present soup-bowl size.

We searched for veterinarians with "exotics" and/or reptile experience in the lower mainland of BC, and one promising name that came up was Dr. Hugh Upjohn at the Eagle Ridge Animal & Bird Hospital. I gave them a ring, and got an appointment for 'Dori.

It's a different experience taking a turtle to the vet. I've taken cats and dogs to the vet, but when you show up with a silent,  loaf-sized cardboard box, it piques the interest of other folks in the waiting room.

"What have you got in there?"

"Oh, just a baby komodo dragon, we're trying to get a wedding ring back for someone who got a little too cuddly."

Well, no, I didn't really say that. I said I had a turtle who'd lost her bounce, and that was strange enough.

So you know how you're rather nervous about taking your kid to a new doctor? Same feeling, eh? As I sat in the waiting room, I observed the Eagle Ridge staff, and was reassured by their cheerful, competent demeanour.

And after 'Dori and I were ushered into an examining room, and Dr. Upjohn walked in, I immediately felt comfortable. He obviously knew what he was doing.

Now, examining a turtle is no easy task, because, you know, they "go turtle."

"You want to see my legs, hah! Legs be gone!"

It took the two of us tugging on both ends together to allow Dr. Upjohn to pull her legs out one at a time and examine them. And 'Dori was not a happy patient. In fact, I was surprized at how aggressive she became, hissing and snapping. From the first day we got her, she's always been handled and cuddled, and has always sought human warmth and attention. But she did NOT want to be examined. She'd rarely, if ever, hissed or snapped at home, but she was outside her usual element and very defensive.

Dr. Upjohn took it all in stride. 'Dori was calcium deficient, but her muscles were still strong, so she wasn't in too much trouble. We needed to give her more heat, more broad-spectrum UV light - ideally outside right in the sun, and she needed a diet change.

No more bacon cheddar cheeseburgers (kidding), apparently as pond turtles age, their diets naturally turn more herbivorous, so turtle pellets are not sufficient - 'Dori needs more greens, and other dark-coloured veggies.

She also needed a booster shot of calcium/vitamins, and that was also a sight to see. Dr. Upjohn called in an assistant, and they got 'Dori to bite down on a mini-spatula, the assistant wrapped a towel around 'Dori's head, and then the needle went into a front leg. Like I said before, not a happy turtle : - ).

We were sent home with a vial of liquid calcium supplement and a needleless syringe to administer it orally. I haven't found that too difficult. I load up the syringe with the proper dose and hold it with one hand, and I dangle a shrimp tail in front of 'Dori with the other. As soon the the mouth gapes in anticipation -- down the hatch, and the shrimp tail follows as a reward.

'Dori has already perked up. We're giving her several hours under the broad-spectrum UV lamp every day, and her legs are starting to look better.

Thanks, Dr. Upjohn.

And lots more on the pets in our lives, from 'Dori and Choco, to past pets over the years. Loved and fondly remember them all.. Just click on the "pets" category in the left sidebar..

Posted by Paul at 08:58 PM

June 18, 2011

Ladybug, Bee on Byrne Creek Walk

A couple of nice close-up shots with my tiny Canon SD780 on a Byrne Creek walk today:



Posted by Paul at 06:27 PM

June 11, 2011

Sharing Sunlight: A Recipe for World Peace

My recipe for world peace: cross-cultural, even cross-species sharing of a patch of sunlight. Midori the turtle and Choco the cat show how it's done:


We found them like this near the sliding doors to the balcony
when we got home from a volunteer event today.

Posted by Paul at 09:18 PM

Protocol for Reporting Dead Wild Birds in BC

I got an email from a member of the public who found me through the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers website, and who was concerned about having found 2 dead barred owls in Byrne Creek Ravine Park -- one about a month ago, and one today. So I found the following on the 'net and sent it to her, suggesting she call the number:

The British Columbia Interagency Wild Bird Mortality Investigation Protocol & the 2011 Avian Influenza and
West Nile Virus Surveys

An excerpt from this document, and link to it below:

Guidelines for reporting dead wild birds to Government Agencies

What to report to Wildlife Agencies:
1. Groups of 3 or more dead birds (any species) found in the same geographic location.
2. The following individual dead birds:
a) Species at risk (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/species/default_e.cfm)
b) Highly susceptible species (swans, ducks)
c) Raptors (eagles, hawks, owls)
d) Water adapted bird species (waterfowl in general, shorebirds, water-associated birds).

These wild bird mortalities should be reported by calling 1-866-431-BIRD (2473). Reports will be recorded, assessed to determine if further investigation is warranted, and if so, guidance will be provided on a case by case basis.


I'm filing this away for future reference. Streamkeepers focus on fish, but are interested in any and all wildlife.

Posted by Paul at 08:37 PM

June 03, 2011

2011 Wild Salmon Music Festival

The 2011 Wild Salmon Music Festival looks like a blast! I may take in some of it, as I'll likely be up in the the Lumby area for the summer Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board meeting the same weekend.


Posted by Paul at 07:38 PM

May 17, 2011

Burnaby Celebrates Environment Week

The City of Burnaby is celebrating Environment Week from June 5 - 11 with a series of events and activities on the theme "Waste Reduction - making a difference."

Schedule of Events here.


Posted by Paul at 12:30 PM

April 25, 2011

Mega Bugs, Cool Stones in Chilliwack River

The day being overcast and gloomy, I checked the weather up the valley, and it was supposedly sunny near Hope, BC, on this Easter holiday Monday. So we saddled up our Subaru and headed out. Unfortunately, we never got out of the rain, but we did have a great time looking at cool aquatic bugs and rocks with all sorts of permutations of colours at the Chilliwack River in the drizzle. When I see stones like these, I wish I'd taken a geology class or two. . .

Can you imagine what sorts of forces and processes created such patterns? Mind boggling. As I wrote to a geologist friend of mine:

It's so exciting to be out in nature and drinking in the sights. There is so much to see at every scale ranging from micro to macro... I dunno why so many folks are so oblivious and/or so uncaring! While I may feel ignorant, at least I also feel awed and intrigued, and am always eager to learn more :-).



Whenever we stop by a creek, stream or river, Yumi has to
start turning rocks over to see who is living underneath.


A caddisfly


A stonefly


Another stonefly, big and fat. We never get bugs this big
in our pollution-prone, urban Byrne Creek, where we
volunteer as streamkeepers


OK, now we get into the cool stones and rocks, which I
know nothing about!






And this was the coolest of the bunch. What looks
like water, or snow, or ice, is some kind of solid rock
"flowing" into the other rock

Posted by Paul at 09:54 PM

April 18, 2011

2011 BC Endangered Rivers List Released

Kettle River tops BC's Most Endangered Rivers List for 2011 -

"Sacred headwaters" in second spot - list highlights issues such as the need for water policy reform and improved protection of northern rivers

The Kettle River has topped British Columbia's most endangered rivers list for 2011.

The Kettle River runs through BC's southern interior near the towns of Midway, Rock Creek and Grand Forks. This river, already suffering from excessive water withdrawals, seasonal low flows and high water temperatures, is threatened by significant new water extraction proposals near its source. The river is in dire need of a water management plan that recognizes there are clear ecological limits to the amount of water that can be withdrawn. Unless greater efforts are made to address this issue, the fate of this beautiful interior stream and its fish stocks may well foreshadow what many other streams in the region will confront in the face of ongoing climate change.

"Most importantly, the issues unfolding on the Kettle highlight the urgency of updating BC's century-old Water Act so as to ensure the needs of fish and river ecosystems are adequately considered before making decisions on water extraction for various industrial uses", said Mark Angelo, Rivers Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Council and an Order of Canada recipient. The province has just concluded seeking public input on Water Act reform, and new legislation is hoped for in the coming year. "Modernizing the Water Act creates a significant opportunity to improve the state of many waterways, including the Kettle", said Angelo.

In the second position is the area widely known to the Iskut First Nation as the "sacred headwaters" in that it nurtures the source not only of the Skeena, but also the Nass and Stikine, all great salmon-bearing rivers. Located on the southern edge of BC's Spatsizi wilderness, the sacred headwaters is home to an abundance of wildlife, including caribou, stone sheep, grizzly bears and wolves; to many, this area is the "Serengeti of Canada" said Angelo.

Yet, the sacred headwaters is also the site of a major proposal by Canada Shell to extract coal bed methane gas, a highly invasive process that would compromise the biological richness of the great rivers that flow from this area. If approved, a maze of wellheads, roads and pipelines would spread across the proponent's 400,000 hectare tenure. Given the intensity of such development, concerns include the likelihood of altered drainage patterns and increased siltation. Vast amounts of wastewater, high in salts and heavy metals, may also be generated in the extraction process. Current plans call for re-injecting this polluted water back into the ground but this is an untested method that could contaminate groundwater aquifers linked to surface flows.

While there is a temporary moratorium on coalbed methane development in the sacred headwaters, it is set to expire in 2012, at which point development could proceed. "There is widespread support for making this moratorium permanent, which would do much to protect the legacy of the great wild rivers that flow from this area", said Angelo. "The threats confronting this area highlight the need to be more proactive in protecting our great northern salmon rivers", added Angelo, who also chairs the Rivers Institute at BCIT.

Coming in at the number three position is the Peace River, currently in the midst of an environmental assessment relating to the proposed Site C dam.

In the fourth spot is the Fraser River, which for the 18th time in 19 years, finds its way into the top half of the endangered rivers list. "Of particular concern this year are the development pressures facing the 'Heart of the Fraser' between Hope and Mission, one of the most productive sections of river anywhere in the world", said Angelo.

Coming in at number 5 is the Kokish River on Vancouver Island, southeast of Port Hardy. The river's salmon and steelhead stocks are jeopardized by a controversial run of river power project.

"As one scans this year's list, the issues and problems outlined are extensive and diverse, ranging from the importance of pro-actively protecting productive salmon rivers and ensuring that adequate water management regulations are in place to the need for improved riverside habitat protection," explains Angelo. "The list also helps to create a greater awareness of the various threats that confront our waterways", he added. "These issues highlight the fact that you cannot separate the health of our fish stocks from the health of our rivers; they are completely inter-dependent".

Each year, the Outdoor Recreation Council solicits and reviews nominations for BC's Most Endangered Rivers from its member groups, which total close to 100,000 members, as well as from the general public and resource managers from across BC.

For more detailed information on the rivers listed, please see the endangered rivers backgrounder at www.orcbc.ca

BC's Most Endangered Rivers of 2010;

1. Kettle River (water extraction, development)
2. "Sacred Headwaters" of Skeena, Nass and Stikine (coalbed methane)
3. Peace River (hydro-electric dam proposal)
4. Fraser River, "Heart of the Fraser"(urbanization, industrial development, habitat loss)
5. Kokish River (IPP proposal)
6. Morice (pipeline proposal)
7. Taku River (mining development, road proposal, leachate concerns)
8. Similkameen River (cross border dam proposal)
9. Elk River (development, increasing selenium levels, wildlife migration issues)
10. Coquitlam River (excessive sedimentation, urbanization)
11. Bute Inlet Rivers (IPP proposal)
12. Atlin River (impacts of dam and Whitehorse, Yukon energy proposal)

Media only: backgrounder details on each river is found at www.orcbc.ca

For more information, please contact:

Mark Angelo - (604) 432-8270                        Robert Gunn - (604) 451-6860                  

Posted by Paul at 12:52 PM

April 17, 2011

Herons Nesting Near Burnaby’s Deer Lake

Yumi and I had a great time observing great blue herons nesting near Burnaby's Deer Lake this afternoon.

Here's one carrying a twig to shore up a nest:


And what I think is a female northern harrier:


Little ones may not be as impressive, but they sure are cute:


And a fuzzy wuzzy bee:


And another kind of bee:


And here's the gorgeous urban park in Burnaby where you can see
these sights:


Posted by Paul at 08:57 PM

April 05, 2011

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Release 2010 Watershed Status Report

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers in SE Burnaby have released their Byrne Creek Watershed 2010 Status Report. It's a 26-page document with lots of photos, maps, graphs and charts that depict the state of the watershed through several indicators in a format easy to read and understand.

You can download a PDF (5.6MB) for free from the home page of the group's website.

The report addresses lots of topics including monitoring of salmon spawning in this urban creek, resident fish populations, invasive plant species, pollution problems, etc.


Posted by Paul at 08:29 PM

March 31, 2011

Tree-Climbing Snails Appear Again near Byrne Creek

Though I've been walking the Byrne Creek trails in SE Burnaby for about ten years now, I did not notice tree-climbing snails until last year. Well, they're back at it again, with a tree-climbing slug thrown in for good measure.






All of the above were around 1.5 - 2 meters above the ground.

Posted by Paul at 10:59 AM

March 26, 2011

Trillium Crime Scene in Byrne Creek Ravine

I'm sorry to report that someone cut off one of the rare trilliums known to flower in the lower ravine. Cut it off clean and took it away, leaving just the stem.

I don't understand such selfish, inconsiderate behaviour. Even if someone didn't know that trilliums are protected in BC and are not to be removed from public or private land, wouldn't they notice that there was only ONE flower as far as the eye could see, not a whole field of them? Sheesh.

So much for the enjoyment of many who would have seen the flower go through its lovely colour stages...


The trillium starting to bloom on Tuesday, March 22

It was still there on Wednesday, March 23, when I led a tour of the creek
looking for salmon fry popping out of the gravel.


All that was left on Saturday, March 26

Posted by Paul at 01:36 PM

March 25, 2011

Video of Coho Fry in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

Here's a rough video of coho fry born in Burnaby's Byrne Creek. The filming was done handheld at 640 X 480 with an old Canon S5IS digital camera, and edited with Windows Live Movie Maker.

Posted by Paul at 10:05 PM

March 22, 2011

Burnaby Marks 76 Trees for Removal, Trimming, Along Byrne Creek

The City of Burnaby has marked 76 trees for removal and limbing along Byrne Creek. This happens every couple of years, and is due to them being regarded as "danger trees" that could topple in a windstorm and potentially hurt people or damage property. While Byrne Creek Streamkeepers recognize the need to remove trees that are dead or dying along public trails, we also urge the City to exercise restraint. Perhaps not all the trees need to come down. Perhaps some of them could be topped, with partial trunks left standing as "habitat trees." The City has always been accommodating to our concerns, and a few years ago sent out a forester to explain why each tree had to come down. We may submit a request for another tour, since 76 trees in the riparian zone is a lot!


Posted by Paul at 10:32 AM

March 20, 2011

Yay! We Have Coho Fry in Byrne Creek!

Well, Mother Nature has snookered us again. Against all odds - a very low spawner return last autumn, no coho females found spawned, and fish kills from toxins flowing down street drains and into the creek - we have coho fry in Byrne Creek.

Yumi and I spotted and netted fry in several locations, and all were identified as coho. Please note that it is illegal to net salmon fry, and streamkeepers do so with the permission of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for ID purposes only. All fry are returned unharmed to the creek.

I feel elated. I really wasn't expecting much this spring what with the lowest spawner return since streamkeepers began keeping records some 12 years ago after the creek was reconnected to the Fraser River. Plus we had a toxic spill in November 2010 that killed hundreds of fish, but obviously some redds (nests of eggs laid by salmon) survived.


Posted by Paul at 02:50 PM

March 06, 2011

Cates Park Stroll

Cates Park in North Vancouver was lovely as usual on a Sunday afternoon. It's always fun strolling the beach.



Great views!


Interesting things on the beach - a heart-shaped, encrusted stone



A flock of Barrow's Goldeneyes was sifting through seaweed at the waterline

Posted by Paul at 08:04 PM

Spring Peeks Out in North Vancouver

A stroll in the North Vancouver cemetery found some spring blossoms peeking out this afternoon.




Posted by Paul at 05:18 PM

March 02, 2011

Environment Canada Joke is Becoming a Tragedy

I really, truly would like to to be able to support Environment Canada. But in my experience, this Canadian federal department that's been a joke for some time, is rapidly becoming a tragedy. It appears to have no staff, no budget, no guts, no balls, no fiercely protective mother-love for the environment that it is mandated to maintain, regulate and enforce for present and future generations.

And with the present government's planned 20% slash-and-burn cut to EC's budget, what have we got to hope for?

I don't get it. What is more basic to human health and prosperity than the environment? Our water? Our air? Our land? Food, water, air are all elemental to human survival. And the survival of the entire food chain that we depend upon.

It's well past time that Environment Canada was a key ministry, with real powers and real teeth, and a concomitant budget and dedicated, passionate staff.

Shame on my federal government. Yes, shame!

And if EC Minister Peter Kent could still show a smidgen of the integrity that he was known for as a respected and honoured journalist, he would resign on principle at having the department that he is supposed to champion shafted like this. Equal cuts across the board are one thing, but EC is being targeted for dramatically deeper cuts than other departments. Why?

Posted by Paul at 09:59 PM

February 23, 2011

Starving Eagles ‘Fall Out of Sky’ as Salmon Runs Collapse

This is so sad. I'd heard that eagles were flocking to municipal dumps and landfills the last couple of months, trying to survive on garbage, as chum salmon runs disappeared last autumn and winter on Canada's west coast. Now apparently some eagles are so starved they are literally dropping out of the sky, according to a Globe & Mail article by Mark Hume.

This is a horrific example of what happens when nature's food chain is compromised. While we can't point a finger at any specific cause for the collapse of chum salmon runs, you can bet your bottom dollar that human interference has got at least something to do with it, be it overfishing, destruction of habitat, anthropogenic climate change, or some combination of the above.

Posted by Paul at 07:39 PM

February 21, 2011

Could Earth be ‘Unrecognizable’ in 40 Years?

Some sobering research has been making the media rounds today. Here's Salon's take on it:

Scientists warn that Earth could be "unrecognizable" by 2050

Combined effect of surging population and depleting resources could cause an ecological catastrophe within 40 years. . .

The scariest line from the article is:

According to the World Wildlife Fund's Jason Clay: [To feed everyone] we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000.

Posted by Paul at 04:50 PM

February 20, 2011

Vancouver Waterfront Walk

Though I felt a bit under the weather--achy late yesterday and a tad feverish this morning--we decided to head into downtown Vancouver and put a few miles under our shoe leather. Nothing like fresh air and exercise to clarify if one is actually ill, or not!

We walked Robson St., which is always fun, and followed it all the way to Denman, stopping in at Hon's to fortify ourselves with potstickers and noodles in soup, and then along the shore to Stanley Park.

We love the Lost Lagoon area.








I doubt if processed white bread is good for raccoons. . .

Sez Paul, while chawing down on some fresh, home-made
French bread, washing it all down with a nice glass of red
wine. . .





Savouring cups of coffee and latte after a long walk

OK, Yumi insisted that I look cute, too, so I should include the following foto:


I think that's wife talk.. Smile

Posted by Paul at 09:42 PM

February 19, 2011

Excellent Byrne Creek Field Trip with BCIT Students

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Rob, Joan, their streamkeeper mascot Toby, and I accompanied Robert Laird and a group of BCIT students from the Sustainable Resource Management (or was it Fish, Wildlife and Recreation?) program on a tour of Byrne Creek this morning. It was a lovely day to be out and about, and with our combined knowledge we had a fascinating walk. Between Joan's depth on the history of the watershed and streamkeeping efforts over the last decade, Rob's insights into geology, and Robert L's breadth of knowledge about creeks and riparian zones, biology and botany etc. it was a very educational walk. Dunno how much the students retained from the mass of information thrown at them today, but I learned a lot!


As streamkeepers, we are very appreciative of being included in such events to provide local knowledge and experience. And it's always fun to tag along and hear new perspectives on the watershed we volunteer in.

Posted by Paul at 08:40 PM

February 13, 2011

Water for Life Benefit Concert in Burnaby


Join us on April 7 at 7:30 pm for the Water for Life Benefit Concert, a very special event at the Michael J Fox theatre in Burnaby, British Columbia.

A wonderful mix of inspirational stories, stunning images, film clips and music, the show features internationally renowned river conservationist, writer and speaker, Mark Angelo, who also chairs the Rivers Institute at BCIT. In addition, the program features the wonderful folk-pop music of Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright and the Dream Band along with 160 youth singers from Brentwood Park Elementary School.

The evening will be a celebration of water, rivers and the natural world while also advocating the need to be good water stewards wherever we might live. The live show will be filmed for Global TV to be aired as a prime time special on June 25. Tickets for the live event are available through Ticketmaster at 1-855-985-5000 (charge by phone) or through the Ticketmaster website. Tickets are $35 plus fees.

Posted by Paul at 11:42 AM

February 09, 2011

Sea to Sky Jaunt

A lovely sunny day enticed me up the Sea to Sky from Vancouver to Whistler.


Scene from a viewpoint along the highway


Chopper passing by some peaks


Shannon Creek downstream of Shannon Falls


The pier at Porteau Cove


Grazing gulls


A group of Barrow's Goldeneyes


Heron at the end of the pier

Posted by Paul at 08:21 PM

February 08, 2011

Byrne Creek Signs of Spring 2011

A Byrne Creek Ravine Park ramble revealed signs of spring today, though technically it's still winter.


For all you allergy sufferers : - )




Moss overgrows sandbags at Byrne Creek footbridge


A pileated woodpecker. Love these flashy birds!


Sunset approaches as kids and parents play in Taylor Park


A view of mountains on the north shore as seen from New Westminster

Posted by Paul at 08:00 PM

February 04, 2011

Invasive Plant Workshops in Burnaby

Cut It Out
Invasive plant workshop series

Space is limited, so please register early. Cost: $5.00 per person, per workshop.
Register using WebReg at burnaby.ca/webreg
Burnaby Village Museum & Carousel | 6501 Deer Lake Avenue
Discovery Room | 10am-12noon
For more information, call 604-294-7690 or email invasiveplants@burnaby.ca

Invasive plants in Burnaby
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Presented by:
Greater Vancouver Invasive Plant Council
Learn to recognize local invaders in your garden and discover solutions to manage them using the latest tools and techniques. Barcode: 244473

Invasive plant removal and control
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Presented by: Evergreen
Learn techniques for removing and controlling invasive plants in your garden. Basic plant ecology, best timing for treatment and safety considerations are covered. Barcode: 244474

Garden without invasives
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Presented by: TLC, The Land Conservancy of BC
Learn to develop a sustainable urban garden that doesn't threaten surrounding natural areas.
Barcode: 244475


Information courtesy City of Burnaby poster

Posted by Paul at 11:23 AM

February 01, 2011

Sundog From Taylor Park in Burnaby

I can't remember the last time I've seen  sundogs, but I saw the phenomenon from Taylor Park in Burnaby just before sunset today. I grew up in Saskatchewan, and I recall spectacular sundogs, usually most prominent in winter, I believe.


You can see the faint sundog near the left edge of the photo.

Taken with my teeny Canon SD780IS.

Posted by Paul at 11:23 PM

January 27, 2011

Help Clean, Install Nest Boxes at Burnaby Lake

Come out on January 29 and February 5, 2011, and help the  Burnaby Lake Park Association prepare the nest boxes for this year's nesting season.  Meet at the Nature House at the end of Piper Ave. and work from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

My wife and I took in one of these events last year, and it was great fun, and educational to boot!


Poster, info, courtesy of the BLPA.

Posted by Paul at 09:35 PM

January 22, 2011

Larrabee State Park, Chuckanut Drive

Another shopping jaunt into Washington State got  side-tracked into more rural, nature-focused exploration, resulting in a few nice shots in Larrabee State Park and along Chuckanut Drive. We really have to explore more of the NW United States - some gorgeous areas and what looks like great camping!


Not exactly hiking gear, but we hadn't planned to hit any trails, and
weren't expecting to get too far off road. But we couldn't resist. . .
My wife Yumi is cajoled into striking a pose : - )


From the beach at Larrabee State Park.


A sunset view from Chuckanut Drive.

Posted by Paul at 10:05 PM

January 21, 2011

Hawk Couple Pops Up in my HD Search for Printable Photos

Here's a nice shot taken nearly two years ago that I'd forgotten about. A pair of hawks on a nest near a rural highway in southern Alberta.


And the following is what happens when you stare too
long at a hawk's nest. . .


You get the hint real fast as a parent hovers, screeches,
and swoops, in "gonna take your scalp if you don't back off" mode. . .

You may snort and say that one of these birds is only a kilo or two, max. But I have a healthy respect for all raptors. They fight way above their weight classes. I've seen bald eagles take seagulls at least their weight, and carry them for hundreds of meters. I've read articles by nature photographers much more accomplished than I am - who treat raptors with extreme respect. . .

Not to mention, of course, that you really, truly, ought nought to disturb the nest.

Posted by Paul at 09:21 PM

January 09, 2011

A Cheer of Chickadees at Campbell Valley Park

OK, I don't think you call a bunch of chickadees a "cheer," but darn if these teeny, bold little birds don't cheer you up!

Yumi and I traipsed through Campbell Valley Regional Park for several hours today and had a blast.





We ran into some folks hand-feeding chickadees, and
one lady was kind enough to spot us a bag of seeds.
Yes, you're not supposed to feed wildlife in the park,
and while as a rule we don't, we ease up when it comes to
overwintering birds.


This chickadee has just tossed a dud seed - they're
quite particular!


The corn has gotta go, too! Where's the nice, plump sunflower seeds?


OK, I'm going to bury my face in there and find something I really like!


Whoa! Something spooked this one as feathers flare
and seeds go flying. . .





This striking Stellar's Jay swooped in and out,
snatching the odd seed.


All shots handheld with a Nikon D300 and the AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm
3.5-5.6 G ED zoom lens. ISO 400, 1/320 to 1/640 shutter speed at f7.1.

Posted by Paul at 08:49 PM

January 04, 2011

Elmer Rudolph Guest Speaker at Jan. 13 Byrne Creek Meeting

Elmer Rudolph will speak on the decline, cleanup and rehabilitation of the Brunette River at the Jan. 13 meeting of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers at 7:30p at Clinton Elementary School.

Elmer has worked on the river for decades, and tells a fascinating tale of how a dedicated group of volunteers were instrumental in turning it from, what in effect had become an open sewer, back into a fish-bearing waterway again, working with various levels of government.

Come out and hear this positive and inspirational environmental success story!

Map: http://www.byrnecreek.org/member.htm

Posted by Paul at 02:50 PM

January 03, 2011

Eagles Near Squamish, BC

The Brackendale bald eagle count was way down this year - another of several bad years in a row - likely due to poor returns of chum salmon to area rivers. Yumi and I tracked down a few eagles near the Tenderfoot Hatchery. Here are a couple of shots. I'll add more details later.



Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM

December 05, 2010

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol Finds Female Coho

I've been streamkeeping for nearly a decade now, and of course I know salmon die after spawning. I regularly patrol my local creek, Byrne Creek, in the autumn looking for spawning and dead salmon. But sometimes it's still hard when you run across one that's near the end, probably because in the last few years we've gotten so few of them in our urban creek, and we are so appreciative of the ones that do make it back.

On spawner patrol today Yumi and I found a female coho flat on its side on a bar in the creek in the ravine. We thought it was dead. As streamkeepers we "process" dead spawners - measure them, cut them open to confirm sex and whether or not they've spawned, and then cut the carcasses in half so we don't double-count fish. It's illegal to interfere with spawning salmon. Streamkeepers do spawner counts under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and we report our results to them every year. The carcasses are returned to the creek to provide food and nutrients for the rest of the food chain.

Since it wasn't stiff yet, Yumi gave it a bit of shake to make sure it was dead, and it twitched, began visibly breathing, and remained upright, albeit motionless, when Yumi released it in a small pool. Nice size fish, dark red spawning colouration, abraded white tail, so it had been digging a  nest for its eggs. 

It's an odd feeling. Yeah, it's just one fish. Yeah, it's going to die in an hour or two. Yeah, I had canned salmon with mayo and diced green-pepper sandwiches for lunch the other day. Yeah, I'm defrosting a couple of sockeye steaks for our Japanese-style breakfast and homemade bento lunches tomorrow. Yeah, I like to go fishing now and then. But this fish was born in our struggling urban creek a couple of years ago, traveled thousands of kilometers during her years in the Pacific Ocean, and then made it back to the place of her birth against nearly unimaginable odds to try to start a new generation.

She was so close to death that I admit it was tempting to tap her on the head, and get the bloody assessment over with. But somehow we felt we ought to leave her be and let nature take its course. We'll find her stiff tomorrow. . .


P.S. It's also reassuring that we found at least one spawner since the recent fish kill.

P.P.S. And yes, I'm aware that over the course of this little narrative "it" became "she." That's the way it came out from my brain to my fingers, so that's the way I'll leave it.

UPDATE [Dec. 6, 2010]: Streamkeeper Frieda and I found this fish dead this morning, perhaps 10m downstream of where Yumi and I saw it yesterday. We are happy to report that she was completely spawned! We couldn't find any obvious redd (nest of eggs) in the vicinity, or a boyfriend, so it may be that she spawned somewhere higher upstream and gradually slipped downstream as she weakened. Glad that she successfully completed her lifecycle.

Posted by Paul at 05:14 PM

December 04, 2010

Frosty Leaves in Ron McLean Park

While waiting near the Ron McLean Park parking lot in SE Burnaby, BC, early this morning for fellow streamkeepers, I was entranced by the frost on the grass and autumn leaves. I pulled my tiny Canon SD780 out of my pocket and paced the area looking for angles in the low morning sun:






Posted by Paul at 01:29 PM

November 28, 2010

Fish Die in Byrne Creek

UPDATE [Nov. 29]: Just interviewed by Burnaby Now - Burnaby Firefighters say their foam is environmentally benign, and it appears other chemicals were stored at the site of the fire. Initial Burnaby Now story here. And a more detailed story now here.


A couple of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers called me just after 9:00 this morning about foam in the creek. They were down at the wooden footbridge in the lower ravine near Southridge Dr., and asked us to check out Griffiths Pond further upstream near our home (near Choices in the Park). Yumi and I headed over and the pond had lots of foam in it, and a steady stream of foam was coming out of the fish ladder. We counted about a dozen dead smolt-size trout and coho around the edge of the pond. An environmental services officer from the City of Burnaby arrived as we were there and collected water samples and some of the dead fish.

Three other streamkeepers were out in the lower creek patrolling for spawning salmon.  They noticed "stunned-looking" small fish in the lower ravine, and eventually joined the crew at Griffiths Pond.

Three of us backtracked upstream. Bubbles were evident all the way up to where the creek daylights (first becomes visible from the storm drain system) in SE Burnaby. Even that far upstream, if you stirred the water, it foamed readily. We continued further up the streets, and saw a fire truck, so we followed it up to Kingsway and 16th, where there had been a house fire. We asked the firefighters if they'd used foam, and they said yes, a full load from one of their trucks. The drainage flow from the site of the fire into storm drains was evident.

Obviously it is unknown if it was firefighting foam or if other chemicals at the house were also involved. And streamkeepers are certainly not going to question firefighters for doing an outstanding job in ensuring the safety of the community. It's just unfortunate if this is confirmed as the source of the kill.

We headed back to Griffiths Pond, and five of us began counting dead fish. At this point we discovered there were some still barely alive, so we scrambled to get buckets and fresh water, and tried to save some of them, but most expired even in clean water.

The count between Griffiths Pond and Tag 535, a distance of about 350 meters or so, was 80 dead, so nearly 100 were tallied today. Some were beauties: we found one dead trout 36cm long and one 29cm. When factoring in the entire length of creek, there must be at least several hundred dead.

I suspect we're looking at yet another total or near-total kill of the entire creek.

As of 1:30 p.m., the fish ladder at Griffiths Pond was still foaming heavily.

And, to make things worse, we're in the middle of spawning season, when salmon are returning from the ocean, up the Fraser River, and into Byrne Creek, to lay their eggs. Last year was our worst spawner count in over a decade, and this year was shaping up just as bad, even before this incident. . .


The fish ladder and Griffiths Pond near Edmonds Skytrain station


Trying to save some fish that were still barely alive. Most expired. . .


Streamkeeper Yumi with a gorgeous 36cm trout


Closer look at the big fish


The 29cm trout


Another streamkeeper lives near the scene of the fire and was awakened
at 4:00 a.m. this morning. She got this shot of the blaze. She was 
troubled by all the stuff going down the street drains and into the creek,
but of course didn't say anything for she knew the safety of the
community was paramount. Turns out she knew at least one of the residents.
So sad.

Posted by Paul at 03:18 PM

November 26, 2010

Musqueam Creek–A Story of Hope

The Vancouver Courier recently published an excellent story on the Musqueam First Nation working to restore Musqueam Creek, a salmon-bearing urban waterway that has struggled to survive over the years. I have had the privilege of attending a few events there, as a volunteer streamkeeper, and I am happy to hear of continuing positive efforts to preserve the creek.

Posted by Paul at 11:56 AM

November 25, 2010

Victoria BC Neighbours Turn Blvd into Garden with Free Produce

This is so cool! An amazing, feel-good community story on so many levels.

Posted by Paul at 04:04 PM

November 20, 2010

Snowy Photo Ramble in South Burnaby, Nikkei Place

There was a crafts fair at Nikkei Place today, so Yumi and I wandered up the hill to see it. Along the way I got a few shots of the fresh snow.














Posted by Paul at 08:59 PM

Salamander On Snowy Byrne Creek Trail

It snowed in Burnaby overnight, and Yumi and I did a loop of Byrne Creek Ravine Park to enjoy the fresh views. We were surprized to come across a salamander on the trail. Dunno what the frozen little thing was doing out and about in the snow!


Yumi gently picked it up and moved it off the trail and into some natural cover.


I don't think we'd have noticed it but we had slowed to let another walker get by on the trail, and that's when a twitch of motion caught our eyes. At first we thought it was a huge worm. As you can see, it blends right in, and it wasn't moving very fast, particularly when it was only 5C, so it was in some danger on the trail. We could easily have stepped on it ourselves, and never known, if we hadn't happened to stop right at that spot.

Posted by Paul at 08:27 PM

November 08, 2010

Heron Stalks Byrne Creek

A heron has been hanging around the lower ravine in southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek the last several days. I first surprised it while on a patrol for spawning salmon with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. It gave a Jurassic-like squawk and mightily flapped its way up into a perch in an evergreen.


The next day on another spawner patrol I saw it before it saw me, and so I hunkered down to observe it slowly Tai Chi its way along the creek, looking for lunch. It wasn't long before it struck, and swallowed a small cutthroat trout or juvenile coho salmon.

The linkages in nature never cease to amaze me. It's the season for spawning salmon to come up our creeks in the lower mainland of BC, and that attracts other animals like clockwork. The trout start gathering in expectation of stray eggs as the salmon dig their nests and spawn, various species of birds like American Dippers suddenly start frequenting the creeks also looking for stray eggs, and herons and other fishing birds come to stalk the trout who in turn are stalking the female salmon. . . Not to mention the increased number of paw prints of various sorts in the soft sandy or muddy banks: coyotes, racoons, skunks. I've seen even squirrels get excited about spawning salmon, though I've never seen them actually take an egg or feed on a carcass.

Posted by Paul at 06:31 PM

October 12, 2010

Dog Signs Go Up for Byrne Creek

Spawning salmon are expected back in SE Burnaby's Byrne Creek any day now, so Byrne Creek Streamkeepers posted several posters along the most-walked portion of the creek trail today to remind dogs to keep their owners out of the creek :-).

Salmon usually start arriving in the creek in mid-October, and spawners can show up as late as mid-December. They lay their eggs in pits they dig in the gravel, and cover them, and these redds need to remain undisturbed until April-May to ensure the eggs hatch and eventually swim free as fry.

As I was putting the posters up today, two joggers with dogs stopped to chat about the fish, with one whooping a "woo-hoo, the salmon are coming back!" It's great to get that kind of positive feedback from the community.




Credits: "Scream" and "Dog Paw" are by my wife, Yumi Kosaka, while the "Band-Aid" fish are by Maho Hayashi.

Posted by Paul at 10:02 AM

October 09, 2010

Adams River Sockeye Run – Day 2

The Adams River sockeye salmon spawning run is in a dominant fourth year, and after a relatively quiet visit on Friday, Yumi and I went back on Saturday for more viewing. The Adams River Salmon Society's Salute to the Sockeye event draws a lot of people on weekends!


The Adams River attracts chinook in addition to sockeye.
You can see how massive they are, with my size 12 shoe
next to one.


This time we wandered down to Shuswap Lake on the cloudy,
moody Saturday morning.


The shores of the lake were covered with expired salmon.
It looks wasteful, but each carcass carries a crucial load of
nutrients with it.


A sockeye moves past a spawned out cousin.


A biology lesson in the main event area.


Vehicles pouring into the grounds late Saturday morning.
The event draws folks from around the world.

After lunch in Kamloops, we hit the road homeward. We decided
take the slower 5A south to Merritt through the ranch country.






Posted by Paul at 04:37 PM

October 08, 2010

Adams River Sockeye Run – Day 1

The Adams River sockeye salmon spawning run is in a dominant year, as happens every four years. Yumi and I headed up to the Shuswap to take in a dominant run for the third time since we moved to BC. The event keeps growing and the Adams River Salmon Society's Salute to the Sockeye keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Yumi and I were glad that she had a Friday off so we could attend when the crowds were a bit thinner! :-) We drove from Burnaby up the canyon on the No. 1 to take in the autumn scenery:


Thompson River


Canadian Northern last spike


Kamploops Lake from the highway lookout


Yumi on the hill above the lookout

We arrived at Roderick Haig-Brown Park early in the afternoon
and spent hours wandering the trails. While the sockeye were not
quite "bank-to-bank" as we've seen them in other dominant years,
it was still a moving, beautiful sight to witness.


Viewing platform over the Adams River


A bridge on the loop trail


A male and female sockeye pair off


A female sockeye flips sideways to dig in the cobble with her tail


Closer view of these gorgeous fish


It's amazing to watch the sockeye congregate


Fins highlighted as the sun begins to set


This sockeye's journey is done

Posted by Paul at 04:07 PM

October 06, 2010

Byrne Creek Fall Colors

A ramble along Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC:








Posted by Paul at 05:30 PM

September 15, 2010

Paint in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek?

A Byrne Creek Streamkeeper noticed a paint-like discoloration in the creek at Susan's Pond at 18th Ave. just east of Griffith's Drive around 2:15 p.m. today, and left me a message. I got the message around 3:00 p.m., and zipped over and checked, and sure enough it did look like paint. I called the City of Burnaby, and they had already received a report and were looking for the source.

Remember: All Drains Lead to Fish Habitat!


I checked another pond further downstream, and as of 3:30 there was no discoloration and no fish to be seen, alive or dead. With luck the amount of pollutant was not sufficient to kill.

UPDATE: As of 6:45 p.m. Griffith's Pond (near Choices in the Park), downstream of the original pollutant site, was full of a milky white substance:


And to add to the creek's woes, I ran across another, separate inflow of some sort of oily substance coming from a drainage that leads from the townhouse complex at 6770 Rumble St.:


UPDATE 2: Checked several areas of the creek Thursday morning Sept. 16 with another streamkeeper and the substance appears to have been diluted and washed away. Fortunately we did not find any dead fish, and did see several live ones.

Posted by Paul at 03:55 PM

September 10, 2010

A Few Sample Shots

I've been so busy, but I've also shot some great photos recently. Here are a couple, more to come as I have time.


White Rock Crescent Beach Sunset


Stanley Park Seawall

Posted by Paul at 09:55 PM

September 09, 2010

Come Celebrate World Rivers Day in Burnaby, BC!

World Rivers Day in Burnaby on Sunday, Sept. 26, will be held in Fraser Foreshore Park near Byrne Creek. This fun-filled family event will run from noon to 4:00 p.m. Details here.


The above is a portion of the event poster created by the City of Burnaby

Posted by Paul at 05:52 PM

September 01, 2010

Early Autumn Colours, Inquisitive Snail

A quick morning loop of Byrne Creek Ravine Park found autumn colours progressing, and a cute snail.



Posted by Paul at 10:35 AM

August 29, 2010

Sockeye Salmon Dying Unspawned on Harrison River & Lake

Yumi and I went as far up the  Fraser Valley as Kilby today looking for spawning salmon.

We were surprised to see lots of dead sockeye on the banks of the Harrison River -- many of them just barely starting to show their spawning colouration, and looking good enough to eat. We could also see lots of big silver fish belly up out on the water. Strange.

On our way home we stopped in at Kanaka Creek to poke around the hatchery, and talked to the manager. He said he'd heard stories of people out fishing on Harrison River & Lake who said they'd seen lots of silver floaters.

I also found a thread on the Fishing with Rod website with similar reports, and plenty of speculation as to what the cause could be -- high water temps? disease?




The above had the most advanced spawning colouration that we saw.



The beach at Kilby.

In several shots I took of the water, you can count a dozen or more dead
floaters per picture, but I've not posted any here because at this size of photo
the fish are just white dots.

Posted by Paul at 06:21 PM

August 23, 2010

Double-Yolk Egg

Ran across a double-yolk egg today. They're not that uncommon, but I don't recall cracking one before:


Posted by Paul at 06:28 PM

August 10, 2010

Southpoint Rain Garden in SE Burnaby Underway!

It's so exciting to see construction underway on the Southpoint Rain Garden in SE Burnaby, BC. The rain garden is being created on a dead-end cul-de-sac, and will bridge Taylor Park and Byrne Creek Ravine Park.

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers brought the site to the attention of the City of Burnaby's planning, engineering and parks departments, and all immediately understood the site's potential. It not only links the green space of the two parks, it will provide natural filtration of rainwater that comes down Burnaby's south slope and that roars unfiltered into Byrne Creek. Streamkeepers have noted for years the oily flow off the streets that accumulated into the rain drains (storm drains) along Southpoint Drive and was visible way down below, exiting pipes into the creek whenever it rained.

The site will also be a gorgeous outdoor nature lab for elementary school students from nearby Taylor Park School. The principal, staff and students have already been involved in discussions and developments. The school has also been so kind as to hold an event with streamkeepers, and everyone appears excited about monitoring the new rain garden and how it will affect local urban biodiversity.

And last, but not least, the site is right by Adera Development's "Green" townhouse development. As part of its ethos of sustainable development and giving back to communities, Adera provided a substantial donation to the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers several years ago. We thank Adera for its patience in waiting to receive full public acknowledgement for its efforts, as the streamkeepers decided to use the funds to support the rain garden - a project that took some time to come to fruition.

I can almost feel the earth heaving a sigh of relief as the asphalt is stripped away, allowing the soil to breath and to absorb rain again!

Way to go Burnaby! I hope this project stimulates more of its kind around our beautiful city.

You're doing good, we heartily appreciate it,  let's see more! :-)



Posted by Paul at 08:42 PM

August 08, 2010

Rain Refreshes White Rock Scenes

We finally got some much-need rain in BC, and the misty, damp afternoon
provided for some lush shots in South Surrey/White Rock.


The pier.


All other photos taken at Stewart Heritage Farm








Posted by Paul at 08:20 PM

August 02, 2010

Long Weekend Bicycle Ride Around Burnaby

We did a four-hour bicycle ride on this holiday Monday from our home in SE Burnaby near Edmonds Skytrain Station, all the way over to Cariboo and the Central Valley Greenway around Burnaby Lake. We took a break at Piper Spit and watched some wildlife, then headed over to Kensington and eventually huffed and puffed our way up Royal Oak and back to the BC Parkway and home. Whew!

There's a great cycling map available online here.

A few shots from Piper Spit:







And me with bicycle helmet hair:


Posted by Paul at 07:18 PM

July 30, 2010

Midori the Turtle Falls Strangely Asleep

Midori enjoyed the sun streaming through the windows today, basking for hours. As the rays gradually diminished, she fell asleep in this odd position on the wooden stairs that surround her tank. My wife built the stairs so Midori could get in and out of the water as she pleases.


Oooo! Damn I woke up with a crick in my neck!

OK, all fun aside, this is an excellent example of why not to release pet turtles into the wild, or even to keep them as pets. Aside from the invasive species problem, as you can see, Midori is so acclimatized to human presence that she zonks out in a totally vulnerable manner which no healthy wild turtle would ever be lulled into. . .

Posted by Paul at 08:06 PM

July 26, 2010

Sunset at Spanish Bank in Vancouver

The lovely clear sky was too good to pass up tonight, so we headed out to Spanish Bank in Vancouver to watch the sun set.







The sky was absolutely clear with no clouds to work with,
so I concentrated my shots on this tree, the mountains in
the background, and the changing light.

Posted by Paul at 10:25 PM

July 17, 2010

First Walk in Delta’s Watershed Park

We've zoomed past this park many times, and today we decided to dismount our trusty '98 Outback and spend some time on the trails.

It was a good decision, for it's beautiful. Congrats to Delta for preserving this forested watershed.







A couple of observations, though: there are vast swaths of invasive
Policeman's Helmet ( Himalayan Balsam) in sections of the park
that ought to be dealt with, along with lesser stands of Japanese
knotweed. . . And it would be great to have a toilet facility or
three around this large park. Dunno if we missed them, but we
did not see any on the kiosk maps, or the map we had printed
off the web.

Posted by Paul at 10:27 PM

July 05, 2010

Clearing Invasive Policeman’s Helmet along Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are tackling invasive Himalayan Balsam (aka Policeman's Helmet) in lower stretches of the urban creek, yet again. It's an endless battle. We've cleared this particular stretch of the creek three years in a row, but it still comes back.

The growth of this invasive plant can be so thick and rampant that it can literally suck sections of the creek dry if not battled back.


That's my wife, Yumi, and the pink blossoms
above her head are on one of the dreaded plants.
In a matter of several weeks it's gone from barely
noticeable to nearly 2 meters high!

And in places, pink is all that you see. . .
This is near the end of several hours of
back-breaking eradication.

Posted by Paul at 09:26 PM

July 04, 2010

Lovely Afternoon at West Vancouver’s Lighthouse Park

It was a gorgeous day to explore parts of Lighthouse Park that we hadn't checked out before. It had been several years since our last visit, and we'll certainly have to go more often.






Posted by Paul at 08:59 PM

Byrne Creek Bug Count Yields Baby Crayfish

Twice a year, Byrne Creek Streamkeepers count bugs - the fancy name is "aquatic invertebrate surveys" - to assess the quality of the water in the urban stream. We sample the same locations year after year so that we have comparable data. The bug counts usually run for three weekends in a row.


The crew hard at work - we are fortunate to have members
who let us use their china and dining room tables so that we
can  count in comfort after collecting the samples from the creek.


To our surprise, we found three baby crayfish in our sample.
Here's one of them next to a dime for size comparison.

Posted by Paul at 01:31 PM

June 30, 2010

Commercial Properties Still Using Pesticides in South Burnaby

I happened to cycle past the Ballard building on North Fraser Way down in the Glenlyon Development near Fraser Foreshore Park in south Burnaby over lunch today.

There was a guy applying something to the lawns on both sides of the street, so I asked him what it was: Weed 'n Feed. I asked him if he was aware that he was applying it right next to Sussex Creek (neither fertilizer nor pesticides are good for aquatic habitat), and he brushed me off saying it was an approved chemical.

I called the City of Burnaby, and staff confirmed that they couldn't do anything about it because it was commercial property and the City's Pesticide Bylaw does not apply to commercial properties. I also checked the Environment Canada website, and discovered that weed 'n feed (combined fertilizer/pesticide) products have been banned on a national level, effective 2012. So it seems a shame that landscapers are still applying the stuff.

It would be great if developers, property managers, and landscapers got ahead of the curve!

I've talked to people who say they've heard that landscapers are intent on using up stocks of products that face potential bans, or that have already been banned but the deadline hasn't been reached yet, and that seems morally reprehensible to me.

Perhaps chemicals manufacturers could be encouraged to take back such products with partial refunds, and governments could be encouraged to support such programs through rebates? Perhaps such programs are in place, but people don't know about them? There's a lot that could be done here!

Posted by Paul at 02:56 PM

June 19, 2010

Bountiful Bugs Near Byrne Creek

This morning we walked Byrne Creek Ravine Park in southeast Burnaby, and came across lots of cool bugs.











Note: All of these shots taken with my teeny Canon SD780 pocket camera,
so the lens was just a couple of centimetres away from the bees and bugs.
Stay relaxed, move slowly, and they're very tolerant.

Posted by Paul at 09:35 PM

June 18, 2010

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Incorporated as BC Society

After over 10 years of streamkeeping in which we've racked up close to 20,000 volunteer hours, the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers have incorporated as a registered British Columbia non-profit society.


While we've functioned very effectively as an unstructured "jazz band" in which different people have taken the lead on various activities and initiatives on an ad hoc basis, new volunteer insurance requirements were the final straw that pushed us to apply for society status. It'll mean more paperwork, but it also safeguards our well-respected "brand" and sets the stage for fostering a new generation of community leaders.

Born out of the volunteer efforts of several gentlemen from the Vancouver Angling & Game Association who began cleaning up the creek in southeast Burnaby around two decades ago, the streamkeeper group was formed when more people from the broader community became involved after a horrific toxic spill in 1998 that killed some 5,000 fish and other animals in the revitalized urban creek.

I must mention the leadership of Joan Carne, who has herded the group since its inception. I hope the newly established board can fill the huge gumboots she's leaving us! She's not really leaving, but is stepping down from an executive role because she's super busy with the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, which was also spawned from that 1998 kill on Byrne Creek, and has to this point taught over 100,000 kids across Canada about their local watersheds, how they function, and what every single person can do to protect clean water.

Thanks too, to the City of Burnaby, in particular Environmental Services in the Engineering Department, and the folks in Burnaby Parks who deal with environmental issues. Not to mention the Planning staff who work with community groups! Of course we also cannot do the work we do without the oversight and guidance of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and in particular Maurice Coulter-Boisvert, our DFO Community Advisor. And many of us volunteers got our streamkeeper training and ongoing support from The Pacific Streamkeepers Federation. Yay Zo Ann!

Byrne Creek has suffered several more kills over the last decade when people in ignorance have poured toxins down street drains in the watershed. But streamkeepers never give up!

Here's to the next ten years of streamkeeping!

Posted by Paul at 08:00 PM

June 12, 2010

Ugly Bug Ball 2010

DFO Community Advisors in the lower mainland of BC and the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation host a free volunteer appreciation event called the Ugly Bug Ball every two years. For the last several times, the event has been held at the A Rocha facility in South Surrey, a gorgeous old farm that's been turned into an environmental education venue.

A few photos of this year's event, with a concentration on the beautiful natural setting :-):


DFO Community Advisor Mark Johnson sets the stage


PSKF's Zo Ann Morten shows what it means to be a stakeholder :-)


Bribing volunteers with cake!


The wine/whine session where everyone gets to beef in good company!


One of the gorgeous salmon moulded at an Ugly Bug Ball several years ago.


Participants hang out in the orchard.


Looking up at the sun through the orchard trees.


The beautiful pond on the A Rocha property.


Another water feature with snails enjoying the spattering flow.


Some of the gyotaku (Japanese-style transfer images) people created.




It truly is a gorgeous property!



Posted by Paul at 10:35 PM

White Rock on Solar-Supercharged Day

We dropped in to the White Rock, BC, pier on a sunny Saturday on our way to the Ugly Bug Ball in South Surrey. It was packed, and we were surprised to snag a parking stall just a few meters from the pier.


Yumi on the pier


Some impromptu sand sculpting  going on


A kayaking class adding colour to the scene



Posted by Paul at 01:27 PM

June 10, 2010

USGS: Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems

An excellent series of videos on how urbanization affects local streams. Thanks to the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation mailing list for this lead. These videos are great resources for explaining the function of urban watersheds to the public.

Posted by Paul at 02:40 PM

June 07, 2010

Baby Spiders

We've had a bunch of baby spiders hanging around the front door. They're kinda cute, and, kinda creepy :-). But we're being careful not to disturb them as much as possible until they make their own way in the world.


Posted by Paul at 08:21 PM

June 05, 2010

Busy Burnaby: Farmer’s Market, Hats Off Day, Deer Lake Ramble

It was a glorious Saturday with great weather - sunny but not hot - after several weeks of cool, rainy days here in Burnaby, BC. We celebrated with a grand tour of several places: the farmer's market at City Hall, the Hats Off parade and celebration along the Heights, a ramble all the way around Deer Lake, and topped if off with a balcony BBQ back home.

The Farmer's Market:




Beekeeping is now allowed in many yards in Burnaby. Yay!

On to Hats Off in the Heights. We missed the parade but walked the street festival from end to end:


A & W carhop mannequin on roller-skates :-)





OK, I'm an environmentalist now, but in my youth
I skinned plenty of knuckles on V-8 engines - this one's
a beaut!



We dropped by Deer Lake on the way home and walked a complete loop:




The songs that burst forth from little balls of fluff are amazing!






This young Canada Goose is starting to fill in with an adult's patterns



An osprey soaring over the lake looking for a meal.
It's wonderful to see such magnificent birds right in the city!

Posted by Paul at 10:25 PM

June 03, 2010

Vancouver Sun: Remote Alaskan sockeye salmon offer clues to long-term survival

An interesting read, though I find the overall conclusion to be a "Duh" moment:

The study shows the key to the health of the Bristol Bay fishery is a 'diversified portfolio' of hundreds of discrete populations of sockeye. Some of the populations like it when the surface climate is hot and dry, while others like it cold and wet. Some spend just one year in fresh water before heading to sea, others spend two years.

Researchers for the study, which appears in today's edition of the journal Nature, liken it to a diverse stock portfolio that spreads the risk around.

While this is a great explanation for the layperson, uh, haven't we long known the importance of genetic diversity?

Anyway, a key statement was: "The hope for the Fraser is that the fish can adapt to these warmer conditions and to the diseases that they've seen," says Hilborn. "We just basically have to give them time. And that basically means not harvesting them very much until they can solve the problem."

How about not harvesting Fraser sockeye at all? For several generations? Lower-Fraser First Nations have agreed to a complete sockeye moratorium and are doing only selective fishing, what about everyone else?

UPDATE: Another take on the same issue by Mark Hume in The Gl0be and Mail can be found here.

Posted by Paul at 09:53 PM

Inspiring Quotations on Water, Rivers, Fish & Sustainability

Here's a bunch of quotations that I've collected. They focus on water, rivers, fish, nature and sustainability. I've likely shared some of them here before:

From Mighty River by Richard Bocking
"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." -- Aldo Leopold

"We are a restless, dissatisfied novice species, clamoring for rulership of a planet toward which we display not even a rudimentary form of allegiance." -- Robert Harrington

"It seems clear beyond the possibility of argument that any given generation of men can have only a lease, not ownership, of the earth; and one essential term of the lease is that the earth be handed on to the next generation with unimpaired potentialities." -- Roderick Haig-Brown

"This curious world that we inhabit is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than to be used." -- Henry David Thoreau

"It is the salmon that expresses the force of our land. Without the salmon, the land and the rivers would only survive as a corpse survives the death of the nervous system and the departure of the spirit." -- Alan Haig-Brown

"The world was not created for people only, but for purposes that transcend the human race with its limited foresight and imagination; therefore it behooves all conscious inhabitants of this superb planet to nurture it as a garden, maintaining it in health, beauty and diversity for whatever glorious future its denizens may together share." -- Stan Rowe

"The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope." -- Wendell Berry

"Unlike our ancestors, those of us alive today comprise the generations running headlong into the limits of our use of natural systems while observing permanent loss of much of our natural heritage. The bottom line is that people have the freedom to change their behavior, whereas fish do not. If we are to save wild salmon, then some people will lose money or the ability to do things they wanted to do. But we all lose if we lose the salmon." (p. 245) -- King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon by David R. Montgomery

"...if we can silence our egos for a moment and set aside our preconceptions about who we think we are, we may begin to perceive some of the lessons that the rest of nature has to teach: lessons not of personality but of relationship, not of order but of complexity, not of private property but of shared responsibility, not of rationality but of mystery, not of the ultimacy of the human enterprise but of the interdependency of all life." (p. 47) -- Cathedral of the World: Sailing Notes For A Blue Planet by Myron Arms

"... is the story we've been telling ourselves about our 'progress' as a species during the last ten thousand years really upside-down? Have we actually regressed, psychologically, from a state of harmony with our natural surroundings to a state of boredom, contentiousness, and alienation?" (p. 122). -- Cathedral of the World: Sailing Notes For A Blue Planet by Myron Arms

"... we have learned to adapt, by increments, to the humanscapes around us until we can hardly remember what a natural landscape looks like any longer.... Most dangerous of all, we convince ourselves, perhaps because of the pervasiveness of the humanscape, that we are at the center of things -- that we are the controllers, the 'managers' of the planet." -- Cathedral of the World: Sailing Notes For A Blue Planet by Myron Arms

"... while engineers can reproduce fish, they cannot replace nature. Hatcheries are technological marvels and they may be a necessity in the modern world, but they are not signs of progress; they are monuments to our failure to protect rivers." -- The Run of the River: Portraits of Eleven British Columbia Rivers by Mark Hume

"A river is water in its loveliest form, rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the life blood returns to the heart." -- Roderick Haig-Brown A River Never Sleeps

Posted by Paul at 11:15 AM

May 30, 2010

Camping, Canoeing, Bears at Birkenhead Lake


The first camping trip of the year was met with rainy weather, but we forged on regardless and had a great time. We headed up to Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park, one of our favourite parks because it's only about a 3-hour drive from Vancouver, yet it's remote enough that it tends to be fairly quiet, especially early in the season.


And quiet it was! Of the nearly 100 sites in the campground, several walkabouts over the weekend showed only a few dozen were occupied. We had reserved a nice site up against Phelix Creek,  and the sound of the rushing water also helped to muffle any human noise.

Rain regardless, we put our canoe in the water on Friday afternoon and paddled for several hours until we were soaked and tired. Trolling a line behind produced a single bite, and no catch.


Fortunately we had been able to set up the tent and rope up a tarp over the table before the rain hit, so were fairly comfortable on Friday evening with a cosy fire.


A 15-minute shot of sun through the clouds!


Saturday resulted in more rain off and on, and blasts of wind. We headed out in the canoe again, but there can be substantial winds with occasional heart-quickening, canoe-heeling and spinning  gusts on the  mountain lake, so we headed back in after only an hour or so out on the water.

The next bit of entertainment came as Yumi was washing some of the mud off our trusty '98 Outback at our campsite (15km of access road to the park is "gravel," or in other words, potholed, stony washboard, packed dirt :-). As she went to refresh her pail of water from a pool just off the edge of the tent pad, I saw a black shape silently lumber past through the woods just a few meters beyond her.

"Yumi, get back! Back to the car, right now! There's a bear!"

Poor Yumi didn't see a thing, but scampered back nonetheless. It was amazing how silently, and how fast, that black bear rambled by.

I immediately ran out into the road because I knew some kids had been bicycling up and down the campground, and sure enough a wide-eyed little boy zoomed off to his dad as I barked at him, "look sharp, there's a bear right in there!"

The father spotted the bear, policed his family, and then the two of us monitored the beast, while spreading the word to other campers, blowing our car horns, etc. The fellow said he'd heard from park staff that the bear had recently gotten into a cooler that some irresponsible camper had left unattended. The word was to make as much noise and be as uninviting to the little bruin as possible, in the hope that it would move on, and not get itself shot.

The bear moved back down the campground between tent sites and the creek, and disappeared. Half an hour later as Yumi and I set out to hike up to the Goat Trail Lookout, the bear burst out of the bush, ran across the road, and hightailed it into the forest on the other side with park staff in a truck hot on its heels, horn blaring madly. The attendant got out, hollered he was going to set off a bear banger, and, BOOM!

We saw no more of the bear, but we sure made a lot of noise as we climbed up to the Goat Trail Lookout!


Crossing high, fast, Phelix Creek on the Goat Trail


Now that's some head banging!


The lookout


Yumi scoping the lake and mountains


An hour of sunshine, wow!


There is canoe rental at the lake now, but we're glad we
have our own


A red-breasted sapsucker that let me get to within two meters
or so to get this shot with my teeny Canon SD780 pocket camera

Instead of canoeing the choppy lake, we decided to try the trail on the north side to where the wilderness campground used to be (now shut down due to hazard trees).

Not far down the trail we ran across a big pile of fresh green scat - OK, at least the bear's a vegetarian. Another dozen meters and lots more fresh scat, dark in colour, but at least no bear bells in it :-).

We ventured a bit further, but as our pace slackened and doubts increased, we decided that common sense outweighed valour, and turned back.


It still being cloudy and drizzly, we packed up in the morning, thought about another jaunt in the canoe, took one look at the cold, choppy lake and decided to head south. Coffee in Pemberton, a walkabout at Alice Lake, lunch in Squamish, and a leisurely drive home.

Posted by Paul at 06:41 PM

May 26, 2010

Bev Bowler of DFO Receives ‘Salmon Hero’ Award

Bev Bowler of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans received the Salmon Hero award at the 2010 Fraser Assembly of the Fraser Salmon & Watersheds Program. Bev received the award for her dedication to the Salmonids in the Classroom program, in which schoolkids receive salmon eggs to hatch and rear in their classrooms, and then release into local creeks.


Bev is very deserving of this award. Though I rarely get to meet her in person, I've had the privilege of helping several schools release their chum fry into Byrne Creek every spring. It's a great program that thoroughly engages kids, teachers, and parents, and I love the enthusiasm and excitement.

Posted by Paul at 08:55 PM

Ernie Crey Gives 2010 Fraser Assembly Keynote

Ernie Crey, Senior Policy Advisor for the Sto:lo Tribal Council gave a moving keynote address to the Fraser Salmon & Watersheds Program 2010 Fraser Assembly this morning.  These are my rough notes, so while the gist may be correct, they cannot be attributed to Ernie Crey as direct quotations . . .

We are undergoing profound, ongoing changes. Changes in the aboriginal community signal profound changes in the entire community, institutions, and policies.

Change is the constant that we all face and we can't hide from it.

Trying to hold back change doesn't work. Change is overwhelming and inevitable.

The best we can do and hope for is to flow with the change and see if we can direct it around the values that we have. That's all that we can do.

Get engaged, run for and hold public office.

People in Ottawa make policy for all aspects of our lives: the environment, taxation, health, etc. All those decisions are made there by a small cadre of males from the dominant community. Woman are largely absent. Aboriginals are absent. Policy is mostly made by white males.

It's best that we be the shapers of public policy in Canada. I've never been a believer in sitting it out.

We've entered a difficult place in the history of this province, particularly when it comes to fisheries.

120 years ago there were 100 million and more sockeye salmon coming back to spawn up the Fraser. We now consider a good year to be 10 million fish. Fish have been going missing from the Fraser for decade upon decade.

The DFO is not the saviour of salmon or its champion. This needs to change.

If we don't drastically change our ways, the chinook will all be gone. Will we allow that to happen? Will we sit it out?

What is the right thing to do? What is the ethical thing to do? For our children and their children, and the children of the white man.

Can't we respond to change?

The aboriginals have adjusted and have begun to fish selectively.

The Cohen judicial inquiry into missing sockeye salmon. I predict the hearing will transfix British Columbians. A good part of the world knows about the disappearance of the sockeye. Some say they are AWOL at sea. Nobody knows why. People blame different sources. Some say it's a scientific question. That may be the case.

Here's my take. It may be a question of science, to improve science, in-season management. But you know it's really a question for British Columbians like you and me. Post your opinions on the inquiry website.

I think communities should hold their own hearings. All of you together. In Merritt, in Kamloops, in Vancouver. Get the ordinary citizens to come forward with their observations and opinions as if they counted.

It's important not to be exclusive as scientists, politicians, and council members. We need to be inclusive.

Working together is what it takes.

We have a shot at not only preserving but enhancing salmon runs.

"Gramps and grandma restored the environment and the rivers." That's the vision that we can, and should, embrace.

Posted by Paul at 08:33 PM

May 24, 2010

Glorious Day Photographing Birds at Reifel Sanctuary

What better way to spend a long-weekend Monday than wandering around for three or four hours at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.


My favourite shot of the day - hummingbird in flight

For those curious the tech specs are: Nikon D300,
handheld Nikkor AF-S 70-300 VR zoom at 300mm
(35mm equivalent of 450mm), ISO 1250, 1/500 @ f9.
Aperature priority, +1.0 EV.

No post-processing aside from cropping.


Hummingbird with tongue sticking out




Chickadees are pretty darn cute, too




Red-winged blackbird letting a crow know its not wanted


Crow stares at nattering blackbird


Mom in convoy


A mass of cuteness




Swallows are way cool


And way pretty


Yumi surrounded by goslings





Parents keep a sharp eye out


When they're not snoozing


A pintail


A shoveller


A junco


A grosbeak



The ubiquitous heron


The rare sandhill crane


Some sort of finch? I'm still not good at my small birds


A bunch of bee and wasp shots







Posted by Paul at 08:14 PM

May 16, 2010

First Fry Born in Byrne Creek Since March 4, 2010, Toxic Kill

A few days ago some Byrne Creek Streamkeepers reported seeing fry in the creek - - the first since someone poured a cleanser down a street drain on March 4, 2010, killing everything in the creek. Streamkeepers and local schoolkids have released chum salmon fry and coho salmon smolts provided by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans since the kill, but these are the first native-born fry we've seen.

They are likely cutthroat trout fry, spawned after the kill, incubated in the gravel for 7 - 8 weeks, and just starting to pop up now. It's great to see life coming back to the creek!

Posted by Paul at 07:58 PM

May 15, 2010

Rice Lake, Lynn Canyon, Newts

We hiked around Rice Lake in North Vancouver this afternoon, followed by another loop to the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge. We were enchanted by dozens of rough-skinned newts in Rice Lake. We'd never noticed them before, but today we watched them for nearly an hour. They're so cute!




They sit on rocks under the water and come up to
the surface every few minutes






Posted by Paul at 08:09 PM

May 14, 2010

Exotic Fish Identified in Burnaby Pond

Several times over the last couple of years we've seen strange fish in a pond in Fraser Foreshore Park in Burnaby near Byrne Creek. I finally got some photos that were good enough to ID one of the species, though it's difficult shooting through the murky water even on a bright, sunny day.

Unfortunately, a biologist has identified them as pumkinseeds,  a species introduced to the lower mainland, likely by people who like fishing for them and eating the pan fish. Unfortunate, for several reasons: if they spread they can compete with native species, they may not have natural predators here, etc. City of Burnaby staff helped with the ID process and are aware of the problem. I have no idea how it can be resolved, but whoever is dumping alien fish in this pond, please stop! Native fish like coho and chum salmon, and cutthroat trout, have enough to contend with in our urban watersheds without having to compete with alien species.



Posted by Paul at 07:32 PM

May 13, 2010

Pond Life in Fraser Foreshore Park

I love this pond near the outlet of Byrne Creek into the Fraser River in SE Burnaby - despite its unfortunate populations of alien fish (see above entry). It's a magnet for all sorts of bugs, amphibians, reptiles and birds.








Posted by Paul at 07:44 PM

May 06, 2010

Clinton Schoolkids Release Coho in Byrne Creek

Kids from Clinton Elementary in southeast Burnaby helped streamkeepers, DFO community advisors, and City of Burnaby staff release coho smolts (yearlings) into Byrne Creek this morning. Clinton School has been involved in several Byrne Creek activities this year - - good on them!

Thank you DFO for bringing these young coho all the way from the Bell-Irving Hatchery at Kanaka Creek. All life in Byrne Creek was wiped out in March when someone unthinkingly poured a cleanser down a street drain, so we're rebuilding the creek from scratch, yet again.

Here are a few photos of today's uplifting event.


Setting the scene: the gorgeous lower reaches of the ravine park


Maurice of the DFO chats with the kids


Yep, that's how big the coho will be when they
come back to spawn in a year or two :-)
Maurice is passionate about his calling,
and we streamkeepers and kids love his style!


The kids' eyes light up as they see the fish they will release


There they go - thanks Clinton kids!


Giving a few confused laggards a gentle poke to move them on


Beautiful young smolts acclimatize to their new, temporary
home before they head out to the ocean soon.

Hope to see at least a few of you back spawning in our creek in
a year and half, when you're nearly as long as my arm!

Posted by Paul at 10:06 PM

May 02, 2010

CBC: Burtynsky's Oil images win photo book prize

"In 1997, I had what I refer to as my oil epiphany," Burtynsky said in a statement accompanying the book and exhibits.

"It occurred to me that the vast, human-altered landscapes that I pursued and photographed for over 20 years were only made possible by the discovery of oil and the mechanical advantage of the internal combustion engine. It was then that I began the oil project.

"Over the next 10 years I researched and photographed the largest oil fields I could find. I went on to make images of refineries, freeway interchanges, automobile plants and the scrap industry that results from the recycling of cars. Then I began to look at the culture of oil, the motor culture, where masses of people congregate around vehicles, with vehicle events as the main attraction."

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/artdesign/story/2010/04/30/burtynsky-oil-photo-award.html#ixzz0mpghwHoJ

Posted by Paul at 08:18 PM

April 25, 2010

Corona, Birds on Boundary Bay

Spent a lovely Sunday afternoon down in Tsawassen on Boundary Bay.


Driftwood on the beach


An amazing corona around the sun


Yumi examining the wee creatures


Blackbird taking off



A wren of some sort - marsh?


Heron in flight

These birds are so cool. They seem to come from another
era, with their ungainly flight and raucous vocalizations.
But they are very efficient stalkers and killers, as they have
to be to survive.

When I startle a heron, I often feel a "velociraptor" chill down
my spine, and I'm happy that in this stage or our evolutions, I'm
a lot bigger than they are  :-).

Posted by Paul at 08:31 PM

April 22, 2010

Clinton School Releases ‘Salmon in the Classroom’ Fry in Byrne

Clinton Elementary School kids in SE Burnaby released their "Salmonids in the Classroom" chum fry into Byrne Creek today. My wife Yumi and I accompanied them, representing the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. It was a gorgeous Earth Day!

Thank you to teacher Elaine Jaltema who had the kids very well organized. She also had a slew of additional science and observation activities lined up, so the kids were testing water temperature, pH, etc.


Getting everyone organized up near Ron McLean Park before
heading down into the ravine


Kids release the chum fry they raised in their classroom


A budding scientist records data

Posted by Paul at 02:43 PM

April 20, 2010

Chum Fry Released in Burnaby South Slope Creeks

Kids from Suncrest Elementary helped Kaymar Creek Streamkeepers, the City of Burnaby, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans release chum fry (babies) in to Kaymar Creek in southwest Burnaby this morning, followed by a release with kids from Nelson Elementary into Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby.


DFO Community Advisor Maurice Coulter-Boisvert speaks to kids


Kids release fry into Kaymar Creek


Maurice speaks to kids at Byrne Creek. These fry will
help repopulate the creek after someone poured a
cleanser down a street drain on March 4, killing all
aquatic life


Holding a bag of chum fry


DFO, City of Burnaby staff and streamkeepers fill bags of fish


Bon voyage! With luck a few of these chum will survive
their trip down Byrne Creek to the Fraser River, down
the Fraser to the Pacific Ocean, and will return to spawn
in the creek in a few years.

Posted by Paul at 03:16 PM

April 18, 2010

Byrne Creek Bee, Bugs, Turtles

A creek patrol along Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby this afternoon turned into a fotofest of wildlife. Yumi and I were happy to see a small school of chum salmon fry that had been released into the creek by schoolkids a few days earlier. We also saw at least a dozen trout in pools, and a lamprey, so the creek is slowly coming back to life and being repopulated after a toxin poured down a drain wiped out the creek at the beginning of March.

The single red-eared slider turtle that's been hanging around the pond in the habitat for a couple of years now has been joined by another one. While we love wildlife, and have a turtle pet of our own, this species is not native to BC. It appears the second one is also a slider, though it was so covered with baked on mud that it was hard to tell. Please, don't dump your pets into the wild!


A red-eared slider basking near a Byrne Creek pond


Unfortunately, it's now got a buddy! While the red marks are
hard to see in this photo, magnification does reveal some
bronzing under the baked on mud.





A couple of ladybugs with different patterns


The first millipede we've seen this spring

Posted by Paul at 06:33 PM

Fraser Foreshore Wildlife

An amble along the waterfront in Burnaby's Fraser Foreshore Park from the parking lot at the bottom of Byrne Road to Byrne Creek and back produced a few wildlife shots.


An inquisitive chickadee


A statuesque heron


A startled garter snake that slithered into a pond


An enlargement - you can see how it flattens its body to
propel itself in the water at amazing speed

Posted by Paul at 06:11 PM

April 17, 2010

Starting them Young

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers had our booth set up at Choices in the Park for the store's Earth Day celebration this afternoon. There was a by-donation BBQ, with proceeds generously being donated to care for Byrne Creek. Thanks!

We offered a tour of the creek, but the only takers on the cloudy, drizzly day were half-a-dozen 4-6 year olds from a nearby daycare and their parents, so the pace was slow. But  I was amazed by the kids - over the course of 2 - 1/2 hours they trundled through the entire ravine loop with nary a complaint, asking lots of questions along the way, and it seemed that all involved really enjoyed the tour.

The daycare teacher was great -- she encouraged the kids to try climbing a low tree (one at a time with helping hands nearby), get their fingers dirty looking at rocks and plants, etc. She was determined to be raising a bunch of nature-loving future streamkeepers!




Posted by Paul at 07:47 PM

April 16, 2010

South Slope Releases Chum in Byrne Creek

A class from South Slope Elementary School in south Burnaby released its "Salmon in the Classroom" chum fry into Byrne Creek this morning. As far as I know, these are the only fry in the system at the moment, everything else having been killed by a toxic spill into a storm drain in early March. Thank you very much to Gary Thompson, his intern Eva, the parents who drove the kids, and of course the kids themselves!


Posted by Paul at 12:59 PM

April 14, 2010

Dew Blesses Morning Blossoms

More cherry blossom photos and a few tulips from our balcony this lovely morning.











Posted by Paul at 09:48 AM

April 09, 2010

Cherry Blossoms Arrive on Balcony

Get ready for a barrage of cherry blossom photos as the tree next to our balcony comes into bloom!

Every year it's an adventure in striving for vision and beauty, while reminding me of our transient, impermanent, nature -- blossoms and people alike.










For the technically inclined, all shots taken with a Nikon D300, handheld at ISO 400, with an 18-200mm AF-S Nikkor 3.5~5.6 G ED VR zoom, and an ancient 55mm Micro-Nikkor-PC 3.5 macro lens that I bought some 30+ years ago. I kept the ISO at 400 even on the bright, sunny day, to allow for fast shutter speeds at small apertures for decent depth of field and motion control in the breeze.

Note: These photos are not enhanced in any way besides some judicious cropping. I am slowly coming to terms with digital "manipulation" - in its basic forms of image enhancement, I do not see it as being any different from the burning and dodging of traditional darkroom work - I just haven't had time to learn it yet!

Posted by Paul at 06:41 PM

March 24, 2010

Scotch Broom-Climbing Snails

Continuing the theme of climbing snails (see entry below), today we spotted lots of snails way up in Scotch Broom bushes along Southridge Dr. in southeast Burnaby. Dunno what all these snails are doing way up in trees and bushes, but they sure come in a fascinating variety of colours and patterns.



Posted by Paul at 05:20 PM

March 22, 2010

Tree-Climbing Snails

On our way home from a ravine loop late this afternoon, my wife and I ran across scads of snails. Climbing trees. We'd never observed this before.

Large ones, baby ones, different colours and designs, and on different types of trees:






Above is one of the babies. The rest are all the usual size.


Posted by Paul at 10:02 PM

Blossoms, Clouds in South Burnaby








Posted by Paul at 09:56 PM

March 21, 2010

Golden Ears Park, Alouette Lake

A jaunt to Golden Ears Provincial Park proved relaxing and refreshing even on a rainy day.


Alouette Lake wreathed in clouds.


Salmonberry blossoms graced with raindrops.


The refreshing scent of lush evergreens in the mist.

Posted by Paul at 08:06 PM

March 20, 2010

Spring Flowers, Foliage

A few shots taken near our place today.




Posted by Paul at 09:52 PM

March 13, 2010

Environment Canada ‘Responds’ to Streamkeepers

Here's what an Environment Canada spokesperson had to say to the Burnaby Now after yet another chemical dump into Byrne Creek that killed everything in the open watershed from top to bottom:

Raisinghani responded to recent criticism from streamkeepers that suggested Environment Canada was lax on enforcement of anti-pollution laws and failing in its job to protect fish and their habitat.

"Environment Canada takes its enforcement responsibilities very seriously," Raisinghani wrote. "If the source of contamination is found, an investigation may be launched."

WOW, Right!?

I'm sure polluters are shaking in their chemical-covered boots upon hearing that proclamation. IF. MAY.

How about WHEN. SHALL..?

Isn't action by default something that we should expect from those mandated to protect our health and our environment?

I feel for Raisinghani. He, she, is muzzled, handcuffed, and just spouting the "line" from someone higher up who doesn't have the balls to speak to the public.

What we need is swift prosecution, not purported tough talk. Hell, that ain't even tough talk. Them's bureaucratic-PR weasel words. IF. MAY.

I would like to point out that the IFs and MAYs have been spouted repeatedly in the past - and have never been addressed. That does not reassure anyone about Environment Canada's track record, eh?

There was a toxic spill on a tributary that feeds into Byrne Creek as recently as 2007  in which the "source of contamination" WAS found, and Environment Canada went into its usual "an investigation MAY be launched" mode, but ended up doing NOTHING.

So what gives us citizens, who pay Environment Canada salaries, and who trust you to protect us and our environment, any reason to believe this time will be any different?

This issue has been brought up again, and again, and again, and we don't need any more IFs and MAYs. We need ACTION.

The real sad thing about all this is that as volunteer streamkeepers we work with all levels of government: municipal, regional, provincial, and federal. We don't want to diss anyone, but . . .   We are giving up hundreds and thousand of hours of our time to volunteer. We are taking time away from our work. . . while we're paying through our taxes, for, apparently, nothing to be done by "our" government.

That's harsh..

Posted by Paul at 10:22 PM

March 10, 2010

Short Video on Fish Kill from Newsleader

Found this video on BC Daily Buzz, and am assuming that since it's got embed links, it's OK to reproduce. This was shot by Mario Bartel of the Burnaby Newsleader a couple of days ago. It's me at the pond near Edmonds Skytrain Station where the deadly spill was first noticed on March 4, 2010.

Posted by Paul at 04:37 PM

Media Interest in Byrne Creek Kill Has Legs

The strength and duration of media interest in the recent fish kill in southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek after someone illegally disposed of a chemical, likely down a drain on a street, is intriguing. The kill happened late Thursday afternoon, yet I was still receiving multiple calls for interviews and tours on Monday. Usually three- to four-day old local news is as appetizing to mainstream media as, er, rotting fish, but somehow this story had legs.

And we didn't send out a single press release or email, we didn't make a single phone call - we simply tried to keep up with the requests that poured in. We have no staff, streamkeepers are 100% volunteer. If anyone still doubts the power of Twitter, well, that's how this story started. . .

Perhaps it had something to do with public outrage. This story struck a chord. The creek is in an urban area, it is surrounded by public parks, and I think people are really getting the message that it's not only fish,  it's about the entire ecosystem and our health, too.

I've been monitoring the online versions of stories, and people have been responding with anger and disbelief that such a tragedy could happen - yet again - in a beloved creek. People have also been scathingly skeptical that anything will really be done by the federal agencies that supposedly are tasked with protecting our environment and our health.

The outrage is palpable, and I think that's what has kept this story alive.

Streamkeepers are making lemonade from the lemons handed to us by the thoughtless polluter - we've been getting calls from concerned citizens reporting suspicious substances on streets and in ditches, we may have a few new faces at our monthly meeting tomorrow (Thursday, March 11, at 7:30pm - coordinates here), we've been getting requests from businesses to come speak to employees about the watershed and how we all connect to it.

I hope interest remains high, but I understand that we have to get on with our busy lives and attention will quickly fade. Unfortunately, I've seen this cycle several times on battered Byrne Creek, and I hope that my sense that this time the response is noticeably stronger isn't just wishful thinking.

Thank you to all the media who covered the kill! And thank you to the public for expressing your feelings. If you really want change to happen, if you want to see enforcement, I urge you to write your local MLAs and MPs, and the federal and provincial environment ministers - without strong policy direction agency staff's hands are tied.

Posted by Paul at 07:50 AM

March 05, 2010

Sample Density of Fish Killed in Byrne Creek

Sometimes it takes death to reveal how much life there is.

Would you believe that on average there was a dead fish less than every 2 meters along a sampled section of Byrne Creek the morning after someone poured a toxin down a street drain in the upper watershed on March 4, 2010? Most people never see fish in the creek - it takes patience, stealth, and knowing where to look to spot them when they are alive. My wife and I counted 231 dead trout, coho smolts (yearlings) and coho fry (this spring's babies) in an approximately 400-meter section of the creek. For those interested, here's the breakdown:

182 - Small cutthroat trout (say less than 15cm)
20  - Medium cutthroat trout (say 15-20cm)
1   - Large cutthroat trout (over 20cm)
Total 203 cutthroat trout

16 small-to-medium dead fish visible inside the culvert, too dark to ID
1 - large trout, very dark, no cutthroat markings on chin, near footbridge

8  - Coho smolts
3  - Coho fry
Total 11 coho salmon

Grand total dead fish in that stretch: 231

And that's likely lower than the actual number due to several factors: dead fish get wedged under rocks and drop deep in pools, the tiny fry are difficult to spot at all and we know that before the kill there were schools of dozens in the area sampled. In addition, opportunistic predation starts almost immediately after the toxin is quickly flushed down the creek: we found several fish partially eaten, and only strings of guts and bits of flesh too small to ID here and there.

The coho were found around T518 to T516 (lower end of the lower ravine). The coho fry were found in the vicinity of T517 where we photographed live ones a few days ago... See the entry below "Video of 2010 Salmon Fry in Byrne Creek."


The above photo shows dead fish ranging from coho fry at the bottom left,
a coho smolt a the bottom right, and an adult trout above. There was a
surprise to come, as you'll see in the next photo. . .


The big trout had a fry in its mouth. It's not hard to imagine what
happened - it spotted a little fish in distress from the chemical,
thought it an easy meal, and then before it could even finish
swallowing its target, the bigger fish also died.

Posted by Paul at 09:10 PM

Counting the Dead

Imagine walking down a street, and every few steps that you take, you come across a body.

A few more steps, a cluster of bodies. Every step, another body. Another group of bodies.

You approach an area where yesterday you saw small children playing - and you find small, inert bodies.

Small bodies, ranging from babies recently born, to midsize ones -- kids going to school. Further on, large ones, adults.

All with bulging eyes, gaping mouths.

Staring. At nothing. For they do not see any more. They do not breathe any more, for they died gasping for breath.

They choked to death.

That's what it was like today, carefully walking down Byrne Creek, counting the dead.

The dead that died when someone unthinkingly, uncaringly, or, despite decades of educational efforts, perhaps unknowingly, poured a chemical down a storm drain.

The bodies were fish. Just fish.

But we'll drink what went in that water someday, too. Or perhaps swim in it. Those toxins don't just disappear.

If we eat fish or other seafood, we will eat what went in that water someday, too.

All drains lead to fish habitat.

People habitat.

Every living thing's habitat.

I fear I'll dream tonight about counting the dead.

The bulging eyes, the gaping mouths.

The horrifying, constricting feeling of being unable to breathe.

We found fish today that in desperation had thrown themselves into the air, up onto the banks of the creek - to breathe, please let me breathe!

That would be like me throwing myself under water to escape foul, poisoned air - to breathe, please let me breathe!

Yes, I'm emotionally attached, because for days recently I eagerly patrolled Byrne Creek, looking for baby coho salmon, baby chum salmon, hoping against hope that the few salmon spawners that made it back last autumn succeeded in creating a new generation.

I saw baby fry, and I rejoiced. My heart soared. I took photos. I took videos.

I blogged, I Tweeted, I Facebooked. I did all that social media, cyberspace stuff.

But real life intervened

And now they are all dead.

And all that I can do is

Count the dead.

Posted by Paul at 09:08 PM

March 04, 2010

Fish Kill in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek March 4, 2010

A chemical entered Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby in the mid-to-late afternoon today, killing fish. Someone called Environment Canada [CORRECT: in fact the City of Burnaby received the call from the BC provincial enviro ministry after a youth called the Provincial Emergency Program], who then called the City, and streamkeepers also noticed the kill around the same time. City staff took samples and worked on tracing the source, which likely came from a storm drain, while streamkeepers took photos for documentation and sampled pH in the creek at several points. Both City staff and streamkeepers plan to follow up tomorrow. Here are some photos:


The fish ladder at the pond west of Griffiths Dr.
Water is covered with foam and slick to the touch.
There was an ammonia smell coming out of the pipe.


Dead fish on bottom of pool.


Dead cutthroat with hazy water visible. That's a size 12 boot
toe beside it for comparison.




Just a few days ago, streamkeepers were excited to see baby salmon
fry popping out of the gravel. We are concerned that they may also have
been affected.

I find it hard to believe that after decades of education efforts, such
kills still happen.

Please, folks, remember that all drains on roads and parking lots lead to fish habitat!

Posted by Paul at 10:20 PM

March 01, 2010

Re-Inventing Rainwater Management

Ran across this study today (pdf doc): Re-Inventing Rainwater Management: A Strategy to Protect Health and Restore Nature in the Capital Region by the  Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria. While I have yet to read all of it, it appears to be an excellent take on issues that streamkeepers in Burnaby and all over BC have been concerned about for years. An excerpt from the introduction to the problem:

We don't normally think of rainfall as pollution. However, over the last 150 years we have built cities in a way that transforms rainwater into an agent of considerable environmental harm: urban stormwater runoff.

Changing pristine rainwater into pollution occurs in stages. The first step is the creation of pollutants from driving and fixing cars, using chemicals on houses and yards, and commercial and industrial processes. Heavy metals, PCBs, oils, grease, antifreeze, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, paint chips, PAHs, road salt, and detergents fall to the ground across the urban landscape.

The second step involves our construction of impervious surfaces such as roofs, paved streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. As a city develops, the vegetation and natural soils that absorb and filter rainwater are replaced by impervious surfaces. When we pave over nature's absorption and filtration system, the next heavy rain sweeps across the landscape's hard surfaces picking up pollutants.

In the final step, the storm sewer system rapidly conveys all this polluted water to the nearest water body and flushes it at high speed into a sensitive aquatic ecosystem. In addition to the pollutants from the landscape, the water often contains paint and motor oil that people have dumped into the storm sewer. To make things worse, in older municipalities, this stormwater often contains sanitary sewage.

Posted by Paul at 08:32 PM

Video of 2010 Salmon Fry in Byrne Creek

I shot this video at 640 X 480 resolution with my Canon SD780 digital still camera handheld with the zoom at max. I processed the file in Windows Live Movie Maker, a free download. Not bad for such a cheap, on-the-fly setup :-).

It's always great to know that at least some of the few salmon that managed to return to this urban creek in southeast Burnaby last autumn successfully spawned, and that their eggs survived through the winter.

Posted by Paul at 05:08 PM

February 28, 2010

Learn About Salmon-Friendly Gardening

From our friends at LEPS, via the PSKF message board:

Make your neighbourhood a better place and start something healthier for you and for salmon, in your backyard!

On Saturday March 13, join Langley Environmental Partners Society from 10am-3pm at the Fraser River Presentation Theatre, 4th floor, 20338- 65 Ave Langley, for the 3rd annual Salmon Friendly Gardens Seminar.

This workshop style seminar will have speakers present practical solutions for:

  • Converting Lawn into a Vegetable Patch ~ Ward Teulon, City Farm Boy
  • Rethinking Weeds as Wild Edibles ~ David Catzel, Glorious Organics
  • Gardening for Wildlife ~ Jude Grass, Birds on the Bay
  • Pesticide Alternatives That Work ~ Martin Harcourt, Mainland Landscaping and Gardening Ltd

Event includes refreshment break. Pre-registration is required, to register email kgreenwood@tol.ca

Why grow a salmon-friendly garden?

Every Langley home is located in the middle of salmon habitat. Each of Langley's twelve watersheds collects runoff from our backyards and directs it into one of our salmon-bearing streams. The Fraser River salmon run - the largest in Canada - depends on these small tributaries for spawning and the healthy development of young fish.

The upshot is that what we put on our gardens ends up in our streams, including pesticides and fertilizers. In addition, the majority of Langley's tap water comes from aquifers, meaning that our drinking water originates directly below our feet. When you consider that 95% of pesticides used on residential yards are considered probable or possible carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency, there's good reason to cut back on the chemicals we use in our gardens.

This worrying evidence doesn't mean that your garden has to go to the bugs. LEPS presents this full-day seminar on how to grow a beautiful, healthy and productive garden without chemicals.

The event also launches the Township of Langley's pilot Grow Healthy ~ Grow Smart Program.

Salmon Saturdays are supported by the Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program.

Posted by Paul at 09:44 PM

February 23, 2010

Dawn, Dusk on BC Ferries

The 7:00 am BC Ferries run from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, and the return 5:00 pm run produced some moody sunrise and sunset photos today.

The dawn run:





And coming home at dusk:





Posted by Paul at 11:31 PM

February 17, 2010

New Fry in Byrne Creek, Signs of Spring

Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby, BC, is sporting new babies! I spotted two salmon fry in pools in the creek today - not many, but it's a start. There were also lots of other signs of spring.


Hard to ID for sure, but it may be a coho, judging by
orange-ish colour.


This backlit strider was making explosive flashes of light
on the water with every step.





Posted by Paul at 07:26 PM

February 15, 2010

Robins, Fruit at Stewart Heritage Farm

Though it was overcast, I checked out the Stewart Heritage Farm in south Surrey today - it's a great place for birding and nature photos.


Cattails in a marsh


Last autumn's apples


An inquisitive robin.


Who gets a worm!

I got some good shots of waxwings eating berries at the farm last October.

Posted by Paul at 10:05 PM

February 08, 2010

Sunset Near Byrne Ravine Park

Late this afternoon I got out for a loop of Byrne Creek Ravine Park in SE Burnaby, and got a few sunset shots on my way back up the hill.


The view down the hill over the Green development.


Along Byrne Park Drive.



Posted by Paul at 09:27 PM

February 06, 2010

Eagles, Crows on Marine Way

While my wife was picking up some cat food I got some shots of eagles and crows near Marine Way in Burnaby. At one point there were six bald eagles soaring overhead, with some sort of hawk or harrier joining in for a moment. There were also several crows patrolling the parking lot.




Posted by Paul at 06:30 PM

February 03, 2010

Warmest January on Record in Vancouver, Eh?

Well, look what I found outside our door today:


I also did a quick patrol for salmon fry in Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby. Didn't see any yet, but back in 2005 we spotted fry on Feb. 8, so with this year's warm winter they ought to be popping out of the gravel soon!

Posted by Paul at 02:44 PM

February 02, 2010

BC Artist James Koll Posts New Works to Website

I received an email from BC artist James Koll today about new pieces posted to his website. Coincidentally, the topic of art came up on the Editors' Association of Canada email list recently, with people sharing info about artists whose works they'd bought. I mentioned Koll and his website, and here are a few comments:

"Koll's work is beautiful and, from the photos, exceptionally well crafted. The next time I'm back in B.C. I'll make it a point to see some of his work; I'm in love with it, even via the Internet. A new slant on Internet dating?"

"Thanks so much for sharing this link."

"I like his Burrard Street at Night--lovely."

"Ooo--another great site."

Posted by Paul at 01:37 PM

January 30, 2010

Cleaning Bird Boxes at Burnaby Lake

A call for volunteers appeared in the local papers to help clean out bird boxes at Burnaby Lake Regional Park for the spring nesting season, so Yumi and I drove over this Saturday morning to check out what the Burnaby Lake Park Association was up to.

Led by the irrepressibly passionate and knowledgeable Joe Sadowski, the 30-40 folks who showed up were divided into three or four teams and spread out to do some housecleaning. Despite the overcast, drizzly conditions, people's spirits ran high.









And a lovely Wood Duck couple, perhaps looking to move
in to the newly cleaned housing :-)

Posted by Paul at 09:09 PM

January 05, 2010

Collapse of Soviet Union Put Danube, Dnieper Rivers on Diverging Courses

A sobering article in the Washington Post. While many countries have come together to clean up and revitalize the Danube, there has been little progress on the environmental devastation to Ukraine's Dnieper perpetrated under the communist regime.

Posted by Paul at 07:46 PM

December 28, 2009

Frosty Ramble 'Round Deer Lake

Combating the seasonal overeating, Yumi and I trundled all the way to Deer Lake and back, doing the route in a bit less than three hours. It was a frosty, cloudy day, but I worked up a good sweat, fell on my butt on the icy Sperling stairs, and got a few decent shots, too.


View from the canoe dock


Frosty mooring cleat


Yumi testing the ice near the beach


Frozen cattails near the beach


Foggy view of Metrotown from the north shore of the lake


Spotted this little furball sneaking through tunnels of grass
near the trail - a vole?


Frozen dew


We were surprised to see a salmon carcass in
Buckingham Creek near the beach parking lot.
We've never seen salmon in the Deer Lake area.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get at it to ID it.

Posted by Paul at 08:11 PM

December 26, 2009

Foggy New Westminster Quay, Boardwalk

A stroll along the quay and boardwalk in New Westminster on a socked in, foggy afternoon produced some moody photographs.























Posted by Paul at 07:59 PM

December 25, 2009

Christmas Jaunt up the Sea to Sky, Squamish, Brackendale

A Christmas daytrip up the Sea-to-Sky highway to Squamish and Brackendale resulted in some nice shots, though there were few eagles to be seen.


Stonework pattern on washroom at Shannon Falls


Spawning salmon, green water, stones make for an impressionistic shot
near the Tenderfoot Hatchery


Great Blue Heron watches salmon near the Tenderfoot Hatchery


An American Dipper keeps a sharp eye out for wayward salmon eggs


Lots of people at the Eagle Run at Brackendale, but few eagles


Squamish River with mountain background


Heading back home we stop at Porteau Cove - Yumi against the sunset


Moon at bottom with Porteau Cove pier structure


Rocks and ripples at the ocean's edge


Chains anchor the sunset


Bench and rails frame the setting sun



Trees, sunset along the Sea-to-Sky highway


The sun dips in to the sea beyond the mountains

Posted by Paul at 07:13 PM

December 24, 2009

Byrne Creek Ravine Sunset on Christmas Eve

We did a quick loop of Byrne Creek Ravine Park in SE Burnaby late this afternoon as the sun was going down.




Posted by Paul at 08:28 PM

December 20, 2009

Foggy, Icy Rice Lake in North Vancouver

The Rice Lake trail in North Vancouver is a short, flat walk that's refreshing even on a rainy day.


Posted by Paul at 08:56 PM

December 06, 2009

Birds at Blustery Boundary Bay

It was just above zero Celsius and the wind was a'blowin' as Yumi and I checked out the bird action on Boundary Bay around the south end of 72nd St. in Delta, BC, this afternoon. We saw lots of Northern Harriers, Gulls of several kinds, Northern Flickers, Robins, Herons, lots of waterfowl, etc.



This bold Great Blue Heron was blithely hanging around the side
of the road about a hundred meters north of the end of the road.


Mt. Baker in Washington State visible to the southeast
across Boundary Bay.


There were lots of raptors, mostly Harriers.
Now that I'm looking at this photo, is it a Harrier?
We definitely saw Harriers, but dunno about this one. . .
Another photographer said he'd seen a short-eared owl.


I believe this is a female Downy Woodpecker.


A Northern Flicker of the "red-shafted race."


There were lots of American Robins eating berries.



Posted by Paul at 09:45 PM

December 02, 2009

Water Act Forum Stimulates, Educates

Thanks to Watershed Watch for putting on a forum yesterday "to discuss how NGOs can work together to move the Living Water Smart (LWS) agenda forward, and how groups can help to modernize the BC Water Act." I enjoyed the presentations, learned a lot, and was impressed with the knowledge represented by the people in the room.

The organizers are asking for input so here goes: I'm not sure if "getting groundwater in" came up much in discussion, and that's crucial, particularly in urban watersheds like the creek that I volunteer on as a streamkeeper. The focus seemed to be on sucking groundwater out, which of course is very important, but we shouldn't neglect the "letting it soak in naturally" part of the cycle.

I'm not sure if a water act can include things like impermeable vs permeable surfaces, swales, rain gardens, infiltration ponds, biofiltration, street-edge alternatives, etc., but rainwater infiltration > groundwater infiltration is crucial in urban watersheds. Otherwise too much water is dumped into creeks through rain drains (trying to reshape the debate by getting away from "storm drains") during moderate-to-heavy rains, and not enough gets into the ground to maintain base flows in long, hot, dry spells.

I know we don't want to get too detailed or prescriptive, so perhaps as part of the preamble, or guiding principles, there could be something about the permeability-groundwater issue in regard to promoting watershed-friendly development and redevelopment guidelines?

Posted by Paul at 09:40 PM

November 25, 2009

Salmon Return to Japanese River

From the The Yomiuri Shimbun

This article is about salmon returning to the Chikumagawa river as flows improved after East Japan Railway Co. was directed to stop taking illegal amounts of water from the river to power trains in Tokyo.

Wow, amazing how one's life can change. When I rode the Yamanote Line in Tokyo on a daily or weekly basis for well over ten years from 1985 - 1999 I had no idea that some of the power was coming from a dam that was impacting salmon. Mind you I knew next to nothing about salmon, and nothing about streamkeeping back then.

Posted by Paul at 09:18 PM

November 22, 2009

Fur Ball Reveals Vertebrae, Claw

A ramble along Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby is always stimulating and refreshing, and if you keep your eyes open, you can spot all sorts of interesting evidence of the animals that live in the ravine. I'd love to spend a few days in the ravine with some First Nations elders, and plant and animal biologists, to really learn what to look for and how to interpret it.

While on spawner patrol, Yumi found a fur ball. Something had regurgitated it - a coyote? Spreading it apart with the tip of a walking stick, we could see vertebrae and a claw inside, but we don't have the knowledge to ID what beast ended up in the stomach of another one!


Claw at top left, vertebrae scattered near middle.

OK, if you'd like something more pleasant to look at to end this post, here's a raindrop sloughing off a berry :-).


Posted by Paul at 09:25 PM

Coho Spawning in Byrne Creek

The day was dark and gloomy following a week of rain, but my wife Yumi and I decided to check out Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby for spawning salmon. We volunteer with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, and spawner returns have been low this year, but we're always hoping.

It's tough to see fish when the water is high and dirty, and the light is low, but to our surprise we ran across a pair of coho spawning. In fact, the poor conditions likely worked in our favor, for on a bright day with clear water, the notoriously shy coho would have quickly spooked and hidden themselves. While we never saw them that clearly, it was still a thrill when we'd catch a flash of these magnificently muscular fish, with their scarlet-streaked copper-green sides.


A swirl of dark green, brown-gold and red as one of the coho moves up the creek. They had chosen to spawn just above a fast riffle, and moved up and down, battling the current.


The female flips sideways and carves the gravel with her tail to dig a nest for her eggs called a redd.

Posted by Paul at 09:07 PM

November 17, 2009

Deer, Faun, Waskesiu Summer 2009

Ran across this photo from my summer trip to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and am posting it now to relieve some of the Wet West Coast early winter rain blues.


Taken early one morning near the golf course in Prince Albert National Park.

Posted by Paul at 09:02 AM

November 14, 2009

Bird’s Nest, Spider, Claw Marks Along Byrne Creek

Today on a patrol of Byrne Creek my wife and I found one dead chum salmon, one live chum guarding a nest of eggs (redd), and three coho salmon, in addition to lots of cutthroat trout that gather this time of year hoping to snag a wayward salmon egg. Nature being unemotional and efficient, we've observed cutthroat poking female salmon in their bellies, hoping to pop eggs out.

Today Yumi found a nest on the ground. It looked like it had never been completed. We also ran across what I believe is an orb weaver spider. It was on the cycling/walking path on Southridge Drive, so Yumi shepherded it off into the grass, as she is wont to do with any sort of animal that she feels is in danger.

We also observed plenty of claw marks and tracks at various places along the creek as opportunists of all species gather to meet the returning salmon. That's why salmon are so crucial to the entire west coast environment - they are a key part of the food chain for all sorts of birds and beasts, in addition to fertilizing the forests.







Posted by Paul at 07:37 PM

November 12, 2009

Byrne Creek Paw Prints, Paint & Mushrooms

I ran across lots of tracks along Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby on a patrol looking for spawning salmon today. Dead spawners attract all sorts of hungry animals from skunks to raccoons to coyotes. I've even seen squirrels checking out carcasses - why not? A cousin of mine calls them "rats with bushy tails" :-). Someone also thoughtfully left a bunch of paint cans along the fence at the spawning habitat!


Prints leading toward the creek




A rain-filled mushroom


Poster reminding people and dogs to stay out
of the creek during spawning season


What's with the paint cans? Someone even took the
time to nicely line them up, so why not the time to
take them to a recycling centre?

Posted by Paul at 07:23 PM

November 11, 2009

Burnaby Now Interviews Streamkeepers about Spawning Salmon

Thanks to reporter Christina Myers and photographer Larry Wright from the Burnaby Now. What was to be a quick photo op on salmon returning to Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby turned into a great front-page article after Christina and I "chatted" via email.

Dunno if this is a permanent link, but at least for now you can find the story here.

Posted by Paul at 07:56 PM

November 06, 2009

Face to Face with Coyote on Byrne Creek

I had a meeting at the Stream of Dreams office just off Byrne Road south of Marine Way in SE Burnaby this morning, so I dropped into the Byrne Creek artificial spawning habitat for a few minutes on the way back up the hill to check if the chum salmon I had seen on a spawner patrol the previous day were still around.

As I broke out of the path into the habitat and onto the vehicle access road, a coyote came scooting out of the bush just a few meters in front of me, trotted a short way down the road, and stopped.

A large coyote.


It was the biggest I've seen in some time. It looked at least the match of a mid-sized German Shepherd, and had thick, sleek fur, so it appeared well fed... (the above photo was snapped on the quick draw with a tiny pocket camera and enlarged dramatically, so the quality is middling. . .)

It stopped and stared at me, and I stared at it while regretting not having the long walking pole that I usually carry. It flinched first, and began loping down the chain-link fence looking for a way out, and finally wriggled under it.

Before I proceeded further, I got my knife out and then slowly walked in, making plenty of noise. (During spawning season I carry a sheath knife in my pack to process dead salmon with -- streamkeepers have permission from the Department of Fisheries to cut open carcasses to determine sex and to check if fish have spawned before they died).  The creek was still running high and dirty from the morning rain so I didn't bother searching very hard because water visibility was very poor. I have to admit I was also on edge moving through the bush, because the coyote was likely in the habitat because it was attracted to dead salmon.

Sure enough, on my way out, I found the remains of a chum the coyote had been eating on the bank at the southwest end of the overflow pond, near where I first flushed it out.


There wasn't much left, just head bones, and about five inches of body. I didn't linger, not wanting to be between a coyote and its lunch :-) . I did see salmon eggs that had spilled into the water, so it was likely an unspawned female chum.

I found the experience exhilarating, and it left me tingling all over. It's amazing how the sight of a predator sharpens your senses when you're alone in the bush -- even in an urban park.  Thank you, coyote, for that moment of clarity, focus, and connection to nature.

Posted by Paul at 03:28 PM

November 01, 2009

Silverdale Creek Wetlands

On the way home from Harrison Lake we took the slower route 7, and at one point before Mission saw trails and what looked like a spawning channel to the north of the road. We found an access road, and discovered the Silverdale Creek Wetlands. We'd heard about the project, so we set out to explore. There were "Mother Bear with Cub" warning signs all over, so we kept our eyes peeled, proceeded slowly, and made plenty of noise!

It was a beautiful area, with ponds, marshes, and a spawning channel. We found only one dead spawner in the wetland area, but saw several more dead, and one live one swimming upstream, from the bridge over the creek near the entrance.






Look closely - there, in the middle foreground, it's
a huge concrete salmon. Steamkeepers around the
lower mainland have been sharing the mold for
these beauties


Despite it being November, there were still lots of dragonflies about



Lots of bird boxes of various sizes adorn many erected perch "trees"


The only spawner we saw in the habitat


The same spawner can be seen in the foreground


And a close-up of a second concrete salmon in the habitat

Posted by Paul at 09:42 PM

Harrison Lake Colors, Aerobatics Flight

On the pretext of looking for spawning salmon in Fraser Valley creeks and rivers, Yumi and I took a day trip all the way up the valley to Harrison Lake. While we didn't see many fish, it was a gorgeous day. As we were strolling around the beach at the lake, a formation of aerobatics planes zoomed overhead.


Kayakers head out on Harrison Lake


The dock near the hot-spring hotel


Along the trail to the original hot springs pool


Heading back toward the beach area


A sudden roar, and this formation unexpectedly flew overhead


A slightly tighter shot as I banged away while zooming in


Breaking into the blue


Heading back from a loop over the lake

Posted by Paul at 09:27 PM

October 31, 2009

Salmon Pumpkin for Halloween

My wife Yumi carved this salmon pumpkin for Halloween to celebrate the return of spawning chum and coho to Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, just behind our place.


Later: She also made a cat pumpkin.



Posted by Paul at 08:12 PM

October 24, 2009

Spawning Salmon Return to Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers spotted six chum salmon in Byrne Creek this afternoon, and several of them were already digging redds, or nests, for their eggs. It was a wonderful sight to see!

Byrne is an urban creek in southeast Burnaby, and salmon numbers have been declining for the last several years.

I took the above video using the video function on my Canon S5IS camera, which tops out at 640 X 480 at 30 fps. I then used MS Movie Maker, which came free with the Windows XP operating system, to do so some rudimentary editing, titling, etc. It's a far cry from a real camcorder and more powerful software, but it's still fun to play with.

Posted by Paul at 09:52 PM

October 18, 2009

Waxwing Chows Down Berries

It was a great day to wander the Stewart Heritage Farm in South Surrey this afternoon. I'll add more photos tomorrow, but I wanted to post this series of a waxwing selecting and downing a berry before I went to bed:


Checking things out.


Going. . .


Going. . .



All shots handheld with Nikon D300 and Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm zoom at 300mm (450mm effective), ISO 800, 1/320, f7.1

Posted by Paul at 10:14 PM

October 11, 2009

Autumn Rains Coming to Lower Mainland

We're going to savor the sun today, because look what the Environment Canada Weather Office has in store for the Vancouver area for the coming week:


It's not all bad news, though. This is about the time of year when rain triggers spawning salmon to start coming up our local stream, Byrne Creek, in southeast Burnaby.

Posted by Paul at 10:40 AM

October 02, 2009

More Autumn Colours Around Byrne Creek

A ramble from Ron McLean Park in SE Burnaby down the ravine trail to Byrne Creek.




















Posted by Paul at 03:42 PM

Missing Salmon – I Think I Know Where They’re Going

I've been eating them.

I've been to three events in the last week, two of them specifically aimed at raising consciousness about the environment and restoring waterways and salmon runs, and I've been served salmon, lots of it, at all three.

And I've shamelessly, well, OK, with a twinge of conscience, indulged at all three. Heck, I had seconds at one event, because the call kept going out that there was still fish to be served.

Wild? Farmed? Endangered sockeye? "Still plentiful" pinks? I dunno, but it all tasted great. Surely it wasn't farmed, at least at the enviro events, eh?

When people organize an event to preserve, say, the Vancouver Island Marmot, do the little beasts end up on the dinner plates? Do celebrants discretely poke at bits of fur stuck between their teeth instead of fish bones?

Yeah, I know, that analogy is full of holes, but. . . it makes you squirm at bit, doesn't it?

Posted by Paul at 10:21 AM

October 01, 2009

Autumn Colours Advance on Byrne Creek

The recent rains in the lower mainland of BC have cast a chill upon the land, yet warmed my heart with excitement. Salmon will return to Byrne Creek soon.

It's a bit early, the first spawners are usually spotted in this urban creek in southeast Burnaby around mid-October, but the fish follow the rain, so you never know - and I couldn't wait to start looking.

I didn't find any salmon today, but the rain had begun washing the vibrant greens into reds, yellows, golds, and browns.








Posted by Paul at 11:06 AM

September 12, 2009

Burnaby Artists Studio Tour, Deer Lake Ramble

My wife Yumi and I spent a couple of hours today visiting Burnaby artists in their homes and studios on the Studio Tour 2009.

We started with James Koll, who lives nearby. We've bought a couple of his watercolours and a print, and he's becoming one of our favourite local artists for his lifelike renditions of landscapes. After visiting James, we hit a few other artists, and then ended up at the Shadbolt Centre at Deer Lake. After checking out the displays at the various galleries in the area, we took a slow ramble along the boardwalk at Deer Lake, where I enjoyed taking photos of the wildlife.

On the way home, we ended up raiding an ATM and going back to James Koll's to buy another watercolour -- "Still Creek Near the Lake." We volunteer as streamkeepers in Burnaby, so we have a close connection to the scenes Koll paints of waterways and parks around the city.

Here are few photos from today's walk:


The lawn below the Shadbolt Centre in Burnaby


Lilly pads in Deer Lake


Mallard framed by trees


A frog soaking up the sun


Great Blue Heron


Whack! The heron strikes


Success - a fish to swallow


No time to digest, on the hunt again

Posted by Paul at 07:05 PM

September 07, 2009

Plethora of Petals, Plants at New Westminster Quay

The boardwalk along the Fraser River in New Westminster has an amazing collection of flowers and plants. I spent a couple of hours blissfully lost in photographing the array on a lazy Labour Day. Here's a photographic ode to the end of summer:




















































All shots hand-held with Nikon D300 and AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm VR ED zoom at ISOs ranging between 200-400. The camera was on the "Vivid" setting. Not sure how that happened, I usually have it set on "Standard," but for the most part it worked well, with only a few shots badly over-saturated. These are all from Large/Fine JPEG files. I have the raw NEF files as well, but have yet to try playing with post-processing them.

Posted by Paul at 04:12 PM

September 04, 2009

Watching Cat’s Brain Work

Like many of us, especially those who have pets, I'm a sucker for anthropomorphizing, or attributing human characteristics to animals. Occasionally you feel a tingle of excitement