Pender Island Field Naturalists in the Pender Post Copy

Each month club news and events are presented in in our treasured local publication, “The Pender Post”. Community members learn about upcoming activities that they are welcome to participate in and our plans for future activities are shared.

December, 2016

Medicine Beach eBird Training

On October 19 thirteen members and friends lead by John Peetsma made the short trek to Medicine Beach from the Slow Coast Coffee to view the winter birds and to practice using eBird.  The group met at Slow Coast Cafe first to set up the eBird app on everyone’s phones.

eBird is a real-time, online checklist program, that has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds.  Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution of birds.  eBird’s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers.  It is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence.  For example, in May 2015, participants reported more than 9.5 million bird observations across the world!  The observations of each participant join those of others in an international network of eBird users.  eBird then shares these observations with a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists.  In time this data will become the foundation for a better understanding of bird distribution across the western hemisphere and beyond.

On the trip to Medicine Beach the group saw a total of 10 species.  If you are interested in contributing to citizen science with eBird, check it out on line at  There you will find instructions on how to get started by downloading the app to your phone.

Birding Outing to the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary and Brunswick Point

On October 25, 8 intrepid PIFN members braved the early morning ferry to the lower mainland to visit the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary and Brunswick Point.  The day dawned brightly, but very windy and the Queen of Nanaimo pitched up and down to the extent that the captain had everyone sit down for safety for part of the voyage.  On the voyage we saw a number of pelagic birds including Common and Pacific Loons, Common Murres and Marbled Murrelets as well as the usual assortment of gulls.

The first stop of the day was the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary that consists of nearly 300 hectares (850 acres) of managed wetlands, natural marshes and low dykes in the heart of the Fraser River Estuary.  For the millions of birds seeking feeding and resting areas during their annual migrations along the Pacific Coast, the Sanctuary is ideally located. IMG_1861It is a place where wildlife and their habitats are protected from harm, and it lies next to miles of flat marshland and the farmland of Westham Island.  To get to the Sanctuary from the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen you travel a circuitous route and on the way we saw fields virtually painted white with thousands of Snow Geese that travel south from Wrangel Island in Russia to winter in our area.  Reifel is laid out with easy walking paths mostly along a series of man-made canals.  The paths are lined on each side with natural trees and undergrowth that is ideal habitat for many types of birds.

IMG_1865When we arrived at the Sanctuary parking lot we were greeted by a pair of Sandhill Cranes that seemed to be very tame.  One other highlight of the visit was a Barred Owl that stared at us curiously from a thicket.  At Reifel we recorded at total of 39 species which represented in excess of 500 birds, some species too numerous to count.  Species of note included Snow Goose, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black-capped Chickadee, Cedar Waxwing, Peregrine Falcon, Short and Long-billed Dowitcher and Northern Harrier.

After lunch we went to Brunswick Point, which is another rich birding area that is located between Reifel and the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal.  There we walked along a dyke that gave us some elevation to see birds feeding in the brush and salt grass adjacent to the shore.  We saw a total of 22 species, once again noting some species, such as Western Sandpiper, too numerous to count.

For this outing, we teamed up with the Delta Naturalists Club, which is a very active birding group in the Lower Mainland.  We worked with them to help us find the best viewing spots and they were also great company at lunch.

Indigenous Plant Walk and Lecture

On Saturday, November 12th, eighteen PIFN members participated in an indigenous plant walk that we co-sponsored with the South Pender Historical Society (SPHS).  The walk held near Poets Cove was led by Tsawout Elders Earl Claxton Jr. and John Bradley-Williams. Everyone who participated in the walk came away with a better understanding of how local plants were used by indigenous peoples.  In the afternoon Dr. Nancy Turner provided more detail on plant use.  PIFN would like to thank Paul Petrie and the SPHS for initiating this great event.  For more details on this recent event please see SPHS article elsewhere in this edition.

Winter Bird Identification December 9

Here’s a great opportunity for you to tune up your winter birding skills in preparation for the Christmas Bird Count.  Meet at the Hope Bay parking lot at 9 a.m., with your binoculars.  There will likely be lots of birds to identify in the bay and along the roadside in the hedgerows.  Later on we will travel to Magic Lake or Mortimer Spit where we can sort out the differences between Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon, Common Merganser and our smallest duck, the Bufflehead.  1024px-Bucephala-albeola-010You will be introduced to an excellent birding app called “Sibley Birds” that allows you to compare 2 different species, side-by-side.  This tool is often very useful in the field.  Please let us know at if you plan to attend.

Christmas Bird Count December 17

Each year before Christmas teams of birders will scour our islands counting every bird they can see.  In past years we have recorded over 90 species in a single day.  We’re hoping the weather will be fine on December 17th as the count will be undertaken on that day on the Penders, Mayne and Saturna Islands.  We invite all interested birders to participate and those new to birding will be paired with more experienced birders.  Feeder watchers are also needed to add to our tally.  The day will culminate in a Potluck Supper at the Community Hall at 6 p.m. where we can share our delicious dishes, submit our results and trade reports of unusual sightings.  This is an excellent way to contribute to citizen science and enjoy a day outdoors in the company of friendly folks.  Please let us know at if you plan to attend.

Christmas Bird Count for Kids December 29

PIFN is once again happy to co-sponsor with the Pender Island Conservancy Pender Islands’ 4th annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids, to be held this year on Thursday, December 29th at 10am.  This is a free, family holiday event that doesn’t involve shopping! CBC4Kids brings kids and their families outdoors to celebrate and count Pender Island’s wild birds. Dress warmly to spend a fun time in our local ‘nature-hood’! To pre-register, or for more information, contact Jill at 629-3126 or email  See page ** for further details.

Don’t forget to check out our website,, to keep in touch with upcoming PIFN events.  You can also get a “sneak peek” at our upcoming Pender Post articles which are listed under the Projects tab.  Look for us on Face Book, as the Pender Island Field Naturalists.  Take a break, get outside and enjoy the beauties of nature that surround us!

Bob Vergette

November, 2016

Nov 12 Sat 10:00 am Elder-led Traditional Plant Walk: Earl Claxton Jr. and John-Bradley Williams

Nov 12 Sat 2:00 pm Talk by Dr Nancy Turner, St Peter’s Anglican Church Hall

Check out the November 12th Calendar notice in this month’s Pender Post! That’s when you have two outstanding opportunities—a morning nature walk and afternoon talk—to learn all about traditional plant knowledge and their continued relevance today.

A few months ago, the Pender Island Field Naturalists (PIFN) and thecool fern lolololz Historical Society discovered both our groups were planning to invite renowned ethnobotanist, Dr. Nancy Turner, to speak, so it made sense to work together. As a result, PIFN is honoured to co-sponsor a traditional plant walk with Tsawout Elders Earl Claxton Jr. and John-Bradley Williams at 10:00am on Saturday, November 12. The walk should be finished by 11:30am.

Registration is required so please get in touch with Simone Marler (250.217.0823) or Paul Petrie (3419) and we’ll let you know the full details closer to the date.

Nancy-TurnerTo complete the day, all are welcome to Dr. Turner’s presentation at 2:00pm at St. Peter’s Anglican Church Hall where she will be joined by Elder Belinda Claxton. See the South Pender Historical Society article for a full description.

Simone Marler

In what is beginning to become an annual tradition for the Field Naturalists, eleven members and friends recently spent five fabulous days in the mountains hiking and enjoying the natural environment.  This recent trip was to the Mount Baker wilderness in nearby Washington State.  Mount Baker, familiar to all of us with its majestic appearance on the horizon, harbours stunning vistas, sensational trails and wildlife that can be most appreciated when explored on the ground, kilometre by kilometre.  _MG_6994Our first day was misty and rainy so we stayed at low elevation and walked to the splendid Nooksack Falls.  Later we walked along the Nooksack River on a trail through a remarkable rain forest with trees laden with moss and lichens and an under storey rich in ferns.

Our remaining days were sunny and mild with visibility that stretched forever.  In the high elevations we saw mountain goats, pikas, an abundance of alpine flowers in more sheltered locations and wonderful colours of the grasses and shrubs. And glaciers that you could almost reach out to touch.  Bird life was sparse but some interesting species were noted including White-tailed Ptarmigan, American Pipit, Grey and Stellar’s Jays, Dipper and small flocks of migrating Robins.

We anticipate another mountain trip during 2017, the location is yet to be determined so keep watching this column and our Facebook and Website.  Jackie Gill has been our organizer for the past three years – many thanks Jackie – and hopefully will undertake a fourth year.  Normally we rent a large house with numerous facilities, share the cost, the cooking and great fellowship.  One word of caution, if you are seriously vertically challenged, it may not be for you.

Gerry McKeating

A chill is in the evening air and some of our wintering ducks are beginning to appear, so can it be too early to start thinking about the annual Christmas Bird Count?? NOOO!!! Was the echo that resounded throughout the Southern Gulf Islands for it is on Saturday, December 17th and will be here in a twinkling.  As usual, we need your help to count birds on that important day.  Those of you who have previously participated, please confirm whether or not you are available this year.  Remember that you do not need to commit for the whole day.  This applies to feeder watchers as well.  Newbies are always welcome and we will place you with an appropriate group.

If you recall who you were with last year, give that person a call otherwise let me know.  Area captains last year were Bob Vergette, Keith Valentine, David Spalding, Gerry McKeating, Stuart Scholefield, plus Maureen Welton for Saturna and Michael Dunn for Mayne.  Gerald McKeating as lead organizer and compiler for the count can be contacted at or  phone 250-629-3840.  Pat Crossley is again assistant organizer and can be contacted at the same numbers.

The Bird Count has been held throughout North America for over a hundred years and on the Penders for over fifty.  12373284_985631188199064_8861522836731344101_nThis remarkable record provides long term data from which population trends for birds may be measured and is a useful data bank for various bird studies.  In this program, the average citizen can make a meaningful contribution – citizen science – so please consider participating in this important program.

Gerry McKeating

The Pender Island Field Naturalists (PIFN) currently has a membership total of just under 100 individuals and these members see a number of advantages to membership.  Firstly, membership includes membership in BC Nature that includes the privilege of being part of a network of BC Naturalists throughout BC.  It includes the informative BC Nature Magazine which is issued 4 times per year.  The magazine has great articles about all aspects of nature which members find valuable.  Membership also includes the monthly enews “Natures Voice” – with events, links, and updates on all education and conservation efforts throughout BC.  Finally membership gives members the right to be made welcome at all BC Nature Clubs along with the opportunity to participate in their activities and be a visitor at all 53 clubs around the province.

On a more local basis PIFN provides a way to share and participate in activities with like-minded people who love nature and who actively support conservation initiatives.  PIFN has regular talks on various aspects of the natural world and these are open to all.  We also sponsor field trips where participants can learn firsthand from a subject matter expert and in the past, walks have included such topics as moss and mushroom identification.  Up until now, Penderites have been able to take part in field trips at no additional cost whether a member or not.  However, going forward the PIFN Board has decided to charge non-members a $5.00 fee to attend.  So there is an additional advantage to being/becoming a member as the field trips are free to members.  For more information on becoming a member of the Pender Island Field Naturalists go to our website “”.

Bob Vergette

Dec 9 Fri 9:00 am Winter Bird ID, meet at Hope Bay Parking Lot

Dec 17 Sat all day Christmas Bird Count followed by potluck at the Anglican Church Hall

October, 2016

Oct 25 Tues Field Naturalists trip to Boundary Bay, Reifel Sanctuary and Delta Birding Hotspots


We hope you can join us to take in the incredible diversity of migratory birds that can be seen in the Delta area.  A member from the Delta Naturalists will lead us for this event.  We plan to visit Reifel Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island, Boundary Bay dike access points and other popular birding spots in the Delta area.  We can expect to see thousands of migrating Snow Geese who have come from Wrangell Island in Russia, perhaps some migrating Sandhill Cranes, numerous waterbirds (some of which are not seen on the Penders) and we will likely be treated to good shows of raptors, including Northern Harrier Hawks and Short-eared Owls.  We will meet at the Otter Bay ferry terminal in time to catch the 7.05 am Queen of Nanaimo sailing.  The terminal opens at 6.30 am so it is suggested that you be there shortly after that in order to car pool for those requiring a ride.  The fewer cars, the better.  Costs include ferry fare, admission to Reifel Sanctuary ($5), and a donation to your driver to offset ferry and gas costs.  Dress according to the weather!!! Warm coat, sweater, gloves, rain gear, remembering that it is easier to take off a layer if you get warm than freezing if you are cold with inadequate clothing.  Bring lunch and something to drink as we will use the warming hut at Reifel to eat.  We plan to catch the 7.20 pm back home for arrival at 9.30 pm.  Some participants may wish to leave earlier via a through fare to Swartz Bay and on to Pender.  We need to keep the group to a manageable number, i.e. 15, so please let us know at if you plan to join us.

Bob Vergette

It is not too early to start thinking about our annual Christmas Bird Count which will be held this year on Saturday, December 17th.  We need to hear from past participants if they are available to participate again this year and as always new volunteers are welcome.  Additional help is always needed to adequately cover our islands.  While emphasis is on spending a few hours in the field, feeder watchers too make an important contribution.  We can assign you with a more experienced birder when needed but to help in winter bird identification a field trip will be held in early December to help hone identification skills.  Gerry McKeating is the organizer and compiler for the count assisted by Pat Crossley as co-compiler.  The islands have been divided into different zones with a captain for each one so we can put you in touch directly with them for the area in which you may like to bird.  Feeder watchers need not watch the feeders all day but an hour or so would be helpful.  Contact the Field Naturalists at or phone Gerry or Pat at 629-3840.  More information will be in the November Pender Post, the field naturalist website as well as the Facebook page.

Gerry McKeating

January, 2016

Sat – Jan 2 – 9:00 am Brooks Points – Christmas Bird Count for Kids (CBC4Kids)

December has been a very busy month for the Field Naturalists.  A bird identification outing, serving as a precursor to the annual Christmas Bird Count, attracted 19 participants.  Blessed by a clear day between the low weather systems, 39 species were noted, some of uncommon occurrence on Pender.  While walking up Clam Bay Road, a Peregrine Falcon flew over our heads while from the Hope Bay dock, good views were had of Marbled Murrelets, waterfowl, among other species.  As the Christmas Count had not occurred at the time of writing expectations were high to achieve another good result provided the weather cooperated and some of the uncommon species that were around, were sighted.

Photo by John Heinonen

Photo by John Heinonen

Associated with the Christmas Bird Count, is now the annual CBC4Kids which is to be held on January 2nd at Gowlland Point.  A high turnout of children with their parents is anticipated and a number of mentors have volunteered to show the kids around.   Thanks to everyone and especially to the organizers, Jill Ilsley, Jackie Gill and Julie Johnson.   And a special thanks to the Pender Island Parks and Recreation Committee for their grant to assist in the purchase of binoculars suitable for use by children.  Following the event, the binoculars will be on permanent loan to the school ecology program under the direction of Steve Dunsmuir.  

The program committee has developed a fabulous program for 2016.  Indoor speakers on a variety of topics and a wide array of field trips both on island and further afield are planned.  All events are featured on our website, so please consult that for all the details.  The site is under constant development so stay in touch for the latest news.  Julie Wilmott is our webmaster who has done a splendid job with the site.  Julie will also take over our Facebook page.  That page was started by Andrea Spalding who worked hard to get it up and running.  A big thank-you to Andrea for all her efforts.

Please note the upcoming activities during January and February.  They include – January 2 – 9:00 am – 1:30 pm Christmas Bird Count for Kids – Children and their families are welcome to join us on Jan. 2, 2016 to count wild birds at Brooks Point. This annual event, created by Bird Studies Canada, and sponsored locally by PIFN and PICA, is a wonderful opportunity to introduce children to the joys of being active in nature and learning about our local bird life. Experienced birders will be on hand to help children identify the birds they find, and binoculars designed for children’s use will be available. Please register at   February 10 – 9:00 am – 11:00 am – Winter Birds on South Pender.  You are invited to join Stuart Scholefield for a birding outing in the Brooks Point area. Meet at 9:00 a.m. at the entrance to Brooks Point Regional Park. Dress for the weather, bring your binoculars and you might get some good looks at Harlequin Ducks,Black Oystercatchers and the many songbirds taking advantage of the protective bracken that abounds in this area. February 26 – 7 pm Community Hall – On February 26, we will welcome Dr. Geoff Holroyd to Pender Island. burrowing-owl-1-of-1 Dr. Holroyd is a former research scientist with the Canada Wildlife Service who has spent many years studying Burrowing Owls on our prairie grasslands and elsewhere. He has also studied a variety of birds from Peregrine Falcons to Tree Swallows and has been a primary driver for the conservation of species at risk and their habitats within prairie grasslands. Geoff will discuss some of the factors that have led to the decline of this iconic grassland species. Depending on the weather, the evening meeting will be followed by an “Owl Prowl” in a local area to be determined.  Come prepared for a brisk evening walk! If you plan to attend, please let us know at  Admission is by donation at the door... but be sure to consult the website for further details –   

As mentioned in a previous column, the Executive Committee is changing.  Bob Vergette assumes the Chair role with Keith Valentine as Vice-Chair.  I will remain active with the group as Past Chair.  This column is my last, however, and in the future it will be written by Bob Vergette.  I hope that you found the columns of interest over the past number of years and that they contributed to a greater enjoyment of our natural world here in the islands.

Wed – Feb 10 – 9:00 am – Entrance Brooks Point Regional Park – Winter Birds on South Pender – Birding Outing with Stuart Scholefield

Fri – Feb 26 – 7:00 pm – Community Hall – “Burrowing Owls” speaker Dr. Geoff Holroyd

Gerry McKeating

December, 2015 

Dec 11 Fri  9:00 am Christmas Bird Count Bird Identification with Gerry McKeating, meet at Hope Bay Parking lot

Dec 19 Sat all day PIFN Annual Christmas Bird Count

Dec 19 Sat 6:00 pm Anglican Parish Hall, Fireside Room, Christmas Bird Count Pot Luck Supper

On November 11th, a group of 15 enthusiastic Field Naturalists members took part in our annual field trip to Reifel Refuge and the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area.  Over the course of the day 71 species were recorded including several thousand Snow Geese flying overhead and feeding in the marshes of Roberts Bank.  Along the paths of the refuge birds of a variety of specieIMG_4920s were noted with the ever present Black-capped Chickadee never missing an opportunity to panhandle.  Besides a number of species of waterfowl birds of note included Northern Shrike, Coopers Hawk, Northern Harrier and an excellent look at a Barred Owl, posing calmly for photographers.

In the afternoon we walked on the Boundary Bay dyke by 72nd Street.  Here we found seven Short Eared Owls actively hunting for rodents and a Peregrine Falcon perched on some driftwood eagerly viewing the many thousands of shorebirds in the hope of catching supper.  A highlight was watching a Northern Harrier harass an owl and forcing it to drop its mouse which was then scooped up by the hawk.  Before catching the 5 p.m. ferry we stopped at the causeway turn-out just before the terminal.  Clouds of Dunlin filled the air with their spectacular flight, backlit by the sunset.  Wherever we looked on the water, ducks and grebes seemed to be everywhere. Photos of the outing can be seen on our FaceBook page.  All in all, a great day.  Plan to join us next year.

During December, we are focussed on the annual Christmas Bird Count.  This event has been undertaken in North America for over a hundred years and is an important citizen science tool to help determine trends in winter bird populations. BAGO11 This year our count, which includes Mayne and Saturna Islands, is on Saturday, December 19th.  We need to hear from past participants to know if they are available again this year and we always need additional volunteers. We try to place inexperienced birders with someone of greater skills so do not be shy.  Feeder watchers too make an important contribution so if you just want to hang out around the house, an hour or so counting birds at the feeder is useful data to us.  Please contact the Field Naturalists at or contact Gerry McKeating at 629-3840.

To help with identification of some of the more common birds, an outing will be held on Friday, December 11
th at 9.00 a.m.  Meet at the Hope Bay parking lot, the outing will be over by noon.  Rain or shine.

JSH_9784-002As part of the Christmas Count period, Bird Studies Canada has developed a CBC4Kids national program.  On Pender Island, the event is sponsored by the Field Naturalists and the Conservancy Association and has proven to be very popular.  This year the count is again at Gowlland Point and will be held on January 2nd    Adult leaders will be present to help identify birds and to supervise.  For further information, contact Jill or Jackie Gill.  There is a separate write-up on this event elsewhere in the Pender Post.

Don’t forget to check our web site, and our Pender Naturalists FaceBook page.

Jan 2 Sat  – CBC4Kids – meet at Gowlland Point

Gerry McKeating

November, 2015

This autumn has been a busy time for the Field Naturalists with outings and meetings.  We started out on September 26th on our annual charter boat trip to Race Rocks.  The trip was again fully subscribed with our maximum of 20 participants.  We were treated to calm seas, glorious weather and the viewing of thousands of migratory birds.  Sea gulls of several species were present in huge numbers feeding upon fish or krill boils along the tide line.  Twenty thousand plus would not be an over estimate.  We also saw several flocks of a hundred or so, Red-necked Phalaropes, a small northern nesting shorebird who winter floating upon the Pacific Ocean off South America.  While seen occasionally on previous trips, this year we had the best view and largest number ever.  Another highlight was a Pomarine Jaeger, a large gull like birdPomarineJaeger.2 from Arctic regions and a new bird record for our trip.  And, seeing the fall migration of Turkey Vultures as they climbed the funnels and then, practically to a bird, turned, opened their wings and began to glide in a southerly direction.

The usual large number of sea lions were present at Race Rocks, bellowing and smelling, but were unable to definitely pick out an elephant seal.  Maybe next time.  On the way home, we did locate a Minke Whale some distance away, the only whale spotted this time.

David Dossor organized a mushroom talk and field trip in October. The following is his account.  Dr Kem Luther gave an illustrated lecture on mushrooms at the Community Hall on Friday, October 9th.  His explanation of how mushrooms grow, how they reproduce and of their importance in the health of our forests gave all those attending lots to think about.  Furthermore, his personal mushroom images, saved for the end of the talk,IMG_6932 illustrated the aspects of mushroom identification to which he had earlier referred.  Over 50 people attended.  Kem identified specimens that had been brought to the hall by those attending.  He himself brought over 50 different mushrooms, each identified with common name and Latin name.  Next morning, Kem led a walk along the Found Road trail, and was accompanied IMG_6927by 31 keen mushroom folk and a dog.  Thanks to recent rains and many eyes, lots of mushrooms were found, all of which Kem was able to identify and add a story or two.  Adventurous participants collected honey mushrooms and parasol mushrooms and, at this time of writing, are probably relishing not only the tastes of the wild, but their new found mycological knowledge that is Kem’s legacy to Pender Island.

As in previous years, the PI Field Naturalists will again host a field trip to the Reifel Bird Sanctuary and to the Boundary Bay Region.  The trip is scheduled for Wednesday, November 11th.  Meet at the Otter Bay ferry terminal in time to catch the 7.05 am Queen of Nanaimo sailing.  The terminal opens at 6.30 am so I suggest that you be there shortly after that in order to car pool for those requiring a ride.  The fewer cars, the better.  We need to keep the group to a manageable number, i.e. 15, so please let us know at if you plan to join us.  The cost will be ferry fare, admission to the sanctuary (around $5) and a donation to your driver to help offset ferry and gas costs.

At this time of year, many thousands of snow geese should be present on the fields within the region.  These birds are from Wrangell Island in Russia withbanner_snowgeese a population of about 70,000.  About half of this population   stays for the winter within the lower mainland and the Skagit River estuary of Washington State.  The remainder of the population winters in California.  In addition to geese, there should be many other species of waterfowl, some shorebirds, hawks, and perhaps a Snowy Owl to be found.  The areas that we visit will be dependent upon weather conditions and, of course, time.

Dress according to the weather!!!  Warm coat, sweater, gloves, rain gear, remembering that it is easier to take off a layer if you get warm than freezing if you are cold with inadequate clothing.  Lecture over.  Bring lunch and something to drink as we will again use the warming hut at Reifel to eat.

We plan to catch the 7.20 pm back home for arrival at 9.30 pm.  Some participants may wish to leave earlier via a through fare to Swartz Bay and on to Pender.

Give me a call, 205 629 3840 or email if you want further information.

The Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 19th.  Volunteers to count birds in the field or at their bird feeders are always needed.  Let us know if you wish to participate by contacting us at our email,  More details are to follow and a bird identification outing is planned for early December.  As well the third annual Christmas Bird Count 4 Kids is planned for January 2nd.  Details as they become available  for both events will be posted on our website, and our Pender Naturalists FaceBook page.

After about 6 or 7 years as Chair of the Pender Naturalists, Gerry McKeating is stepping down from that role at the end of the current calendar year.  We are fortunate to have Bob Vergette assume this role as of January 1st, 2016.  Bob has had a long involvement with nature on the island and he brings to us much enthusiasm and passion for nature.  Other changes include Keith Valentine as vice chair and Julie Wilmott as webmaster and all things digital.  Bonnie Parks has stepped down from the Board but fear not, Bonnie will continue to lead her spring flower walk.

Gerald McKeating

October, 2015

Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m.   Mycorrhizas & Mushrooms

At the time of writing, our annual Race Rocks trip on September 26th has not been held, so a full report will be given in the November Pender Post, but we are thumb_IMG_0521_1024expecting a fabulous trip as usual.

We invite everyone to join us on Friday, October 9th at 7:30 pm at the Community Hall for an entertaining and informative evening with Dr Kem Luther, writer and naturalist, as he presents an illustrated talk about the “Secret World of Mushrooms.”  Their symbiotic relationship with the plants of the Pacific Northwest sets up underground networks that result in the many beautiful caps we observe at this time of year.  You are welcome to bring along specimens for identification.  A mushroom foraging walk on a local trail is planned for Saturday, October 10th at 10:00 am. 

Your Executive/Working Committee will be meeting shortly to finalize the 2015/2016 schedule of events.

We are excited about the launch of our website which can be reached at –    

Please give us your feedback by clicking “Contact” and using the “Contact Us” form.

As always, our Facebook page is another place to check for what is happening in our area – just go to Facebook and then search for Pender Island Field Naturalists. 

When you become a member of PIFN you will be the first to know, via email, of all trips and talks so that you can rest assured of being  “first” on the list!  Membership forms are available in the “Field Naturalist” folder in the realty office, Driftwood Centre. 

Gerald McKeating

September, 2015

Sat Sept 26  Field Naturalists go to Race RocksIMG_2512

With the long, hot and dry summer, naturalists like other species, tended to go into a state of estivation, or in other words, we did not do that much.  However, nine individuals did go to Cathedral Lakes Mountain Lodge for five days of hiking, birding and looking at wildflowers.  The lodge was reached by 4-wheel drive vehicle up a narrow track to about the 6500 foot level.  Here in our lodge we enjoyed spectacular scenery, great meals, mountain meadows full of wildflowers and good company.  Mountain goats were common as were Mule Deer and marmots.  Thirty-seven species of birds were noted, many unique to higher elevations.

Julie Wilmott stayed home, instead working very hard on the new field naturalist website.  It is now launched and we urge everyone to check it out at   The site, although a work in progress, contains much useful information about our region, current events and activities and links to other important related web sites.  Let us know what you think.

Mark your calendars now for an upcoming event in October.  thumb_IMG_0365_1024Dr. Kem Luther will present “Mycorrhizas and Mushrooms” an illustrated talk to take place on Friday, October 9th at the Community Hall, 7.30 p.m.  The talk will be followed on Saturday morning by a Mushroom Forage walk at 10.00 a.m. on a  trail yet to be determined.  Depending on demand, preregistration for the walk may be required.  At the talk, there will be an opportunity to bring mushroom specimens for identification.  Kem who currently resides on South Vancouver Island, has had a broad academic career and is a prime mover in creating awareness for this important group of plants.

Don’t forget our Facebook page – Pender Island Field Naturalists

New members are always welcome.  Membership forms are available in the Field Naturalists’ folder in the community box at the realty office, Driftwood Centre.

Fri Oct 9 7:30 pm Community Hall  Presentation by Dr Kem Luther “Mycorrhizas and Mushrooms”

Gerald McKeating

July 20-24

cathedral-park-2015Field Naturalists Hike in Cathedral Provincial Park

Despite the summer doldrums, the Field Naturalists Club has been very active. Twenty members sailed up Haro Strait on the “ Fantasea” to view seabirds and marine mammals. The destination was Mandarte Island, a six hectare block of stone southeast of Sidney Island. Here we saw large numbers of cormorants with many of their nests built precariously upon narrow ledges of the cliff face. The cameras were active as the birds were busy feeding their young. All three cormorant species found in our region nest here as well as one of the largest Pigeon Guillemot colonies within our region. Rhinoceros Auklets were very common. Transient Orcas were noted off San Juan Island providing good views for everybody. Another pod of Orcas was noted from the ferry enroute home.

On June 24th, about a dozen of us visited Galiano Island. We walked down the trail to Cable Bay through a number of diverse habitats to the rock beach of the bay. A short hike along the shore brought us to Pebble Beach with lunch being enjoyed as we looked out over Georgia Strait. The day ended with an early supper and a draft at the Hummingbird Pub. The pub continues to live up to its fame.

Later in July, some of us are going to Cathedral Provincial Park near Keremos. We are staying at the Cathedral Lakes alpine lodge for five days of hiking, birding, botany and good fellowship.

Information on any of activities can be obtained by contacting or visit our Facebook page. We are also present occasionally at the summer market as well as having an exhibit at the Fall Fair.

Besides outdoor activities, our program committee has been very active in developing our program of activities, both indoor and outdoor, for the 2015-2016 season. A schedule of events will be available in the fall. It will be online too as a small committee under the leadership of Julie Wilmott is developing a website for the group. It is actively under construction and will be available later this year.

There is still some space left for the boat charter to Race Rocks on Saturday, September 26th. On past trips, we have seen Humpbacked Whales, Orcas and vast flocks of migrating birds. Some species observed have included a few from the Southern Hemisphere that spend their winter here. The Race Rocks Ecological Reserve itself is covered with sea lions including the smaller California Sea Lion. Always exciting to see, hear – and smell. Careful observation may turn up an Elephant Seal. So why not join us? The non-profit cost is $80 per person for the five hour sail starting at the Victoria inner harbour and will be led by Gerry McKeating and Stuart Scholefield. Further information call Pat or Gerry at 629-3840 or

Saturday, June 13th

haro-straitPIFN Haro Strait Boat Trip

As part of the BC Nature annual general meeting held on Salt Spring in early May, the Pender Field Naturalists hosted a field trip from Salt Spring to explore some of our natural areas.  Thirteen individuals from various locations within B.C. visited us for the day.  We met the water taxi at Port Washington then hiked up George Hill to view some of the broom removal area and of course, to enjoy the view.  From there we went to Brooks Point where everyone was thrilled with the sights, especially the abundance of chocolate lilies.  Returning to Port Washington, a short stop was also made for Roe Islet but time and tides wait for no man or woman!  Thanks to Bob Vergette, Diane Swindell, Keith Valentine and Pat Taylor for leading this trip while I was on Salt Spring attending the BC Nature Directors’ meeting.  Now where would you rather have been?

A website for the Field Naturalists is being actively pursued with a developer to be contracted shortly.  While we have a Facebook page, we believe that a website would enhance our information about Pender and will be readily available to all users.  We hope to have the site in operation by the end of the summer with information being added on an ongoing basis.



Wednesday, June 24th

galianoField Trip to Galiano Island

On Wednesday, June 24th, the Field Naturalists will have a field trip to Galiano Island.  The island has many fine walking trails and diverse habitats.  The plan is to hike the trail leading to Cable Bay and return via a circular route from Pebble Beach.  The trails are on a moderate grade and not very difficult, however, it may not work for those who have walking difficulty.  I think that it would be about 4 km. round trip.  We will pass through a number of diverse habitats and have our lunch on the beach facing Georgia Strait.  I have seen Orcas there in the past and a variety of sea ducks.  The forests should have many songbirds and the beaver ponds on the upper old logging road may hold surprises.

We will meet at the Otter Bay ferry terminal about 6:30 am in time to board the Nanaimo for 7:05 am departure, arriving Galiano at 8:15 am.  Following an early supper or just a beer at the Humming Bird Pub, we will catch the ferry to Pender at 5:55 p.m. arriving Pender at 6:40 p.m.

We need to restrict numbers to 12 or 15 and wish to car pool, so if you are interested in participating please let us know at   Besides your individual ferry fare, participants should contribute to the gas and ferry cost of your driver.  Gerry McKeating, assisted by the collective expertise of everyone, will be the leader.