Pender Island Field Naturalists in the Pender Post

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.

November, 2018


Plan to join us on Thursday, November 1st to take in the spectacle of migratory birds in the Lower Mainland.  We will carpool and board the 7:10 am ferry to Tsawwassen, and will birdwatch on the way.  Our birding on the Mainland will begin in earnest at the ferry terminal causeway where we will meet members of the Delta Naturalists Club who will help guide us to local birding hot spots.  We will travel north to Iona Park and lagoons, typically a rich area for shore and water birds.  From there we will visit Terra Nova Park and Dike on the south bank of the Fraser’s North arm.  The final stop will be at Boundary Bay where the tide will be high in the afternoon so many species of water birds will be close by.  At this location we have also seen several species of raptors including, Barn Owl, Northern Harrier and Rough Legged Hawk.  At times Snowy Owls have been seen in the Boundary Bay area.

Don’t forget to pack your lunch, dress for the weather, and bring your binoculars (Bob will bring his spotting scope).  We prefer to keep numbers to no more than 15 participants, so be sure to register early at  Transportation costs will be shared among the participants.


The 3rd Wednesday walk will take place on November 21 where we will travel from the meeting place at St. Peters Anglican Church to the Found Road off Clam Bay Road.  This trail traverses some excellent wet areas where mushrooms proliferate and ends up at Navy Channel which has many species of water birds in the winter.


The time has come once again to think about the Christmas Bird Count.  As unbelievable as it may be the count is only about 6 weeks away on Saturday, December 15th.  (More details about this event will be provided in the December article).  Our count has grown over the years with well over a 100 species recorded last year and increasing number of participants both as feeder watchers and time in the field. We always need additional help either from the comfort of your home as feeder watchers or as more active members in the field joining area leaders. If you have taken part in other years, please contact your leader directly.

Area leaders for 2018 are: Stuart Scholefield, South Pender; Simone Marler, Trincomali; John Peetsma, Central; Bob Vergette and David Spalding, North; and Julie Wilmott, Magic Lake.  Phone numbers and email contact address are in the local telephone directory.  If anyone is uncertain, contact Gerry McKeating at This year John Peetsma is co-compiler and will be responsible for the data summaries.

The count will be followed by a pot luck supper at the Legion to be organized by the Pender Island Field Naturalists, always a fun event.

Bob Vergette and Gerry McKeating

September, 2018

On Friday September 7 at 7 pm at the Community Hall we are very pleased to have Pender’s own David Manning present his illustrated talk, The Old Man and the Vultures.  It is common for birders on Pender to see Turkey Vultures coursing over the hills on rising thermals but for most of us that is where it ends, however for David that is where it started.  A birder for over 50 years David, fell in love with Vultures at age 65 when he stumbled upon a small chick peeking out of its nest cave. His presentation is about the 3 Vultures of North America, with special emphasis on Turkey Vulture nest sites on Pender Island that were observed from Mating to Migration.  As David says “It’s extraordinary that a bird that feeds on death makes me feel so alive”.
Signed copies of his book “The Old Man and the Vultures” will be available for purchase.

Our 3rd Wednesday walk for September will take place on September 19.  Meet at St. Peters upper parking lot at 9:30 from where we will car pool to the Oaks Bluff.  The trail, starting off Pirates Road, is a bit steep at times but the view at the top is spectacular.  Orcas are commonly seen from the bluff.

Bob Vergette


June, 2018

On the 3rd Wednesday walk for May, 17 attendees trekked up to Greenburn Lake enjoying great weather.  On the walk a team of Parks Canada Naturalists provided information about the importance of this wetland area.  They also gave a detailed talk about the issues associated with beavers, who build dams near the spillway potentially compromising the integrity of the dam.  The walk continued on to a ridge that provided spectacular views of Boundary Pass.

On Sunday June 24 at 1:30 at the Hope Bay Studio, PIFN is pleased to support Tour des Iles 2018 with a talk and walk that’s sure to please naturalist and gardener alike. Nature-lovers often yearn to grow native plants in their own gardens. But how do you go about it, or go beyond what you’re already doing? Plant ecologist, Rob Underhill from the Mayne Island Conservancy, joins us to talk about what works and doesn’t, plus easy-to-follow steps for native plant propagation right here on Pender Island. From seed collection to post-planting care, you will learn everything you need to know using methods available to home gardeners. Following the talk, Rob will lead a walk to identify and discuss the native plants we find.

Bob Vergette


May, 2018

Greenburn Lake

On May 16 we welcome everyone to a very special 3rd Wednesday walk to Greenburn Lake.  As we hike this short, uphill walk, we’ll pause often to enjoy the rich diversity of habitats that make this such a special place. Don Peden and Michelle Paleczny from Parks Canada will tune our eyes and ears to what’s present in forest, wetland, lakeshore and high open ridge. The views towards Vancouver Island and the Olympic Mountains are magnificent. As usual, meet at St. Peter’s Church upper parking lot at 9:30 AM to carpool, or go directly to the trailhead. Bring binoculars if you have them.

On Sunday May 27 we are pleased to present 2 walks with a focus on bird songs.  Spring brings the coastal forest alive with the sounds of birds high in the trees where they are hard to see. The best way to know who’s up there is by using our ears rather than our eyes. Bird song expert, David Riedel, will teach us to identify songs—the ones only sung by adult males—and the shorter calls given by birds of both sexes and all ages. For those early risers meeting at the Roe Lake parking lot at 7:00 AM, expect to hear an array of forest songbirds such as Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Varied Thrush, Pacific Wren, Cassin’s Vireo, Hutton’s Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Purple Finch, and up to five warbler species. Register at

Hutton’s Vireo.John Peetsma

For those who want to join bird song guru, Dave Reidel, a bit later in the morning, he will lead a second hike up George Hill starting at the trailhead on Upper Terrace Road.  Here, we’ll hear birds of more open woodlands and grassy meadows, such as House Wren, Bewick’s Wren, White-crowned Sparrow, and Spotted Towhee. Two flycatcher and five warbler species can also be found in this area in breeding season. Other possibilities include Violet-green Swallow, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak and American Goldfinch. Register at

Each walk will be limited to 10 people to enhance the learning experience and PIFN members will be given preference if the walks are oversubscribed.

We have been made aware that Magic Lake was stocked with trout late last fall and it appears there are still a number of them in the lake.  Trout are a food source for some of our wild friends such as ospreys, herons, eagles and otters and there may be an opportunity to see some of these creatures fishing on the lake.

Looking forward to June, on the 24th we are pleased to present Robert Underhill a well-known native plant expert who operates a native plant nursery on Mayne Island.  This event will include a slide show followed by a walk.  More on this in the June Pender Post.

Bob Vergette

April, 2018

Broad-leaved Stonecrop

Our Spring flowers have nearly arrived, so in early April (final date TBD, depending on progress of warm weather) we will have an opportunity to explore their beauty.  Calypso Orchids, Blue-eyed Mary, White Fawn Lillies and Broad-leaved Stonecrop, are a few of the many varieties of wildflowers we will see as Bonnie Parks takes us on a guided walk in the Mortimer Spit area.  We always see a few surprises, too, be they nesting Canada Geese or some spectacularly twisted Arbutus trees.  Due to the fragile environment where the flowers are located, this activity is limited to 10 Pender Island Field Naturalists members only.  Contact Bonnie at or 250-629-3239 to let us know if you plan to attend.  We will meet at 9:30 am in the St. Peter’s Church upper parking lot to arrange carpooling.

Join us on April 20 at 7:00 PM at the Community Hall for a very special event.  At that time we are pleased to present award-winning BC ornithologist, author, artist and speaker, Dr. Rob Butler.  For over 40 years, he watched, listened and lived among birds in the Salish Sea. He followed them to distant lands, met people of varying cultures, and shared his discoveries. What emerged is a new vision of our relationship with nature. PIFN is privileged to host “The Perfect State”, Rob’s latest film, accompanied by a talk on reconnecting with nature and building a sustainable culture. Admission $5.  See advertisement elsewhere in the Pender Post.

Continuing the themes of his presentation the previous evening, renowned naturalist, Dr. Rob Butler, has agreed to lead a morning walk. If you’ve heard his bird-related stories on TV, radio or in print, you know you’re in for a memorable, thought-provoking experience. Limited to 15 with priority for PIFN members; non-members will be waitlisted. Pre-registration required at  The walk will start at 9:30 at a location to be determined and end about 11:30.

ON April 21 Pender Island residents will be participating in the 2018 Beach Cleanup.  Your Pender Island Field Naturalists will contribute to that effort by again cleaning up Hamilton Beach.  Meet Bob Vergette at the Hamilton Beach access at the foot of Oak Road at 9:30 and we expect to be finished by 11:30 AM.  To celebrate this effort there will be music, food and displays at the Medicine Beach Centre parking lot.

Bob Vergette and Simone Marler

February, 2018

Join Paige Erickson-McGee, Stewardship Coordinator for Habitat Acquisition Trust, as she shows us how to support native bees in backyards and gardens. Renowned conservationist Jacques Cousteau said the “the happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.”

Death Camas Miner Bee

The trouble is that bees also urgently need our support. (Did you know 70% of crops require or benefit from pollinators?) Stewardship connects us to nature in meaningful ways, and this talk covers easy-to-implement ideas for BEEing a good neighbour to nature. Admission by donation ($5 suggested), Refreshments at intermission.

After the pollinator presentation, we will hold a brief AGM to elect the Board of Directors for the Pender Island Field Naturalists. This seemingly simple event is important because the organization is only as strong as the leadership shown by its Directors to create interesting programs that, in turn, are supported by the membership.

We are planning a PIFN members only off island bird trip the third week in March (between the 20th and 22nd).  The date will be determined based on weather conditions which will be known by March 18.  The birding will take place on the Saanich peninsula as there are great birding sites there and by minimizing driving there will be more time to view the birds.  We are limiting the number of participants for this great trip as some of the sites have limited parking, and carpooling is planned.  This trip will take a full day and we will take the early ferry at 7:40 AM and return on the evening ferry at 6:35.  The trip will be led by well-known Pender Island birder John Peetsma and is being organized by Diane Swindell.  To register contact her at

Bob Vergette

January, 2018

Another Christmas Bird Count has flown by with stellar results.  While results were incomplete at the time of writing, 85 species had been reported for Pender Island.  What is interesting each year is how the results can vary with a species being abundant one year but few the next.  Thus the count is an import measure of longer term trends in winter bird populations not only for here but on a continent wide basis. Importantly, much of the data are collected by “citizen scientists” made up of you, the interested public.


Among the unusual records for the 2017 count are Northern Shrike, Kestrel, Stellar’s Jay, Orange-crowned Warbler and Pine Grosbeak.  As usual, Dark-eyed Juncos were abundant and our old friend, the Anna’s Humming Bird continued to grace the feeders of many island homes.

Many thanks to our island neighbours and land owners who graciously allow us to check their lands for wintering birds.

Gerry McKeating


On January 7, 2018 we are pleased for the 5th year to co-sponsor the Christmas Bird Count For Kids (CBC4Kids).  This great family event is a follow-up to the more formal Christmas Bird Count that took place in December.  Our group, the Field Naturalists, has traditionally been largely responsible for suppling mentors to help the children identify the birds and thereby enrich the experience for the youngsters.  Members are encouraged to support this event by being a mentor.  To register as a mentor email to penderislandcbc4kids@gmail.  

We kick off 2018 with a program of broad community appeal as we take you to Nepal. On Sunday, January 14th at 1:30pm, we’ll put up the big screen in the Community Hall to show two new documentaries, hosted by Cowichan Bay filmmaker, Nick Versteeg.

The first film, “Five Weeks in Nepal”, planned to highlight the outreach of a local BC charity against the backdrop of a classic Himalayan trek in the spring of 2015. If you expect to see spectacular scenery and meet local people who have adapted to their mountain environment over thousands of years, you will. As fate would have it, the devastating earthquake of April 25th, 2015 spared Nick’s life but changed everything. Like many western travelers in Nepal at the time, Nick could leave the devastation behind. What makes his story different is that he promised to return.


The sequel, “Nepal’s Heartbeat”, filmed in 2017, picks up the story of the profound resilience of both human and natural communities, and what we can learn from the rebuilding experience. For example, the film features earthquake expert, Bishnu Pandey, who coincidentally, was born in Nepal but is now a BCIT professor in Vancouver and a world expert on building upgrades in countries affected by earthquakes.

What you may not expect is how inspired you will be by how the Nepalese people and helping organizations from around the world dealt with the aftermath of earthquakes. We are all aware that we could be faced with similar conditions in future. Admission by donation ($5 suggested).

On January 17th, you’re invited to join Robin Thistle-Walker for our regular 3rd Wednesday Nature Walk. Many of you may have met Robin on his daily walks in the Magic Lake area. A self-described generalist, he scribbles records of everything he sees in his well-worn notebooks. We’re pleased to have Robin share his nature knowledge with us. You can either meet at St. Peter’s Anglican Church upper parking lot at 9:30am or go directly to Magic Lake.

Bob Vergette

December, 2017

On November 1 a number of our members made a day trip to the lower mainland to see wintering birds on Westham Island and Boundary Bay.  During the day, where we were joined by members of the Delta Naturalists, we saw about 60 different species.

On Westham the group was treated to the site of thousands of Snow Geese feeding in a field.  These geese winter in the area and we are told that farmers are compensated for planting winter wheat to encourage them to feed in selected areas.  The island also has a number of barns and we were lucky to be able to get access to two of them that were inhabited by Barn Owls.  From Westham we travelled to Blackie Spit at Crescent Beach where among other birds we saw a Marbled Godwit and Long Billed Curlew.      

Long Billed Curlew

The trip concluded with stops a Boundary Bay and the Tsawwassen Ferry causeway.  At Boundary Bay we had good views of Short Eared Owls, a Barn Owl, Northern Harriers and a Rough Legged Hawk.

On November 15 Simone Marler lead the 3rd Wednesday walk with a number of our members to the Found Road Trail, located off Clam Bay Road.  This unique trail traverses a number of ecological zones each with its on proliferation of vegetation.

The annual Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 16th, rain or shine but hopefully not snow?  The count, held throughout North America and countries beyond, is led in Canada by Bird Studies Canada and involves citizen science participation from one coast to the other.  Here on Pender Island, it has been held for over 50 years and is supported by our Field Naturalists. Over time, the results measure trends in winter populations of wild birds. And it is a project that anyone can participate without needing to be an expert ornithologist.

Black Oystercatcher

We are in need of individuals to help count birds in the field and for those who prefer to stay home we welcome feeder watchers to count birds at the feeder for a small portion of the day.  So, help please, get involved.  Contact the organizer and compiler, Gerry McKeating at 629-3840 email  Gerry can provide further information and assign you to a group.

In preparation of the Christmas bird count a winter bird identification walk will be held on Friday, December 8th starting at 9.30 a.m. from the Hope Bay parking lot.  Gerry will be the leader.

Gerry MacKeating

As a follow-up to the Christmas Bird Count we are co-sponsoring the Christmas Bird Count for Kids CBC4Kids) will be held on January 7, more on this next month.

A further heads up for January we will be presenting at a double header movie afternoon starting at 2 PM on Sunday January 14.  The documentaries were shot before and after the Nepal earthquake that occurred in 2015.  More on this in the next post.

Bob Vergette, Chair

November, 2017

Plan to join us Wednesday, November 1st, to take in the spectacle of migratory birds in the Boundary Bay area on the mainland. After carpooling to board the 7:10 ferry to Tsawwassen, we’ll bird from the ferry itself. Upon arrival, we will be able to view masses of Snow Geese in the Ladner farming fields.  


We plan to visit some new birding hotspots this year, such as Crescent Beach and Blackie Spit.   We may include a stop at the Boundary Bay dike access path, especially if Snowy Owls and Northern Harriers are present.  Don’t forget to pack your lunch, dress for the weather and bring your binoculars.  We prefer to keep numbers to no more than 15 participants, so register at as there is still room for more participants

On Wednesday November 15, we continue with our monthly 3rd Wednesday nature walks.  Simone Marler, our Program Chair, will lead the walk to the Found Trail.  This trail extends from Clam Bay Road to Navy Channel and traverses several varied eco-systems.  As well as fall birds to observe there should be an abundance of mushrooms blooming from the recent fall rains.

Those coming to the Community Hall on Friday November 17 at 7 PM at the Community Hall are in for rare treat.


The endangered Vancouver Island Marmot is one of the world’s rarest mammals. In 1997 there were so few that wildlife managers took the bold step of capturing some to create a “genetic lifeboat” with the goal of restoring wild populations. Join us for insights into the life and times of these beautifully adapted creatures as we welcome our guest speaker, Adam Taylor, Executive Director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation. With support from donors and organizations across Canada, the foundation’s recovery program has helped increase the marmot count in the wild from less than 30 in 2003 to an estimated 200 today. Admission by donation ($5 suggested). Refreshments to follow.

With the chill in the air, it is easy to believe that the Christmas Bird Count season is almost upon us. 

Red Crossbill

It is a great time to join others throughout the Western Hemisphere to take a snapshot of bird populations around the holiday season, held for 3 weeks from December 14 to January 5th.  Our local count will be held on Saturday, December 16th followed by a pot luck supper in the Church hall.  On Pender, naturalists have conducted a Christmas Count for over 50 years so why not join in to participate in this tremendous citizen science effort.  The data collected are important to help determine changes in winter bird populations.  If you have participated in previous counts, please contact your area captain from last year and let them know if you are again available.  Walkers and feeder watchers are always needed and we will try to match you with an experienced person if needed. For further information or to volunteer contact the Field Naturalists at  or by contacting the organizer and compiler directly at or 250-629-3840.

Bob Vergette, Chair

October, 2017

October marks the return of many of our winter birds and we have a flock of opportunities to learn, participate and get outside.

On Wednesday, October 18th we start up our monthly 3rd Wednesday Walks in the Magic Lake area with well-known Pender naturalist, Gerry McKeating. Meet at 9:30 am at St. Peter’s upper parking lot to carpool to the Magic Lake Picnic Site on Schooner Way, or meet us there. Open to all at no charge. Don’t forget your binoculars.

On Friday, October 20th at 7:00 pm at the Community Hall, we welcome Karen Devitt, BC Program Coordinator for Bird Studies Canada for What’s Up with the Birds? Penderites have a remarkable awareness of local birds, but many wonder how our birdlife if faring. Karen’s talk will describe the big trends affecting birds and how every day “citizen scientists” in coastal communities like ours are contributing to bird conservation locally and nationally. Admission by donation. ($5 suggested). 


Do you struggle to identify gulls and other seabirds? You’re not alone! Karen Devitt has graciously agreed to stay over to lead a walk that focuses on really Seeing Seabirds. No charge, but limited to 15 participants with priority for PIFN members. Please register at Non-members will be waitlisted. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Brooks Point trailhead with binoculars in hand.

Looking to November, plan to join us Wednesday, November 1st, to take in the spectacle of migratory birds in the Boundary Bay area on the mainland. We’re including new hotspots this year, so check out www.pendernaturalists for details. We prefer to keep numbers no more than 15 participants, so register at no later than October 23rd.


An important mandate for PIFN is our support for various citizen science projects. The BC Coastal Waterbird Survey, coordinated by Bird Studies Canada, is now into its 18th year. Several sites are now available and we’re looking for volunteers. You should be able to identify common water birds, including gulls, and commit to survey the site for up to an hour on the second Sunday of each month, September to April. For information, get in touch with Gerry McKeating at 250-629-3840 or

You can always check for the latest updates.

Simone Marler, Program Director

September, 2017


On Friday September 15 at 7 PM at the Community Hall we are very pleased to present an illustrated talk entitled Going Wild In Arizona.  Visitors to the Arizona desert are often surprised by its tremendous diversity of species, life forms and landscapes.We kick off our 2017-18 season with a presentation by Pender’s own David Manning and Eroca Dancer, naturalists who winter in Arizona. Join them as they venture from cool conifer forests to hot deserts, sharing their stories and images of this region’s uniquely adapted plants and animals.  Those of you who have attended David’s previous presentations on Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures know you are in for a special treat.  Admission is by donation at the door.  ($5 is suggested)

Race Rocks Cruise

We have once again organized an exciting cruise to Race Rocks on Sunday, October 1. We’ll take the morning ferry and board the Fantasea in Victoria’s inner harbour at 10:00 a.m. Race Rocks is a protected area of ocean, rocks and reefs at the eastern entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The high tidal currents make for an exceptional variety of sea mammals (whales, seals, sea lions), birds, fish and ocean grasses. As we circle this most southerly point on Canada’s Pacific coast, we’ll also get to see the historic Race Rocks Lighthouse. Each time out is a different experience!  On past trips in addition to birds commonly found in our area we have seen such uncommon bird species as the Sooty Shearwater and Red Phalarope.  One year we saw hundreds of Turkey Vultures form up in “kettles” in preparation for their southern migration.  The cost for this trip is unchanged at $80.00. The Fantasea can take up to 20 people. To secure your place, please register by e-mailing

Bob Vergette

August, 2017

On August 9, we host our annual outing to Sidney Spit. We’ll carpool onto the 8am ferry to take the water taxi to the Sidney Spit Marine Park. There we’ll explore Sidney Island, which tends to be alive with resting shorebirds on their southern migration. After lunch, it’s off to explore the forest trails where we can see towering Douglas Firs, along with an extraordinary variety of other conifers and deciduous trees. Bring lunch and binoculars. The cost for the day includes shared BC Ferries cost, plus Sidney Island water taxi fares of $16 for seniors and $19 for adults. Please register at

Race Rocks Cruise – October 1          

Looking ahead: We look forward to organizing the exciting Race Rocks cruise on Sunday, October 1. We’ll take the morning ferry and board the Fantasea in Victoria’s inner harbour at 10:00 a.m. Race Rocks is a protected area of ocean, rocks and reefs at the eastern entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The high tidal currents make for an exceptional variety of sea mammals (whales, seals, sea lions), birds, fish and ocean grasses. As we circle this most southerly point on Canada’s Pacific coast, we’ll also get to see the historic Race Rocks Lighthouse. Each time out is a different experience! The cost for this trip is unchanged at $80.00. The Fantasea can take up to 20 people. To secure your place, please register by e-mailing

At this time of year it is common to see a large black bird sailing effortlessly on the summer breezes of Pender Island.  The observer will note that the bird is a majestic but unsteady soarer with its teetering flight and very few wing beats.  At first look the bird may appear to be an immature Bald Eagle as it is of a similar size but its wings are held at an angle above the horizontal forming a “v” shape.  A closer look reveals that the bird has no feathers on its small head and the exposed skin is red.  Even birders with limited experience will recognize this bird as a Turkey Vulture.  Turkey Vultures are an important part of our ecosystem as they clean up the countryside by eating dead and decaying animals.  They are a unique bird as they forage by smell, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world, often flying low to the ground to pick up the scent of gas produced by the decay in dead animals. Look for them gliding relatively low to the ground, sniffing for carrion, or else riding thermals up to higher vantage points. They may soar in small groups and roost in larger numbers. You may also see them on the ground in small groups, huddled around roadkill.  Lacking a vocal organ its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses. It nests in caves, hollow trees, or thickets. Each year it generally raises two chicks, which it feeds by regurgitation.  Each year in late September the Turkey Vultures in our area form into large groups called “kettles” over the southern end of Vancouver Island and then head south for the winter.  Those that choose to attend the Race Rocks cruise may see a large number of Turkey Vultures.

Bob Vergette

July, 2017

BioBlitz 2017

As many of you know Parks Canada held a BioBlitz on June 9 and 10.  Over 200 people attended this successful event and the Pender Island Field Naturalists was a big supporter leading several of the species surveys.  One of the surveys was lead by Simone Marler and included a group of 14 birders for the bird walk at Roe Lake early Saturday morning.  During the walk 30 species were identified but it is interesting to note that only a small number of species were seen so the vast majority were identified by their calls.  At this time of the year most songbirds are nesting and are fairly secretive, hiding in the foliage, but for various reasons they still make their calls.  So this is not really so much bird watching as it is bird listening.  Fortunately we had two very skilled bird listeners who could identify the birds by their calls, one of whom was Pender ecology teacher Steve Dunsmuir.  We would like to thank Athena George and Madelin Emery of Parks Canada for their outstanding work in coordinating the event.


Now is a good time t notice our local butterflies and skippers to practice your identification skills.  Our website,, can help you with that!  Once you’re on the site, look under the Natural History tab, then scroll down to the Flora button which has a photo of the Anise Swallowtail Butterfly.


Under that tab you will find excellent photos of 9 types of Pender Island butterflies.  We thank local resident, Arthur Kikuchi, for this valuable contribution to our website.  Happy butterfly hunting and good luck with capturing them on camera.

Third Wednesday Nature Walk

We’ve taken a break for the summer for our 3rd Wednesday of the Month nature walks on Pender, but we’ll start up again on September 21. The fall line-up of activities promises something for every nature taste.

Sidney Island – August 9

On August 9, we host our annual outing to Sidney Spit. We’ll carpool onto the 8am ferry to take the water taxi to the Sidney Spit Marine Park. There we’ll explore Sidney Island, which tends to be alive with resting shorebirds on their southern migration. After lunch, it’s off to explore the forest trails where we can see towering Douglas Firs, along with an extraordinary variety of other conifers and deciduous trees. Bring lunch and binoculars. The cost for the day includes shared BC Ferries cost, plus Sidney Island water taxi fares of $16 for seniors and $19 for adults. Please register at

Race Rocks Cruise – October 1

Looking ahead: We look forward to organizing the exciting Race Rocks cruise on Sunday, October 1. We’ll take the morning ferry and board the Fantasea in Victoria’s inner harbour at 10:00 a.m. Race Rocks is a protected area of ocean, rocks and reefs at the eastern entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The high tidal currents make for an exceptional variety of sea mammals (whales, seals, sea lions), birds, fish and ocean grasses. As we circle this most southerly point on Canada’s Pacific coast, we’ll also get to see the historic Race Rocks Lighthouse. Each time out is a different experience! The cost for this trip is unchanged at $80.00. The Fantasea can take up to 20 people. To secure your place, please register by e-mailing

Bob Vergette with contributions from Simone Marler and Julie Wilmott

June, 2017

Parks Canada BioBlitz 2017


The bioblitz is scheduled for 24-hours, from 4 pm Friday, June 9 to 4 pm Saturday, June 10

What’s a BioBlitz, you ask? It’s a race against the clock to find and identify as many plants and animals as we can in 24 hours. You can join in the fun with activities such as the BioBlitz Family Festival and Special Surveys with natural history experts. All activities take place on Gulf Islands National Park Reserve lands on Pender Island. PIFN has volunteered to support this event and that takes the involvement of all nature-savvy Penderites. So mark your calendar now to attend with family and friends. Better yet, put your hand up to volunteer. Specifically, Parks Canada is looking for volunteer Survey Leaders, Survey Assistants and Volunteer Photographers. To sign up, go to and click the registration link.  Many people have signed up already so don’t delay getting your name in to learn more about our natural world.  See the Parks Canada advertisement and Species Survey Schedule elsewhere in the Pender Post and note that PIFN is leading a Bird Blitz starting at 06:30, Saturday June 10.

All of the species observed on the BioBlitz will be recorded using iNaturalist, a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.  A short training session in the use of iNaturalist, lead by Parks Canada, is being planned for June 1 between 3:30 and 4:30.  Anyone interested in attending should email Bob Vergette at for location and details.

New Board Member

The Pender Island Field Naturalists (PIFN) is looking for a new board member to guide and support our many activities.  The type of person we are looking for has a love of nature and a desire to be part of a vigorous, volunteer-run organization that leads programs that foster a knowledge and understanding of the natural world.

Our 90-member group is open to anyone who enjoys the flora, fauna, natural history and ecosystems in and around Pender Island. Membership is open to people of all ages who have an interest in appreciating, experiencing and learning about nature. For more information, please visit our website  If you would like to find out more about this role or how you can join, contact Bob Vergette at 629-3820.

Bob Vergette

May, 2017

Third Wednesday Walk May 17 – Wings and Muffins

As spring migration gets under way, our May guided nature activity features a special treat hosted by Lisa Baile and Peter Pare. Meet as usual at St. Peter’s at 9:30am and we’ll carpool from there to their home on Armadale Road. We’ll spend a leisurely 45 minutes in Lisa’s “birdy” backyard with coffee and muffins in hand. Time permitting we’ll take a walk to a nearby beach access trail. Open to one and all at no charge.

Parks Canada BioBlitz 2017

The bioblitz is scheduled for 24-hours, from 4 pm Friday, June 9 to 4 pm Saturday, June 10

What’s a BioBlitz, you ask? It’s a race against the clock to find and identify as many plants and animals as we can in 24 hours. You can join in the fun with activities such as the BioBlitz Family Festival and Special Surveys with natural history experts. All activities take place on Gulf Islands National Park Reserve lands on Pender Island. PIFN has volunteered to support this event and that takes the involvement of our nature-savvy members. So mark your calendar now to attend with family and friends. Better yet, put your hand up to volunteer. Specifically, Parks Canada is looking for volunteer Survey Leaders, Survey Assistants and Volunteer Photographers. To sign up, go to

Bob Vergette

April, 2017

On February 24 the Field Naturalists held its first Annual General Meeting.  At the meeting the members elected a slate of directors including: Christine Elliott, Gerry McKeating, Simone Marler, Diane Swindell, Don Peden, Julie Wilmott and Bob Vergette.  Also approved was the constitution and bylaws for the organization.

Screech Owl Nest Box Project

Little definitive information is available about owl populations on Pender Island so this year the Field Naturalists have begun several initiatives to learn more about this group of birds.  In a pilot project, we assisted Jeremiah Kennedy of UBC in the selection of suitable habitat for Screech Owls.  With the cooperation of willing landowners, four nesting boxes were erected.  Should this pilot project hold promise additional boxes would be constructed and erected on other suitable sites.  Western Screech Owls are now very scarce and are considered a threatened species.

Owl Monitoring Program 

Under the leadership of John Peetsma, two owl monitoring routes have been established, one on the northern part of Pender and the second on southern part.  These routes follow specific protocols as to length of time at each stop and the distance between stops.  The routes have been run once but only one Barred Owl was heard.  This owl-monitoring program is a national project of Bird Studies Canada but we need to review the technique and decide its appropriateness for our island situation.

Gerry McKeating

3rd Wednesday Nature Walk

On April 19th, the 3rd Wednesday of the month, we will celebrate the arrival of our Spring flowers at Brooks Point Park on South Pender Island.  

Plan to join Stuart Scholefield as he takes us along the local paths to identify spring wildflowers and the many birds happily feeding in the abundant bracken and in the waters off shore.  Meet at St. Peters Anglican Church upper parking lot at 9:30 from there we will car pool to the park.

Annual Beach Cleanup

Oceans Day is April 22nd this year with PICA organizing the annual beach cleanup.  The Field Naturalists will again clean Hamilton Beach along Browning Harbour and volunteers are needed in this endeavour as in previous years.  The cleanup usually yields a pickup truck load of stuff destined for garbage or the recycling depot.   Meet Gerry McKeating at the boat ramp by the junior sailing shed at 10 a.m.  Garbage bags will be supplied but bring your own work gloves.  Many hands make light work as the old cliché goes, so it should not take more than an hour of your time.  Should we have too much help, we will redeploy you to PICA’s cleanup headquarters at the Medicine Beach Market parking lot where they will assign you to a team where help is needed.  PICA, by the way, is having three talks at the Community Hall during the afternoon.  See their website for further details. – Gerry McKeating

Festival Active Pass

Festival Active Pass, scheduled for April 21 to 23, is being coordinated by the Mayne Island Conservancy and promises to again be a fun event and for more information on the festival see the website 

Parks Canada BioBlitz 2017

The bioblitz is scheduled for 24-hours, from 4 pm Friday, June 9 to 4 pm Saturday, June 10

What’s a BioBlitz, you ask? It’s a race against the clock to find and identify as many plants and animals as we can in 24 hours. You can join in the fun with activities such as the BioBlitz Family Festival and Special Surveys with natural history experts. All activities take place on Gulf Islands National Park Reserve lands on Pender Island. PIFN has volunteered to support this event and that takes the involvement of our nature-savvy members. So mark your calendar now to attend with family and friends. Better yet, put your hand up to volunteer. Specifically, Parks Canada is looking for volunteer Survey Leaders, Survey Assistants and Volunteer Photographers. To sign up, go to

Bob Vergette

April 22  10:00 PIFN Beach Cleanup at Hamilton Beach

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.