Category Archives: Streamkeeping

Speaking Twice at SEP 2015 Stewardship Workshop in May

I’ve been asked to take part in two presentations at the SEP 2015 British Columbia stewardship community workshop in May.

One will be on event and documentary photography, with an emphasis on using photos for effective communication and engagement, be it in paper publications or online. The other is a panel on engaging youth in stewardship activities. Should be fun!

SEP 2015 will take place in Port Alberni, BC, May 15-17, 2015.

More information about the workshop will be posted to this website as details firm up.

Searching Squamish, BC, for Salmon and Eagles

This is a great time of year to see salmon and eagles up the Sea-to-Sky highway heading north from Vancouver to Squamish.

Didn’t see that many of the magnificent raptors today, but enough for some decent photos.

eagle_paradise_valley_road_squamish_20141122Eagle soaring above the Paradise Valley road north of Squamish, BC

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Lunching on what appears to be a chum salmon on the Squamish River

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Cruising along the Squamish River

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A mass of  biomass. Lots of carcasses near the Tenderfoot hatchery off the Paradise Valley road north of Squamish. It looks gross, but salmon bring nutrients back from the ocean that enrich our coastal forests and other wildlife.

Byrne Creek Moving Water Medley

As I patrolled Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC, in search of spawning salmon on Nov. 4, I didn’t see any fish as the water was high and fast. But I did get several video clips of moving water that I edited together into a 2-minute video today.

BTW, nothing fancy. I used my Canon Elph 520HS pocket camera in its 1920 HD video mode. I mounted it on a GorillaPod so that I could get nice and low into the creek, while keeping things steady.

I edited the clips together using the standard Windows Movie Maker that came with Windows 8.1

No music, no narration, just the sights and sounds of moving water in nature.

Enjoy!

Returning Salmon Highlight Wonders of Autumn

I like getting out in nature any time of year, but autumn is the season that evokes the most intense responses. Of course there’s the amazing display of colour, but there’s also a sense of excitement as the salmon return to spawn, and harvest reaches its peak with grain, fruits, and vegetables in abundance.

For me, autumn is the most stimulating time on my local waterway, Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby, BC. I’ve volunteered as a streamkeeper for many years, and the return of salmon to spawn in this little local creek is an affirmation of efforts to maintain and restore some semblance of a natural world in an urban area.

Walking the creek and finding spawners is exhilarating. And I love to connect other folks to the creek through the awesome fish. Today I found a pair of chum spawning in an area easily viewed from the trail, and I pointed them out to several people who passed by.

“O my God!” “Really? That’s amazing!”

People are enchanted by the sight.

Sometimes the fish are not easy to see, even in a small creek like Byrne. Here’s an example of a “stealth chum” that I initially didn’t notice, though I had carefully scanned the area it was resting in.

chum salmon byrne creek

I saw a total of six spawners today, a pair of chum that were actively spawning, with the female flipping sideways and digging a depression in the gravel and cobble in which to deposit her eggs.

Then there was the fish in the photo above, a few meters away.

Later in a different part of the creek I saw two coho, a male already sporting bright wine red colours, and a speckled silvery female. There was another salmon in that vicinity, but I couldn’t get a good enough look at it for an ID.

Here’s to seeing more over the next month or two!

Art Students Tour Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC

Today I, and Ray, another volunteer, took three classes of art students from Byrne Creek Secondary in SE Burnaby, BC, on three tours of the creek their school is named after. This is the second year that local volunteer streamkeepers have done this. Thanks to the kids, and their teacher, Judy Mcleod.

So many kids these days seem to be detached from nature, and uncomfortable experiencing it, so I enjoy any opportunity to try to make a connection with them, and connect them to their local environment. I don’t know if my blathering makes much impact, but I hope they learn something about the salmon life cycle, and the importance of urban watersheds and biodiversity.

Byrne Creek student tour Byrne Creek

Also thanks to Louise Towell of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, who put together a wonderful project that combined student art with learning about Byrne Creek a few years ago. She created the contacts that continue to this day.

Volunteers Count Bugs in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

Count bugs? Yep, doing aquatic invertebrate surveys is a good indicator of water quality, so we do them twice a year at nine locations on the creek.

Volunteers took bug samples (aquatic invertebrates) at three locations on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today. While we haven’t run the numbers yet, judging by how few bugs we found, and the very limited variety, the water quality is likely in the lowest “Poor” category.

We use the established Module 4 methodology from the Streamkeepers Handbook.

The water in Byrne Creek is usually in the “Poor” to “Marginal” categories, since our “headwaters” are all residential, automotive, retail, etc. All the crap that accumulates on roads and parking lots is flushed into the creek.

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Taking a sample with a D-net

Byrne Creek bug count
Baby crayfish found in one sample

First Salmon Patrol Yields Fall Colors, No Spawners Yet

Despite the drizzle that gradually increased to steady rain, I took a two-hour ramble down and back up Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC, today, hoping to see salmon coming back to spawn. When the rains raise the water level, the fish start heading upstream in mid-October, so they should arrive any day now.

I didn’t see any salmon, but it was a lovely day with the rain giving foliage a lush sheen, and the overcast sky imbuing the forest with a soft light.

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Byrne Creek, Burnaby, Autumn Colours

Rain = Excitement on Byrne Creek as Salmon Should Arrive Soon

When I heard the lush, lovely sound of steady rain when I stirred in my slumber last night, I couldn’t help smiling. For the rains bring the salmon, and salmon are life.

We don’t get many salmon returning to spawn on our battered urban creek in SE Burnaby, but those that do stir excitement and passion in people attuned to the natural environment. As a volunteer streamkeeper for 15 years, I do my best to connect as many kids and adults as possible to nature in the city.

So while the weather forecast may look grim to some, I find it exhilarating.

That’s because salmon that hatched in Byrne Creek have returned from their years in the Pacific Ocean. Those that have made it through the fisheries along the coast, and in the Salish Sea, and in the Fraser River, are pooling at the mouth of the creek, waiting for higher flows to assist their passage up the little waterway.

As long as there is rain, we spot the first spawners arriving in the creek around October 17, give or take a day or two.

So this forecast looks great!

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Burnaby’s Byrne Creek Smelled Foul Today

As I did one of my many rambles around Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today, I noticed as I reached the bottom of the stairs in the ravine that there was an odd smell, somewhat akin to a cross between kerosene and toilet-bowl cleaner.

The odor was most noticeable in the narrow portions of the ravine, and very strong at Griffiths Pond in the upper watershed near Edmonds Skytrain station, where a storm pipe empties into the pond.

I did not observe any dead fish, or ones in distress, but water visibility was near zero due to the rain.

I called it in to City staff, but noted that since I wasn’t seeing dead fish, it was not an emergency. But something not quite right went down the creek today.

Burnaby Unveils Refurbished Citizens’ Plaza

I attended the “Official Dedication and Unveiling of the New Commemorative Paving Stones at Citizen’s Plaza” at Burnaby City Hall today.

It was a lovely, sunny, autumn day, with a congenial crowd of local volunteers, City staff, and politicians. In addition to the unveiling of redone commemorative paving stones (they’d faded over the years), the event was also an opportunity to recognize several Burnaby Citizen of the Year Kushiro Cup award recipients, inductees to the Burnaby Business Hall of Fame, and the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame. These awards had been presented at previous events, but it was nice for recipients to get another round of public appreciation.

The event was combined with an Open House at City Hall, and many City departments had displays.

Burnaby Citizens' Plaza
People checking out commemorative paving stones

Burnaby Aft Gallery display
Burnaby Art Gallery booth

Sheep eco-sculpture
Burnaby has an ongoing eco-sculpture program. There were several sheep on display in readiness to be planted for the upcoming Year of the Ram (Sheep)

Burnaby Fire Department
Burnaby Fire Department presence

Burnaby RCMP booth
Burnaby RCMP booth

Burnaby volunteer monument
Monument in City Hall garden commemorating volunteers

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers founders paving stones
Paving stones commemorating the four founding members of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers