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.
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!
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.
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.
People checking out commemorative paving stones
Burnaby Art Gallery booth
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 presence
Burnaby RCMP booth
Monument in City Hall garden commemorating volunteers
Paving stones commemorating the four founding members of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers
I’ll be speaking about streamkeeping, and how these volunteers help to protect and restore Burnaby’s waterways. I’ll be supplementing a presentation by Elmer Rudolph, a long-time volunteer who has amazing knowledge of the history of the decline, and restoration, of the Brunette River. This is part of the Burnaby Neighbourhood History series sponsored by the Burnaby Village Museum and Burnaby Public Libraries, and I encourage you to register for this, and other sessions, here.
The Alta Vista Park Community Picnic in South Burnaby is always a great event. It’s truly a community gathering, and the organizers are excellent.
Byrne Creek Streamkeepers have participated for many years, and it’s one of our favourite events.
Some photos from yesterday:
Byrne Creek Streamkeepers booth
Organizers with local politicians
Arts and crafts
Burnaby Fire Department
Air guitar contest led by the popular band Rainshadow
I attended a one-day streamkeeper training course in North Vancouver hosted by the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation. We covered modules 2, 3, and 4 from the Streamkeepers Handbook.
I figured it was about time I had a refresher, since it must be around ten years ago that I originally took the training.
It was a lovely, sunny day, and a great group of people.
You can check out some photos I took in this Flickr album.
Just took a survey sent to me by an NGO resource organization. I like to be helpful, so I often take the time to answer surveys.
The survey was mostly about HR, and as I worked my way through the questions I kept typing in that our streamkeeper society is 100% volunteer, with zero employees. Finally, the last couple of questions in the survey included “how many employees do you have?” Why the heck wasn’t that one of the first questions?
And then the last question was what category did our annual budget fall into. The lowest category was less than $500,000/year. Seeing as our annual budget is $1,000 (the amount of our annual grant from the Fisheries and Oceans SEP program), that was the category I chose, but damn! Out by 500X, eh?
I bought our first wild sockeye of the season at Save-On Foods in Burnaby, BC, today.
It was small, weighing in at 0.686 kg, or about 1.5 lbs. Of course that’s sans head and guts, but it still appeared undersized. All of the sockeye at Save-On looked small. Certainly way smaller than the pinks I fished on the Fraser last year.
Come to think of it, the fish looked not much bigger than a coho jack — a male coho salmon that returns to spawn a year early.
According to the DFO Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Guide, a sockeye “usually weighs between 2.2 kg and 3.1 kg, but can reach 6.3 kg.”
UPDATE: I’ve been looking into this online, Googling and reading academic papers, and have come to the conclusion that while small, this fish was likely not an outlier.
Most research and reporting on fish sizes and weights presents “average” ranges, and it’s hard to find information about what the usual minimum weights are. However I did find the following on the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada government website:
“Commercially caught sockeye range in weight from 2 to 9 pounds and are graded according to size: 2-4 lbs., 4-6 lbs., and 6-9 lbs.”
So I guess that 1.5-pound dressed fish was not an outlier.
Got my first double-Warhol moment yesterday, when the Burnaby NewsLeader published a photo of me in relation to a story about Byrne Creek, on which I volunteer as a streamkeeper, and also published several of my photos from the recent Edmonds City Fair, at which I was the event photographer.
Fun to be there on both sides of the camera : -).