Nature Stewardship School is now in session!

 

 

We are pleased to announce our latest nature-focused educational initiative for the Fraser Valley.  Our Nature Stewardship School consists of community workshops where you can learn a variety of skills to help local wildlife. Whether you live in an urban or rural setting, in an apartment, house, or farm — everyone is welcome.

These workshops will cover a wide range of topics. You can choose to attend any one workshop to learn about an interesting topic, or you can participate in the whole series. No previous knowledge is required. These workshops are geared towards adults.

 

Stewardship 101, the first workshop in the series, will introduce the concept of caring for nature in the Fraser Valley. You will learn tips on how to identify wildlife and the type of habitat where they live. We will explore some of the challenges they face for survival, and things you can do to help them.

Future workshops will include gardening with native plants, how to create habitat where you live, topics on specific wildlife types such as pollinators and amphibians, to name a few. We encourage you to bring any questions you may have and bring any photos of critters or habitat that you would like to know more about.

 

 


Stewardship 101 workshops are planned for Mission (December), Abbotsford (January), and Chilliwack (February).

This initiative is possible thanks to the financial support  from:

and we acknowledge the financial assistance of the Province of British Columbia

Toadlet Migration 2019 brought to you by the summer crew…

Wow! After 26 days, it’s finally over – let’s do a recap of what the toads were up to this year…

An Exceptional Year

Searching for toadlets along the survey route

By the middle of July it felt like we had been doing our toad survey route forever. As this year’s summer students, it was our responsibility to walk the 6 kilometer survey route that covered Elk View, Ryder Lake, and Houston Roads regularly to watch the marching army of tiny toadlets. Rain or shine, morning or evening, the two of us would painstakingly count every toadlet on the road that we could see, occasionally putting down our wooden sampling frame to take a closer look.

During the latter part of the migration, we had heard of some eyewitness accounts of toadlets crossing near the intersection of Ryder Lake and Extrom Road, well beyond our survey route. Being inquisitive researchers, we walked along the road to investigate. As we climbed the hill towards Extrom road, I became increasingly skeptical. There weren’t any toadlets to be found.

But then we reached the top of a hill and BAM! What seemed like tens or hundreds of toads were scattered across the road, like we had seen at the peak of the migration. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

This incident was just one notable example of how this year’s Western toadlet migration was exciting!

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Gathering the data

Counting toadlets in the survey plots

Why do we have to survey the toadlets when we already have a toad tunnel and fencing installed? Firstly, we want to see if we have reduced toadlet road mortality with these measures. Secondly, this is an opportunity to learn more about this population and track any migration trends.

Daily surveys are necessary to collect toadlet data for this project. We rely on the numbers from our road surveys to give us an idea of the scope of the migration. Our survey route is not a casual stroll; it is a stretch of road carefully divided into 57 plots that are 50 metres apart. In every plot, we put down a wooden sampling frame that we use to count toadlets. We also estimate the amount of dead and alive toads we see between each sampling frame. The road survey data is used to assess whether the toad tunnel and fencing are mitigation for road mortality.

 

What we have found so far

The toads were prolific this year! After tallying up our road plot counts, we discovered that there were about 10 times as many live toadlets in the plots compared to last year, and only twice as many dead. The abundance of toadlets can be explained by the large number of adults observed in the spring moving into Hornby Lake to breed. We found twice as many adults migrating to the breeding pond in 2018 as in 2017, and the number of adults observed doubled again this year. Their migration route heading west across Ryder Lake Road was a good choice for the toadlets in the sense that there is way less traffic on this road, significantly reducing the likelihood of being killed.

It was a big milestone for the breeding adults this year. The toads that came to Hornby to breed this year would have been part of the first cohort of toadlets to use the brand new tunnel in 2015!

As shown in our annual “toadlets on the road” graph above, the route the toadlets chose to exit the pond this year were somewhat different than in the last 4 years. More toadlets migrated across Ryder Lake Road this year, similar to 2014.

Volume and Radius

When I asked project lead Sofi Hindmarch about what set this year’s toad migration apart from the others, the keywords that really stuck out to me were “volume” and “radius”.

I couldn’t agree more with those descriptors. If we were to estimate how many toadlets made the mass exodus from Hornby Lake this year, our numbers would land in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. Those mother toadlets did a great job filling up the pond with eggs!

The second keyword, radius, also characterizes the migration with the toadlets spreading out across several roads and migrating in all directions. We even saw toadlets in places we haven’t seen them before – near the intersection of Ryder Lake and Extrom road. While not many used the toad tunnel this year, this migration pattern may be a blessing in disguise. By crossing roads with less traffic more toadlets made it safely across the road.

The density map above shows where the toadlets migrated out from the breeding pond. This year’s migration hotspot was across the stretch of Ryder Lake Road near the lake. However, they crossed in some capacity all along Ryder Lake Road, parts of Houston Road, and also near the toad tunnel.

But what is that sound?

Something odd jumped out at us when doing our toad walks. Nearly every day when we passed by Ryder Lake we began to hear an unsettling sound. “It must be a cow who’s lost its calf,” I told my co-worker. After all, I had heard a similar noise from the herd of cattle by my house. But the sound was there seemingly without fail. As soon as Ryder Lake became visible through the trees, that awful noise like a broken seesaw would greet us. Unfortunately, it was indicative of something much worse than a cow.

Folks, the bullfrogs have found Ryder Lake…

A bullfrog tadpole, compare to the toad tadpole at the top of this post!

‘Bullfrog’ is a word that can send shivers down an ecologist’s spine, at least here in B.C. But why is that? Other than breaking the local noise curfew, bullfrogs are an invasive species. The body of bullfrog tadpoles (not including the tail) can reach up to 6 centimeters in length – that’s up to 3 times the length of toad and tree frog tadpoles! In the breeding pond, bullfrog tadpoles can outcompete native amphibian larvae for space and food. Soon, what was once a diverse breeding pond becomes a bullfrog breeding pond. Once bullfrogs reach their full size they become even more of a menace. Adult bullfrogs, which can reach up to 20 centimeters in length, will eat anything that fits into their mouths.

 

One of our most dedicated Ryder Lake volunteers with a young bullfrog

 

On average bullfrogs take 4 years to reach breeding age, 2 years as a tadpole, and 2 years as an adult. Currently, all 4 of these life stages are present at Hornby Lake (the main breeding pond), meaning that they have been there for at least 4 years. Breeding adults are now at Ryder Lake as well, so the bullfrogs are spreading, and they will continue to do so until all ponds they can access are occupied.

However, now that the FVC knows of their presence at Ryder Lake we can assess the situation to see if there are feasible options to stop the bullfrog invasion. Currently we are consulting with Provincial experts on best practices to deal with bullfrogs. How do you tell the difference between bullfrogs and toads? What do you do if you find one? For answers to these questions and others, visit our previous post on the subject.

What a year!

Toadlet migrations are an exceptionally cool phenomenon and it was amazing to have the opportunity to observe these amazing creatures make their way towards their forest home. We learned a lot about the toadlets during their migration and were able to contribute to research on this population. Can’t wait to see what the toads do next year!

This project is made possible by support from:

 

As well as our wonderful FVC donors and volunteers – THANK YOU!

 

Life after the lawn

Picture yourself on a hot summer day, sweating as you push around a lawn mower that took far too long to start. You finish the weekly chore and want nothing more than to go to a beach, with its sandy shore, cool water and scenic mountain view.  This fantasy quickly diminishes as you trip over a hose that you now have to spend time untangling. Your lawn needs water after all to keep it green this time of year which can be a struggle, because it naturally wants to turn light brown and go dormant until the heat lets off. Speaking of green, you notice that your neighbour’s grass is a darker, more vibrant shade than yours. This reminds you that it’s just about time to add another round of chemical fertilizer. You forgot to pick some up on your last visit to the hardware store, when you bought that pesticide to battle the beetles wreaking havoc, and herbicide to keep the weeds from disrupting the well manicured lawn.

Growing a lawn, purely for aesthetics, sure is a lot of hassle for something that can have such a negative impact on the environment.  Some sources have estimated that somewhere in the neighborhood of 54-million kilograms of pesticides are used each year in Canada. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, “homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides on their lawns than farmers use on their crops.” All these chemicals can do considerable damage to wildlife including contributing to the death of millions of birds, as well as amphibians, who are especially vulnerable. Not only that, but an average garden hose can deliver, and waste, up to 600 liters of water per hour.

After thinking about all this you’re probably wondering if there’s another way. This can’t be worth it. Should you paint your lawn green during the hot summer months, or just install artificial turf? Should you plant invasive periwinkle to aggressively take over the space?  Please don’t, despite these being suggested by others as lawn alternatives.

Well, have hope. There are alternatives out there that will be better for both you and the environment. Here are just a few of the most common:

Clover (micro or white dutch)

Photo by Marina Shemesh

A good low water lawn alternative is clover. Clover adds nitrogen to the soil and rarely, if ever, requires additional fertilizer.  It can be mowed short but doesn’t require it. In fact, not mowing will help it reseed itself for the following year. Clover is pest resistant, while also attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects. And it grows aggressively enough to compete with those weeds you are constantly battling with in a turf grass lawn.

When the rest of the neighbourhood goes brown during the height of summer, a clover lawn will stay green. It’s relatively durable to walk on and there is no worry about “dog spots.” It may require reseeding every few years, but is relatively inexpensive when you consider the amount a clover lawn would save on environmentally harmful chemicals, fertilizers and water.

 

 

Moss

Photo by Aleesha Switzer

Moss is a nice lawn alternative for a shady area with acidic soil. It doesn’t take foot traffic as well as grass and does require added water, but it doesn’t require mowing and can be the solution for an area that was struggling to grow grass anyway. A moss lawn can add a wonderful aesthetic to an outdoor space.

 

Sedum beds

Photo by David J. Stang

Another low traffic aesthetic lawn alternative are sedum beds. “Sedum” is a large genus of plants, but within it contains many creeping species that are a low growing, spreading succulents that require almost no water or fertilizer. They will grow in some of the poorest soils, where grass had trouble but weeds flourished. You can also add pest and disease resistance to the list of advantages to planting sedum. Another major draw to installing sedum beds is that they flower, which your local pollinators will appreciate. Many of the ideal varieties are evergreen, so you can enjoy having some green all year long.

Rock gardens

Photo by Flickr user brewbooks

Rock gardens are a classic choice for people who are sick of dealing with their grass lawn. Planting a garden of drought resistant, low maintenance plants will save you a lot of time in the summer as well as help you conserve water. Rock gardens often use a lot of decorative stone, and can be quite showy and artistic!

 

 

Yarrow

Photo by Pixabay user romanhoertner

Another low water, low maintenance choice for a lawn alternative is yarrow. Yarrow will reliably fill a space with time and provides flowers for you and your pollinator friends to enjoy. Compared to other flowering plants, it is fairly resistant to foot traffic and only needs to be mowed twice a year, once in the spring and once in the late summer after it has bloomed. Most varieties are quite a bit taller than a manicured lawn, but there are some dwarf varieties out there.

 

Creeping thyme

Photo by David Stang

Creeping thyme makes for an excellent drought tolerant alternative to turf grass once it gets established. It smells great, flowers and can be walked on to some degree.

 

 

Chamomile (English variety)

Photo by Michel Rathwell

Chamomile not only makes a relaxing tea but can also be used as a replacement for a turf grass lawn. It requires little to no mowing or fertilizing and also smells great. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t take to foot traffic too well, especially when it’s establishing. What it lacks in durability though, it makes up for in visual appeal with white flowers that are much nicer to look at than a grassy lawn that wants to turn brown all summer.

Flower mixes such as “bee turf” (West Coast Seeds)

Photo by West Coast Seeds

There are flower mixes offered by some companies that are meant to replace turf grass with low growing perennial flowers, often mixed with clover. They usually aren’t great for foot traffic and in my experience they grow taller than most of the other lawn alternatives listed. Even so, they are quite beautiful, and a great choice for those who want to help out their local pollinators.

 

 

Grow vegetables!

Photo by Al Pasternak

Instead of wasting resources on grass, many people are choosing to transform parts of their lawn into productive vegetable gardens. Of course this is equally, if not more labour intensive as grass and will also require added water, but at least you will get something back in the form of a harvest. It doesn’t get any fresher than from the garden, right to the table. Be sure to check the bylaws in your area though, unfortunately some areas would rather you keep that grass.

 

 

 

 

The days when having that perfectly manicured lawn are ending. Lawns are detrimental to the environment by using an excess of our precious water resources, and the pesticides applied to them are harmful to wildlife. They are needlessly labour intensive and take more work than it’s worth to maintain. By replacing these outdated symbols of status with one of the alternatives listed above, you can save water, wildlife, and protect the environment in your own small way. In the process you’ll also free up time that you can use to enjoy those short summer months. Let your neighbour waste their time chasing that dream lawn. Or better yet, show them there is another way, that’s better for the people, wildlife, and the environment alike.

For more information and growing tips check out Metro Vancouver’s Grow Green Guide

 

Sources

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-pesticide-consuming-countries-of-the-world.html

https://www.fws.gov/raleigh/pdfs/Homeowners_Guide_Frogs.pdf

https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/water-pdf/a-homeowners-guide-to-outdoor-water-use.pdf?sfvrsn=eb8c8cc9_4

https://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr191/psw_gtr191_1029-1042_erickson.pdf

 

Now is the time to add native plants to your garden!

As the summer winds down, the cooler nights and autumn rains return. At this point in the season, you’re probably mostly thinking about the yearly ritual of putting your garden to rest as soon the last of the late season flowers finish their final bloom. While those plants that gave you joy all summer long are finishing, it’s actually the best time to begin planting those native trees and perennials you’ve been thinking about adding to create additional wildlife habitat on your property.

Common knowledge will tell you that spring is the time to get planting, and there really is nothing like finally getting into the garden after a long winter. There is no need to wait though — right now is actually the best time to get those plants in the ground.

There are several excellent reasons why you should be planting in the fall:

  • There is time for roots to be put down – With winters’ frozen touch on the landscape still a few months away, there is plenty of time for newly planted perennials grow their roots and establish themselves in their new environment before they rest for the winter.
  • There is less need to water – The anticipated rainfall will make sure the plants stay adequately watered while they begin to establish. This also means less of commitment required on your part in providing additional water.
  • There are less pests – The later end of the year also marks the end the ideal breeding period for insect nuisances that will create stress for both you and your plants.
  • There is less disease – There also tends to be a lesser overall disease pressure put on plants as the nights cool, but the days are still somewhat warm.
  • There is a relief from the heat – Like you, many plants are sensitive to stresses caused by an overly hot summer sun. Planting in the fall gives them a break, and can be a more enjoyable gardening experience for yourself as well.
  • Less stress means better establishment and happier plants– The overall less pressure put on your plants this time of year gives them a better chance to establish during what is a sensitive time for them.

So don’t miss out using the fall season to your advantage to create healthier and happier plants in your garden. An established native plant garden will survive for years to come and be enjoyed by both you and all the wildlife who passes through or calls your garden home.  The gardening season doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t, end with the flowers. There is still lots of time in the year, so get out there, get dirty, and get some native plants in the ground!

Summer of 2019

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be part of the FVC summer crew? It is a combination of hard work, great conversations about conservation, and some fun thrown in.

But don’t take it from us, here is what Abbey and Jessica had to say…

First from Abbey:

Over the summer of 2019, I worked full time for the FVC. I found out about this opportunity through my previous volunteer experience with FVC, particularly with scientist Sofi Hindmarch. Working for the FVC was my dream summer job all through high school, and I was elated when I got the position.

My favorite aspect of this job was the variety: one day I might be pulling out invasive plants from a restoration site, the next I might be counting bats in a suburban site. Having so many facets to my job allowed me to learn new skills. This was my first chance to work in an office. This was a challenge since all my previous jobs had been active jobs. Sitting at the computer was more difficult than any fieldwork I had to do, but I came out more patience and with better typing skills.

Fieldwork was divided between invasive species removal and research. The invasive species removal was very strenuous and dirty work. I improved my fitness by pulling out blackberries for 7 hours a day. Working hard for such long spans of time built up my tenacity.

Research was the most exciting aspect of working at FVC. I worked with many species: western toads, bullfrogs, bats, painted turtles, and screech owls. Carrying out the methods I had studied was super fun, and it helped to reaffirm my interest in field biology. I also was able to learn about the background work that must be done before studies can be carried out; oftentimes, there is a long process of communication, funding applications, planning, and dealing with residents that must be done before and during fieldwork. These details haven’t been taught to me in school yet, so it was an important lesson.

A final aspect of my employment was attending outreach events. Our goal for the summer was to attend 5-6 events around the Fraser Valley. The purpose of these outings was to promote the work of FVC to event attendees. I had a great time chatting with people, including children.

My time at the FVC was incredibly productive and enjoyable. I am happy that I decided to apply for this position, and I know that it’s addition to my resume will aid in my future employment. I am thankful to all the people I got to meet and work with.

And Jessica:

I am a fifth-year biology student at UFV looking to pursue a master’s in conservation biology. The experience I received this summer confirmed that this is the direction I would like to go in. I had a fantastic time working for Fraser Valley Conservancy.

I learned about FVC from a required volunteer component of a second level conservation class. I signed up to help survey for Sideband and Oregon forest snails on the Three Creeks property. It was raining and miserable that day, and I had the most phenomenal time in the field! This opportunity pushed me from the genetics focus I had intended to take to outdoor conservation work, which I never thought I would enjoy as much as I do.

I had the opportunity to work in the field doing invasive species removal with Jon, conduct surveys of Western toadlets, and truck through bogs with Natasha photo point monitoring. I had the chance to see baby barn owls through cameras with Sofi and to connect with local communities through outreach events with Aleesha.

Each week there was something new and interesting to do. Even with invasive species removal, which took 60 per cent of our time, each site was different and interesting, and I enjoyed the company of Jon and Abbey. People often stopped to chat with us about what we were doing.

I learned valuable skills that I will certainly be using in future jobs. I learned to identify invasive species and the strategies to remove them. It was interesting returning to sites later in the summer and seeing how quickly other invasives can take over an area. I also learned why certain native species are chosen over others to plant in disturbed sites to help combat invasive species and to naturalize the site.

I also worked with some of our local at-risk or endangered animal species. We conducted Western toadlet surveys during which I learned about the migration of these toadlets and, through later analyzing the data, the value of the toadlet tunnel. I had the chance to help Sofi look for Western screech owl nests in a forest and saw a great horned owl for the first time. I also helped Sofi survey baby barn owls and I learned about the life cycle and population dynamics of barn owls in the Valley.

During trap monitoring with Natasha, I learned to identify some native fish species, the basic technique for photo point monitoring, and I learned that canary reed grass does usually grow in deep water (while wearing only rubber boots). I was taught basic GIS mapping skills at a workshop which will help me in my upcoming conservation GIS course.

Each person I worked with was so willing and excited to share their knowledge with me. There was a great deal of trust shown to me and Abbey with the work we were asked to do independently. I leave FVC confident that this is the career direction I want to pursue, if others in this field are half as friendly and knowledgeable as the people I got to work with this summer.

Huge thanks to these UFV students for working so hard this summer, their positive attitudes and passion for conservation!

 

Calling all Bradner & Mt. Lehman residents – Free Event!

Hey Bradner – Mt. Lehman, did you hear about this free event?

The online survey we ran this summer told us you are interested in learning about ways you can help protect the environment in your neighbourhood!

We would like to invite you to join us for an evening of learning on Thursday, September 12th. Come grab a hot dog, meet Fraser Valley Conservancy staff, learn about native plant gardening and invasive species removal, and hear the results of the online survey. See the flyer below for more details. Email aleesha@fraservalleyno.wpengine.com for more information or if you are interested in volunteering.

Announcing People for Nature 2019!

Join us for our Second Annual

People for Nature Fundraising Dinner

Friday October 25th!

We have a  fabulous evening planned for you at the historic Fort Langley Hall:.

  • A fall harvest dinner featuring the fabulous bounty the Fraser Valley has to offer
  • Themed dinner tables to learn about your favourite conservation topics
  • Keynote speaker, Stephen Godwin, will share the story of how his family farm became a biodiversity preserve
  • A silent auction featuring locally sourced art, products, and services
  • New for this year! A curated marketplace with unique gifts available for purchase in support of our work

 

EAT * GIVE * CONNECT

Join us as we celebrate our love of nature, and raise money for the continued conservation of our precious natural spaces.
With your help, the Fraser Valley Conservancy can conserve this natural beauty for future generations. We look forward to welcoming you!

Event Details:

Where: The Fort Langley Community Hall 9167 Glover Road, Langley BC
When:   Friday October 25th
       5:30 doors open and the fun begins
       6:30 dinner commences (with both local meat and vegetarian options)
Tickets are $80.00 per person

OR

Buy an exclusive table for $750.00 reserved especially for you and seven of your friends. You will also have the pick your table topic for both the dinner and dessert rotations, ahead of time!
Use the PayPal Buy Now button below to purchase your tickets. If you prefer to pay via cheque or e-transfer please email us or call 604-625-0066.

Dinner Tickets



 

Last year’s event sold out so make sure you buy your tickets early!

 

 

The Valley Steward – Summer 2019 edition

Check out our Summer Newsletter!

Read the Valley Steward newsletter to get the latest scoop on what we’re up to…
This edition features the lifelong dedication of Gerry Powers – rescuing owls along the freeway and how his work has resulted in research findings. It also includes updates about our summer work and features our next round of  Fraser Valley Experiences in our Online Auction Fundraiser, open for your bid until August 14th.

 

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Do you want to get our e-newsletter to your inbox?
Sign up now by clicking HERE!

Sofi’s latest research based on the lifelong work of Gerry Powers

Barn Owls in the Fraser Valley

Barn owls are a treasured sight on farms across the Fraser Valley, perching on fence posts and swooping over open grass fields at dusk, but their populations are declining.

We’re lucky here in southern B.C. to have the only population of barn owls in western Canada. Sadly, these barn owls have recently been listed as threatened by the federal government.

 

Highway mortality

Barn owls are at home in the Fraser Valley. They enjoy our mild winters and wide-open hay fields to hunt rodents. But as human populations in the area grow, many open fields are being converted to housing or industrial lands. The old barns that the owls nest in are being rebuilt into shiny, tightly sealed barns, often with no nesting areas.

 

Gerry and a very happy barn owl

As the human population increases in the valley, so does the traffic. According to data collected from the Vedder Road off ramp in Chilliwack, traffic increased in this area by 9 per cent between 2012 and 2016. Along with loss of habitat and use of rodenticides, road mortality is one of the greatest threats to barn owls.

Gerry Powers has been collecting and recording the deaths of barn owls, among other raptors, along a stretch of Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack for over 20 years. Of all the owls he has found along the highway, 67 per cent of them were barn owls.

FVC biologist Sofi Hindmarch is combining Gerry’s records along with her and Dick Clegg’s work monitoring nest boxes and banding barn owls. She is looking into where barn owls are hit along this 60 km stretch of Highway 1 and possible reasons why.

Barn owls are particularly susceptible to getting hit on highways. Being a light bird with a large wingspan, the gusts of wind caused by cars can suck them into traffic, and some of their favorite hunting grounds are large open fields, such as the grass stretches along the edge of our highways.

 

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The results of Sofi’s research

Sofi found that there were hotspots along the highway, where more barn owls were killed than in other locations.

Map of barn owl mortality from Chilliwack to Abbotsford. The section with the highest mortality is around the No. 3 road exit.

 

 

Road mortality increased in areas with large areas of highway grasses, such as the highway meridians and around the highway off ramps.

Highway off ramps often have bridges and utility poles that make good perches, but the grass patches are divided up by roads. When the barn owls swoop low over the grass patches to hunt, they fly closer to the fast-moving vehicles and risk getting hit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Average monthly road mortality for barn owls between 1998 and 2018

 

 

Sofi also found that road mortality was highest during the winter months, between November and March. This was possibly due to rush hour being closer to dusk, as barn owls are nocturnal. The cold winter months may also reduce hunting habitat and food abundance, causing owls to hunt more often in the highway median and edges.

 

 

 

There is limited research and even less information on effective ways to reduce mortality along highways. High barriers installed along highways may prevent owls from swooping low when crossing roads, reducing their risk of encountering a vehicle. It may also help to reduce the expanse of grass along highways where the owl’s prey like to live, this can be done by strategic mowing and planting more diverse vegetation, like shrubs or trees, in the area.

 

Who’s in the valley

Road mortality is one of the biggest risks to owls of all species, and as the Fraser Valley grows there is a clear need for more research in this area to help our declining owl populations in the valley. The FVC is currently working on habitat improvement solutions and threat reduction measures to help our owls. As part of Sofi’s research we install nest boxes around the Fraser Valley and are beginning on a two-year study of the effectiveness rodentenicide alternatives.

Barn owls aren’t our only owls that are at risk for road mortality. We have eleven species of owls that live in and around the Fraser Valley. Gerry collected data on all owls he has found along the highway, and gives us a look into the populations of some of our other local owls.

 

Mortality of other local owls along Highway 1

Hearing hooting around your house?

Find out who you’ve been hearing, and seeing, around town by checking out our owl ID guides, where you can learn to identify local owls by look and sound.

Did you know about the Owl Champion of Abbotsford?

Gerry Powers: Owl champion of Abbotsford

Did you know that the owls of the Fraser Valley have a full time, volunteer owl savior? You may have seen his green truck driving along the highway between Abbotsford and Chilliwack in the early morning hours, or Gerry himself armed with a fishing net, rescuing an injured owl.

 

Gerry Powers and a very happy Barn owl.

Gerry Powers started collecting birds from the side of Highway 1 over 20 years ago. Gerry and his wife Shirley drive the stretch of highway between Chilliwack and Abbotsford looking for dead or injured raptors, sometimes several times per week.

 

Shirley Powers rescuing a raptor.

 

They record their findings and take injured raptors they have found to the Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Society (OWL) in Delta, where they are treated and rehabilitated to be released back into the Fraser Valley.

Gerry has kept meticulous notes on every bird he has come across in his rescue work, all in well labeled binders stacked around his home office. Now, his work as a citizen scientist is helping FVC biologist Sofi with her research. Sofi is using the past 21 years of Gerry’s records to look into where the most barn owls die along Highway 1 and the possible reasons why.

 

 

 

Raptors, such as hawks, eagles, and owls, like to hunt along our highways. The open stretches of grasses are home to mice and voles, and the utility poles make excellent hunting perches. Unfortunately, cars traveling quickly along the highway can hit the birds as they fly low to find and catch their prey.

With many years of experience rescuing injured birds, Gerry is the go-to guy for owl rescue in the Fraser Valley. He takes 24-7, from all over the Lower Mainland, about dead and injured raptors.

 

 

Gerry wasn’t entirely sure how he started recording road mortality along the highways, but it was likely a natural progression from his rescue work across the Fraser Valley. Gerry has helped release around 400 of his rescued raptors, including 172 barn owls and 67 barred owls.

His work is making a real impact, not just for the owls he rescues but also for the owl population as a whole. The data he has collected is helping Sofi with her research. Road mortality is one of the biggest threats to owls, along with habitat loss and the use of rodent poisons.

 

Gerry and his green owl rescue truck.

Have you seen an owl in your area and are wondering if it’s a barn owl? We have eleven species of owls here in the Fraser Valley. Click here to check out our handy ID resources for help identifying the owls you find by look and by sound.