Some visits are better than others. Such was the recent (Aug. 24, 2021) visit to the Trial Islands by Her Honour Janet Austin, the 30th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.
First, we had perfect weather. Second, we had perfect, short, helicopter flights between Shoal Point, Victoria Harbour, and the islands, courtesy of the Canadian Coast Guard. And third, after a short visit of the Heritage Lighthouse, (built 1906, heritage designation 2015) with Principal Keeper John Gillivet, we had a perfect guided tour by Matt Fairbarns, rare-plant botanist and Chief Warden of the Trial Islands Ecological Reserve.
After two decades of leading serious restoration projects, Matt knows the islands and their plants perfectly well. Still, he surpassed all expectations with numerous insights about one of the best assemblages of endangered plants in Canada. We also met the restoration team at work busy removing invasive English Ivy known here as “devil’s spaghetti”.
In 2021, an unusually severe drought is affecting the Trial Islands. Accordingly, most plants completed their life cycle early. Nonetheless, we were able to find desiccated remnants or Dense-flower Lupine, Golden Paintbrush, Bear’s-foot Sanicle, Rosy Owl-clover and Victoria’s Owl-clover. The latter, a globally imperiled species with more than 90-95% of its global population on the Trial Islands, was particular interesting as Matt identified this owl-clover as a new species 15 years ago.
Birdlife was also noteworthy with feeding frenzies of hundreds of gulls and auks drawn in by Pacific Sand Lance and/or Pacific Herring. We saw Glaucous-winged Gulls, California Gulls, Heermann’s Gulls, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres and heard some Marbled Murrelets. Between 50 and 100 Barn Swallows, adults and young-of-the-year, were foraging over the maritime meadow where some rare Vancouver Island Ringlets were still present despite the drought.
The Trial Islands are a B.C. Ecological Reserve with restricted public access and irregular special tours. The E.R. lies within historic, federal Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Last but not least, Aide-de-camp Captain Richard Marriott easily won the Class Act/Best Dressed Award (see photos).
Post created by Jacques Sirois, Oak Bay, Sept. 6, 2021
co-warden, Trial Islands E.R. (est. 1990)
rep., Victoria Harbour MBS (est. 1923)
partner, Greater Victoria NatureHood (est. 2017)