The Oystercatcher: News and Events from the Mayne Island Conservancy

February, 2021

Call for Staff Housing

Call for Staff Housing
by Rob Underhill

This year we have hired two amazing people to come and work with us over the summer. Katie will be here from mid-April to the end of September, and Maddy will be here from mid-May until the end of August. Our summer staff are integral to the delivery of our many projects and programs, but we need your help finding …

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Pine Siskins and Salmonella

pine siskin
This article is reproduced with permission from Wildlife Rescue.

It is an irruptive year for Pine Siskins! Each Winter, these nomadic finches range widely and erratically across North America, their migrations heavily food driven. These past few months, dense flocks of siskins have been seen across …

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Book Review: Spirits of the Coast

Book Review: Spirits of the Coast
By Lori Nick

Spirits of the Coast: Orcas in Science, Art and History
Edited by Martha Black, Lorne Hammond, Gavin Hanke, with Nikki Sanchez

Killer Whales, sea wolves, blackfish...orcas have been called many names over the years. I have been fortunate to see them from land and on the sea. Witnessing the magnificence of orcas from a kayak, dinghy, and ferry is a …

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sea lion

Field Notes, February 2021

Submitted by Nancy Gibson
Photo: California sea lion, Don Enright


Blessed by a break in the soggy weather, we decided to hop over to a neighbouring island to enjoy a new hike in a different setting. After an hour of walking along a deserted road leading into the forest, we heard them before we spotted them. The trail ended at a rocky outcrop facing across from a small islet, providing a perfect picnic spot for us: a soft mossy place to sit and watch two distinctly different clans of sea lions on the rocks opposite. Dominating the scene were a large group of Steller sea lions, their massive golden bodies crowded together, touching and overlapping, a moving noisy mass of rippled fur and sleek heads. While the adults enjoyed basking in the rare winter sunshine, three youngsters played a game of "King of the Castle" on a large rock just off the islet. They jostled and pushed each other out of the way to gain access to the top of the rock and then flung themselves off, landing with a giant splashing belly flop into the water. Mostly they took turns, but sometimes one shoved another out of the way with accompanying barking and head swaying. They appeared to be enjoying themselves immensely.

A few hundred yards from the Stellers was a smaller group of Californias, resting in a state of repose in spite of the ruckus just around the corner. They were much smaller and darker than the Stellers, and we decided it was like comparing grizzly bears to black bears in terms of their relative size and appearance. They each sat quietly with their flippers turned outward and their spines curved in a C-shape, the crowns of their heads tipped back all the way to rest on their spines. With their closed eyes and whiskered red muzzles pointing directly skywards, they were a beautiful peaceful sight.

A bit later heading back along the coastal path, we watched many more Stellers out catching their supper in small groups just offshore. Altogether we probably saw more than 60 of these sleek giants that day as well as a dozen of their smaller cousins. How lucky we felt to be living in a place where just an hour from home we could find something truly amazing in nature to observe and enjoy.

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