by Michael Dunn and Mike Hoebel
For 2012, 5 stewards continued to provide their observations of bird and marine mammal activities within the IBA. Compared to the first year of steward observations the number of reports were down and coming on a less regular basis. This year is the first full year that the Coastal Waterbird Survey results within the IBA are integrated with other observer information. Michael Dunn and Mike Hoebel, as caretakers, also have done regular observations throughout the year including one marine survey in May of Active Pass and Porlier Pass IBAs. Michael Dunn also did a winter marine survey in December. Both of these marine surveys were made possible by a volunteer boat owner/photographer. In all, 42 species were observed using the waters and marine shorelines of the Active Pass IBA for 2012.
The seasonal distribution of the IBA qualifying species remains evident in the observations compiled for 2012. Bonaparte’s Gull had peak daily and yearly numbers in the April-May period (this year 4,406 in May) and the usual, but lesser, fall high was not detected this year. Pacific Loon numbers for 2012 were generally higher than in previous years with good numbers tied to the late fall and winter months (February/March and November/December) and this year peak daily highs were recorded in March and December periods. Brandt’s Cormorant continues to show low daily high numbers through the fall and winter months with the peak this year in December (22 birds). Again this year, the numbers reported for two of the qualifying species – Pacific Loon and Brandt’s Cormorant continue to be below historical observations. As was the case last year, the December 15, 2012 Christmas Bird Count tallied over 700 Brandt’s Cormorants in Plumper Sound and Navy Channel between Mayne and North Pender islands.
No new concrete conservation threats were observed over 2012, but concern was expressed by some of the stewards that commercial shipping has increased in frequency due to expansion of truck trailer hauling runs. This includes overnight runs and during times of high tides coupled with storm surges, soft and fractured bedrock shorelines along the IBA are showing signs of increased erosion.
The marine feeding areas used by the vast majority of birds (tidal upwelling, fronts and rapids) continue to be used heavily and appear to provide optimum feeding opportunities for these species. No discernible changes in habitat quality were detected over 2012.
Other Conservation Opportunities
The Mayne Island Conservancy continues to monitor eelgrass and forage fish spawning within the IBA to measure changes and occurrences over time. Kelp bed monitoring was undertaken in 2012. The Mayne Island Conservancy and Mayne Island Recycling Society again hosted a community beach cleanup for Earth Day April 22, 2012. The Mayne School children cleaned the main beach at Miners Bay while members of the community cleaned other beaches of the IBA. In total there were 32 students plus 4 staff and parents who participated. For the IBA 114 kg of marine debris was collected, plastic of all kinds made up the bulk of this material. This amount was well down from the previous year.
In addition to the work being done for the Stewardship Program noted above, updates on IBA activities have gone in to Mayne Island’s local newspaper. Presentations on the IBA and the stewardship program have been made at the all islands Conservancies annual meeting on Mayne Island as well as the Mayne Island Conservancy’s AGM. Information about bird activity in the Active Pass IBA has been provided in regular bird articles in Galiano’s monthly newsmagazine.
Part of the new Southern Gulf Islands Economic Development Commission’s mandate is to promote island enterprises using the ‘triple bottom line’ philosophy to new developments. Community resilience is one of the outcomes desired. The regional Experience the Gulf Islands initiative is under the auspices of the commission and the significance locally, nationally and internationally of the Active Pass IBA as a potential economic driver has been recognized. Another benefit of the Experience program would be to inform and educate many more people specifically about the Active Pass IBA. Both caretakers are engaged in this process.
In early December 2012 Michael Dunn held a winter bird identification course for interested people, this included some of the IBA stewards. The course included a focus on identification and counting techniques for the large flocks of over-wintering marine birds found around Mayne Island, particularly Active Pass. The course was all outdoors and included stops at Miners Bay and Georgina Point. On Galiano, birdwalks to observe birds in the IBA have been offered to the public.
It is estimated that volunteers contributed over 200 hours of time toward the Active Pass IBA and its ecosystems. This includes the work of the caretakers, the stewards, the Mayne Island Conservancy, and the park commission and the Mayne School children. This represents 58 volunteers over the 2012 year.
Part of the stewardship program was to record observations of marine mammal activity and any strandings of birds or marine mammals. The field monitoring form designed for the IBA include fields to record marine mammal movements and unexpected events. Attached are the 2012 results of this monitoring component. This year again, we were excited by the observation of a Humpback Whale in Active Pass and off Gossip Island in Ocotober. One steward provided the orca use numbers and no other marine mammal sightings were reported.
This year we had 1 beached marine mammal. A Dall’s Porpoise (?) partial skeleton washed up in Miners Bay during the summer.