Metchosin Biodiversity Project 2023 Species Summary

Centre photo by David Slipher. Clockwise from upper left: Dacrymyces capitatus by Angelica Save; Dumetella carolinensis, the grey catbird, by Simone L. (simonele); Ortholasma pictipes, a harvestman, by Darren and Claudia Copley; Pyrola aphylla, leafless wintergreen, by Kem Luther; Aeolidia loui, warty shag-rug nudibranch, by Angelica Save; Orthotrichum columbicum by Randal Mindell; Unguiculariopsis lettaui, oakmoss spot, by James Holkko

BC is fortunate to have three active long-term species inventory projects. One of them is in Metchosin. At the end of 2023, the Metchosin Biodiversity Project had curated records of almost 3600 species from the District of Metchosin.

Since the records and record-keeping of the Metchosin Biodiversity Project were transferred to iNaturalist in 2018, the number of new species added to the database each year has been steadily increasing, from 120 in 2020 to more than 170 in 2023. And many more people have become involved in ferreting out these new species. You can see the current totals of species, people, and observations on the iNaturalist project page at https://inaturalist.ca/projects/metchosin-biodiversity (short link: https://bit.ly/metchosinbio).

This year, the Metchosin Biodiversity Project, in addition to its ongoing work in collecting and vetting iNaturalist records, also sponsored a one-day (October 21) collection of mushroom species samples, a MycoBlitz. Many of these collected mushrooms were put on display at the South Vancouver Island Mycological Society’s mushroom show at the Royal BC Museum (RBCM) in October 22. Metchosin residents received invitations to one part of the RBCM week-long Fungal Fest, an early screening of a new IMAX movie Fungi: Web of Life. The Metchosin Biodiversity Project also organized a November species survey of a Metchosin property located north of the old Sooke flowline. A dozen invited experts found and recorded—in just six hours—more than 400 species on the property. About 40 of these observations turned out to be species that hadn’t been previously noted in the District of Metchosin.

Here is quick review, broken down by category, of some of the species that were added to the Metchosin Biodiversity Project’s database in 2023:

Fungi. Forty new fungi were recorded. Joey Tanney of the Pacific Forestry Centre exercised his Big Expertise in Really Small Fungi to add ten new species to the database. Metchosin resident Bill Weir, who likes his fungi bigger than Joey’s, spotted mushrooms of about seven new species, including the sushi mushroom (Macrocystidia cucumis)—so named it smells like cucumber and fish. A regular contributor to the Metchosin count also found a new species of witch’s butter, Dacrymyces capitatus, proving once again that there are witches in Metchosin.

Lichens. A few lichens became part of the species count this year, but what caused the biggest lichen buzz was not a lichen itself, but a fungus growing on a lichen. During a cold January visit to Witty’s Lagoon, Gabe Schp found Unguiculariopsis lettaui, oakmoss spot, growing on lobes of the lichen Evernia prunastri, the oakmoss lichen. He made an iNaturalist record of it, and when this record was pointed out to local lichen expert Juliet Pendray, she was thrilled to hear that long-sought “little ung” (as she called it) had be found. A quickly-organized expedition by the Metchosin Biodiversity Project found and photographed Gabe’s stand of the little ung while it was still fruiting.

Birds. No additional mammals showed up for the count this year, but three birds that had not yet been catalogued in the database decided to visit Metchosin, all of them wandering outside of their typical ranges. Two of them were Say’s phoebe and Lewis’s woodpecker. The third was the grey catbird, Dumetella caroliensis, a vocal prodigy with long, complicated songs. It has a call that sounds a lot like a mewing cat.

Insects. About fifty insects and spiders entered the official Metchosin list in 2023. Darren and Claudia Copley, local spider experts, found a harvestman, Ortholasma pictipes, that hadn’t been noted before. Many of the new insects were photographed and identified by Metchosin residents Garry Fletcher and Mike Fischer, both participants in the University of Victoria’s Metchosin Insect Biomass project, a study supported by the Metchosin Foundation.

Vascular Plants. About twenty plants joined the Metchosin Biodiversity Project database in 2023. In June, the discovery of the exquisite blooms of Pyrola aphylla, leafless wintergreen, at a property along Rocky Point Road caused some excitement and brought people out to look. Leafless wintergreen is a mycoheterotroph—lacking chlorophyll, it makes a living by establishing a (possibly unequal) partnership with fungi. Not having leaves, however, doesn’t mean it has no flowers. The blooms of this wintergreen are a radiant magenta.

Bryophyes. A few new mosses and liverworts are catalogued each year. This year, the presence of the bryological specialist Randal Mindell at the November survey by the Metchosin Biodiversity Project of the north Metchosin private property added eleven new bryos, including a tiny tuft of the well-proportioned Orthotrichum columbicum.

Marine life. Ten or so of the new 2023 species were marine organisms. Angelica Save found Aeolidia loui. Its common name is the “warty shag-rug nudibranch,” a name much less beautiful than the creature that bears it. This sea slug has a superpower—it can chemically disable the defenses of the anemone it preys on.

 

It has been a great year, perhaps not for munched anenomes, but certainly for species counters. The Metchosin Biodiversity Project hopes that many more Metchosinites will take up their cameras and smartphones to help with the 2024 inventory, which has already begun.

 

Metchosin Foundation 2023 Newsletter

The Metchosin Foundation has generously supported the work of the Metchosin Biodiversity Project over the last twelve years. In addition, the Foundation support multiple projects in Metchosin that align closely with the goals of the Metchosin Biodiversity Project.

The foundation has recently revived its annual newsletter. It tells about many of its current projects.

Many Metchosinites support the foundation and its work. For further information, please see their website.

November 2023 Survey of Buck Hill Property

On November 6, 2023, a team of field specialists surveyed a private property in Metchosin north of Sooke Road. The team, consisting of Hans Roemer, Mary Sanseverino, Kristen Miskelly, Carrina Maslovat, Randal Mindell, Ryan Batten, Kem Luther, Andy MacKinnon, Joey Tanney, Claudia Copley, Darren Copley, and Robb Bennett, are pictured above. 

The field team found more than 300 different species of flora, fauna, and funga. More than 20 new species were added to the Metchosin Biodiversity Project database. Thanks to the Metchosin Foundation for their support of this effort.

Metchosin MycoBlitz 2023 foray

We will be contributing Metchosin mushrooms to the SVIMS annual mushroom show, which will be on Sun, October 22, at the Royal BC Museum, 10-4pm (free, admission by donation). To join us in our Metchosin mushroom hunt, meet Andy and Kem at 9:00 am on Sat, October 21, 2023 in front of the District of Metchosin offices. We should be done by about 11:00.am.  Mushrooms are a-poppin’ in Metchosin. We may find such beauties as the false chanterelle pictured here, which appeared last week.

Lyn Baldwin — Nature Journalling — Talk/Walk Sept 2023

On September 1 and 2, 2023 Lyn Baldwin joined Metchosin residents for a Talk and Walk based on her new book, Drawing Botany Home, and on nature journaling. 

 

 

 

Lyn, a professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, read from her book. She also brought along several of her illustrated nature journals.  After the talk, she signed books.

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Explaining how to use the art kits.
Some "found" art in a maple stump.
One of the exercise journals produced by a student

 

 

On Saturday morning, a group of 15 artists and would-be artists met with Lyn at Matheson CRD Park to do four exercises in nature journaling. Lyn brought along small painting and drawing kits and art paper for each of the students. They wandered along the path to the lake, pausing to do the exercises.

Amanda Lewis on Big Trees

Amanda Lewis is a big-tree tracker and an award-winning book editor. Born in Ireland, she now divides her time between the internet and Gabriola Island, Snuneymuxw territory. Tracking Giants: Big Trees, Tiny Triumphs, and Misadventures in the Forest is her first book. www.amandalewis.org  Photo by Sydney Woodward at Niamh Studio.

Topic: The Pointed Forest: Big Trees and Small Joys

Coming up the weekend of July 7-8 is a first-time event in the Metchosin Talk and Walk series — a look at big trees. The presentation will be by Amanda Lewis, author of the new book, Tracking Giants

Talk: Friday, July 7, 7:00 pm, District of Metchosin Council Chambers. Besides giving the talk, Amanda will be signing copies of her new book, Tracking Giants. Bring your copy to be signed. The book can be purchased at all bookstores. Description of the book from the Greystone Books site at https://greystonebooks.com/products/tracking-giants

When she first moved back west after nearly a decade away, Amanda Lewis was an overachieving, burned-out book editor most familiar with trees as dead blocks of paper. A dedicated “indoorswoman” she could barely tell a birch from a beech. But that didn’t stop her from pledging to visit all of the biggest trees in British Columbia, a Canadian province known for its expensive yoga studios, Patagonia-wearing baristas, and… extremely gigantic trees.

The “Champion” trees on Lewis’s ambitious list ranged from mighty Western red-cedars to Douglas firs. They lived on remote islands and at the center of dense forests. The only problem? Well, there were many… Climate change and a pandemic aside, Lewis’s lack of wilderness experience, the upsetting reality of old-growth logging, the ever-changing nature of trees, and the pressures of her one-year timeframe complicated her quest.

Burned out again—and realizing that her “checklist” approach to life might be the problem—Lewis reframed her search for trees to something humbler and more meaningful: getting to know forests in an interconnected way.

Weaving in insights from writers and artists, Lewis uncovers what we’re really after when we pursue big things—and reveals that sometimes it’s the smaller joys, the mindsets we have, and the companions we’re with, that make us feel more connected to the natural world.

Walk: Saturday, July 8, 2023, 10:00 am  Mr. Big Tree himself, Hans Roemer, will join Amanda and the rest of us for the walk. The walk will be at Royal Roads. We will meet at the corner of Lagoon Road and Heatherbell Road in Colwood and proceed via the back gate into the grounds of Royal Roads University.  A map:

https://www.google.ca/maps/dir/48.4209163,-123.4804517/48.4209303,-123.4804053/@48.4203182,-123.4834129,16z/data=!4m2!4m1!3e2

There is usually parking along Heatherbell Road. 

                                  —  The Metchosin Biodiversity Project

A look ahead…

In September, Lyn Baldwin will be joining us to talk about her new book, Drawing Botany Home. Her talk will be Sept 1, 7:00, Metchosin Council Chambers.

A special event is coming up in October. The Talk and Walk that month is, by tradition, about mushrooms. This year the Royal BC Museum is launching a spectacular new IMAX film, Fungi: The Web of Life (45 minutes, site and trailer) on October 20. Prior to the opening, the museum will be hosting exclusive screenings for select audiences. We have arranged for members of this mailing list to be invited to the first screening, on the evening of Wed, October 18. It will be a museum-theatre-ticketed event at regular IMAX prices. More information later on how to register. This will be followed on the morning of Sat, October 21, by a Metchosin mushroom foray. We will be collecting specimens on the foray to display at the annual SVIMS mushroom show, which will be on Sun, October 22, at the Royal BC Museum (free, admission by donation).

Talk & Walk March 24-25, Birds and Tech

Ann Nightingale is an avid birder who is a self-described late bloomer and bird evangelist. By volunteering with the Victoria Natural History Society and Rocky Point Bird Observatory, she feels she has largely caught up with what she missed by not starting until her forties. She enjoys sharing what she has learned with beginners and experts of all ages.

Coming up the weekend of March 24/25, an outstanding event in our Talk and Walk series — a presentation by Victoria’s (not to mention Metchosin’s) most famous birder, Ann Nightingale!

How Technology is Changing
the Way We See Birds

Talk: Friday, March 24, 7:00 pm, District of Metchosin Council Chambers. Spring migration is underway! The movement of birds has been studied throughout the ages, but miniaturization of circuitry, crowdsourced data, and advances in radar and other technologies are providing insights that were not previously observable. Join Ann Nightingale of Rocky Point Bird Observatory to learn about ways the study of birds has changed and how you can become involved.

 

Walk: Saturday, March 25, 8:00 am (the early birder gets the bird). Meet at the Galloping Goose parking lot on Rocky Point Road for a walk along the trail towards Pedder Bay and beyond. We will be looking at all the birds, with a particular emphasis on returning spring migrants. Bring binoculars if you have them.

 

 

Talk & Walk Feb 3-4 Resilient Coasts for Salmon

Metchosin’s first Talk & Walk for 2023 takes place February 3-4. Join the Resilient Coasts for Salmon (RC4S) team to learn about coastal processes, climate change impacts, and how we can promote healthy shorelines that protect our homes and important habitat by using nature-based solutions to better adapt to sea level rise. RC4S is a collaborative initiative and five-year project led by the Pacific Salmon Foundation with partners such as the Stewardship Centre for BC, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Peninsula Streams and Shorelines, and others.

On Friday, February 3rd, 7:00 p.m. at the Metchosin Municipal Hall, the RC4S team will lead a presentation and interactive Q&A session about how the project is helping to raise awareness about local impacts of sea level rise on East Coast Vancouver Island, and how we can use nature-based solutions, including the Green Shores® framework to adapt to sea level rise.

On Saturday February 4th, 9:30 a.m., we’ll gather again at Municipal Hall to carpool for an excursion to a nearby beach for a shoreline walk. We will assess the current conditions and processes occurring on this beach, discuss its habitat value and potential vulnerabilities, and then participate in a hands-on workshop.

Presentation by Kyla Sheehan and Maria Catanzaro of the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Kelly Loch of the Stewardship Centre for BC. After the talk, a new 12-minute video on native plants, featuring Metchosin’s own Kristen Miskelly, will be shown.

Metchosin Biodiversity Project 2022 iNaturalist Results

American Mink by Liam Ragan
Western Pondhawk by Terry Carr
Little Quaking-grass by James Miskelly
Crystal Jellyfish by Garry Fletcher

Another year of species inventory comes to an end. What happened in 2022?

To date, we’ve found and recorded 3412 species that share Metchosin with Homo sapiens. In the course of the year 2022, some 350 people made over 5000 iNaturalist observations within the bounds of Metchosin and Race Rocks. Almost half of these observations were of sufficient quality and accuracy to add to the permanent record. Some 600 experts from around the world chipped in to help identify the posted observations. These 2000+ observations represented about 1000 different species, and of the 1000 species, 130 of them were totally new to the Metchosin database.

What did we identify in Metchosin for the first time in 2022? A quick review.

Mammals. Adding new mammals to the database is unusual. We increased the count by one, though. One of our observers, Maurice Robinson, added the infamous brown rat (aka Norwegian or sewer rat), the scourge of many farms and towns. The American mink was already in our records but both David Bell and Liam Ragan took excellent 2022 photos of this charismatic weasel relative.

Slime Moulds. Robin Banks posted an observation of a slime mould, chocolate tube slime, Stemonitis splendens, that we didn’t have yet.

Insects. Several beetles appeared in our records for the first time. We added new species of click beetles, lady beetles, longhorn beetles, bark-gnawing beetles, sun beetles, ground beetles, checkered beetles, and jewel beetles. For the moths, we found a twirler moth, a curved-horn moth, a satyr moth, a snout moth, and a house moth that were new. There were two new flies, a horse fly and a robber fly, as well as two new wasps, a crown borer wasp and a cross potter wasp. A lygus bug and a seed bug made the list. A damselfly we had not seen before, the western forktail, and a new dragonfly, a pondhawk, turned up. We also found new species of tunnel spider, aphid, leaf miner, leafhopper, springtail, gall midge, and woodlouse. Several observers spotted European praying mantises this summer—these insects must have been unusually abundant.

Plants. On the plant side, James Miskelly found several new species for our Metchosin records. One was Lamarck’s bedstraw (either Galium divaricatum or G. pariseinse). He also found our first quaking-grass, Briza minor, our first American eelgrass, Vallisneria americana, our first humped bladderwort, Utricularia gibba, and our first round-leaved sundew, Drosera rotundifolia. Sundews are usually found in boggy areas, which are rare in Metchosin. We also found a cancerwort, two new sedges, water horehound, bur-reed, and a mint.

Marine life. Garry Fletcher managed to snap a picture of a crystal jellyfish, Aequorea victoria, at Parry Bay. Karen Cram gave us a first look at a new nudibranch, the BC doto, Doto columbiana. Connor (cwardrop) noted a new red seaweed, Grateloupia californica. Terry Carr found an eelgrass isopod, Pentidotea resecata. Tom Hlavac, a diver and retired fishery officer, was able to snap a picture of a giant pacific octopus, Enteroctopus dofleini. Two people submitted records of our first great sculpin, Myoxocephalus polyacanthocephalus. In addition, we had a new anemone, a wolf eel, and a red velvet sponge.

Birds. Val George contributed our first records for the black-throated sparrow, Amphispiza bilineata, and the tropical kingbird, Tyrannus melancholicus.

In all, then, a great year. The Metchosin Biodiversity Project hopes that many more Metchosinites will take up their cameras and smartphones and help us count in 2023.

Metchosin MycoBlitz 2022

The Metchosin Talk and Walk series rebooted on Friday, November 4. The Walk part of this Talk and Walk event was the annual Metchosin MycoBlitz.

The Talk part of the Talk and Walk on the Friday evening was, by long tradition, a presentation about fungi. Andy MacKinnon delighted the audience gathered in the Council Chambers tales of faery. Elves, fairies, and witches lend their names and stories to many of our fungal fructifications. 

Because of a scheduling conflict with the annual SVIMS mushroom show, the mushroom inventory part of the MycoBlitz was truncated to Saturday morning, November 5. The collected mushrooms, instead of being identified and exhibited in Metchosin, were ferried to the SVIMS show for the Sunday event.

At the MycoBlitz, teams were sent to Metchosin Wilderness Park, Eleanor Mann Park, and Blinkhorn Lake. The teams were headed by a clutch of experts–Luke Mikler, Allen Szafer, Sinclair Philip, Kevin Trim, Bill Weir, Kem Luther, and Andy MacKinnon.

Because of the weak mushroom season–lack of rain led to the poorest mushroom production in living memory–the teams struggled to find mushrooms. Almost no mycorrhizal mushrooms were collected–almost all of the fruiting bodies belonged to decomposers. Nevertheless, searchers ferreted out at least 27 different species. The species were recorded on the Metchosin Biodiversity Project’s iNaturalist site. One of these–the Western Alder Tongue, a parasite on the female cones of Red Alders–was a new species for the District, bringing the current total for the Metchosin species count to 3402.

SVIMS members work on identifying and sorting mushrooms (including Metchosin MycoBlitz specimens) for the annual SVIMS mushroom show. Photo by Steve Strybosch.