On Friday evening, June 12, 2015, more than seventy guests crowded into the Metchosin Council chambers to mark a major milestone. They were celebrating the fifth year of the Metchosin BioBlitz, the fifth year of counting the District’s non-human species.
Vancouver Island Ringlet – a red-listed species found in the 2015 Metchosin BioBlitz
The Friday evening event doubled as the 76th session of Metchosin’s popular Talk and Walk series. Kem Luther began the presentation with a short summary of BioBlitz results. The evening’s main event was an illustrated talk by local author and naturalist Andy MacKinnon. Andy described the complex ways in which fungi cooperate (or not) with plant hosts. Certain plants, the mycoheterotrophs, have parasitic relationships with fungi. Unable to make their own food—they are non-photosynthetic—they get their food from their fungal partners, who in turn may have gotten the food from other photosynthetic plants in the environment.
On Saturday morning the experts invited to help with the Metchosin BioBlitz assembled at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club’s Welcome Hut. Waiting for them were hot coffee/tea and cinnamon buns fresh from Martha Haylor’s oven. Some of the birders, coordinated by the omnipresent Ann Nightingale, had started their survey as soon as it was light enough to see. Once everyone was assembled, organizers grouped the sixty-plus participants into several teams and assigned them locations for the morning foray. This year the focus of the surveys was on the provincial crown land parcels that lie within the borders of Metchosin.
BioBlitz searchers returned at noon for fresh assignments. Waiting for them were boxes of pizza donated by My-Chosen Cafe and Pizza, bread and rolls from Cobbs Westshore, vegetable trays from the Langford Costco, and homemade soups prepared by Karyn Woodland, Brian Domney, and Mairi MacKinnon. The experts also picked up their thank-you gifts: potted native plants from James and Kristen Miskelly’s Saanich Native Plants.
Species searchers returned from the afternoon forays about 4:00 pm. Over cold drinks and sweets donated by the Royal Bay Bakery they swapped stories about the day’s results. Some weeks later, when the searcher’s reports were in and the numbers were tallied, the BioBlitz organizers found that 900 observations of 540 distinct species had been added to the BioBlitz database. A dozen of these species fell into the provincial “at risk” and “endangered” categories. The 2015 BioBlitz added almost 120 new species to the BioBlitz and MycoBlitz data, bringing the grand total of species for the five years of the study to 2150. Because the 2015 BioBlitz occurred later in the spring than previous Metchosin BioBlitzes, the species experts were able to find a number of moths, grasses, and birds that had not been previously counted.
New species finds this year included a lizard, a moth, a rare estuary plant, a parasite, and a raptor. The lizard was the invasive European Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis), spotted by a homeowner on Duke Road. This reptile species, which escaped from a Saanich zoo in the 1970s, is gradually spreading across the Greater Victoria area. Two different teams found the spectacular silkmoths, both the Ceanothus Silkmoth (Hyalophora euryalus) and the Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea Polyphemus). The wingspan of these giant moths can reach four to six inches. Metchosin hosts one of the eight known Canadian stands of the red-listed Contorted-pod Evening-primrose (Camissonia contorta). On Camas Hill, Moralea Milne found California Broomrape (Orobanche californica), a plant which has no leaves, relying for its nourishment on the gumweeds (Grindelia sp) to which its roots are attached. The BioBlitz birders heard a Common Nighthawk, Chordeiles minor. The nighthawk arrives in our area in late spring. It flies at dusk and after dark, so the best clue that it is present is a sharp “peent” sound overhead.
More pictures from the event and species lists can be found on the BioBlitz web site at http://metchosinbiodiversity.com. The Metchosin Biodiversity Project acknowledges, in addition to the angels mentioned above, the generous financial support of CRD Parks, the Victoria Natural History Society, and the Metchosin Foundation. Thanks also to the District of Metchosin and the Boys and Girls Club for the use of their facilities.