Conserve the Dark

We are very fortunate in Metchosin to have relatively dark night skies. People from around the CRD come here to take advantage of this increasingly rare situation (especially so close to an urban area). The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s star parties, hosted on the Metchosin Municipal grounds, have been very popular over the years as a way members of the public can have a chance to peek through a telescope at distant celestial objects.

One notable recent celestial event that many Metchosinites witnessed was The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in December 2020, which was followed by the addition of Mercury to make it a triple conjunction on January 7. In March we will see the moon make conjunctions with Jupiter (March 9th), then Saturn (March 10), and finally Mars (March 19). On April 21-22 we will have the Lyrid meteor shower, an annual event that has been witnessed by humans for at least 2,700 years, produced when the Earth passes through the tail of the comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher.

Clear, dark skies are essential to good star gazing – a source of wonder and enjoyment for many. Darkness in general is essential to human health, as well as that for wildlife and ecosystems.

For humans, researchers have shown that darkness helps our creativity and mood. Too much artificial light at night, specifically during our “circadian trough” between midnight to 6am, over the long term is harmful to us, and is even considered a probable carcinogen. It can lead to higher incidences of diabetes, cardiovascular problems, depression, substance abuse, obesity, breast cancer and prostate cancer (melatonin production in the body is believed to help ward off these cancers, which is disrupted by artificial light at night).

As for nature, the impacts of light pollution were recently surveyed in a meta-analysis (a study that compiles the state-of-the-art in scientific knowledge on a subject) by the University of Exeter, which showed that activity patterns, breeding cycles, vulnerability to predators, and hormone levels are being affected across a broad range of species. The effects were found everywhere – among microbes, invertebrates, animals and plants. This manifests as reduced pollination by insects, insect deaths on lamps, and trees budding earlier in spring, to name just a few known ways that artificial light disrupts nature.

The ever-growing urban footprint of the CRD is rapidly reducing where dark night skies can be enjoyed in the region. This is not only a shame for people who are deprived of this fascinating experience, but it is a threat to our local flora and fauna. Light pollution is a growing problem, but fortunately one that we have easy solutions for. Limiting urban sprawl is one, for which Metchosin has done a great job thus far. Another is to limit the amount of light that is able to shine in directions it’s not needed. This means shades over lanterns intended for lighting roads, parking lots, and sidewalks, reducing light and energy wasted shining skyward. Some municipalities have bylaws requiring this. Limiting outdoor lighting in residential settings is also important, particularly for the localised effect it has on rural and urban wildlife. Turning off non-essential lights (or using motion sensors if security is your concern) goes a long way to doing your part to reduce the harmful effects of light pollution to both your neighbours and nature.

Like our parks, trails, forests and beaches, Metchosin’s dark night skies are a special part of our community’s natural capital. They allow us to step beyond our nighttime doorways and appreciate celestial phenomena that are timeless – and increasingly difficult to experience elsewhere.

To learn more about this subject, the TEDx talk Why We Need Darkness by Paul Bogard is very informative, and this brochure published by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has practical tips on reducing light pollution.

April 5 – 12 is International Dark Sky Week. Take some moments to enjoy our precious dark skies in these fine clear spring nights.

Gretchen Markle’s Nature Journal Published

The Metchosin Foundation is very pleased to announce the publishing of a beautiful locally-inspired nature journal, written and illustrated in full colour by Metchosin resident Gretchen Markle!

“In the spring of 2020, following the COVID recommendation to ‘stay close to home’, I limited my daily walks to Witty’s Lagoon Park. I went at sunrise for the sake of the birds and the light – and the social distancing. To my delight, I found that, by visiting on a regular basis, I was able to observe even subtle shifts in the flora and fauna. The developments were both intriguing and beautiful, and so I felt a need to keep a journal”

The Metchosin Foundation works to protect and sustain important natural habitats and environmental values. We are grateful to Gretchen Markle for allowing us to publish her beautiful journal.  Our hope is that visitors to Witty’s Lagoon Park and to Metchosin will become familiar with some of the plants and animals with whom we share these wild spaces.  Once you discover their presence we hope you will grow to appreciate and care for them as Gretchen so clearly does.

Copies of A Journey. A Journal. can be purchased for $25 by sending an Interac E-transfer to  Please remember to include a note with your payment indicating that it is for the purchase of Gretchen Markle’s journal.  Send an email to Joan Rosenberg at to arrange for safe pick up of your copy, or if you prefer to pay by cash or cheque, or have other questions.

Metchosin (Art) Bird Blitz 2020 Winners Announced

Winners of the Metchosin (Art) Bird Blitz 2020 were announced on Oct 2nd. The event showcased the Southwestern BC Art Bird Cards released back in June, challenging Metchosinites to find all 36 of the scaled-up copies of the cards that had been secretly placed outside various businesses around Metchosin. Many took up the challenge, and a healthy competition emerged. Congratulations go out to Team Braunberger and Team Wilson-Berbaarschot for finding all 36 Cards by contest end. And honourable mentions go to Amy and Eva for finding all 36 cards exclusively on bikes (no small feat in Metchosin, where every trip is an uphill one) and Andy and Margaret, and Clare Lowery, for rounding out the diversity of participant age groups. Much outdoor fun was had, and attention was brought to local businesses who are still providing their goods and services to their community, reinforcing the importance of maintaining contact and support for each other during these strange times.  Special thanks to them for making this event a success.

Decks of waterproof bird cards — a wonderful blend of art and nature guide — are still for sale for $25 through Metchosin ArtPod (open Fri-Sun, 11-4pm) in the Old Metchosin Schoolhouse, or through clicking on the Donate button on this site (please include a note specifying what the money is for).

UPDATE: due to high popularity, we are currently sold out of the Bird Cards!  Another printing run is in the works, so please check this website for news of when they come available.