Active Pass "Important Bird Area"
Detail from the sign erected at Georgina Point by Gulf Islands National Park Reserve staff with partial funding from MICS - to see a readable .pdf of this signage click Left Middle and Right. The Bellhouse Park sign on Galiano is posted below.
MICS is joint caretaker of the Active Pass Important Bird Area (IBA), an international designation for areas that support internationally and nationally significant populations or species of birds at some part of their life cycle. Active Pass is habitat for three bird species that fall under the designation criteria: Pacific Loon, Brant's Cormorant and Bonaparte Gull. The Galiano Conservancy is the joint caretaker on the Galiano side of Active Pass.
In 2009 MICS initiated the Active Pass IBA Stewardship Initiative to engage property owners along the Mayne Island shore of Active Pass to become active participants in its long-term management. This is the first community based monitoring program for an IBA in British Columbia.
Complete information about all aspects of this research and conservation undertakig can be found at the web site dedicated to the Active Pass IBA
Active Pass Caretakers, Michael Dunn and Mike Hoebel, and caretakers from IBA's around the Lower Mainland attended the IBA Caretakers workshop held in Tsawwassen November 7, 2012. Photo has me on centre spot scope practicing our large flock counting techniques at Boundary Bay Regional Park. Workshop was the first to get groups of IBA caretakers together to connect and share ideas and practices for IBA conservation. We also were given primers on using the new online standard monitoring protocols and annual reporting forms as well as, the resources and tools that are available to all caretakers on-line. We closed with a roundtable with fellow caretakers sharing their success stories.
In all we have had 11 stewards providing regular reporting of activities within the IBA with three reporting on an 'as available' basis for the Mayne Island side. An IBA beach access sign has been on the trailhead to Miners Bay community beach.
A full colour Active Pass 6 panel promotional brochure has been developed using island-based talent which will be available at the usual locations on Mayne. To view the brochure please click here and here
Signage Unveiling - Galiano
The information signs about the Active Pass Important Bird Area at Georgina Point on Mayne Island and in Bellhouse Park on Galiano illustrated on this page were dedicated on October 30, 2011 in public ceremonies on both islands.
Next spring we hope to have weatherproof racks installed along with these signs for the IBA brochures and other material, which together with the splendid artwork (see links to .pdf files in the "Introduction" section of this page) will provide high quality information to residents and visitors alike.
Signage Unveiling - Mayne
Over 30 cheer leaders and supporters of the Active Pass IBA turned out for the formal inauguration of signage on Galiano and Mayne Islands. Among them were special guests together with representatives from the sponsoring organisations:
- Mike Hoebel and Ken Millard, Galiano Conservancy
- Michael Dunn, Mayne Island Conservancy
- David Howe, CRD Director
- Pete Davidson, Bird Studies Canada
- Ken Hancock, CRD director
- Rob Walker, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
- Krista Englund, BC Nature
During the ceremony Mike Hoebell and Michael Dunn outlined the history of the IBA program and specifically the process to create these signs for each of the islands. They also spoke of the partnership that was created within each community to raise the awareness of the Active Pass IBA and the stewardship program that is in place now. Noting that by participating in the IBA network we connect our island communities to the world and the world to our islands and people.
Pete Davidson spoke of the international nature of the IBA program and its purpose, noting that in the European Union, IBAs have official protective status in all the EU countries where they are identified. In North America, it is a voluntary network that must use local organisations and communities to conserve these essential areas for birds.
Rob Walker, Gulf Islands National Park told the assembled company how important it is for communities within the park and the future National Marine Conservation Area to take on conservation and stewardship initiatives in support of the National Park objectives. The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is fully supportive of and will continue to support such community based endeavours as the Active Pass IBA
Thanks to all who attended especially those who had to travel from Vancouver via Swartz Bay to attend both ceremonies.
Michael Dunn, finding the avian omens and auguries wholly favourable writes:
"At the Galiano dedication, the group was bugled in by a pair of Bald Eagles as well as awed by the sudden swoop of a Sharp-shinned Hawk into the shrubs right behind the new sign. While quieter on the Mayne side, the ceremony was witnessed by roosting flocks of Thayer's and California gulls as well as a flotilla of Surf Scoters. Black Oystercatchers made a brief fly by just as the speeches were ending."
More Pictures from the Dedication Proceedings
Michael Dunn with Pete Davidson
Davidson signs up a Cormorant
Helen O'Brian with guests on Mayne
4 guests discuss the Mayne sign
Mayne Sign Group Shoot
IBA Report for 2012
The 2012 Annual Report, authored by Michael Dunn and Mike Hoebel, has just been completed, including tables of observations from our excellent group of volunteer stewards. The text appears below:
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.
- Qualifying Species
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.
- Conservation Threats
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.
- Habitat Quality
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.
- Outreach Activities
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.
- Volunteer Time
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.
- Additional Comments
The tables of observations included in the report are posted: Bird and Marine Mammal species counts.
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.
Last year's report and links to its table of observations are available on the IBA Archive page. Previous years reports & listings of sightings are linked there too.
Our Funding Partners
We are grateful to our partners for their generous support of this project, by way of money and resources as well as their practical assistance and enthusiasm :
- VanCity Savings Credit Union enviroFund
- Mayne Island Parks and Recreation Commission
- Galiano Island Conservancy Association
- Galiano Parks and Recreation Commission
- BC Nature
Michael Dunn leads the IBA caretaker program for Mayne Island. He retired from the Canadian Wildlife Service as senior habitat conservation coordinator for Pacific Region (May 07) where he led marine conservation programs for the region. Michael has led science-based and interdisciplinary teams on many bird conservation issues, and was the CWS lead for the creation of the proposed Scott Islands Marine Wildlife Area. He has experience and knowledge on shorezone and eelgrass mapping and classification, the development of stewardship programs and the creation of communications products. Michael has been a naturalist and community educator for 35 years.
Facts & Stats
- Pacific Loons
- population is poorly known but 2 to 4,000 loons regularly occur at the pass during winter forming the largest concentration in the Strait of Georgia
- these numbers represent about 2% of the estimated world population.
- Brandt's Cormorant
- 4,000 wintering Brandt's Cormorants have been recorded in Active Pass
- may be as much as 3% of the world's Brandt's Cormorant population
- Bonaparte's Gull
- present in large numbers with about 10,000
- 4% of the estimated world's population
- possibly as much as 14% of the Pacific flyway population are temporary residents during fall migration
- between 7,000 and 15,000 are usually present during the spring migration
Ten pairs of Bald Eagles were observed nesting along the shores of the pass, and upwards of 100 eagles occasionally forage in the winter months. In all, there are up to 40 species of marine and marine associated birds that regularly use the Pass at some time in their annual life cycle.
Any shoreline property owner interested in participating in the Active Pass IBA Stewardship Initiative can contact Michael Dunn by e-mail
, or phone 5745
The Lowdown on Active Pass
Bonaparte's Gull Actively Passing
Heron at his Active Pass Post
Bonaparte - Take-off, eh!
Go ahead - I'll be Along in a Minute
You can find many more photographs and illustrations of our projects in action by visiting our Gallery