PART 2: Creatures of the Forest in Yellow Point: a guide to the habitat and habituations
Creatures of the Forest in Yellow Point: a guide to the habitat and habituations
By Pamela Walker
As I mentioned in last weeks Part 1 of this Island newsletter, I was fortunate enough to have a dear friend who belongs to the Yellow Point Ecological Society offer to share a study they are doing which will in turn become a handbook to give to landowners in the area about how to preserve/help the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees. Below is the work of my friend Pamela Walker and Part 2 of her study. Hope you enjoy.
Bat: Unique not just because they are the only flying mammal in the world sometime bats get a bad rap. But much of the lore and fear surrounding bats is unjustified. For example, they are not blind, they don’t get caught in your hair, and they are no more likely to carry rabies than any other mammal, including domestic dogs. Only a few species of bats feed on animal blood, and none of these are found in Canada. Bats use echolocation to find their prey and their way around in the dark: they emit sound signals that echo off objects. The echoes, detected by their highly developed ears, can give them information such as the size, distance and shape of the object.
Most of the bats that call Yellow Point their home are insect-eaters, which is very good for those who do not care for mosquitoes. They hunt at night. Yellow Point is in the northern limits of where they live so they either have to migrate south to survive or hibernate here.
There are eight species of bats (Myotis) commonly found on Vancouver Island. Of these two, the Keen’s long-eared myotis and the Townsend’s big-eared bat are considered at risk of extinction.
What you can do to help: If you see a bat in the daytime, leave it alone! It will find its way home at night. If you are afraid it doesn’t have a home, consider making one for it. Artificial bat-houses can be made with simple materials, and may help to replace some of their lost habitat. Check out the many informative videos on YouTube to make your own or support a local woodworker by commissioning a home for this humble mammal.
Red-legged frog (Rana aurora): “Aurora” means “dawn” and refers to the pinkish coloring of their legs. It is a medium sized brown or reddish frog, with smooth skin marked by small
black “freckles.” Males are 7 cm long and females can be 10 cm long. They both are fairly slim with long, slender hind legs and prominent dorsolateral folds running from behind their eyes down the sides of their backs.
They live in moist forests and wetlands with trees, breeding in shallow ponds or slow streams that are well shaded. Adult frogs spend much of their time on land, sometimes straying quite a distance from the water if the weather is damp. They will often take shelter under logs or other debris to stay cool and damp.
Red-legged Frogs have declined in some parts of their range due to habitat degradation and loss from agriculture, urban development and forestry. Competition from introduced Green Frogs, Bullfrogs and predatory fish is also a factor. The Red-legged frog is listed as Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and they are on the provincial Blue List.
What you can do to help: Learn more about these frogs and their habitat requirements. You can find out more about ways to protect wetlands through programs such as Naturescape, Wetlandkeepers, and Wild BC. Be an ambassador for the frogs in council meetings and other planning meetings like our Area “H” OCP (Official Community Plan). You can also help biologists learn more about the range, distribution and habits of these and other amphibians by joining BC Frogwatch and observing the frog populations near you by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Butterflies: Yellow Point was once the home of almost 64 different butterfly species. Today, they are all in danger of extinction. Garry oak meadows, like the one we have in Yellow Point Park, is particularly important to butterflies as its flowers provide nutrients for both the caterpillar and the butterfly stage of their lives. Threatened by Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberries as well as urban development, many of the historic Garry oak meadows in our area and on the island are no more. Not only are butterflies beautiful, they are important pollinators. They also provide a good source of lunch for birds, amphibians, bats, and spiders. Some of the butterflies we have include the Common ringlet (Coenonympha california insulana), Icariodes Blue (Icaricia icariodes blackmorei), Dun skipper (Euphyes vestris metacomet), Greenish blue (Plebejus saepiolus insulanus), Propertius duskywing (Erynnis propertius), Island large marble (Euchloe ausonides insulanus), and Moss’s elfin (Incisalia mossii mossii).
What you can do to help: When you visit Yellow Point Park in the spring, don’t walk, sit, or lie on the wild flowers. You are squishing the butterflies’ breakfast! Volunteer in a broom busting campaign and cut down broom on your own property. Consider growing flowers in your yard that attract and feed the failing population of flutterbys.
For more information about this species on Vancouver Island, go to www.goert.ca/documents/Butterfly_ID_sheet.pdf or http://facweb.furman.edu/~snyderjohn/tatum/.
Quail Callipepla californica: The small running bird sporting an interesting fascinator are the quail. Not found on the lower mainland, this elegant little gamefowl with a loud chi ca go call needs forests to live and breed but open fields to graze. They have to broods per year with up to 20 or more eggs per clutch. Although they are not endangered, their habitat is slowly dwindling.
What you can do to help: Consider planting a hedgerow along your property. Encourage drivers to slow down. Talk to your local governments about a “Don’t mow, let it grow” idea for the sides of our roads especially in May when parents are navigating our roads to get to seeds from growing grass. Keep your cats in doors.
Plain Fin Midshipmen Mother nature was having one of her silly days when she dreamt up these fish. One can almost hear her: “I know! What about a fish who can live out of water for long periods of time? And who doesn’t have to eat for an age! Just for a challenge, I’ll make it spend its life in the deepest part of the ocean but breed under a rock in low tide. It will need a lighting system attached to its body so it can see food along the way and maybe to scare off other creatures as well. Oh! And what about making it sing really loudly to attract a mate? Oh, yes, and wouldn’t it be fun to have the males look after the eggs until they hatch. Does this sound too far-fetched? It’s all true. If you are ever in Oyster Cove at low tide in early May, turn over a rock and chances are, they’ll be a midshipman grumbling in the mud.