Active Pass IBA

Mayne Island Conservancy Society

Active Pass "Important Bird Area"

Detail from the sign erected by Parks Canada at Georgina Point, paid for out of IBA funds

Project Outline

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

Latest News

We now have 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

The 2010 Annual Report, authored by Michael Dunn and Mike Hoebel, has just been completed, including tables of observations from our excellent group of volunteer stewards. An excerpt appears below:

  • Introduction

    2010 was the first full year of the volunteer stewards' reporting on bird activities within the Active Pass IBA. Over the reporting year 8 stewards, plus co-caretaker Michael Dunn, observed 35 species using the IBA with a cumulative total of 31,333 birds for the Mayne Island side of Active Pass. For the Georgeson Bay portion of the IBA on Galiano Island, 17 species were observed with a cumulative total of one-day monthly maximums of 12,623 over the reporting year.

  • photo of installed signage at Bellhouse Park
  • Qualifying Species

    This year was a tremendous year for spring Bonaparte's Gull staging. In all, 13,189 Bonaparte's were tallied with peak numbers of over 10,000 in April 2010. The highest daily maximums were recorded in April with 6,000 for Mayne at Miners Bay and 3,000 for Galiano at Georgeson Bay. On May 9 and 10, 2010 the last flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls left the IBA for breeding grounds to the north. Pacific Loon numbers totaled only 623 based on the volunteer observer records, far below qualifying thresholds for this species. Brandt's Cormorants observed in Active Pass for 2010 were 23 birds. This is an extremely low number and is much below historical reporting. The Christmas Bird Count, which includes Mayne, the Penders and Saturna islands held December 18, 2010 only tallied 15 Brandt's for this larger marine region. Based on these observations, the 2010 numbers for two of the qualifying species appear to be well below the expected range. Bonaparte's Gull numbers, however, were above previous reporting for monthly totals. There are no discernible reasons within the IBA for this apparent variation.

  • Conservation Threats

    No new conservation threats were observed over 2010 including no discernible increase in boating traffic.

  • Habitat Quality
  • There continues to be ongoing changes to the shoreline and intertidal portions of the IBA. Soft shorelines continue to erode causing slumping and slope failure of the backshore. The soft shore erosion is due to a combination of ship wake, high water levels and storm surges. The eelgrass mapping program of the Mayne Island Conservancy detected an almost complete loss of the intertidal portion of Miners Bay eelgrass beds between 2008 and 2010 summer extents. Reasons for this annual change are not specifically known, but it is expected that extreme weather during maximum low tides may have been a factor as well as excessive Canada Goose browsing. The impact of the reduction of this prime marine ecosystem to the overall health of the IBA is not known at this time. 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.

If you want to view the full document and its excellently comprehensive table of observations, it is available in the original MS Word format here, and here as a .pdf document.

The first Annual Report from 2009 is posted here.

What's Next?

Stay tuned for the unveiling of an IBA information kiosk which will be placed in Georgina Point Heritage Park. This is the first national park sign that has identified local community partnerships involved in the program. Final panels will be installed in Spring 2011.

IBA signs will soon be positioned at other beach access points.

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 : Michael & Peter with the new beach access sign at Miners Bay

  • VanCity Savings Credit Union enviroFund

  • Mayne Island Parks and Recreation Commission

  • Galiano Island Conservancy Association

  • Galiano Parks and Recreation Commission

  • BC Nature

Project Management

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.

Volunteer Opportunities

Any shoreline property owner interested in participating in the Active Pass IBA Stewardship Initiative can contact Michael Dunn by e-mail, or phone 5745


More Pictures

Cormorant's eye view of a BC Ferry
The Lowdown on Active Pass
Bonaparte's Gull in Active Pass
Bonaparte's Gull Actively Passing
Heron at his Post at the Edge of Active Pass
Heron at his Active Pass Post
Bonaparte's Gull Gets Going
Bonaparte - Take-off, eh!
Like Your Style!!
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 pages