Mayne Island Conservancy Society

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.

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

IBA Report for 2013

The 2013 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:
  • Introduction

    For 2013, 6 stewards provided 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. Michael Dunn and Mike Hoebel, as caretakers, also have done regular observations throughout the year a marine survey of Active Pass was not possible this year. In all, 43 species were observed using the waters and marine shorelines of the Active Pass IBA for 2013. The cumulative total of all species’ daily highs per month equaled 19,080 birds.

  • Qualifying Species

    The seasonal distribution of the IBA qualifying species remains evident in the observations compiled for 2013. Bonaparte’s Gull had peak daily and yearly numbers in the April-May period (3000 and 2500 respectively) and the usual, but lesser, fall high in October-November (300 for each) this year. Pacific Loon numbers for 2013 were consistent with previous years with good numbers tied to the late fall and winter months (February/March and November/December). Brandt’s Cormorant continues to show low daily high numbers through the fall and winter months with the peak this year in December (106 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, Brandt’s Cormorants appeared elsewhere in the region with a count of ~ 1,000 observed in October 2013 in the Sidney Channel IBA.

  • Conservation Threats

    No new conservation threats were observed over 2013, though erosion continues along areas of soft shorelines. A derelict piece of dock has grounded in Miners Bay affecting the eelgrass bed in the area.

  • 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 2013.

  • 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. The Mayne Island Conservancy and Mayne Island Recycling Society again hosted a community beach cleanup for Earth Day April 22, 2013. 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 25 students plus 6 staff and parents who participated. For the Miners Bay portion of the IBA 16 kg of marine debris was collected, metals 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 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. The Mayne Island Conservancy’s annual Community Oceans Day was held within the IBA in July 2013. The Miners Bay dock was used for displays and activities that included beach walks, a beach seine and divers. Over 100 people attended the day’s celebration. A boat tour of the Active Pass IBA was also provided later in the day.

    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 45 volunteers over the 2013 year.

  • Additional Comments

    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. This year again, we were excited by the observations of a Humpback Whale in Active Pass as well as Pacific White-sided Dolphins. One steward provided the orca use numbers and no other marine mammal sightings were reported.

  • The tables of observations included in the report are posted: Species High Counts per Month 2013

    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.

Observer Activities

Michael on the scope 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

photo of installed signage at Bellhouse Park

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, guest & sign
Michael Dunn with Pete Davidson
Pete Davidson points to the Brandt's Cormorant  detail on the left hand panel
Davidson signs up a Cormorant
Helen O'Brian with guests on Mayne
Helen O'Brian with guests on Mayne
4 guests discuss the Mayne sign
4 guests discuss the Mayne sign
Mayne's Group Shoot
Mayne Sign Group Shoot

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

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Last modified: May 07 2014 10:19:14.