Field Notes from S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest

Members of Raincoast and the Pender Islands Conservancy were joined by youth for a morning of species identification, ecological restoration, and big tree measuring.

A series of clouds obstructed the sun from shining down on the ocean in the early morning of July 18th. Moored at the entrance to Bedwell Harbour on Pender Island was Raincoast’s research and education vessel, Achiever. After disembarking the vessel, slowly from the distance appeared a zodiac approaching the shores of Medicine Beach (E,HO,) carrying 10 students, ages 12-14 and 5 crew/trip leaders. As they disembarked, they were greeted by Raincoast’s Gulf Islands Forest Project Coordinator, Shauna Doll, and myself, Paige Griffin, Land Protection Intern. 

The students introduced themselves and shared where they were from, ranging as far east as North Carolina to the western states of Washington and California, with one student having traveled all the way from Greece. Pender Island was just a brief stop on their two week journey around the Southern Gulf Islands, Victoria, and Vancouver. The students boarded an electric bus, generously provided by Pender Islands community members, and were taken to S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest, a conservation property purchased in 2021 by Raincoast and the Pender Islands Conservancy.

Upon arrival, the larger group was split into two, each being led to different restoration sites on the property. The first group was led to the highest point in Flycatcher Forest, where a meadow restoration site is located, learning about forest conditions along the way. Reaching the top of the hill, the students saw the Meadow Makers sign that signals the entry into the 14 x 6 ft restoration site, and had the chance to learn more about the importance of removing invasive species and replacing them with native ones. Such practices help the land heal, restoring millenia old relationships between plant, pollinator, and other animal species. 

They also learned about site preparation and planting techniques (to learn more watch out for our upcoming article series with Satinflower Nurseries). After heading back down the hill, the students were given a plant identification booklet and tasked with a plant treasure hunt to help them familiarize with their surrounding environment and truly arrive in Flycatcher Forest. 

Students doing restoration work in a forest.
Meadow prep undertaken by a group of students on July 5, 2022. Photo by Shauna Doll.

Afterwards, each group got a chance to learn how to measure big trees and nominate them for the Pender Islands Big Tree Registry. The students learned how to use specialized diameter tapes, clinometers, and a laser hypsometer. Laughs were shared when it came time to decide on names for the two western redcedars that were nominated, with Sean’s Tree and Busty Red, being the final choices. These were the 104th and 105th trees to be entered into the Registry. To finish off the day, the students suited up with safety goggles and work gloves to remove invasive Daphne. 

Youth standing in front of a cedar tree.
Students with “Sean’s Tree” a western redcedar nominated to the Pender Islands Big Tree Registry. Photo by Shauna Doll.

It was moving to meet young people who were so attentive and interested in learning about ancestral Territories and ecosystems that many were unfamiliar with and had not seen before. Perhaps this experience sparked an interest in a future career dedicated to safeguarding the environment. Reflecting back, witnessing these students, who were so amazed by the size of the trees and the array of species within S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest, reminds me to appreciate my surroundings, as I sometimes forget to take time and observe the natural beauty that is so unique to this area. 

Being on land and doing field work provides people an opportunity to immerse themselves in nature. This is especially important in the case of the Coastal Douglas-fir zone, which is so unique and biodiverse, yet also so threatened. I hope the lessons of this land resonated with the students. I hope they learned that these ecosystems are incredibly important to protect and even just one day of engagement to help the land heal can be so significant. 

I believe this was a unique experience for the students and hope that this field day on Pender Island was a highlight for them once they returned home. Afterall, how often do you get to travel back to the United States and say you have named and registered a tree on a small Island in British Columbia?

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Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.