Saturday, July 30, 2016

Coastal BC Birds: Red-throated Loon

Red-throated Loon

After I wrote this post, the Red-throated Loons came by again.

Here's a short video of their recent visit.

In 2010, Wayne and I spotted a different kind of loon near our float cabin on Powell Lake. It had the same body shape and diving habits as a Common Loon, but the colours and sounds were just a bit off.

Common Loons are black and white. This one was mottled gray and white with a brick red throat. I looked it up and discovered it was Red-throated Loon. Each year since, a pair arrives at Hole in the Wall and takes over the territory.

Red-throated Loon pair comes to visit.

Usually the Red-throated Loons stay across the bay near a shallow area. We surmise they may be nesting there. We hear them call to each other and watch them swim and dive.

This week for the first time they both came right in front of our cabin. Finally I could get some good pictures.

Red-throated Loons are not common in Coastal BC during the summer months. They prefer the Arctic for breeding and return to our shores in the winter. I surmise this returning pair is nesting somewhere in the large, shallow back bay across from our cabin.

Doesn't she look like she's trying out one of our logs as possible nesting site?

I wonder if this is the result of climate change. Whatever the case, I enjoy hearing their calls and watching them ply the waters of Hole in the Wall. Has anyone else seen nesting Red-throated Loons this summer? -- Margy

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Saving Dahlia Tubers in Pots

Step 1: Wrap the pot in bubble wrap.
A year ago I dug up my dahlia tubers and kept them all winter long in town in my spare condo bathtub. The tubers were hard to dig up, and needed added moisture in their protective sacks ever few weeks. Most of them did survive for replanting.

Step 2: In fall cut back to a few inches.
Last summer the dahlias gave me beautiful flowers, but I wanted an easier way to save them.

So last year I tried keeping the the tubers in their pots. We don't get extreme cold, but we do have freezing nights, and several stretches of freezing weather.

Step 3: Crumple newspaper over the soil.
I started by wrapping the pots in bubble wrap I purchased at the Dollar Store. Each pot got $2 worth of bubble wrap held in place by duct tape. My thinking is that the air pockets will help keep the freezing air away from the sides of the pot, much like an insulated water pipe.

Step 4: Place cardboard over the newspaper.
When the weather started turning cold, I cut the dahlia plants back. I crumpled newspaper over the soil to give the tubers an insulation barrier. Over the top of the newspaper I put a layer of cardboard, and topped it off with soil to keep everything in place on windy days.

Step 5: Cover with a thin layer of soil.
I don't have any place to bring the pots indoors at the cabin where temperatures won't get below freezing sometime during the winter.

Have you ever kept dahlias outdoors through the winter? Do you get freezing nights? Was it successful for you?

Dahlia tubers in pots ready for winter.

My overwintering experiment was a huge success. Here are the results for my two pots.

Pot #1

Pot #2

The bubble wrap is still on the pots and ready to go for next winter. All I have to do is cover the tops again for next winter. This was so much easier than digging up all the tubers and storing them in my bathtub. -- Margy

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Riding the Rock

Leaving Powell River on the North Island Princess
Not far from Powell River is Texada Island. It's formed on a volcanic rock and limestone bed that was ground down during the ice age. With many visible outcroppings, it's nickname is The Rock. Texada is 50 kilometres long, and has many forest service and logging roads. That makes it perfect for exploring by ATV.

We left Powell River on the BC Ferries North Island Princess. She runs multiple times daily. Crossing takes about 35 minutes and it's a beautiful ride with views up and down the Straight of Georgia, Vancouver Island and occasional porpoise and whale sightings.

Camping in an old gravel pit reclaimed by millions of daisies.

The population and several active quarries cluster on the northern half of the island. The southern end is open land that has been logged periodically. That's where we headed. On the way through Gillies Bay, we stopped at the Ravenous Raven Lodge and Restaurant for dinner. It was an excellent way to start off a weekend getaway.

Riding a forest service road on Texada Island.

At the end of paved Shelter Bay Road we turned right onto dirt surfaced Bell Road. Main dirt roads are in good shape with occasional potholes. Standard vehicles would have no trouble, but farther south 4X4 is necessary. Many of the spur roads require an ATV, off-road bike, horse, or human foot power.

Signs point the way to Anderson Bay.
At the junction of the forest service road we wanted there was a sign leading the way to Anderson Bay at the south end of the road. There's an old gravel pit past Second Lake, other wide spots along the road, or the recreation site at Bob's Lake remote no service camping.

With full tummies, we set up camp and relaxed as the sun set behind the tall pines and firs. The next morning we offloaded our bikes and set out to explore.

Beautiful ponds and lakes abound.

A map from Powell River Tourism gave us the big picture. We continued south on the forest service road towards Anderson Bay.  Until the final decent, it was fairly wide and rolling. I made it about half way down before I slowed my quad to a crawl. Wayne is a more advanced rider so he pressed on ahead.

Wayne on an old logging road overgrown with millions of daisies.

We worked our way back to Bob's Lake for a lunch break at a picnic table. No one was camping on such a nice summer weekend. In fact, over the 24-hour period we were camping and riding we only saw four vehicles and no other quad riders.

Bob's Lake forest remote recreation site.

There are two main forest service branch roads heading south, Bell Road and Thompson Road. In between there are many old logging roads and a gas pipeline service route available to explore. We used the pipeline route just south of our campsite and joined a logging road that took us through some older growth trees to the east side of the mid-island ridge with ocean views across the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island.

Riding a section of the pipeline maintenance road.

We connected with Thompson Road, headed south and reconnected with Bell Road. With impending showers cutting our camping short, we loaded our bikes, packed up and headed back to the ferry terminal at Blubber Bay. Named for its whaling history, it's now home to an Ash Grove Cement Company transfer site.

Historic concrete manufacture site at Blubber Bay.

After putting our quads away, we headed to the Costal del Sol in Powell River for some upscale Mexican food while the thunderstorms gathered and the rain began.

Here are some links for more information about Texada:

Texada Arts, Culture and Tourism Society
Texada Island Wikipedia
Texada Island Geology
Texada Island Maps
Texada Island Recreation Sites and Trails
Texada Island Events
Texada Island Accommodations
Ravenous Raven Lodge and Restaurant
BC Ferries

I invite you to visit Texada Island, whether or not you come to ride The Rock. It has beaches, forests and anchorages galore. It's a place for quiet reflection, or active enjoyment -- something for everyone.

This story was also shared on my Powell River Quad Rides blog and as a guest post The Powtown Post. -- Margy

Monday, July 25, 2016

Anchoring in Moulds Bay on Quadra Island

Heriot Bay Inn and Marina
We found a good weather window to take our boat out on the ocean, or the chuck as we call it now that we live in Powell River. 

We keep our boat set with essentials, so all we needed were personal items and ice chests with food, drinks and lots of ice.

We left on Saturday to time our arrival at the Heriot Bay Inn on Quadra Island for an early dinner on their outside deck. Then we went over to nearby Rebecca Spit Marina Park, but it was way too crowded.

Anchored in Moulds Bay.

Wayne remembered a private spot not far away on Quadra called Moulds Bay, so that's where we headed. As we rounded the point I half expected to see another boat already there, but we lucked out.

Moulds Bay is exposed to the south, but in settled weather it was calm.

We spent two nights and one mostly sun filled day floating on the hook. We saw an orca on the way in, and eagles, a heron, ducks and an otter at the anchorage. Only a few boats passed by and several kayakers paddled through. It's also listed as a scuba diving spot.

Moulds Bay can be found west of the Breton Islands on Quadra's east coast not far north ofRebecca Spit. It's just off a small passage leading to Hoskyn Channel between Quadra and Read Island.

Enjoying a good book at Moulds Bay anchorage.

The Dreamspeaker Guide by Anne and Laurence Yeadon-Jones lists Moulds Bay as a temporary anchorage that is sheltered from all directions except the south. We were looking at a weekend of settled weather so felt comfortable anchoring there for two nights.

Beautiful reflections on a calm afternoon.

It's a small anchorage with enough room for one boat to swing at anchor. There are two privately owned cabins on the shore, but while we were there, they were unoccupied. That was nice for us, and probably the owners as well.

One interesting thing I learned from the guide is that there are interesting rock formations on shore. There is one large dike (a vertical band within the granite cliff) and several smaller ones. I'm a bit of a rock hound, so this was fun to discover.

A large dike in the granite cliffs on shore.

At the end of the day, the breeze calmed and the ocean became glassy.

Sunset reflections in Moulds Bay.

The next day we relaxed and read and fixed simple meals on-board.

Leaving Moulds Bay looking back at the protective islets.

A northwest wind kicked up on Monday morning, so we left through the passage to Hoskyn Channel and headed south to go around the north side of Cortes Island looking for more protected waters.

Leaving Hoskyn Channel heading south towards Sutil Channel and Cortes Island.

A trip on the chuck wouldn't be complete without trying a little bit of fishing. Nothing was biting, but it was fun to troll and relax in the warm sunshine. -- Margy

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Coastal BC Birds: Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsucker

We went out camping with friends at Nanton Lake here in Powell River. It is a great campground maintain by Forestry and the local Western Forest Products Logging Company. Campsites are free (always a plus) and usually available either along the lake shore or nestled in the forest trees. All have picnic tables, room for an RV or tent, and plenty of nature.

Red-breasted Sapsucker on a forest snag.
Right next to our campsite was a family of Red-breasted Sapsuckers, mom, dad and two grown kids. They stayed busy harvesting sap from a nearby older Alder tree.  They had riddled the bark with lines of holes that they could visit and revisit to lick up the sap. And they aren't the only birds to take advantage of their tree taps. Hummingbirds also rely on them for extra food.

Double tapping.

They didn't mind our presence at all. They just kept on tapping and drinking to their hearts content. In addition to sap, they feed on insects either by tapping or foraging. Sapsuckers nest in tree or branch cavities or snags with no extra nesting material. From four to seven eggs are laid, but this family seems to have had only two survive to maturity. -- Margy

Reference: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (online)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Coastal BC Plants: Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) is not a native species to British Columbia. Much like Scotch Broom, it was an ornamental plant loved by gardeners because it attracts butterflies. Because of their numerous blossoms and tremendous numbers of seeds, plants have escaped into the wild and proliferated.

Blooms come in a variety of colours ranging from light (almost pink) to dark purple. You can find Butterfly Bush almost everywhere along the BC coast and inland. It is especially prevalent along dirt roads and logging cut blocks.

While butterflies do benefit from the nectar, Butterfly Bush does not serve as a food source for their offspring in the larval stage.

A bee taking advantage of nectar from  a large Butterfly Bush blossom.

This time of year Butterfly Bush is blooming just about everywhere. It is very evident that it is taking over territory from native species. But like the Scotch Broom, the colourful blooms in late spring and early summer are eye catching. -- Margy

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Coastal BC Birds: Common Merganser Duck

Common Merganser Duck

Almost any time of year, you can see Common Merganser ducks paddling around the waters near our float cabin home on Powell Lake.

Female Common Merganser

Males are distinctive with a white body and bright green head. Females have a mottled gray body and rusty brown heads with feather sweeping back in a "hairdo" reminiscent of one we used to call a ducktail. How apropos. One thing that makes females difficult to identify is that immature Mergansers have similar colouring.

Mergansers are fish-eating ducks, so you will often see them diving for a tasty meal along our protective log booms.

Resting behind the plants on one of our floating stumps.

A few years ago, we saw a mother Mergansers taking her babies for a ride on her back. Then just after I wrote this post, we had a mother Merganser swim right in front of our cabin with nine babies either on her back or trailing out behind.

Momma Merganser with nine ducklings in tow.

Mergansers nest in cavities in trees well above the ground. The flightless chicks bravely leap to the ground within days of hatching and immediately begin foraging for themselves. How cool!!

An interesting side note is that one of the food sources listed in freshwater sponges.

I'll have to keep an eye on the ones I found on our steel anchor cables to see if they get nibbled down. -- Margy

Reference: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (online)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Clouds of Colour

Summer has finally arrived. After a day of cloudless, sunny skies some high level cirrus clouds moved in, the precursor to a brief front bringing moisture but no rain.

Cirrus clouds are wispy streaks of ice crystals above 8000 metres (26,000 feet). "Fall streaks" form when ice crystals fall through changing high level winds. The forming streaks can be straight, shaped like a comma or all mixed up together.

Just before sunset, the cirrus clouds captured rays of sunlight to form a small sun dog. The ice crystals in the clouds can form colourful patches 22 degrees to the left or right of and parallel with the sun, something like a mini-rainbow. What a nice way to end a nice summer the day on Powell Lake in Coastal BC. -- Margy

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rain Gutter Garden (Sort of)

My floating garden with raised beds.
I've been following a Facebook group called the Rain Gutter Grow System Group.

I've been intrigued by their use of grow bags and self watering techniques.

After I cleaned out moss growing around the edge of my floating garden I got an idea, why not use the space for plants of my own.

It would be a perfect spot to grow strawberries. They took up so much room in my raised beds I gave up on them a few seasons ago.

I didn't want to use a rain gutter, but thought I could make a trough out of Vigoro weed block cloth.

I cut a length of weed cloth long enough to fit the space between the brow log of my float and the side of my raised bed.

I folded the cloth to make a gutter-like shape and sewed the ends together to hold in the soil.

I made small square "washers" cut from a plastic container and nailed the cloth gutter in place.

I used the plastic to help keep the nail heads from working their way through the cloth over time.

To make the bed self watering, I used two cotton bath towels cut into strips.

Each towel gave me three strips long enough to extend down into the lake below the garden float and to line the bottom of the cloth trough.

I cut three slits through the bottom of the cloth trough.

I used a stick to poke each piece of towel halfway down into the lake water below. There was just enough space between the float logs to get them into the water.

I put a layer of sand in the bottom of the trough to help with drainage (we get lots of rain) and them laid the upper half of each towel over the top.

To help with initial moisture, I gave the towels and sand a good watering.

Next came a layer of rich soil from our local forest. We are lucky to have a beach with sand and forest compost nearby.

I added granular plant fertilizer and mixed it in before another good watering.

Finally it was time to plant my strawberries in their new dedicated bed. Because the soil I brought over had some ants, I decided to use traps just in case.

The final touches for the bed were to add some sand and crushed egg shells to deter slugs.

I don't know if the self watering feature will work or be enough, but I can always give the strawberries a squirt of water from my hose when I'm watering the nearby raised beds. I'll keep you posted.

Do you use any self watering techniques? What do you use? How well does it work? -- Margy