During the month of March we finished our tree planting and Willow staking for this year as spring has sprung so to speak. A month ago I heard Frog calling and knew that it was time to plan for an early spring.
With such a warm winter and very little snow back in the mountains this may become an early dry summer, now having said that it also may rain from now until August. As I mentioned last month about how resistant Spruce trees where and how Beaver proof they seemed to be, yes seemed to be is the correct, as two Saturdays ago we noticed that a large Maple planted recently was no longer there? Teeth marks and chips the size your hand the stump stood lonely amidst the shrub’s.
As we walked further into the estuary Al asked where is the Mountain Ash, we walked around the bushes and no tree just a stump then 20 feet further along the bank there laid a really nice 12 foot Spruce still attached but past its prime. Today the whole tree was gone dragged off into the creek for lunch or a new dam. Unperturbed we planted 4 new Spruce trees which will have wire cages placed around them to prevent the Beaver taking them also. So as you can see we face many challenges in our endeavours but persistence pays off.
The last big rain event we had blew a hole in the big Beaver dam where we place our salvaged fry in the summer. After two weeks of no activity by the Beaver we took bundles of Willow and placed them in the water upstream to encourage them to build soon before we loose all the stored water within the upper watershed if this turns out to be a dry year. In past years it seemed that when we had a hole the Beaver arrived around May to begin the re-build. I always figured they where busy with their kits and with good flow they where not worried until the kits where able to help in the daily chores learning how to survive before going off to find a new home. I understand Beavers are very nurturing taking time to teach and making sure they know what is what before sending them off.
Down in the estuary nests are rapidly being built by one and all and the symphony of bird calls is brilliant to hear a sure sign of re-birth and new life springing forth. This month we will put our fish fence in the first week of April to catch the early out migration though with the hole in the dam I expect counts to be low this year as a lot of fish will have migrated downstream to the lower reaches already. This is one activity that on weekends is an exciting time when the younger volunteers come along and get that close up look at the fish they rescued last year heading out to make their epic journey around the north pacific over the next two years to return as adults to begin the cycle of life once again.
With this past winters Herring fishery taking the majority of Herring that appeared off Lantzville and Nanoose Bay all winter, first for the food fishery, meal for Salmon farms and some for bait then during March they came along every time the Sea Lions showed up and a big school of Herring arrived they took them this time for the Roe and fish meal. When our Chum fry enter the bay there should be millions of young Herring to feed on and when our Coho leave also the bay should full of Herring for them to gorge themselves on before heading out to the open Oceans, first the Salish Sea then the open Pacific.
Herring are, or should I say were, the lifeblood of all marine animals when not too long ago they flooded the whole coast from San Francisco to Alaska and beyond.They provide food for one and all and now just a memory for those who have witnessed such events as millions of Herring turning the whole coast white with eggs deposited on anything that does not move. How many remember just a few years ago the beaches being knee deep in sea weed and grass loaded with eggs rotting for days before being washed back out to sea feed a whole web of life eagerly awaiting their turn at the great feast that was Herring spawning time.
For most Herring are not on the menu but I can assure you they are one of the finest fish you can eat and are full of healthy oils. First Nations all over the outside coast have asked for closures on stocks due to over fishing in past years bringing many localised stocks to the brink of extinction. Many areas no longer have Herring spawn and other stocks are at such low levels that to say historical levels would not do them justice as most data on stock size only goes back to the 50’s and stocks had already collapsed due to over fishing for meal along with other forage fish.
Recently a study on Sea Gulls was undertaken to assess why they were in decline by as much as 50%, guess what is the major cause, yes you guessed, lack of fish leading to low survival of juveniles. Adults need to fatten up on Herring and the high energy content of the eggs to be able to lay strong fertile eggs themselves hatching out strong healthy chicks. Sea Lions need lots to head north to breed, Brant Geese need to graze on the Ell grass loaded with eggs before they too head north to breed. So as you can see lots of life depends on Herring not just industry.
Spring is here new life abounds so get out into the wilds and experience nature at its finest time when all is in bloom and life is abundant.