Jim and I, Jan, went for a long walk Saturday, June 20, in the headwaters. We had a plan of plotting and timing a route for the upcoming walk with Comox Valley Nature in July. However, it’s not unusual to find distraction and discovery in the headwaters and this day particularly so, as a result our route and timing changed somewhat.
First, we spotted a flicker nest in a snag in the Beecher Linton Conservation Area. An adult flew up to the snag and the young eagerly and noisily poked their heads out of the nest hole. Farther up the trail, a large Red-legged Frog was enjoying the rain dampened woods, a long hop from the creek.
Next, we discovered a fish trap set in upper Morrison Creek. A minute later Joy and her husband, Craig, were coming down the trail to check the trap. Joy is an independent biologist working with the Species At Risk team studying the Morrison Creek Lamprey. Apparently, Hancock Timber did not know that the Morrison Creek Lamprey was on their property in the headwaters of the creek. They thought it was only in the lower reaches of the creek and wanted up-to-date information. (Jim is surprised at their lack of knowledge).
Hancock is supportive of Joy setting traps and finding out in which parts of the Creek there are lamprey, particularly the red-listed endangered form, the Morrison Creek Lamprey. Pleased to report that 2 of the 3 traps had lamprey, one had 9, 2 of which were the silver endangered Morrison Creek variety. Joy had found lamprey, including the Morrison Creek Lamprey on her last check of the traps, as well. Both our observations and Joy’s are that the lamprey in the upper reaches of the creek are consistently smaller than lower down. The lamprey were adults and would presumably be getting ready to spawn and then die. Jim was surprised that lamprey would potentially be spawning late into June; previous observations indicated May and early June to be the spawning times. Very good news!
Another pleasant surprise was finding a pretty little wetland with big blooming Yellow Pond Lilies and White Bog Orchid (also called White Rein Orchid) Plantanthera dilatata. Thought I might have spotted a Virginia Rail, but the bird disappeared into the reeds before I could confirm the sighting. There were two large and prosperous song sparrows foraging about the water and a thrush hopped quickly by on a log.
We were walking the top road towards Maple Lake and stopped to re-trim some salmonberry bushes that were now overhanging the road next to a large puddle. I heard a peculiar sound (a little grunt?) and then heard some rustling and branch snapping. Jim stopped pruning and we heard some crashing in the bush. Realizing that a bear had been feasting on and bending those salmonberry bushes over the road we decided to retreat and leave the bear to its meal.