Western Screech-owl Survey

Recently two of our technicians spent the night out in the Squamish Valley looking for Screech-owls as part of an environmental assessment being completed for the Pilchuck IPP (Independent Power Project). Screech-owls are a small, nocturnal, and primarily woodland based grouping of owls. There are at least 21 known species of Screech-owls at present but, the only one native to the west coast is the Western Screech-owl. These owls have a distinct call which is quite different from the common hoot that one may expect from an owl. They are known for their piercing calls which consist of more than four individual calls per second. Have a listen to this MP3 for an idea what it sounds like.

Our team conducted call-back surveys by broadcasting a recorded Screech-owl call through a mega-phone, and then patiently and quietly waited for a response from any Screech-owls in the area. Because of the nocturnal nature of these owls our team had to reset their own body-clocks to start at 8pm and work through the night. It wasn’t until the very end of the survey, in the final minute, that our technicians actually heard an owl. Taking bearings from several different sites they were able to determine an area which the owl was responding from. This survey was just one in a series of many for this area. It will be exciting to watch and see if our technicians get the same response on their next outing.

Fitzsimmons Creek Gravel Extraction 2012

Have you been out enjoying the Valley Trail over the past few days and wondered what that excavator is doing in Fitz Creek and why those crazy people are in the water wearing what looks like the backpack from Ghostbusters? They are helping protect our community from flooding and supplying the RMOW with gravel for public works.

Cascade’s crew is currently hard at work on the Fitzsimmons Creek Gravel Extraction. Because Fitz Creek flows from high in the alpine, gravel and sediment washes down toward Green Lake. This material collects on the creek bed, raising its height, and creating a flood hazard in high water conditions.

Each year the RMOW digs into portions of the creek with the highest concentrations of gravel and trucks it away to be used for municipal works. Naturally there are environmental regulations in place to protect Fitz Creek’s aquatic habitat. Cascade is responsible for ensuring that the environmental conditions are met throughout the process. Prior to the gravel extraction the creek is diverted to expose the gravel bars. Before the sectioned off portion of the creek runs dry, Cascade’s team performs a fish salvage and that’s where the ghostbuster packs, more commonly referred to as electrofishers come in. The electrofisher sends an electrical current through the water, temporarily stunning the fish which allows our personnel to scoop them up with nets and transfer them to buckets to be measured and recorded before being released downstream, well away from the gravel extraction works.

Cascade’s team also closely watches the excavators and dump trucks to ensure that they are working in the most environmentally responsible manner possible. We ensure that there are no fluids leaking into the water, no unsafe practices occur, and to promote proper care and consideration for the delicate aquatic and riparian habitat throughout the process.

So if you are out and about along Fitzsimmons Creek in the coming two weeks, please keep your distance and stay out of the water. It may contain an electric current!