Friday, 29 December 2006


A slow stroll down to the river to fish, this Grizzly (North American brown bear) is an excellent fisher. Her high fat, protein-rich diet has contributed to her lovely coat and larger size. Grizzlies are the kings of the Keto diet. She and her kin are omnivores, eating plants, animals and even human food if they can get at it. She'll likely gain around 400 lbs or 180 kg before winter comes in preparation for hibernation and to produce milk for her offspring.

At age five, female (sows) grizzlies begin mating and bearing young, usually two cubs every other year. The cubs arrive over the winter and feast on their mother's milk all snuggled inside a wintery den.

The great ancestors of the North American brown bear are the Ursavus, a bear-dog the size of a raccoon who lived more than 20 million years ago. Taking a look at this beauty, it seems an implausible lineage.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Monday, 11 December 2006


This lovely fossil crab is Longusorbis cuniculosus from the Upper Cretaceous ) Late Campanian, Northumberland Formation near Campbell River, British Columbia. This photo was featured in the 2004 BCPA Calendar.

Shelter Point on northern Vancouver Island is a lovely beach site where clastic strata are exposed in the intertidal platform of Oyster Bay. 

The site is located just off the Island Highway, about 10 km south of downtown Campbell River and 4 km farther south along the lower Oyster River. Haggart et al. presented an abstract on this locality at the 12th British Columbia Paleontological Symposium, 2018, Courtenay, abstracts; 2018 p. 28-30. I'll pop a link below if you'd like to give it a read. 

Shelter Point has been collected since the 1970s. No pre-glacial strata were recognized in this area by Muller and Jeletzky (1970). Richards (1975) described an abundant fauna in the beds at Shelter Point, approximately 2 km north of the Oyster Bay exposures, including the crab Longusorbis and associated ammonites and inoceramid bivalves, and he assigned these beds to the Spray Formation of the Nanaimo Group. This information, combined with the very low dip of the Oyster Bay strata and their general lithological similarity with the coarse clastic strata found commonly in the Nanaimo Group, suggested a Late Cretaceous (Campanian) age of the Oyster Bay strata.

Beginning in the 1980s, fossil collectors from the Vancouver Island Palaeontological Society began amassing significant collections of fossils from the strata of southern Oyster Bay that are found several hundred metres southeast of the local road called Appian Way, thus providing the informal moniker Appian Way Beds for these localized exposures. 

While these collections included a great diversity of gastropod, bivalve, nautiloid, scaphopod, echinoderm, and coral specimens, as well as impressive collections of plant materials, much previously undescribed, no taxa found commonly in Campanian strata of the Nanaimo Group were noted in these collections; particularly lacking were ammonites and inoceramid bivalves. For this reason, the hypothesis began to emerge that the Appian Way Beds of Oyster Bay were of younger, post-Cretaceous, age than thought previously. 

Just how young, however, has been a source of some controversy, with different parties continuing to favour the traditional Campanian age — based on lithostratigraphy — others a Paleocene age, and still others an Eocene age — based on plant macrofossils.

Fossil Collecting at Shelter Point:

Fossil Collecting at Shelter Point
At the northern end of Shelter Bay, turn east onto Heard Road, which ends at a public access to Shelter Point. 

Low tide is necessary in order to collect from these shales. Some friends are looking to explore this site over the next week. If you see some keen beans on the beach, check to see if they are the New family, Chris and Bonnie. Welcome them — they are lovely folk!

Industrious collectors unwilling to wait for the tide have employed rubber boots to wade through knee-deep water — rubber boots are highly recommended in any case — and even headlamps to capitalize on low tides during the night. Bring eye protection and sunscreen to safely enjoy this lovely family trip.   

The fossils, mainly the crab, Longusorbis and the straight ammonite Baculites, occur only in the gritty concretions that weather out of the shale. You'll need a rock hammer to see the lovelies preserved inside. Best to hold the concretion in your hand and give it one good tap. Aside from the fossils, check out the local tide pools and sea life in the area. Those less interested in the fossils can look for seals and playful otters basking on the beaches.


Haggart, J. et al. 58 million and 25 years in the making: stratigraphy, fauna, age, and correlation of the Paleocene/Eocene sedimentary strata at Oyster Bay and adjacent areas, southeast Vancouver Island, British Columbia;

Tuesday, 28 November 2006


If you live in North American, there is a high probability that you have seen or heard the bird song of the Blue jay, Cyanocitta cristata (Linnaeus, 1758).

Blue Jays are in the family Corvidae — along with crows, ravens, rooks, magpies and jackdaws. They belong to a lineage of birds first seen in the Miocene — 25 million years ago. 

These beautifully plumed, blue, black and white birds can be found across southern Canada down to Florida. The distinctive blue you see in their feathers is a trick of the light. Their pigment, melanin, is actually a rather dull brown. The blue you see is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather as wee barbs.

Blue jays like to dine on nuts, seeds, suet, arthropods and some small vertebrates. 

If you are attempting to lure them to your yard with a bird feeder, they prefer those mounted on trays or posts versus hanging feeders. They will eat most anything you have on offer but sunflower seeds and peanuts are their favourites. 

They have a fondness for acorns and have been credited with helping expand the range of oak trees as the ice melted after the last glacial period.  

Their Binomial name, Cyanocitta cristata means, crested, blue chattering bird. I might have amended that to something less flattering, working in a Latin word or two for shrieks and screams — voce et gemitu or ululo et quiritor. While their plumage is a visual feast, their bird chatter leaves something to be desired. 

Their cries are quite helpful if you are an animal living nearby and concerned about predators. 

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, a Blue Jay is known as kwa̱skwa̱s

The Kwak’wala word for blue is dzasa and cry is ḵ̕was'id. For interest, the word for bird song in Kwak'wala is t̕sa̱sḵwana

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Monday, 23 October 2006

Saturday, 21 October 2006

Tuesday, 17 October 2006



A hot meal and solid sleep leave us refreshed as we prepare to cross to the west side of the paddling route of the Bowron Lake circuit. We must first face several kilometres portaging muddy trails to meet up with the Isaac River and then paddle rapids to grade two. We enjoy a world of sensory bliss punctuated with thrilling spurts dodging stumps and snags.



Saturday, 7 October 2006

Saturday, 9 September 2006

Tuesday, 29 August 2006


Like most mountainous areas, Bowron makes its own weather system and it appears you get everything in a 24-hour period. In fact, whatever weather you are enjoying seems to change 40 minutes later; good for rain, bad for sun. Wisps of cloud that seemed light and airy only hours early have become dark. Careful to hug the shore, we are ready for a quick escape from lightening as thundershowers break.

Monday, 28 August 2006

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

Friday, 9 June 2006

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Wednesday, 10 May 2006


Mid-way through a paddling trip in the beautiful Bowron lake Circuit, we reach the end of Babcock Lake and prepare for our next portage. Philip and I are photo bugs and I get my camera out to take advantage of the angle of the sun and the eroded rounded hilltops of the Quesnel Highlands that stand as backdrop. Looking around for material to shoot, Leanne pipes up and says she can see a moose a little ways off and that it appeared to be heading our way. Yes, heading our way quickly with a baby moose in tow. I lift my lens to immortalize the moment.... We three realized the moose are heading our way in double time because they are being chased by a grizzly at top speed.

"Grizzly!" The three of us gather together to prepare for what is racing towards us.

A full-grown moose can run up to fifty-six kilometres per hour, slightly faster than a Grizzly. They are also strong swimmers. Had she been alone, Mamma moose would likely have tried to out swim the bear. Currently, however, this is not the case. From where we stand we can see the water turned to white foam at their feet as they fly towards us.

We freeze, bear spray in hand. In seconds the three were upon us. Mamma moose, using home field advantage, runs straight for us and just reaching our boats, turned 90 degrees, bolting for the woods, baby moose fast on her heels. The Grizzly, caught up in the froth of running and thrill of the kill, doesn’t notice the deke, hits the brakes at the boats and stands up, confused.

Her eyes give her away. This was not what she had planned and the whole moose-suddenly-transformed-into-human thing is giving her pause. Her head tilts back as she gets a good smell of us. Suddenly, a crack in the woods catches her attention. Her head snaps round and she drops back on all fours, beginning her chase anew. Somewhere there is a terrified mother moose and calf hoping the distance gained is enough to keep them from being lunch. I choose to believe both moose got away with the unwitting distraction we provided, but I’m certainly grateful we did.

The Lakes are at an elevation of over 900 m (3000 ft) and both grizzly and black bear sightings are common. Both bear families descend from a common ancestor, Ursavus, a bear-dog the size of a raccoon who lived more than 20 million years ago. Seems an implausible lineage having just met one of the larger descendents.While we’d grumbled only hours earlier about how tired we were feeling, we now feel quite motivated and do the next two portages and lakes in good time.

Aside from the gripping fear that another bear encounter is imminent, we enjoy the park-like setting, careful to scan the stands of birch trees for dark shapes now posing as stumps.

Fortunately, the only wildlife we see are a few wily chipmunks, various reticent warblers and some equally shy spruce grouse.

Friday, 21 April 2006

Thursday, 13 April 2006

Saturday, 11 February 2006

Saturday, 28 January 2006


The fossils of Hornby Island off the coast of Vancouver Island contain some of the best preserved fossils in British Columbia. Many species of ammonites (mainly Pachydiscus), crabs, bivalves, sharks teeth, echinoids, wood and bone can be found in the Cretaceous shales and concretions of the Lambert Formation at Collishaw Point

Friday, 6 January 2006

Deep Time and Global Warming: A Film by Heidi Henderson

A film by Heidi Henderson

We see the headlines and hype in the news, but what are the true causes and dangers of global warming. Come on a journey that explores this important question and the evidence that puts this period of global warming in context to the Earth’s history as a whole as we explore Deep Time and Global Warming

What is the cause of the global warming we are experiencing today?

What was the Paleaocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
The Core Sample from the Arctic
Interview with Core scientists
Interview with Dr. Ted Danner
The Fossil Sites at Princeton
Interview with
The Fossil Site at McAbee
Interview with John Leahy
The Fossil Site at Driftwood Canyon
Interview with Dr. Bruce Archibald

What are the dangers?
The Arctic Ice Melt
What does the lack of ice habitat mean to the resident animals?

What can we do?
What can we anticipate in the future?

In 2004, a scientific crew braced the cold and the odds to extract a sediment core from 400m below the seabed of the Arctic Ocean. The core showed that Fifty-five million years ago, deep in the Eocene, the North Pole was ice-free and enjoying tropical temperatures. It also told us that the temperature of the ocean was 20C, instead of the coolish –1.5C we see today…a truth that is hard to imagine today even with all the hype around global warming.

The bottom end of that core helped explain the fossils found at Eocene sites around British Columbia, species commonly seen in more tropical environments today.
The warmer temperatures seen at McAbee and around the globe were recorded in the core sample and reveal evidence for a global event known at the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Back in the Eocene, a gigantic emission of greenhouse gases was released into the atmosphere and the global temperature warmed by about 5C.While the bookends of the geologic time scale slide back and forth a wee bit, the current experts in the geologic community set the limits to be 33.9 +_ 0.1 to 55.8 +_ 0.2 million years ago. The fossil record tells us that this part of British Columbia and much of the Earth was significantly warmer around that time, so warm in fact that we find temperate and tropical plant fossils in areas that now sport plants that prefer much colder climes, or as is the case in the Arctic, snow and ice.
The Okanagan Highlands is an area centred in the Interior of British Columbia, but the term is used in a slightly misleading fashion to describe an arc of Eocene lakebed sites that extend from Smithers in the north, down to the fossil site of Republic Washington. The grouping includes the fossil sites of Driftwood Canyon, Quilchena, Allenby, Tranquille, McAbee, Princeton and Republic. These fossil sites range in time from Early to Middle Eocene, and the fossil they contain give us a snapshot of what was happening in this part of the world because of the varied plant fossils they contain..
While the area around the Interior of British Columbia was affected. McAbee was not as warm as some of the other Middle Eocene sites, a fact inferred by what we see and what is conspicuously missing.

In looking at the plant species, it has been suggested that the area of McAbee had a more temperate climate, slightly cooler and wetter than other Eocene sites to the south at Princeton, British Columbia and Republic and Chuckanut, Washington. Missing are the tropical Sabal (palm), seen at Princeton and the impressive Ensete (banana) and Zamiaceae (cycad) found at Republic and Chuckanut, Washington.

While we are the likely culprits of much of the warming of the Arctic today, natural processes operating in the not too distant past have also resulted in significant temperature fluxuations on a world-wide scale.