Last week I traveled up to Cobble Hill to help put up bird boxes at my work’s bird and wildlife sanctuary. The bird boxes are the final part of our wetland restoration project, we initially started by creating a pond on the outskirts of the wetland, clearing out the overgrowth, and last summer we developed even more ponds further into the site. This means that it is now a mixture of open water, reedbed and vegetation. The aim of the project is to increase the biodiversity on the site, and to help the species that call the area home.
The property is about an hour from Victoria, and I often see a large variety of species during my regular visits. However this was the first time I had been on the site in the evening, and it certainly had an impact on the wildlife I encountered. I met with our wonderful volunteers and our first stop was to the barns to see if our Barn Owls had returned from migration, Barn Owls are a listed species here in British Columbia, so to have them is something of a rarity. As with all species, migration is a dangerous process, so it is not always a guarantee that they will return; after nervously creeping into the barn we saw a glimpse of the back-end of a Barn Owl as it shot out of the side entrance. The owls we have on the property are certainly not used to people, but the glimpse is all we needed, one of the adults has returned and fingers crossed its mate returns too (it often comes a week or two later). We will be putting up a box in the barn for them and hopefully we will get some owlets!
After that little excursion we walked to the wetland to put up some swallow boxes on posts in the wetland. After balancing on logs we waded out to the posts to put up the boxes. One huge change between the wetland during the day and in the evening is the amphibians, frogs could be heard calling around us, and we saw our first Red Legged Frog, another listed species and one we had hoped to attract with our restoration! This exciting spot was only magnified by the sighting of a Muskrat using our new ponds. This was a first for me, we had proof they were probably using the site, seeing droppings and trails, but we had not actually seen them. This one was swimming very fast through the pond before disappearing into the vegetation. Our resident Marsh Wrens were hopping through the reeds, adding to the cacophony of sound, which already featured frogs, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Killdeer and Canada Geese.
As the sun went down we finished putting up the boxes and started to suss out locations for our new camera traps, we found some interesting looking trails, possible Deer, but maybe something bigger (Bear or Cougar), I shall be putting out the cameras very soon to see. Before leaving we caught another glimpse of the Barn Owl, and found a large Eagle nest in one of our tall Fir trees! Before heading home we had one final first for me on the property, a Barred Owl hooting (‘who cooks for youuu’ is the best way to describe the Barred Owl call) away somewhere in the forest. I managed to get some pictures of the bird boxes, but of course, I left my larger lens at home accidentally and missed most of the wildlife we saw. Having done surveying and research at various times of day I know the difference this has on wildlife, but this trip certainly showed the shift in species in just a few hours. My next trip up to the site will be all about camera traps, which is something new for me so I am very very excited!