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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Scott Islands - What do they mean to you?

Of the many amazing places on the outer coast of British Columbia, there are few more spectacular this time of year than the Scott Islands. This rugged archipelago stretches out for 50 km to the northwest of Cape Scott (the northwest tip of Vancouver Island and the western terminus of the world-renown North Coast Trail), and teams with seabirds between March and September. In fact, the outer three Islands (Baresford, Sartine, and Triangle) are home to over two million auklets, murres, puffins and storm petrels.

As mentioned in the text, the land portions of these islands are already protected as provincial ecological reserves, but there is currently no protection for the surrounding waters. The Canadian Wildlife Service is currently setting up a marine National Wildlife Area in the waters around these islands to protect the rich marine environment where birds find food for themselves and for their chicks.

What the video doesn’t mention is that the rich ecosystem around the islands also supports many other bird species that don’t nest in the area, such as Marbled Murrelet (which nest in the adjacent old-growth forests), Black-footed Albatross (which have six-foot wing spans and nest in Hawaii and Japan), and Sooty Shearwater (which come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand). Many marine mammals frequent the area including Grey, Humpback, Blue and Killer, Baird’s beaked, Minke, and Sperm whales as well as Dahl’s and Harbour porpoise. The rocky islands provide a haul-out for Northern fur seal and the largest breeding colony of Steller’s sea lions in Canada (the second largest in the world).

The richness of this area springs from its unique location at the northern corner of the Vancouver Island Shelf, a relatively shallow region of the sea floor which juts out into the open Pacific. This means that the islands are continuously battered by violent storms all winter long. It also means that nearby shelf-break (where the ocean floor plunges from around 200 meters deep to over a kilometer deep) provides an upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water in the spring.

My colleague, Karin Bodtker, had the opportunity to visit Triangle Island (the outer, and most densely populated of the islands) last spring, and took a number of amazing pictures, a few of which follow:
Puffin Rock with gulls circling overhead - most of the 25,000 pairs of Tufted Puffins that nest on Triangle Island can be found here.

The view from the top of Puffin Rock, looking east-by-southeast towards the sealion colony (Sartine Island in the background).

Tufted Puffins sitting by the entrances of their nesting burrows.

Research station in Home Bay, where researchers from the Center for Wildlife Ecology spend the summer studying the seabirds which nest on Triangle Island.

Cassin's Auklet chick, being weighed and measured by a researcher.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, the archipelago is very, very beautiful. There is so much biodiversity!