Do you give a hoot about Western Screech Owls?

Western Screech Owl close Ladner BC Credit Anthony Bucci and send him linkOWL UPDATE: When February arrives, dozens of volunteers will drive to wooded areas in and around Victoria at dusk and stay out late, listening. They are part of a project launched in 2015 by the Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) to monitor numbers of the endangered coastal sub-species of Western Screech Owls. February to April is the birds’ breeding season and the volunteers will be listening for their distinctive courtship calls in areas where they have been known to nest in the past or have been recently reported.

Listening for owls at night is labour-intensive, but it is a labour of love for HAT volunteers and staff. In 2016, over 40 volunteers spent a total of 54 hours and travelled 60 km of survey route to discover just 4 territories where the owls were active. Last year, they got some help from technology. Automated recording units were placed at likely spots, with microphones programmed to turn on at sunset and off at midnight. The sound files they collected were analyzed by computer and helped identify two additional territories for the rare owls.

Once more commonly heard in the Greater Victoria region, Western Screech Owls numbers have fallen by over 90% in the last 10 years. There are several reasons. Habitat changes have led to an increased population of Barred Owls, which have displaced their smaller cousins. Free-roaming outdoor cats not only kill owls but their prey food of small rodents and birds. Rodenticides may also have an impact and have been found in the bodies of most owls.

In addition to its census activities, the HAT project works with landowners to encourage conservation of suitable habitats where owls can breed and find food. HAT volunteers have also begun building and installing nest boxes for owls that can be monitored in future years to gauge the success of the program. Already, two of these boxes have become home to breeding Western Screech Owl pairs, which is encouraging. In January 2018, HAT is hosting an owl monitoring training session with local Scouts, who will learn to assess nest box use at their very own Camp Barnard. Anyone wanting to become a citizen scientist — by listening for hoots, building nest boxes, or helping in other ways — is encouraged to contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or sign up to be a volunteer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

We are in need of funds to purchase Audio Recording Units and Wildlife "Peeper" Cameras for checking nest box success. If you would like to help these owls, sponsoring one of these units will help immensely!

Audio Recording Units - $250 donation

Wildlife Peeper Camera - $650 donation

Sponsor an owl box - $65 donation

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The Habitat Acquisition Trust Western Screech Owl Project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program and by donations from people like you. Readers are encouraged to make a donation in support of Western Screech Owl conservation at hat.bc.ca/donate or by calling 250-995-2428.
Written by HAT Volunteer, Eric Grace in collaboration with HAT Staff.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Chhina

Anna Chhina volunteer 2017This month the HAT Office team would like to shower our thanks on volunteer Anna Chhina for gifting her time for local conservation with us. Thank you Anna for being there, often behind the scenes, helping us make the on-the-ground action possible with your administrative excellence!

Reflecting on volunteering with HAT Anna says,

"I initially became involved because I needed experience in an office setting and a friend who had previously volunteered at HAT recommended it. After getting to know more about HAT the people involved, I want to continue because I believe in what they do and how important the work is."

Anna says her favourite part about volunteering with Habitat Acquisition Trust so far has been the Conservation Connection Benefit Banquet, "Also the food at the banquet, that was really good."

"I realized that every little bit helps and through my volunteering I can see that it's not always about making big changes right away but that little things can also have a big impact, especially when you genuinely care for what you do."

Signing off for the holidays Anna sends us all her regards,

"Happy holiday and happy New Year, I look forward to working with you guys next year too!"

We couldn't agree more!

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A bit of an update on the bat counts

little brown bats free to use public domainHabitat Acquisition Trust's Community Bat Program bat counts began in 2013. This means we can look back a few years now at specific roosts and see a snapshot of the bat population.

While this is a small sample size, and not yet a long trajectory to look at to draw conclusions, it is very interesting and will be useful as a growing baseline of data for bat conservation. This data also contributes to the province wide data on bat roosts collected through the BC Community Bat Program.

We hope all of you bat counters are proud to be part of moving our knowledge of and protection for local bats forward.

The larger scale volunteer led bat counts with HAT began in 2015. Looking across the major bat counts for the 7 sites we looked at from 2015 – 2017, the total number of bats counted increased from 2015 to 2016, then decreased from 2015 and 2016 numbers in 2017. Since this is such a small sample size and across a very short period of time, it’s tough to say if this is any kind of trend. So we will just have to keep collecting data to learn more.

bat counts chartOf the 9 sites surveyed in both 2016 and 2017, 5 actually had their highest numbers of bats recorded compared to previous years, with 8 still higher in 2017 than their lowest year’s count number. Between 2016 and 2017, of all 9 sites 6 had an increased number of bats and 3 had a decreased number of bats counted. So it seems to be generally that the data is simply reflecting regular fluctuations and no clear trend is observable yet.

2 of the sites where there were bats counted in an original roosting structure and bats had colonized a newly placed bat box, the overrall number of bats increased. This may show some promise for adding bat boxes to provide more habitat for colonies to grow.

For the two bat colony sites that we have data for each year from 2013 – 2017, their bat count numbers went down in 2014, up in 2015 and 2016, and dipped again from 2015-2016 levels in 2017, but still remain above their lowest numbers.

If you would like to know the bat numbers for a site you counted at just send us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you would like to help out with the bat counts in 2018 please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you would like to include a new bat colony on your property in the 2018 bat counts please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Habitat Acquisition Trust's AGM & Social

AGM 2018 PosterDec 22HAT will be hosting our Annual General Meeting & Social on Wednesday, January 31st. You are invited to join us for the social event of the season at the beautiful Horticulture Centre of the Pacific at 505 Quayle Road, Saanich. 

Notice of Special Resolution

The following Special Resolution will be proposed for approval at Habitat Acquisition Trust’s (HAT’S) Annual General Meeting. 

Resolution Background: After undergoing significant legislative reform, a new BC Societies Act has come into force on Nov 28, 2016. In preparation for transition to the new Act after this date, the Habitat Acquisition Trust Board delegated a review of and amendments to the existing Bylaws and Constitution to ensure full compliance with the new Act. The Board now recommends to the Members approval of the new set of Bylaws and Constitution.

Special Resolution: The Member’s resolve to adopt the Constitution and Bylaws as presented.

The full text of the new Constitution and Bylaws is available here
The full text of the current Constitution is available here and Bylaws here.
A summary of the changes to the Constitution and Bylaws is available here.

Please contact HAT with any questions or concerns, or if you would like a hardcopy of the new Constitution and Bylaws mailed to you for your review.

Our AGM will provide an opportunity to learn about HAT and what we have accomplished over the past year. There will be updates provided by HAT staff on our many programs, as well as a chance to meet the board and mingle with fellow members and supporters. It's an excellent place to join in on the conservation conversation, especially in the social hour before the meeting and presentations begin. 

Doors open at 6:30pm, and the meeting and presentations run from 7:00-8:30pm. The event will be complete with light snacks, refreshments, as well as the chance to support HAT's conservation work further by becoming a member. 

This event is free and open to all, and you are encouraged to bring a friend! Come and see how we are working to conserve the local environment! 

Please RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you will be attending or if you require further information. 

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Conserving the Magic of Matson

hummingbird nest Eric Pittman resizeEcological value and cultural legacy

An awe-inspiring natural haven of well-being nestled next to the city; a wildlife refuge hugging the coast of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary; and a living reminder of the camas meadows that once dominated the southern tip of Vancouver Island – this is the Matson Conservation Area.
Located on the shores of Esquimalt, this 2.4 acre, owned by local land trust charity Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) is visited by people from all over the world. They jog or stroll along the West Song Walkway, often pausing to take in the breath-taking scenery.

Year after year, dedicated volunteers, including the Matson Mattocks stewardship group take care of this land with the help of HAT. Pulling, snipping and girdling invasive plants, spreading wildflower seed, and planting native flora. This year volunteers gave over 400 hours of their hard work to nurturing Victoria Inner Harbour’s last intact Garry oak ecosystem.

quote box eric pittmanLocal hummingbird expert Eric Pittman has been visiting for 7 years now, and shares his perspective here,

“Matson represents what used to be there. As a result, it’s become an oasis for animals to come to. Raccoons, otters, deer, and lots of birds come through here. I’ve seen Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, owls, Blue Jays and more.”

Eric estimates that there are 30-40 resident hummingbirds living here annually; a densely populated hummingbird area for our region.

“When I started going to Matson, it was hard to even see where your foot hit the ground because of all the ivy. Now you can see the ground and you can see how things are going to come back.”

hummingbirds matson eric pittman resize2Eric brings his interest in nature to a global audience. “If Matson wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be able to film hummingbirds. In the Matson Lands, they’re always there. This area is responsible for me being able to do my photography. I’ve been on a couple of expeditions with the BBC now and send video to television stations. I’ve had a lot of good things come of it.”

Matson is protected today because of the immense efforts of our community coming together. When the land was slated for development, the Friends of Matson Lands stepped in to protect it. Biologist Dr. Louise Blight, original co-chair of that group lends her voice,

“These woodlands and meadows are unique and beautiful. They are home to many native species, some of them rare and endangered. It’s a place I like to go bird-watching throughout the year as different birds use the Garry oaks throughout the seasons. We’re losing places to appreciate nature in around the city, and the Matson Lands remain a place where people can do that."

hummingbird hug Eric Pittman"I moved in just down the street from the Matson Lands in 1999. This big chunk of relatively unspoiled Garry oak woodland was one of the main things that attracted me to the neighbourhood, and I was dismayed to hear that there was a development proposal for this site. As a biologist I knew that Garry oak ecosystems were increasingly rare in BC and I wanted to do what I could to try to protect this place because it is a part of where I live. I heard a small group of neighbours were meeting to form a group, so I joined them, and things took off from there. We called ourselves The Friends of Matson Lands.

I know that the residents of Swallow's Landing - the development that was ultimately built on the upper half of the Matson Lands, which is the portion where buildings had already sat for decades, and the right place to build - have a stewardship group that goes regularly to the Matson Lands to remove invasive plant species. It's important that these efforts to restore the woodlands continue to expand, and that the people who live nearby continue their relationship with this special piece of land. I'd like to be remembered as a member of the Friends of Matson Lands, a group of friends and neighbours who got together to organise their community against the loss of a cherished piece of nature, and won!”

donations sheet

With community support, Habitat Acquisition Trust protects land and hosts ecological restoration and nature education events across the region.

Special protected places like Matson play an important role in our community and they are in desperate need of our continued care. We believe that caring for the land and working with the community, including local youth, to build skills for stewarding the land is paramount to ensuring ecosystems remain healthy and functional for generations to come.

This year, Habitat Acquisition Trust would like to host two public habitat restoration days to keep the invasive species at bay and engage the greater community in taking ownership of Matson’s protection. HAT also plans to begin a comprehensive baseline to collect information on pollinators living at Matson.

Would you consider making a donation to the Habitat Acquisition Trust Land Protection program to help care for over 2,100 hectares of important habitat in our region?

Funds are needed today to ensure our natural spaces stay natural forever. Your immediate support helps protect vital spaces like Matson Conservation Area. You can leave a legacy with a gift in your will or direct your gift today to create space for wildlife now and forever. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 250-995-2428 to make a gift. You can also visit hat.bc.ca/donate online.

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