A Day in the Wildlife of Matson Conservation Area
- Created: Friday, 29 July 2016 11:31
You can walk the length of Victoria’s bustling harbour where the sea meets the land, but the only place you’ll find the once plentiful Garry Oak ecosystem there is at the Matson Conservation Area. Head down the Westsong Walkway from the direction of Westbay Marina, Esquimalt and you will find this precious protected place. This conservation covenanted land is bisected by a great elevated staircase, designed to provide passage but not trampling for people above and native species below. Overlooking the natural scene is Swallow’s Landing, a testament to how development and conservation don’t have to be at odds. Joggers, birdwatchers, photographers, and visitors from around the world often enjoy the Matson Lands.
On July 15th a team of 20 Habitat Acquisition Trust volunteers and staff met for the first ever Matson Pull & Pour. What’s that you say? Well, the “pull” portion refers to restoring the land by pulling and extracting invasive plant species. The “pour” half involved the team enjoying the hospitality of Spinnakers Brew Pub and their freshly poured beer.
The Pull The Pour
That day a few of us met early to set up. It was warm and we took in the view of the glistening harbour from behind a frame of plump Oregon Grapes. It wasn’t long after that mother raccoon and her sweetly bumbling babies kindly skittered away as if to say, “we’ll keep our distance, thank you.”
The regular coming and goings of raccoons and river otters has left a gently flattened path through the dried grass. If you’d like to picnic in the presence of otters, Matson is the perfect place. A watchful picnicker can learn about their diet, and crab-cracking techniques. You may also be delighted by butterflies like the Lorquin’s Admiral, hummingbirds, and Great Blue Herons. It is part of a Migratory Bird Sanctuary, after all.
After the restoration team came together and received an introduction, we set about identifying and removing invasive grasses, as well as English Ivy. Much of the Scotch Broom at Matson has been removed thanks to repeat HAT work parties and the regular restoration work of a local team called the Matson Mattocks from the surrounding neighbourhood.
Two of the major troublesome grasses we focused on were Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata) and Rip-gut Brome (Bromus rigidus). While grass identification can be a challenge, Orchard Grass is recognisable by its robust tufts atop a tall stem (as high as 1.5 m). Rip-gut gets its visceral name from the way small barb-like hairs on its seeds can cause it to snag. A great strategy for seed dispersal, but a danger to animals that get bits of the plant hooked and imbedded in them. It must come as no surprise that one identifying feature of Rip-gut is its rough-to-the-touch seed heads. When it comes to removing weedy grasses effectively, it’s key to take out the entire above-ground clump called the root crown.
Invasive Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata) Dangerous for pets: Rip-gut Brome (Bromus rigidus)
In the end, we removed just over 12 cubic meters of invasive plant material. That’s a pretty big deal when it comes to the detailed and finicky work of weeding out grasses.
Restoration outings are a great way to get to know the community and your neighbours, an ideal place for newcomers. At Matson we had a special opportunity to welcome a Syrian family, new to Canada and to the community. When it comes to tending the Earth and socializing, language barriers soften with careful demonstrations and conversation. As we consulted over patches of grass, Douaa told me,
“Victoria is beautiful. All of it is beautiful. The city, the trees, the forests, the sea.”
It is a pleasure to share and protect this beautiful region with each of you. That beauty is in part because of the selfless work of volunteers, of those who protect our land with covenants, and the benevolence of the community. If you know someone new to Victoria, perhaps they’re learning English too, we’d love to meet them. The wild and beautiful life of places like Matson are possible thanks to your donations.
Lorquin's Admiral on Matson Garry Oak The Matson Raccoon Family Heron's can be good at hiding, but you can see them in the treetops