Volunteer Spotlight July 2019 - Jenny Caws

For the last four months Jenny has been volunteering her evenings and weekends for HAT’s Stewardship programs. Jenny is always up for learning new things, and has specifically been helping with nest box monitoring and data management for the Western Screech Owl Program. On top of all of this, Jenny is also a team leader for one of the groups working on the Summer Bat Survey, a program that is doing a great job with our nocturnal winged friends, and in outreaching to local communities. Jenny brings a wealth of knowledge about biology, wildlife conservation, and professional experience with a strong background in marine species of the Salish Sea. Her stellar worth ethic, passion for conservation, and dedication to any task is an inspiration to us at HAT. Thank you Jenny for joining us!

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Wearing a new HAT

A’si’em nu schala’cha/Greetings friends,

It is a pleasure and a deep joy to wish you all a happy “hello” as HAT’s new Community & Development Coordinator! Even as these sorts of changes come with a certain amount of excitement. It’s with that in mind that my hopes for this – my first – post to the HAT blog begins by thanking Ashlea Veldhoen for being such a central part of the HAT community for the past (roughly) two years. Ashlea’s voice is all over HAT’s website, pamphlets, and newsletters, her energy the static that bound events together and we wish Ashlea well on her new adventures, and hope for the best in her quest to be a bird banding pro.

Part of my new role is to work with HAT’s awesome staff and community to come up with fun, exciting, and informative communications materials to keep that community informed. One of my first tasks in this regards is to work on this introductory post for the HAT blog. It’s too bad, really, that my first post isn’t about more covenants being monitored, or photos of a whole new bunch of bard owl chicks greeting the night for the first time…rather, it’s about me. But working in community is deeply important to me, and has informed a lot of my decisions in the last decade. Even with the internet being mostly a one-way medium, my hope is that this post will serve as a starting point for many conversations with the members, supporters, and volunteers that make HAT such an amazing place to work.

When my partner and I moved to L’kwungen and WSÁNEĆ from Osheaga (Montral) in 2015, working for an environmental NGO was still something of a dream of mine. Having grown up a predominantly Euro-North American settler in Anishnabek, Huron-Wendat and Haudenosaunee territory (Lanark and the Ottawa valley) and Montreal, much of my time was spent canoeing some of the spectacular lakes and rivers of the east, and hiking or skiing the rolling hills of the Laurentian and Appalachian mountains. Most of my early experiences on the land were with my parents, and it was through them that my connection with place began. (Un)Fortunately, given the drive of this world, spending time in a forest or along the banks of a river never seemed like a way to make a living for me, and my professional life took me far from those places that spoke to me.

The sound of industrial motors that powered massive machines and the breath of long-haul trucks made up a good portion of my early working years, and “nature” quickly became the backdrop for weekend adventures. After nearly a decade in logistics, a friend convinced me to give university a try, a privilege that many other people in this country and around the world are unable to even consider. It was this privilege and my growing awareness of it that informed my decision to study history, and carried me through the Quebec Student Movement as a participant and as an organizer for a graduate association. Social justice, in a large city like Montreal, can often miss the forest for the cement, and once again, the hills, forests, and valleys were relegated to pastimes, to those stolen moments between deadlines or marches.

All of this changed when we decided to move to Vancouver Island. Very quickly, the path that my feet had been walking started to take some unexpected turns, leading me to realize that working for the ecosystems that have sustained me and my ancestors was not only a dream, it was entirely possible (even without an ecology or biology degree!). Luckily, the Nature Conservancy of Canada was hiring at the time, and their development team was a perfect spot for me to familiarize myself with conservation, fundraising for eNGOs, and to begin growing my own roots into the vibrant conservation community in BC while honing my outreach abilities and getting to know the local landscape.

My good luck continued as working for NCC also put me in close contact with HAT. When life’s path again began to wind and twist and my tenure at NCC came to a close, it was at the same time that the HAT team was looking for someone to try and fill the gap that was going to be left by Ashlea’s departure. Having spent 2 years working in the same building as HAT and having spoken to staff and even members, working at HAT was not an opportunity I wanted to miss out on.

Sure, sitting in an office on Burnside Road East looks somewhat removed from the oasis of Matson Conservation Area, from the gripping beauty of the Sooke Hills, or from the rolling surf of Diitiida (Jordan River), those places that mean so much to me (and to many, many people) feel less distant. Especially in spirit. No longer are places that speak and call to me the providence of “free” time when my work is done, they are with me here, as they are with each of us in HAT’s community. They are the places that we bear witness for, and that we hope to protect from development for future generations of all species. They are why volunteers volunteer, donors donate, members vote in AGMs, and why I log on to my computer in the morning.

We are those places.

Hay’sxw’qa/Thank you for reading. If you’d like to chat about HAT, membership, my role here, or just to share with us, stop by the HAT office (202-661 Burnside Rd. E.), or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There’s still heaps for me to learn about HAT, and still a full calendar of things for us to organize before summer gives way to fall (and before I really am caught up fully!), but at least we’re all in this together.

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Volunteer Spotlight July 2019 - Stephen Brown and the 2nd Fort Victoria Scouts

 HAT would like to appreciate a dedicated group of volunteers who have contributed to the Habitat Stewardship for Species at Risk Program, the 2nd Fort Victoria Scouts.

The Scouts have been dedicated to monitoring for owls on their Camp property, as well as initiating restoration projects and building beautiful Western Screech-owl nesting boxes.

One of their leaders, Stephen (Steve) Brown, has put in extra volunteer effort to support HAT’s wildlife habitat enhancement structures. From bird boxes that keep out invasive species, to amphibian monitoring boards, Stephen has had a hand in making so many new homes for animals like Western Screech Owls. Steve has been involved with Scouts for 9 years. He is a professional product designer and has a passion for design, building, and helping the community.

Thank you to Steve and the 2nd Fort Victoria Scouts for all of their efforts!

If you'd like to experience what volunteering with HAT is all about, watch for opportunities in the Volunteer Opportunities Section of our E-news below or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with us! 
 

Covenant Monitoring Fun!

It's summer, and that means covenant monitoring season is in full swing. Since May, our Land Protection Coordinator Barb von Sacken has wrangled up a team of interns and volunteers to accompany her on monitoring visits on our covenant lands. 

Alf & Annika Photo by: Barb von Sacken (2019) 

This year, three main volunteers Annika Meijer, Alf Birch and Karen Yearsley, and our two interns Nicole da Silva and Ronna Woudstra, have worked tirelessly to collect data to not only assess the overall status of the natural areas within the covenant, but also monitoring for compliance with the terms of the agreement. However, for our Interns and volunteers this work is more than just walking around with a clipboard and taking notes. It opens a whole world of wonders in which they can become fully immersed during their time in the field. 

After one of their last forays into the wilderness on covenant lands, our volunteer Annika offered to share a story with our readers based on her experiences. 

Making paper out of pulp made with laurel-leaved Daphne. Photo by: Liz Belcher (2019)

"Covenant monitoring with HAT has been such a rich experience with a lot of unexpected extra rewards. Just last week, a landowner gave us a tour of their little paper-making workshop they have in their residence, where they turn invasive species into beautiful journals", she says. "It was a crisp and breezy summer day on the property that backed onto a lake; a covenant composed of a patchwork of riparian, meadow and forest habitat. Each of these habitats were rich in native species and made lovely homes for the families of owls and swallows that reside there. The landowners and HAT have done a great job of keeping invasive [plants] back, allowing a large diversity of native species to establish and thrive. It was a perfect example of the preservation of a wild area within a city."

Conservation covenants allow us to preserve nature in perpetuity while individuals maintain title of their land. As much of what remains of endangered Coastal Douglas-fir and Garry Oak meadow habitats are on privately-owned land, conservation covenants this means covenants are one of the most important tools we have for ensuring and creating contiguous protected habitat HAT's focus areas. From learning and witnessing the growth of native plants, birds and butterflies to meeting the wonderful people that have dedicated their lands to nature in perpetuity, our interns and volunteers always have so much to share with us after their monitoring.   

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Change is in the air

By: Ashlea V., Community & Development Coordinator

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From the beginning of my role as Community & Development Coordinator up until now I have changed immensely, both in a professional and personal sense. I have often wondered what I might write to our readers at the end of my time with HAT. After a year and a half with this amazing organization, I have decided to say farewell to this position with HAT in order to pursue my long-time passion for ornithological research. 

With my new-found goals, I will be volunteering at banding stations across the country over the next year and hope to apply for a Canadian Bird Banding Permit by next fall. This will allow me to apply for bird banding positions while contributing to bird migration monitoring and research projects across the country. 

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to HAT for giving me the chance to learn and grow as a professional in the environmental non-profit sector. It has been a privilege, honor and an amazing learning opportunity to be able to work with a team of such supportive and dedicated people for the past year and a half.  My experience here has helped steer me towards continuing a career in the non-profit sector both now and well into the future. I believe non-profits like HAT and bird research stations fill a gap and are an essential part of the success of social and environmental work. I especially want to thank Katie Blake and the whole HAT team for their understanding and complete support of my decision, despite the changes it will bring to the team. I am confident that whomever fills this role in future, in whatever form it may take, will lead HAT to a brighter future and I ask you all to welcome them with open hearts and minds during this transition period. 

I would also like to express my warm wishes to all of the donors, volunteers, consultants and researchers for being so welcoming to me during my time here. I have seen first-hand how your contributions to HAT have made a big difference in the success of HAT's educational, habitat management and stewardship and land protection efforts in the CRD. If I could just ask one more thing of our supporters before I go it would be to please continue to support HAT in any and every capacity you can, while spreading the word about HAT's work to friends and family! This action alone can make all the difference to HAT's continued growth and success in conserving critical habitat areas including the some of the last remaining Coastal Douglas-fir forests on south Vancouver Island. 

Your support can take many forms; from something as simple as using HAT's Gardening with Native Plants Guide to create habitat at home for local pollinators, to becoming a member, making donations or designated major gifts, to joining HAT's Legacy Circle, and reporting sightings of at-risk species to volunteering with HAT, there are just so many fantastic ways to participate the success of this amazing organization - and I encourage you all to do so.

Sincerely, 

Ashlea Veldhoen

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