Friday, July 10, 2009

Limping and crabby in Maplewood

When we lived in Burnaby, some years ago, one of our favourite walks was across the water, in Maplewood Flats Wildlife Conservation Area. Last week, we paid a return visit. It's been a while.
"The Maplewood Conservation Area in North Vancouver is the last undeveloped waterfront wetland on the north shore of Burrard Inlet. For over twenty years, public interest groups lobbied to preserve this prime site as a wildlife sanctuary. In 1992 the ... Vancouver Port Authority ... lease(d) the VPA area for 49 years to Environment Canada to permit the area to be managed as a wildlife conservation area.
Dedicated to the protection of birds and their habitats on the principle that all wildlife must benefit, the WBT (Wild Bird Trust) met the challenge of turning a former degraded industrial site into a haven for wildlife. ... With funding secured by WBT from government, industry and the public, an extensive freshwater marsh and pond system with inter-connecting creeks was excavated in the 30-year-old filled area in the western part of the site. ... The system was dedicated in the spring of 1997 and is now a breeding habitat for Marsh Wrens, Common Yellowthroats, Wood Ducks, American Coots, Blue-winged Teal, Red-winged Blackbirds, Pied-billed Grebes, Soras and Virginia Rails." (From Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia. Also see Wingspan, their newsletter.)
The WBT doesn't toot its own horn loudly enough; the checklist of birds seen here runs to over 230 species, from ospreys and red-shouldered hawks to bushtits. Here's last month's sightings list, posted on the wall of the office. I don't know why they don't include the shoreline critters. This is where I saw my first Melibe leonina (the only live one I have ever seen).

Here's the site, as it appears on Google, with my labels:

On the right are the tide and mud flats, the largest in the Burrard Inlet. The Conservation Area is on the right: it covers 75 acres. I have marked out the pathways in yellow. (I think I missed one.) The spiral is a hill with a viewpoint. Everything else is flat, flat, flat.

Looking inland, up the Burrard Inlet

I hurt my knee last week, and was barely able to limp about, so we only made it around the smaller square in the centre, over the bridge and back. This is the dry part of the area; the wetlands (birds, frogs, dragonflies, deer, and more) cover the western section.

Path, overlooking the Inlet and the mud flats.

We cut through, first, straight to the shore:

Rocks and seaweed.

An old barge channel divides the area, cutting straight from the highway to the shore: green water, with ducklings. At its mouth, under the bridge, where the brackish water meets the ocean, starfish congregate, feeding on mussels.

Old barge channel

Purple starfish.

And just a few steps beyond this, the crabs were swarming.

Shore crabs, Hemigrapsus sp.

There were hundreds of them, as much on land as in the water, scrambling over rocks and over each other. Occasionally, as we watched, a pair would face off, clacking pincers, but mostly they just wandered about. They didn't seem to notice us, except to avoid being stepped on. (They needn't have worried; we were just as careful.)

Crab and Laurie's new boat shoe.

They came in a variety of colours and patterns, mostly greens and off-white, with an occasional grey. I saw one in a deep burgundy red.

White and green crab.

I have never seen behaviour like this before, nor even more than a crab or two on this section of beach. Is it mating season for shore crabs? I didn't see any males carrying females, though. Maybe egg-laying time? Or just a crab convention?

A few Maplewood birds, next post.


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