Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Olympic Moments - 14 Gold--7 Silver--5 Bronze

Well, they're over.  Now we really have something to talk about in this province and country, and there will be talk for a long time about a lot of things I'm sure.  How can you argue anything other than to say what a fantastic result our athletes accomplished, I mean really - USA with 37 medals and 300 million pool of potential athletes, Germany with 82 million people gets 30 medals and we get 26 medals for a country of 30 million?  How can the media waste anytime talking about our results other than to heap praise on the athletes and their unbelievable accomplishment.

I really enjoyed the athletes, that's what I focused on, and tried to block out all the peripheral chatter which will carry on in different forums.  One of my Olympic moments was the incredible Canadian athletes - could we have picked better sportsmen and representatives for our country?   Those people tried so hard and were so typically Canadian in their modesty and lack of self-promotion.  The ones that did win medals talked more about their team mates, supporting the other events, or the country, rather than the emphasis on themselves.  The ones that didn't win medals were just as gracious and so Canadian.  Shelly-Ann Brown, one of the silver medalists in the women's bobsleigh, her first words to the media were to thank Canada for what a great country it was before she even talked about her own win.  I was proud just watching them and feeling good for their success.  What a great bunch of future leaders.

My other favourite Olympic moment was not a sporting event.  I made a plane trip out of Bella Coola during the Olympics when we we had to use the 'temporary' security arrangements which involved stopping in another city -- Campbell River to 'clear security'.  On this particular day because we couldn't land at Campbell River due to poor weather we arrived with short notice at another unnamed city with a tiny airport terminal that was quite crowded and the security people a little bit disorganized as they weren't expecting us. They had no walk through metal detector so it was all done by the - put your arms out 'Inukshuk' style and let them scan you carefully with the wand.  Just before me was a mom with about a 3 year old boy.  When it got to the little boy's turn, the big stern looking slightly grey haired CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) man got down on his knees, motioned to the little boy to put his arms out 'Inukshuk' like by putting his own big barrel shaped arms out.  The little boy instantly took that as a sign that the big CATSA man wanted a hug, and ran over to him and jumped into his arms, nearly bowling the big CATSA man over. The entire security crew -- about 6 people plus the serious looking RCMP man surveilling everything over in the corner all burst out laughing.  The big CATSA man was so surprised that all could do was hug the little boy back and gave him a cursory scan and wave him on.  A true Olympic moment.  Grizzly

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hazelnuts in Flower

Back in January I talked about watching for the signs of spring that you really would like to see in the depths of winter.  Hazelnut trees were one of those signs.  The male catkins start to grow and change colour in the depths of winter when you would think it's not possible for much to be happening.  By this time of year, maybe a little bit later on a 'normal' Bella Coola winter, they flower or pollinate.  The trees are striking because the pale yellow colour is right out of place for this time of year, but it is a definite sign that things are on the move and the great spring rush to flower, pollinate, grow and just get on with the season is not far away.

I also mentioned that I would try and get a picture of the female flowers on the Hazelnut tree.  No easy task, you practically have to have a magnifying glass to see them, but if you examine the ends of some of the buds closely, they are there.  The one in this photo is not more than 2 mm it's very tiny, but if successfully pollinated will produce a nice hazelnut--which the Stellar's Jays will usually get before us.

What a spectacular day in Bella Coola, too bad we weren't hosting that snowboard event that went off in the fog at the Olympics, we had clear blue skies, morning frost, no wind and a high of 10 C.  Not bad for our neck of the woods.  I checked the Cathedral Point weather station (Burke Channel) and they had pretty steady outflow winds in the 40 + km/hr range - with some gusts up to 54 km/hr, but no sign of east wind in these parts.  Grizzly

Friday, February 26, 2010


Evidence of our resource history is all around us.  Anywhere you go on the west coast of Canada or the USA where they logged in Coastal Temperate Rainforests there is evidence of how it was done in the old days.   These notches cut in the stump of a long ago logged Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) tree were cut to enable the faller to put a "Springboard" into the notch.  A springboard was a very strong plank with a hardened steel tip that would hold in the notch.  The whole purpose was to allow the logger to get above the wider flare of the butt of the tree.  After all if you are felling a tree by hand, every inch of wood mattered that you had to chop or saw and the fact that you wasted 6' or 8' on the bottom was less important than the ability to cut it down efficiently.

I like them for what they tell us about the people who worked in the forest.  A lot of thought would have had to go into the best strategy for tackling one of these considering the factors of effort and safety.  This fellow, had a double problem with the two trees on one but solved it by putting a springboard down low that allowed him to get up even higher to cut it off  - about 8' off the ground.  Clever loggers.  Grizzly

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rain & Mixed Weather

After the good weather we had for 7 or 8 days which ended on Tuesday, the week has seen periods of rain and low cloud.  Much of it has come as snow in the mountains and added to the snowpack, which is always a good thing this time of year. The temperatures have been mild with highs of up to 10 C and not much wind, so pretty fair February weather for the Bella Coola Valley.  Grizzly

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


While spending time doing winter activities in the fabulous South Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and watching the animal tracks you see everywhere I started wondering about what all these various critters were up to and where they all go.  With the bigger tracks it's pretty obvious that they are on the move all the time on top the snow.  When it came to the smaller ones like mice, weasels, and voles, you occasionally see small tracks and then they disappear down a hole or big tracks following small tracks and then the small tracks disappear down a hole.  I knew there was a world down there and it is usually a lot warmer than us humans are experiencing on the top, but it turns out these little critters have got a whole other world going on below the snow and there is even a fancy name for it.

Scientists who try hard to explain things, tend to use big words and fancy names and they have named this special little place between the earth and the bottom of the snowpack.  The term "subnivean" derives from latin of 'sub' meaning below and 'niv' meaning snow, they came up with the term subnivean - space beneath the snow.  There is a lot information about the subnivean world, but the key thing to know is that it's warm down there.  Apparently  no matter what the air temperature is, as long as there is a decent pack of snow, the temperature stays very close to 0 C at the ground and causes a little space to form that weasels, mice, and voles use to get around all winter.  You can see the evidence when you are hiking in the alpine in the spring and start seeing the runs they formed and the piles of droppings.  All those predators like lynx, coyotes and fox and birds of prey know about this under snow world and that eventually it will pay off if they keep watching those holes, someone will come out to see what it's like on the top side. Grizzly

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Roof

Anyone who has driven Highway 20 from Williams Lake to Bella Coola has watched the progression of this barn/house from a fine solid structure it once was to what is now nearly the end.  I wished I was around long enough to see it when it was new, the log work would have looked beautiful.  If you zoom in on the photo note the corner log work, it's not just notched like most Chilcotin log work, these are fitted and carefully dovetailed and are still in really nice shape.  It's an example of real Chilcotin log craftsmanship.  Maybe someone can still save it with a new roof before the logs decay?  Grizzly

Monday, February 22, 2010

What a Stretch of Weather!

Like almost all of the Province of British Columbia, the Bella Coola Valley has been locked into the pattern of unbelievable spring weather since Tuesday or Wednesday last week.  Daytime temperatures of highs of 15 C and nights at -4 or -5 C with pure blue sky have been incredible.  The system is supposed to start to break down tomorrow, but what a run it's been.  The Bella Coola River though is very very low, with no precipitation and not much snow melt adding up to bring real low flows.  Makes you wonder what could come next this winter? Grizzly

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Another unmistakable sign that we have turned the corner on winter is when the garden bares off and that dark brown soil starts soaking up solar radiation during the day.  It usually means that it doesn't take long to kick the rhubarb into action.  This plant must be one of the toughest of garden plants, we pay almost no attention to it year in, and year out except to water it.  We pick it mercilessly throughout the growing season offering it to friends and neighbors.  We make everything delicious out of it all spring and early summer and every year it just keeps going and going.  I do know that it loves cool weather and it needs a period of winter cold to do well.  All a perfect match for the Bella Coola Valley climate.  Grizzly

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Hard to believe there is not some sort of iron mine around Bella Coola.  Everywhere you go in the Valley you see evidence of iron - in the water.  In particular the red rust colour you can see in many of the small streams right now is created by an iron consuming bacteria that produces red slime which accumulates in slow moving creeks.  As we enter the low flow period for our streams in late March and early April it becomes quite noticeable.  It's not unique to the Bella Coola Valley, a little bit of looking around on the internet shows other areas have iron producing bacteria in creeks and water systems.  It doesn't cause a lot of harm in the creeks that are moving because it tends to move through especially on the occassional higher water or in the spring and fall freshets.  In the real slow creeks and ponds it can gradually build up deep mucky deposits that choke out the bottom when the lower layers start producing their own concoction of black anoxic layers with a  hydrogen sulfide smell.

The conditions required for it's growth are oxygen, iron and water, and we have a number of the valley bottom streams that have all those.  The slime is created when the little bacteria cells exude ferric hydroxide to coat their cells.  If you are unfortunate enough to have a domestic water supply that is high in iron, then it can cause you more grief with growth of the bacteria in wells, waterlines and pumps.  You will often see an oily sheen on the water surface in some of the still water and ponds around the valley which have a lot of iron bacteria buildup.  If you poke the surface and it stays broken up, it's just the natural oils from the breakdown -- you haven't discovered the next big oil deposit. Grizzly

Friday, February 19, 2010

Whitebark Pine

Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulus) has to be one of the most special trees in British Columbia. It's also a favourite of mine to boot.  Why?   Well first thing is it's found only in the mountains, usually in the subalpine zone and around Bella Coola that means starting about the 5000' elevation and in the area east of Noosgulch Valley.  Any tree confined to just the mountains is always special (we have four conifer species around Bella Coola that are 'mountain trees').   There are a whole bunch of things which make it interesting not the least of which is that it can be extremely long lived--in the top 25 of the oldest tree species. It's form of growth is also quite striking. It rarely is a perfect 'tree' shape often mis formed by life time misadventures ranging from snow and wind damage to lighting strikes.  In the Rainbow Mountains the larger specimens are so striking from a distance in  amongst the stands of Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) that your eye is drawn to them.  The multiple tops, large dominant size and slight colour difference are all clues. 
A notable unique feature of the Whitebark pine is that it is almost totally dependent on a bird for it's dispersal of seed.  The whitebark pine is a member of the 'stone pines', which are pines in Europe and North America that produce large seeds, aka "pine nuts".  While the whitebark pine seeds are not as big as some in the American mid west mountains, they do produce a nice tasty seed of just over 0.5 cm long.  The cones rarely hit the ground though, because the noisy bird Clark's Nutcracker happen to be very dependent on eating whitebark pine seeds.  So dependent are they that their beaks are adapted to breaking into the tough cones to get at the seeds and they have a special pouch under their tongue to store them and carry them away.  The important part about this habit is that they don't eat all the seeds right away, but fly away and cache them for later use where some eventually get forgotten and grow.  These caches are an important source of food for grizzly bears who spend time in the mountains as well.  It is the dispersal of the seeds by Clarke's Nutcrackers which ensures the survival of the whitebark pine, because the large heavy seed has no ability to blow away or be carried by wind very far.  Clark's Nutcrackers are characters in themselves.

There is one other unique aspect to whitebark pine, a lot more serious and threatening.  All species of white pines in North America - I think there are five, are being killed off by the white pine blister rust. This is a nasty fungus that was introduced in eastern North America and then around 1919 in Vancouver.  It has spread across the entire continent and is affecting populations at varying rates.  Whole books and papers are written on the blister rust as well, but suffice to say it needs species of  currants, and gooseberries (Ribes sp.) for part of it's lifeclyle.  So there are not many areas without currant and gooseberry populations.   The whitebark pine populations in the Rainbow Mountains so far are not heavily infested by blister rust, as it is almost always fatal.  

Whitebark pine is such an interesting tree, that there is a even a foundation called the Whitebark pine Ecosystem Foundation with a web site and all kinds of interesting information dedicated to understanding and maintaining the future of this species of tree.

Our local whitebark pines have had two greater problems recently, one the mountain pine beetle and the other forest fires.  We lost a lot of the easily visible whitebark pines along Highway 20 near the top of Heckman Pass last summer during the Heckman Pass wildfire unfortunately.  There are still some great examples around, you just have to get away from the fire. Mountain pine beetles are also taking their share in some areas of heavy beetle attack as well.  Grizzly

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Signs of Spring

One of the milestone events around our yard in relation to "phenology" is when the Snowdrops flower in our yard.  With the warm days this week, yesterday was the first day they were open.  It's a key sign of the stage of spring for us because this little clump of snowdrops is well away from any buildings underneath a Japanese Maple tree where the conditions are the same from year to year.  It's not the earliest they have flowered, but certainly on track for a fine late winter.  Grizzly

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Average Day

You decide.  Does this photo look like an average day in Bella Coola for the middle of February?  It was nothing short of spectaular!  10 C, full sun and only a hint of wind.  Hard to beat that. Grizzly

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


A nice little shower went through the western half of the Bella Coola Valley last night.  The fresh snow line was down to about 2000' on the mountains this morning where everything looked fresh and wintry, although it stayed grey and cloudy till the afternoon before there were some sunny periods.  Signs of winter fading are starting to add up in the valley, with buds swelling a bit, the odd early green shoot and bulbs near buildings popping up.  The trend for winter is not good, and with only less than two weeks remaining in February the odds of having to plow my driveway anymore this winter are starting to look pretty poor.  Grizzly

Monday, February 15, 2010


What a nice day.  By mid morning we were looking at blue sky and sunshine.  We did have a slight outflow wind, but barely enough to notice.  From a morning with -1 C to a high of +8 C in the afternoon made for another nice February day.  Grizzly

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Golden Day

What a fine day for Canada - Alexandre Bilodeau wins the first Olympic gold medal won by our athletes at home in Canada.  What a great feeling that must be for the athelete and his family.  He looks like a fine representative for such a significant event.  Congratulations!

Well it wasn't a golden day in Bella Coola, as far as the weather goes, but it was another good day.  A little bit of rain over night brought some fresh snow to the mountains and tapered off mid morning to produce some sunny periods this afternooon.  A high temperature of 9 C is starting to feel like normal, hard to imagine what an arctic outflow will feel like if we get another one yet this winter.

The photo is what the view looked like in the Rainbow Mountains today - quite spectacular. Grizzly

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Don't be scared by the term.  It's just a simple biological term that defines the study of the seasonal  occurrence of biological events in animal and plant life.  Examples include the first and last sightings of birds, when flowers open or important stages in plants annual cycles are reached.  Phenology is important for two reasons, one being that practically everyone of us is a student of the science and two, it's becoming really important to the study of climate change.  Who doesn't have their favourite event that they watch which marks the passage from one season to the next.   If you have a garden you mark certain important stages.  Many people follow the date of flowering of lilacs across North America or when the robins return.  The reason we do it is because it's fun and it's deeply interwined within our own human evolution and our dependence on the environment for survival.

You don't need to wait for the spring to say you are participating in phenology studies, there are things going on all year long, it's just that spring is such an overwhelming season for the 'firsts' for so many plant and animal events.  I plan to write a number of posts that weave phenological events into them, and a number of my previous posts such as eagles thinking about nesting, the last coho salmon spawning and hazel nut catkins growing are all examples of phenology.  You can participate in phenology virtually anywhere you are because things are always changing, but it just so happens the Bella Coola Valley is an exceptionally good place to be an observer of phenology because there are so many natural events going on with the diversity of plants and animal species we have.

There are some really important long term examples of records of phenology that generations of families have kept for several hundred years that are now being examined for their linkages to climate trends.  Whatever your interests are, jot them down in a book or a computer and try to use the same area each year for your observations of first or last events and soon you will have your own phenological record that may be of interest someday.  For us the first pussy willows that have shown in the neighborhood in the last week are a good reminder to start paying attention.  Grizzly

Friday, February 12, 2010

Go Canada, Go!

Like many, many Canadians we are watching and enjoying the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Olympics.  The death of the Georgian luger was a really unfortunate and sad event, but the Georgian team showed resolve and did a good thing by participating in the ceremony.

We will be watching and cheering all the Canadian teams on for the next few weeks, hopefully the weather cooperates and brings some great days and great sportsmanship for all the teams.

I'd like to say bring the Olympics to Bella Coola and we'll show you some winter weather, but alas we are having the same El Nino mild weather.  It's very pleasant because it's not extreme in any one direction, but I'm starting to see stories on the interior mountain mid winter snow packs and they are way down.  It can only mean more trouble ahead when the great river basins of our province (Fraser, Skeena, Columbia, Peace) are suffering with low snow packs.  Only two months of snow weather or a rainy summer can fix that problem. Grizzly

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Grey but Nice

Half the day today had the feel of a February snow storm, with grey and no mountain tops showing but about mid day it turned and went back to the new 'normal' February weather - mild, not quit clear, but reaching a high of 8 C - not a bad day.  Grizzly

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow on the Mountains

We had a bit of rain overnight, and the freezing level came down lower than it's been, but still up around 1500-2000 feet where the mountains look like there was a nice fresh snowfall.  Should have made good conditions for the heli-skiers.  The airport had a high of 6 C.  The satellite weather views are showing a bit more activity out in the Pacific, more typical of what you would expect for February, but the mild temperatures continue as the systems we are getting seem to originate at a low latitude in the Pacific. Grizzly

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


This old Studebaker out in the forest along one of our walking trails always makes my wife and I wonder.  We wonder how long it's been there and what was its history?  Studebaker stopped making vehicles in 1966 after nearly 70 years of making cars. I'm sure someone knows more about this car and the families that rode in it, but now it's becoming part of the forest.  It is slowly being covered by mosses and small trees growing up through it.  I always have a moral debate when the 'clean up the old car' movement happens every few years in the Bella Coola Valley.  Should I  tell people about this one so we can clean up the forest and recycle the steel?  I always decide not to condemn it and send it back to the big steel melting pot. 
It's likely been 30 or 40 years in this location and just watching the progression of plants slowing reclaiming the site is more than interesting but this old car is forming a permanent piece of our history.  There's no more Studebakers being made out there and maybe to someone, someday this old derelict hunk of steel will be important?  In the meantime the power of nature to take back the forest is always evident when you live in the Rainforest.  Grizzly

Monday, February 8, 2010

A little Sun

Environment Canada was suggesting we would see some flurries in the Bella Coola Valley today and while it looked threatening, it never materialized.  In the afternoon at 8 C and a few sunny periods it was another great February El Nino day.  The Bella Coola River is amazingly low and clear and the trend of mild days with moderate nights around 0 C continues.  Grizzly

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gray Jay - Smart?

So who hasn't experienced a Gray Jay (aka Whiskeyjack or Camp Robber) landing on their hand, or head or stealing something from you very close at hand?  They are ubiquitous birds in and around coniferous forests, from the arctic and coast to coast in Canada.   My friends at Hinterland Who's Who say, "They are indelibly associated with Canada's great Northern Forests" - hard to argue with that statement.

In the Bella Coola Valley you occasionally see them at some bird feeders, and around homes only if the homes are very close to the coniferous forests on the valley sides.  At East Branch of course they are anywhere people spend time.  I've always wondered if they are just dumb and trusting or super smart?  Hinterland Who's Who gives them a pretty good rating on the brain power - since they survive by actually caching all that food they steal from people (they have an interesting habit of working it back and forth in their mouth to coat it with sticky saliva, then cache it under a piece of bark or moss in a tree for later in the year). With some birds making a 1000 caches of food which apparently they can remember, I'm thinking they are actually pretty smart birds. 

It's hard to get bored with these guys though, their antics are always a fun diversion on an outing at East Branch, especially on a sunny day like today with temperatures near zero Celsius and great winter conditions. Grizzly

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Real Estate

Apparently this is the time of year when people are supposed to get the 'urge' to move and buy houses.  I'm not so sure that is going to happen in our country this year, but I'll leave that to all the other blogs that talk about real estate.

These two bald eagles though were clearly up to something today.  Both are mature and sitting there checking out the vacant listings.  Hard to blame them for looking, with a high temperature of 11 C, located on the water front of the Bella Coola River, trout passing by and ready for immediate occupancy, the terms don't get much better.

My bet is they've got an offer in on this place and will be moving in before long.  Grizzly

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Gulch

A gulch is a deep V-shaped valley formed by erosion. It may contain a small stream or dry creek bed and is usually larger in size than a gully. Occasionally, sudden intense rainfall may produce flash floods in the area of the gulch. Wikipedia
Sometimes the Bella Coola Valley is lovingly referred to by the locals as "The Gulch".  It's not being used in the derogatory sense, it just happens to be a reasonably good description of the land form we live in.  While our valley is more of a U-shaped valley and the small stream  represented by the Bella Coola River never goes dry, we all understand what 'sudden intense rainfalls' can do around here.

Anyway don't be alarmed when you hear us referred to as "down in the gulch" - it's not a slum.

Well the February weather has just been a continuation of the January weather, except a bit warmer, longer days and warmer sun.  It's quite an impressive stretch.  Hard to argue with a high of 10 C and sunny skies in the afternoon today.  Grizzly

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Simple Expectations

Had to leave the Bella Coola Valley this week and head for some of our more busy prosperous cities to the south.  It's always good to get out for a few days to check your perspective.  One of the things that always strikes me is the difference in expectations between small rural areas like the Bella Coola Valley and bigger places.  You get a flavour for it when you pick up a local paper, listen to the local radio station or just listen to the local talk in stores and restaurants.  The striking thing is the difference between what people in rural and isolated places see as normal vs what is normal in urban centers.  I'm talking about the average size of new houses, paved, street lit sidewalks and streets and the services - wow the services and hours are incredible!    There's not much talk about septic tank problems, water well problems and what day is the garbage dump open so we can take our own garbage to the dump. It's all just taken care of down here.   In small towns and in rural areas you spend a lot more time dealing with basics - and for us it's the norm as well.  Sure we debate about it would nice to have more facilities for sports, better shopping, bigger this and that, but what we really appreciate most in Bella Coola is having  good health care facilities, a pretty good airport and pretty reliable air services in an emergency.  We depend on the urban centers for a lot of things (especially the health care experts and service industry that fixes and makes things for us) and I'm really glad a lot of people seem to be thriving in this environment.  Back in the Bella Coola Valley, the lack of traffic, clean air, total dead quiet at night, scenery, wildlife, no lineups and lots of other things are just simple expectations.  Grizzly

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Snow on Trees

So one of my brothers who is a lot wiser and a little bit older than me  lives clear across this great country and he is also a loyal blog reader.  He was recently in the state of Vermont where he took this picture.  He's a deep thinker and always asks me seemingly innocuously simple questions, which never have simple answers.  A while back he asked me this one:  "What's the evolutionary advantage for some evergreens to hold such large amounts of snow on their branches in the winter time?"

It took me longer than I expected pondering this question, because I initially thought the answer was easy.  Keep in mind that while this blog is not a science forum, I do get intrigued by these kinds of questions as well.  There are reams of research on the  interception of snow by coniferous forests (evergreens) being a major factor in moderating winter snow pack in areas of deep snow.  They talk in technical terms such as sublimation, ablation and albedo of snow pack -- all really impressive stuff.  Less snow pack in a forest means growing seasons can be longer as a result of snow interception and conditions better for animals using the forest in the winter.  There is a ton of research about this topic in relation to clear cut logging, as it's well documented in areas of deep snow falls that snow packs in clear-cuts are deeper and stay longer for usually 15-25 years after logging until the new trees start intercepting snow.  This is an understood effect which researchers and forestry planners build into their plans to mitigate the effect of increasing the length and depth of deeper snow packs -- more good stuff.

Where I got stuck was trying to explain the area where I spend time in the winter -- western mountains with  alpine and semi-alpine zones.   I could find little information to help explain why even though many of these trees are shaped to shed snow, tending towards tight pyramidal shape, they can hold a lot of snow during big snowfalls. as evidenced in this picture I took last weekend.  The snow they do intercept and eventually shed creates huge tree wells - I know I've fallen in a few with my snowmobile! 

There is research about the importance of these tree wells for animals which use them to get under the snow to live and hunt (mice, weasels, etc).  The more interesting piece I found was that researchers had actually turned their mind to calculating the heat loss from the earth through tree wells in semi alpine forests.  Apparently tree wells can be a significant conduit for heat loss without the insulating snow blanket.  It suggests that these heat wells can moderate the temperature of the forest floor by keeping it colder.

When I went back to my brother's original question, I had to speculate a bit for the semi alpine and transition zone forests.  These trees, which can hold so much snow that they create tree wells big enough that you can disappear in them and not be found, may actually serve to maintain a cold environment.  The biggest enemy facing these semi-alpine forests is a warming climate where trees that have evolved to survive being solitary at high altitude can quickly be replaced by more aggressive 'forest' trees from lower altitudes.  These semi alpine forests and the plants associated with them have a vested interest in maintaining a long winter, they've adapted their life to it and the fewer lower elevation intruders the better.  I`m sure I have opened enough doors on this topic someone reading this post will want to do a thesis on it now.  Grizzly

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blue Spruce?

Not really.  No such thing as true blue spruce (Picea pungens) around here.  To see those beautiful trees you would have to go down to the Colorado area or look around in peoples yards where they are planted as ornamental trees. 

Instead we have the Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) which occasionally shows a little bit of a blue tinge like this one, just enough to catch your eye and take a second look at it, but only at the right time of year in the right light.  While our Sitka Spruce is no where near as pretty a colour as a blue spruce, they are still a pretty magnificent tree.  Sitka Spruce from Canada and the US west coast is intricately woven into our modern war history as it was responsible for successful construction of American and Canadian Air Force planes during WWI. It was highly prized because for its given size and strength it had the ability to withstand bending and twisting and was unparalleled among other materials.

Given the size they reach on the coast and in places around the Central Coast and how well the new stands grow on some of our rich growing sites, it's still a really beautiful and important tree. Grizzly

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Warm January

Well if January 1950 was the coldest month in Bella Coola, then January 2010 must be close to one of the warmest! The coldest day we had last month was -7.1 C, while the maximum hit 9.7 C and there were 14 days where the minimum never went below 0 C.  While I'm not a meteorologist or anything like that, in my humble opinion we are entering a period where we would typically see some well defined storms off the Pacific that normally rumble across the coast mountains in February as the shift towards the spring equinox starts to creep up on us.  I've been looking at the satellite photos and starting to find myself peeking at  ones west of Japan and you still can't see anything big coming.  Perhaps February will  prove me wrong.   Grizzly