A blog about life in the Bella Coola Valley and the Central Coast area of British Columbia for anyone interested in an incredible and rich part of BC's coast. I hope to provide my thoughts about things as simple as weather observations and seasonal issues, to comments about life and the natural history in the Bella Coola Valley, the Central Coast and the west Chilcotin area.
Note: All photos on this blog were taken by the author unless otherwise noted. While the photos and written material are all the property of the author and protected by Copyright, I'm not a professional photographer and you can use the photos if a link or attribution is provided back to my blog. If you have a need to use a particular photo and you want the high resolution file, leave a comment with your email (I won't publish it) and we can discuss what use you intend the photo for. Grizzly
A resident of the Bella Coola Valley and observer of the natural history, geography, resources, regional climate and cultural history of the Bella Coola Valley, Central Coast and the West Chilcotin area of BC.
A couple of nice days in the Bella Coola Valley with no big weather events to talk about. Not all the snow is gone in the valley bottom, but this week has been pretty good for knocking it down. Today we hit a high of 11 C. Grizzly
My wife started sneezing this week and cursing the start of the pollen season. I told her it's the Red Alder trees, blame them. In looking at the alder catkins today, some of them when touched are bursting yellow pollen and my deck has a yellow hue to it from the pollen accumulation. It's a nasty tree for allergy sufferers and the peak of the pollination goes on for several weeks, just in time for all the other trees that start pollination. Grizzly
A colleague asked me this week if I had been bitten by any of those overwintering big slow dumb mosquitoes (they lumber along like a loaded Airbus, and are easy to swat), that show up before the snow is even gone. I told her that I had not but I hadn't been in the woods much yet. I was wrong, because with the warm temperatures today at 16 C, my crowd of big slow dumb mosquitoes was out and after me tonight when I was outside. I've learned this particular crop doesn't seem too mean much for the up coming summer as they seem to be more residual from last year. Grizzly
One of the seasonal annual rites of passage in the Bella Coola Valley is the 'burning of the grass'. I'm not sure which culture brought this long practiced tradition, but it's been practiced a long time and is practiced in many grassland and pasture areas.
This last week and weekend were perfect 'burn the grass' days in the valley, with dry grass, snow in the trees and no wind. Burning is effective for keeping the brush from encroaching too much which is one of the big challenges of keeping hay fields and pastures when you are in a rainforest. It also provides a quick infusion of nutrients and early warming of the soil with the blackened earth picking up solar radiation.
The nice weather from the weekend continued today with a nice warm sunny 14 C day. Grizzly
With a few days like today where we hit a high temperature of 12 C and full March sun, it doesn't take long to forget about the dull days of winter. It's a far cry from the ridiculous and extreme March high temperatures of eastern Canada this week, but to experience anything like that in the mountainous province of BC when snow packs are so deep could be a flooding disaster. Grizzly
The Bella Coola Valley has a fluctuating population of beavers which I think depends on predators, trapping activity and the amount of good feed (willow being the most preferred) and general weather and water conditions. In a few of the ponds and back channels that they inhabit you can find the occasional classic beaver house made of sticks. But it's more common to see them in slow moving areas of the Bella Coola River where they seem to get along really well and they become "bank beavers", building houses in soft mud banks which must make for quite comfortable living.
It must be a good way to go because they have lots of ability to move up and down the stream looking for food as long as they don't pick a place that dries out in low water or get picked off themselves by a lucky grizzly bear. Grizzly
March and April are normally the peak months for the downstream migration of salmon Fry in the Bella Coola River (fry are small fish that are newly emerged from the river bed gravel). These are mostly pink and chum salmon fry that would have been eggs deposited in August through October last fall. How fast they hatch and develop through the various stages to emergent fry is totally dependent on water temperature.
In most 'normal' years, ie years in which the Bella Coola River and its tributaries are not flooded in the fall, they were would be fairly healthy and easily visible to the eye numbers of fry along the stream margins. Their main migration downstream to the ocean happens at night to make it tough for predators - and there is a lot of those namely cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden trout, sculpins, Kingfishers and River Otters.
I've been watching this year though and the numbers by simple visually observation don't seem really abundant - which is an observation consistent with a relatively low return of salmon in 2011 and another very damaging flood in September 2011 (third year in a row).
The box in this photo - an inclined plane trap - operated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to live trap, count and release fry is the best indicator of abundance. Hopefully they are catching a few this year. Grizzly
For our yard, these little snow drops that come up faithfully year after year underneath a Japanese Maple mean that spring has come again. Even though when they are finished growing and flowering for the year, the soil under the tree turns to dust some years in the summer and after the maple leafs out there is no light reaching them they always are there for us just breaking through the snow or flowering as soon as the ground thaws. It's always a good barometer that we all get to carry on for another season no matter what the winter was like. Grizzly
Days like today in the Bella Coola Valley are when the heli skiers make up for lost time due to all the poor weather days. Most of the day was bright skies and no winds. The mountains all have vast quantities of untracked snow to ski on and we can look forward to quite a few more weeks of winter mountain weather to enjoy. A few plants are starting to come to life, especially my favourite early budding skunk cabbages in some of the valley wetlands and roadside ditches not filled with snow. Grizzly
This is the time of year in the Bella Coola Valley that the folks living in the western end of the valley get a head start on all the spring chores. Most of the yards and gardens west of the Salloomt Road area are bare of snow while the bare areas to the east are confined to sunny exposures and around buildings.
On a day by day basis the retreating snow doesn't seem to move, but if you are gone for a few days then you notice some progress on the melt line. The eastern end of the valley will catch up quickly as we slide into the later half of March. Eastern valley dwellers will more than make up for the longer winter when summer comes and the climate is slightly warmer and dryer than the west. Grizzly
A light snow went through the valley and much of the Central Coast last night up until mid morning this morning. It only left a cm or two which didn't stick around long. The valley mountains and trees had a nice coating of snow. These rock walls in the photo are on the north side of the Bella Coola Valley near the airport. Grizzly
A few sunny periods today in the Bella Coola Valley, but not a spectacular day otherwise. The silty waters of the Noosgulch River mixing with the the clear waters of the Bella Coola River in the photo today . Grizzly
We've had a couple of warmer days in the Bella Coola Valley which has been pleasant and has knocked more of the snow back in the snowier end of the valley. The fresh snow line is not far away though at about 2000' where there is a pretty clear line of snow from the showers at night and earlier this week when it was rainy. Grizzly
The plant in the photo is the tough and hardy Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) plant which is very common. It's starting to come out of the snow on the sunnier slopes in the valley and it looks as fresh and healthy as when it was under snow. A tough plant to withstand some of the dry Arctic east winds we get in the Bella Coola Valley.
No east wind today, just dull grey low clouds and steady rain tonight. Grizzly
Every 10 years or so we get the right conditions of snowfall, temperature and wind that leads to an avalanche coming down on Highway 20 between the town of Bella Coola and the Government wharf. The one in this photo came down after last Sundays snow fall. It took a day to get it cleared as it was fairly large. It's a good place to keep driving and not stop to enjoy the inlet scenery in North Bentinck Arm. Grizzly
After the big snowfall in the Bella Coola Valley on Highway 20, an avalanche deposited itself on the Highway between the town site of Bella Coola and the government wharf. It had the highway closed down that way today, which is inconvenient to anyone who lives at the wharf.
The snow is deep on the mountains after yesterday. Grizzly
Late last evening the Bella Coola Valley temperature was above freezing and not doing much for precipitation, but as you can see in the photo by 8 AM this morning that had turned into 8" or 20 cm of snow. It made for poor driving and a good day to stay put. It quit snowing in the mid morning and there was very light rain in the afternoon. Grizzly
In the Bella Coola Valley we had pretty heavy rain overnight, but it was over by the morning and the day was just cloudy without significant rainfall. More rain is forecast for tonight and tomorrow. There was a fairly significant amount of snow in Heckman Pass on Highway 20 as well this morning I heard. Grizzly
March and early April are the lowest water months for the Bella Coola River and its tributaries. The snow pack is still deep in the mountains and the nights cold so the pack is still accumulating. The lower elevation valley snow slowly just slips away until one day in late March and early April you realize it's all gone. We tend not to get Pacific storms with a lot of rain, just a lot of Pacific storms in the month of March with unstable weather, squalls, snowstorms and the occasionally cold spell.
The tributary in this photo is getting below its normal flow and you can see the iron stain colour from the iron producing bacteria on the rocks that are otherwise underwater for most of the year. Grizzly