Swamped with Joy: Wetlandkeepers in Mission

Slowly creeping along the shore of the swamp, I take delicate silent steps as I carefully scan the vegetation. Heart racing and muscles tense, I’m looking for any sign of movement that will give away its location. An almost imperceptible flash of green to my right and I know I have to make my move or lose it all.

Now you might think this is a scene from a movie such as “Swamp Thing” or “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” but I wasn’t actually evading the icky evil swamp monsters of Silverdale wetland, I was trying to catch them! Although I would never even dream of calling frogs icky or evil, many people have these misconceptions about wetlands, often considering them to be dark, scary places not worthy of conservation.

In fact, wetlands are worthy of our protection and they desperately need our help! Regardless of the valuable flood protection, water purification, and habitat that they provide, wetland degradation is an ongoing problem with wetlands being filled for development and agriculture all across the world.  In BC alone, as much as 90% of wetlands have been lost since the 1800s in developed areas (Boyle et al 1997).

Many community members in Mission have recognized the importance of wetlands and have come together withthe help of Ducks Unlimited and the District to protect and enhance the local wetlands around Silverdale Creek. This great base of community support brought the BCWF Wetlandkeepers course to the site on the weekend of April 13-15, which was collaboratively offered alongside the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition (FVWC). Participants came to learn about the important services that wetlands provide, to develop the skills required to map and monitor a wetland, and to take amphibian field surveys.  The exercises in this course also provided the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition with important data on the site that they can use for future restoration and protection. All types of people were present, from nerdy biology students (myself included) to curious district employees, and everyone walked away with a refresher or new skills in plant identification and compass orienteering.

The highlight of the course was most certainly taking amphibian surveys with Herpetologist Elke Wind! Searching for frogs, checking live traps, and even finding Salamander eggs – I was in my geeked-out glory!  In a survey used to determine what amphibians were present in this rehabilitated wetland, we found Chorus Frogs, Western Pacific Toads, and Northwestern Salamander eggs… amazing! I thought I couldn’t be happier after successfully catching the elusive Chorus Frog (the green flash mentioned above), but I was wrong.  My favourite moment? Realizing I wasn’t the only one in a state of pure joy when I looked up from my frog catching to see Jason Chew, a member of the Mission & District Rod and Gun Club, gently holding an egg mass in his hands with a look of bliss on his face, in awe of the life in this beautiful wetland.

For more photographs from this course, take a look at our Flickr set!

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