On a Tuesday afternoon in late October, nine Hornby Island Community School students were seen in Helliwell Provincial Park.
They weren’t cutting classes to hang out in the sunny meadow. They were there to help improve the coastal bluff habitat for creatures such as birds, bees, and butterflies, including the rare Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly.
The session began with a presentation by Bonnie Zand of the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team. She told them that the butterflies have vanished from Hornby Island and most of their range.
There are currently only two known populations in Canada. Zand talked about the Garry Oak and coastal bluff ecosystems in the park and the many plants and animals that depend on them. She described the ongoing work to rejuvenate Helliwell’s habitats, partly to prepare the areas to release captive-reared Taylor’s Checkerspot caterpillars from the Greater Vancouver Zoo.
If all goes well, the butterflies will be flitting about Helliwell’s meadow next spring. Look for updates from the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Project Recovery Team before the release.
Under the guidance of senior park ranger Heather Steere, their teacher Daniel Ackerman, and Neil Wilson of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre, the students removed nearly 500 Hairy Cat’s Ear weeds from three sites.
Then they planted 518 seedlings of three types of native grass, Woolly Sunflower and Yarrow that were grown by members of the Natural History Centre. Norma Wilson, Barb Biagi and Sally England from the centre assisted with the planting, along with education assistant Lisa Hamilton and parent volunteer Ondrea Rogers from the school.
“It was a beautiful day in so many ways and everyone enjoyed the experience, as has been the case the previous three years as well,” said Wilson.
“Hopefully, these students will be showing their grandchildren Checkerspots in a thriving ecosystem that they helped to restore.”