Tag Archives: Autumn Barrett-Morgan

Filming Dillon Creek, more than just a wetland restoration

Lives changed because of the Dillon Creek Wetland Restoration.

Project manager Miranda Cross said, “ This project really initiated a whole new life path where I am now working as a wetland restoration professional.” 

Monitoring Technician Autumn Barret Morgan studied soundscapes before she came to Cortes Island, but it was at Dillon Creek that she “started really diving into the soundscape” – which she has carried on with the Western Screech Owl Monitoring Project.

Beatrix Baxter has been making films for about 15 years, but she was feeling burned out by the time she moved to Cortes Island. The documentary film Replenish: Bringing Back the Dillon Creek Wetland is both a chronicle of the project, and part of a personal transformation.

“I’m pretty choosy about the projects I take on these days. I just really want to choose projects that are going to be quite meaningful to me and to the world,” she explained. 

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Provincial Biologist visits Cortes Island; Second Western Screech Owl discovered

A provincial biologist visited Cortes Island over the weekend. Emily Upham-Mills is an ecosystems biologist with the Ministry of Water, Lands and Natural Resource Stewardship and an important member of the team working with the Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) on the Western Screech Owl Project

Helen Hall, Executive Director of FOCI, explained, “Emily very kindly came up on the weekend to talk to the community. This project is really important for FOCI. We’re doing really interesting scientific work and that data is going back both provincially and federally. It puts us in the spotlight with this particular species. It’s a project that’s running for three years. We’re in the second year of trying to discover whether there are Western Screech Owls on Cortes Island.” 

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Autumn Barrett-Morgan: Soundscapes

The audio portion of this story starts with a chorus of croaking frog voices, rising up from a wetland. After a few seconds, the distant call of an owl is introduced.

Autumn Barrett-Morgan first learned about soundscapes when she was studying bird identification in college, but it really come alive after she became a Monitoring Technician with the Friends of Cortes Island Society.  

“In the past two or three years, I started  really diving into the soundscape on the Dillon Creek Wetland Restoration Project. I found it really important in birding, because not all birds are visible or make themselves visible and that left me not knowing who I’m listening to. So it got me really inspired to dive into observing the soundscape through studying the bird calls once I got back home.” 

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Success: The search for Western Screech Owls on Cortes Island

Up until now, there have not been any reports of Western Screech Owls on Cortes Island since 2017. That just changed a few weeks ago in the island’s more remote northern forest. 

Field biologist Sabina Leader Mense reports, “I was sitting in the skiff with my husband Dennis, under an unbelievably brilliant sky of stars. It was the last station of the night, pushing midnight, and in the 16th minute of that 17 minute call playback sequence, I heard something. I remember pivoting around in the boat. The sound was behind me and you do what owls do, you turn around.  I think your ears and the muscles and your ears cup and you’re just straining to hear something. Then I heard the call again. It was very distant, but I recognized it was an owl. I began analyzing the audio disks in my head going, ‘is it a Northern Pygmy Owl? Is it a Northern Saw-Whet Owl?’ As I was doing this, it called the third time and I recognized it was a Western Screech Owl.”  

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Perceived Biodiversity loss in Mansons Lagoon

Around 30 people trekked around the Spit into Mansons Lagoon, during the July 12 ‘Gumbooting the Lagoon.’ While Jane Newman, from the Cortes Island Museum, explained the site’s human history, marine biologist Deb Cowper and FOCI’s Autumn Barrett-Morgan introduced everyone to intertidal life forms. One of the many topics that arose was the loss of marine life.  

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