As he sorts though the moths caught in his trap, Bob Puls delicately flicks the rejects away, sending them fluttering, alive and unharmed, back into the bushes.
The home-made device uses a light to lure the moths into a conical trap they can’t fly out of until Puls removes the top.
“This one I’ve got and that one I’ve got,” he says.
“That one I don’t need.”
One with bright orange on its back is a keeper.
Puls gently slides it into a small container for a later close-up photo.
He averages one new species of moth a week.
Puls, a long-time member of the Langley Field Naturalists, says that in his teenage years growing up in the United Kingdom, he was the kind of outdoorsman who would wander around with a gun.
Now he wanders with camera, binoculars and notepad, maneuvering confidently through the sometimes steep trails with a walking stick that can double as as camera monopod.
The retired teacher is one of several volunteers engaged in a quest to list everything that moves or grows in a 150-acre wilderness area in the Fort Langley area near 240 Street and 80 Avenue.
The publicly-owned Crown land is a former sawmill site that was abandoned after the mill and the millworkers’ housing burned to the ground in 1917.
“It really hasn’t been disturbed.”
Tall second-growth trees tower overhead, and the only faint evidence of former human habitation is the overgrown rise of land that marks a former logging road.
When the nearby Mountain View Conservation Society leased the 150 acres under an agreement that calls for preservation of the property, no one really knew what was there.
“How do we know what we’ve got?” is the way Mountain View director of program development Malcolm Weatherstone puts it.
“Really, we should see what we have.”
That led to an agreement with the volunteers of the Field Naturalists, who have been patiently adding to an ever-growing list of flora and fauna within the 150 acres over the last four years.
“It’s been a wonderful partnership,” says Weatherstone.
“This work is going to allow us to lay our plans. It’s going to allow us to plan ahead.”
And it establishes a benchmark that shows such an extremely detailed assessment of wildlife is possible, Weatherstone adds.
“Our hope is that we could encourage inventories elsewhere in the Fraser Valley and B.C.”
Among other things, the inventory has found evidence the mountain beaver used to live in the area.
Reviving the mountain beaver (which is not really a beaver, but a rodent considered a living fossil by some researchers) is a perfect fit with the mission of Mountain View, a B.C. non-profit society which is out to save B.C. and Canadian wildlife from extinction by operating ‘breeding and return’ programs.
During the first year of counting, Puls estimates the Langley Field Naturalists identified “600-odd” species of flora and fauna.
The list has more than doubled since.
During a recent visit with a Times reporter in tow, Puls makes the rounds of the property, checking another insect trap, writing down bird types, examining mushrooms and other plants and taking close-ups photos of particularly interesting specimens.
“We have various different slugs,” he says, plucking one off a moss-encrusted tree trunk and holding it out for a picture.
“Charming little creatures.”
It takes a good four to five hours to walk the circumference of the property, but most visits take about two hours, Puls says.
As the count has progressed, he has photographed thousands of insects, including 165 different type of moths and butterflies
So far, the Langley Field Naturalists have listed 1,300 species of plants, insects and animals, including a more-than-expected 270 fungal and mushroom species.
One mushroom type has been sent out for DNA analysis because none of the exerts have been able to identify it
“We may have found a new species for B.C.” Puls says.
“We don’t know yet. We are hoping we have.”
Generating a list of all the plants and lichen in the 150 acres was a relatively painless task, Puls says.
But tallying the near-endless variety of beetles and flies has been “a nightmare”
Puls hopes the data from the study will help preserve other B.C. wilderness areas like the Langley property, which he says need to be maintained so wildlife can migrate without going through residential areas.
“They need to be protected.”
He says the inventory is the kind of initiative that can go on indefinitely because there will always be something new to discover.
“It will never be complete,” Puls says.
“It could go on forever. All in all, it’s just a wonderful wildlife project.”
For more information about the Langley Field Naturalists, visit http://www.langleyfieldnaturalists.org/
To learn about Mountain View Farms Breeding and Conservation Centre go to: http://www.mtnviewconservation.org//
Photos by Dan Ferguson / Langley Times