Trip Report – Watersprite Wetland, July 30, 2017

Watersprite, what a wonderful name for our summertime aim!

Watersprite Lake, on the SW shoulder of Mamquam Mountain,  has of course an outflow creek from the hanging valley.  Some distance below where the terrain becomes more level, there is one particularly large wetland at 1178 m elevation in the subalpine. To our knowledge the flora and fauna had never been documented. We made a start (see list).

On our July 2 recce, Alicia Saunders discovered tiny Northwestern Salamander larvae (Ambystoma gracile)*, with their external gills in ephemeral water in the ditch alongside the old logging road and also Pacific Tailed Frog (waiting for Alicia’s i.d. confirmation). A bright red beetle* grabbing lunch was identified through BugGuide.net as a member of the Lysidae family, Net-winged beetles. There were several bird species including Junco and Northern Flicker.

My dream is that our nature outing participants will increasingly include folk interested in various aspects of nature so we can learn from each other and enable a wider scope of documentation!

Following the classification of BC wetlands described in Wetlands of British Columbia, a Guide to Identification, I think Watersprite’s wetland is partway between a “Marsh” (Wm) and a “Fen”.

This was the first time near Squamish that I have seen subalpine daisies that are Erigeron peregrinus and not the more common E. glacialis. It is only recently that the two have been differentiated. Initially they became recognized as different subspecies of E. peregrinus and now they are receiving species status. As is often the case, the difference is subtle!  Look under the petals. The phyllaries* (floral bracts) are hairy: only the tips had sticky glands, which is within the variation. E. glacialis’ phyllaries are densely-stalked glandular and are without, or almost without, hairs.

The Fireweed* (River Beauty, Chamerion latifolium, also still known as Epilobium latifolium) differs from the species C. angustifolium we commonly see around Squamish.

The Marsh Marigold’s flowers were in pairs with leaves as wide or wider than long, in contrast to another species of Marsh Marigold (Caltha leptosepala) which grows at still higher elevations.

The plant species diversity in this wetland is not outstanding, reflecting the soil and geology, yet I saw only native species and it is extensive, almost undisturbed habitat. The old route to Watersprite Lake used to follow the edge of this wetland. When the BC Mountaineering Club built a cabin at Watersprite Lake last summer, they had first to prepare a new trail on the other side of the outflow creek, following old logging roads. The old route is now restricted to being a winter route. I saw very fresh bear scat and a lot of old scat near a lower, smaller wetland along the path of the same outflow creek. The alders are rapidly closing off the former access road for summer use and soon the bears should be undisturbed here.

Compiled by Judith Holm

* See photos in the gallery below.

Photo above by Judith Holm. “The cotton-grass was in prime form and in great swaths, but I wasn’t able to get an effective photo of it so here’s a general scene with one of the several ponds.”