Join Nature Culture at Hollyhock


This summer, I will be holding a workshop from June 29 to July 3 at Hollyhock on lovely Cortes Island. Hollyhock is situated at the northern end of the Salish Sea northwest of Vancouver British Columbia. I have a particular affinity to this part of the world because it is where I began my biologist career.

My summer job in 1967 was to search for grouse in the mountains of Vancouver Island overlooking Cortes island and the Discovery Islands. I was set loose with a Brittany spaniel to locate grouse that wore plastic colour bands previously attached to their legs by graduate students. Nowadays, biologists can use radio transmitters to locate and follow birds but in ’60s, the technique was to search for them with the help of a dog. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but one of my dreams would soon come true.

On a whim and after a summer of traipsing over hill and dale, I made an overnight trip to a small island in the northern Strait of Georgia a few miles south of Cortes. Mitlenatch Island was a seabird nesting island that instantly took hold of me. The island would come to play an instrumental role in my career. (If you click on the above link, you will see a video shot by our foundation embedded in the web page).

Three years later, in 1970 I was hired by BC Parks as a park naturalist on Mitlenatch Island and in 1973 my wife and I were both hired as park naturalists. It seemed like threes had some significance because in 1976 I began to study crows toward a Master of Science degree.

In 2013 (there is that three again!), I returned to Mitlenatch during an expedition around the Salish Sea to produce a film we called The Perfect State. I will show the film during the workshop. The film is based on the Nature Culture theme.

The workshop is aimed at develop traditions and ways of life connected to nature. For many people, nature is foreign so I thought the best way to proceed was to experience nature directly. From my two decades of tours to Haida Gwaii, the Great Bear Rainforest, and Alaska, I know that spending time in nature is far more inspiring  than talking about it. We will rise early to hear the dawn chorus of songbirds. The chorus begins at first light and hits full voice near sunrise. We will also do some bird watching.  The low tide on Saturday looks promising for a discovery of sealife. The waters stream around the north and south ends of Vancouver Island to meet south of Cortes. The outcome is an abundance of marine life. Participants will be able to see many of the animals in the intertidal up close. In addition to learning the names of the birds and marine life, I will explain the ecological world they inhabit. The story of the interactions of living creatures is as interesting than the animals themselves.

I am hoping that all of us, including me, will take away new ideas of how to grow a Nature Culture. We will explore ideas of what we can do as individuals to build a new pact with nature. But I also look forward to discussions on what cities, governments and businesses can do. Did I say we will do some drawing and painting? I am a Signature Member of Artists for Conservation and I want to show you how easy and fun its is to sketch during your excursions. I am working on some other ideas to add to the mix and once confirmed, I will let you know. Of course all of these events take place at the beautiful Hollyhock retreat. You can read more, see an on line brochure and register at or by calling 1-800-933-6339 x 232. There are also scholarships available. You can also follow these blogs where I will post more information, attend my events or contact me at my web site.


About rob butler

I am a scientist, author and naturalist with over four decades of field study of wild animals. You can read more at my web site at
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1 Response to Join Nature Culture at Hollyhock

  1. Pingback: Join Nature Culture at Hollyhock - HOLLYHOCK LIFE

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