Wayne Nelson, who studied the Peale’s peregrine falcons of Kusgwai/Langara Island for over 40 years, passed away in February. (Langara Fishing Adventures photo)

Remembering Wayne Nelson, dedicated naturalist

Wayne Nelson had been researching the Peale’s peregrine falcons of Kusgwai/Langara Island for over 40 years. He would arrive in late May, spend a few weeks there and then head home to Camrose, Alberta to write up his findings. He usually knocked on the door to say hello before heading west. If we weren’t home, he’d leave a note on the blackboard to say he’d catch up with us on his way back.

In the mid-1980’s, on more than one occasion, we took him to Kusgwai in our fish boat Lady Julia loaded with gear for his adventures. He would rappel down to some of the nests to check and weigh eggs and chicks — no mean feat with the surging sea below him. He worked hard and conscientiously wrote up his reports.

Wayne was a gentle person. He visited the Nature Centre at Delkatla on more than one occasion and prepared a detailed display which has been on show for some years. It gives facts and figures, charts, graphs, and text of his work. It is complimented by his personal, wonderful photographs of Peregrine eggs, chicks, and adults. When he was last there he spoke quietly of his work and we marvelled at his tenacity and persistence.

This year we wondered why he hadn’t shown up at the door as he usually did and wondered if he had come to the islands at all. Then the bad news. We heard a rumour that Wayne had died. We didn’t believe it. Following enquiries, however, we found out, sadly, that he had passed away on Feb. 15, 2017 from progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare condition that causes a “gradual deterioration of brain cells in a few specific areas, mainly in the brain stem.” As the disease progressed Wayne would not have been able to do the work he loved and, given the clarity of his mind and thought, it was tragic news indeed.

Wayne’s final report, written in 2013, showed that Langara held six falcon territories, three of which produced seven nestlings. One had an adult pair and evidence that at least one nestling had hatched, and two territories seemed to have either failed or were non-productive. He also showed that in the early 1950s Kusgwai had possibly 24 falcon territories. In 1999 it had ten and in 2013, his final year, there were only six.

What happened? Possibly a combination of DDT pesticide contamination in the early years and the loss of the peregrine’s main prey, the ancient murrelet, from rats released onto the island and from the destruction of murrelet nesting habitat. We may never know for sure, but Wayne’s work contributed enormously to the canon of falcon research and may never be repeated.

Thank you, and goodbye Wayne. You are deeply missed by your family and friends.

Wayne Neslon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Jennifer Rice BC NDP North Coast Incumbent was re-elected for a third according to the preliminary results on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Most Read