Friday, March 18, 2016

One of those Hodgepodge Posts with crows, eagles, a hummingbird and some Good Fences too.

Linking to TexWisGirl's Good Fences meme today, after trying week after week and running out of time to complete a post.  I've given up on the old photos.  All the fences here were taken over the past couple of days.  I'm just in time to catch up with her two-year anniversary of hosting a fascinating meme indeed.  Thanks so much, Theresa!

There are lots of birds in the post, so will link as well with Stewart's Wild Bird Wednesday meme. Thanks, Stewart!  
Fences across the street from us. Bill and I feeding our favourite crow. 
 I look forward to this magnolia tree blooming each year.
Wearing a hat crocheted by a lovely lady in our building.  She has just turned 87 and is involved in so many activities, she barely has an afternoon free. 
Happy crow and so, so gentle.
We've started playing pickleball and love it.  Right now, the cherry blossom trees line the fence outside the court. 
False Creek fences here. 

Other things on my mind that have little to do with fences or birds, but feel important to me, are added to the mix today.  Hopefully that will be okay with my very patient readers.  

This Anna's Hummingbird was sitting on a branch in Olympic Spirit Park.
Every once in a while, the light caught him just right to bring out his brilliant red.
I shared him on my facebook page some time ago but this is his first appearance on the blog.  His beauty is all the more poignant, given the sad story of a blogger who will no longer be able to share the gifts of nature that she so clearly loved.
I was shocked a few weeks ago to learn of her death, having admired her writing from a distance.  We both began blogging in 2008, but she was a much more consistent poster and commenter than I have been.  She was a rare gift to the blogging world, posting extraordinary photographs drawing us into and beyond her world that started in the rural town of East Gwillimbury, less than an hour north of Toronto.  That world included critters, birds, nature, shadows, barns, trains, boats, cars, snowy winter scenes, sunny summer scenes, children, and people going about their lives. 
To: East Gwillimbury CameraGirl
She and her husband died together in a car crash, a cruel reminder that there are no guarantees for anyone as to how long we can expect to live.  I am sad to have lost my chance to get to know you better, Tina (EG Camera Girl), and extend heartfelt condolences to your beloved family members and friends.  The bud waiting to open (above) and the delicate hoar frost in Vancouver's City Hall garden (below) are the photographs I'd like to dedicate to your memory.  They remind me of the fragility and transience of life.  You will be so very missed!  
The photo above was taken way back on November 29th, I had ridden my bike over the Cambie Street Bridge from Yaletown to take a gym class at Fitness World at the corner of 12th and Cambie. It is only about a 15-minute ride, but looking back down the hill from the gym that day, it felt as though I had traveled from one world to the next.  Rising mist and steam in temperatures hovering just above O Celsius almost obliterated the red banners that line the bridge.  In this shot, I happened to catch some people in close-to-perfect sync as they crossed Cambie Street.
Though the streets had not been slippery, Hoar Frost covered most of the grounds at Vancouver City Hall, just across from where I stood.  This turned out to be about as cold as it got in Vancouver this winter.  We had a couple of light snowfalls, but no accumulation on the ground this year.  The cherry blossoms and magnolias  have been out for quite some time now.  The weather has been blustery the last couple of days, but there are signs of spring everywhere I look.
I spent a few minutes admiring the patterns and textures.
Later in the day, the sun broke through just in time for our afternoon outing. This Gold Finch was the first I had seen in months.
The cormorants had lined up as they often do to dry their wings on the..
"Brush with Illumination" sculpture in False Creek.  This one was at the very top.
On December 9th, we rode our bikes around False Creek to Vanier Park.  We stopped under the Granville Street Bridge for a few moments.  I wonder if anything strikes you as slightly odd about this photo.  In fact, I have flipped it upside down.
What I had photographed was a reflection in False Creek on one of the clearest and most beautiful days we had had that month.  The photo below is the way things really looked.
Bill was doing his "serious" look here and that made me laugh.  I'm not sure why we had put Black Jack's new raincoat on.  What I remember of the day was bright sunlight, but perhaps, with so much changeable weather, we were prepared for rain.  Or perhaps, we were trying it out as a sort of wind-breaker. 
A cute Hooded Merganser (female) swam by, and then we continued on our way.
Some of you may have read the previous post showing an eagle flying overhead.  That eagle, I'm fairly certain, is one of a pair that resides in Stanley Park.  The eagle pair below lives at Vanier Park.  We've been following the male's story for seven or eight years.  His mate, up until two summers ago, bore healthy chicks almost every year, but unfortunately, he lost her as well as a new mate the following season to accidents when they were chased into high wires by crows.  The female he is with now (I believe she is on the right) arrived in the summer of 2015 but was spooked by all of the activity in the park.  They didn't raise any chicks that summer.  We always check out eagle action when we go to the park but when we can't make it there, this web site helps to keep us updated.  Most of the posts are by Diana, a lady who lives near the park.  She has been watching that nest for many years. 
A couple of weeks ago, Diana left this post: "I haven't posted for awhile but there hasn't been much to report. The Eagles have been mating every morning on the totem pole for the past week. I have been monitoring them in the evening and the pair does not seem to spend the night together.......the female heads off to the West and the male stays in the nest tree or in the little clump of trees next to the canoe club.  They have been bringing in nesting materials (mostly the male) for the past month.The female still does not hang around when there is activity or people hanging around under the nest. I have no doubt that she will lay eggs but not sure that she will incubate them properly.  She seems to still have a lot of difficulty with humans around the nest. The area has been busy as they are building another dock, renovating the Coast Guard station and recently filming a series called "The flash " They had bright lights illuminating the area and the nest for 3 nights in a row. It is a constant battle with the parks board and animal control to contain the off-leash dogs that often prevent them from catching prey in the ponds nearby."

Here is the entire totem pole.  On December 9th, my 500 mm lens could only capture a small portion of its beauty, but we went back a couple of weeks later and I used the 17-50 mm lens.  
 The pole has been braced for a couple of years while the Parks Board people try to figure out how to deal with the base of the totem that has begun to deteriorate.
 You can read some of the details of the attempt to preserve the totem pole here.
Though we weren't lucky enough to spot the eagles, we enjoyed the sun and the scenery and the..
 wonderful lawn where Black Jack had a little run.
Here's a close-up of Black Jack waiting for us to gather our things before an outing.  She finds it tough, sometimes, to figure out why her humans dawdle when there are places to go and things to see.
But, back to December 9th:
As we were watching the eagles, a gentleman stepped up behind me to examine my viewfinder, curious to see how much detail I could capture.  Bill immediately recognized him as a famous movie star.  Though we go to many movies, I have poor knowledge of even the most famous stars.  I talked with the man for a while about the eagles with no idea that I should know him.  When Bill finally asked, he confirmed his identity but neither of us felt he was thrilled to be recognized, so I won't mention his name here.  I will tell you that I was surprised to learn from his web site that he is vegan.  I don't know why I would never have predicted that.  
Just after the gentleman departed, the male eagle left the totem pole, 
and the light was perfect to get quite a clear shot of him.   
He flew back to the nest, a distance of perhaps 0.75 k from the totem pole.  We rode our bikes back that way and stopped to see if the female would join him,
 but he was still waiting when we finally headed home. 
I'm jumping ahead again, but not quite up to the present.  About two months ago, Bill and I discovered Pickleball.  It's a new and very enjoyable activity for us that I would never have known about, had it not been for some fun ladies in my morning fitness class. Super friendly, they invited me to join their coffee get-togethers on Fridays, and the next thing I knew, Bill and I were lined up at our community center desk, trying to register for the class, though it was so popular, we had to go on the wait list.  We decided to learn as much as we could until we could register so we practiced in various outdoor courts and park spaces along our bike routes, just batting the ball back and forth. Here's Bill, on January 16, 2016the very first day the paddles he had ordered arrived.  It was raining lightly, but we were so keen, we decided to use the walls of a basketball court near us as a bounce-off point.
Even though I have never been good at any racquetball sport, I managed to catch a couple of bounces.  That was it.  We were hooked :)
Pickleball is a great way of keeping warm.  We left Black Jack guarding the various layers we had shed.  If you look closely below, you will see a crow near the right, on the fence above the court.  It is one of several crows that we have been (probably unwisely) feeding salmon treats.  We decided not to feed him/her from within the court, but can't resist giving out a few treats before and after almost every game.  The crow waits for them, and calls his/her friends over when we arrive and when we begin to pack up our things.  Now that we have progressed to the point of being able to get the ball back and forth between us, we usually use the tennis court beside this basketball court.  The lookout crow is always there, as is a hummingbird (no photo of it it yet) that watches us from a small tree overlooking the court.  We don't feed the hummingbird, but s/he seems to be doing well catching insects from the tree branch. We enjoy our little bird audience of two :)
You can find information about Pickleball at this link or you can watch a women's gold-medal match in this video.  Or, you may want to watch this tiny little video of us batting the ball around in a tennis court at Granville Island just a few days after receiving the paddles.  
We usually play for a half hour or so and then we get back on our bikes and continue on our way.  On Tuesday, there were interesting blues and greys behind the trees as we arrived at English Bay.  The bike path is at the far right in the photo.  You can just glimpse a tiny portion of it.  
Bill had never taken a video with my camera, but we thought you might like to see Black Jack riding so calmly in her basket.  I thought Bill did well as he had the 300 mm lens on, and that made the camera pretty heavy.  We had put on all of our layers again, and we needed them as it was quite cool.  However, if you look carefully at the end of the video, you will see a girl in a bikini just coming out of the water after going for a short swim with her dog.  I'm not sure whether to describe her as brave or crazy but her dog was definitely a happy camper :)
We not only dress in layers ourselves, but we do the same for Black Jack.  Bill is carrying her warmest coat wrapped around his fanny-pack shoulder strap, and.. 
a lighter coat is folded into his inside pocket.  He also carries mitts for me because my hands often get cold.  I've come to depend on him for these things.  He's a wonderful caretaker!
I'm including two other little videos here that were taken January 18.  The first was taken by a small waterfall near Olympic Spirit Park and is just a few seconds long.  It gives a good sense of just how comfortable Black Jack is in Bill's arms.
The second was taken moments later.  This one shows Black Jack's happy energy and still impressive speed given that she is 11 years old.

One last shot of sweet Black Jack running.  That's it for today.  Many, many thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Critters and Birds, Hither and Thither!

LInking today to Saturday's Critters (thank you, Eileen) and Wild Bird Wednesday (thank you, Stewart!).

These were taken on October 31st at a Hallowe'en celebration in the "Barking Babies" shop that sells accessories for dogs. There was a gathering of costumed canines,
a few of them colour-coordinated..
with their happy humans. 
We bought Black Jack's hat at that store. 

It is working out really well for colder bike rides.  Here are a few photos taken this past Tuesday along False Creek.  I sewed the ear openings closed, as she is..
warmer and more comfortable when the wind doesn't blow through them.
She attracts attention when wearing the hat, but that doesn't seem to bother her at all.  She'll even pose for strangers when asked politely :) 
The staff at Barking Babies do not worry about their clients appearing babied :) There are always a few of their resident rescue dogs greeting customers.  This Chihuahua is very elderly and loves to be snuggled and cuddled and toasty warm.
This Yorkie is another resident, and though he only wears a hat for special occasions, he, too, likes to be snuggled in soft blankets.  Though we don't visit Barking Babies very often, we are always received warmly and I am always impressed with how much the owners love their own beautiful dogs, and the dogs that find their way into their shop.  Thank you, Barking Babies, for a great visit, and for your kindness to people and dogs.
That same day, we walked along False Creek and discovered a new way of "framing" Black Jack photos.  A picture-framing business had hung frames from trees in random spots around the park.  I'm not entirely thrilled about the idea of using precious green space for advertising, but had to admit, 
it was creative entrepreneurship, and we certainly..
used the idea to put some silly fun in our day.
On November 5th, we rode to English Bay and walked the seawall path for quite a while.  There were the Barrow's Goldeneyes,  
 and large gatherings of small seagulls that I haven't identified. 
My big lens spotted one Harlequin duck to the far left of the rock below.
Cropping the photo helped to confirm the identification. 
The small gulls flew in and out of what looked like a.. 
very crowded runway. 
 I had some fun.. 
watching their interactions. 
They all flew off at one point..  
and I wondered how they managed to manoeuvre with wings colliding . 
On November 15th, we were again in the same area.  What a day it was!  The sky was the bluest I had seen in quite some time.
I wasn't alone in wanting to record the power of the waves.. 
and the wind. 
Riders coming along that bike path..
had a surprise in store for them.  These two, I guess, had already discovered.. 
that and were looking forward to seeing their friend's reaction. 
We watched in some anticipation as well :) 
He got a good soaking, but was still smiling when he met his friends. 
People were inspired by the sun and wind to let their playful sides emerge.
The Barrow's Goldeneyes were.. 
riding the waves too. 
 It was great fun to watch them.
It was one of the wildest days we had seen along the seawall. 
You couldn't help but smile..  well, at least, that was the case for Bill :)
As we watched the antics of this group of people, 
a shadow moved over me, and I looked up.. 
to spot this Bald Eagle.  S/he was so close overhead, my big lens couldn't fit the image into the frame at first.  Then, s/he flew.. 
much higher, with a crow.. 
in hot pursuit. 
Some crows assume leadership in protecting their families.  They do this with relentless courage, even willing, it seems to me, to die if necessary.  I am curious about this.  I wonder how the leader is selected?  I've observed that they seem to work in pairs or small groups. I wonder if they remain as head of the clan until death.  Is there a sort of retirement from active duty?  Do the assistants move up to replace those that die or retire?  So many questions. 
I never judge the crows for harassing the eagles.  They have lost many.. 
relatives to them.  Amazing how they turn themselves into little torpedoes. 
As far as I know, both the crow and the eagle survived.  Two eagles at Vanier Park have died in the past year after being chased into electric wires by the crows.  As mortal enemies go, I think the crows and eagles are evenly matched. 
Jumping ahead to the 24th of November, on the same section of the seawall, we saw quite a number of bird species.  These were American Wigeons.
Although we didn't see eagles that day, the crows were sure upset about something.
Next, we saw a few surf scoters.
There was a lovely Barrow's Goldeneye pair, 
followed by the largest gathering of Surf Scoters I had ever seen.
Their landings are comical.
One minute, they were there, and then they would dive en masse.
They rose together as well, often creating artistic splash patterns.
The Barrows were outnumbered but asserted their presence.
To our far right, I saw what I thought was a gathering of cormorants, 
but when they suddenly flew off, 
I saw a glimmer of orange bill, and realized they were Oyster Catchers.
It soon became obvious that they had yielded their rock to some otters.
Each one had a fish (not sure what it was), 
so no sharing was necessary. 
"See? My fish is bigger than your fish!"
Suddenly, there was a scramble, 
and then they were gone too.
Remember those huge waves at the beginning of this post? Well, the Parks Board had to close the seawall by Siwash Rock because of the damage caused by the wind and waves.  It actually remained closed for about two months but is now open again.

We loved this scene because of the interplay of the waves with the sand.
As we walked back to our bikes, we saw one more Oyster Catcher looking for its lost surf board :)
It settled for an intertidal morsel.  
As the sun was setting, one Fox Sparrow caught my eye to bring our bird count to six.  Add the otter-sightings to our magnificent day, and we were happy.
Bill and Black Jack say, "Bye, y'all.  Thanks for dropping by."