Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sun worship

Saturday morning, Black Jack did as she always does first thing on sunny days.  She headed to the sunniest spot she could find in our yard (usually just beside the storage shed), and she basked with a look of the purest bliss on her face.  Her eyes were closed, but she opened them just a slit, when I approached with my ever-eager camera.

And some birds and bridges
This flamingo was one of two residing at the butterfly farm just north of Victoria.  We stopped there, on the way to the ferry, after our little cycling vacation in August.  It's an amazing place to be, but I always wonder, when seeing any wild thing in captivity, how much happier it might be if it were free in its own natural habitat.

These were taken from the Lions Gate, on the way home from work this past Friday.  I always look in the tree tops, and think of the most delicate lace.  With the light coming through the lace, it was another of those beauty moments.

And while I was there, I tried to capture a little of the night lit bridge.
This is almost the same shot, taken a few weeks earlier, and with a little more daylight.

And a couple taken under the bridge, last week, on the way to school.  At one point, a year or so ago, when they were doing work on the bridge, I had to come down here every day, and cross to the other side of the bridge to continue to work.  Meeting cyclists on a path meant for one was a challenge for me, and like many challenges, I hated it at first. But, my cycling skills improved, and I learned to appreciate looking into the faces of fellow commuters.  I almost missed that when the repairs were finally complete.

And my fascination with crows continues.  This one was taken behind the school where I work.
These, also taken near the school, about a week ago, again, on the way home from work.  If I had all the time in the world, and could travel as fast as crows, I would follow them to their roosting spot in Burnaby.  I've read about it, but have never seen it.  I know tens of thousands of crows from all over Vancouver head there every evening, as the sun goes down.  Within the huge flocks, pairs and small groups interact, playing and challenging, and probably enacting all sorts of other social dynamics, most of which I miss.  I hope, as I near retirement, to one day understand their world a little better. 
One sad story follows which illustrates crows' depth of emotion.  If you are very sensitive you many want to skip this paragraph.  About eight years ago, I lived near Jericho, and used to take my dog, Scott, to the park every morning before work.  One day, as i was about to cross 4th Avenue, a crow was hit by a car.  Two other crows immediate flew to it, crying piteously.  I figured they were its parents, but may have been wrong.  Together, they dragged the corpse across the street, up and over the sidewalk curb, and into the park grass.  There, they stood over it, crying, and that is when I couldn't watch any more.

This building is on Fell Street in North Van.  It seems the crows rest here for a few minutes, or perhaps work out social stuff, before they continue on their way to Burnaby.  When I arrive back at work the following morning, the crows have already returned.  I wonder if they feel tired, and have to build up to the trip.  Often, there will be one straggler, flying as though its life depended on it, trying to catch up with the flock.
Pictures are difficult.  They  always seem to look sort of messy and speckled.  Another challenge I hope to overcome, as I would love to capture the essence of those daily trips more successfully.  Still, if you look closely, you can pick out pairs.

And some bald eagle stories.
No particular story with the one below.  I took the photo while on a whale-watching trip with our school.  (Tough job, but somebody has to do it:)
Two summers ago, when I was living in North Van, I used to walk Black Jack along a dirt road near my apartment.  That road ended with some stairs leading down to a small trail.  A lady and her husband had a house just by those stairs, and she had a great border collie cross, so of course, Black Jack and I would often stop to say hello.  One day, the lady told me about a pair of bald eagles living in a nest just minutes along the trail.  She was able to see them from her house, and she took me along the trail, to point out their nest.  They were raising one juvenile, and I spent the next couple of months observing them.  As with crows, the stories are sometimes sad.  Again, some more sensitive readers may want to skip the rest of this paragraph.  I often noticed that seagulls seemed to be harassing my pair of adults and their babe.  I tried to record that, but of course, they were very high up, and I had only the 10X zoom at that time.  One day, as Black Jack and I were heading back home along the dirt road, I saw one of "my" eagles (I felt pretty sure about that, since it was heading directly to "my" nest) flying low, heading towards me with a baby seagull chick in its mouth.  That's when I understood why the seagulls were constantly attacking the eagles' nest.  I talked with the resident lady, and she told me the eagles seemed to get a few chicks every day, from a gull roosting spot on top of a nearby industrial building.  Sad, but I'm slowly (very slowly) coming to terms with the fact that life in the wild is not the romantically beautiful image I held for so many years.  It's still romantic and still beautiful, but in a much more real, and often harsh, sense.
And here, a crow challenging an eagle.  I read in the book "Bird Brains" by Candace Savage, that crows challenge eagles to improve their status within the flock.  I'm wondering now, if their story may have another element to it, similar to the seagull one.  I know (again from info in the book) that they often die for their efforts.
Here is the only photo I was able to capture of the juvenile.  It took its first flight the day after this picture.  Here, it was vigorously exercising its wings.  I didn't catch a photo of the flight, but was told about it by the lady who had been observing the eagles.  A day or so after that, I saw it fly, but was too slow to get a photo.  
All for today.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I heard (or read? Not sure) someone say yesterday, "If you have only one prayer, make it Thank You. 


  1. Happy Thanksgiving to you too. I love the way you have redesigned the header.

    My mom sent me a heartbreaking series of photos once showing a male bird (not sure what type -- small and colorful) mourning his partner, who had been hit by a car. I will pass it along if I can dig it out of my archives.

  2. What spectacular photography - !! I love the shots of the Lions Gate Bridge, especially at sunset - what a sight.

    The flamingo reminds me of Kenya - if/when you ever get there, you will have thousands of photos in a few days...

    I love the new look for your blog - it's a spectacular photograph and very compelling.

    I've told my 91-year-old grandma about your blog - I don't think she'll comment, but I'm hoping you'll inspire her to start up her own!

  3. dp, thanks! I'd love to see the photographs. Did your mother take them herself?

    Mali, thanks, too! I'm feeling I will get to Kenya one day. And that sky on Friday night was like a magnet. I couldn't bike on by. If your grandma does read the blog, I will feel honored:) If it inspires her to start her own, even better!!