Thursday, January 29, 2009

My first heron of the season!

This blog was first inspired after spending many hours last summer watching herons.  My first post had, I think, the most successful photographs of any I've taken, before or since.  So, I was excited yesterday to know that at least one heron has returned to the lower mainland.I still don't know where they go when they disappear in August, but it is good to have them back.  This one was across the little river by my school in North Vancouver.  I didn't see any mate, and it wasn't very active.  Its head was up in this photo, taken mid afternoon, but most of the time, it seemed to be hunkered down against the cold. 
Here's a morning shot.  More crouched posture.  The Merganser (I think), however, sitting by the heron's reflection, seems content.

 I just now googled to see if the herons have been spotted in Stanley Park, my favorite viewing spot.  I came across absolutely stunning photographs by Eric-Z at this Flickr site.  Something to aspire to!

This fellow sniffed out dog treats from my left pocket, as I tried to take shots of the heron.  He was most polite, if a little intense, as he waited for me to hand them over.
This poor bird looked so miserable, I worried for it, but perhaps it was only scratching at an itchy spot.

I'm thinking this may be a sandpiper.  If so, it's the first one I've ever photographed.  Okay, not too impressive, but have to start somewhere:)  I love the way it flitted around.
This little guy bathed noisily the entire time I watched.  The sound of the water splashing dominated the atmosphere, and made me laugh. 
The bather, in a moment of relative calm.  I hate to sound Pollyanna-ish again, but I feel fortunate to work where I do, with nature almost literally at the doorstep.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Good-bye to a tree

Yesterday, my neighbors cut down a tree that had been on their front lawn for forty years.  They said it was leaning dangerously.  I know they were saddened but convinced it was the responsible thing to do.  I've lived in this house for only a year and a couple of months,but I felt like it was our tree and I loved it.  One day, I lay on the bed, held the camera up over my head, and tried to record the top of the tree with its lush branches.  I didn't know then they would have to cut it down.
If truth be known, it didn't have many branches on its lower half.  A lot of them had been cut off, and one huge one snapped under the weight of the snow, over the Christmas holiday.  But, I'm pretty sure Black Jack thought it was her tree.  Her Channel 1  viewing has had a drastic program cut.  She will adapt without complaint, observe the better access to activity along the street, and look for squirrels in the remaining trees.
I suppose some might say the lower half was not all that attractive.
But, I guess I have that tree hugger mentality.  I remember trees, maybe most of all the two big elms on our front lawn when I was growing up, but lots of other ones too.  I will miss this one, but try to take a page from Black Jack's book.  Scott's too.  (Factoid #5 in the link.)  As I watched his reality change with slower and weaker limbs in his last few years, I felt him think, "This is how it is now."  And then, he found the good stuff in his "now" and carried on joyfully.  

One more view from our bedroom window, this time looking from right side up.  Funny, I don't mourn for the snow:)  

How many ways?

When I began taking pictures of the Lions Gate, I couldn't have imagined I would still be discovering new ways of looking at it, all these months later.  This looks down the path going under the bridge.
This taken from almost the same spot, but looking up.Looking down from the middle of the bridge.  White specs in the sand.  My fingers could only endure a couple of minutes of gloves off time.  Suspect tucking the head under isn't much of a help warming up.  .
Very few of them were flying. I wonder if they warm up as we do with physical exertion.  Seems to me, if I were a seagull, and had all that great flying power, I'd head South.  Now I'm wondering, over a lifetime, how far most of them roam from the spot where they were born.  

Sunday, January 25, 2009

3 beasts and 2 birds on Sunday

Only three beasts, two of them squirrels (a light and a dark) and one of them Black Jack, but so many pictures.  I couldn't seem to leave any out, so here goes.

Our walk began today in the field at the top of the Point Grey Hill. Black Jack played with a very active and rather heavy-handed Golden Retriever with even less recall than Black Jack.  Rough play, and I worried a bit for her luxated patella knees (a grade 1 and a grade 2 and so far, touch wood, holding at that), but she handled it well.  The retriever was finally retrieved by its frustrated and embarrassed human who had called and called to no avail.  (No pics)  

Then, we headed to 16th Avenue to play in the Endowment Lands forest. 

A quick stop on the way to record some squirrel action.  

First, a hopping grey.
Then, a game of chase with this little dark one that looked brown sometimes and black at other times.  I wasn't able to catch the two of them in one photo.  Man, they were quick.
The grey coming down the other side of the tree.
And a close-up to see its expression as it suddenly notices Black Jack.
The dark one (now looking more black) comes after the grey.  Its eye is there, honest. 
The grey is so fast, heading up, I can't catch it, but I do get one of the dark following it.
The grey on the way down again.
Changes its mind, turns on a dime, and back up we go.
Stretches out a bit.
And over the top and out of sight.  Both squirrels disappeared.
Poor Black Jack.  She behaves with admirable restraint as I snap away, but she knows they're still up there.  I finally convince her the endowment lands will be just as entertaining, and off we go.
The forest was good.  Lots of stuff to investigate.
Really good response to recalls on leash.  She enjoyed the practice (and treat rewards).
More recall fun.
And a kazillion shots like this.  And that's it for Sunday beasts.
Now, for the two lone birds. The first shot of the day was a crow in the field.
The last shot of the day was this little cutie in my neighbor's garden.
In case you're wondering about the bike part of this blog, I did get out on --- (I'm a bit ashamed to say I've never named my bike - any suggestions?), and even took a few pictures of the sunset coming over the Burrard, but none cried out to be shown here.  Lovely day, and quite warm, as long as the sun stayed out. I went downtown, did a gym visit, a bit of shopping, had a latte, met Bill for supper and saw a movie.  Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino - no link, because it was mostly annoying, even when I sometimes reluctantly found myself laughing.  Good potential in the plot, but the script writer seriously underestimated the intelligence of the viewers.  Subtle, it wasn't.  Still, it was somewhat interesting and entertaining to watch Clint Eastwood and think about his long acting career.  I believe he's in his 70's and have to admit, he's in pretty amazing shape.  Last night, we saw The Wrestler.  Guess it was the weekend for aging, well-built actors.  Mickey O'Rourke was more successful than Clint, I thought.  Not exactly subtle, either, but a more honest portrayal and a stronger script.

Time to stop blogging and sleep.  Monday is here.  Yikes!     

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday commutes

Most of the past week has been fairly decent bike-commute conditions, even with the morning glaze challenge.  I made it downtown and then took the seabus over to North Van two mornings and did that in the reverse one evening, but other than those times, and one other morning when Bill kindly drove me down the Point Grey Hill, managed to do my normal bike routes.  Fog and temperatures hovering around O degrees Celcius were not ideal conditions, but still fairly manageable.  

Friday morning started out pretty much the same as the rest of the week.  However, the seabus trip, for the first time, showed promise of change.  Out the back window, I saw mostly fog, but through the side door window, there was evidence of sun, and I managed to capture these two shots of geese.  I did use iphoto's "enhance" function, but still was pleased that the natural colors of the geese showed through, in front of the fog.     

Minutes later, as I left the seabus, and took the route along the water towards my school, the sun was almost brilliant.  Or at least, it seemed that way after many, many days of relentless fog.  I don't take this route often, but look forward to it after seabus rides. .
Here is an un-enhanced version of the geese.  I turned to look back at them and could see the dividing line between the fog and the sun.
The evening commute was fog free.  The sun was just setting, and created a copper sheen on the railings of the Lions Gate Bridge.
I've travelled over the Lions Gate many, many times, but even at sunset, had never seen quite that combination of oranges.  I zoomed in on the copper tones here.
A fellow cyclist pulled up as i was admiring the sunset.  We talked for a bit.  He was feeling euphoric too, at the reappearance of the sun after days and days of fog.  Just before he left, he reminded me to enjoy it.  Apparently, winter will hang around in Vancouver for at least another week.  The snow word has been whispered.  I think I remember someone saying there's a 30% chance of the white stuff, so I'm focusing on the 70% chance of rain.  Whatever comes, it was a good ride home on Friday.

Here, a zoom-in on the dropping sun.
And here, a full view just before I left the scene.

Brainy Black Jack?

I haven't researched this, but is there any evidence of tool use in dogs?  If not, could Black Jack be the first?  I think I may have a genius on my hands.  There is only one hole in her bed that she herself made (okay, accidentally).  She now uses that hole consistently to help her manage long bully sticks.  I tell you, a genius, no less.  Okay, perhaps a bit of a stretch:)  But, even border collie lovers might agree she's pretty cute.  Yes?


This observation is not exactly an earth-shattering revelation, but in the interests of recording the mundane workings of my mind, I will comment on the letter "B".  Up until recently, no letter of the alphabet stood out for me.  Or perhaps, if there was one, it might be the letter "C" which begins both my family and my given name.  Then, Bill and Black Jack came into my life, and I was inspired to record life events and thoughts in a blog.  As I took pictures a couple of days ago, I saw "B" potential in many of them.  If you keep things really simple and uncomplicated by scientific accuracy, you many identify at least one B in each of these pictures.
There are many of these constructions around the school property.  Here are two of them.

Taken from the back of the school, during a rare sun moment in the midst of almost constant fog.
Also taken at the back of the school, looking down at the rocks along the shoreline.
Looking across the little river at the side of the school.
These eagles are far across the water, and my best picture of them is still a few posts ago (same link as for the picture below it).  But to update on their activities, one is coming in here, perhaps with food or nesting material for its mate?  I don't know where their nest is, but hope it's not at the top of this boat.  Or could it be that this boat is permanently docked?  I haven't seen it move from this position yet.
I'm becoming convinced that there are actually Osprey in this nest.  Dorin apparently agrees with me that it could be possible, although I'll need better photos to confirm.
I was watching many of these ducks a few days ago.  It was cold and most of them had their heads tucked under their wings.  They looked almost headless, or perhaps like someone with a mohawk haircut, viewed from the back.  I googled to see if I could identify them, but a precursory search did not yield conclusive results.  Does anyone know what they are?
Pretty ducks in the next two.

And a small story in the next four.  This crow spots something and warns others. with a show of cocky attitude, not to approach.  Remember, the B factor requires an unscientific approach.  Sorry the pics are so poor.  Fog, fog, and more fog!
It goes for the target.
Another crow considers a challenge.
The first crow retreats to enjoy its....  no, not a "B"..  a...   double "C" Candy Cane.  (I wish people would put their trash where it belongs, although I admit, the crows are very good at fishing in the bins.)
On the way to school, taking the seabus.  Lots of B's here.
Do you see any B's in the next two?

Now, here's a real challenge.  Bet you can't find the B in this one:)
So, for those of you who are willing to take a moment from your busy days, and only if you feel like it, how many B's are there in these pictures?