Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Birds on a Windy Tuesday

Even with my rain gear, I was soaked, after a wet, windy ride to school.  After my first class, I had a break long enough to go for a short walk with Hudson and Kevin.  Hudson was so entertaining, I devoted the previous post to him.  When he was sitting in the water, this pair of Mergansers came almost close enough to him for a group photo, but then thought better of it.  With the sun on the water, and the wind shifting the reflections around, I thought they looked especially beautiful.  Bill likes the female best, although right after he said that, he added that he didn't want to make the other one feel bad.  He calls her Woody Woodpecker.  He didn't know she was a girl; understandable, since brighter colored birds are usually males.  I guess Common Mergansers are the exception.

After the walk, I went to my desk that looks out over the river, planning to get an early start on my reports.  I saw Nicky, the blue heron, fishing, and I also saw a bald eagle being chased by crows and seagulls.  I photographed both through the window, but the photographs were poor.  Still, I couldn't stop marveling at the drama taking place right in front of me.  (Don't ask how many reports I completed.)  

Later in the afternoon, after my last class for the day, I went back outside, and for the first time that I can remember, the tide was out.  I was able to walk out much further than usual, and Nicky was fishing again.  

There was wind all around, but Nicky's fishing spot had moments of calm.  
The sparkles came and went...
... with the wind ripples. 
I was disappointed when this dog scared Nicky away, but then enjoyed watching him play.
The crows were gathered on a small sandbar.  Some of them would fly up to avoid waves.  I love the one with legs braced against the wind.  Every once in a while, a seagull would join them.  I missed part of this fellow on the top, but like the picture anyway.  
I watched the crows for quite a while.  
There was considerable competition to find a spot on the sandbar.
Three geese honked well in advance of their landing.  One of them, for some reason, chased the other two up the bank.  They weren't impressed.
The wind was against me for most of the ride home, and was so strong that I walked the bike over both the Lions Gate Bridge and the Burrard Bridge.  These branches were on the Lions Gate.  I thought quite a bit about how they must have arrived there.  I don't know how many feet they would have had to travel, if they were blown from Stanley Park.  It seems impossible that they could have flown that far, but I can't imagine someone carrying them onto the bridge.  
Wind can be exhausting,  but it brings its own kind of energy to the day, especially when accompanied by sun.  I've kept track of my biking kilometers (only the commute ones) at this site, ever since Bike to Work Week in May 2008.  Today, I reached 4,357.9 kl, and what amazes me about that is not only how easily the kilometers add up, but how every ride is different.  The last picture of the day was just sun on rock, but it seemed brand new.       

Happy Hudson

Hudson lives with Kevin, the dorm supervisor in the school where I teach.  Several months ago, I did a post titled "The many happy faces of Hudson."  I walked a short way with him and Kevin this morning, and except for the fact that he's equally enthusiastic about the rain, I could swear he brought out the sun.  

Come and get it.  You too can have this stick.  Wanna check my teeth? 

Did you call me?  

Man, that water feels good.  Oh, what do I see over there? 
(How do dogs do that?  That water had to be freezing!) 

I'll go check it out.  Whee-ee!

A big stick.  Yes!  Now, how do I pick it up?

You calling me again?  Okay, I'll get it next time.  

Another stick.  Yes!  

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Super Sunday

First things first!  I must apologize to Oregon Sunshine.  She is the much appreciated blogger who writes a Thursday post each week with dog training suggestions and ideas. I mistakenly credited EvenSong, who quickly set me straight, in the comments of my last post.  Both of these posters are experienced with animal training, and both are much appreciated, but it is Oregon Sunshine who helped me with the "leave it" command for Black Jack.  Thank You, Oregon Sunshine, and thank you, Evensong, for pointing out my error.  I do know the difference.  It was a momentary lapse:)

And now, on with today's post:

Blue skies and the warmest temperatures in a long time brought Vancouverites out in droves on this Super Sunday.
My day began, as it often does, with a bird sighting in my neighbor's garden.  
After some blogging, I headed off on my bike to enjoy the day.  My first stop was at The Wicked Cafe for a latte.  These lilies and primulas were a few doors down from the cafe.
Granville Island, viewed from the Burrard Bridge, was buzzing.  I hadn't realized the restaurant sits on rocks.
People roller-bladed, jogged, strolled, cycled, and one father blew bubbles to amuse his baby.  My camera caught a few of the bubble images in this picture.
A bit further along, I met Charlie, with his humans, Josh and Nola.  Charlie is blind, but hears well.  He is very, very cute and is obviously a happy, well loved fellow.  
He responded enthusiastically to the "treat" word, almost climbing out of his basket.  I don't know much of his story, but if Josh or Nola read this, I would love to find out how they and Charlie found each other.
My next stop was at the Stanley Park heronry.  Stanley, referred to a couple of posts ago, has been working hard on his nest.  It has grown considerably, and appears to be much more sturdy.  Still a way to go, though.  Hope he keeps at it, and gets a little help from his mate.
There was quite a horrible fight while I was there, when a heron invaded another's nest.  One poor fellow watched from the sidelines.  I think both herons survived okay, but those long beaks are lethal weapons.  Not pleasant to watch.  Stanley's nest is next door, but he ignored the screams/squawks and went on with his nest building.
A good looking fellow, I thought.
I took about ten pictures to show a landing sequence.  Too many to post, but here are two of the better ones.  It struck me that it's really quite a feat to get those huge wings under control, and find a spot to grip.  Once they land, there is a lot of flapping and getting settled.  I think the struggle shows in this heron's face.
The mate reaches out to pull in a branch, almost directly under the landing heron, who settles each foot rather precariously on different branches, wings still flapping for balance. 
The plan for the day was to meet Bill and Black Jack, and my new friend Dianne, with her dog, Haley, at Bridgman Park in North Vancouver.  I lingered a little too long with the herons, arriving 15 minutes late, but was thrilled that they were all at the meeting spot.  Dianne had never met Bill, but knew him from the blog, so they were already talking away by the time I arrived.  Beautiful Haley knows me now, and expected her treat. 
She ran joyfully here and there, but always came back when called.  Great dog! 
Dianne and Haley had to go, but we continued our walk for a little longer.  Bill and Black Jack kindly posed for me by the river.  A largish black dog approached Black Jack, and for once she didn't snap, although she did stare threateningly.  The only time she is ever a mean little thing is when she's on someone's lap.  She takes her lap time very seriously.  The black dog left her, came to me, and propped its rump partly on my foot and the rest on a stone, while I took pictures.    
Black Jack liked her spot on Bill's knee, but watched the action around her intently.
The black dog left me to go for a dip.
He slipped on the rocks, and was a bit shocked, returning to shake over me, before finally locating his humans.
We continued on our way.  Black Jack was keen.
The bridge was the turn-around point, but Bill and Black Jack checked out the beautiful river scene first.
On the way back, we met this gorgeous fellow.  Black Jack is in the picture.  Honest.
Walks at Bridgman Park almost always end up with a latte at JJBean.  There is a nice outdoor patio with a very high fence separating Park and Tilford Gardens from the cafe.  Can you guess why Bill was holding Black Jack up to see over the fence?
I'm thinking you probably figured out that it might be a squirrel.  But, honestly, have you ever seen one this cute?
I love this little guy.  The little pink mouth and soft belly are irresistible.  Bill thought it could be mistaken, in this photo at least, for a koala bear.
Pose after pose caught my eye, but it was finally time to leave.
Bill drove the most scenic route he could find as we headed home.  I enjoyed taking pictures through the truck windows, but the last photo for this post comes once more from my neighbor's beautiful garden.  A great supper cooked by Bill, a shutout by Luongo, whom I had the good fortune to choose this week in the Fantasy Hockey Pool, some fun looking through the day's photos, and Super Sunday memories are now stored, in case the rain forecast for the coming week is correct.  One thing for sure, the sun was well appreciated by Vancouver's birds, beasts and humans today. 

Light, Changes, & Ned Sighting

I looked out the staff lunchroom window (in North Vancouver) just before I left work on Friday evening.  The ballast (not sure if that's the right word) where the Bald Eagles often rest, seemed to be gleaming white against a turbulent sky.  It also seemed to be closer than usual, and as my camera was handy, I took a photo.
A few seconds later, I took this from the same window.  I wondered if it would be a stormy ride home, but it turned out to be one of those grey, light rain rides that are quite comfortable.  

Bill and I met at Heaven and Earth India Curry House for only our second time (ever), and agreed again that the food was good, but overpriced.  (I see from the link reviews that we are not alone in our opinion.)  It was quiet at peak time on a Friday evening, but when we chatted with the owner, he didn't seem concerned.  He said it was always like that when there was a hockey game on. His eyes shone with quiet pride, as he told us the business is a family run one that has been in operation since 1975.  34 years at the same job, in the same place.  I imagine there have been many changes over the years, but I wonder if he wakes up some mornings, and dreads the thought of curry and customers.  
I've been teaching music for longer than that, but have had the opportunity to learn from different situations in four provinces (Que, NB, NS, and now BC) and at least ten different schools.  And, there have been lots of jobs along the way to help with education and other expenses. 
I've worked as a waitress, made muffins, done telephone sales and even worked on a conveyer belt at a Green Giant canning factory. These jobs all include some horrible memories blended with impressions of people met along the way who made a mark in some way or another.  I remember a young ballet dancer making muffins, and a fellow from Chile who talked of throwing live cattle in the river to distract the (I think it was crocodiles) so that he and his brother could make their escape and eventually wind up in Canada.  I remember Mr. Belson, owner of a restaurant in Ste. Agathe, who ran his business for over 40 years.  I taught during the school year, and waitressed for Mr. Belson in the summers, making, with tips, at least as much money as I did teaching. Some of these jobs pushed me to continue my education so that I would never spend a lifetime doing repetitive and back-breaking (try making 1000's of muffins if you don't believe me) work, but they also inspired appreciation for many of the people who do so-called menial jobs.  Bill and I talked about that last night.  It's quite the eye-opener, sometimes, to see just how many skills can be involved in work that the more academic/white collar crowd might, as my mother used to say, turn their noses up at.

Hm..  off on a tangent here.  On to a walk with Bill, last night, at Jericho Park, after a great supper at The Foundation.  I had spent Saturday afternoon with one of my students, working on a slide show/movie presentation to highlight our band trip for an assembly this coming Friday.  I should say, I watched, and my student did all of the work, kindly asking my advice, but secure in his knowledge that he knew way more than I will probably ever know about such things.  I biked back over the bridge in a non-threatening but strong-against-me wind, at one point being passed by a runner, the ultimate indignity, I think, but have to admire the fellow, who kindly commented on the strong wind, trying to make me feel better (the ultimate run-on sentence).  To assure you that I have not completely deteriorated physically, I did pass the fellow on the next downhill:)   Needing reeds for the clarinet players, I had to stop by Northwest Music at Main and 4th.  Ever patient Bill met me there, Black Jack with him.  We loaded the bike on to the back of his truck, tucked Black Jack into her little bed on the seat of the truck, and enjoyed "Final Option" (Bill) and "Sesame Society" (me) at The Foundation.  Bill has been nursing a terrible flu bug, and is just getting over it, so I felt a bit guilty to suggest at stop at Jericho on the way home.  Something about the light was drawing me.
It was Bill who first saw Ned, so named by EvenSong.  True, I'm not absolutely positive it was indeed Ned, but I've only ever seen one heron at a time at Jericho, so Ned, he must have been.  Ned eyed me, and then slowly walked away, choosing, just as I snapped the fourth picture, to fly away.  I couldn't catch his beautiful wingspread, and missed most of the flight, searching in my zoomed lens to locate his image.  What I find interesting about the next four pictures, apart from the two ducks trying to sleep in the second one, is how much the light changed from second to second.

Although one would think I would know myself by now, it's still strange to me how addicted I've become, in such a short time, to catching pictures.  I'm aware that my ability is humdrum at best, but there's a rush of adrenalin that completely takes over when I feel a photo opportunity.  Bill was freezing, and I would normally have been as well, as the wind was cold, but when he suggested waiting in the truck for me, I knew I was going to be a while longer.  He left with my bike, panniers, helmet, and gloves (darn it:) while Black Jack and I went off in search of rabbits.  We did find some, which made me happy, as I know they are in peril with hawks, eagles and coyotes all around.  I snapped a few photos, but none were worth keeping, let alone posting.  That doesn't seem to matter in my photo-taking craze.  I guess it's just being out there, seeing and trying to record the moment. 

The light did seem perfect for these last two shots, before Black Jack and I headed through the military grounds, up the hill, through the hole in the fence (I will take a picture of that one day) and up the rest of Point Grey Hill, my bladder at the bursting point, and Black Jack happily at my side.  EvenSong, she is really making progress with her (my) problem of picking up stuff.  Twice, we have had breakthroughs, where she has spit something out, and been rewarded with a great treat from my pocket.  Thank you for all of your Thursday posts, and great dog training ideas.  They are much appreciated!

All the way up the hill, I thought about my addictive personality, and how patient Bill is.  When I reached home, he had brought all of my stuff into the house and had put my bike away in the garage.  THANK YOU, BILL!  We spent a quiet evening together, turning out most of the lights, but continuing with a certain amount of surfing, blogging and napping (yours truly only), in our token effort to recognize Earth Day.  

Today is sunny, and I've sat here at the computer for way too long, so off I go.  Where?  I'm not sure.  I guess, somewhere where I can enjoy the light, while appreciating that I have a free day to do whatever I want, and Black Jack can find entertainment.  Thanks for reading:)