Friday, April 10, 2009

Close encounters

This is Part 3 to record a walk Friday evening at Stanley Park, when the light was magic and the birds and beasts determined to get up close and personal.
As I walked with my bike along the edge of Lost Lagoon, this Canada Goose came so close, I thought it was going to step on my toes.  Instead, it showed me how geese drink.  It chose the little stream at the left of my bike pannier for the demo.   
Speaking of toes, the goose's are imbedded in what looks like a flat, black rubber paddle.  It's hard not to smile when you see them up close.  I love the way those paddles stream behind in flight.  Geese are versatile birds, graceful in the water, in the air, and though it would be a stretch to call them graceful on land, they are certainly no slouches, getting around amazingly quickly and efficiently.  I had never really watched a goose drink before.  

Step one is to curve the neck and get the beak down to ground level.
Step two is the scoop.
For Step three, they throw the water back and down their long neck.  The first picture in this post amused me, because the goose looked right at me, and just about dared me to smile, as it threw back the water.  
I left the goose and continued a few feet further.  This squirrel popped out of the grass, and also seemed inclined to stare.  Then, I realized both the goose and the squirrel were probably responding to my camera.  It occurred to me that people taking pictures often carry food as a sort of bribery.  I had none.  I've been known to give the occasional crow one of Black Jack's treats, but overall, I like to think the birds and beasts will be able to find food on the less attractive days, when treat-carrying humans are few and far between.
I was a bit intimidated by the demanding look here...
...and that turned to something like shock, as the squirrel leapt onto my front tire, and continued to stare insistently.
I told it firmly that I had no food for it, and that was all it took.  Smart little thing.  It left as quickly as it had arrived.
This pigeon was nearby, and after the goose and the squirrel encounters, I had a moment to take in its magnificent grayscale tones.
It wasn't as eager as the goose and the squirrel to look me in the eye, but it did permit a close-up shot of its back.   
I walked on, and the light seemed to become more and more spectacular with each step.  I reached the little bridge, and stopped again.
Even the branches seemed to play to the light.
As I looked over the bridge, this fellow peeked up, assessing my food potential.  Not wanting a repeat of the squirrel encounter, I held up my empty hands and told it not to waste its time.  
I don't think it was convinced.  I had the feeling it was going to climb right up and over the bridge railing.
Beautiful markings and "I'm coming to get you" in its expression.
And then there were three.  The third was stepping out smartly, determined to get in on whatever the other two were going for.
As the three of them tried to figure out the quickest route to the bridge, I left.  Sorry, guys.  Three of you on my bike would not be ideal.  I headed to the heronry, anxious to catch what was left of the light.  Sam and Serena were working on their nests, but I'll save their photos for Part 4.
Added note: In my last post, I talked about the swans at Stanley Park, and after dp's comment, I did a little more research.  I now realize there are three types of swans in BC.  That link seems to be quite a good one, but in case it is more than you ever wanted to know about swans, I've put a picture from the site at the bottom of this post.  The Mute Swan (on the left) is not native to North America, is the largest of the three, and can be distinguished by the orange beak and knob on its forehead.  Although it is not technically mute, it is definitely the quiet one of the lot.  The trumpeter (middle) and the Tundra (right) are native, and are much more vocal.  Thanks, dp, for triggering my curiosity:)     


  1. Such an amazing diversity of wildlife! In some ways, it is sad they have become so unafraid of humans, as humans will no doubt be their downfall. But on the other hand, I loved looking at all the photos of them in their somewhat natural habitat. Thank you for NOT feeding them - their dependency on human handouts is often problematic as their tummies fill with food that does not provide the nutrients they need. I wince every time I see people feeding bread to the ducks.

  2. I second Jean's comment about the beautiful diversity! I've always loved Canada geese. And I don't think I've ever seen a photo of such a BLACK squirrel! Reds and browns and grays, but he looked coal black. And the inquisitive little coons--cute--tho not to be messed with... It's wonderful that you life on the bike allows you to stop and take in such pleasant sights.

  3. Oh, and I love the "roan" head on the pigeon.

  4. Great pictures, Carol. I am, of course, very fond of the tough little squirrel. And the first one of the goose is classic.

  5. Thanks, everyone:)

    Jean, I also cringe to see people feeding junk to the wild animals and birds, but moldy bread is the WORST! And, I agree that it's a bit sad, but also a gift, that they are so unafraid.

    EvenSong, Yes, I'm especially fortunate that Stanley Park is about half way along my commute to work. And, yes, lots of greys, blacks and browns, although not so many red squirrels. I don't think I've seen any. Glad you liked the "roan" head. Have to say my photos didn't do that pigeon justice. It was truly gorgeous.

    dp, "tough" is the right word for that little squirrel! I will never forget the look in its eyes.