Saturday, September 5, 2009

Catching Up

Back to school, and almost a week since the last post. I've dropped by the osprey nest most days, sometimes with students, and sometimes, just for a minute-or-two stopover on the way home. Only 24 hours in a day, and sleep steals a few of those. How to fit all the other things I love to do into the remaining ones. Lucky for me that the cycling and dog-walking routes are bird, beast, and bloom friendly, my job keeps music and a youthful perspective at the forefront, a love for the outdoors brings me in contact with other nature observers who are usually happy to share ideas, and finally, my friend, Bill, gets that life is all good, even when, or maybe because, it does not always work out as expected. He quietly reminds me of that, and I am ever grateful for his friendship.

I loaded these pictures throughout the week, but am only now getting around to adding the commentary. Some of them go back as far as two weeks, but they highlight good times and learning times, so here they are, in somewhat mixed order.

Two nights ago, I walked at Jericho Park with Black Jack. We stopped at the little bridge to watch the beavers. The water level is very low, and the pond is not at its most attractive, but the beavers were working non-stop. I saw several adults and a few young as well. They didn't seem to mind the squeals of excited children, and the sound of footsteps above them. I could barely drag Black Jack away from her viewing spot between the railings of the bridge. She was mesmerized and totally silent.
The parks staff have put netting around the trees, but I guess the beavers are taller this year.

On Sunday, August 23rd, Bill and I decided to try out the new Canada Line, on the way to the airport to meet Lynn Berresford, Bill's friend from grade school days. We drove to a station, parked the truck, and looked forward to the adventure. I brought Black Jack's carrier, but no one stopped us, or expressed any concern about her presence. She, content in Bill's arms, took everything calmly in stride. The car we boarded was crowded, with very squished standing room only. Just as the train began to move, an announcement was made that, because of technical difficulties, we would not be going to the airport after all, but rather, to Richmond. We got off, boarded the equally crowded train for the one stop back to the truck, and drove to the airport. Quite the short-lived adventure.
While I was waiting for Bill to locate Lynn, I checked out the Bill Reid sculpture, The Jade Canoe. It is one that I have been looking at, on and off, for several years, and it holds as much fascination now as it did the first time I saw it. I particularly love the text poem, "The Spirit of Haida Gwaii" at the bottom of the page link. Bill Reid dictated it to his wife, explaining his interpretation of the beings in the canoe.
Lynn was on a stopover in Vancouver, on her way home to Auckland, New Zealand. She had visited with Bill's sister, Phyllis, in Winnipeg, and also given some talks about a program called I Can Do It. You can see a little video of her at that link. She is a psychologist, working with children in the school system, as well as with adults. It was great fun talking with her, and learning a little about her family and her life. Humans respond very differently to learning stimuli, and finding a way to bring out the best in each of us is a life process. While Lynn promotes one learning method on her website, it was obvious in talking to her that she is more than a system. Her eyes lit up several times with joy, as she described children and people who have come into her life, some so permanently that the relationships have developed into lifetime ones.
We walked for a little while in an outdoor garden at the airport. In spite of several trips to the airport, I had never seen this garden before, and found it to be a wonderfully tranquil spot. Lots of greenery, a walking path, and even some totem poles, magnificent against the blue sky.
We said good-bye to Lynn, and went to Jericho Sailing Club, one of our favorite haunts for an outdoor supper. Black Jack loves it because rabbits hang out under the yachts and boats, Bill loves the salmon salad, and I love the galley salad with goat cheese. We tried it out again last night, and may have to call that the last outdoor meal for this season, as we were driven almost insane by the mosquito-like creatures that attacked every bit of uncovered skin, including Bill's eyeballs! Still, on the day of our visit with Lynn, it was perfect. We even saw a Kingfisher and I was elated to get a fairly decent photo, given that it was dusk.
I took this picture a few days later. I believe the kingfisher may nest in the grass under the condemned wharf area at Jericho. Sometimes, when the tide is out, Black Jack and I can walk out far enough to see the water-facing side of the wharf, and the kingfisher seems to go from a spot under the ledge to the railings above, and then into the water. It moves so quickly that I have not been able to get an in-flight picture, and have never actually seen what it catches.
After supper, we walked along the beach. The setting sun caught this building of the skyline, creating a reflection so powerful, it was echoed across the water, and even in an artifact at the left of the photo.

This seal has been observing the photographers at the osprey-watching spot in North Vancouver with great interest. I think, here, it may be watching Black Jack dig holes in the sand. I have come to think of it as "my seal" and wonder if it could be a senior. Its picture keeps turning up when I go over the photographs for the day, and the cloudy eyes (especially the left) identify it as mine. Interesting that there was a news story recently about a seal that pulled a 5-year-old into the water. She was wearing a lifejacket, and that fact, along with an observant passer-by and her nearby father, probably saved her life. While the photographers in the osprey area are very respectful of wildlife, there are still those people who don't get that it is dangerous to treat wild animals and birds as we do our pets. The child and her father were not feeding the seal, but I wonder if it had had some previous encounters that encouraged it to act out of character. It is hard to resist. I mean, look at this adorable face. But, if ever I am tempted to feed a wild animal, I only need to remember that it, as well as other humans who meet it later, will probably pay dearly for my indulgence.
There is a small tree across the Mosquito Creek river that can be seen from the lookout at the east side of my school. Although it doesn't, at first glance, appear to be much of a tree, it is well used. Here, an osprey from the second nest (the one I haven't photographed very often because it is too high up and in an industrial area) perches in the tree, maybe watching for fish in the river.
One evening, Bill and I saw this heron in that same tree, during a stopover after a day trip to Squamish.
I took a picture of the moon shortly after seeing the heron.
Along with seals, ospreys, herons, and otters near my school, I often see shorebirds. I tried to identify this one, but the closest I am able to manage with any certainty is the term, "Sandpiper-like Birds" used in the "National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds.
I almost forgot to mention the Canada Geese. They are everywhere. I like them best in flight and over the water. They are magnificent, and I've even come to love their noisy honking, but they sure do leave a mess in the grassy areas!
One lady told me that she has counted up to 48 seals by the osprey nest. One day, I watched this seal, the 8th in line, trying to find a way to fit on the log. It slipped off several times, but was undaunted.
A picture of the second osprey nest, with an osprey perched, apparently comfortable in spite of the constant noise of people and machinery. (You can click on the picture for a closer view.)

This seal is the largest of the ones I have seen, and the only one to show a kind of copper, or maybe gold, coloring. It looked up for the photograph, and then went back to sleep.
One last seal photo. Look at the contentment in the young one as it rolls over on its back.
Seagulls! How could I forget. I love to watch them too, and again, they are especially beautiful in flight.

I have admired these flowers along Pacific Street for the past month or so. I pass by them almost every day, and finally stopped a week or so ago to take a picture.
Our day in Squamish at first didn't seem to have huge picture-taking potential. To be honest, there was more wildlife in North Vancouver. But, we had an absolutely memorable and enjoyable day together, and it is one of the summer's highlights. I've come to love truck time, with Black Jack on my knee, and Bill content in his home away from home. We stopped to admire Lily's Garden, a spot historically significant for several reasons, one being that it commemorates some of the first settlers in the area. Lily's family name was Carson, the same as mine, although as far as I know, there is no blood connection.
We walked along the estuary, Bill determined to give me my bird watching fix. In fact, a few crows and ducks were about the only "wild" encounters.
We did see this little tugboat, and Bill talked about how it would have been used, turning on a dime, pushing logs into their place for a trip along the river. It seems to be abandoned, and I found myself feeling a bit sorry for it.
We saw lots of these pink flowers.
Lots of seagulls too. We found a wonderful little restaurant along the river, and we sat at a picnic table, enjoying good food and observing the action. (I think it was called The Eagle's Nest Restaurant, but am not absolutely certain. It is listed at this site.) There was one seal, but it was much more active than the ones in North Van. I never did manage to photograph it. Here, a young seagull picked up something I'm fairly certain was inedible, but it appeared to be pleased with the catch.
I was only able to identify this turkey vulture after returning home and studying the photo. It was beautiful in flight, although everyone tells me they are ugly close up.
Impressive wingspan, for sure.
One more seagull, just because I like the patterns in the juveniles' coloring.
Bill is the champion of the nap. He can put his head back for five minutes, and emerge from wherever he goes, rested and ready for action. It is a quality I admire. If I did the same, I would sleep for several hours, and emerge grumpy and feeling like I missed the day. Here, he wasn't napping. I just happened to catch him with Black Jack in an eyes-closed moment. I love the picture. It makes me smile.
I can't remember whether I saw this shorebird in Squamish or North Van. It is beautiful in flight, with flashes of white catching the sun. Hard to show that in a photograph, but here is my best effort. Checking in the Audubon book again, I am guessing it to be another Sandpiper-like bird, perhaps a Turnstone?
The same bird, flying toward me.
This bird was beside my school, singing up a storm. A sparrow, I think. Loved the colors.
Bill and I attended a very enjoyable birthday celebration at The Naam, for my friend Jock. Brent and Ramona were there, friends I haven't mentioned before on this blog, but they added greatly to the fun, as did Kitty, Jock's partner. After the meal, we headed back to Jock and Kitty's place, to taste her absolutely divine dessert. On the way, a fireball sun was slipping below the horizon, and Bill managed to get me to a place where I could capture a bit of its magnificence. Thank you, Bill! It seemed the perfect symbol to honor the birthday of someone who is a fireball in his own right.

(I've pasted this picture of Jock above the one of the sunset. It's from a past post so probably will not enlarge.)
I ask you. Do you think he's going to enjoy his retirement?)


I titled my very first post ever, "The Herons Have Gone." At that time, I had no idea where they go, once the juveniles fledge. I have learned since that the herons around Vancouver don't actually go very far away. They spend about two years living near rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Then, the males will choose a nesting spot, and put on displays to attract a female. They generally, unlike the ospreys, choose a new mate each season. On a walk at Jericho last weekend, I saw four different herons. I am thinking they may be recently fledged juveniles, learning how to feed themselves and survive on their own

Here is heron #1. It was by the little bridge, but flew away seconds after I spotted it.
Heron #2 was high up in a tree. It seemed to be walking across the branches, darting forward to catch food, maybe bugs? It didn't fly away, but spread its wings a couple of times, I think to catch its balance, as it moved forward.
Heron #3 was in the little pond after the bridge.
I have included two pictures of heron #4. It was oblivious to my presence, and didn't seem worried about Black Jack either. Here, it seems to have captured weeds, but perhaps there is a fish or some other food enclosed.
A close up of its head and neck.

One day, when I was on the sandbar in North Vancouver watching the ospreys, Shiprock, a friend and outstanding photographer, saw a ball in the water, and kindly rescued it. He gave it to Black Jack, who has claimed it as her favorite ball. Thank you, Shiprock. (I think photographers must be a special breed. One lady took time away from her photography and actually waded out into the ocean to get a ball that Black Jack had lost. Thank you to that lady as well.)

On our heron-viewing walk at Jericho, Black Jack and I played some games with her ball. She was carrying it along with her, but suddenly, I realized the ball was nowhere to be found. I felt sorry, especially after Shiprock's effort. A couple of hours later, we were walking out of the park, and all of a sudden, Black Jack spotted her ball in the grass, probably right where she left it. She was absolutely delighted to have it back in her possession, and I was happy too.
I haven't seen Shiprock for a while, but he is out and about, continuing to capture some amazing bird shots. Check out his photostream. He continues to amaze me. His recent pictures of Bushtits are prize winners, and he also has some wonderful photos of Turnstones.

And finally, a small Rose update. She was still spending time around the nest, as of yesterday. I stopped by, on the way home from school, and she was sitting on the three-post pylon, with her mother sitting on the one just above her. She has been crying a lot lately. I can hear her from the classroom window, and imagine her parents are withholding food to urge her to begin hunting. A man did tell me he had seen Mom give her a fish the day before, so it is nice to know the supply hasn't been completely cut off.

This is Mom, about four days ago. She was calling and calling, perhaps to Dad! My goodness, those eyes are unforgettable!
Rose was sitting nearby. She was calling as well.
Again, from about four days ago. Mom finally brought her a fish, and Rose grabbed it from her talon. Mom didn't hang around, but left immediately.
This last photo shows Rose flying over the wall where I have spent many hours watching her. (I was down on the sandbar.) I watched her ride the thermal air currents, so far up in the sky, she was almost invisible. She looked like she was having a blast, and my heart soared with her.
And there, you have my catch-up post. It was a long one, and I am glad to have finished it. It is much easier to stay up to date than to go back and try to sort out past events, so I am hoping to keep more on track with future posts, As always, I am thankful for anyone who takes time to read the blog.

For anyone wondering, an easy way to post a comment is to click on "comments" at the bottom of the post, type the message in the box, then click the little square beside "name/URL". There will be a place to write your name (make up a "stage" name if you wish). You do not have to fill in the URL part at all. Just click "Publish" and your comment will be saved. Again, no pressure. Comments or not, you are appreciated:)


  1. I'm glad you got caught up on the blogging - I have also been getting frightfully behind, and I don't have the excuse of school.

    When I read your blog, I often think of all the people who live in Vancouver and don't realize how much wildlife and beauty there is around them. I wonder how many people in downtown Vancouver realize that just a few minutes away they could be watching the unfolding of the fledgling herons, or the seals jockeying for position on a log?
    Thanks again for sharing your world with us.

  2. You are writing a wonderful and lasting blog about bikes and birds and beaks, and the pictures are equally wonderful.

    The recent picture on my Flickr site of the Black Turnstone was taken at the Fell Ave Osprey nest. There has been a group of eight or ten of them there during each of the last two days I was there; they hang out on the boom logs that encircle the pilings, and feed on barnacles by probing into their shells when the tide rises, and by foraging amoung the rocks for other small marine organisms.

    The picture in your blog is definitely a Black Turnstone. They are common along the rocky Pacific shore line, spending summer along Alaska's western coast, and winter all along the west coast all the way to Baja and the Sea of Cortez.

    Cheers, and thanks for the complements about the pictures.

  3. Thanks for catching us up, Carol. We don't start back to school 'til next week, but I'm behind, as well, because of all the projects I'm trying to finish. But it's raining here this afternoon...

  4. Carol, wow so little time and so much to present to us. You are amazing, your photos of flying birds are really good. I love them. I am serious, I will be keeping your place on the list for places to travel in Canada. Hope to hear more about the osprey update. They are such an amazing birds. We used to have one on our pond, but I have not seen it for a long time, or let's just say I have not visited our pond for a quite a bit. Carol great post as always. Anna :)

  5. Thanks for your comments, everyone.

    Jean, following my dog, Scott, to all the "good" places, when I first moved to Vancouver, was the beginning of my introduction to the wildlife potential that is here. Then, biking, picture-taking, and blogging (I guess in that order) encouraged me to see a bit more. Now, I often get ideas from reading your wonderful blog. This summer, truck trips with Bill, and meeting some amazing photographers around the osprey nest have all opened my eyes a bit more. Lucky me!

    Shiprock, I count you as one of those amazing photographers, and your generosity in taking time to point things out to me is so appreciated!

    EvenSong, I hope school is off to a good start for you, and your projects are staying on the front burner as well. Thanks for taking time to comment:)

    Anna, you are raising a beautiful son, managing to keep up a wonderful photography blog, and still finding time to comment on mine. Thank you so much. I hope, if you ever come to Vancouver, that we can meet and do some wildlife searches together:)