Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some catch-up photos and time by the river

This first catch-up photo is of the Boston Terrier, Seville, featured in my previous post. Somehow, I forgot to post my favorite picture of her. It's the victory attitude in her pose that stays with me and makes me smile.
The second is a photograph taken by my friend, Jock. His keen eye and skill with the camera caught one of nature's little gifts, and portrayed it beautifully.

And now, a few moments recorded by the river next to the school where I teach in North Vancouver.

Wednesday, a cloudy day.

The exciting thing about the picture below is not its photographic merit, but rather, that I think I've identified the bird correctly. To my inexperienced eye, so many of the little birds look similar. It takes time and self-discipline to look them up in my book. As I've enjoyed looking at the sites of a few experienced birders and photographers (Ship Rock, IPutts, Nilsson), I've realized they never post a picture without an identification. I've promised myself to try to do this a little bit more.

Song Sparrow

Hooded Mergansers
Although I've seen quite a few Common Mergansers (In my opinion, no bird should be labeled "common"), I don't think I've ever seen hooded ones before yesterday. They dart around, sometimes skimming on top of the water, and sometimes diving. I'm not sure if I interpreted their behaviour correctly, but they seemed to be aggressive about their territory, chasing the mallards away when they could. That didn't seem quite fair, since the mallards have been around that river for quite some time. I wasn't able to distinguish males from females. In the above picture, it appeared to me to be an adult pair with three young ones (There's a little one way over on the right). However, according to my book, the females are supposed to have a brown head and crest. I hope I will have some more opportunities to observe them, and to figure out the family relationships. Below, the same "family", but missing the third young one. That one always seemed to keep a distance.
They have an amusing habit of stretching their necks up.
I'm sorry I couldn't get closer to them, but they stayed on the far side of the river. This picture shows one adult leaning back, perhaps preparing for a dive? Or maybe, expressing concern that the little one is heading away? Lots of questions.

Tuesday, a sunny day.

On the left, I think, is a Green-winged Teal. It was too far away to be sure, but the green flash under the wing was really eye-catching. On the right, my guess is an American Wigeon.
American Wigeon?

They came up to my side of the river. I always find them striking, but they were especially so against the clear reflection of a very blue sky.

While I was watching the ducks, a crow perched about two feet away from me. I always feel honored when any wild animal or bird is willing to spend a moment or two near me. From Ship Rock, I have learned that there are two kinds of crows, American and Northwestern. Apparently, the American is larger, while the Northwestern has a slightly purplish tinge. My guess for this one might be American, but without seeing them side by side, I can't be at all sure. I was certain, though, that this one was taking a good look at me. I wonder what it was thinking.
I also watched two crows at the edge of the river. Like the mallards, I found them striking against the blue background. They interacted in a most entertaining way.

First, a close-up of one of them. Could that be a purplish tinge? No, I think not.
The one on the left checks out the other.
Then, I think it decides to join in the feast.
Then, the one on the right perhaps thinks it is missing something? Maybe a "grass is greener" reaction?
I think, here, they both hear what I guessed to be a Kingfisher off to their left.
And there it was. A lucky shot for me - I just happened to catch it as it flew toward the crows. It's not perfectly in focus, but I think it was possibly a Belted Kingfisher. Whatever it was, it was the perfect conclusion to a relaxing few minutes by the river.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Salmon Run, American Dipper and Seville

Yesterday, Bill, Black Jack and I checked out Capilano River Regional Park, at the suggestion of Jean, who has been writing wonderful posts describing both the positive and the less positive aspects of observing the salmon run at this time of year. Since I have somehow managed to reach my 60's without ever seeing a live salmon, it seemed the perfect outing.

The light in the morning was poor for photo taking, but the scenery was dramatic and awe inspiring. Bill commented, as we both have before, on our good fortune to have wilderness so close to the big city. We looked and looked for the salmon, but as Jean had warned us, they are not easy to see. Still, an experienced fisherman standing on the bridge told us there were thousands in the river, so we kept our eyes peeled.
We finally took a short trail called the Coho Loop. Black Jack was absolutely psyched at the smells and sounds, and the moisture in the air, moss-lined branches and faery-tale forest setting made for a magical atmosphere.

We kept wondering how all those fishermen managed to get down to the water, and finally found some stone ledges that made steps to the shore. You can see them a bit of in this photo. Bill, patient and ever thoughtful for Black Jack's safety, carried her down, leaving me free to try to capture something of the magnificence around us.
Like the salmon, the wildlife we sensed everywhere seemed to have no difficulty staying out of the reach of my camera lens. When I did get fleeting chances to take pictures, I was usually too slow to get much of a capture. We did see this heron watching us from the top of a very tall tree.
A brave and athletic couple tackled the white water with what I could see later were grins of exhilaration on their faces. I've chosen photos that don't identify them, but if by any chance they should come by this post, I do think they would enjoy some of my captures of their impressive performance.
The girl having gone ahead, her companion prepares to follow her. Yikes!
As we climbed back up to the trail, Bill noticed this mushroom growing from a tree. I did a bit of investigating at this site, but did not find any that I thought perfectly match the one in this picture. I did get the feeling that fungi growing from trees is not a great thing for the tree.
Before we left the park, we stood at a lookout and watched the anglers. I have to admit that I was hoping they wouldn't catch any fish. As a Newfoundland fisherman's granddaughter, I think I have told this story before about crying the first time I saw my mother catch a fish. A fellow yesterday proudly showed his catch to his young daughter, and her tears brought back that memory. I know in the sensible side of my brain (it is there, if a little camouflaged:) that they will die anyway, and they make one of the healthiest and tastiest sources of nutrition one can find, but when Bill spotted this salmon, I was happy to photograph it alive rather than deceased.
Here is the same salmon again. I have no idea what those little white splashes are. The photo is poor, but perhaps someone can tell me.
We left the park and headed for Bridgman Park, also in North Vancouver. I believe it is spelled without "e" although the link I've chosen has included it.

The sun was beginning to peek through the clouds now, and we enjoyed standing by Lynn Creek. Neither of us were sure if the salmon would ever run in it, but we took a look just in case. No - no salmon, but we did see this wonderful shorebird. I am proud to say that I think I've positively identified it as an American Dipper.
I have no idea if it is commonly seen in the area, but it was definitely a first for me. They are amazing birds, choosing to be around fast moving water and diving into it to find insects. This fellow appeared to be enthusiastic about the entire process.
Several of my photographs had what I thought were defects, as the eyes appeared to be white. I found out later that these birds have white feathers on their eyelids. Unfortunately, I deleted the photos showing that, but perhaps you can see them a little bit in this one (if you click to enlarge it).
Bill and I both enjoyed the entertaining performance of this lively little bird.
Back in Vancouver, Bill drove along West Broadway so that I could do some errands. We parked in front of the school board office, and enjoyed this sculpture. The more I looked at it, the more it grew on me - one of those sculptures one wants to touch. The day, by now, was warm and sunny. Absolutely beautiful!
I took this photo of Black Jack near the statue. She looks good surrounded by green, I think.
A bit further down the block, we saw a girl throwing a frisbee for Seville, her very athletic Boston Terrier. The girl gave me permission to take pictures, and told me she is starting up a dog walking business, and is in the process of creating her own blog. I will look forward to that, for sure.

My goodness, Seville was enthusiastic about the game and so talented!
I am pressed for time, but these pictures beg captions. Any come to mind?

Seville didn't make many mistakes, but when she did, her expression was truly hilarious.

We were home quite early. There was time for a nap, some schoolwork, and even a short walk at Jericho later in the evening. This seagull was calling in a voice so piteous, I felt concerned, even though I know they sometimes appear to be drama queens. I think it was okay, although there was a red lining around the mouth that I wondered about.
And to close, just a few autumn colours as I left Jericho and headed home. They are coming to the end now, but there is still much beauty to admire.

That was our Saturday. My thanks, as always, to Bill, for planning his weekends around my pleasures, and to you, the reader, for taking time to share in our day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Commutes last week

I've been uploading pictures throughout the past week, and waiting for some free moments to come along when I could add some commentary. The time rushed on, and now, it's early Saturday morning. I'll be leaving shortly to check out Jean's suggestion (see comments to last post) - Capilano River Regional Park with Bill. That will mean more pictures, so it seems these commute pictures from last week should have their moment, commentary or not. Here they are, in random order.

From the Lions Gate Bridge on Wednesday, the 21st.
Stanley Park, also on Wednesday, right after crossing the Lions Gate.

This swan swam up, took a look at me, and then continued on its search for dinner.
The Burrard Bridge, after leaving Stanley Park.
Lately, whenever I cross the Burrard Bridge, the bird songs (my guess would be starlings or maybe grackles) are almost frantic. Like pigeons, these birds fly short distances back and forth, always turning as a unit. Bill noted that they look like little fighter planes. This Burrard flock then takes a few moments to sit on the bridge rafters/beams before continuing their, to me, very strange flight.

This was on Tuesday, the 20th, on the bike path to the Lions Gate, heading South.

Monday, the 19th, again from the Lions Gate.

The Sylvia Hotel by Stanley Park, on Monday, the 19th. I am about half way home at this point.
Zoomed in..
Zoomed in more.
These pigeons were doing a similar fly-by routine (over The Sylvia) to that of the starlings over The Burrard.
This one goes back to Tuesday. I stopped on 1st Avenue near Cypress to take some orange flowers, and instead, was taken with the long grasses against the traffic sign.
And just a parting shot of Black Jack taken during a walk at Jericho.
The object of Black Jack's interest. All for now, but will be back soon with an account of the Capilano adventure.