Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Two days of Osprey observations

On Monday, I stopped by the osprey nest on the way home from school. I was a bit worried for the little one, exposed to relentless sun and extreme temperatures. Mom seemed restless, flying in and out of the nest, looking for nesting material. Dad was there when I arrived, but left a few moments later, and didn't return. Lately, he is staying away for much longer periods. Bill's sister, Phyllis, kindly suggested some names for the osprey juvenile. Olive, Alice, Rosie or Penelope if it is a girl, and Oliver, Andrew, Rupert, or Pierre if it is a boy. Does anyone have any preferences? It's hard to make out details unless you click on the pictures, but this one really shows the mother's talons gripping the stick.
She comes back to the nest, and appears to be teaching Junior to help her with nest building.
Junior has mastered the art of pooping clear of the nest.
Off she goes. Look at those talons!
A shadow under her..
...and she's got it. A great stick!
She seems about to lose it.

A balancing act.It was thrilling to watch her, but right after this shot, she dropped it. I left shortly after that, but as far as I know, she didn't make an attempt to recapture that stick. Maybe she realized it was a bit too long for the nest.
Yesterday (Tuesday), I met "Grandpa Wayne", a gentleman who has spent even more hours observing the osprey than I have. He was there for the mating dance, including a spar between suitors, and finally, for the successful nest building and eventual birth. He watched me with my camera, and asked how long I had been there. When I told him, he thought I might be thirsty, and went back to his vehicle to get me some ice cold bottled water. Man, did that ever hit the spot! Thank you, Grandpa Wayne. I looked for your blog, but wasn't successful in finding it, but your company was great fun, and your obvious love for the osprey touched my heart. I particularly loved your admission that you were tempted to gather up nesting material and deliver it for the parents, when they were struggling to create a home for their baby. I, like you, hope that Junior will fledge successfully, and feel relieved each day to see him gaining strength. *Has anyone noticed how quickly he is growing?!

Grandpa Wayne and I both came to the same conclusion that, with the heat on Tuesday even worse than the day before, Mama was doing all in her power to shade Junior.

She seemed to move around the nest with the sun. Junior was happy to stay under her wing.
Papa arrived with a fish. He took it to his personal pylon.
He worked on it for a while, making sure that it was dead. We thought he wanted to be certain there was no danger of it flapping around and falling out of the nest. We didn't see him eat even one bite of it.
A heron flew in, and settled behind the seals to do some fishing.
Papa delivered the fish to the nest.
Before greeting Junior, he made sure to whisper a private message to Mama. i had a picture of this which I loaded this morning before work, but it has suddenly disappeared, and there seems to be no way to recover it. You will have to use your imagination.

Suddenly, there seemed to be unrest, and then we saw two strange osprey arrive. Here is one of them, showing off the beautiful patterns on the back of its wings.
Then, I saw its front, and with the mottled necklace, as explained by Ship Rock (See previous message), realized it was a female. There is a second nest near my school, visible from the second floor window at, but too far away to see any detail. I think this pair, for some reason, decided to do a fly by, and check on their neighbors.
There was lots of parent-child action to observe from my viewing spot. I wonder if the osprey ever compare notes with the seals.
A view of the area. Osprey nest at the left, some geese swimming by, seals near the back pylon. Seabus on the way to Vancouver in the far distance.
Meanwhile, Mama fed Junior..
..and went back to her shading duties as he slept peacefully, on a full stomach.
I headed for home, happy to have had the privilege of sharing thoughts on wildlife with Grandpa Wayne, and well hydrated, thanks to him, for my trip.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

First osprey images with my new camera

 When the repairman at the shop told me my camera would not be ready until sometime next week, I looked ahead to a camera-less weekend (my teeny one just didn't cut it), and made a quick decision to go through with a plan that has been brewing for a while.  I bought a new one.  No details for now.  There were some disappointments, as I realized I wasn't actually getting any closer to my subjects than with the last camera.  Bill comforted me, saying that my cropped photos would have better detail, and also adding that I can buy a 2X attachment that will bring the images much closer.  He was right about the cropping, and all in all, I'm fairly satisfied with the day's results.  

I still have a very long way to go before I know what I'm doing, but here are my first attempts, all taken in North Vancouver, near my school.

This, I think, was my best shot of the day.  Mama is sitting on the nest with Junior (any suggestions for names?) as Papa comes in with a sunfish. 
The rest of the pictures are in the order taken.  The seals were entertaining as always.
I think this might be a parent and wayward child.  There was quite a scuffle as the young one came quite close to where I was standing.  (The tide was out, so that meant much closer than the seals normally swim.)  The larger one chased it back to a safer distance, growling all the while.
I waited for almost two hours for Papa Osprey to return, the longest I've ever seen him stay away from the nest.  In the meantime, I tested out the camera on other attractions.  I like the sparkly wave here, and the seagull, in my happy interpretation, looking forward to the ride.
I told you that I waited for two hours.  What I didn't mention is that Bill, with not even a hint of complaint (he did say he was doing Python programs in his head), looked after Black Jack, encouraged me when I felt discouraged, clambered back up the rocks to his truck to get my tripod (which was too small for the job), and this after driving me to North Van through heavy downtown traffic.  I need a new word.  "Thank you" is inadequate for the kindness and patience Bill shows.  He really is worth his weight in platinum (The highest value metal I know of:)  In this picture, Black Jack was amusing Bill with her prancing and dancing, as she tried to play with a sparkly reflection that she perceived to be alive.
Black Jack really loves to play around the shore line.  She was a tiny bit fed up after more than two hours, but overall, she managed to do a good job of keeping herself entertained (with a little help from Bill).
The seagulls gave me lots of practice in following flight.  
This wasn't such a great photo, except that I thought there were great possibilities for amusing dialogue.  All suggestions welcome.
Junior, himself.  A gentleman was there when I arrived, although he finally gave up on waiting for Papa.  He described Junior as "an ugly little thing" which I suppose, from some viewpoints, could be true, but to me, he's absolutely beautiful
Papa finally did arrive.  I thought this family shot had possibilities for dialogue as well.  Something along the lines of: Mama -  "Dear, he's getting to be quite a handful.  I really wish you would hang around a bit more."
Junior - "Man, they're talking about me again.  I can't wait to move outa here."  
"Just today, he (whisper, whisper)..."  
Here, I can't really make out where Junior's head is.  He seemed to topple over, and Mama didn't appear to be very sympathetic at all.
"I can fly..  almost."
"I thought you'd never get here."
"Feed me.  NOW."
"Where are you going?"
I learned from Ship Rock that Mama has a necklace (darkish mottling across her chest).  He is a fountain of knowledge, as well as a great photographer and a generous human being, happy to share what he has learned by dint of hours and hours of observation.  It's well worth your time to check out his photos at this link.
I think it must be quite the challenge to begin to understand how to manipulate those large wings.  Junior almost seems to be kneeling in this one.  I'll be watching him regularly and hoping he fledges successfully.  I have no idea when that will be, but he sure is growing quickly.  In just the couple of weeks since I have begun watching him, he has easily doubled in size.
Thanks for reading.  Part of the fun of taking pictures is reading your comments and getting to share a bit of my learning process.  Thanks also to Bill for his endless patience and kindness.  I know I said it once, but it bears repeating:)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Oh me oh my...

Oh me, oh my..  my camera is spending its 4th night at the repair shop.  At first, they said it needed a cleaning, but today, the repair person said it is in worse shape than he thought.  It needs an overhaul.  I don't know if it's homesick, but I do know I miss it.  I'm using my older, smaller camera until I get it back.  It did a fair job of capturing these boats moored at Jericho Beach on Monday evening.
On Wednesday, the tide was out, and I was able to get quite close to the osprey nest near my school in North Vancouver.  There were four very professional photographers there, and to their credit, not one of them made me feel silly with my little panasonic.  This was the best shot I could manage of the baby in the nest, but if you check out Ship Rock's flickr site, you can see some outstanding photos.  It's worth taking time to look at his slide show as well.  You can also see Nilsson's smugmug photos.  Oh me oh my, I love both of these photographers' work!  
Ever since Jean's post (linked in my previous post) about things she sees on the beach, I've been looking more carefully at the world under my feet.  She had shown a purple starfish, and having never seen one, I was amazed.  Ship Rock kindly took time to show me one on the beach near the osprey nest.  He picked it up and showed me its little suction cups, and it's mouth at the center.  Absolutely fascinating.  
Wednesday was quite the day.  After spending my lunch break watching the osprey, I joined the school cycling club later that afternoon for a trip to the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve.  It was a beautiful ride, with paved surface open only to cyclists, joggers, strollers, and in-line skaters (experienced only, because of the hills). 
I took the Second Narrows Bridge home from Seymour, only the second time I've crossed that bridge on bike.  It is truly narrow!  No pictures because there is no passing room at all, and I didn't dare stop. It made me think of the Burrard bike lane, which is at least four times wider.  I'm getting used to the new trial arrangement, but am not convinced it was the best solution.  I still feel barriers alone could have solved the problem.  I stopped on Tuesday to take a picture of one of my concerns.  There are a couple of really rough expansion girder gaps.  They scare me.  With cyclists on my left speeding by, I have to keep right, and along with some drainage holes, there are two gaps like the one shown below that seem dangerous. This one is not the worst one, but it was the easiest to capture without irritating cyclists behind me too much.  I'm hoping if the trial is declared a success, that they will find some way of smoothing over these gaps.  
Wednesday evening, Bill and I watched the fireworks from a great vantage point on some steps leading to the beach from Alma Street. Black Jack is not at all afraid of the big bangs.  She sat on my knees, as relaxed as could be.  I am still hoping someone may eventually invent silent fireworks.  Many animals and birds are terribly stressed, and that makes me sad.  

And, a couple of bird shots taken on Monday evening at Jericho (with my little camera).  
After taking this shot, I read EvenSong's post, in which she had also taken some pigeons.  I guess we were both on the same wavelength that day.  It's worth checking out that link to her post, to see her beautiful foal, Jackson.
One final "oh me oh my".  I've done something to my foot.  Walking is just about impossible, and, although I managed to cycle home, even biking is difficult.  How could this happen?  I didn't even fall.  I knocked it against a whiteboard stand at school, said ouch, and then forgot about it.  A couple of hours later, it began to swell.  Please, please, let it be better in the morning!  

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Weekend Walks

Sunday evening, and I arrive home after spending time with Bill and Black Jack on the fishing dock near Jericho Beach.  The plan was to capture the sunset, but in the end, the sun's way of highlighting its subjects became the evening's focus.

Here, a rare seagull.  Jericho is usually a birder's paradise, but the folk festival caused most of the birds and beasts to go into temporary hiding.   
Black Jack craning around Bill to check out who knows what..
Here, I like to think Black Jack is contemplating the sunset, but the truth is she's quivering with excitement, and neither Bill nor I have any idea what is triggering her intense interest.  Maybe rats under the dock?

Thinking back over the weekend..
A documentary several weeks ago about Riverview Hospital stimulated my curiosity.  A lady from the Riverview Horticultural Centre Society talked about the arboretum, and about the empty buildings on the land.  Once a very large hospital for people with mental illness, Riverview now has many empty buildings, and only a small number of patients still living on the grounds.  Many seem to think those buildings could be occupied again, providing a place for Vancouver's homeless to live a much improved life.  You can listen to some of the documentary at this link.  Bill and I began exploring, and we were amazed at the vastness of the property.  A patient was sitting with his guitar and we asked him to play us a song.  He did, and we found it strangely peaceful..  I say "strangely" because after he stopped singing, he told us there was only once place he wanted to go and that was East Hastings.  It struck me that this man would disagree with the current opinion that the mentally ill are better off at Riverview.  

We left the man, feeling a bit sad for his obvious lack of peace.  Although he didn't show appreciation for the trees around him, I wondered it they bring him some sort of comfort .  There are some real beauties on the property.  Many have small metal plates attached to them, with an identification number and both the latin and the English names inscribed as well.  The tree below is a Camperdown Elm.  When I went to take a picture of Bill under it, he quickly reached for his hat.  I wondered what he was doing.. 
..and laughed to see him switch the hat around.  We had had an earlier conversation when I complained that the brim of my hat was getting in the way when I take pictures.  I love this picture of Bill, with his eyes twinkling blue and a mischievous smile on his face.
I learned that because the trees were planted far enough apart to give them space to grow to their full potential, many reach right to the ground.  Bill and Black Jack are under this tree, but it's tough to see them.

We continued walking and discovered Finnie's Garden a short distance away.  You can learn more about this garden , and also about the trees, by going to the Riverview Horticultural web site.  

Lovely branches used creatively in this walkway.
I haven't seen grapes growing very often.  With the sun on these, it seemed they were almost ripe enough to eat.
 I love the way Black Jack hangs out of Bill's arms, absolutely confident that he will keep her safe.
For tree huggers, Riverview is a gold mine.  No pictures of Bill hugging a tree, but I think he came close:)  He was the one to draw my attention to this beauty.
There were several places set up for a peaceful rest stop.  We saw some photographs near these chairs, covered with plastic and attached to the trees.  One showed a bear standing on its hind legs, checking out the very tree we were looking at.  That was the first time I remembered that we were in bear country.  We continued our walk, with just a tad more attention to the sounds around us.
We discovered a small building near this spot, with pamphlets at the door listing more than 100 native plants to be found in the garden, and also explaining a little about Finnie's story.  The web site link above will give you that same information.    
We enjoyed our walk around the Riverview hospital grounds, but the birds must have been having their afternoon siesta, and we decided to revisit Colony Farms, where we had been last weekend.  We approached from a different direction this time, looking for some of the birds we had seen.  We were again reminded that a little caution would be sensible.
Bill and Black tried their best to flush out a few birds, but it was definitely a slow day.
Recently, while watching the osprey nest in North Vancouver, I met a photographer who gave me his web address.  I was blown away by his photographs.  If you check out his site, you will see a photo of the back of a bird that is breathtaking.  I was thinking of that shot when I took the one below.  The thing about this photographer, is that he gets the exotic shots, but his talent is such that two pigeons are as exciting as many of the more rare species.  My first thought when I saw his work was, "I'm never going to take another bird photo again."  My second was, "I need a new camera."  My third was, "I have a long way to go, but challenge is a good thing."
Three mama ducks exchanging stories.


The folk festival was in full swing.  We walked around the perimeter.  Bikes were everywhere.
I heard on the news this evening that the festival is struggling to meet its financial challenges, but I also heard someone say there is a $1 charge to park your bike.  For a finance-challenged person like myself, it seems the bike parking alone could pay for festival costs.  Okay, I guess not, but really, I can't remember ever seeing this many bikes in one place.
Lots and lots of places to buy food.
The East Bazaar
The West Bazaar
I've already complained about the festival, but honestly, I do appreciate that there are some great musicians needing exposure, and clearly crowds and crowds of people who want to hear them perform.  That's a good thing.  But, booming bass, cigarette and several other kinds of smoke, and multitudes of adoring fans do not make for happy wildlife.  The Jazz Festival does great downtown.  I think the Folk Festival could do just as well, and at the very least, would mean many less stressed birds and beasts.


On the way to the beach I passed these flowers, and had to stop.  The home owner told me that they are Trumpet Vines.  He said that they have to be cut back drastically, in order to get them to bloom this abundantly the following year.  He was fine with my taking pictures, adding that he's happy to have his garden provide pleasure for passers-by.  It surely did that! 
The tide was out and Black Jack and I had fun exploring the beach.  I was very happy to see this heron.
It flew off, and I thought I was out of luck.
Remembering Jean's post about sand dollars and other treasures on the beach, I consoled myself about losing the heron, by exploring some of the things right under my feet.  I didn't see any sand dollars, but did see some shells and seaweed.
Then, the heron came back to its original spot!  Not only that - I saw it catch a fish!
I did feel sorry for the fish, but very happy for the heron.  I've seen a heron at this spot before, and now I know why.
Black Jack and I were gone a long time, and I was now in need of a latte.  We went to a shop on 4th Avenue that has opened up fairly recently.  Their lattes are not quite up to my favorite Wicked Cafe ones, but they are very good, and today's sure did hit the spot.  No link today, as I've forgotten the name of the shop, but soon.
I love the way Black Jack's legs dangle over my knees.  She seems to have the knack of making herself comfortable, wherever she is.
She turned to look back, without a thought that she might fall.  Her expression made me laugh.
It was a good walk and a fun weekend.  Thanks to Bill and Black Jack for great company and lots of laughter.