Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sun on Saturday at Jericho and Iona Island

It was a week of rain, rain, and then.. heavy rain. A flat tire on Wednesday could have added to the misery, but Bill came to school and picked me up, and Don and Dustin, of Ride on Again, touched my heart, as they so often do, by keeping their shop open after hours, so that the bike could be fixed in time for the next morning's commute. At a time when I try to fathom the pain in Haiti, and know that it is of a magnitude beyond anything I have ever known, I appreciate the beautiful people in my life. As Penelope Puddles said:
Our place in time and in the universe is a riddle we have yet to solve. But along with the mystery and misery, precious moments inscrutably go by for anyone who cares to savor the fleeting miracle of being alive.
Speaking of beautiful people, and beauty in general, I came home on Friday evening to supper completely prepared by Bill. Below, is the salad. Resting under the avocado, snow peas, kiwis and carrots, is a bed of organic spinach. Bill is humble about his abilities, but I marvel at both his generosity and his artistic bent.

On Saturday, I rose fairly early, and took Black Jack to Jericho Park. I was very excited to see brilliant sun, and was also anticipating a trip to Iona Island later in the day. Bill was to arrive at ten, but I wanted to take a look around Jericho before we went. There was no sign of Oli the otter, but even a short walk yielded lots of joyful birdsong. People and dogs stepped out with a jauntiness in their gait that I hadn't seen for several days. One person told me that Oli had been seen at Spanish Banks. It was nice to know that he is still in the area.

I hadn't been to Jericho for a while, but the same man who fed the birds every morning during the holidays, was there, at his regular spot on the bridge. He commented on the plumpness of a couple of the sparrows, and indeed, it was hard to miss that the birds in the area are well fed.

This sparrow (song sparrow?) watched from the tree,
and then flew to the bridge railing.

A Red-winged blackbird took advantage of the feast on the ground.

A chubby Black-capped Chickadee flitted quickly from the tree to the bridge and back to the tree again. I struggled to get a photo.. it didn't give me much time at all.

Black Jack was keen to check out the rabbits. Look at the shine on this one. The two ladies who visit twice a day with vegetables and other goodies are doing their very best to keep the rabbits healthy.

A robin was my final Jericho photo before we left. It was feeding mostly from the ground, but grabbed a quick snack from the tree branch.

I have to admit that the trip to Iona Island did not begin well. A map of the area, found at the Nature Vancouver web site, showed areas that I thought could be accessed. It included two "bird gates" with no mention that they were locked and that a code was needed to enter. I guess I didn't read the information fully, but honestly, it was frustrating not to be able to get to the other side of that fence. And honestly, I have to admit to a certain amount of grouchiness. Bill has kindly and generously taken me wherever I have even hinted at wanting to go, but I always feel as though such trips are gifts to be treasured. It wouldn't be possible to take Black Jack on my bike, and leaving her alone is not an option, so I consider each excursion as one that may not happen again, or at least, not in the immediate future.

Bill retained his good humour in spite of me, and slowly, we began to notice birds outside the fence. Here, a Common Merganser.

On our side of the locked fence, this Black-capped Chickadee provided a lot of entertainment. I did think at first that I had discovered a new species.

It spent much of its time hanging upside down, and the whiteness of its belly gleamed in a way I don't usually notice. Look at the grip!

Very athletic little bird. (No indication in my book of how to distinguish gender.)

Just in front of my foot was this delicate, transparent leaf. I'm not sure if you can see it from this picture, but it was truly lovely. (Clicking on the picture will enlarge it.)

We moved to the other side of the road, and stepped down to the beach to watch these beautiful Snow Geese.

I felt, as I snapped away, that I was getting wonderful pictures, but in fact, I still have much to learn about photography. The results were quite disappointing, in spite of, or perhaps, because of the bright sun. This one was doctored by taking out the shadows, but that unfortunately also takes out the vibrant colours. Snow Geese are mainly white, but there is orange in their bills and in their feet that doesn't come through here. Still, as always, I am enthralled by the sight of birds in flight.
We had brought special food for ducks and geese, but grass roots seemed to be the most popular choice yesterday.
The geese worked very hard to pull them up, and sometimes, squabbled over possession of the best finds.

Bill and Black Jack waited patiently while I greedily snapped picture after picture. Here, Bill sunbathes while Black Jack takes advantage of height gain to survey the territory.

We finally left the Snow Geese, and walked through the marsh to the riverside, where boats added their unique flavour to the day, which was becoming more and more of a "keeper" by the minute.

I experimented with F stops here, and I think succeeded somewhat in fairly good depth of field.

Then, over the bushes, a bird that wasn't a seagull, and wasn't a crow! Not that there is anything wrong with my beloved crows and seagulls, but somehow, I felt this was to be a new find.

But, what was it? A hawk or an owl? It took me quite some time. My lens was seeing what my eyes had difficulty making out. However, in the bright sun, the viewfinder wasn't giving me a clear image, and it took the expertise of a passing photographer to help me learn that I was seeing my very first Short-eared Owl. Not only that, I was seeing it in flight!!
None of the pictures are stellar, but each one was a triumph of effort. I have been reading Ansel Adams lately, and have learned that he set up his shots days (even months) in advance, seeing every detail in his mind long before he actually took the photograph. I hope to have the opportunity to try again, and to be a bit more prepared in future. Someday, perhaps I will come closer to doing such a majestic bird justice.

The owl flew in a very wide circumference, often ducking behind bushes to find prey low to the ground. Each of these pictures represents quite a long waiting period, and many missed shots in the meantime.

Bill did his best to locate the owl, anticipate its routes, plan for good vantage points, and still keep Black Jack entertained. Entertained she was, since those bushes must have contained tantalizing smells. When she tugged too much, Bill, not wanting to pull on her leash, would lift her with one hand. It made me smile, because she is so secure and comfortable in his hand, that she simply uses the moment to gain a better view. This is another of many photos in this post that had to be de-shadowed, using iphoto. It makes Black Jack look sort of washed out, but captures her enthusiasm and total confidence in Bill. I simply couldn't get the exposure right yesterday.

This was my last shot of the owl for the day. I hope we will see it again.

As we walked back toward the truck, we met these two ladies with their horses, Princess on the left and Gemma on the right, and their two dogs. Unfortunately, I didn't get the names of the dogs. Humans, horses and dogs were all enjoying the day and the territory.

Bill posed with bright sun in his eyes, by this sign. I confess that we did take Black Jack into the marsh area, but whenever there was the slightest doubt of her behaviour, she was carried.

I cannot tell you what this plant was. It was everywhere, and it added to the dreamlike quality the day was taking on.

The ladies with their horses came by once more. I am ashamed to say that though they introduced themselves, I have forgotten their names. Poor focus in this shot, but I thought Gemma and her human blended beautifully into the landscape.

One more picture of Princess. I enjoyed learning that the horses were named by grandchildren, and though those children are now grown, the horses continue to be loved and ridden regularly.

Hungry and ready for a caffeine fix, we settled into the truck for the ride home. As we went along the road, a large flock of Snow Geese approached, and once more, my camera went into action. After a couple of truck shots, we pulled up, and once more, walked down to the beach. There seemed to be a couple of feeding areas, and one distinct bathing area.

One of the features I love is the accordion-like wrinkles curving along their faces and down their necks.

One more wing shot.

Back in the truck once more, we made it only a short distance before I spied this hawk on a fence. Bill, even encouraging, made yet another stop. I am guessing Red-tailed Hawk, but the pictures are greatly doctored, and the details fuzzy.

It flew off, giving me a glimpse of its golden wing and tail.

It was not a picture perfect day, but it was perfect nonetheless. My very great thanks to Bill, for making it possible, and to you, for sharing in it.


  1. Hi Carol,

    You've got some great bird shots here - really nicely done. Love stopping in at your blog, there's always something interesting to see and read!


  2. These are great photos! I love the owl sequence, and the hawk with orange sunlight on his wings.

    Sunny days are tricky to photograph. The birds always seem to be between us and the light, or reflections off the water give far too much contrast. And those pale brown/gold reeds never seem to glow with that translucent richness in the photos that they do to our eyes.

    I wipe out the shadows, like you did, but then I often saturate the colours just a smidgen to compensate. It's never quite good enough, however.

  3. Love that little upside down bird! Your blend of colourful pictures and prose gives interesting insight into what others might expect on a similar journey. You did well to capture wildlife in flight on such a bright day. None of my photos at the bottom of 1001 Steps came out, possibly because of glare from the ocean. My pictorial memories consist only of what I captured on the stairway. And what I saw in my mind’s eye, faded a little in the camera’s translation.

  4. I am envious of your owl shots. Twice on the hike to Crofton Lake near my house, I have had an owl fly out of the bush right in front of me - of course by the time I get the camera ready it is too far away.
    Wonderful pictures, and always interesting commentary.

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone:)

    Love yours as well, Dave.

    Great tips, Wanderin' Weeta!

    Penelope, your stair shots were excellent!

    Jean, I was lucky that the owl kept circling the area. It is close to impossible to catch one at first sighting.

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