Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Some thoughts and photos since Sunday

I began writing this post on Sunday, but it waited in drafts for a few days, while I grappled with a couple of things that were on my mind. Now, early on Wednesday morning, it seems time to finish it.

First, two pictures taken by the river yesterday in North Vancouver. A Northern Flicker,
and a Blue Heron.

The issues that grabbed hold of me on Sunday had to do with a news broadcast that began, just as I started writing. The story was about the critically poor health of a young giraffe at Mountain View Conservation and Breeding Centre near Fort Langley, B.C. He was to be seen by a vet this week, and, depending on the outcome of that visit, may have to be euthanized. The link I show here is a news story of two other giraffes at the same centre that recently died because of cold temperatures and improper diet.

Update to this story: On Tuesday an article in The Province stated that the giraffe was having a life-or-death operation on its hoof. It also said that the centre is working towards moving the exotic animals somewhere more appropriate, and concentrating instead on threatened, native to B.C, species only. Encouraging news, I think.

And, on Saturday, I watched a documentary called The Cove - a terribly disturbing story of the slaughter of thousands of dolphins in a small cove of Japan. An excellent movie, if you can bear to watch it. Two very different stories, but each driving home the point that mankind has a long way to go to reach an understanding of what constitutes ethical treatment of pets, wildlife, and farm or working animals.

Both stories make me feel sad and powerless, and I'm not eager to pass on these feelings to you. So many of us are just trying to get along in our day-to-day lives, and the reality is that taking on a battle against an injustice can be a heartbreaking and sometimes, even self-destructive project. In the case of people with a long tradition of hunting/killing to feed their families, protesters like those involved with Greenpeace have made some serious errors in judgment as to the way they go about attacking that way of life. But, I am struck with the inescapable feeling that keeping silent in the face of situations we know in our hearts are wrong, and that includes injustices in the way we treat our fellow humans, is just not an option any more. I signed the petition at the "Cove" link. I'm not sure it is the best way of speaking out against something I can barely dare to think about, but that, and I guess, this post, are the ways I have chosen for now.

I was looking for the famous quote by Gandhi:
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

and in that search, came across this quote by Albert Schweitzer. It makes a lot of sense to me:
Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come. ~Albert Schweitzer

The weekend? On Saturday, Black Jack and I walked at Jericho Park late in the afternoon when the rain had lessened to more or less a fine mist. Not wanting to get my camera wet, I took only a couple of pictures. I met a lady who takes some fine photos indeed. Not only that, but she is very generous in offering suggestions as to the locations of some of the more rare birds. She informed me that she had seen thrushes, creepers, and even a Pileated Woodpecker. I searched, and found sparrows, juncos, chickadees, red-winged blackbirds and lots of robins. Just goes to show that what I actually see on most outings is just the surface of what is actually present.

Identifying seems to be more challenging by the day. Young red-winged blackbird or sparrow? I'm not sure.

This one, I can definitely say, is an American Robin.

On Sunday, a former student visited, and he joined me for a walk at Jericho. He must have brought luck, because, for the first time in quite a few weeks, Oli, the otter, made an appearance. At least, I am choosing to think this must be Oli. He was on the other side of the pond, and I had difficulty getting any kind of photo. To be honest, I even wondered if I was perhaps seeing a beaver. And, it also occurred to me that there may be two otters in this photo, each struggling for ownership of a reed. Or, sharing it? Oh, for a clearer image, and/or time to go back and spend more time scouting out the pond. Maybe this weekend.
It (they) was/were not staying above water for long, but diving every few seconds. In this one, I am quite certain there is only one, so either the second one is still below water, or there never was a second one. Still, I was excited to at least be sure that one water mammal appeared on Sunday at Jericho.

The robins were numerous again, and very active.

Another sighting that made me happy. I hadn't seen the pair of Ring-necked Ducks for quite some time. Although this photo of the male isn't the best, one thing it shows clearly for the first time (out of the shots I have taken), is the distinctive ring around the neck that gives it its name.
Here is the female, swimming away..
and then turning to come back towards the camera.
We saw the hawk (Cooper's, I think), way off in the distance, trying to hunt, but being harassed quite a bit by crows. It was definitely a day for some of the "old gang" to make an appearance.

A Blue Heron was sitting on one of the bird houses.

Around this time, Bill met us, and we stood on the little bridge, watching Mallards land and take off.

Bill seemed to bring beautiful light with him. All of a sudden, the grey day turned to gold.

The masts across the bay grabbed the light and held on.

Photographers, hungry for light after many grey days, seemed to be everywhere I looked.

This seagull landed close to us on the bridge railing.

Not at all shy, it watched us quizzically, but turned down the little piece of dried salmon (Black Jack's treats) that I offered it.

It's legs and feet seemed a rather washed-out shade of orange.

The last shot for Sunday was of this beautiful Mallard.

There you have the mid-week post. Thanks for taking time to read it.


  1. The issue of animal stewardship is so complex, and I have heard all the arguments about the benefits of zoos. But it is only humans who benefit, not the giraffes or tigers or lions or elephants. Increasingly, I believe that one cannot take an animal from a tropical climate and have that animal live safely and healthfully in a cold, wet climate no matter how much attention is paid to its feed and its physical environment. We have seen entirely too many cases like this in the past few years - the facilities are not offering positive educational opportunities, the caregivers are not compassionate and knowledgable. Rather, it is exploitation and that is not stewardship. Thank you for writing about it.

    I love the photo of the mallards taking flight - the brilliant flashes of blue and the orange feet sticking out brought a smile to my face.

  2. Aside of your fantastic photos, I commend you for touching on the difficult issue of cruelty to animals. This IS a subject we tend to shy away from. Only by shedding light on abuses will conditions slowly improve. Every bit of dialogue on the matter helps us evolve into smarter and kinder animal keepers.

  3. Wonderful pictures and enjoyed the post alot!

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone. Jean and Penelope, I hesitated to post this, so especially appreciated your thoughts. I checked for an update on the giraffe, and found this article from yesterday, saying that the surgery has been delayed.

  5. Albert Schweitzer was a brilliant man as evidenced by the thoughtful remarks of his that you quoted. Hopefully, the giraffe WILL recover. Since I’m not sure if I object entirely to animals in zoo settings, providing a more sustainable environment for regional animals does seem on track.

    I well remember the elephant at that same zoo that was kept for long hours on a short chain by the entrance for years. When I asked why he was there and why he was constantly pacing and strangely shaking his head, I was simply told it was “normal” behavior. I think this was an extreme case of lack of knowledge about a sad and frustrated creature that eventually was moved to the US where apparently life became better.