Sunday, March 21, 2010

Officially Spring

Officially, Spring arrived yesterday at 10:33 a.m. (in Vancouver). I've been feeling it in the air pretty much ever since Christmas and New Year celebrations ended. Unlike the seemingly endless snow and ice that we experienced last year, the weather this past winter was very, very gentle. There were only a few mornings with frost on the windshields of parked cars, and none where bike riding was impossible. Still, all the classic birth and renewal signs,like this lush garden on Beach Avenue, make me even happier when I know they are finally official.

On Wednesday, there were only a few moments to check out the action on the river by my school in North Vancouver. Brief moments, but so enjoyable. Two gentlemen (Ron and Al) introduced themselves, and pointed out some of the interesting sights. "It's good to be alive," one of them said, and I had to agree. I laughed to see the permanently surprised expression of this Hooded Merganser female, as she watched her mate dive.

Moments later, he popped back up and they swam together in the sunlight.

"Woody Woodpecker ducks," says Bill. I have to agree. Only problem - that "hair standing on end" look is a female characteristic. Perhaps, she is Woody's sister. Do you see a family resemblance?

This isn't a very clear picture, but if you look closely, you can see that the male has his own way of showing surprise. Could that jaw drop any lower?

Got it! (Is that a crayfish in his mouth?)

Out of focus pictures here, but if you look closely, you can see the fish's eye in the first one. I was surprised that the female could capture and consume such a large one. Maybe, she wanted to point out a thing or two to her mate.
*You can click on pictures to enlarge them, and then use the back button to go back to the normal post.

Across the river, I thought I detected a flash of movement, and the camera caught this Killdeer, otherwise all but invisible to my eyes.)

On Friday, I took Black Jack for a walk at Jericho Park before I left for school. The reflections in the pond had orangey-brown tones to them.

Just to the right of those autumn shades, and only seconds later, the light and colours were completely different.

I love these Golden-crowned sparrows. They are all over the park lately.

The North Shore Mountains behind the fishing dock.

We turned homeward, and saw this Flicker digging in the grass. It didn't seem to mind that its beak was a bit messy.

I think the Mallard females may be sitting on eggs. The males were wandering around in the grass on the other side of the path, possibly trying to act as decoys. I love the droplets on the tips of the grass in this photo.

Almost identical shades of luminescent green in the grass and in the male's head.

This Chestnut-backed Chickadee (I think) was enjoying a feast along the path out of the park.

It looks like this crow was gathering nesting material. As much as I love crows, I realize I have never really observed their nests. I checked out this site just now, and learned that they try to keep the location of their nests as secret as possible.

A nearby crow watched us with what I can only describe as a knowing expression.

I took Black Jack home, and then left for work on my bike. A ten-minute stop in Stanley Park was tantalizing. The herons were very busy preparing their nests, another classic sign of Spring. I could have spent hours watching them.

This one looked for all the world like it was either yawning or laughing, but I think it may just have been reaching for a branch.

Most of the flying shots were into bright sun, and detail in the wings was hard to capture.

This nest is the first one I observed, a couple of years ago. I named the chicks in that nest Stanley and Sue, and they inspired my very first blog post. I don't know if the same parents are back, or if herons normally come back to their original nest. However, I've decided that, for as long as I'm able to continue watching the herons at Stanley Park (there is no guarantee that they will continue to return each year), the parents in that nest will, in my mind, be Stanley and Sue. On Friday, they were very quiet, but just before I left, they suddenly sat up very tall, and..
there was what appeared to me to be tender communication between them.

On Saturday, I woke up to beautiful weather. Black Jack and I walked along Point Grey Road to Vanier Park. Along the way, I stopped occasionally for more Spring photographs.

This heron was sitting by the beach at Vanier Park. I wonder if he was too young for breeding season, or whether he was out fishing to feed his mate.

Although dogs' greeting methods are year round, somehow, this scene had a Spring feel to it as well, I guess because so many dogs were enjoying the beach and the sunshine. I didn't learn the names of these dogs, but loved watching this very gentle Great Dane. I had to laugh, though. The small, blond dog knew there was a rear end somewhere, but couldn't quite find it.

We took the Aqua Bus across to the Aquatic Centre, and from there, walked toward Stanley Park. I was hoping to see how Stanley and Sue were doing, but also was happy to soak up the rich variety of flowers along the way.

Another Chestnut-backed Chickadee (at least, I feel fairly sure that is what it was) was sitting at the edge of someone's balcony.

The last garden, just before the park, was one of the most colourful

When we arrived at the park, the skies had greyed considerably, but the herons were again working feverishly on their nests.

The males would fly in with a twig or branch, the female would reach out to take it,

and often, they would work together to weave it into the network of sticks.

This male arrived with no stick, and it appeared at first, there was no female waiting.

Suddenly, a long neck stretched upward, and there was some sort of exchange of information, which I imagined to perhaps be something like, "Well, I know it's not easy, but we've got lots of work to do on the house. You had better get out there and try again."

And, off he went. I am still in awe of the navigational expertise it must require to manipulate those huge wings and long, long, oh-so-skinny legs.

He returned shortly, more successful this time. I managed to get a picture of him in the air, but missed his landing.

All the while, I had been keeping an eye on Sue, who had waited for a very long time, with no visit from Stanley. I glanced quickly at her nest, and to my disappointment, it was suddenly empty. I don't know how she managed to get away without a sound, and without my seeing her departure. I did see this heron in the tree across the way, and wondered if it might be Sue, or even Stanley, as it was of course possible that Sue had been hiding out of sight in her nest. One thing for sure, that proud and graceful accordian-winged pose is one of my favourites.

Another successful mission, although not destined for Sue and Stanley's nest.

Bill arrived and Black Jack was beside herself with joy. The walks and boat ride had been fun for her, but she wasn't particularly impressed with heron watching. My last photo of the day was of either Stanley or Sue, doing a kind of upward wing stretch as they worked on the nest. The brightness of the bill suggests it could be Stanley, so perhaps Sue is tucked down in the nest, out of sight. There won't be much time to check on them this week, because of the upcoming school band trip, but hopefully, next weekend will bring another opportunity to see how they are doing.

Saturday evening, Bill and I attended an absolutely breathtaking concert by the Pacific Baroque Orchestra called "Zimmerman's Coffee House." I cannot remember when I have heard more exciting harpsichord playing, or a more polished ensemble . I took this picture just before the concert started, and then put the camera away.
Today? A lovely walk, some good food, and the Paralympics Closing Ceremony on television, all enjoyed with Bill and Black Jack. So much more to say, especially about the athletes, but I'm out of time. Have a good week, everyone.


  1. Ahhh...Heron season and time for absolutely stunning photos of them and interesting commentary from my favourite blogger. Thank you!

    Re the other photos: I know Woody is supposed to be a pileated woodpecker, but I agree that his head looks much more like the eternally surprised female hooded merganser! LOL

    And did you happen to notice the considerable resemblence between the expression on the crow's face and some of your shots of Black Jack when she is interested in something????? The bright eyes, the tilt of the head...I think Black Jack has a doppleganger of another species!

  2. Lovely spring pictures! Just call me 'Jealous in Prince George'! No fresh greens or blooms here yet, although our snow is nearly all gone and the animals are getting frisky.

  3. I love how VIVID your various shots are! The colors of all the flowers, and the avian subjects as well, are just amazing.
    I have finally given in and started to call it spring: though we still have a good frost every morning, the hay fields and pastures are starting to green up, and there are baby cows (and a few lambs) all through the neighborhood. There's mud and horsehair all over the place, and of course there's little Jackson and his youthful hormones...

  4. Seeing through your lenses and reading the details is an eye-opening adventure into the beauty and challenges of our natural world. You packed humour, colour and music into a welcoming journey. It’s hard to pick favorites but the pond is simply magical. Also, that is an excellent link you provided about crows. We have a lot of them here and it can’t hurt to learn about their habits.

  5. Very nice pictures, and equally nice blog.

    However, regarding the unknown bird. I know so well of your propensity for naming birds you see in your travels, and lest you provide one for this relatively unrare one, I quickly offer one that comes to mind - a male Passer domesticus. You might check Wikipedia on that for support.
    Females of this group wear more delicate shades of brown and tan.
    Cheers, Shiprock

  6. Thanks for your comments, everyone! They are so appreciated. No time to check out Shiprock's suggestion, but I look forward to doing that soon. I am writing this from an internet cafe in Victoria (band trip with my students), so will respond more fully once I am home again, Friday night.

  7. Well, in that case, guess I had better provide a more conventional name for him - Hector. His name is Hector.

    Not fair to leave the poor bird unnamed until Friday.
    Cheers, Shiprock

  8. Well, I did get home Friday night, but it took me until Sunday to recover. The three-day trip, with a late ferry causing a well-after-midnight arrival at school, followed by graduation ceremony on Friday, and the icing on the cake - Black Jack's meeting with a skunk on Saturday - just about did me in. Guess I finally have to admit to feeling my age!

    Jean, I had to laugh. Nice to have support for changing Woody's species:) And yes, I think you may be right about Black Jack. Thanks for your always interesting observations.

    LDF - thank you! I see from your most recent post that Spring is making its presence felt, so Prince George will soon be sporting the beautiful flowers in the park at the top of the hill. I still remember the first time I saw that garden.

    EvenSong, signs of Spring in your neck of the woods really reflect the growth and renewal theme where we feel it the most directly. Thanks for taking time to comment.

    Thanks, Penelope:)

    Shiprock, thank you! I finally did the wikipedia check, and appreciate your help. Funny how, in some ways, I think I'm making progress with bird identification, and in others, I seem to be going backwards. I do love the name Hector. It's perfect!

  9. Carol thanks for beautiful images of the spring accompanied by nice story line. Nature is amazing, especially over your side, lol. These photos are stunning, every single one, and the one with heron carrying branch in the air is my favorite. Thanks again for inspirations Carol. Anna :)