Monday, April 19, 2010

Heronry Updates, Thank You to Doug, Moodyville Visit.

Stanley Park Heronry Update
(In two parts: 1. A sad story 2. An interesting behaviour)

The Sad Story

After a somewhat rainy visit to North Vancouver (checking to see if the Osprey pair had returned to last year's nest, but they hadn't) Bill and I stopped at Stanley Park on Saturday evening. It was like deja vu - terrible screaming and commotion, and our hearts sank, as we realized a heron's nest was again under attack. The perpetrator this time was an eagle.

Bill ran to the truck to get a large golf umbrella that he bought expressly to help keep my camera dry on rainy days. He held it over me, while I tried to record the sad course of events. Thank you, Bill! A part of me wanted to leave. It is not a lot of fun watching the more cruel side of nature. However, another part of me is learning to accept that if I want the real picture, and not the prettied up one, I'm going to have to toughen up a bit. We watched the eagle clearly enjoying a nice snack, and then, it lay down in the heron's nest, preparing, it seemed, to have a little nap. I kept thinking about the chick sounds I had heard in a few nests, and hoped that, at least, these eggs weren't fully developed, or worse, hatched.

The saddest thing was the mother's cries. This picture, if one didn't know the background, would appear comical, but it represents great distress and fierce anger.

Suddenly, she must have hit the breaking point, and flew to the nest. There didn't seem to be any fight. I missed getting a picture of the changeover, but the eagle left without argument. I couldn't help but wish the heron had worked up her courage a bit sooner, but perhaps, disturbed in the middle of its snack, the eagle would have responded very differently.

Here, the poor mother furiously digs through the nest, throwing the pieces of egg shells to the ground. They were surprisingly small eggs. Both Bill and I had expected to see larger ones. I did take pictures, but deleted them afterwards. Maybe, just a bit too sad a reminder of nature's cruelty. We could see the remainder of yolk in them, however, so perhaps they were not fully formed chicks. Once she had cleared the nest, the mother lay down, and we saw no further action from her. I kept wondering what form grief takes and how long it lasts. Bill thought that might be anthropomorphizing too much, and I imagine he is right.

The Interesting Behaviour

I walked to the other side of the road, where a heron was standing in the fenced area under the nests. It was picking up sticks, and returning to the nest to deliver one stick at a time to his mate. Comical image, I thought.

Here, the heron has delivered the stick, and is preparing to fly down again. Herons really do have some funny postures and expressions. I had to laugh at this image - long legs, with a scruffy ball on top.

It chose each stick carefully, picking up several and dropping them, before finally selecting the perfect one. Note the little curve in this stick.

When it returned to the nest, he and the female did a sort of seesaw action, pulling the stick back and forth seven or eight times, in what looked like an attempt to straighten out the curve. First time I've seen that. Perhaps, there was some other motive, but it was interesting to watch. I also noticed that the female remained lying down, rather than getting up to take the stick. This change in behaviour, I guess, is because she was sitting on eggs.

Thank you to Doug!

On Sunday morning, I took Black Jack to Jericho Beach. We saw turtles in the pond,
and some beautiful reflections.

And again, a comical heron image. This heron was perched on a tree overlooking the pond. From the back, it had a rather grouchy appearance. Bad hair day, perhaps.

It turned once to look our way, but mostly sat, unmoving. We continued our walk.

There is a small sandy area just to the right of this fence, on the west end of the beach.
Black Jack always likes to check it out, and I was hoping to see the King Fisher that often sits on the front corner of the fence. No King Fisher, but with the tide low, we were able to climb up on an outcrop of rocks similar to one you see at the back of this picture. I sat there for a while, with Black Jack on my knee, both of us happy to soak up the sun's warmth. Then, she wanted to explore, so I walked along the top of the rocks, letting Black Jack climb as far as her 30 foot leash would allow. Suddenly, she was stuck. Really stuck. I tried to free the leash, but couldn't, and eventually had to unhook it to let Black Jack free. Holding her collar with one hand, I worked on the leash, sure that I would eventually be able to dislodge it. Realizing I needed help, I asked a gentleman who was nearby if he could hold Black Jack so that I could work with two hands. He had been enjoying a beach day with his children and dog, and I had remarked to myself that they seemed to be having a lot of fun together. He introduced himself to Black Jack and took her leash, but it soon became obvious that my best efforts would not be enough. The man decided to analyze the situation a bit more thoroughly. He spent a long time trying to figure out what on earth was keeping that leash so firmly planted, and finally concluded that we needed a small hook to pull the leash through. I still don't completely understand that part, but trusted his investigative nature. We tried one of my earrings, and a pen that I had in my pocket, but neither was quite the answer we needed. The man had been careful to keep a close eye on his two children all the while, but I was feeling really guilty for robbing them of their time with their father. I thanked him for his efforts, and decided to either carry Black Jack home or find some sort of makeshift leash. The man climbed down from the rocks, and I thought he had returned to play with his children. Instead, he found this.

And it worked! Yes!!

That man's name was Doug, and I will remember his kindness for a long time to come. Thank you to you and your beautiful family, Doug!

Doug gave me permission to post these pictures, and told me the name of his twelve-year-old dog. A beauty inside and out. Unfortunately, I failed to remember the name (maybe, Ollie?), and didn't succeed in taking a very good picture, but must include it. Family is family!

I walked home, happiness on a sunny day accentuated with human kindness.

As we walked, flowers seemed to be calling all along the way. (Anyone know the name of this one?)

This bumble bee didn't give me much time to focus, but even blurred, the colours are quite spectacular, I think. I know almost nothing about bees, but perhaps someone can identify it.

This tree is in the courtyard of my building. The sun caught the leaves and buds and I made a note (for the umpteenth time) to find out its name. (Help always appreciated.)

Another Heronry Update
(Hopefully, less sad.)

After lunch, I decided to go for a bike ride. I ride less when I'm on holiday, and realize I've been missing that, so Bill and I made a plan. I would ride to North Vancouver, stopping at Stanley Park on the way. He would pick me up at Moodyville Park, we would head over to Bridgman Park and of course, stop for a latte at JJBean, then home for supper and the Canucks game.

The heronry visit was again stressful. I arrived to see this racoon climbing up the unprotected tree behind the one labeled "U". Before I could get the camera out, it had already made its way up to a nest, where it had been scared off by the resident heron. My guess is that a female may have been lying low in the nest, and perhaps, a male scared it off.. Here, the racoon is heading back down the tree (I thought.)

It stopped for a quick snack,

and then stretched out on a branch for a nap! I think it was just waiting for the male to leave. I watched it for some time, but it didn't move, and I continued on my way to North Van.

My thoughts! 1. What a tough world it is for most wildlife! 2. I wanted to throw a rock at that racoon (not to hurt it, but just to get it to turn around) but couldn't find one. Just as well. Human interference (people feed them!) most likely caused the problem in the first place. I look at its picture now, and realize that if the tables were turned, and the racoon's life lay in the balance, I would feel just as sad. 3. I am new at nature observation, and there is much to learn!

Moodyville Park

I continued on to Moodyville Park, and was excited to see what I think is a Yellow-rumped Warbler. My first! (If I'm correct.)

Finally, a flower I can name. The Common Bluebell.

I am wondering if this may be Lyall's Anemone. A very knowledgeable and interesting blogger, Dave Ingram, did a post about it.

This perfect specimen of dandelion fluff, and

an equally perfect dandelion kept my camera busy until..

happy Black Jack,

and beautiful Bill, arrived.

We had fun trying to find the Bald Eagle pair. They were around, but stayed off in the distance. I'm wondering if Mrs. Eagle has any eggs yet. She didn't appear to have spent any time in the nest, but I think it is quite deep, so she may have been hiding. Here, we spotted them at the top of a distant tree.

I took a few more flower pictures as we headed back to the truck.

And, the glisten in this robin's eye was irresistible.

Thanks to Jonny at JJBean, we had unbelievably beautiful and delicious lattes before heading to Bridgman Park for a very quick look-a-round.

This Northern Flicker was perched near the truck, as we headed homeward. It was looking very ruffled, and calling out non-stop. It was my last picture of the day, and as a photograph, not so successful, but it did give a bit of a different look at Flicker behaviour. It rat-a-tat-tatted both on the wooden wall beneath it, and on the metal chimney.

There you have the ups and downs of wildlife observation over the past couple of days.

My thanks, once more, to Doug, to Bill, and to you, if you've made it all the way to the end of this very long blog.

Tonight? The Vancouver Canucks will play their third game in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup series. They've had one up and one down so far. I really felt for Roberto Luongo in that last game, and am wishing him (and the team) well tonight.


  1. The Osprey pair are back at the Vancouver Shipyard. We saw them today!


  2. In all my years living on the coast, I've never seen one of those pretty yellow-marked birds, whatever it might be. Lucky you!

    Such an interesting and beautiful post, Carol. I love how happy Black Jack looks in that photo - and some people think dogs don't smile!

  3. I liked the ingenuity of an earring and pen as tools. But although it was refuse that did the trick, it is a sign of human litter winding up where it shouldn’t. On the other hand, the nice dad determined to solve the problem shows the thoughtful side of mankind in a world where good and bad seems to coexist.

    It is difficult to hear the cries of obvious conflict in the natural world and I have been known to jump up and down and clap my hands to distract wildlife from invading nests. Sometimes it actually works! Anyway, I am glad that Black Jack got his leash back. As always, an entertaining, informative and picturesque post I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

  4. Yes, sometimes it is hard to observe what we see as wildlife tragedies without interfering. It's when humans see human bullying and do nothing that we should get upset! What a lovely outing to go with my morning Chai! Thank you!

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    MarianneBill, I went yesterday and saw them!

    Jean, yellow birds seem everywhere lately. I hope you get to see one! And, thank you!

    Penelope, I didn't ask where Doug found the lift pass, and am wondering now if it was in his backpack. It would be nice if it hadn't been in the sand. Quite dangerous for bare feet! And, yes, I've jumped up and down too. So glad to know I'm not alone:)

    Absolutely right, LDF. And, thank you:)

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