Friday, March 4, 2011


Vancouver, under the eye of my camera over the past couple of weeks, appeared as a city of contrasts. Spring/Winter, light/dark, human-made structures/nature, common/rare, old/new. This post goes on and on. I'm not sure why I do that, but perhaps some small part of it will tweak your interest.

Saturday, February 12th

A robin by False Creek seemed to herald Spring.

A cormorant perched on a downtown sculpture.

A crane/cross stood strong under a dramatic sky.

In the evening, we attended a concert entitled Love Songs at SFU Woodward's Theatre. Shannon Mercer, soprano, sang "I love you" in 100 languages. There were no top-ten or even top-one-hundred tunes, but the blend of ancient words, contemporary music and body movement expanded the familiar dimensions of "love" as represented in the commercial world. There was only one performer, but listening to the after-show talk, we began to understand the scope of talent and energy that went into the production. The set consisted of a chair, draped with a coat - not a heart or cupid in sight.

When we emerged from the theatre, I snapped photos of light and dark, unaware of the Illuminate Yaletown festival.

The walls on both sides of this otherwise dingy lane told a story that remained a mystery to me, but I thought about the painters and their inspiration. I've never once come across artists at work on a mural like this. I wonder if there is an unwritten law that they paint only after midnight.

As we neared my apartment, the lights and people around engine 374 at the Roundhouse verified my hunch that something unusual was afoot, and finally, I read the poster explaining Vancouver's attempt to relive the spirit of the olympics.

The moon seemed determined to get into the light-show mood as well.

Sunday, February 13

I walked with Black Jack along the sea wall. A lady was taking photos and we struck up a most enjoyable conversation. We both smiled at this Canada Goose, sitting on the edge of an apartment building. It had a very important story to tell.

Canada Geese have become so common, we hardly think of them as wildlife in Vancouver. Like the seagulls, their voices are expressive and insistent. Perhaps, they describe what they have seen in their travels, or call out a greeting to family and friends, or proclaim their food-hunting success or failure. Or, perhaps, they announce arrivals and departures like the intercom voices at airports.

I watched four geese fly towards the aquabus, and veer to the right at the last minute. I wonder if they have come to know the pilots and trust some more than others.

I caught this cormorant in flight, exchanged contact information with the lady, and continued on my way. If you click to enlarge this photo, you can see the cormorant's beautiful blue eye.

In the grass near English Bay, some starlings gathered for lunch. They are common birds of rare beauty.

As I walked, runners doing a half-marathon came by, some in the usual running gear, but others decked out to show their support for Variety, the children's charity. I overheard one young man tell a running partner that he had had Cancer. I have thought of this healthy-looking man often over the past few weeks, and reminded myself that a quick glimpse rarely tells the full story.

Another common bird, well adapted to city living, posed for a moment.

In Stanley Park, a Blue Heron hunted in the grass, but wasn't above mooching from passers-by. This seems to be a new behaviour, possibly learned from pigeons, ducks, squirrels and racoons. I overheard Dallas, a volunteer who has worked very hard for quite a number of years to monitor the activity of the Stanley Park heronry, talking with people on a bird-watching tour. She was sad to see "her" herons looking for hand-outs.

Another heron sat by the lagoon, just across from the first heron. It looked at my camera calmly. It is just about time for the herons to set up housekeeping for the 2011 season. I checked today, but there was no sign of nesting activity. There seems to be a tradition of moving to a new location every six or seven years, and that time is about up, so it is not a given that they will arrive this year.

Calm? Grouchy? Concentrating? Daydreaming? Your thoughts?

Near the lagoon, two small birds, very high in the tree, busily flitted from branch to branch. They were my first yellow bird sighting this season. They were so high up, and the pictures so poor, I cannot identify them with any certainty, but they seem too small to be finches. Could they be kinglets?

I am always fascinated by athleticism.

Chick-a-dees and..

towhees were busy as well.

We turned back, to retrace our steps home. These geese sat on someone's balcony, their necks swinging in unison from left..

to right.

That pinkish building stands out for both its colour and its shape. I realized the other day, while sitting in the dentist chair of Dr. Kleinman's office at the corner of West Broadway and Willow, that I could pick out that building across False Creek. With my big lens, I could probably take a picture of my apartment building from the chair. Must try that next time.

Later in the afternoon, Bill and I cycled over to the Firehall Arts Centre. Before we left, a Song Sparrow..

and a House Finch seemed to appreciate the sun that was growing brighter by the minute.

We watched a workshop production of a play called High Flying Bird. At the back of the stage was a screen showing action on a Vancouver street. A cyclist and some cars and trucks passed by, and we tried to figure out if we were seeing live or recorded images. We watched for repeat pass-by's, but then the play began, and our question remained unanswered.

I've never been to a workshop production before. The idea is to give a work, still in its formative stage, a chance to be seen, so that the musicians, writers and actors can gain some audience feedback. We both liked many aspects of the play, and found the after-show talk enlightening. Lots of opinions were expressed. I hope we get the chance to see the final version a year from now.

On the way home, we stopped just a few blocks from the theatre, and I took a picture of this billboard. We have been to the Firehall Arts Centre quite a few times, but the man on the ox was new to us.

There were real seagulls flying by, and I tried to show them mingled with those in the picture, but never managed to get the timing right.

Bill asked the man watching over this grocery-store how long the billboard had been there. "At least a year," he said. It was new to our eyes, but not to the surroundings.

Wednesday, February 16

Leaving school on what had been a dull day, the spectacular sky was impossible to ignore.

In two and a half years of blogging, I have looked at many skies, but never has the description of "hand-painted" seemed so apt.

Lately, I have begun riding through the reserve (Squamish First Nation) as it is quiet, and gives easy access to the bridge. On Wednesday, the lights of the Lions Gate Bridge, as seen from the reserve, formed strings of pearls.

In a less zoomed-in shot, the camera picked up more of the blue in the sky, and the houses gave the illusion of being directly under the bridge.

Saturday, February 19

Bill, Black Jack and I left early in the morning for an "adventure day" by Boundary Bay. This tree was buzzing with Bald Eagle activity.

A juvenile looked expectantly at its parent. The parent stared off into space.

Wings stretched out, feet tucked, eyes straight ahead..

landing gear down.

This youngster,

and a flicker basked in warm light.

A Downey Woodpecker, the first I've seen this close, was in the same tree as the flicker. I almost missed it.

We walked down by the water and spotted several photographers watching this Short-Eared Owl.

It flew off and the photographers left. Then, a lovely gift - it returned to sit on the fence for a moment.

A crow followed it for a while.


and brown brush tones..

worked equally well to highlight its extraordinary patterns.

That evening, we attended a concert at The Roundhouse, with the Vancouver Symphony Chamber Orchestra. I liked a piece called "Trees" by Toru Takemitsu. He named his first daughter, Maki, after a pine tree, and trees have played a central part in his life and work. I couldn't find a link to the piece we heard (Tree Line), but this link will take you to a slideshow and performance of another of his pieces called "Rain Tree." I also loved a piece by Osvaldo Golijov called ZZ's Dream. The words to this are by the Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi:

Once upon a time, I, Zhuang Zhou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither.

I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhou.

Soon, I awoke, and there I was, veritably myself again.

Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.
Wednesday, February 23

We went to a dance performance called Ekodoom by Rami Be'er. If you check out that youtube link and watch it all the way through (six minutes), perhaps you will understand why I feel a verbal description could not possibly do it justice. It was part of the Chutzpah festival, and was at The Norman Rothstein Theatre of the Jewish Community Centre. What an impressive venue! The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company performed, and I know that if they return to Vancouver, I will want to see them again.

Thursday, February 24
A merganser..

and a flicker by my school worked hard for their lunch.

It was very cold that day, and I had left my bike at home. Walking from school to the seabus station, I noticed another wall painting. I was struck by the fact that only four strokes expressed such a breadth of human emotion.

Later, I walked with Black Jack by the seawall. Winter chilliness contrasted with Spring images.

Bill's imagination saw more than buds in this photo. Perhaps, yours does as well.

There have not been many crocuses this Spring, so this cluster really brightened the day. Seconds after this photo was taken, I met Margarita, Isabelle and Pixel (previous post). Talk about brightening a day!

A crow peered around me,

called insistently,

and waited impatiently for a response, perhaps from a mate?

Later, from my balcony, I watched the sun go down over the Granville Bridge.

Friday, February 25

It was again too cold to take my bike to school, and I was happy to get a lift home with a colleague. One quick shot through the car window did a fair job of capturing another spectacular sunset.

Saturday, February 26

The forecast was for rain and snow, but the weather turned out better than expected, at least in the morning. Black Jack and I walked to English Bay. I learned that seagulls do a running start before they take off from the water. I'm not sure what camera setting I was using, but for some reason, the water looks almost like sand. But, it is indeed water, and catching this seagull's motion was a lucky accident.

Some small birds were busy in the trees along Beach Avenue, and seeing some flashes of yellow, I stopped to try to catch them in action. Looking at the pictures later, I realized that I may have caught a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets. A first for me (unless my guess of March 13 was correct). I think this is a male,

and this one, with the lighter yellow crown, a female.

Someone had zipped a little jacket around a branch, very high in the tree. (How do they do that?) I can't prove it here, but I think the Kinglets were using that jacket for protection from the cold. I could swear I saw at least one of them crawl inside the back of the jacket.

With the snow beginning to fall, and a cold wind in the air, I headed home with Black Jack. From my balcony, the view was transformed about an hour later.

In the evening, we saw the play, Nocturne, by Adam Rapp at Havana Theatre. The actor, Troy Anthony Young, stayed in my mind for a long time afterwards. The story was a heartbreaking one, and we wondered a bit if we were up for it. In fact, we were both drawn in by the writing and by the inspiring performance. I found this interview given by Troy Anthony Young. His thoughts about acting, his response to the play, and a couple of stories about his early experiences are fascinating. He also mentions the dense script of 65 or 70 pages. I can't imagine learning that many lines by heart, much less delivering them so beautifully. I loved the play and this performance. When I arrived home, my mind wasn't quite ready for sleep, and I spent a little time at my window, taking pictures of the snow,

and of the tree branches in the lamplight.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, there was a ghostly feel to the view.

As the light came up, it caught this sparrow's beautiful feather details.

Soon, people gathered in David Lam Park to play in the snow. Within a few hours, there were several snowmen and lots of snow angel patterns.

Monday, February 28

Amazingly, by Monday morning, most of the snow was gone, and I was able to ride my bike to school. Home again later in the afternoon, there were just a few wisps of coral in the sky, as I looked to the right from my bacony .

Looking to the left, my lens travelled quite a distance to pick up Vancouver General Hospital.

Thursday, March 3

I rode home in moody, but dry weather. Just as I walked in my apartment, there was a very loud clap of thunder and a streak of lightening across the sky. Then, a mix of hail and rain. After the flash storm, the sun shone so bright, it was painful. The water droplets on the branches of the tree played with the light.

Over the Granville Bridge, the sun appeared to be winning its battle with the clouds, but in the end, had to concede defeat.

Friday, March 4

This morning was a bit of a holiday for me, since a downtown meeting at 12:00 meant some missed classes in North Vancouver. I took Black Jack for a walk, and noticed these snowdrops. Their name contrasts with the fact that they are a sign of Spring.

This finch really seemed to be enjoying its tasty blossom.

The purple Heather had just a few bits of a lighter shade here and there.

We came across this sculpture in a place that I walk by often, but I had managed to miss Grantable. It seemed like a very strange contrast to everything in its surroundings, but I liked the write-up in the link.

Best of all, while I was taking the picture of Grantable, Black Jack spotted someone she really, really likes. This young lady (I'm so sorry I haven't learned her name) works at Star Pets Only.

She is a kind, gentle and knowledgeable person who really cares about her clients. Black Jack was fully confident that she would be well received:)

Bailey and Black Jack met face to face for the first time. Normally, Bailey waits behind the counter when customers visit. He was happy to accept a treat from me while Black Jack was detaining his human.

And, just one more light and dark contrast occurs to me, in comparing Black Jack to Bailey.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and thank you for reading!


  1. Your photographs have done a great job of showing the diversity one can find in a beautifully illuminated and animated Westcoast world. I love the spotlight on the chair … very intriguing. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen geese sitting on a balcony before, as if they were gulls or sparrows. The half moon radiates, the sunsets are stunning, the birds are busy and the crocuses are encouraging as we look forward to spring. Thanks as always, Carol, for sharing your wonderful journey. :)

  2. We do live in a truly magical city and you really know how to capture it all my friend.
    Love Dianne

  3. I am in Buenos Aires, a city of 15 million people and few birds! Thank you for the wonderful pictures of BC birds which I will show to the students and teachers of San Carlos High School! Phyllis

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