Friday, April 13, 2012

Entertainment, Herons, and Colony Farm Adventure Day.

We saw Haydn's Creation lately, sung by The Bach Choir, and beautifully directed by Leslie Dala. This review was very positive, and I know that we were both thrilled by the performance.  Since pictures inside the performance hall are not permitted, I enjoyed taking some of the balconies, stairs and ceilings in the hallways and foyers of The Orpheum.
A few days before the performance, we were treated to a free lecture/rehearsal at Vancouver Public Library. I really appreciated the opportunity to soak in some of Leslie Dala's immense knowledge, feel his heartfelt enthusiasm for The Creation, watch him conduct, observe the warm rapport and heartfelt respect that he and his singers feel for each other, and hear the incredible results that relationship inspires.  
 Bill, after the performance, was inspired to add this work to his "favourites" list, one that includes The Messiah by Handel and A German Requiem by Brahms.     
We also walked, one evening, to West Hastings Street to the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU Woodward's to hear the Turning Point Ensemble.  I wrote the following on my facebook page, but will repeat it here for anyone interested:
There were so many highlights, it's difficult to mention them all, but really "getting" the connection between Igor Stravinsky and Duke Ellington was big for me. Every instrumentalist was strong, and Jennifer Scott, especially in Ellington's "The Blues from Black, Brown and Beige" melted my heart. I loved hearing the new works by Brad Turner and Dave Douglas. Finally, Fred Stride's arrangement of "Igor's Blues" ended the performance on a huge high. Thank you to all the performers, arrangers and composers!
I took some photos of murals in lanes very close to the concert hall.  Looking through the window of this building, we were trying to guess what was going on.  "Well," said Bill, "they at least make lattes."  He had noticed an espresso machine.  It seemed a bit out of place in a room looking out on that rundown lane.
I zoomed in on the mural, and Bill noticed the flute lip-plate in the lower right hand corner.  I still haven't figured out what is happening in this mural, but I appreciate that artists are being encouraged to show their talents and express their ideas outside of museums, where many do not have the opportunity or inclination to go.
A bit further along the wall, a barista, perhaps?
As I was taking pictures, a young person  noticed us and suggested we walk around the corner to see this mural.  She said it was tucked up and out of the way, and missed by most people. I appreciated her suggestion.  We learned that there was a barista competition going on inside those windows, and that she was attending, along with representatives from some of our favourite coffee shops.  She had more piercings than I think I've ever before seen on one face.  It seems that baristas are often attracted to the idea of tattoos, piercings or both.  Although not something I can really relate to (not a big fan of pain), I always find it fascinating to think about how and why people choose to adorn their bodies.
I liked this more distant view of the mural as well.  With light fading quickly, and quite a high iso, my camera chooses its colours in a way that I don't really understand.  The hues are interesting, but very different from the ones my eyes see.
Around yet another corner, this was our last mural sighting, before..
arriving at the theatre.
The heronry at Stanley Park is really busy, with pairs establishing their relationships and preparing to raise a family.  My first sighting of a few couples was on March 13th, but now, almost all of the nests are occupied.  This is the 12th consecutive year that they have chosen this site. Last year seemed (to me) to be the worst I can remember for eagle attacks, and I was prepared for the possible abandonment of the site as sometimes happens after a particularly difficult season defending the nests from predators.  
This heron (above and below) really made me laugh.  Many of the males fly out of sight and take at least 10 minutes before they return with a twig or branch for the female to work into the nest.  This one simply flew to the neighbouring tree, sat in an empty nest and took a tiny little twig.  I get the feeling he is quite pleased with himself as he returns to the nest with his offering.
The next three shots were taken a couple of days later. In this one, it occurred to me that the thin branches and the heron's legs can barely be distinguished.
 Accordion-like pleats in the wings only show up in a few of my photos, and I always like them.
Here, two males (I'm guessing) compete for the attention of a female in the nest.  They squawked at each other for quite some time.  Normally, she would choose the male who brings the best/biggest stick, but I think neither wanted to leave, in case the other moved in :) I smiled here, but in fact, I found this abstract on Extra-pair Copulations of Grey Herons Nesting at High Densities.  I don't know if the same observations have been made with Blue Herons, but remembering an incident with Stanley and Stella last season, I'm inclined to think it possible. I didn't witness the outcome with these three, since I had to leave before the dispute was settled.
I visited the heronry this past Saturday.  I was surprised to see two herons in the nest that I first watched, four years ago.  At that time, I named the two fledglings Stanley and Sue, but later, I decided to give the names "Stanley and Stella" to any adult pair using that nest .  (Most of the time, herons do not return to the same nest, nor do they keep the same partner year after year.)  The nest hasn't done well over the past couple of years, but once more, I have a Stanley and Stella to observe.  
 They appeared to be just at the stage of getting to know each other.
 This next shot is a tricky one.  They appear at first to be intertwined, but a closer look negates that impression.  I love the way their heads are back to back.
It is tempting to view this initial stage in the mating ritual as affectionate, but in fact, from the articles I've read, it is a bit aggressive, with the herons pushing each other, perhaps to establish strength or compliance.   
Bill and I left the herons and walked around Lost Lagoon with Black Jack.  When we returned, close to an hour later, Stanley and Stella seemed to have progressed to the bill-clacking (my term for it) stage.
After a couple of years of disappointment, I make no predictions, but I do wish them well.
One of the things I love about Spring is the fervency of birdsong, and this white-crowned sparrow throwing its head back and belting out a tuneful melody almost made me feel like singing along.
Bill, Black Jack and I spent a really pleasant day at Colony Farm.  It was nine days ago now, but it still brings warm flashes of happy memories as I go about my days.  It began with a missed turn that took us over the Port Mann Bridge.  That was the perfect opportunity to take some "truck shots" as we came back towards Colony Farm.  The new bridge is still under construction.  I find it a beautiful design, but I also feel some fondness for the old one, dwarfed in this picture, but still working hard to transport commuters and others back and forth across the Fraser River between Coquitlam and Surrey.   
Another juxtaposition of the old and the new.
This truck shot shows a good portion of Colony Farm and the mountains behind.  I think this was our third trip here, and I felt happy as it came into view.
I think this is the first time I've really noticed an adolescent Red-winged Blackbird.  They are lovely, with a hint of the reds to come making beautiful patterns along their wings.
It was a greyish day, but somehow, just perfect.  Not too hot and not too cold :)  Some ducks floated on top of the reflections in the Coquitlam River.
We both admired the grassy patches in the river.
White-crowned sparrows sang just as lustily at Colony Farm as they have been in Vancouver.  I think they might win the "most enthusiastic" category for Spring song.
I had heard that there was a Mountain Bluebird in this area, and watched carefully in the hopes of finding it.  That was not to be, but I did enjoy the barn swallows.  Getting a good shot, however, was another story.  They flit so quickly and never sit still for more than a second.
Black Jack was having the time of her life.  I tried to use iphoto to touch up the picture, after experiencing problems downloading the Picasa program Carole suggested. I was hoping to mimic her technique (last post) but somehow couldn't correct the fact that there is light on only one of Black Jack's eyes.  However, with Black Jack's four feet all "getting air" and with the great big grin on her face, it is still a fun shot.
I think this is a Red-tailed Hawk.  
It flew high in the sky with a partner, and it was thrilling to watch, although I wasn't able to get a shot of the two of them in the same frame.
Are these Cat-tails?  
Their yellowy-gold patterns were striking in contrast with the green grass.
The Red-winged blackbirds seem to enjoy the fluffy insides.  I always wonder if they use them for food or for nesting material. 
It always fascinates me that geese carry on loud conversations as they fly.  It seems, sometimes, that they are talking to group members far off in the distance, perhaps announcing their arrival time.
Another lusty song, this time from a Fox Sparrow.  Hm..  perhaps a tie with the White-crowned Sparrows?
There is a dog in there somewhere..  honest.  Bill really touches my heart on these trips, not only driving me to the best spots he can find, but then pointing out photo ops and making sure Black Jack is both safe and a happy camper.  He really wanted me to find that bluebird, and took me to several spots, hoping for the sighting.  It wasn't to be, but the day was a winner in every way that is important to me. Thank you, Bill!
It was Bill who noticed the lovely centre of this Skunk Cabbage.
We met lots of nature lovers and dog walkers, and were told that a bear had been in the area just that morning.  Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to set up homes for the birds, 
and we could see that they were being well used.
I get a great thrill from trying to catch swallows in flight.  They are so fast and they turn on a dime and they generally fly quite high.  This was my best effort for that day.  Not too impressive, but fun nonetheless.
I took a picture of the sign for Colony Farm, with some background about its beginnings.
We wondered about this fence.  It came no higher than my knees (at the most) and couldn't have stopped anything that I can think of from crossing to the other side.  Perhaps, just a boundary marker?  Whatever its purpose, its rustic appearance was very attractive.
Everywhere we looked, there were robins,
singing as they worked to prepare nests and find food.
Black Jack was in hunting mode, but at the end of her rope.  
I think this is a House Finch, but its colours seemed to cover a larger area of its body than I have noticed in the ones around Vancouver.
The Canada Geese are nesting right now, and as they moult around this time, their flying ability is poor at best.  This scene was comical, but I was aware, even as I smiled, that the poor goose was very stressed.  We watched for a few minutes, and although neither the cat nor the goose really made a move, 
I'm thinking the cat was anticipating an omelette for lunch.
I have never thought of Black Jack's back end as her most attractive side, but I do love the way the leash often lines up through her tail.
This was the only daffodil sighting we had that day.
However, there were lots of salmonberry sightings.  
Our second cat of the day watched us carefully, as we returned to the parking lot.
That's it for today.  Thanks for reading, everyone.  Enjoy your weekend.  It's almost here!


  1. Another wonderful set of photos! We saw a great many hollows filled with yellow (such a wonderful colour) skunk cabbage during our splendid weekend on Saltspring Island!! I cannot imagine what it will smell like later! I love Black Jack's curly tail modelling her blue leash!!! Phyllis

  2. So many great wildlife shots in this post, Carol! For some reason the cat and goose pictures captured my imagination the most. It is hard to say what that cat has in mind … it looks very relaxed on that post. Also, I love the Orpheum décor. Just being in the foyer truly is an experience. Sounds and looks like you and Bill had some wonderful adventures this last little while as did Black Jack who at times seems to fly. :)

  3. I love the series of shots of the herons, and the ones of the goose and the cat are extraordinary. I like your portarait of Black jack, she always looks as if she is enjoying the adventure. I agree that the bird song this time of year is captivating, I can't always identify the spongster by love the performance.