Saturday, November 8, 2014

Critters and thoughts yesterday

Not a drop of rain in Vancouver yesterday.  Yay!  After the time-consuming and rather mind boggling activity of examining the agendas of 119 candidates for 27 positions in Vancouver's Civic Election, the actual voting process at an advance poll was very quick and easy.  No line-up at all!  Another Yay (!) though I do hope there will be good voter turnout overall.  One Parks Board candidate we starred and really hope wins a position promised to do what he can to keep noisy events (like the Jazz Festival with a decibel level to cause hearing loss for humans, never mind wildlife) out of the areas that were originally set aside as green space for humans and wildlife to escape the din and pollution of city life.  It's not that I hate jazz or even the rock music that is often featured in its name (teaching jazz was part of my job as a band teacher), but many..  perhaps even most..  who attend these events are bent only on partying in the midst of a huge crowd.  Parties are good in their own space and we have lots of it available that doesn't have to inflict misery on wildlife. Close off a downtown street in a non-residential area and let there be as much dancing and music as any partier could want, but please, oh please, leave the green spaces alone.  

Whoops!  I seem to have stepped up onto a soap box, as much a surprise to me as to anyone else.  What I started out to share with Eileen and her Saturday's Critters meme readers this morning are the critters we saw yesterday.  Back on track now... with many thanks to the amazing Eileen for encouraging us to share our photos.

 We cycled past English Bay and then to the harbour front yesterday, stopping at a favourite little pond that many miss as it is almost hidden from view.  Sometimes, we see a heron there, sometimes there are mallards, sometimes it is all but deserted, and sometimes, there are surprises.  Yesterday, it was full of American Wigeons and Hooded Mergansers.

These two wigeons pushed against each other..
bobbing up and down in their search for food. Can you make out the two sets of legs paddling?  As I took photos, the background colours changed, depending on the tree reflections.  There is still a lot of red around, in spite of recent winds and rain. 
One gave up here, urging the other to find enough food for two.
 It seems that strategy worked :)
 From a nearby bench, Bill could keep tabs on the bike path in front of him, and the grassy area by the pond where I stood.  Black Jack kept tabs on Bill.. 
 and on me :)
 On the other side of the pond, quite a large gathering of Hooded Mergansers, most of them male, seemed bent on displaying their breeding plumage to this one female (she's at the far right).  Bill and I were surprised at the timing, thinking this was more a behaviour to expect in Spring.
They lifted their heads to as tall a position as they could manage.  The blurred images reflect lightening quick swivels of their "bishop's hats" as they competed for her attention.
 Pick me!  Oh, please, pick me!
I'll splash a bit.  That should get her attention. 
 I've got to stand out in the crowd.
The front view, with black pointy heads and beady eyes.. 
 and two or three heads melding into one made me laugh when I saw the photos.
 This fellow started out after the female, 
 his scathing expression meant, I thought, to discourage competitors.
 He swam through..
 red reflections, 
and suddenly turned, clearly on a mission..
 to offer himself up as an alternative (he's at the top right) choice to the other suitors..
 surrounding the (surely) impressed young lady.
She appeared to be more interested in the two closest to her, 
 and desperate measures were needed.
 That caused a kerfuffle..
 and soon, I could no longer identify individuals.
 The female took advantage of the confusion to escape.
I'm outa' here until you learn some manners!
 Bye bye!
Male: "umph..  splutter..  what just happened?
 I'll just skip over here until they calm down a little.
 Oh no..  not another wannabe suitor!
 I'm outa' here..  again!
 What??  Hey!  Wait for us!!
 Follow her skips!!
 These two..
  raced each other to catch her.
 Almost gotcha!
I lost track of the female at this point.  Perhaps, she left the pond.  Maybe too early to mate?
 The wigeons seemed to be outnumbered..
 and though I missed the shot, many of them suddenly flew into the sky,
clearly a bit upset.. 
with the aggressive tactics of the mergansers.
I joined Bill and Black Jack just as the wigeons flew over his head.  Bill ducked (hm..  the origin of that word?) shortly after this photo, unwilling to brave the output of nervous ducks. 
Though Bill escaped the flying droppings, this poor fellow didn't.
 The expression on his partner's face says so much, as she returned to find him washing..
his hair in a nearby fountain.  You can tell by the coats they were wearing that that would have been quite a cold bath.  Bill and I chuckled..  but quietly.  We felt, I think, that that gentleman had taken one on the cuff/scalp, so to speak, for us.  I hope the oft-repeated opinion that bird poop equals good luck will be true for him.  Want to read more about bird poop and good luck?  Just found a very interesting post on that very topic.
 With late afternoon light fading, I took a couple of photos of this dear little..
Towhee, the only bird that seemed willing to come out of the reeds where we heard what sounded like 100's of Redwings.
 Camera put away, we were just getting on our bikes when one more critter passed by.  Bill had the idea to cycle past this member of Stanley Park's Mounted Police squad,
 so I could get a shot of that beautiful horse coming towards me.
 My 500 mm lens was all wrong for the job, but at least, it recorded.. 
 the moment.
 As they passed us, 
 I marvelled that the horse and rider..
 dealt so well with passing cyclists.
 Horses can be skittish creatures but I thought the only nervousness and/or curiosity exhibited here was on the part of the cyclist.
 We watched as horse and rider approached a turn in the path.
 They attracted lots of attention..
 and stopped obligingly for those interested in catching some photos.  Those were the critters that starred in our day yesterday.  Many thanks to Eileen for  giving all of us a place to share our critter stories.  A very happy Saturday to her and to each one of you!  


  1. Great pictures, love the ones of the ducks diving for food and the colorful towhee.

  2. nice mpd pair! wow, that was a LOT of hoodies! poor hen! i like the wigeon butts, too! :)

  3. Crazy little creatures, I love them very very much.

  4. I guess Mrs. Duck was saying to herself, look guys, it's not spring.

    Great set of pics!

  5. Loved the story and shots about the amorous male Merganers and Mrs M who obviously wasn't in the mood or perhaps she had a headache! Great shot of the ducks bottoms and loved the mounted horse.

  6. Lovely shots! Poor man who had to wash himself in the fountain.

  7. Push push, shove shove! Too funny! And then the male mergansers were just so aggressive! :-) Love their "hoods"...such interesting birds. Bill and Black Jack relaxing on that bench sure looks inviting. Then that poor man getting pooped on by the ducks! That happened to our daughter one time at the zoo. The funny thing was, she is not an outdoor person, and of all the people to get splatted on, it was her! :-) Glad to hear that is good luck. :-)

  8. I loved the photos of the Mergansers; they are such neat looking birds! You certainly captured their lively attitudes!