Thursday, June 18, 2015

A few critters, and many, many Birds!

I began this post (of way too many photos) last Saturday, quite sure I would link up with Eileen's Saturday's Critters.  In the end, I missed yet another deadline, but will link it up to this coming Saturday's edition.  (Sorry I didn't take your advice last week, Eileen.)  All the photos here were taken between May 21st and June 13th.  Many thanks, Eileen, for encouraging us to share our critters.

First, one non-critter event that must be shared:
You will see lots of photos of Bill as you go through the post.  He was by my side for almost every occasion.  His birthday was on June 12th, the one day I didn't get a photo, though we met with dear friends, Kitty and Jock, to celebrate.  He even managed to fit in an appointment with a dental hygienist, not normally cause for celebration, but it was another milestone marking his return to health and it made my heart happy.  If you have time, you can read my facebook post dedicated to his birthday.  I took a photo of him Saturday, holding the lovely card sent by his sister, Phyllis.  Handsome as ever, and with a "thumbs-up" attitude, I love him and value his presence in my life more than I can ever hope to describe adequately.
Phyllis's cards are always special.  Though she was away with her husband on their first extended trip since his return to health (yes, she had two important members of her family battling illness at the same time), she sent the card well in advance, with strict instructions that I hide it until his birthday.  Here's a closer..
look at the picture and some information about the content. 

Now to the critters, starting with those seen on May 21st.
Just before we left for an outing, I noticed some coloured spots on the neighbouring community centre window.  When I read this notice, I was very..
happy to see that they are bringing attention to the sad reality that many millions of birds die by crashing into windows.  I took this photo of the window where people had drawn colourful dots as instructed.  What you can see clearly is that the area above the dots reflects a tree that grows opposite the window.  The part of the window with the dots would be much harder to mistake for a tree.  I don't know if this method has proven successful in preventing crashes, but for sure, bringing attention to the matter is a great start.
Our destination that day was to Sun Yat-Sen Garden, one of Black Jack's favourite places, and this is why.
 The Koi always seem curious about Black Jack, though their level of obsession comes nothing close to hers.  They pop up, take a look, and then go about their business.  She, on the other hand, spends the entire visit..
 to personally introduce them to Bill.
 She hasn't been successful yet, but that doesn't dampen her enthusiasm.  Note Bill's helmet attached to his waist.  A mean person stole his other one from his bicycle basket one day when we were enjoying coffee at Harrison Galleries.
 We always spot a few turtles in the gardens, but they were especially active..
 that day.  This one seemed to have water wings :)
 These two were quietly minding their own business but the water-winged one snuck around from the left side.  I wondered how the one with the dry shell could look so comfortable, hanging as s/he did over the rock.
 The water wings were left behind, but a new acquisition came along..
 as s/he joined the twosome.  I think I could hear "three's a crowd" murmurings..
 but that didn't deter progress at all.  In fact, our friend climbed right up to rest his/her head on the tail of the only slightly disturbed turtle in front.
And, just as s/he settled, a fourth came along, this one smaller than the others.
This one seemed to use a lily pad for leverage.
And then they were four.
And this one climbed onto the back of the 3rd one.
Meanwhile, there was a fifth one directly under the boardwalk.  I wouldn't have subjected you to yet another turtle shot, but loved its tail..  and those legs..  and the sixth one just approaching from the right.
There was a young girl sitting on the edge of the board walk, watching the turtles with us.  Black Jack managed to get her head in the space under the boards, right beside the girl's shoes.
Last turtle shot.  I promise.  The one with the dry shell finally stopped dangling off the rock, and looked up at us.  I wonder what s/he was thinking.

May 29
One morning I walked with Black Jack to the Granville Bridge.  Double-crested Cormorants were flying in and out of the bridge girders, bringing nesting material and food to their young.  There was a nest in just about every nook and cranny, though I wasn't able to show that very successfully in the poor light.  It felt like a busy airport with arrivals and departures.  This one arrived, and then stood calling to announce the food delivery.  For a while there was no response, and then.. 
the one shown on the left emerged from one of the nests.
As soon as the food was delivered, the adult was off to hunt for more food.
May 30
We stopped to say "hi" to two horses of the mounted unit of Vancouver's police department.  They were in the park across from our apartment and were one of the attractions at a school celebration.  The horse below was younger and still being trained, though I found him to be quiet and well behaved.  And, gorgeous!
The second horse is shown below. There were a lineup of children (mostly not shown in the photo except for two in the lower left corner) sitting on the wall, and they had many questions for the patient policeman.  My questions were answered as well, but the one I really wanted to ask was about the swelling on the muzzle..
of the older horse. Perhaps, they were signs of an allergy or perhaps, they were perfectly normal.  Regardless, both horses looked well cared for and happy.
Bill and I rode from there to Science World, where we stopped to photograph this "headless" heron perched on a pylon.
Then we continued to Olympic Village, where Bill took Black Jack to the edge of the pond to contemplate the universe :)
I watched the bees..
and a House Finch in the community garden.
This immature, female (?) Redwing Blackbird was nearby.  I loved the shadow.
June 2nd
We rode to Stanley Park and stopped by the heronry.  The chicks are growing up.
There was a cacophony of noise as siblings battled each other for food.
These photos are poor, but one sibling is trying (unsuccessfully) to push..
the other out of the nest.  We visited today 18 days after the photos you see here were taken.  I wasn't able to get any great photos, but lots of chicks were branch hopping and exercising their wings.  The sound of conflict were everywhere.  The nests were coated in white.  The nests are not a pleasant place to be, and I'm thinking the incentive to take flight will be very high.
I kept this photo (below) as I think it is quite a good example of pin feathers, as described in this excellent blog post by Janthina.
We left the heronry and continued to Vancouver's Coal Harbour bike lane.  We stopped, as we often do by a favourite little pond.  A few people feed the Redwings by hand there, and though we don't go regularly, we have fed them a few times ourselves (sunflower seeds and raw, unsalted peanuts).  I have a feeling they recognize Bill.  What we had never seen before was an adult breaking up the food and feeding a juvenile.  I think the bird being fed was..   
recently fledged.
S/he struggled to hang on..
and sort of fell/dropped, though (to my relief) not to the ground.
"Hey! Give me a wing up, will you?"
Dad, looking at Bill: "I can't do a thing with them at this age!"
Youngster: "Here I come!  Get the food ready!"
Dad: "Hold on a minute.  I'm working as fast as I can!"
Youngster: "A bird could starve to death, you know!"
Dad: "Show a little respect, kid. You'll soon be doing this for yourself."
Youngster: "Fe-e-e-ed me!  NOW!"
Bill (as the youngster flutters up to his chin and down his arm): "Umph!" 
Youngster: "I can't believe it.  Nothing left!"
We finally tore ourselves away from the pond and walked with Black Jack across the path to look over the seawall.  The moss on the rocks seemed especially green.  The geese had a little gathering spot for fresh water between the rocks.
I have learned from this journal article that marine birds have a special salt-excreting gland and that they can survive without fresh water.  That led me to some curiosity about the definition of marine birds and whether geese would fit into that classification.  Bill and I talked about that this morning.  He was quite certain that geese are not marine birds and the two other articles I have read since bear out his opinion. (This is why blogging posts take way me way too much time!)
This article on the Canada Goose and this one on Marine (Sea) Birds were both excellent.  Sometimes, I am sad that geese are considered pests by many.  Yet, I have tiptoed through their droppings, wishing more than once that they congregated somewhere away from Black Jack's path.  I guess you could say I see both sides of the coin.  They are truly magnificent birds and their child-rearing skills and loyalty to their mates are second to none.
Down the Hatch
June 3
We biked for the second time in recent weeks to an East Vancouver neighbourhood called Strathcona.  There, we parked the bikes and did some exploring on foot.  Once more, I was struck by the character of the homes and residents and hope to post a little more about that, but for now, will focus on two of the critters we enjoyed.  We didn't really meet this dog.  Bill just happened to notice him (I think) staring at Black Jack from behind a window.  What a cutie!!
It was near the end of the walk that this cat eyed Black Jack from the safety of some stair railings.
I don't think she was impressed :)
He followed us with his eyes as we moved to the front of the steps. 
I mistakenly thought this was a cat better left alone, and as far as Black Jack was concerned, that may have been true.  However, once.. 
Bill took care of that small problem,

the cat walked confidently down the steps and right up to my feet.
Not exactly a Nervous Nellie :)  
Did you know that term was first coined with reference to race horses?
He looks fierce here, but in fact, he was enjoying tummy rubs and about..
as gentle as any critter with that expression could possibly be.
"I'm just a cute pussy cat.  See?"
June 4
I cycled to UBC for a piano lesson and have lots I could share with you about that, but for now, will stick to critters.  I spent some time watching this wasp before my lesson.  I have tried to identify it but the red-tipped antennae don't seem to..
appear in any of the photos I've examined.  In the interest of time, I'll just draw..
your attention to the green "thing" it seemed to be pushing laboriously..
up the plant.  Fascinating!  Any wasp experts out there in blogger land?
This bee was close by.  Not a great photo but I loved the flower.
As always happens after piano lessons I bike home in a daze of happiness (it's almost completely downhill), eager to tell Bill all about it.  Then, because he knows I've had my cycling fix for the day, we go out for a walk.  This heron was along False Creek.  Most of the time, the herons we watch seem to catch..
small eel-like critters (I haven't found an exact identification for them).  
They often seem to struggle a bit before they can swallow them.
My flying heron shots haven't been great photographs lately, but I've rather liked their painterly feel.
So many dramas going on that are easy to miss.  The little shrimpy thing struggled but lost its life.  High in the sky, right over the heron, another..
story was unfolding, the details of which..
remained unclear.  For sure, two crows were united in their pursuit..
of this eagle.  Perhaps, s/he was carrying one of their children in his/her talons, or perhaps, they were just venting their anger over past injustices.
The heron flew a bit further on.  This time, I loved the way his/her hatpin (that's what it reminds me of, but there's another word that I can't, for the life of me, remember) drooped nonchalently to the side.
And again, a failed photograph, but painterly image.
June 5
A bike ride to Stanley Park, and then, this wonderful walk takes us to Beaver Lake.  I'm beginning to recognize these horses, though I've forgotten their names.  I think the dappled one may be called Ginger but will confirm that the next time we see them.  They were coming up a long hill, with quite a load behind them.
They appeared in my last post as well, but this time, a different person was at the helm.  I wish I had a better sense of whether they get any enjoyment.. 
from these trips.  I know it would give me no pleasure to be part of the load they have to pull up the hill.  But, aren't they beautiful?
We saw this as we walked towards Beaver Lake.  I thought it might be a moth, but Bill said its body was too small for a moth.  I checked in my insect and spider book (kindly given to me by Shiprock, whose photographs of wildlife are second to none, in my opinion), and believe it is a Mourning Cloak.
Normally, we see quite a number of critters around Beaver Lake, but they were scarce that day.  I did see a beautiful crow exhibiting hot-weather behaviour.  (They spread their wings to circulate air and to keep feathers away from their bodies and they also pant in a similar manner to dogs.)
June 6
An early morning walk in beautiful light was a chance to enjoy this cormorant..
along False Creek.  Loved the shadow too.
And then s/he was gone.  Not sure if we can see his/her prey in this shot.
We see a lot of herons.  This one was along English Bay.  I would have spared..
you yet another photo, but we found it interesting that s/he fell off her rock, 
and it was then that I was reminded that herons do not swim.  S/he managed to..
regain some semblance of dignity and switched direction for more stable footing.
June 8
Yes, another heron.  This is Cocoa, named by the people who keep their boats in Heritage Harbour by Vanier Park.  Some of you might remember a post with a section about William and Abby, two cats that live aboard The Northern Spray.  Well, on our third trip to Vanier Park's Heritage Harbour, Black Jack again led me to the boat, and this time, we were happy to talk to the owners.  Since it was a hot day, the cats were inside, but Cocoa was busy hunting for an afternoon snack. 
I am always sad for the prey but happy for the one who has found a meal.
Since herons of breeding age are all busy in heronries right now, I am guessing that Cocoa is between one and three years of age.  Though, another possibility is that s/he is taking that food back to a nest with youngsters in it.
Sitting up so tall and proud.
Feet nonchalently draped over the edge of the dock.
We left that dock and walked up to the spit where we could look down on the happy dogs and humans along the beach.
As we watched them, a heron flew by.  Perhaps it was Cocoa.
June 9
We varied our routine a bit that day, riding past English Bay to 2nd Beach where we locked the bikes and roamed just past the public beach.  The herons here are almost definitely males seeking food for their mates waiting in the heronry nests with the ever more demanding chicks.  They are used to people;  these children seemed as though they were considering following it, but appeared to have a conversation and rethink that idea. 
The area just past the main beach had a perfect space for Black Jack to run. 
Bill didn't have to do much at all to convince her to enjoy a good romp.
One very happy dog!
This heron had been fishing off shore, but suddenly flew over our heads and landed in front of us.  Black Jack showed no interest and the heron seemed perfectly fine with her, and our, presence.  They sure can stretch tall.
And then s/he flew along the seawall for a bit, and back to the fishing spot. 
Meanwhile, Black Jack played..
and played..
and played.
Bill and I sat at the bottom of stone steps leading to the beach and watched the swallows chase each other.  I tried but failed to get flying shots. This one finally posed, but even then, I wasn't able to get much detail in the image.
There were seagulls..
and crows to round out our bird sightings.  All in all, a lovely outing.
June 11
I rode again to UBC on the 11th for a piano lesson. Arriving early, I sat by a pond on campus, watching the dragonflies.  I can rarely get them in flight, but seemed..
to get luck that day.
Here are a couple of still shots.  I learned from my insect book and from this site that I have much to learn about dragonflies and damselflies.  I thought a damselfly was a female dragonfly :)  I think the two shots above, with wings stretched out to the side, are of a dragonfly, perhaps called a Blue-eyed Darner.  The one below may be a 12-spot Skimmer (but don't quote me).
I believe this is a Damselfly, because the wings point straight back.  S/he landed on the notes I was looking at before going to my lesson.  
Bill and I walked when I returned home after the lesson.  We were both interested to look at this car parked beside a charging station.  We both thought its use would be quite limited, as it has no space for anyone but the driver.  Cool car, though.  I imagine it would feel like riding a covered motorcycle.
June 13
And a last photo of Bill and Black Jack, taken along the edge of False Creek, near our apartment building.  
That's it for today.  Thank you, once more, Eileen, and many, many thanks to you for stopping by!


  1. Hello Carol, first I want to wish Bill a very happy belated Birthday! I am amazing at all your wonderful critters. Black Jack is always a treat to see, I think she really enjoys all your outings and sightings too. The turtles are cute, I love all the Herons. Neat shots of Bill feeding the Redwing Blackbirds. I have a lot to learn about the damselfly, I want to call them all dragonflies. Thanks for mentioning me and my critter party. You are so kind. Have a great evening and weekend ahead!

  2. I read your post with different eyes today as this time last week I was in Vancouver. You mentioned so many places that we visited. We stayed at The Blue Horizon on Robson Street for the 3 nights I was there. Now I can picture where you live and cycle and walk. Thank you for your wonderful post today. I can't tell you just how much I enjoyed reading it.

  3. I can see Bill’s sister has a serious social conscious to send such an interesting birthday card. Hope her husband continues on the upswing. Bill certainly looks better than ever and it is difficult to remember he was ever ill, which is the best present he could possibly get … besides being on life’s journey with you.

  4. Nice card and wonderful images.

  5. Black Jack really does enjoy his outings and I really like the way he was looking into the water, just like my dog Jura does. Of course I really liked all the bird pictures as well.

  6. I love the photos of the turtles, they are such beautiful creatures, I'm glad there are several of them too, I'm glad to know they have some friends around!

  7. Your photos and chat are amazing. You are an excellent photographer! I like to visit your blog. I wish you a wonderful summer. Jarka

  8. Very nice photos and legends with them.