Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Grey Whale and other Critters for Eileen, and Golden Light for Greta

I'll start with Friday's outing, as we lucked out to see an unusual critter for us.  From there, I'll move backwards in time to lots of equally wonderful (but not as rare) sightings during outings in and around Vancouver over the past two weeks. The final thoughts are for a little girl named Greta.  She needs your love right now.  The inspiration for my critter posts is Eileen.  Each Saturday, she hosts an impressive meme called Saturday's Critters.  I didn't join up with her last week, so it's a long one this week.  Many thanks, Eileen, for bringing people together from across the world to share their critters!

Friday, Oct.2 - English Bay
Bill and I rode to English Bay, parked our bikes, and walked just a short way along the seawall.  It was a grey day, but the light had a certain mystique to it.
 I explored the beach in my way, while Bill took..
 Black Jack wherever she thought an investigation necessary.
 The tide was coming in and a light fog hung over the distant ships..
Black Jack doesn't mind getting her feet wet.
Bill mostly managed to keep his dry, a feat of balance and coordination.  A crow..
watched them, but didn't move as they came around the rock.  In the distance, a Blue Heron and a seagull brought the critter count to 4 for that photo.
 My tiny lens (17-50 mm) caught this vocal seagull flying high in the sky.
I loved coming across this heart with critters clinging to its sides.
 I wanted to show it to Bill but when we came back later, I could no longer see it.  That's okay.  I dedicate it to loving spirits in general and to Bill in particular.
I changed to my 70-300 mm lens here (so glad I did) to observe this cormorant..
and a heron.
 The cormorant stayed around for quite a while,
 and was joined by a crow.
Black Jack's nose was very busy taking in all the beach details.
 I enjoyed the cormorant's ballet..
 and some wigeons (I think) on a glassy sea.
 Black Jack raised herself up to see..
some scullers that seemed to have traveled quite a distance from shore.
 We decided to head back up the steps from the shore and from there to our bikes.  The steps were covered in leaves,
 and Bill did what I remember wanting to do as a kid when my dad..
 finished the yard work.  Sometimes, he used to let me.  :)
 I took one picture of this delicate flower growing beside the steps..
 and then we walked up this path to our bikes for the ride to Harrison's cafĂ©.
 I remarked that the driftwood below looked like a woman's high-heel on the end of an outstretched leg (Bill thought it looked more like a seal), and then put my camera away.  Bill unlocked the bikes and we placed Black Jack in her basket. Suddenly, Bill said, "Get your camera out.  It's a whale."  I laughed.  We always joke that I take the camera "in case we see a whale" but we haven't seen a whale in at least two years. (You can read about my encounter with a Beluga whale in the 2nd story at this link.)  I was still snickering but Bill's sputtering insistence that I get the camera out NOW finally triggered my awareness that he wasn't kidding.
 My first shot was a trembly capture with no set-up at all.  Just enough to confirm Bill was right!  How could I have doubted him? :)
I don't know a lot about Grey Whales. For a while, I thought I was seeing a Humpback, but others watching explained that there has been a Grey Whale..
  in the area for three days, swimming back and forth between Siwash Rock..
 and the spot where we stood.
Most of the time, I wasn't sure what I was seeing.  I'd guess, that's a flipper above, and below, I'm wondering if that is the upper part of the whale's mouth as food is taken in through the baleens,
or perhaps it is spy-hopping, as shown in the diagram below the photograph.
I'll show you some of my better shots, and let you decide..
what you are seeing.  If you can contribute anything that will add to my..
 understanding of Grey Whales,
 that will be great!
 I did learn this morning that they have..
 two blow holes.
 and no dorsal fins.  Here is a drawing I found on-line.

Here's a cropped photo to show one blow hole of "our" whale more clearly.
The whale was swimming away from us as I tried my best to follow along the seawall.  I had scrambled down quite a steep embankment (that, in my excitement, didn't feel steep at all) to get to the water's edge.
 Bill had been left to lock up the bikes again, get Black Jack out of her basket, and run to catch up with me.  Are you getting a sense of our excitement?
 Such a gift to see something so magnificent and so powerful!
 We talked to a young girl and a couple of gentlemen who were as awed as..
Bill and I were.  People definitely do not take a whale sighting in Vancouver for granted.  To Bill, a fervent "thank you" from the bottom of my heart!   If not for your sharp eyes, I would have missed this beauty!
The next morning, our breakfast conversation had to do with whales and with the waterways around Vancouver.  As many trips as we've taken on our bikes (and before that, in Bill's truck), the map in my mind was a bit confused.  So, Bill kindly and patiently drew a map and we went over it together to clear up my confusion.  He says it must be the worst map in the history of map-making and he added that it isn't drawn even remotely to scale, but to me, it is a thing of beauty.  Some internet posts indicate the whale has been going back and forth between Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver, and the spot starred in the map drawing.  Another person told us the whale had been seen near Siwash Rock a few times.  We went out again on Saturday, but were not granted another view.  Wherever "our" whale goes, I do hope his/her travels will be safe ones.  If you are interested in more information about grey whales, I found this to be an excellent source.
Thursday, October 1st
This is Amigo.  He lives in our building and was adopted a few months ago.  He was sitting under a table at Urban Fare, about as close as he could get to his human, John, who was enjoying a coffee and some conversation with neighbours.
Amigo is a very sweet dog, and a hit in our building.  He is happy to greet me whenever we meet in the elevator, and from everything I've observed, he is enjoying a great life..
with lots of love and attention from John.
I also had the chance to meet Gracie.  I had seen her in the neighbourhood but hadn't been introduced. She is a poodle-sheepdog cross, and like Amigo,
loves attention and treats.  Two great additions to the neighbourhood, I'd say!
Tuesday, September 29th
I loved the reflection of these stones along False Creek by Olympic Spirit Park.
There is a little shoal near there where the seagulls and crows gather.  That day,
there was also a Blue Heron that..
upset the seagulls for a few moments..
before taking off for the other side of the creek.
Monday, September 28th
This was a very special day indeed.  Bill and I got to meet Fundy Blue, otherwise known as Louise.  I've been reading her blog for a couple of years now.  It is an exceptional one, with history and laughter and her own unique joie de vivre. We had great fun together, as described with photos in this facebook post.  Her home is in Denver, Colorado, but she was staying in Victoria for a couple of weeks.  I felt truly fortunate to finally meet her.  Louise and I are kindred spirits, each with our cameras at the ready to find and record the best of every moment.  
Louise loves to laugh so we knew we had to show her the A-maze-ing Laughter sculpture at the corner of Beach Avenue and Davie Street.  I love this photo.
Since this is a critter post after all, you may enjoy this cute doggie that we met near the end of our walk along False Creek, around Lost Lagoon, and then over to Coal Harbour to catch the sea plane that would take Louise back to Victoria. A look back at my "whale" map will give you an idea of our route.  Louise and her husband, Terry, are heading  back to Colorado tomorrow.  I wish them a safe and happy journey.  Sure hope we get to meet again sooner than later.
Saturday, September 26th
This is a sad update on Kylie and Tsar.  That link will take you to a post written about them in February, 2012.  We bumped into them about a week ago, and Kylie told us the heartbreaking news that Tsar, at the young age of 5, has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer). She has decided against the conventional treatment (amputation of the leg and chemo) in favour of giving Tsar a good quality of life for the short time he has left.  Conventional treatments might have given him an extra three months, but that time was not enough to justify the pain and trauma of treatment.  I fully trust Kylie's decision!
Kylie has fed Tsar a raw food diet and rejected jobs that would have left him on his own for many hours a day.  They have spent hours and hours outdoors together, and are very, very bonded.  Tsar was most interested in the treats I offered, so that is an encouraging sign that he is still enjoying life.  I know Kylie's heart is hurting, but she is determined to spare Tsar any stress so they are continuing to enjoy life together and will do that for as long as possible.  Kylie, I am so, so sorry!  My hope is that Tsar has some quality time left and that the two of you will be able to enjoy your time together for as long as possible.
Friday, September 25th
Our bike ride to Coal Harbour has a few stop-off places that are perfect..
for Black Jack to have some running time.  She was particularly springy that day.
A heron watched us calmly from a comfortable perch on a log in the pond.
This hummingbird is another case of knowing they are there, but only getting to see one occasionally.  Warning to skip the next two photos if spiders horrify you.
I think their webs are engineering feats of excellence..
and I love, once in a while, to be able to capture some of their features.
Tuesday, September 22nd
A walk around Lost Lagoon brought quite a few critter sightings.
The Wood Ducks were colourful as usual, but the sun on the pond..
made lovely backgrounds..
for the Mute Swan,
and also for this..
American Coot.
I always like "bottoms up" duck shots, but don't usually catch the coots doing that. You can sort of see the green feet here, one of my favourite coot features.
The turtles and cormorants hung out in the middle of the lagoon, while the..
Blue Heron preferred the tiny outcrop by the edge.
Ah..  a better view of the coot's green, webbed feet and lovely maroon eyes.
A Mallard enjoyed a wonderful bath..
and I had fun capturing that..
in photos.
Just to digress for a moment, my use of capitals for bird names has been and will probably continue to be inconsistent, but for some reason, I was suddenly curious about the official "proclamation" on that subject.  This is an excellent post if any of you are curious about bird name capitalizations (as opposed to other species).
A log with some bubbles that made it appear to be a critter foaming at the mouth fooled me at first.
We sat on a park bench for a little while, and both of us were surprised that we had never noticed this bird house before.  We had no idea what the little thing..
dangling from its roof could be, until I zoomed in with my big lens.  I think Louise would have enjoyed this recycled golf ball :)
We both love the Weeping Willows.  Doesn't the trunk look rather like a bear?
I thought this was a very pretty pigeon.
No critter to be seen here, but I loved the sound of the banjo as we rounded the corner.  The gentleman was very kind in answering my questions.  He has just been studying the banjo for a year, and definitely has an aptitude for it.
I'm thinking his music may have had something to do with our next critter sighting.
I am always very excited to see otters.  This is one member of a River Otter family that we know lives in the area, though we only see them a few times each year.  (We do not encounter sea otters, even in the ocean, around Vancouver.  They would be much further out to sea.)
There were some tall blades of grass that obscured most of my photos,
and the glare could have been reduced if I would only use the hood on my lens, (as my dear friend, Jock, has told me several times :)
but I am pretty happy with these last two sunlit shots of what I find..
to be an adorable critter (though best seen in the wild and not on one's doorstep).
Bill was busy trying to keep Black Jack under control.  I am so grateful that she isn't a yapper, but she did whine and her intense interest was barely containable.
Lost Lagoon isn't very big, but the otters (there were at least three of them)..
appeared to be catching lots of fish,
so I guess you could say..
 they were having a fine day.
People remarked on this heron's catch as well, but I missed all but the final gulp.
September 21
September is over, and with it, the Gold themes to raise awareness for childhood cancer.  A previous post is dedicated to that subject, but a couple of facebook posts tugged at my heart so insistently, I am compelled to share Greta's story with you again today.  These cabbage butterflies are normally a whitish shade, but in the sun, they appeared golden,
and as they frolicked together very high in the sky, I felt especially lucky that my camera managed to capture something of their beauty.
They looked whiter as they settled on some nearby flowers, but still, there was..
a hint of gold in the colours around them.
This is Greta.  Her mom managed to take her to the Calgary Zoo, and though there was a sign saying not to touch the butterflies, nobody told the butterflies not to land on the most beautiful child (inside and out) at that moment.  It landed on Greta's hand and she held it next to her ear.  Look at that smile!!  You might ask why Greta was in Calgary.  Well, she had to fly (at her family's expense) to Calgary Children's Hospital because the MRI machine at Vancouver Children's was broken.  A mix-up meant that she could only get half the time on the machine that was needed.  There have been some terrible mix-ups in her case, ones that make me deeply sad, and yes, angry.  I'm not sure why our medical system is broken.  I have a hunch it has at least a little to do with sleep-deprived medical staff but there are more concerns for sure.  
As I write (as in this very moment), Greta is back at Vancouver Children's.  Her mom put out a request minutes ago for prayers and love.  If you have one or both that you could send, I would love you to take a little trip over to their facebook page and send it to her now.  While you are there, perhaps you will find the time to read this post explaining (in a totally non-whining way) how the medical system has failed Greta.  As said, I do not have a solution, but at the very least, I feel I must do what I can to raise awareness.  Though September has passed, I will continue to send golden light to Greta whenever I have the chance. 

Thank you so much for stopping by, everyone!  Until next time, keep smiling and looking for the golden moments all about you!