Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Abandoned nest and playoff pool question

On Tuesday evening, I stopped by the heronry on the way home from school.  It was a windy ride over the Lions Gate Bridge, but doable.  Not a head wind, not a tail wind, not really a cross wind..  I'll call it a diagonal wind. 

As I turned to go by Lost Lagoon, the water from the fountain was responding beautifully to the wind. 
I found Serena and Sam's nest abandoned.  Rather sad, but perhaps, as Phyllis said, they were juveniles, and not quite ready to do the family thing.  Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought the nest looked like it had come along quite a bit since the last time I photographed it (7th picture down).  Perhaps, they've acquired the skills they will need to be successful next year.
As I was watching the herons, I heard some strange vocalizations behind me.  I ignored the sounds, positive they were more human than bird.  Then I heard laughter, and finally turned around.  There was my friend Mali, and another teacher from my school, presently on leave, but a reader of my blog once in a while.  That was apparently their best heron voice imitation, and not only that, they were convinced they had managed to fool me.  Not even close, you guys:)  I loved pointing out the nests I had been blogging about, and they, both keen observers, pointed out lots of little details I had missed.  Mali noticed this fellow, the keenest twig deliverer around.  Every two to three minutes, he showed up with new nest material.
At one point, after laboriously managing to get through the branches to his mate's nest, he dropped his twig as he was trying to deliver it.  "Oh no," said Mali.  She was truly upset for him.
But, he was soon back with another.  It occurred to me as I studied this picture last night, that it requires the maneuvering skill of an experienced pilot to gauge distances and find a way to get those huge wings safely through the branches.  Poor herons don't have the benefit of flight simulators or even an instructor.  Once they leave the nest, they're on their own.  Mind boggling to me.  No pictures of this heron's mate, but I saw her reach up each time to get the twig.  She otherwise stayed low in her nest, probably sitting on eggs.  They may replace Sam and Serena as my next focus pair.  Any suggestions for names? 
This is Stella.  Remember her and her mate, Stanley, on the other side of the road?  I didn't see Stanley yesterday, but Stella was giving every indication that she's sitting on eggs.  She appears to be doing a good job.  Next time I go, I will be anxiously looking to make sure Stanley is still in the picture.  
My friend, Dianne, suggested I rename my blog: "bikesbirdsbeastsnblooms"  I do seem to be taking a lot of flowers lately.  I snapped these early Monday morning when I was walking Black Jack.
And, I fell in love with these at the corner of Denman and Beach Avenue.  I've always loved blue flowers, but on their own, they really don't say much at all.  Put them with red, and the combination calls so loudly, I have to stop.
Look closely, and you will see my bike, parked under the flags.  
One more shot.  
And, a few shots of random flying herons taken recently.  
So much effort for such a teeny twig.
Almost straight up and down.
Something about the position of the feet.  Maybe, kids jumping in the deep end of the swimming pool for the first time?  Or, maybe pirouetting through the air?  I don't know.  Can't quite put my finger on it, but it makes me smile.
Mali thought this fellow was the classic macho male, showing off his twig:)  She thought he was working hard to attract a mate.  Seems logical, since finding a good twig is definitely high on the female's list of signs of a potentially good provider.
FINALLY... I have to make my picks for the second round of the NHL playoffs by tomorrow afternoon.  I'm in second place in our small pool, but 16 points behind the first place person.  Definitely in need of some help here.  I googled a bit this evening and found this prediction.  Anyone else have thoughts?  I'd offer a cut on the prize money, but that would amount to small change, so your suggestions will have to be offered for the love of the game, or my blog, or something....   

Monday, April 27, 2009

Babies, blooms, and a ufo

A baby rabbit at Jericho.
Okay, this one isn't a baby.  It was a failed "catch-in-flight" attempt.
No baby here, either.  The duck behind the red-winged blackbird made me laugh.
Here's a baby (well, maybe juvenile) Downey Woodpecker.  At least, that's my best guess.  There is red at the back of its head, although you probably have to click on the picture to see it.
Another shot of the same bird.  It was on a trail called "Top" in the endowment lands.
I guess these aren't blooms - more like fern buds?
Beautiful blue blooms.  (I dare you to repeat that.)
I took this last night when Bill and I went for a walk.  One of those pictures that came out looking better than the real thing.  Bill saw a ufo there.  Do you see it?
It was the first day back to work, after a two-week break.  Even when it's an easy day, that first one back always seems to feel exhausting, so it's a rather limited commentary tonight.  Just one question.  Not one person commented on the seagull standing on the other seagull (3rd and 4th pictures down).  Is that because it's really a very common occurrence, and I'm the only person never to have seen such a thing?     

Friday, April 24, 2009

Biking with Black Jack

Today, Black Jack and I biked to Stanley Park.  Bill took this photo as we were leaving.  I'm smiling but quite nervous.  It was her first trip with me since the cycling accident.  Of the many lucky breaks to do with that accident, one huge one was that Black Jack was not with me.  I was acutely aware of the added responsibility today.  We traveled slowly down the hills, and used paths away from traffic whenever possible.  

When I took out the carrier, Black Jack jumped up and down, eager to get in it.  People smiled when they saw her, and many remarked how mellow she was, just hanging out and watching the world go by.  
We stopped at The Wicked Cafe, where Black Jack had a chance to stretch her legs and socialize with other latte lovers.  One more stop at a pet store to get a new collar and sample some treats, and then on to Stanley Park.  I decided today to pay a little more attention to Stanley and Stella, the blue heron pair on the other side of the street from Serena and Sam.  Just as I arrived, Stanley left the nest, and flew across the street to this tree by the apartment building.  
He quickly selected a branch, and flew back to the nest.
The sun was in my eyes, and photos were poor, but the silhouette shows Stanley just before he passes the stick to Stella.  One would think the nest is empty, but Stella was laying low.  I'm betting that she's sitting on eggs.
I missed the branch exchange, but she is now working it into the nest, and Stanley is already thinking about heading out for another one.
Stella nestled down out of sight, and Stanley ready to leave.
I took a moment to check on Serena.  She was still working away on that nest.  Sam didn't visit, and it occurs to me, after Bill asked this evening, that I have not once seen Serena leave that nest.  How is she eating?  Does it look to anyone as though she has made a little progress?  
There is a small enclosure near the heronry, designed for little dogs.  Black Jack was in it a few times last summer.  Sometimes she plays, and other times, all she can think of is the squirrel-action on the other side.  Today, there was one very sweet, 11-year-old misfit in terms of size, but everyone got along just fine.
Black Jack looks like a little monster here, but she played well.
If you look closely, she sports quite a toothy look, but her friends didn't seem to mind, and accepted both ends without prejudice.
Sorry about the poor quality pictures, but I loved the ears flying back on this spaniel.  Black Jack is playing, but also has one eye on the gate.  She hasn't forgotten the squirrels.  I was happy to see her have a run with some doggy friends.  It's not something she gets to do off leash very often. 
Finally, we left for a walk around Lost Lagoon.  Our first sighting was this blue heron.  There always seems to be one at this same spot.  I wonder if they choose a location and claim it as their own.
We also saw this American Wigeon.  The only difference from the picture in my bird book, is the brown spot over the eye.  In the book, that spot is green.  
A bit further on, we met two raccoons.  This one has the cutest little face, but I wasn't fooled.  It was eyeing Black Jack, and I knew a confrontation would not end well for her.  I kept a short leash, and she, fortunately was properly respectful.
On the other side of the lagoon, we saw these three turtles.  Funny to see the apartment building reflections.  One can almost, but not quite, forget that Stanley Park is in the middle of a city.
The swans were nesting.  I now understand that those long necks serve more than an aesthetic purpose.  The swan remained in one spot, stretching out to get nest material...
... then brought it back to the mid point...
... and delivered it to a spot behind.  Are they building the nest around them?  I noticed some similarities to heron nest building, but differences too.  Although not posted, I took photos of another swan sitting on a large, straw/grass nest.  I'm wondering if that is what this one is working up to.
Before we left, I did a final heronry check.  Serena was in the same position (no photo).  Here is Stanley, picking out another branch.
He gets it in his mouth...
...and off he goes.  I think Stanley and Stella have child rearing down quite well.  I look forward, soon, to seeing their chicks.
It was a pleasant, if cool, ride home.  Black Jack's weight became a tad more noticeable as we headed up Point Grey hill.  She was particularly watchful.  I wonder if she was comparing her walks up the hill to the ride.  I wonder if she was appreciating the lift, or wishing she could jump out and go on her own steam.  Sometimes, she is so compliant, I find myself wondering what she really thinks, you know, deep down.  I would have to say, though, that she overall had a great day and so did I.

The Longest Walk

On Tuesday, Black Jack and I were outside for most of the day.  We began by walking down Blanca Street, where I stopped in front of someone's house to photograph these flowers.
When we arrived at Spanish Banks beach, there was heavy mist on the other side of the water.  The sun came and went, and I shed and added layers, depending on its position and our level of exertion.  Black Jack was keen and comfortable, regardless of the temperature changes. 
We stopped at the fishing dock, and I saw something I have never seen before.  It still makes me smile.  A seagull came along, appeared to be heading for a post, but thought better of it and landed on..  its mate? friend? sibling? parent?  Whatever the relationship, the landing was taken completely in stride.  Just a ho hum occurrence I guess.
It settled itself firmly, stayed for a few moments, and then flew off.  No reaction at all that I could detect from the one being used as a landing strip.
Lots of crows around as well.  I liked the curve of this one's right wing.
Black Jack doesn't like to stay long at the fishing dock.  At her insistence, we continued on to the rabbit bushes.  
Like my last dog, Scott, she has a curly tail which almost succeeds in straightening out when she's concentrating on a possible prey chase.  That makes me smile too. 
Ducks were nesting by the ponds at Jericho.
We continued by Brock House, where I took this one lovely flower.  
We looked quite a distance down, and over the fence in the little park, to see this dog playing by the beach.  
Past the Hastings Mill museum on Alma Street, there are stairs leading down to the beach.  Our plan was to take the ferry at Vanier Park.  The tide was out, so it seemed a safe plan to make our way along the beach front.
Black Jack didn't complain, but the tiny sharp shell fragments and pebbles, to my mind, must have been quite rough on her little feet, so I carried her over the trickier portions of this part of our walk.  She is such an easy dog.  Happy to walk.  Happy to be carried.  Just happy to be outside (as long as it's not raining!)
I enjoyed watching this blue heron fish.  I wondered if it flew from the heronry, or if there is another heronry besides the one at Stanley Park. 
It flew out a bit further.
We sat on a rock and watched it fish for quite a while before it finally flew away.
At Vanier Park, we caught the ferry, and then walked along the waterfront to Stanley Park.  These flowers were on Beach Avenue, on our right, as we walked west.
We stopped at the dog bakery on Denman Street, before continuing on to Stanley Park.  So far, Black Jack was loving the walk, but it gained another ten or so points when these squirrels decided to give a free show, just as we entered the park.

Black Jack waited fairly patiently while I spent some time checking Serena and Sam at the heronry.  No pictures, but if you are a blue heron fan, and don't mind some very poor quality photos, you can read all about them in the previous post.  

It was now late afternoon, as we retraced our steps along the path above the beach, to the Aquatic Centre.  This time, we planned to take the ferry to Granville Island.  

There were knots in the wood that appeared burned.  For some reason, they worried Black Jack. 
She is such a gutsy little dog, taking everything in her stride, but those knots really bugged her.

These flowers are along the street by the path above the beach.  I didn't take this photo on Tuesday, but wanted to show it, as I pass by the flowers every work day, as I head home.  Only in Vancouver, could there be palm trees, traffic, beach, flowers, sailboats, seals, blue herons, cyclists, and who knows what else, all within easy view.

Granville Island was busy as usual.  We met John, eating a snack, while his six afghans enjoyed a rest.  I took very poor pictures, but John tells me if you google his name, Flickr will turn up lots of photos taken by people as intrigued as I was with his afghan family.  Here, Papa is in the middle, with Mama, just in front of him.  There are four daughters in all, two on each side.  John told me he has an elderly, rescue Afghan at home as well.  Wow!  Seven afghan hounds!  I once knew a lady in Montreal, who had a beautiful Afghan named Thalia.  We used to meet in the dog park each morning, and she gave me some idea of the grooming challenges of these dogs.  I have a picture that I may post one day.  I thought of it when I read Jean's post about Pearl, Pearl is a Borzoi and Thalia was an afghan, but both were white, and I would guess, from Jean's description, that they share many of my favorite sighthound qualities.  But getting back to John, all I could think, beside what a good life his dogs have, was how much time he must spend every day grooming.    
Papa was watching his wife and daughters quite carefully.
He wasn't sure about Black Jack.  To an afghan, a dog as small as Black Jack must seem rather close to rabbit size.

We finally left, and four of the six dogs stood up to see us off.  
(A close-up of two of them.)
Through Granville Island, up over three flights of stairs to a walkway bridge, a little more uphill, and we were at The Wicked Cafe where I enjoyed a latte.  Bill met us there, and I'm a bit ashamed to say I enjoyed a second latte with him.  That was our walk.  I expected Black Jack to be exhausted, but she was ready to play when we arrived home.  She may be little, but her stamina is quite amazing.  I do believe she could happily live outdoors just about all day long, every day (as long as it doesn't rain!)   As for me, I loved our day, but was happy too, to kick back and rest for the evening.