Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

Photos from the last two days have been a challenge, with clouds and light rain and lots of unanswered questions about the best settings for the camera. Still, here's an update of my latest sightings around Jericho, and even a downtown Vancouver construction site thrown in, just for variety on New Year's Eve.

This Cooper's Hawk (I think) spends lot of time sitting in a tree near the rabbit patch. It was raining, and I took the photo while juggling the camera rain cover, and Black Jack, who was mightily interested in the nearby rabbits. When I took the picture, I thought it was facing away from me, but after looking really carefully at the photo, I can make out its eyes, staring down at us.
For an excellent picture of this hawk (I think it is the same one), check out the link to mnlamberson's flickr site. Her pictures put mine to shame, but the good thing is that I have a goal to shoot for.

Walking back along the wooded path, I saw this Blue Heron. For the first time, it was in the field at my right, rather than in the river at my left.
It appeared to look right at me, but didn't seem at all disturbed.
I think it was much more interested in finding a nice, tasty snack.
I came home after the walk, hoping that I might bike to the downtown library to get a book about Ansel Adams. Instead, it was a fairly easy decision to accept Bill's offer of a ride. I'm glad I did! It poured shortly afterwards. Near the library, at the corner of Homer and Smythe, Bill was fascinated with this construction site. Once he had drawn my attention to it, I found it to be amazing as well. I often think how much my father would have loved meeting Bill. He was a mechanic and lover of all machinery, but especially the big bulldozers and graters.
I was taking pictures through a fence, and during rain, but finally lifted my camera over the top of the fence, and took the shot blind. Bill's pressing question was how they will get the heavy machinery out of there once the construction is finished.
While we were looking at the site, one of the construction workers came along. He told Bill that the workers are presently on a two-week break, and that he is a rebar worker. I had no idea what that was, but Bill explained that he links the bars or pipes together that go inside the concrete as a strengthening/support system. I learned that this is a job that requires a high level of skill. I don't think he answered Bill's question, though.
The thing that mesmerized us was just how deep that pit was. Here, you can see the cars at street level, the heritage building that will connect to The Beasley, and get some perspective of the enormity of the project. I saw on a sign in front of the site that the condos (offices?) are already sold out.
Today, my pictures were of even worse quality, but here they are. First, a robin, hidden behind the twigs of a bush. Again, if you go to the mnlamberon site above, you can see another robin with this same sort of bleached look. Very pretty, but not quite a typical robin look.
By the pond, Black Jack went into her "pointer" stance. First, the right foot up..
..and then the left. Not to worry. The rabbits seem well aware that she is on leash, and show no fear. In fact, they barely bother to pay her any respect at all. Still, she never gives up, and absolutely loves her rabbit-watching time.
I'll call this a song sparrow. Their "jewellery eye-liner" has become fascinating to me.
This red-winged blackbird was calling to a friend from the bridge.
This one was over by the pond.
It is always a joyful day when Oli, the otter, makes an appearance. He was west of the bridge,
and then dove, crossed under, and headed to the reeds in the most easterly pond.
From the bridge, I managed to get a couple of photos of him with a fish.
Just in case you were wondering about otters' teeth, here's a bit of a look.
Black Jack and I went over to the pond's edge, but Oli stayed well hidden in the reeds.
I had to satisfy myself with a glimpse of his left eye.
A nearby Flicker was my final wildlife sighting at Jericho for today.
Then, we were off. Time to get ready for New Year's Eve. Bill, Black Jack and I will spend time here with our friends, Kitty and Jock, their dog, Lucy, and a couple of other dogs that are in their care for the evening. We will probably watch some more episodes of "The Life of Birds" as we sip a little wine and eat a few tasty treats. A low key celebration to greet the new year, just the kind I most love.

My heartfelt good wishes to all of you for 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday walk

Black Jack and I went to Jericho again yesterday.

Our first sighting, just before we arrived at the park, was this cat, sitting on a first floor balcony ledge. I have never seen such impressive whiskers.
On the bridge, we met this beautiful dog named Gus. Gus has more growing to do, since he is only about seven months old. He has a magnificent profile and a very loveable personality.
This sparrow (song sparrow?) was also on the bridge. What struck me that I haven't noticed before was the lovely outline around the eyes. I spent quite some time this morning reading my bird book, trying to make a positive identification. I began to wonder if I am the only one to find the many kinds of sparrows confusing. Finally, I did a google, and the first site to come up was Wanderin Weeta's. I've been reading her very interesting blog for the past few months, and discovered that she was also finding sparrow identification a bit challenging. So nice to know I'm not alone. From the comments Wanderin Weeta received, I think Song Sparrow may be correct.
Oli, the otter made a brief appearance yesterday. Oli could be short for Oliver or Olivia, but for the purpose of this blog, I will refer to him as "he" since I have no way of knowing his gender. (Thank you, Phyllis, for helping me with the name.) If anyone is able to help me with otter gender identification, I would be most appreciative. Oli popped up through some thin ice, a small fish in his mouth, and covered with reeds that made it seem as if he were wearing a hat. I would guess there were about 10 seconds to snap a couple of photos before he disappeared.
I thought this nearby Spotted Towhee looked beautiful against an evergreen background.
Bill met us just after I took the Towhee photo, and unfortunately missed seeing Oli. We walked on together, noting the bird houses throughout the park. Bill wondered if any of them were occupied. Coincidentally, this squirrel popped in, and then immediately out of the doorway of this house. It patiently waited while I took many photos, testing the exposure.
After what I found to be a very enjoyable, though unsuccessful time searching off the beaten track for owls, we came back to the path behind the pond. I was hoping Bill might have the pleasure of meeting Oli. Not to be, but this Blue Heron was an absolute treat to watch.
Here, an opportunity to study the foot structure. I googled and came across a site explaining that the hind toe enables herons to stand for long periods of time on one leg. I had been wondering about their amazing balance.

At that same link shown above, I found this fascinating information:
Herons have special feathers that break up into powder. These are used as a sort of powder puff to clean their feathers. The powder is rubbed into the feathers and combed out using the comb-like claw located on the middle toe of each foot.
Another one of those shots that got away. We watched the heron, waiting quietly for quite some time, hoping to see it fly to a new spot, and capture a photo of its open wings. Then, I turned to whisper to Bill about an unusual sound, and in that moment, the heron left. Wildlife watching requires the most amazing focus - something I am slowly learning the hard way. This was all I managed to capture as it floated gracefully away.
Bill has an eye for beauty, and pointed out the way this white tree stood out against a background of evergreens. (I have to put plant and tree identification to a time in the future. There is only so much my aging brain can assimilate at a time.)
We decided to separate and meet at the fishing dock. Bill and Black Jack chose the rabbit route, and I opted for a different one. On the way, I met this lovely squirrel having a snack.
At the dock, we met mnlamberson. I found her Flickr pictures recently, and she is another photographer of amazing calibre to add to my list of those talented but also generous people who are willing to share some of their expertise with me. She had already photographed Oli, and for spectacular photos of him, you could check out this link. She told me that the shorebird you see below is a Sanderling. I've been mistakenly calling them Turnstones, as some of you may have noticed in a recent post. Somewhere between ten and twenty of them seem to move as a unit. I watched them the other day, doing as pigeons and starlings do, changing direction en masse, except running on the sand, rather than flying. It took a little time to get this one alone. Isn't it beautiful?
As we stood talking, this crow seemed to be posing for us, in the beautiful afternoon light.You know I love to watch the seagulls in flight, and it seemed to me that they were particularly magnificent yesterday.
As we headed back to Bill's truck, we stopped once more by the ponds, looking for Oli. No luck, but these female Red-winged Blackbirds were lovely. The two photos show very different colouring. I think that may have been caused by photography errors, or perhaps, the changing light.
A year or so ago, I posted about a house at Cypress and 7th. Petr and Francois take great joy in decorating for passers-by. Since I haven't biked much at all since my accident a month ago, and also since my school holiday came earlier this year, there hasn't been reason to travel up Cypress Street. Last evening, after a delicious latte and sandwich at JJBean, Bill drove out of his way to take me to some photo op spots. (Thank you, Bill!) One was a large metallic bear on the roof of an optometry shop near the corner of Main and Broadway. It was wearing sunglasses and I thought it would be fun to photograph it against the city lights. In fact, the photograph was awful, so I haven't posted it here. But, it led to one of those learning moments I talked about in my last post. A post office worker in his truck was stopped at the light and saw me trying to take the picture. He figured out that my camera must be for watching birds, and in that short waiting time, managed to tell me about a wonderful BBC documentary by David Attenborough called Life of Birds. Talk about epiphanies! After stopping by Cypress and 7th, and finding that my camera (at least as I presently know how to use it) was all wrong for Xmas light photos, and liking only this one failed shot, we headed to Limelight Video, another of my favourite businesses in Vancouver. Sure enough, they had the dvd, and we spent a most enjoyable evening watching the first volume. I cannot say enough good things about it. If you haven't seen it and like birds, it's a must view.
That was our day yesterday, another good one. Thank you for taking time to read about it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New every day

It occurred to me as I looked through yesterday's photographs, that I could walk through Jericho Park every day for the rest of my life, and come home most of those days, feeling that I had discovered something new. Sometimes, the newness is breathtakingly euphoric, like Monday's first ever sighting of a Long-eared Owl, and sometimes, it is just a small detail about something familiar that I hadn't noticed before. None of the pictures were stellar, and most are cropped and altered to correct mistakes, but here are my discoveries.

Black Jack always expects a tour through the area with rabbit-sighting potential. This little black one was in a compact posture I don't usually see. Perhaps it was a bit cold?
This rabbit stood up and waved its paws. I'm not sure if it was communicating with us, or if it had something else in mind.
The waving motion was mostly up and down, but sometimes, I thought the rabbit was beating on its chest.
Very cute to watch.
I was keeping an eye out for owl or otter shots, and walked along the path, with eyes cast upwards. Wa-a-ay up this tree, I heard a new call, and saw a quick flit through the branches. I could barely see this little spec of bird, but with a gigantic crop and shadow reduction, think I may be looking at my first Downy Woodpecker photo from Jericho. Now that I think about it, my first Downy Woodpecker photo, ever. It may be female, as I can't detect any red in it. Three views here. I'll be watching out for a closer view on future walks.

Just as we were coming back to the bridge, there was quite a commotion, with a heron squawking, ducks fleeing, and crows calling out warnings. For the first time ever, a bald eagle flew right towards the bridge. I lifted the camera and caught a blurred rendition of almost all of it. Oh, for quicker reflexes.
It sat in the tree, just to the left of the bridge. The crows came perilously close.
I stood on the bridge, watching it, and hoping to catch it as it flew off.
It hunched forward, daring the crows to come any closer. I've never noticed that particular posture before, with a kind of hump at what I will call the wing joint.
Not quite the shot I was hoping for. I really have to learn to use shutter priority when I am hoping to get action shots.
As it flew back to the area near the rabbit bushes, the crows provided escort service.

Kicking myself for not getting a beautiful eagle-in-flight shot, I decided to practice on some seagulls. Here, I can see that shutter priority will work if I can set it correctly. This seagull is almost frozen in flight, although not as sharply focused as I would have liked.
Same seagull. My friend Jock sent me a picture of an American Wigeon with blurring to give a wonderful sense of speed. It occurs to me that just as I master a perfectly frozen flying image, I'll be wanting to learn how to create artistically interesting ones that capture other aspects of flight.
Another little discovery of the day was the reflection in this crow's eye. I can sort of see the tree and I think a house that was behind us. A few crows follow us when Black Jack and I walk home. (I confess to occasionally dropping the odd healthy dog treat.) I haven't reached the point where I can tell one from the other. I hope for that, some day.
And, maybe not so much a discovery as a reflection after a wonderful meal prepared yesterday by Glenys (Bill's niece) and Paul (her husband). Phyllis (Bill's sister), Barrie (her husband), Sylvia (Barrie's sister, dessert maker and massage giver par extraordinaire) and little Oscar all contributed to one of those evenings that leave a warm taste that has as much to do with the company as it has to do with the delicious food. Bill and I talked as we drove home that all the people in our lives are what we call "salt-of-the-earth" types. I thought of our friends, Kitty and Jock, my blogging friends, and my photography friends, and realized how true that is. Salt of the earth is good. It is honest, with hard work, playfulness, curiosity and depth of thought as part of its make-up. Yesterday's small epiphanies.