Sunday, March 21, 2010

Officially Spring

Officially, Spring arrived yesterday at 10:33 a.m. (in Vancouver). I've been feeling it in the air pretty much ever since Christmas and New Year celebrations ended. Unlike the seemingly endless snow and ice that we experienced last year, the weather this past winter was very, very gentle. There were only a few mornings with frost on the windshields of parked cars, and none where bike riding was impossible. Still, all the classic birth and renewal signs,like this lush garden on Beach Avenue, make me even happier when I know they are finally official.

On Wednesday, there were only a few moments to check out the action on the river by my school in North Vancouver. Brief moments, but so enjoyable. Two gentlemen (Ron and Al) introduced themselves, and pointed out some of the interesting sights. "It's good to be alive," one of them said, and I had to agree. I laughed to see the permanently surprised expression of this Hooded Merganser female, as she watched her mate dive.

Moments later, he popped back up and they swam together in the sunlight.

"Woody Woodpecker ducks," says Bill. I have to agree. Only problem - that "hair standing on end" look is a female characteristic. Perhaps, she is Woody's sister. Do you see a family resemblance?

This isn't a very clear picture, but if you look closely, you can see that the male has his own way of showing surprise. Could that jaw drop any lower?

Got it! (Is that a crayfish in his mouth?)

Out of focus pictures here, but if you look closely, you can see the fish's eye in the first one. I was surprised that the female could capture and consume such a large one. Maybe, she wanted to point out a thing or two to her mate.
*You can click on pictures to enlarge them, and then use the back button to go back to the normal post.

Across the river, I thought I detected a flash of movement, and the camera caught this Killdeer, otherwise all but invisible to my eyes.)

On Friday, I took Black Jack for a walk at Jericho Park before I left for school. The reflections in the pond had orangey-brown tones to them.

Just to the right of those autumn shades, and only seconds later, the light and colours were completely different.

I love these Golden-crowned sparrows. They are all over the park lately.

The North Shore Mountains behind the fishing dock.

We turned homeward, and saw this Flicker digging in the grass. It didn't seem to mind that its beak was a bit messy.

I think the Mallard females may be sitting on eggs. The males were wandering around in the grass on the other side of the path, possibly trying to act as decoys. I love the droplets on the tips of the grass in this photo.

Almost identical shades of luminescent green in the grass and in the male's head.

This Chestnut-backed Chickadee (I think) was enjoying a feast along the path out of the park.

It looks like this crow was gathering nesting material. As much as I love crows, I realize I have never really observed their nests. I checked out this site just now, and learned that they try to keep the location of their nests as secret as possible.

A nearby crow watched us with what I can only describe as a knowing expression.

I took Black Jack home, and then left for work on my bike. A ten-minute stop in Stanley Park was tantalizing. The herons were very busy preparing their nests, another classic sign of Spring. I could have spent hours watching them.

This one looked for all the world like it was either yawning or laughing, but I think it may just have been reaching for a branch.

Most of the flying shots were into bright sun, and detail in the wings was hard to capture.

This nest is the first one I observed, a couple of years ago. I named the chicks in that nest Stanley and Sue, and they inspired my very first blog post. I don't know if the same parents are back, or if herons normally come back to their original nest. However, I've decided that, for as long as I'm able to continue watching the herons at Stanley Park (there is no guarantee that they will continue to return each year), the parents in that nest will, in my mind, be Stanley and Sue. On Friday, they were very quiet, but just before I left, they suddenly sat up very tall, and..
there was what appeared to me to be tender communication between them.

On Saturday, I woke up to beautiful weather. Black Jack and I walked along Point Grey Road to Vanier Park. Along the way, I stopped occasionally for more Spring photographs.

This heron was sitting by the beach at Vanier Park. I wonder if he was too young for breeding season, or whether he was out fishing to feed his mate.

Although dogs' greeting methods are year round, somehow, this scene had a Spring feel to it as well, I guess because so many dogs were enjoying the beach and the sunshine. I didn't learn the names of these dogs, but loved watching this very gentle Great Dane. I had to laugh, though. The small, blond dog knew there was a rear end somewhere, but couldn't quite find it.

We took the Aqua Bus across to the Aquatic Centre, and from there, walked toward Stanley Park. I was hoping to see how Stanley and Sue were doing, but also was happy to soak up the rich variety of flowers along the way.

Another Chestnut-backed Chickadee (at least, I feel fairly sure that is what it was) was sitting at the edge of someone's balcony.

The last garden, just before the park, was one of the most colourful

When we arrived at the park, the skies had greyed considerably, but the herons were again working feverishly on their nests.

The males would fly in with a twig or branch, the female would reach out to take it,

and often, they would work together to weave it into the network of sticks.

This male arrived with no stick, and it appeared at first, there was no female waiting.

Suddenly, a long neck stretched upward, and there was some sort of exchange of information, which I imagined to perhaps be something like, "Well, I know it's not easy, but we've got lots of work to do on the house. You had better get out there and try again."

And, off he went. I am still in awe of the navigational expertise it must require to manipulate those huge wings and long, long, oh-so-skinny legs.

He returned shortly, more successful this time. I managed to get a picture of him in the air, but missed his landing.

All the while, I had been keeping an eye on Sue, who had waited for a very long time, with no visit from Stanley. I glanced quickly at her nest, and to my disappointment, it was suddenly empty. I don't know how she managed to get away without a sound, and without my seeing her departure. I did see this heron in the tree across the way, and wondered if it might be Sue, or even Stanley, as it was of course possible that Sue had been hiding out of sight in her nest. One thing for sure, that proud and graceful accordian-winged pose is one of my favourites.

Another successful mission, although not destined for Sue and Stanley's nest.

Bill arrived and Black Jack was beside herself with joy. The walks and boat ride had been fun for her, but she wasn't particularly impressed with heron watching. My last photo of the day was of either Stanley or Sue, doing a kind of upward wing stretch as they worked on the nest. The brightness of the bill suggests it could be Stanley, so perhaps Sue is tucked down in the nest, out of sight. There won't be much time to check on them this week, because of the upcoming school band trip, but hopefully, next weekend will bring another opportunity to see how they are doing.

Saturday evening, Bill and I attended an absolutely breathtaking concert by the Pacific Baroque Orchestra called "Zimmerman's Coffee House." I cannot remember when I have heard more exciting harpsichord playing, or a more polished ensemble . I took this picture just before the concert started, and then put the camera away.
Today? A lovely walk, some good food, and the Paralympics Closing Ceremony on television, all enjoyed with Bill and Black Jack. So much more to say, especially about the athletes, but I'm out of time. Have a good week, everyone.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Birds and Blooms

It was a perfect, low key weekend. Reading, Paralympics (on tv), time with Bill and Black Jack, walks at Jericho, and enough breaks between the rain to get the camera out.

Cherry blossoms on Saturday morning.

Bill entertained Black Jack while I took pictures.

Can you tell she was keen on the activity?

We watched some seagulls. I thought of Paralympics when I looked at the one in the middle. The injury seemed to be an old one and the seagull appeared to be getting around well.

Bill and Black Jack on the fishing dock.

We watched this eagle from the dock. It was a long way up in the sky, so the camera did well.

On the way back home, we walked through rabbit territory, and saw lots of Golden-crowned Sparrows sharing in the leftover veggies brought by the two ladies who visit twice a day.

This rabbit looked new to us, but then we realized it was most likely moulting. All the rabbits appeared well fed and happy.

Further along, we saw this small hawk. I couldn't get close enough to get a decent picture, but think it may be a Cooper's Hawk. We saw it take off, perhaps disturbed by the crows, and then it did an impressive dive.

The rain held off on Sunday morning, and Black Jack and I again spent time at Jericho. The ducks and birds were very active.

This Ring-necked duck is one of a pair, still, as far as I know, the only two making their home at Jericho.

There were lots of Mallards.

Lots of Robins, too.
One Red-tailed Hawk,

was being pestered by crows.

It flew to another tree, where I was able to get closer. It gave me a quick but very direct stare, before turning back to the crows.

For the second day in a row, a Blue Heron, suddenly disturbed, flew squawking overhead. I just managed to catch a quick shot.

I had never seen Goldfinches at Jericho before, but there was a large flock of them singing lustily as they went about their work. Lesser or American or even Lawrence's? I'm not absolutely certain.
A front view.

We again spent some time watching seagulls from the fishing dock.

These two were clearly a pair, and were fun to watch.

There was an interesting interaction between these crows, with several gathering around and appearing to discipline the one on its back at the bottom of the picture. They didn't appear to hurt it, and once things were settled, all went about their business with no further arguments.

On the way out of the park, I watched two herons, hoping to catch one in flight. This one, in a tree to my left,

and this one to my right.

Here's a close-up of Heron number 1. It took off silently, just as I glanced at Heron number 2,

and was already a good distance away by the time I got the camera on it. Heron number 2 waited until I had turned to leave, before following.

The sun made a brief appearance, and lit up these flowers, as I walked home.

And, I thought the blue netting draped over a building in my neighbourhood make a lovely background for this cherry blossom branch.

I can hear the rain as I prepare to pack my bags for the trek to school. Ah well, just "light rain" they say in the forecast. Could be worse. Happy Monday, everyone!