Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Young Eagle and some Great Blue Herons

A Young Eagle at Wreck Beach
After a great concert at UBC last week, we decided to follow a trail that took us, almost by chance, to Wreck Beach.  It is the only clothing-optional beach in Vancouver but neither Bill nor I are sun bathers, and in fact, it was just about the only Vancouver beach I had never explored. More about the concert and the walk in another post, but for Wild Bird Wednesday, I thought you might like to meet this young eagle.
S/he appeared to be trying to figure out how to take off in a strong wind with a catch..
 that I still haven't identified.
 S/he wasn't successful, even after many, many tries and a valiant effort.
A second try with this perhaps lighter stick was also unsuccessful.

The bonus for me was a great opportunity to practice action shots, and something about the wind and waves and sun sparkles made for a very enjoyable time with my camera.

Stanley Park Heronry
The Great Blue Herons have returned to Stanley Park for the 13th year (the 6th since I first discovered them) and yesterday was a great one for taking photos.  I've been known to name my favourite pairs of herons but that can sometimes lead to disappointment when "stuff" happens.  Eagles and racoons prey on the eggs and on the young, fireworks cause so much stress that juveniles sometimes fall from the nest, and I've learned that nest-building requires skills that include an understanding of wind conditions, etc.  So, for this season, I'm going to leave anthropomorphism aside and will just assign numbers to the two pairs shown here.
 One heron appeared to be starting a new nest.
 S/he looked up, noticed another heron in the same tree with a nest already well on the way..
 and I guess they decided to join forces.  

Nest building is high on the features a female looks for in the male and these two hit it off immediately.  (My interpretation.  Another possibility is that they were already acquainted.)
 I tried to resist "aren't they cute" emotions as I took this photo but mostly failed. 
 They carried out some of the pre-mating rituals, but at least while I was there..
 decided that the important matter at hand was to exhibit their skills and get that nest built.

This beauty came floating by me with a stick,
 circled around a couple of times,
 flew just about directly over my head, 
 and finally.. 
 navigated the branches..

to make a delivery to his mate.
 The gesture was much appreciated and followed up by bill clappering.  I just learned that term from this very interesting article titled "The Terminology of Courtship, Nesting, Feeding and Maintenance in Herons."  A quick look at that article gives me a name for many of the behaviours I saw yesterday and I intend to explore it more thoroughly.  For now, I am happy to correct a mistake that I have been making for years.  I will no longer call it "bill clacking." :)   
For more stories and photos of birds, I think you will enjoy the Wild Bird Wednesday site.  Thank you, Stewart, for keeping the meme running so successfully.

Monday, March 25, 2013


This post strays quite a distance from "bikes birds and beasts" themes but people are a part of my world too, and this feels like the right time to mention a few of them.  Below, you see Lilee-Jean.  As you can tell, she's exudes "Attitude" as she goes about enjoying the good stuff life offers.  There's been a lot of it lately.  She took her first plane trip to meet a grandparent and loved every minute of it.  Then, she got to visit Disneyland and she loved that too.  There's some not-so-good stuff in her life as well, but she's doing her best to ignore that.  She has an aggressive brain tumor that was discovered when she was ten months old.  Surgery and chemo managed to get quite a lot of it.  Her parents were told that she might never walk or talk after that surgery, but she is doing both mightily. I've never met her, but she's been in my thoughts ever since hearing her dad sing "Hallelujah" at Granville Island. 
 I liked his singing so much, I came home, googled and found him in this you tube performance.  Apparently, I wasn't alone in realizing he has huge talent.  

It was during my googling that I learned about Lilee-Jean.  Her mother, Chelsea, has kept a blog since her baby was diagnosed.  She doesn't post very often but her writing is powerful and the words stay with me.  She and Andrew are the kind of parents I would wish for every child.  They recently discovered that the tumor has come back, and in just a few weeks, it has quadrupled in size.  Chelsea wrote these words when she was given the prognosis.    
"Two weeks ago Andrew and I walked out of the children's Hospital, our daughter by our side, with shattered hearts and racing minds.  This can't be happening.  It can't be tumor again.  Not her.  Not us.  We're the 10%. We're the miracle.  This can't be happening.  An unstoppable flow of tears accompanied us on the seemingly long drive home."
From the perspective of my 66 years, Chelsea and Andrew are just kids themselves.  They had to make an agonizing decision after that meeting with the doctors.  More surgery, more chemo (radiation would only be possible if Lilee could make it to the age of three), and a greatly reduced quality of life for a little girl who, right now, is not in pain, and is having the time of her life.  The chances of those aggressive treatments working are close to nil.  They have opted, instead, for palliative chemo, hoping to add a little more quality time for Lilee.  It is felt that the tumor will ultimately create havoc in her little brain, but until it does, they are going to live life the best way they know how.  Here are Chelsea's words:
"And we are going to use every second of every minute of every hour of every day whether its weeks months or years we have left to make this the best life Lilee-Jean can have."
She then quoted the humorist, Art Buchwald: "Whether it's the best of times, or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got."
Chelsea and Andrew have a solid support network of family and friends.  Chelsea posted just a couple of minutes ago that they have received a very generous donation that will take the three of them to Hawaii.  Still, I'm guessing that they have all stretched themselves financially and emotionally to just about the breaking point.  Recently, they did a facebook post asking for donations.  Their energy, right now, needs to be on Lilee-Jean, and not on working jobs or paying the rent.  If, and only if, you have a bit extra tucked away that you could spare, I know they could use a helping hand.  If not, a kind note on the blog or on their facebook page would mean a whole lot too.  Positive thoughts and wishes have more power than we often realize. So, I'm hoping you will take from this the same kind of wonderful energy that Lilee-Jean exudes.  I leave you with a picture that makes me smile every time I look at it.  Lilee-Jean loves to dress up and she adores checking herself out in the mirror.  As I said in my comment when I saw it, "You go girl!"

I am posting this story to Our World Tuesday because Lilee-Jean is at the top of my thoughts in my world right now.  Thank you for letting me share the story with you.  You can check out people from across the world by going to that beautiful blog meme.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Catch-up #1 of Five for Friday Skywatch

Here is the first of five "catch-up" posts before my determined effort to do one (short!) daily post.  Since there are quite a few sky shots, and since today is Friday, I'm posting this one to Friday Skywatch .  

It was a week ago today that we drove over the Burrard Bridge on our way to a concert.  That would have been the Ides of March, the day Julius Caesar was assassinated, but in doing a little bit of research, I've discovered that long before that event during a period known as late antiquity, it was a day to celebrate the feast of Anna Perenna.  The calendar at that time considered March the beginning of the new year, and Anna was the goddess of the year.  I could rest on that topic for way too long, but for now, just one point of interest that caught my attention in that last link.  Apparently, people would ask Anna to grant them as many more years of life as cups of wine consumed.  Hm..  I guess it was quite a party :)

I took the shot through the truck window as we drove along.  Bill quickly rolls the windows down whenever I begin to gasp at a particular sight.  It seems a miracle of my camera that anything came out, let alone such a wondrous sky.
At a camera club meeting some time ago (I seem to have stopped attending lately), I learned about Bokeh.  I think this picture, taken seconds before the shot above, might be an example.
 The beautiful sunset stayed with us all the way along Point Grey Road.
Below are Simon and Mimosa on the left, with Jimmy and McKenzie on the right.  We saw them just as we were getting into the truck on that same Ides of March day. You could say we are barely acquaintances but in the two years (plus) since moving into the Yaletown area, we have seen this foursome many, many times.  Here is what I can tell you for sure.  They have kind, friendly smiles, they love Mimosa and McKenzie, give them the best life they believe possible and neither has ever forgotten Money, their previous Pomeranian who died in 2008. That's enough for me.  I was happy to see them as it had been a while, and I always wonder if things are okay when someone (or even a familiar bird/critter) disappears for a while.  I spoke to them and then got in the truck, but heard Bill say, "May we take your picture?"  He really meant, "Can Carol take your picture?" since he didn't have a camera.  Now, why hadn't I thought of that?  We exchanged blog addresses, learned about Money and somehow, the beautiful sky (above) and wonderful concert (next post) that came afterwards seemed connected to our happy encounter.
And, speaking of fondly regarded familiar sights, here is the latest update on Tupper.
S/he continues to show up each day and I continue to wonder about that beautifully unique tail.  I've never seen another like it.  Have you?
Tupper's visits are timed with the children's arrival at the playground that is connected to the elementary and nursery schools across the street from me.  Like Black Jack, I believe s/he has figured out that kids often leave edibles behind them.  Today, s/he wasn't there at her usual time and I worried a bit.  Then, I realized it is a school holiday.  I have long felt that we underestimate the intelligence of seagulls, and now I have another bit of evidence to support that theory.  S/he showed up later when a few parents brought their toddlers to play on the swings.  I was delighted to to finally see Tupper on her favourite street lamp perch.
Coming back to skies, this one goes back to the 7th of March.  I remember we were about to sit down for supper and I looked out and saw the sun just about to sink between the buildings.  I don't think I even stepped out on the balcony.  Just did the quick snap through the window, and this beautiful star appeared when I checked the photo the next day.  A gift!
 And, this may not feel like a skywatch subject, but if you look at the sky behind this crow (seen on March 3rd), perhaps you will see why the unusual patterns in the blue struck me.
 Okay, truth be known, that crow is a friend of mine :)  I haven't named him/her but I've been doing something I know I shouldn't.  S/he follows me quietly and one day, I threw a tiny piece of one of Black Jack's salmon treats.  But, on this particular day, 
I was struck with the way the blue light in the sky..
caught the gorgeous markings of the crow.
 S/he followed us as we walked across the park and by a small garden on Pacific Street.
I recognized some great wisdom in the expression.  S/he had another crow with him/her and I've come to think that may have been an offspring from last year.  I know this will sound a bit goofy, but here is my theory (admittedly far-fetched).  The crow has since disappeared but another one has been noisily following me instead.  Perhaps, that second one is the offspring, and the quiet one may have left to build a nest and raise a brood.  The "young" one had a very unpleasant and demanding "caw" but I noticed yesterday, was beginning to mellow.  Again, I know this sounds goofy, but I give one or two treats and then raise my hand to tell them there are no more.  They rarely ask after that.  I also find it interesting that I'm not followed by any other crows.  Do they tell each other to find their own human for hand-outs?  I hope one day to see "my" quiet one again.  And, just a note: I was using my small lens here.  That is how close the crow came, even with Black Jack beside me.
 I will close this post with some "leftover" flowers that seem too beautiful to keep to myself.  This first one was in a vase behind a condo window the same day of the blue skies.  I could see the vase and flower but nothing else inside the condo.  The rest of the shot (above the fence) is a reflection from the other side of the street. 
I seem to be very lazy about learning the names of flowers but believe this is a Rhododendron.  It was in David Lam Park.
This gorgeous English Daisy (?) was beside "my" crow.
This skunk cabbage was my first sighting this year.  I saw it by Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.
 Another Rhodo, I think, also in David Lam Park.
These were outside a flower shop..
on Davie Street.
Just couldn't resist the colours.
And, a final shot of some crocuses.  I've heard that a photographer's secret is to carry a spray bottle with them to create appealing water droplets for flower shots.  I've never had to do that in Vancouver :)  Thank you so much for stopping by.  For lots of wonderful sky shots, you may enjoy the Skywatch Friday blog meme.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

For Wild Bird Wednesday

I'm doing a huge catch-up day in hopes that I can do (short!) daily posts.  This one will just show some of the birds I saw before the actual catch-up posts begin.  I guess you could call it the catch-up before the catch-up.  

The herons are back!  
This is the 13th year that a colony of Blue Herons has taken up residence by the tennis courts in Stanley Park.  You can read the final update for 2012 at the Stanley Park web site, if you are interested.  My very first post ever was inspired by that phenomena.    I discovered them in August of 2008 so this will be my sixth year to watch them.  They suffer eagle attacks and racoon invasions (though the metal sheets around the  base of the trees are helping with that) and each year, I think it may be the last to see them at that location. But, on March 7th I caught my first sight of a few herons in the nests (they had probably arrived two or three days before that) and by March 18th, a great many nests were occupied.  Here, just two photos from March 7th. 

Plump Chickadee
 Goose Disagreement
Wish I could have managed to get this in focus but it the argument broke out all of a sudden.  The one on the right tried to interfere with a couple that were getting along just fine. Maybe it wanted to steal a mate, or maybe it was a young one from last year?  No idea.
After the scuffle (lots of squawking and flapping) the original pair settled on a rock.  The one behind had quite a story to tell.  
"I just don't believe the nerve of..."
"Aw.  It's okay.  Give me a little neck scratch and forget all about your worries."
I guess the aperture was too large.  I would have loved to get the two of them in focus here but still love the detail in the wing.
Mystery Goose
I've never seen one like this in Lost Lagoon before.  It was alone.
The Canada Geese came up to take a look, but then left it alone.
My guesses are White Fronted or a young snow goose, but neither feels right.
Can anyone help me identify it?

Ring-necked Ducks in the pond - female on the right
Common Merganser - female - Bad Hair Day
Red-winged Blackbird
on the bridge railing.
Same Ring-necked pair - the male..
and the female.  
It's not really possible to see the rings.  Will try for next time :)

A Walk to Lost Lagoon
A female Barrow's Goldeneye spiffing herself up..
to make herself presentable for her dapper boyfriend.  (I think that's him.)

Nice that keeping clean was important to both of them.
The noon-time light was a bit strange.  I think this is the male here drying his wings. 
Off they go, clean and happy to have the worry of selecting a mate over for another year.
Lesser Scaup
One of the few ways to distinguish a "Lesser" from a "Greater" is the more peaked crown (such as I think I see here).  This one was in the pond at Lost Lagoon.
American Coot
I missed the shot I really wanted of it running across the path and hopping into the pond.  They are truly comical to watch.
Common Merganser - Female, looking especially beautiful.
Brown Creeper
I hope I identified this one correctly. 
I've only seen one other one since I began bird watching, though I know they're around.
A Blue Heron working hard to calm its catch (poor little fish).  
Black Jack
Okay, not a bird but Black Jack just wanted to say..
"Here's looking at you." 
"Have a good week.  Check out Wild Bird Wednesday to see more birds."