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Friday, April 30, 2010

High Winds

In the last month we've had several days with very high winds. The most recent one was Monday when I was down on Dallas Road. I must confess that there was so much salt spray in the air that I was a little chary of exposing my camera to it. However, the image above of Ross Bay, if compared to the one below taken on a more normal day, will give some idea of the kind of wind and waves we experienced.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

Highrock park on a spring evening.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Red Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

One of the reasons I love the patches of rich blue Camas we have at this time of year is how they set off colors and plants that otherwise are are less noticeable, in this case these relatively inconspicuous Red Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) plants in Highrock Park.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Northern Starflower (Trientalis borealis)

Here's another spring wildflower that is common locally in our forests and parks, the Northern Starflower (Trientalis borealis). I photographed this one on the lower slopes of Mount Douglas Park.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Times-Colonist 10K Run

Sunday was the annual 10 kilometer race sponsored by the Times-Colonist Newspaper. More than 10,000 runners turned out for the race. Kip Kangogo won it with a time of 29 minutes and 35 seconds. Race results are posted HERE.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bicoloured Lupin (Lupinus bicolor)

The ocean's shore is a good place to find many of our more colorful flowers but it is really necessary to scale down and start looking closely at the small plants that eke out their living amongst the rocks and salty winds that characterize these areas. These little Bicoloured Lupines (Lupinus bicolor) grow on the very tip of Saxe Point and though they are small they seem to be very healthy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fanfare

In spring in the forest, the ferns play fanfares you can hear with your eyes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Camas


I've posted photos of Camas before but as well as being a beautiful spring flower it is so historically significant here that I have to post a photo of it every time this season comes around. The bulbs of this plant were an important source of food for the native peoples here and throughout the northwest and the local name for this area long before James Douglas built Fort Victoria here was Camosun or Place of Camas.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)

Here's another new (for me) kind of duck that I saw while out at Rithet's Bog the other day. The two birds on the left are a pair of Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) Ducks, especially characterized by that extra large bill. (The black and gray bird on the right is an American Coot.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans)

While riding along the shore of Esquimalt Lagoon yesterday I was so busy scanning the horizon for sea-birds that I nearly drove over this little snake as he was crossing the road. In fact, it was such a near miss that I stopped to go back and check to see if he was OK. I'm happy to say I hadn't harmed him and he stayed around long enough for me to capture the above photo. According to an informative article by the Comox Valley Naturalists Society there are 4 species of snake resident on Vancouver Island, three of which are garter snakes. None of them are poisonous or aggressive. This is the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans), characterized by the yellow stripe down his back and brown diamonds on his sides. Garter Snakes are the most widely distributed North American reptile. These are generally pretty small snakes although I have seen some more than 3 feet (1 meter) long. The snake above was about 18 inches (50 cm.) long.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wild Strawberries (Fragaria)

While strolling along the path that surrounds Rithet's Bog I noticed these familiar blossoms. I've entitled this post "Wild Strawberries" although they are probably more properly called Coastal Strawberries (Fragaria chiloensis), an ancestor of the common garden strawberry, or Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca). And, given that that part of the bog is quite close to the residential areas that surround the bog, these berry plants might even be escapes from a nearby garden. In any case it was nice to see them and their promise of one of summer's most distinctive and delicious flavors.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Here's another resident of Rithet's Bog, the aptly named Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia). This little bird was singing like he was going to burst and he was a delight to hear. It's not just random chirping - read what Wikipedia has to say about the songs of Song Sparrows:

The song sparrow's song consists of a combination of repeated notes, quickly passing isolated notes, and trills. The songs are very crisp, clear, and precise, making them easily distinguishable by human ears. A particular song is determined not only by pitch and rhythm but also by the timbre of the trills. Although one bird will know many songs - as many as 20 different tunes with as many as 1,000 improvised variations on the basic theme. Unlike thrushes, the song sparrow usually repeats the same song many times before switching to a different song.

Song sparrows typically learn their songs from a handful of other birds that have neighboring territories. They are most likely to learn songs that are shared in common between these neighbors. Ultimately, they will choose a territory close to or replacing the birds that they have learned from. This allows the song sparrows to address their neighbors with songs shared in common with those neighbors. It has been demonstrated that song sparrows are able to distinguish neighbors from strangers on the basis of song, and also that females are able to distinguish (and prefer) their mate's songs from those of other neighboring birds, and they prefer songs of neighboring birds to those of strangers.
(Click here to hear a sample song, repeated 5 times in a minute.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Another of the the environments that is present in the Greater Victoria area is Rithet's Bog on the Saanich Peninsula. I went out there yesterday to see how the bog is celebrating spring. The Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) were filling the air with the sweet songs that mark their territories amongst the bullrushes and were wearing their most striking plumage. Other species were also quacking, honking, chirping and singing - I saw about a dozen different kinds of birds in the few hours it took me to walk around the bog. I am happy to note that sightings included a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), a bird I have been hoping to sight ever since I heard they live in this area. The forty or so fuzzy photos I took of it as it cruised overhead are good enough for identification but not for publication.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Goldstream Park

Since I posted the photos of the Bleeding Hearts the day before yesterday I have been wrestling with a bunch of photos I took at Goldstream Park that I hoped would communicate the grandeur of the old growth rain forest there. Well, it's going to take at least one more trip out there. In the meantime here are a couple of photos that may suggest the lushness of that environment. The massive presence of the gigantic trees and the atmosphere of ancient consciousness that they exude is something I have yet to capture. Click HERE to see a bit more of this park from photos I took about 18 months ago.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Early Saxifrage (Saxifraga integrifolia)

Here is another little plant whose beauties do not become apparent until you focus down to the very small and wander amongst the glistening ruby-tipped hairs on its flowering stem. By the same token, the flower cluster seen from above is a rather disorderly ball of tiny blossoms and one must really get up close to appreciate the fat, buttery anthers and glistening pair of stigmas. This is Early Saxifrage (Saxifraga integrifolia).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra formosa)

Victoria is blessed with a number of different environments, one of which is represented by Goldstream Park, seventeen kilometers outside the city. It is classed as old growth temperate rain forest and is an incredibly rich and lush environment with many plants not found in the drier areas closer to the city. I went out there to see what kinds of spring flowers were blooming beneath the towering cedars and firs and was pleased to find these lovely Western Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra formosa). There were also some early Trillium and a few other flowering plants I have yet to identify. Awesome is an overused word these days but after wandering beneath the massive 600 year old trees of this park for a few hours it's the only word that adequately describes the feeling they inspire.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's All a Matter of Scale

Only a few steps up the hill from the site of yesterday's photo I took the series of 16 photos that make up this panoramic view of Victoria from Highrock Park. It's about an 180 degree view from Mount Douglas on the left to Odgen Point on the right. Click the small image above to see the large version. You may have to click the large version again to see it full size. Once again, credit must go to the developers of Hugin, which software did the seamless stitching of the 16 photos that make up this panorama.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another world....

These are probably not the world's smallest flowers but they are very small - smaller than a pinhead and nearly invisible unless you get your nose right down on the ground. I don't know what these flowers are called and this is not a very good photo for identification purposes, but this is one of those photos that makes me happy to be a photographer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Micro-climates

Taking a lot of photos encourages one to look at the world with a little more attention. Making regular daily blog postings increases this since it provides some historical reference for what one sees and records. Lately I've been noticing the differences in micro-climates in some of the local parks and how much they can change from year to year. The white flowers in this photo are some of my favorite spring flowers, Giant White Fawn Lilies. They are blooming in a Beacon Hill meadow that will soon be carpeted with the deep blue blossoms of Camas, a few buds of which are visible in the above photo. Judging by last year's flower progression I figured the meadow above would be a sea of blue by this time because I posted a photo of some fawn lilies back in March and they bloom just before the Camas. However, what I'm learning is that those lilies I photographed in Saxe Point Park were several weeks ahead of these on Beacon Hill. Also, probably because of our warm winter, all our spring flowers are a few weeks ahead of last year.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thunderbird

I was passing through Beacon Hill Park a few days ago when I realized that I have not before posted a photo of this totem pole although, as one of the tallest in the world, it is certainly worthy of note. However, what drew my attention to it on this day was the topmost figure, one of our local Bald Eagles taking advantage of this splendid vantage point. Below is the best I could do for a close-up since I didn't have a true telephoto lens with me. A passerby informed me that this eagle often perches atop this pole at this season during the last few years. The pole itself is very noteworthy, carved by Kwakwaka'wakw craftsman Mungo Martin and erected in 1956. As to whether the Bald Eagle is the original thunderbird of native mythology, you can read Wikipedia's discussion of this question by clicking HERE and decide for yourself.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Saxe Point Reprise

Our shoreline has some views that I find particularly appealing so I return to them again and again at different seasons and times of day. I recently posted a few photos of the view from the western side of Saxe Point. Above is the view on the eastern side of the point. I have photographed this view before, during winter and summer, so here is a springtime view, taken during yesterday's high winds.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fleming Beach Rock Climbing and Boat Ramp

There are three parks I often visit along the Esquimalt shoreline of Greater Victoria: Macaulay Point, Fleming Beach, and Saxe Point. The first two are contiguous and are only separated from Saxe Point by small residential area. Fleming Beach is in the middle and as well as the Buxton Green picnic area and the breakwater visible in yesterday's photos, also features a large precipitous rock formation much used by local rock climbers for practice and a couple of docks where fishermen launch their boats for a day on the water. I often stop here and walk out on the dock because harbour seals seem to like this little cove and swim around and under the dock. Despite their proximity, the three parks have very different characters. Macaulay Point has its military gun emplacements scattered through dense thickets of low bush and very few trees. Fleming Beach is all about the rocks and the docks. Saxe Point is quite thickly forested with some very large trees though it also contains a nice little piece of Garry Oak ecosystem.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Buxton Green and Fleming Beach Breakwater

Above is a photo of Buxton Green, a small lawn-covered picnic area beside the equally small Fleming Beach. Directly behind me when I took the above photo is the view below, of the Fleming Beach Breakwater. The day before yesterday's photo was taken from the far end of this breakwater.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa

Victoria is a very tourist-oriented city so there are lots of places to stay, especially B&Bs and of course many hotels. Aside from the Empress I have not paid much attention to hotels on this blog since I rarely visit them. Here is one I pass often, however, on my way downtown since it is the first building on the Victoria West side of the Johnson Street Bridge and occupies much of Songhees Point, the beginning of the Westsong Walkway. It is called the Ocean Pointe Resort and I suspect it is quite a nice place to stay. It is certainly very convenient to downtown. Perhaps someone can tell me sometime why the word Pointe in their name is spelled with an e on the end. It would also be interesting to know why a building situated on Songhees Point is called Ocean Pointe.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fleming Beach

Whoo - I just about forgot to make a post today. But here's a shot from the end of the Fleming Beach breakwater that will give you a hint of what the weather was like today. I'd almost forgotten the sky could be so blue.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saxe Point Park II

Here's another shot of one of the views offered by Saxe Point Park. It looks much better with blue skies and fluffy white clouds but our weather lately has been cold, wet and gray. Meanwhile the cold part of our country is basking in summertime temperatures. I guess it's only fair since we had such a balmy winter while they experienced a series of record-breaking snowstorms.


Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Despite the good press robins have been receiving on this blog I have recently noticed distinctly hostile and aggressive behavior. It reminds me that beneath that romantic springtime nesting and mating is a fierce competition for mates and territory. I've lately seen some genuinely vicious aerial combats and feathery fisticuffs between robins. There is a definite martial edge to their cheeping and peeping. And on the ground the normally mild-mannered robin adopts a stance that clearly says, "You want a piece of me?"

Friday, April 2, 2010

Saxe Point Park

I've been taking a lot of photos lately in Saxe Point Park, of birds and flowering plants, but not many of the park itself so here's a view from the park that I often enjoy when I'm checking to see if there is any action in the eagle's nest. That nest is at the top of a tree just out of sight above and to the left in this photo. We are looking up the west coast of the island here with the area known as Metchosin visible across the water. Out of the frame on the right is Esquimalt Harbour and the naval base.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)

While out at Esquimalt Lagoon the other day I noticed an impressively big swan among the other swans and ducks along the shoreline of the lagoon. It wasn't until I got home and had a good look at the photos I'd taken that I realized that this bird was not just bigger but was different in other ways from the Mute Swans that are usually seen around the lagoon. The bird above is a Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator), the largest native North American bird. It's only slightly larger than the Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) but the latter is an introduced species that has escaped captivity and naturalized itself. I've included a photo of a Mute Swan on the left to show the differences in bill color and shape.