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Thursday, July 31, 2014


I mentioned in yesterday's post that Active Pass is a good place to see wildlife of various kinds. Above is an unremarkable photo of a species of seabird that is new to me though they are common on this coast. The trio above are Pigeon Guillemot (Cepphus columba), a kind of diving bird. The pair on the right are as yet unidentified....

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Orca (Orcinus orca)

Part of the ferry route from Victoria to Vancouver goes through a narrow pass between two of the Gulf Islands. It's called Active Pass and is a good place to see some of the local wildlife such as seals and various seabirds. And if you're lucky, you may see some of the local Orca or Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) like I did on my recent trip. There were about a dozen in this pod though there were seldom more than three or four visible on the surface at any one time. In the photo below you can see one of them is breaching and spouting while a whale-watching boat follows at a discreet distance.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Island Living

Although Victoria is located on an island (Vancouver Island) I never really have the sense of "island living" except when I need to go somewhere. The first part of the trip is almost always a ride on a ferry to get to the mainland. That sense of island living is mostly absent because of the size of Vancouver Island. It's a big island - just over 12,000 square miles or 31,000 square kilometers - larger in area than some 50 of the world's smaller countries. It's just a little larger than Belgium, for example. It's about 285 miles (460 kilometers long) and averages about 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide. Much of it is wilderness - about half of the population of 800,000 live in Victoria, the rest in a half-dozen small towns scattered around the southern coastline. All of which may serve as a preamble to noting that I traveled to the mainland this last weekend and will be sharing some of what I saw over the next few days.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Quatuor Stomp

Yesterday while I played in the dirt (see previous post) my daughter and her friends went downtown to see some of the buskers performing at the 2014 Buskers Festival. Equipped with the camera she was entrusted to capture some of the action and did she ever! Quantuor Stomp, pictured here really looked like they gave a high flying performance. - Fern

Sunday, July 27, 2014

In The Garden

Downtown is bustling with activities and events but I have to admit, my backyard is where I want to be, doing nothing but watching things grow. - Fern

Saturday, July 26, 2014


In Indian mythology there is a divine wish-fulfilling tree called Kalpavricksha or Kalpataru. It seems that one is growing in Fernwood Square....

Friday, July 25, 2014

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep...."

Of course, in his famous poem Robert Frost was describing woods on a winter's evening. But the woods are often lovely, dark and deep during summertime too. These lovely little wildflowers are called Foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Songhees Point

This view was taken from the bottom of Bastion square where it meets Wharf Street. The rocky promontory on the left in the photo is Songhees Point. The blue water to the left leads to the Outer Harbour. The Upper Harbour and the Gorge are to the right. The Johnson Street Bridge is just off-camera to the right.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Funk Cannon

I caught this odd trio playing at the bottom of Government Street across from the Visitors Information Centre last week. I say "odd trio" because whoever heard of a band consisting of two saxophones and a drummer? It didn't look very promising but when they started to play it was electrifying. Inside of a few minutes a crowd of 50 had gathered and everyone - seniors, toddlers, teenagers, middle-aged moms and dads and miscellaneous thirty-somethings - the whole crowd was bopping along with the raw energy of the music these kids were making. They are called "Funk Cannon" - click their name for a link to their facebook page. In the photo above, on the left is Thomas Daudlin, Skye Perez in the centre and Max Stover on the right. Check out the short video below for a sample of their music.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Maritime Museum

Here's a pair of visitors strolling through Bastion Square with the Maritime Museum in the background. It's a great place to spend a few hours - there's lots of general nautical history but a great deal of local history as well. The building itself was the infant city's first courthouse in the 19th century, presided over by the famous Judge Begbie. You can still visit the upstairs courtroom and you might get to see or hear the ghost....

Monday, July 21, 2014

everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything

This is a piece of art from a show we recently saw at the Vancouver Art Gallery by Douglas Coupland. He is a prolific artist and author whose work is fascinating in it's playful irreverence. This one titled, 'Gumhead' and was located on grounds of the gallery. It is a 7 ft. sculpture of the artist's head which he has invited the public to participate in by plastering it in, yes gum. This is a recent installation but when we arrived it was already quite covered in the stuff. He work often references everyday material in this way, inviting the viewer to rethink what is art using everyday materials in new ways. It is a really interesting show and I recommend it. - Fern

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Chinese Cemetery

This is one of Victoria's secret spots; a little off the beaten track nestled in Fairfield this historical landmark is worth a visit. - Fern

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Riffriders

This trio looks like they're having fun and it's reflected in their music. They're called "The Riffriders". They play an eclectic mix of popular music and original songs and they play it well. They are a newly constituted group performing now down on the Inner Harbour Causeway. Well worth listening to.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Water Lilies

French impressionist Claude Monet painted about 250 canvases of Water Lilies. It's easy to see why. These were photographed on the grounds of the Gatsby Mansion on Belleville Street.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Gatsby Mansion

Doesn't this look like a lovely veranda to have lunch? This is the Gatsby Mansion, a boutique hotel and dining establishment that occupies one of Victoria's early Queen Ann style residences on Belleville Streeet just down the block from the Robert Bateman Gallery and the Legislature. It overlooks the Inner Harbour where the Coho and Clipper dock. The house itself was originally built by Robert Pendray in 1890 and was then called Huntingdon Manor. A later owner re-named it "Gatsby Mansion" after the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. There is an interesting short history of the house and surrounding buildings you can read by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pierre St. Pierre

Pierre St. Pierre is a talented mime who regularly performs above the Inner Harbour Causeway. He's another one of the gifted buskers that appear here during the summer season. By his concentration he manages to create a unique and quiet performance space around himself that seems to isolate one from the strolling crowds that pass. His costume and subtle gestures accompanied by the French cafe music he plays on his accordion create a wonderfully nostalgic mood.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hanging Baskets

No summer would be complete without a photo of Victoria's colorful hanging flower baskets, a city trademark. Other cities may have them but I doubt that any are so glorious as Victoria's.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Study in Black and White

Sometimes when the colors of summer are almost blinding it's nice to switch to black and white to change the perspective. - Fern

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Paddle Fest

Yesterday on Willows Beach, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) hosted this event down on Willows Beach and what a glorious day! It was an opportunity for people try out everything from canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. There were races and even floating yoga. I took an introductory course on how to stand-up paddle board and felt quite proud of myself for standing up without falling in. No mean feat for someone who has two left feet on land! - Fern

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Inner Harbour

Here's a shot taken by thousands of tourists every year overlooking Victoria's Inner Harbour. What better way to end the week?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cook Street Village

Near the bottom of Cook Street just northeast of Beacon Hill Park there is a cluster of boutiques, coffee houses, restaurants and stores known as Cook Street Village. It's a very comfortable couple of blocks, well shaded by big trees and almost always well-peopled. It has a laid back lazy atmosphere - there's always people chatting on the sidewalks. There's a couple of ethnic restaurants, a pub, a second hand clothing store, TWO health food stores, a small supermarket, a convenience store and a drug store. It feels like it would be a nice place to live.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Robert Bateman Centre

Above and below are photos of one of Victoria's iconic buildings, now called the Robert Bateman Centre. It is, of course, the same building that you see on the top of every page of this blog. It was designed by Francis Rattenbury, who also designed the nearby Legislative Assembly Buildings and the Empress Hotel, as well as other important Victoria Buildings. The building was erected to serve as a steamship terminal for Canadian Pacific Steamships. Later it housed Madame Tussaud's Royal London Wax Museum. Now it has become the home of a gallery of Robert Bateman prints and paintings. Robert Bateman is a world famous artist who specializes in paintings of the natural world. Here is a link to his website and another link to the Robert Bateman Centre itself. I encourage you to click through and take a look at some of his remarkable work. Robert Bateman was born in Toronto but now lives on Saltspring Island, near Victoria.

For those of you who might be experiencing deja vu, yes, both these photos are from the archives. The top one was taken in 2009 when the building was still Madame Tussaud's. The bottom one shows the building in 2012 when the Undersea Gardens (the white floating structure) was still nearby. HERE's a link to a photo taken in March of this year that is more contemporary....

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Bouquet

Summer here is a dry time and summer's flowers are hardier and less lush than spring's blossoms. Here are two that thrive in summer's hot sunshine. While I like to identify plant and animal species I post here, both of the above flowers have so many similar relatives that even experts find it difficult to distinguish them. So I'll fall back on their common names and invite you simply to enjoy the daisy and dandelions above.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)

We were out at Durrance Lake yesterday and I was able to photograph this Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) when he was kind enough to bask for a while on the end of this twig. We should all feel grateful when we see one of these since their preferred diet is mosquitoes. I've been reading a bit on dragonflies. Apparently their four wings can all be operated independently and that is how they can fly with such precision. They're fascinating insects and it's nice to know they are on our side.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Inner Harbour

These two look like they have found a very nice way to enjoy the harbour haven't they? - Fern

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Head up north of Victoria about 2 hours and you'll find yourself in this cute little town which is famous for it's goats. Yes, Coombs has made a name for itself with it's rooftop inhabitants and built up quite a thriving tourist destination. There were lots of shops to look in and having an ice cream cone seemed to be mandatory. This is a great little day trip, I highly recommend it! - Fern

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

I went out to Albert Head Lagoon a little while ago to see what kinds of birds were there - it's bird sanctuary. However, aside from a few distant ducks and swans the only birds I saw were some Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). I've posted photos of Killdeer before and mentioned the deception they practice when their nests or chicks are threatened. I've learned recently that this behavior is not unique to Killdeer but is shared by some other ground-nesting birds. How such behavior developed is not known. Here is what it says in my "Birder's Handbook" (Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye 1988, Page 115):
There is little doubt that effectively leading a predator away would be strongly favored by natural selection but how these stylized antics evolved remains controversial among behaviorists. Some conclude that distraction displays are a product of the conflicting desires of the parent to approach the predator aggressively, to return to the nest, and to retreat. Others suggest that they evolved directly as a predator defense, with more stylized sequences found in species that have had longer association with heavy predation.
The more I find out about birds the more I realize how much more there is to learn and how much yet remains to be discovered.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Excellent Mural

As a fan of interesting murals in public spaces I blush to admit that I was unaware until recently of this one right here in Vic West (where I live), on the northern end of McGaskill Street. It's beautifully executed and was a neighborhood effort. Bravo Vic West! HERE's a link to a bit more information.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Social Life

A backyard bird feeder is a great way to learn a bit about the social life of birds. At first it seemed that the sparrows and finches that frequent the feeder related to each other mostly through brief squabbles - some angry chirps and bits of pushing and shoving for feeder perches. But I've also begun to notice a bit of the above behavior too. The top reddish bird, a male House Finch, is here bending down to give a sunflower seed that he has shelled to the bird on the perch below him. I suspect the lower bird is a female and he is feeding her as part of a courtship ritual. It might also be possible that the lower bird is simply a juvenile who is receiving some parental support but whatever the reason it's nice to see that there is more to a bird's life than squabbling over food.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fisherman's Wharf

A perennially popular spot to visit within a short walk of the Legislative Assembly Building and the Causeway is Fisherman's Wharf, above looking deceptively peaceful. Well, it is peaceful but as you can see below it can also be pretty crowded at this time of year. It's a great place to have lunch - Barb's Fish and Chips is famous and you know the fish has got to be fresh. There's also Mexican food and Grilligan's Island.... (Great chili!)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

St. John's Wort

The extravagant flower pictured above is St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum). It is not an indigenous wild flower but an invasive species. At this time of year it bears these lovely yellow flowers in a few patches along the West Bay Walkway. I don't know whether it was planted there for its decorative value or whether it has naturalized itself. Whatever the reason it's a delight to the eye.
Happy Canada Day!