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Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Sure Sign of Christmas

This is one of my favorite holiday traditions; the Christmas lights on the Parliament Buildings. It's not the best picture but Victoria is experiencing a bit of a cold snap and it was too cold to do anything but snap a quick picture and hurry on! - Fern

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Winter Visitors 5

While out at Esquimalt Lagoon I was lucky to see some Black Turnstones (Arenaria melanocephala). These shorebirds are coming south from their nesting grounds in Alaska. They may stay around here but many move further south, even as far as Mexico, for the winter months. Smart birds!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Winter Visitors 4

Birds who spend the winter here don't all come to rest in the Inner Harbour. Esquimalt Lagoon is another favorite wintering site so I went out there on the weekend to see who has arrived. Above is a duck that always impresses me with its elegance and neatness. It always looks as if it just came from the cleaners. This is a male Northern Pintail (Anas acuta). This is not a diving duck like the Mergansers or Buffleheads featured in the last few weeks. This is a dabbling duck, preferring to find its food in shallow water. Mallards and Widgeons are two other examples of dabbling ducks.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Salmon Spawning in Goldstream River

Nearly every year I go out to Goldstream Provincial Park to see its famous salmon run and, generally, I am too early or too late. I usually see only a few salmon struggling upstream but not the legendary "run" when the fish are so solidly packed in the river you can walk across on their backs. Not, at least until this year. Fern and I were out there a week or so ago and the shallow river was full of large salmon. The photo above will give you a little idea but to really experience how many fish there were take a look at the video below. The chattering children in the background testify that this is a favorite field trip for school children at this time of year. It truly is an amazing spectacle and if you ever have the opportunity to see it, don't hesitate.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Work Point

This photo is taken looking in the same direction as yesterday's but from below and eastwards on the West Bay Walkway. If you want to orient yourself, look at the RV Camp in roughly the centre of yesterday's photo. Part of the same camp is visible on the far right of today's photo. Here we are really looking at the entrance to Victoria's Inner Harbour. Any vessel entering the harbour must pass between Work Point (on the right) and the Ogden Point Breakwater (on the left). Blustery weather lately has given us some great cloud formations.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

View from Swallows' Landing

The steep green hillside in the foreground is the Matson Lands, a conservation/restoration area of the Garry Oak ecosystem. On the right beyond the trees is West Bay and its Marina and RV Campground. The stairway in the foreground is to protect the Matson Lands from trampling and other damage. At the bottom it connects with the West Bay Walkway.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Winter Visitors 3

We have two types of Mergansers resident here in the winter, the Hooded Mergansers pictured a few days ago and the Common Merganser (Mergus merganser), pictured above. Occasionally we see a Red-breasted Merganser but they are not generally resident here. In common with the Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers are diving ducks that catch small fish underwater. The Common Merganser in this photo is just about to eat her most recent catch.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Making My Way Downtown

When you shoot off the cuff, so to speak and you get a photo that somehow captures the 'everydayness' of a moment it's simpleness is poetic. This was taken by my daughter and she's made me proud. - Fern

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Winter Visitors 2

Here's more winter visitors, a trio of male Bufflehead Ducks (Bucephala albeola) competing for the attention of a female of the species. It's possible to see several hundred of these ducks in a morning's stroll along the West Bay Walkway these days.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter Visitors

I've been walking on the West Bay Walkway again recently and have been happy to see some of our winter visitors back from their northern travels. Pictured today are my favorite diving ducks, a trio of male Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus). On the same walk I saw some Common Mergansers and large flocks of Bufflehead Ducks like those in yesterday's photo. These are birds we don't see at all in the summertime because they migrate further north to nest and rear their young. As winter sets in they fly south and many stop here to brighten our shores until spring.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Paddlers

A hazy winter morning on the Inner Harbour earlier this week found these paddlers setting out and a flock of little Bufflehead Ducks taking off.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rail Fence

Here's a feature of most of the parks in this area - rail fences. Sometimes they are used to provide a barrier such as on the edges of steep drop-offs but mostly they are used as in this photo, to protect areas that the groundskeepers are trying to restore to native vegetation. Most of the local parks' "wild areas" are overgrown with introduced "invasive" species of plants that compete with the indigenous species. Sometimes the introduced species such as English Ivy or Scotch Broom completely take over the environment and native species are in danger of extinction. Rail fences are used to protect areas where native plants are growing and where their health can be monitored and competing species removed. This particular rail fence protects such an area on Macaulay Point.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One More Mushroom

Well the cold weather has arrived early this year - it's freezing every night now and I doubt I'll see many more mushrooms popping up this year. But before I bid the season adieu, after last week's posts of weird-shaped fungi I thought I would post this mushroom-shaped mushroom. It looks good enough to eat though I have no idea whether it is edible or not.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Be Love

I had the good luck recently to be invited to eat lunch at one of Victoria's newer restaurants, Be Love, downtown near the corner Blanshard and Fort Streets.
Here's what they have to say about themselves:

be love is an offering of sustainable organic
cuisine to nourish and heal the body, mind & soul.
here to honour our earth, community and one
another , we mindfully source our ingredients,
fostering change to provide a future of health,
love & respect for all.

everything we serve is wheat, gluten, dairy, meat,
additive and processed sugar free. we use 95%
organic whole ingredients that are sourced
locally and seasonally where possible. everything
we serve is made from scratch, with love!

The above sentiments are not so different from most other vegetarian restaurants. What makes Be Love different and outstanding is that the food is extraordinary. Normally, vegetarian restaurants serve hearty, healthy food with maybe a specialty or two - but the experience is like a relic from Haight-Ashbury or 1970s 4th Avenue in Vancouver - experimental food with the emphasis on nutrition rather than flavour. Be Love takes organic, vegetarian cuisine to a new level. This is a mature cuisine. The presentation is lovely, the flavours are superb, the service is great and the food is good for you. Pictured above is what I had, called a Green Bowl on the menu. Wonderful! Fern had the Teriyaki Noodle Bowl - also delicious. For dessert I had a slice of the Daily Cheezecake. Fern opted for a wedge of the Butternut Pumpkin Pie. Again, both were melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious. If you're in downtown Victoria and looking for a truly exquisite dining experience with a difference, drop in to Be Love (click the link to take a look at the menu).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Brentwood Bay

This is such a lovely little spot at the southern lip of Brentwood Bay looking out towards Daphne Islet. This is the sort of scene that would make a lovely watercolour painting. - Fern

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Common Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum)

Here, to conclude a mycological week, is another fungi we are all familiar with, the Common Puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum). These are very tasty when young - the one pictured here is getting to be too ripe to eat. Soon it will develop a little hole in its top and when disturbed by as little as a falling raindrop it will emit a brown puff of spores.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Coral Fungus (Clavulinopsis corniculata)

To continue the theme of weird shapes of mushrooms or fungi, here is another one I always enjoy seeing at this time of year, a Coral Fungus. They are not related to those little organisms that make reefs but are named because of their similar appearance to some oceanic corals. There are about 30 different kinds of fungi loosely grouped as Coral Fungi. This one is distinctive enough so that I will venture to identify it as Clavulinopsis corniculata.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Toothed Jelly Fungus (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum)

I mentioned in yesterday's post about the wide variety of shapes and colors of mushrooms. As an example, here's another favorite fungus of mine, the Toothed Jelly Fungus (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum). It looks more like some kind of super-modern lighting fixture than a mushroom. In the gloom of the deep woods they seem to gather in what light there is and glow like tiny lamps They are not very big - I've seen a few as big as a silver dollar but most are about half that size. Apparently they are edible though rather tasteless.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fluted Black Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa)

Usually I avoid attempting to identify mushroms, partly because it is difficult, but also because it often involves taking specimens and I prefer to leave mushrooms, like wild flowers, where I meet them instead of uprooting them just to satisfy my curiosity. However, this mushroom is distinctive enough in appearance alone that I will venture an opinion on its identification as a Fluted Black Elfin Saddle (Helvella lacunosa). It has a rather morbid color and shape and this has set me to wondering why mushrooms differ so much in appearance. Wildflowers are generally agreed to have evolved their shapes and colors to attract pollination agents such as bees. However, I've yet to hear a rationale for any of the variations in shape and color of mushrooms.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Walk Beside the Breakwater

In last Friday's post about Ogden Point I mentioned how popular it is for strollers but I neglected to note how popular it is with scuba divers. The bottom off the breakwater is about 100 feet (30 meters) deep and the seaward side faces a kelp forest that is home to many sea creatures. Divers don't need a boat; they can simply walk along the breakwater for a few hundred yards and they are in deep water. I suspect it is fun but those divers are carrying a hefty load of equipment. It must be a great relief to get into the water.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Old West Saanich Road

I'm a city dweller through and through but whenever I get a chance to drive these back roads I can't help but contemplate how magical it would be to live surrounded by the silence of the woods. - Fern

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Walk on the Breakwater

After several days of rain and overcast a break in the gloomy weather brought many Victorians (including me) out to enjoy the sunshine and bracing winds on the Ogden Point Breakwater. It's a great short walk (785 meters) - like walking out into the ocean. And when the walk out to the light and back has blown the cobwebs out of your brain it's only a few steps to the Ogden Point Cafe and a hot cup of whatever you like.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fleming Beach Sunset

There is a small bay on the western side of Macaulay Point. It is called Fleming Beach. Its breakwater provides a sheltered mooring for sport fishermen and a great place to enjoy the sunset.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Saxe Point from Fleming Breakwater

The Saxe Point panorama posted last week shows a few of the houses facing Saxe Point Park. Above are a few more such houses further around the same point pictured in the panorama. I always enjoy the contrast these houses provide to their rocky location.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Macaulay Point

Last week I posted a panoramic photo taken from Saxe Point Park. Moving eastwards along the coast, the next point is Macaulay Point. Above is the view of the city from the western side of the Macaulay Point.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Trumpeter

When I photographed the Muscovy Duck featured a week or so ago I had actually stopped at this part of Esquimalt Lagoon to photograph one of my favourite residents there, a Trumpeter Swan. He's been living there for at least several years now and seems quite content to mingle with the seagulls and Mute Swans. The latter are an introduced species that have naturalized themselves at Esquimalt Lagoon but the Trumpeter is a native North American bird, our largest.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Spanish Civil War

This monument near the Legislative Assembly Building commemorates Canadians who fought against Fascism in the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939. You can read the details on the plaque in the photo below. The phrase slightly cut off at the bottom reads "No pasarĂ¡n." It's taken from an inspiring speech given during the siege of Madrid in 1936 and means, "They shall not pass!" The siege was broken in 1939 and followed by 35 years of Franco's dictatorship. About 600 Canadians died before the civil war was ended. Many of the 1,000 who returned to Canada then joined the Canadian army to continue to battle Fascism during WW2.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Gonzales Hill Shrouded

On a recent walk the fog rolled in and created such a eerie mood. - Fern

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Selkirk Trestle 3 - Looking Northwest

Here is the view from the middle of the Selkirk Trestle looking up The Gorge north and west. On the left the green lawns and trees are part of Banfield Park where the Vic West Community Centre is located. Just beyond where The Gorge curves out of sight on the right is the Tillicum Bridge where The Gorge narrows in width to only a few meters and gives rise to a waterfall that reverses direction depending on the tidal flow. Below is the same view taken from a little closer to the southern shore of the Gorge.