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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

As you can see, Victoria's coastal waters are a popular place for ducks in the winter. There are at least three kinds of duck in the above photo. Left foreground we can see a couple of Bufflehead Ducks, featured HERE a few days ago. They have a black forehead and the top and back of the head is white. Most of the brownish ducks in the center are American Wigeons, featured HERE last week. Today's featured duck is the Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and there are six of them visible at the rear left of this group. They have black heads with a white disk on each cheek. The heads have a characteristic domed appearance. The golden eyes for which they are named are also quite visible. The females are not quite so distinctive and there are no doubt a few in the photo but none that I am able to identify with any certainty. This entire mixed group of ducks was very busily diving, apparently harvesting some kind of seaweed at that particular spot.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

I've posted photos of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) before because they are large, relatively tame and attractive year round residents of this area. Their copious droppings sometimes make walking perilous on lawns where they have been grazing but stepping carefully is no doubt easier than trying to house-train these birds. Those that live here get quite tame and will tolerate fairly close approaches. The goose on the left was honking agressively the whole time I was watching him. The American Wigeons at his feet don't seem to be perturbed and I suspect the honking was intended to warn other geese away from this little island as a precursor to nesting. Both of today's photos were taken from the Westsong Walkway.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

I mentioned a few days ago that there are many kinds of sparrow and here is another. This is the Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus), whom I had the pleasure of meeting this afternoon on the Westsong Walkway. A couple of passersby and I marvelled at what an unusual bird it was. But apparently it's not unusual at all. They're said to be quite common here in Victoria and again I was reminded that I tend to go through the days not really aware of what is all around me. How could I have spent over 15 years of my life here in Victoria without ever noticing this bird?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bird Problems

I mentioned yesterday that I went out to Macaulay Point looking for some different kinds of birds to photograph and I saw some. You can see them too in the above photo. Just look for some tiny dots about the size of a grain of sand swimming foolishly distant from the shore. Oh well, thanks to my telephoto lens I was able to get close enough at least to identify them and shoot the fuzzy photos below. Directly below are a trio of Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus)And below are a pair of nicely posed Bufflehead Ducks (Bucephala albeola). These ducks are much more attractive than my photos indicate - but there really is a problem getting close enough to them. More patience required! They are a delight to watch diving and popping up like little balls.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gray Day

I went out to Macaulay Point today to see if I could spy some different kinds of birds. Tomorrow I'll post a few photos of what I saw but to set the scene here's what it was like today looking from Macaulay Point in Esquimalt across the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards the Olympic Peninsula. (For those not from this part of the world: those mountains are in the USA. The rocks in the foreground are in Canada.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


There's some controversy amongst taxonomists about Crow (Corvus) species, the differences between which are difficult if not impossible for the amateur to perceive. So this may be the Common or American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), or the slightly smaller Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus). I suspect this is the latter since it was quite a small crow and hanging out just above the shore along the Westsong Walkway. Wikipedia has some discussion of the taxonomic differences and, as mentioned in an earlier post, crows have their own website,, where you can find out more about their language and culture.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Though the day started with rain, by noon the sun was out and we had another brilliant warm afternoon. This was good for me because I was anxious to get out and try the next bunch of bird photography experiments. I am very pleased with the above photo since it tells me that if I just take time and learn patience I can capture these little creatures as I see them. This is a sparrow - of which there are many kinds. My guess is that it is a Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) and I bless his little heart for posing so beautifully.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Walk on Beacon Hill

I usually complain a lot about the weather because I want it to be about twice as hot here as it normally is. Lately, however, when I see the weather reports from other parts of the Northern Hemisphere I feel quite smug and contented. Victoria is having a remarkably balmy winter and people here are enjoying being outside for a walk like this couple on Beacon Hill.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Black Oystercatcher

I went out a few mornings ago to take some nice photos of local birds and after a few hours I came away with a much better appreciation of excellent wildlife photographers' work. You know, those crystal clear photos where every feather is in perfect detail. Birds are small, paranoid, jumpy creatures and while I've seen a few interesting ones lately, here's the only one that stood still long enough and near enough so that I could photograph him. It's one of a pair of Black Oystercatchers that were hunting up some lunch on the rocks below the Westsong Walkway. These are also identified (in Peterson's "Field Guide to Western Birds" and Wikipedia) as American Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani). Stay tuned - I've got some Common Goldeneyes, some loons and a Common Merganser in my sights if they ever just relax and float quietly for a bit....

Friday, January 22, 2010


Though it's cloudy and gray out today it's impossible not to enjoy these snowdrops that have just started blooming in the last few days. There are about 20 different species of this flower in the genus Galanthus and I have no idea which species these are. I've posted two photos of them (taken with different lenses) because I can't decide which I like best.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Esquimalt Lagoon from Saxe Point

The weather has been so balmy and spring-like lately I ventured out to Saxe Point Park in Esquimalt a few days ago. This view is from the point looking west towards Esquimalt lagoon. Though it is very small, in the upper part of the photo on the right side you can see the red-capped white tower of the Fisgard Lighthouse.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


When I was much younger and lived in a rural area I liked to do a little bird watching from time to time. I also did a little when I lived in Africa but of late, living as I now do in an urban environment I have pretty much ignored the birds on the assumption that the most interesting ones were hiding out in distant forests. I have featured some of our more common city birds on this blog: seagulls, pigeons (Rock Doves), crows, Mallard Ducks, the Great Blue Heron, Hooded Mergansers, and recently, a House Finch. But lately my interest in birding was challenged and resuscitated when I found out that there are over 100 species of birds that can be seen in Victoria and its environs.Above (foreground) is a new acquaintance, the Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope). He's visiting here from much further north and spending some time with his relatives, the American Wigeons (Anas americana)(in the background above and, more clearly, pictured below). These were photographed in Beacon Hill Park a few days ago.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Shoal Point at Sunrise

Here's another shot taken yesterday early in the morning. This is a 30 second exposure.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Yesterday's photo taken during twilight reminded me that I have been meaning to follow advice I've read from several expert photographers to get out and take pictures before sunrise. So while the rest of you were still fast asleep I was out taking some dawn photos. The one above is actually a little before the sunrise. It's Victoria's Inner Harbour with the condos along the Westsong walkway on the left.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mall Near the End of the Oil Age

I realize that I operate as if my way of life is going to continue pretty much as it is forever. I suspect that's because I live as if I too were going to just go on and on and on. At twilight however I sometimes see my ordinary existence with nostalgia, as if I were looking back at the past from a future far different from what we can even imagine.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Avast! Ye Scurvy Dogs

There's a lot of interest in pirates these days what with real contemporary pirates such as those operating in the Arabian Sea who've recently been in the news. There have also been some recent film pirates in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film series. The Maritime Museum of British Columbia has some interesting artifacts from pirates of a few hundred years ago, including the charming device at the left, in which convicted pirates were suspended publicly for long periods of time as a deterrent to piracy. Captain Kidd's body was hung like this for 10 years before his family was allowed to claim his remains. On the right are a variety of pirate flags. As can be seen, the skull and crossbones was only one such flag and every pirate was free to design his own.

In addition to a collection of pirate weapons such as flintlock pistols, cutlasses and pikes, the museum also offers educational programs about pirates and piracy for kids, advertised by the poster below. You can find out more about this and other educational programs by clicking through to the Maritime Museum website:

All the information in this post is from displays in the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and should not be used or reproduced elsewhere without their permission.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Boy William Wallace

The Maritime Museum of BC is not just a collection of artifacts. They do an excellent job of bringing us closer to the people who are represented by the historical objects and documents, as in the display below.

An ornate scroll beside this photo identifies the young subject as "Boy William Wallace" of the Royal Canadian Navy and states, "He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who, at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten."

Below is the ship on which this young sailor served, the Auxiliary Patrol Ship Galiano. "On October 30, 1918 while carrying supplies northward for the Triangle Island Lighthouse crew, situated 14 miles off the northern tip of Vancouver Island, GALIANO was caught in a fierce storm and foundered. All 40 aboard were lost. Among the crew of officers and men was Boy Seaman William Wallace."
All the information in this post is from displays in the Maritime Museum of British Columbia and should not be used or reproduced elsewhere without their permission.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Maritime Museum of British Columbia

My recent visit to the Royal BC Museum reminded me that I had long promised myself another visit to the Maritime Museum of BC, located in Bastion Square. It's the large cream building with the green and white trim pictured above. On the left is a small sample of the fascinating displays inside the museum. It is a chair made in 1692 from timbers of a ship wrecked during the battle of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Historical objects such as this make history seem real in a way that mere words on paper never can. There's many more displays relating to ships and the sea and local maritime history that I'll share with you over the next few days.
I posted another photo of the Maritime Museum HERE, taken last year during balmier weather.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Signs of Spring

Here's a flower I always associate with early spring - polyanthus (primula) bedding plants set out in front of our local supermarket.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Scattered amongst the brilliant green of yesterday's mossy picture is an equally abundant crop of lichen, another plant that thrives in this cold, wet weather. Lichen is actually two plants that live together in symbiosis. One is a fungus (the mycobiont) and the other is a chlorophyll-producing plant (the phycobiont). Their relationship appears to be rather complex so for those of you who are interested, HERE's a link to what Wikipedia has to say about lichen.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tis the Season to be Mossy

Though we tend to tread them underfoot, there are some local plants that thrive in this cold wet weather, mosses and lichens. This year what seems to me to be a more than ordinarily wet winter has produced a splendid crop of mosses such as those above visible along the Westsong Walkway. There are times when Victoria's colors remind me very much of Ireland.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dreams of Summer

Yesterday the clouds and rain blew away and gave us a lovely, spring-like afternoon. It was very nice to see some blue sky again.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Still in the Museum - Diorama

Well, I know it's only a stuffed animal but you've got to admit it's pretty well done. It's still raining outside so we're still in the museum. This is one of several dioramas depicting various environments in British Columbia. The Woolly Mammoth I photographed a few days ago resides in another diorama.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Artists and Artisans

Totem poles,the monumental artistic creations of the native peoples of the North Pacific Coast,are so well known that it is easy to forget the many other ways their artistic style was expressed, in statuary, architecture and utilitarian objects such as the oil dish to the left or the Chilkat blanket to the right. The Royal BC Museum has a wonderful selection of a wide range of objects, both historical and contemporary, that are of striking beauty and outstanding craftsmanship.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)

I seem to be on an urban wildlife theme lately so I might as well include this Victoria resident whom I visited with today. Don't miss the chance to say hello to him this week - it's Admission by Donation Week at the Royal BC Museum. I spent the whole afternoon there - my first visit in about 30 years. I expect I'll be going back soon. It's full of fascinating things and well worth the price of admission.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Parking with Bears

One of Victoria's largest murals is on the side of the Mark's Work Wearhouse store facing the Capital Iron parking lot on Store Street. It was painted by "Mural Man" Jeff King in 1996 and is entitled "Sher's Bears" in dedication to his sister.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I often remark on seagulls and post their pictures here but above is another city-dwelling bird. In this city, however, they are far outnumbered by seagulls. These are Rock Pigeons (Columba livia). This group was scrabbling for bread crumbs some kind soul had scattered in front of the Salvation Army building at the bottom of Johnson Street.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Singles Bar

She's thinking, "Gee, I rilly like his hair but maybe I should tell him sun block works better if you spread it around...."
He's thinking, "She's like awesome but her dog looks heavy...."

I love places that sell garden statuary. There's a couple along Store Street here. Capital Iron is the best but this one (Chintz & Co) also has a nice selection.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Actually I know this is not a parrot. But I've just spent an hour searching through my Peterson's Field Guide to Western Birds without finding anything that really matches this fellow. The sun came out for awhile yesterday and while I was wandering around above the Gorge, he (or she) came and struck this lovely pose. So I've titled this post "parrot" in the hopes that some irate birder will click through and inform me what kind of bird this is.
Bravo to reader Marnie, Ms. Toast Burner, who blogs over at "One Slice at a Time." She identifies this as a male House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), a member of the rosefinch genus. Wikipedia has a good picture of this bird that leaves little doubt she is correct. Thank you Marnie!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010

Duck Days

Lots of rain here these days. It makes it a challenge to take photos outdoors since the camera gets dangerously wet almost immediately. However, while walking through the grounds of the Dockside Green condo development this afternoon I couldn't resist taking a shot of these guys looking perfectly comfortable in their classy rain gear.