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Wednesday, June 30, 2010


On Sunday while Dean Lewis was drawing my caricature (see previous post) I was also able to listen to some musical artistry from a little further up the causeway, the superb guitar stylings of Jean Bedard. He's another example of an artist whose performances you should plan to catch if you're visiting (or living) in Victoria. Jean's a quiet performer but if you
slow down,
sit down,
tune out the traffic noises and
you will be amply rewarded by his immaculate technique and sensitive interpretations. Buy one of his CDs to remind you of summer when next winter comes. Jean's not always on the Inner Harbour Causeway - often he plays at Fisherman's Wharf. To find out when and where he (or any other Causeway Artist) is playing, check the playlist schedule on the Causeway Artists website by clicking here. Below is a sample of Jean's playing and singing.
"Lay Down by the Water" played by Jean Bedard

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Youth and Age

On the left is me, last Sunday, as seen by caricature artist, Dean Lewis, on the Inner Harbour Causeway. On the right is me 52 years ago as seen by an unknown artist at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver.

Although I'm a photographer I don't like photographs of myself because I always seem to have a gloomy, even grim, expression on my face and I don't generally feel like that inside. I like Dean's caricature because for once I actually look a little bit more like I usually feel.

Below is a shot of Dean at work on my physiognomy, always an interesting enough process to capture a few curious spectators. If you're down on the Inner Harbour in Victoria, stop and say Hello to Dean and if you want an interesting portrait, sit down and let him draw you. You won't regret it. Thanks, Dean.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Beauty and Beast?

I went to the Beacon Hill Park Children's Zoo yesterday to photograph the Running of the Goats, a daily event patterned after the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. I got sidetracked, however, by these two birds, both so strikingly shaped and colored yet calling forth such different human reactions. So far as I know there is no useful purpose to the decorative aspects of these birds beyond attracting mates and I am sure the turkey cock attracts female turkeys as ably as the peacock attracts peahens. Yet for most of us, the turkey is repulsive and the peacock is beautiful. Hmmm. As for the goats, they ran admirably but I misjudged the shutter speed/aperture combination required to capture the savage splendor of their morning stampede, so I'll be going back soon. It's no hardship since the Children's Zoo is one of my favorite places.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Richter Pass

Here's a view from my recent holiday that never fails to please my eyes, the Richter Pass. The Similkameen Valley runs mostly east and west, roughly parallel and not very distant from the international border with the USA. The nearby Okanagan Valley runs north and south. The Richter Pass connects the two valleys. It is not often this spectacular yellow shade nor are the hills usually so green, effects of an unusually wet spring. These pastures are part of a large cattle ranch, another important agricultural aspect of this area.

Friday, June 25, 2010


In my recent posts about my trip to the Similkameen and Okanagan Valleys I have focused on the wild flora and fauna but what these valleys are best known for is fruit production - apples, peaches, apricots, plums, pears and cherries. At this time of year the cherries were just ripening but these look good enough to eat right now. Over the last forty years there has also been a steady increase in the number of vineyards and wineries in this area and as the wines produced here gain credibility, fruit orchards are being replaced by rows of grape vines.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bears (Ursus americanus)

Shortly after we began the descent to the valley floor along the switchback road pictured above, the bear and cub to the left were sighted. Mother bears with cubs are notoriously dangerous so while I was tempted to get closer I was also more than conscious of how fast bears can run. When we first saw them they were already on the move up the slope. Then the mother paused and looked back at us while waiting for the cub to catch up. When he had bounced up the hill past her she moved into cover off to the left. I didn't attempt to follow her. (Reader Carolyn from Haida Gwaii kindly posted a video link of a similar encounter with bears in British Columbia north of here, though the bears in the video are the rather more aggressive Grizzly Bears. Click HERE to see the video.) I suspect the bears I saw were American Black Bears (Ursus americanus), though the distinctions between Black and Brown Bears are quite subtle. The valley in the above photo is the Similkameen Valley near Hedley, British Columbia.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yellow Bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris)

Here's a close relative of the ground squirrel featured in a recent post, the Yellow Bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris). This one was living on a rock slope with numerous family and friends and there were several Columbian Ground Squirrels living there too. This photograph was taken on a spectacular trip above the Similkameen Valley near the Apex Mountain Ski Resort. I have now returned to Victoria but will share a few more of my holiday pictures over the next few days.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Battle Bluff

Local legend has it that an invading native band who had camped on the top of this precipitous bluff were surprised at night when planning an attack on a small fishing village situated on the bank of the river below. All the invaders were forced over the edge except one who was allowed to return to his home village to warn them not to attempt such an attack again.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus)

Here's another member of the local wildlife set here in the Similkameen Valley. This is a Columbian Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus), photographed in a small river valley that empties into the Similkameen River, called the Ashnola. These little ground squirrels are quite commonly seen keeping watch along the roadsides and whistling warnings to other nearby squirrels of anything unusual or dangerous.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva)

If you are lucky enough to be wandering around in the sagebrush country above the Okanagan Valley in the springtime you may encounter the spectacular booms of the Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva). Generally the slender little basal leaves have withered away and only the blossoms are visible above the surface of the earth. The blossoms range in colour from the magenta above through a range of pinks to almost white.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mountain Goats (Oreamnos americanus)

Looking rather scruffy while they are shedding their heavy winter coats, here are a couple of Mountain Goats (Oreamnos americanus) with some of their kids. The dense wool from winter coats is wonderfully warm and soft and is much prized by weavers. These are large wild goats that clamber about the steep mountainsides with amazing agility. They are actually more closely related to antelope than to domestic goats and are much larger than the latter. We came across this group quite close to the highway near Olalla, British Columbia. Of course I took about a hundred photos of them, a few more of which I'll share later.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Prickly Pear (Opuntia fragilis)

These tough little cactus plants are VERY well protected but it's worth risking some inevitable punctures to get close enough to smell the sweet spicy perfume these gorgeous flowers emit. These are Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia fragilis) and were photographed above the Okanagan Valley in Mount Conkle Park.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Prairie Valley

Greetings all from the wonderful southern interior of British Columbia. I know I'm a day late but I had some technical problems to overcome, not to speak of being surrounded by what has to be some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. The above is called Prairie Valley and lies just outside of Summerland, British Columbia. I spent the day in those hills with some friends looking for Bitterroot and Prickly Pear cactus in bloom. I'll be posting photos of those soon. The brightly lit mountain in the background is called Giant's Head.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BC Ferries

Victoria is on an island so always the first step in any trip to or from the city is to cross to the mainland. You can fly but most people take one of the large car ferries that cross hourly during the day. It takes a little less than two hours to cross in a ferry such as the one pictured above. If you're out on deck you will almost certainly see some seals and maybe some orca as well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Time for a break....

I am fortunate to have friends living in another part of British Columbia who are kind enough to invite me to spend a week with them every year. In the past I have uploaded photos of Victoria in advance to cover the days of my absence from the city. However, this year I will take the liberty of posting as I travel so you can see some of the rest of the Province of British Columbia, of which Victoria is the capital. British Columbia is a very large area (about twice the size of France or four times the size of the UK, for instance) and has a number of distinct climatic zones although much of it is covered with mountains and forest.

Monday, June 14, 2010


When I came across ghostly Indian Pipe featured a few days ago I was actually looking for deer because about 50% of the times I visit Fort Rodd Hill I see a deer (sometimes two) on the road. Usually my camera bag is safely locked up in the luggage carrier on the back of my scooter. This time I decided to stop before seeing a deer, get my camera out, set it up properly and put it around my neck so that when I spied a deer I would be ready. Here are the results of that planning. Though these deer are wild, they are quite tame and will tolerate you if you don't move around too much or approach too closely. Fort Rodd Hill has some quite large areas of forest and is adjacent to Esquimalt Lagoon and the Royal Roads University Campus, which also have large contiguous areas of forest so it is not surprising to see deer there. Similarly for a beautiful young buck I saw a few weeks ago in Mount Douglas Park, another fairly expansive area. The most surprising deer I've seen in the city though was one I saw along the railway tracks here in Victoria West, pictured here, and more recently one I saw in Highrock Park, which is a very small park in a densely populated residential area. Yet no matter where I see one of these graceful creatures it's always a treat. This is a young Blacktail Deer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

USS Ronald Reagan

Here's another photo from the recent Navy and Parks Canada celebrations out at Fort Rodd Hill. To the left of the Fisgard Lighthouse, that enormous ship is the USS Ronald Reagan, an American aircraft carrier that is here for the Canadian Navy's Fleet Review. The ship carries about 6,000 servicemen and over 60 combat aircraft. Click HERE to read the FAQ.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Beaver (Castor canadensis)

I know, I promised yesterday to post photos of a deer today but this is Canada and sometimes when you are looking forward to deer you get beaver. The Beaver (Castor canadensis) is a large rodent that is the national animal of Canada. It achieved this symbolic status because its prized fur was a major reason for early European exploration and exploitation of this country. I believe it is the only rodent to have achieved national animal status but although it is of the same family as rats, it is quite a different sort of animal. Wherever it lives it transforms the landscape by damming streams to create the ponds it prefers to inhabit. It builds its dams from trees it fells in the forest. The large plastic version of this industrious vegetarian (mostly eats bark from trees) pictured above is on display at Fort Rodd Hill, which is the scene of a celebration of the Canadian Navy's 100th anniversary. There are lots of interesting things to see in addition to Fort Rodd and the Fisgard Lighthouse (simultaneously celebrating its 150th anniversary) and lots of events today (Saturday) so, if you're in the neighbourhood, drop in and celebrate with the Canadian Navy and Parks Canada.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

The wonderfully strange and ghostly plant above is commonly called Indian Pipe, Ghost Plant or Corpse Plant (Monotropa uniflora) and it has long been number 1 on my list of wildflowers I want to see. So I am sharing this photo with you today with a definite sense of satisfaction since I first encountered these in a forest near Victoria yesterday. Despite their appearance they are NOT a kind of fungi or mushroom. They are a flowering plant that lives from decaying plant matter rather than through the use of chlorophyll and photosynthesis. When I wander around in the forest I am usually looking for something specific because that provides a focus. Yesterday I was hoping to encounter a deer because, though I have seen several this year, I have not yet photographed one. I was also glancing around on the lookout for local orchids and for Indian Pipe, without much hope of seeing the latter because the forest floor where I was walking was quite well lighted and I had always pictured this plant as growing in the dimness beneath a dense rain forest canopy. Suddenly I saw one poking up above the moss. Then I saw the rest and realized I was in the midst of a grove of them, dozens of them all around me.

ps: I DID see a deer later - but that's tomorrow's photo.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Saturday Morning Bubbles... Oak Bay.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Threeleaf Foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata)

These delicate blossoms belong to another member of the saxifrage family, the Threeleaf Foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata). This is from my recent walk up Mount Douglas.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Causeway

I took advantage of another warm sunny day yesterday to visit one of my favorite summertime haunts, Victoria's Inner Harbour Causeway. There were lots of strollers enjoying the view and many of the artists and performers that make this area such a vibrant and memorable experience. Summer has begun!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bumper Cars

Is there anything finer?Probably not, although some seem to prefer the Tilt-A-Whirl.Whatever your taste in inane childish thrills, you will find it at the Oak Bay Tea Party. If the midway rides are not enough, you can belly up to some fries and gravy and a slushie while you watch the bathtub races. And of course, since it's Oak Bay, there is also the Baron of Beef and Tetley's Tea option. Where else can you have a troop of Girl Guides serve you tea on the beach? It's all still happening today at Willows Beach in Oak Bay and it's all for the benefit of local charities. Don't miss this great local event.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Small-flowered Alumroot (Heuchera micrantha)

Here's a member of the Saxifrage family that is exhibiting these delicate sprays of blossoms from the rocky cliffs that line the road leading to the summit of Mount Douglas Park. Lewis J. Clark calls it the Small-flowered Alumroot (Heuchera micrantha) while Wikipedia calls it Crevice Alumroot.

Friday, June 4, 2010


A bit of summer crept through the bleak and stormy weather we've been having so I took the opportunity for a walk in Mount Douglas Park to see what the rains and cool weather have brought out of the ground. Everything was very lush and I saw some nice flowers but I'll start with a couple of shots of some mushrooms I encountered. I don't know what genus or species these mushrooms are so if there are any mycophiles amongst my readers I hope you will take a shot at identifying them.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

The rich profusion of blossoms above belong to a plant most of us pass by without a thought these days although it has an incredibly rich history in Europe and Asia as well as America. It's a common roadside weed called Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). It's been used as a tool for divination and has many medicinal uses in cultures around the world. Whenever I see it I always recognize it and remember its pungent and unique smell and taste. The tea is good for you but if you drink it once I guarantee you will never forget its flavor.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bachelor's Button (Centaurea cyanus)

I have been very interested this year to begin to become aware of the progression of wildflowers in this area. The early Fawn Lilies, Shooting Stars and Camas are all pretty much gone now and have been replaced by tall grass dotted with the brilliant blue flowers above and to the right. These bright blue flowers were one of the first I ever learned to recognize although I never knew the reason for the nomenclature until today (thanks to Wikipedia). It has a number of common names but the name I was taught was Bachelor's Button (Centaurea cyanus). The reason for the name was that in folklore it was a flower that would be worn in a buttonhole by a bachelor in love. If the flower faded quickly, it meant his love would not last.

I don't know about love but the picture to the right illustrates something which is definitely fading, the honeybee population. That insect digging around in the Bachelor's Button is not a honeybee. It's some kind of bumblebee.
I've not seen a honeybee this year though I've been out photographing flowers almost every sunny day since spring began. Honeybees are disappearing over large parts of North America and Europe and nobody quite knows why. There are some stories on the phenomenon HERE and HERE.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bear Hill View

The Bear Hill Regional Park I visited a few weeks ago offers some lovely views of the rural countryside of the Saanich Peninsula. If you haven't noticed before, I'm very fond of views framed by trees and flowers in the foreground....