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Monday, February 28, 2011


Well, our snow is all gone this morning but winter's not relaxing its grip much. Here's a view from the West Bay Walkway looking towards Fisherman's Wharf and some of the resort hotels near Shoal Point.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Victoria Bug Zoo

Whether you live in Victoria or are just visiting, here's a place that is worth seeing, the Victoria Bug Zoo. This place is especially good for kids who are interested in creepy-crawlies. The bug zoo has got some of the biggest and creepiest 6 and 8 legged creatures you can imagine. And for the intrepid, you can actually handle some of these insects. Enthusiastic young docents happily tell you all about the bugs. It's well worth a visit.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Harlequin Duck

Here's a duck I've seen in many different locations but never close enough to make a good photo. This brightly colored and patterned beauty is the Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus). This particular bird was seen off Victoria's eastern shore at Cattle Point.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Enough Snow!

Victoria goes into its third day of snow-covered ground and sub-zero temperatures and I'm in total denial. No more pictures of snow - it just encourages it! I'm focused on Spring.... Rose growers have bred and hybridized thousands of different varieties of rose but my favorite is still the wild one such as pictured above.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Boats in the Snow

Yesterday's big snowfall (about 6 or 8 inches) transformed our landscape from early spring back to early winter. I walked down to Banfield Park in Victoria West, overlooking the Gorge. The photo above is of the Gorge looking downstream towards the Inner Harbour. That's the Selkirk Trestle (part of the Galloping Goose Regional Trail) in the distance.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Young Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

I was lucky enough to see this young Cooper's Hawk out at Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary last year and every time I look at the photos I managed to get I am struck by the ferocity and concentration that this bird displays. I posted another photo of this juvenile hawk HERE.

This morning Victoria has several inches of fresh snow and the white stuff is still falling heavily. As soon as it gets a little lighter outside I plan to go out and make some pictures. Below is what it looks like through my front window right now (8:15am).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna)

Here's a bird I have seen and photographed many times without much success. Hummingbirds are a challenge to every photographer because they are so small, so agile and fast, and so beautifully colored. They are very charming birds and some fantastic photos have been taken of them. This is a male Anna's Hummingbird, the only hummingbird that overwinters around here. One of the problems I have when photographing this bird is that its brilliantly magenta colored head is so bright that it always overexposes when it catches the light. Here the bird is at enough of an angle so that only a bit of that brilliance shows. I posted a photo of some hummingbird chicks last year that were likely the progeny of this bird since he was guarding a territory within a stone's throw of their nest in Saxe Point Park.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Green-Winged Teal (Anas carolinensis)

Since I began to observe local birds and attempt to identify and photograph them I have been amazed to discover just how many different kinds there are, especially among the duck family. Here's one I've only seen once, the Green-Winged Teal (Anas carolinensis). This one and his mate were busily dabbling in some very mucky water at the head of Finlayson Arm in Goldstream Park. The photo above is practically the only time this drake had his head above water while I was there.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)

The first time I saw terns like these I had no telephoto lens with me but that didn't stop me from enjoying their hovering and missile-like diving. The photo above is the second time I saw them out at Esquimalt Lagoon but they were quite far away and mostly obscured by the many seagulls surrounding them. I am not 100% certain of my identification of these birds as Caspian Terns. They are the birds in this photo with the large red bills. The distinguishing feature that I think identifies them as Caspian Terns is the black feet and legs visible on the tern just coming in for a landing in this photo.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chestnut-Backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)

While browsing through the archives lately I've come across a number of bird photos that I have not posted because, while they are good enough to enable identification of the bird, they may not be very appealing or competent as photographs. The Chestnut-Backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens) pictured above is one such and I have a few others that I am going to post over the next few days simply as part of the catalog of life in and around Victoria. I must confess to a slight sense of accomplishment when I manage to identify one of the many little brownish/grayish birds that flutter around on the edges of our urban consciousness. For those of my visitors who live here you will be happy to know that despite there being a number of species of chickadee, this is the only one that lives on Vancouver Island so, should you see something like this here you can be pretty sure it is a Chestnut-Backed Chickadee. Wikipedia says it is sometimes considered to be the "most handsome" of chickadees - another good reason to visit this area, especially if you live where there are a lot of ugly chickadees.

Friday, February 18, 2011


These little Snowdrops (Galanthus) are still the only flowers around right now but the buds are swelling on the trees and spring is in the air.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fisgard Lighthouse, Again!

The last couple of days' posts have been from a days' shooting out at Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse during May 2010. Aside from the pleasure of spring colors the reason I've been spending time in that archive is to find and prepare one of the photos taken that day for a Canadian Geographic Magazine special edition on National Historic Sites and National Parks. Another photo of the Fisgard Lighthouse, slightly different from the one above, has been shortlisted for the special edition and a hi-resolution copy was needed. The photo in question is one that originally appeared on this site May 23, 2010 and you can see it by clicking HERE. The reason I'm posting the photo above is that although it is nearly the same as the one I submitted to Canadian Geographic, I think I prefer the one above....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Along the Coast

Continuing to browse through the May 2010 folder that yielded yesterday's post, I came across this one taken the same day. The photo is taken from Fort Rodd Hill (you can see the gun emplacement on the right of this photo) looking westwards and shows the proximity of Esquimalt Lagoon, created by that long spit of land that cuts across the water in this photo. Esquimalt Lagoon is a bird sanctuary and one can almost always depend on seeing a half dozen different species of duck, blackbirds, swans, geese, herons, shorebirds, seagulls and terns as well as the occasional otter. The lagoon is only a few minutes drive from Fort Rodd Hill. Much of the forest in the right center background belongs to Hatley Park, another splendid place to visit and see the wonderful gardens and Hatley Castle. Directly behind me as I took this photo was Fisgard Lighthouse. This catalog is just to indicate how rich and varied is this section of coastline that lies on edge of the Greater Victoria area.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fisgard Lighthouse Reprise

I had occasion to be digging around in the archives yesterday and came across this shot of the Fisgard Lighthouse taken from Fort Rodd Hill last May. It was one of those days with glorious light and a few puffy white clouds and a landscape bursting with spring green. In this cold gray weather we've been having I'm happy to have this photo to remind me of spring.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Seaweed II - Kelp

Back in January I posted a photo of some of the green lettuce-like seaweed that often piles up on the shoreline along the Westbay Walkway and I mentioned that another kind of seaweed also forms large drifts on the beaches. I referred to it as, "spaghetti-like tangles of giant kelp" and you can see what I meant in the above photo. Its latin name is Macrocystis pyrifera and it is the largest of all algae. It can grow as much as 2 feet in a day. Wikipedia has an interesting article on this plant.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Here's another from Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. Everything here is wet and there are overlapping layers of life so that the trunks of enormous trees bear loads of moss and lichens that in turn provide places for ferns to root and grow.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Moss Season

This is the season when moss thrives and I like its green glow in this photo. The forest around Finlayson Arm is very quiet but it's the quiet that follows a long sleep, just before waking. Spring is not here yet but it's coming.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Finlayson Arm

The eastern coastline of the Saanich Peninsula faces the Strait of Georgia. The peninsula's western shore faces Saanich Inlet, a long arm of the ocean that cuts into southern Vancouver Island. The southernmost portion of that arm is Finlayson Arm. The above photo of Finlayson Arm was taken from Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, looking north towards the opening of the Saanich Inlet. That white structure visible on the far left is some of what remains of the industrial town of Bamberton.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Admirals Bridge

A few days ago I posted a photo of Tillicum Bridge, the fourth bridge to cross the Gorge. Moving upstream westward the next and final bridge is the Admirals Bridge or Admirals Road Bridge. Some time ago I posted a photo taken from this bridge but have not before posted a photo of the bridge itself. has posted a nice 360 degree panorama of this bridge that you can see by clicking HERE. The bridge connects two of Victoria's most significant historical sites, Craigflower Manor and Craigflower School. The school is the white building visible through the trees on the far left of the above photo. Craigflower Manor was directly behind the photographer in the above photo. Both of these sites have been featured extensively on this blog in the past.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

World's Coolest Public Urinal

I've borrowed the title of this post from a headline in British Columbia's online newspaper (or e-zine), The Tyee. The headline is from a story describing the public facility pictured here, located downtown at the corner of Pandora and Government Streets. It was designed by Vancouver architect Matthew Soules and has won a prestigious international design award. You can read what The Tyee has to say about this pissoir by clicking HERE. I am sure there are all sorts of sarcastic and provocative remarks I could make here but I will leave that for my regular commenters, who are generally wittier and better informed than I am. All I will say is that I like this design for what I consider to be a necessary public facility.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tillicum Bridge

Last month I posted some photos of the Bay Street Bridge, noting that it was the second bridge to cross The Gorge when moving away from the harbor. The next bridge is the Selkirk Trestle, used exclusively by cyclists and pedestrians. The next bridge for automotive traffic is the Tillicum Bridge which crosses the Gorge at a very narrow place called Reversing Falls because of the vigorous tidal currents that change directions there according to the ebb and rise of the tides. In this photo the water is still at nearly high tide. Beneath the bridge on the right is an ancient shell midden.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Highrock Park Sunset

The mossy summit of Highrock Park in Victoria West catches the last rays of a winter sunset.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


This is the statue of Queen Victoria as a young monarch. It is located in front of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly Buildings overlooking the Inner Harbour. The statue, somewhat more than life size, stands imposingly atop a high pedestal so that her feet are a good ten feet (about 3 meters) above the ground. I find it interesting to compare this with the modern statue of Sir John A. MacDonald, our first Prime Minister, by the entrance to the Victoria City Hall. He stands only slightly elevated above passersby.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Harbour Air

Last week I featured a photo of a West Coast Air seaplane coming in for a landing. The other main airline serving the Inner Harbour is Harbour Air. Here is a shot of one of their seaplanes taxiing into the Inner Harbour in the early evening. As well as flights to/from Vancouver and Vancouver Island destinations, Harbour Air also offers sightseeing packages.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Totem Pole on Songhees Point

The artwork of Pacific Northwest Native Peoples is world renowned. Probably its most famous artifact is the totem pole and that pictured above is one of my local favorites. It is located on Songhees Point and has, in part, been featured here before. Visit the Songhees Nation website to find out more about the history and culture of the people who lived here before European settlers arrived. There are also some good photos showing the various stages during the creation of a totem pole. Wikipedia also has a good article on totem poles.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Smart Birds 2

Here's another example of intelligent birds. The seagulls pictured above and below were photographed out at Esquimalt Lagoon. Both photos were taken within about a half hour I spent observing these gulls (and others) flying past with these clams in their beaks. They catch the clams in the shallows of the lagoon and then fly over the road to a nearby bunch of large boulders. As soon as the gulls are above these rocks they drop the clams from high enough so that the force of their fall onto the rocks cracks the shells. The gull then swoops down and enjoys his shellfish.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Smart Birds 1

Western science has been slow to recognize intelligence in animals. I suspect this is because since we began to get our food from agriculture there has been little need to observe animals closely in the way that hunters do. I always enjoy seeing animals think and above is a little example I saw out at Esquimalt Lagoon. Great Blue Herons usually wade around until they catch a small fish. Getting their catch from the end of that long beak into their mouth is usually just a matter of opening the beak briefly while tipping the head back so that the catch slides down towards the throat. I've never seen a heron lose a small fish while doing this so I watched with interest when the heron pictured above caught a furiously wriggling eel (above left). I figured he was going to lose it for sure as soon as he opened his bill in order to slide it down towards his mouth since the eel was whipping itself back and forth vigorously. What the heron did in this situation was to wade in to the beach and up onto the shingle. There he dropped his catch on the pebbles where it couldn't swim away to safety. The heron then stabbed it a few times (above center). Once it had stopped moving he picked it up and swallowed it in the usual way (above right). If you think about it, this is a wonderfully complex series of actions. I wonder whether this bird figured this method out for itself or whether it is behavior learned from other herons. I had been watching this heron for some time and earlier saw it twice catch small fish and swallow them without killing them on shore first.