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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

I went to Bear Hill Regional Park recently to check on the spring flowers (Ladyslippers especially) there. When I reached the summit of the hill I was rewarded by the sight of a half dozen Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) cruising on the thermals. Seeing these birds always reminds me of those dusty spaghetti westerns that were the only place I saw vultures during my youth. I suspect this was because one rarely sees them on the ground here and unless you're a bit of bird watcher they are not easily identifiable in the air.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Theme Park

I have mentioned before that sometimes it seems to me that living in Victoria is like living in a big theme park. Not surprisingly, given the watery nature of the city, the main theme is nautical. Here's one of the "rides" that sails out Fisherman's Wharf regularly in the summer with a cargo of children. They sail around the Inner Harbour and generally seem to have a piratical good time. Find out more on their website

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Swiftsure 2012 International Yacht Race

When it's spring and the Legislative Assembly Buildings are almost obscured behind a forest of masts it's a sure sign that the Annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race is about to begin. Yachts planning to take part in the race arrive during a few days prior to the races on Sunday and tie up in the Inner Harbour. (My apologies for the small photos this morning but blogger is refusing to render larger photos properly right now....)

The races (there are several with varying routes and lengths) start on Sunday morning. In the photo below, the puff of blue smoke from an echoing cannon shot signals the beginning of a race.
Above and below, spectators gather to see the racers at Clover Point where the boats rendezvous after leaving the Inner Harbour moorings.

Monday, May 28, 2012


I am celebrating Memorial Day for all you south of the border by posting a picture taken in one of my favorite cities; Portland. While it doesn't really show Portland proper, it does capture the spirit of that city I think. It's a unique urban environment that still feels very green. - Fern

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Darling Buds of May

First off, happy Memorial Day weekend to all of our southern visitors; I hope you're having a glorious long weekend. While we may not be having a holiday, it really feels like summer has begun. There are so many things going on and people out and about enjoying themselves under blue skies. - Fern

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tossing the Haggis

Here's some lads at the recent Highland Games engaged in the fine auld sport of Tossing the Haggis or the Haggis Hurl. The youngster above clearly believes that it's all in how you hold your mouth. Och aye the noo, it's a pleasure to see the young participating in the ancient rites of their race.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Inner Harbour Causeway

In case you're thinking that the Highland Games were Victoria's only activity during the long weekend, the warm sunny weather on Saturday brought lots of people out for a stroll on the Inner Harbour Causeway and to listen to band concerts on Ship Point and in front of the Legislative Assembly Buildings. In the photo above we are looking eastward along the southern side of the causeway. This side features arts and crafts of the local native peoples. There is a wonderful selection of jewelry, wood carvings and other crafts such as the superb west coast wear called Cowichan Sweaters. I am sure they are still as warm and waterproof as in the old days. The photo below is of the eastern side of the causeway and also has a wide variety of arts and crafts for sale representing a number of different cultural traditions. Most of the buskers (musicians) and other performers (juggler/comedy routines) also perform along this eastern side. There are food stalls at both ends of the causeway and where the southern and eastern sides meet - everthing from fresh squeezed fruit juice and smoothies to Belgian Waffles, Bubble Tea, Mini-donuts and Gyros and lots of other tasty munchies.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Highland Games 3

While the men are as heavy and ponderous as the weights they throw around (scroll down to see yesterday's post) the lassies are as light as gossamer and seem almost to float above the stage.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Highland Games 2

There is a brutal simplicity to the sports at the Highland Games that I admire. Basically the sports seem to consist of very large men in kilts throwing very heavy weights. Above and to the left are two examples but there are several others where the weights are differently shaped. Sometimes it is how far you can throw the weight horizontally (above photo) and other times it is how high you can throw it (left photo).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Highland Games

Every year all Victoria's Scots and would-be Scots hold a two day celebration of all things Scottish called the Highland Games. Usually, in anticipation of the big Victoria Day Parade here I forget to attend this event, so I made a special point of remembering it this year. It was good that I did since the parade on Monday was rained on and I decided to stay home. Saturday, however, was bright and sunny and I joined the tartaned crowds to watch the tossing of the Haggis and the many other events. The skirling of pipe bands accompanied the above competition, a judging of Drum Major skills. We'll have a look at some of the other activities later in the week.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mount Wells Regional Park

This beautiful park is located in Langford and is part of the Sea to Sea Green Blue Belt. We took advantage of Saturday's sun to hike up to the summit and the view was well worth the lung busting ascent! Here we are looking north towards the Saanich Inlet which you can just see in the distance. The smaller body of water in the foreground is the Humpback Reservoir. It was once connected to the larger Sooke Reservoir through 44 km of the concrete piping pictured below. Until the 1990s this was how Victorians received their drinking water. - Fern

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Luxton Fair

Victoria Day Weekend means two things to many Victorians: the fair and the parade. Last night, with camera in hand we hit the fair at dusk and wow, what a visual feast! The lights, the crowd, the smell of the deep fryers, the screaming, it's a heady experience even without going on the rides! - Fern

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Toronto Pearson International Airport

Airports are not usually places where one chooses to spend much time. Nevertheless, anyone who travels much ends up spending hours in these vast echoing buildings that, though they are all designed for the same purposes, manage to express distinct characters. Much of that distinctness comes from the public art that occupies some of the floor space. Above, for this week's "Somewhere Saturday", is an example from Toronto's Pearson International Airport. It's an interesting piece in that it affects the ambient sound as one walks through the spaces it creates. Compare this with Vancouver and Beijing International Airports' art.

Friday, May 18, 2012

One Man Band Dave Harris

No roll call of Causeway performers would be complete without welcoming the presence once again of one of the city's treasures, one-man-band and author, Dave Harris. Dave's been providing his brand of the blues on the Causeway for more than thirty years now. You can find out more about Dave, his music, and his book (a veritable encyclopedia of One Man Bands) by clicking HERE. Listen to a sample track below.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Swan Walker

Here's another of the Causeway's finest performers, Swan Walker. Swan plays mostly reggae though he salts his performances with songs from other genres. When he brings his big blue steel drums they give a whole new edge to tried and true reggae favorites. Best of all, though, in my opinion, is when Swan plays his own compositions - interesting tunes that provide a firm basis for lyrics that are intelligent and arresting. Swan's another good reason for spending some time on the Causeway.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


The Inner Harbour Causeway is a bit of a circus in the summer but it's a warm, friendly circus where visitors to the city can mix with the performers and artists. Plasterman, pictured here today, though he looks a little aloof and unapproachable, is a wonderful entertainer who routinely interacts with passersby and leaves them with lasting pleasant memories. Check out his website HERE. I think our city owes a vote of thanks to the buskers and other entertainers and artists who meet visitors on the causeway. They are infinitely patient and friendly and are a credit to our city.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garry Oak Ecosystem

Highrock Cairn Park in Victoria West - our small local example of the Garry Oak Ecosystem - My favorite park at my favorite time of year.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I just bought some new wheels - a nice little Yamaha BWS Scooter - and took it on a test run out to Sooke a few days ago. Sooke is one of what are called the "Western Communities", a series of small communities strung out along the coast of the Vancouver Island west of Victoria. They are linked by a highway that swerves and swoops along the coast above the ocean. Sooke is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Victoria. This photo was taken from "downtown" Sooke overlooking Sooke Harbour. Although many of the residents commute each day to Victoria the community has its own rich and diverse social and cultural life.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

This is our lovely niece, who is herself a beautiful blossom of a child. To her mother, and all the women out there who love and nurture those around them, have a wonderful day. - Fern

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Brussels Sprout

Lately I've posted a photo of a baby duck (Duckling) and a baby hummingbird (Fledgeling) so here, for "Somewhere Saturday" is one of the world's more famous baby humans. This is Brussels' Mannekin Pis, who has been doing his business for just about 400 years a couple of blocks from the Grand Place, pictured two weeks ago.When I was in Brussels about a month ago this symbol of the city was drawing quite a crowd. I can only imagine what it's like in the summer. Brussels takes great pride in this little statue and its fame and that makes me like the Belgians since they must certainly have a good sense of humor.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I always like to see wild life successfully sharing the city with people. And who can resist baby birds? In this case, a baby hummingbird who had just left the nest. Like Roger, pictured a few days ago, this baby was born in an exclusive neighborhood. Its nest was in a tree on the Inner Harbour Causeway.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spring Green

I love spring green. (Now I have to get out my field guides and find the name of this lovely wild flower.)(Later: I can't find it in the field guide which suggests it may be an introduced species. Anybody know what this is?)Visitor Shawn suggested that this is a species of Solomon's Seal and, judging by the photo in Wikipedia and others in Google, he is correct. Thanks Shawn!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jean Bedard

There's a wide variety of musicians performing in the streets and downtown tourist venues. Generally, however, the best are those who live here and who scrape a living doing what they love to do, performing for the public in the open air. I haven't met a rich busker yet but none of them are beggars. In fact, most of them give far more than they receive. Jean Bedard (above) is a good example. Here he is performing on the Inner Harbour Causeway. When I sit down and listen to Jean I'm always amazed that such artistry is so freely given away to casual passersby. Take a listen to "Lay Down by the Water" and you'll hear what I mean. You can find out more about Jean HERE

"Lay Down by the Water" was written by Jack Williams.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Here is a Victoria resident who is very special for a several reasons. First, he's got what is arguably the classiest address in the city. He lives in a small rock garden on one corner of the block occupied by the Fairmont Empress Hotel on Victoria's Inner Harbour Causeway. He's been living there for four years. Secondly, like most of us, he's not a native of the city. In fact, he's probably the only Yellow-bellied Marmot on Vancouver Island. There are other marmots on the island but they are a different species. It's thought he may have hitched a ride here on a car or truck coming from the interior of the province or from Alberta. I've looked for Roger a number of times since I first heard about him but was only lucky enough to catch these photos on Sunday.

Thanks to regular visitors Dean and Cheryl for alerting me to Roger's presence in our fair city and to Roger for posing so nicely.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Olympic Mountains

On a recent trip to Metchosin we took a hike around in the woods and were pleasantly surprised to come into a clearing and discover this amazing view of the mountains across the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Even as a jaded local I am still blown away on a regular basis by the beauty of the pacific northwest. - Fern

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Four Winds" by Chris Johnson aka Ice Bear

This amazing sculpture is located at the bottom of Swift Street, quite close to Canoe Brew Pub. It is one of those pieces that while made of heavy, dense materials has such an incredible sense of fluidity and motion. - Fern

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hanuman - Delhi - "Somewhere Saturday"

Today for "Somewhere Saturday" we'll take another look at my visit to Delhi in April. Delhi is such an overwhelming physical experience that sights like this incredible statue of the monkey god Hanuman seem almost normal. I'll just describe the temperature (about 35 degrees Celsius/95 degrees F.) and the sounds: Traffic in Delhi is very intimate. The personal space around your vehicle is measured in centimeters or inches, only a few of either. Since vehicles drive so close together they must communicate well and constantly and this is done with the vehicle horn. Many vehicles have signs painted on them inviting other motorists to "Horn Please" and everyone seems happy to oblige. It's like a mobile symphony of tooting. Then there are the smells - plenty of carbon monoxide (but less than a few years ago thanks to the introduction of natural gas powered buses) but also a happy mix of incense from little roadside temples and shrines and the spicy smells of street food venders' cooking. In such an ambience it is not too surprising when this enormous statue of Hanuman appears towering over the elevated Metro line. It's 108 feet (32 meters) tall and has a temple inside with the entrance between the God's feet. It has its own website that you can visit by clicking HERE.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Yesterday's duckling shares his little pond with this pair of Painted Turtles. Looking at yesterday's duckling and today's turtles raises the old question of the nature of beauty or, perhaps in this case, the nature of cuteness. Why is the duckling cute and the turtles are decidedly not cute? These are all just animals looking like they are supposed to look after all but why is the duckling so appealing in comparison with the turtles? It's not just age - baby turtles are only slightly cuter than adults. But I suspect that age has a lot to do with it in many cases. Who can resist a kitten? Or a puppy? But the question remains as to why a kitten or puppy is so attractive and a young centipede is not.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


A couple of small pools in the Abkhazi Garden are home to this little fellow and about eight brothers and sisters, all looking equally chipper. Mom and Dad Mallard were in attendance too as their brood took to the water.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Abkhazi Garden

Earlier this week we went for lunch to the Abkhazi Garden. The garden was formerly the home of a couple with a romantic history. He was a prince. There was a love affair in Paris. They were separated by war and imprisoned, but ultimately re-united. They settled in Victoria and devoted their final years to creating beauty in the garden around their house. That beauty is now wonderfully maintained by a corps of volunteers. After a stroll in the garden we enjoyed a superb lunch in the dining room of the house. The photo above was taken in the garden and is one of those mysterious photos that happens from time to time. There is something wrong with this photo but there is also something that is very satisfying for me.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Landen Shaw - Causeway Artist

I was happy to see the Inner Harbour's youngest busker returning again this spring. His name is Landen Shaw and he's 12. He's clearly been working on his playing during the winter because while he was good last year, he's definitely better this year. Below is a little video (not mine) that shows off his skills better than the short video I did last year. Maybe we'll do another this year when the weather warms up a bit.