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Sunday, June 30, 2013


Canada Day Long Weekend is upon us and with the sun shining and that means the patios are open with visitors and locals alike out enjoying all the city has to offer. Pictured here is Canoe Brewpub, a great spot to enjoy the harbour and some local beer and live music! - Fern

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Whenever I am up on Pkols (Mount Douglas) or other local hills or small local mountains I almost invariably see one or more Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) riding the thermals while they search for carrion. In addition to their excellent sight they have a highly developed sense of smell to assist them in finding fresh carcasses. These birds are also known as Turkey Buzzards or simply Buzzards. This is a widespread species, various sub-species extending from southern Canada right down to the southern tip South America. They belong to the same family as the fabled Condors. I like this photo because it shows clearly the perforated nostril charactistic of the family. They are called Turkey Vultures not because they prey on turkeys but because of their resemblance to Wild Turkeys.

Friday, June 28, 2013

One Bright Morning

Now that summer's here the Inner Harbour Causeway is once again a venue for some great local musicians. Here's a pair called "One Bright Morning" consisting of Tad Ruszel and Miki Klaver. Take a listen to the short video I made of them playing earlier this week to get an idea of the high quality performance they offer, something that is characteristic of all the Causeway entertainers.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I mentioned last week that I was having trouble identifying one of the two kinds of pink flowers I saw while out at Esquimalt Lagoon last week. Here is the mystery pink flower. Although I think I have identified it, I could well be mistaken since there are hundreds of species of Allium and the flower pictured above appears to be a little out of its normal geographic location (eastern Washington and Oregon). I believe this is is Allium douglasii, or Douglas' Wild Onion. If not, it must be a close relative - you can check the photos HERE and HERE of virtually identical flowers identified as Douglas' Onion or Douglas Wild Onion.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Powerhouse Trio

The wide variety of musicians playing on the Inner Harbour Causeway make for interesting listening anytime but sometimes, if you're lucky, you will get to see and hear several of the performers jamming in impromptu groups such as pictured above. On the left is Victoria's famous One Man Band, Dave Harris. Center is Ian Bennetts, one half of the Bennetts Brothers Blues Band, the other half of which is sibling Jonathan Bennetts, on the right. These musicians have probably got a hundred fifty years of professional musical experience between them and when they wind it up and pour it out it's a great and unique listening experience.The video below (by Dave Harris) of the group playing a Calypso medley will give you some idea of this performance.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Harpoon Rock

On last week's post about Gonzales Beach I pictured one of the glacial erratics that is on that beach. Here are two more. Both of these are located at Harling Point, which marks one end of Foul Bay (Gonzales Beach). Harling Point is also the site of the Chinese Cemetery and in addition to these glacial erratics is geologically interesting because it lies directly over the intersection of two giant tectonic plates. The erratic pictured above has a name, Harpoon Rock, derived from an old Lekwungen folk tale. A man was hunting seals here when he was visited by "the Transformer" who turned him into this stone.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Do other people see faces in all sorts of places like I do? If there's a knot hole or a bit of scratched paint I see a face every time. - Fern

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Travel with the Stars

Came across this vintage FMC Motor Coach and was of course intrigued. I don't know about anyone else but I've never seen one of these before. The owner said that this particular one had originally been owned by Carol Burnett and has since been used by various stars to travel around in, hence the murals painted on both sides. There is a little more information about these interesting road caravans here. - Fern

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum)

While out at Esquimalt Lagoon recently I came across two kinds of small pink flowers growing near to each other. One was easy to identify - the Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum) pictured above. It's a kind of wild onion that grows all over North America and was gathered and eaten by First Nations people. There is a larger version that is often grown as an ornamental in gardens. The other kind of pink flower I saw that day is proving harder to identify but I'm working on it and will share a photo when I can put a name to it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Hands of Time 5 - Carrying Books

In the upper right hand corner of the above photo you will see another of the small sculptures from the series, "The Hands of Time", this one entitled "Carrying Books". It is located just outside the side entrance to the Victoria City Hall. "The sculptural books symbolize education and governance in the Capital City of British Columbia." The sculpture series is the work of sculptor Crystal Przybille.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gonzales Beach

One of Victoria's nicest little beaches is Gonzales Beach, just below the hill capped by the Gonzales Observatory. Here's what it looked like last Sunday - surprisingly uncrowded despite the warm weather. The huge boulder pictured above is what is known as an "erratic" meaning that it is unlike the other nearby rocks. This erratic and others along Victoria's coastline were carried here by glaciers during the last ice age and dropped on the shore as the ice melted.

On the left, one Gonzales Beach resident uses driftwood to communicate a nice yogic reminder.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia)

These Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia), no doubt hearing of my frustration with my latest birding adventures, contrived to pose in perfect stillness while I clambered ever closer. In fact aside from one's distress at an encroaching seagull (left) they hardly moved for a half an hour while I crept closer and closer. I have seen Caspian Terns on Esquimalt Lagoon before but never so close up. Technically these photos are an improvement on my latest bird photos (these, at least, are in focus) but aesthetically I still have a long way to go. The photo on the left nicely shows the dark underside of the wing that is characteristic of these terns and gives some indication of their size in comparison with our ubiquitous seagulls.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Crown Brodiaea (Brodiaea coronaria)

While out at Cattle Point last week I was pleased to see this brightly colored wildflower scattered quite thickly among the dry grass above the shoreline. This is Crown Brodiaea (Brodiaea coronaria).

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lets Go!

If I was a heroine in a novel I would jump aboard and go have an adventure. - Fern

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fathers Day

It is the hands of our fathers that shape and hold the structure of our lives. Thank you to all the Dads out there who make such a difference every day. - Fern

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cadboro Bay from Cattle Point

I visited Cattle Point on the eastern shore of Victoria to see if there were any shorebirds there. It's a beautiful viewpoint, especially for looking north towards Cadboro Bay, which view is pictured above. I didn't see any shorebirds aside from a few Black Oystercatchers but thanks to a friendly birder who alerted me, I was able to add a new species to my life list, the Rhinoceros Auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata). The photos below are only suitable for identification. My only excuse for such poor photos is that the Rhinoceros Auklets were so far offshore as to be little more than black dots to the naked eye and not much larger through a 500mm supertelephoto lens. However, in the photos below the distinctive white eye plumes and projecting horn at the base of the upper bill are clear identification features.
Cattle Point seems to be a good place in general to view some of our urban wildlife. The photo below shows a Northern Otter, a Crow and two Canada Geese sharing a bit of rocky shoreline, quite unconcerned by a photographer and a class of primary school students roaming around in the near vicinity.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Hands of Time 3 - Performing with a Fan

Here's another of the series of small sculptures that have recently been installed in downtown Victoria. This one is called "Performing with a Fan" and references Victoria's Chinatown, the oldest in Canada. Fans are often used by performers in Chinese Opera and the placement of this sculpture in the heart of Chinatown (on Government Street between Fisgard and Pandora) just outside the McPherson Playhouse is very appropriate.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vic West Annual Skateboard Competition

The Annual Vic West Skateboard Competition took place last Saturday, June 8. There were lots of enthusiastic competitors of all ages and genders. It's fascinating to watch the incredible tricks these kids can do with those little bits of plywood on wheels. See also this post from a few days ago.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pale Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon)

I like to know the names of the various kinds of life that share this environment with us and regular visitors here will know that I am an enthusiastic if inept birdwatcher. I also like to identify our local flowering plants, especially when they bloom so joyfully in spring. Insects seem to be a bit harder for me to identify so I am happy when I can put a name to an insect species I have not identified before. The photo above is of a Pale Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) photographed "puddling" on some damp sand at Agate Beach on Cordova Bay in Saanich. My field guide informs me that these butterflies "puddle" when they sit on some damp sand or earth and suck up moisture and mineral nutrients that they need for breeding.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vic West Skate Park

A wonderful place to take pictures.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Isn't this a nice effect? I bought the mirror in fact, I see in it's depths a whole series of photos.... - Fern

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Will You Take a Dollar For That?

Just like Christmas lights in December or chocolate at Easter, the arrival of Swap-n-shop at Western Speedway means summer is here! I love to see what is laid out on each table; what is treasure and what is junk? - Fern

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi)

Bird photography continues to be a challenge, in terms both of technique and equipment. This lovely little Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi), for instance, persisted in perching on an inaccessible snag (technique problem) just a little too far away for even my longest lens (equipment problem) to capture him well. Nevertheless I spent a delightful hour watching him catch insects in the air, at which he was very adept. He would sit on this snag peering alertly in every direction (he can swivel his head right around to look backwards) and when he sighted an insect he would dive down on it and return to his perch to eat it. Below, he is dining on a bumblebee (left) and a dragonfly (right).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rides - Oak Bay Tea Party

It's that time of year again when the carnival midways pop up in various locations around Victoria. Last weekend these rides graced the Oak Bay Tea Party at Willows Beach. This weekend the midway will light up Esquimalt for Buccaneer Days.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Hands of Time 2 - Holding a Railway Spike

Here's another of the Hands of Time public art sculpture series, this one showing a hand holding a railway spike. It projects from the bottom of a lamp post on Wharf Street, located near the former downtown terminus of the E & N Railway and reminds us of the history and impact of the railroad on Vancouver Island.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hands of Time 1 - Carving a Canoe Paddle

Last week I posted a photo of a small sculpture that recently appeared on the Inner Harbour Causeway wall. It is only one of a series of twelve sculptures of hands engaged in various activities that have been installed here and there in the downtown area and nearby. This one is located in Lime Bay Park southwest of the Songhees (Westsong) Walkway. It depicts hands carving a canoe paddle to recall the local First Nations Lekwungen culture. The canoe paddle was designed by First Nations Artist Clarence Dick. All of the sculptures are by Crystal Przybille and over the next few weeks we'll take a look at all of them.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Making Lunch

Here's a sight I see fairly often when I am on the seashore near some rocks. Local seagulls have learned that if they drop tightly closed clam shells onto a rocky outcrop from a height, the shells will break open and the inhabitant can be eaten. Our gulls do this very purposefully and I consider it a kind of tool-using that indicates considerable intelligence.It seems to me something that, though they probably learn it from observing other gulls, perhaps their parents, they must still apply some of their own intelligence to it to get it right. If they drop the clam from too high then lower-flying nearby gulls may swoop down and steal the morsel. If they drop it from too low then it will not crack the shell. Considerable trial and error practice must take place before the technique is perfected and the clam is dropped from high enough to crack the shell but from low enough so that the gull can drop down and eat it before his neighbours do. Seagulls are smart birds.


Monday, June 3, 2013


I am always so fascinated by the variety of things left curbside with a free sign on them and this is a perfect example. It really could read "Seemed Like a Good Idea" or "Back to the Drawing Board" couldn't it?? However it was gone the next time I went by so someone saw some potential I guess. - Fern