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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

This is a female Brewer's Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus). There is generally a small flock of these blackbirds foraging along the shore of Esquimalt Lagoon or sharing some of the food that people like to give to the swans and ducks. Quite often the Brewer's Blackbirds are accompanied by Red-winged Blackbirds and European Starlings. Despite the summery green evident here, this photo was taken about a week ago and the temperature was only a few degrees above freezing.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Up Close and Personal

Yes, I know it's only a seagull but he was posed so nicely I couldn't resist.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Lunch in Good Company

Well, no, I didn't have lunch yesterday with the Queen, but her portrait (above) was nearby while we ate. The dining room was in Victoria's Legislative Assembly Building and is one of Victoria's hidden dining jewels. Food, presentation and service were superb and prices more than reasonable. While the restaurant is meant for the convenience of legislators, it is open to the public. The Queen's portrait is in recognition of her Diamond Jubilee and is a smaller copy of the original that hangs in Ottawa. This one is displayed on the main floor of the legislature.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Royal Roads

After I'd had a good look at these clouds and taken this photo you can bet that I was packing up and heading for home. This is the body of water known as Royal Roads. It is offshore of Esquimalt Lagoon. For those of you not familiar with "roads" as a nautical term, here is what Wikipedia has to say:
The term Roads (short for roadstead), as applied to a body of water, is "a partly sheltered area of water near a shore in which vessels may ride at anchor". Signifying the safety of a port, the word "roads" in the nautical terminology of the day meant "a place less sheltered than a harbor where ships may ride at anchor."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)

My visit to Esquimalt Lagoon last week yielded, in addition to Saturday's photo of the Mute Swans, this photo of one of my favorite dabbling ducks, the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wondering the Streets

I'll admit, once the colder weather arrives I don't venture into the city at night very often but with enough layers of clothing it was quite nice actually. Government Street looks quite inviting all dressed in light for the coming onslaught of Christmas shoppers doesn't it? - Fern

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tis the Season

Last night was the official beginning of the holiday festivities in Victoria and a big attraction downtown is the ferris wheel in Centennial Square . Lots of people where out and about braving the crisp weather we've been having. Not to worry though, The top shot was a long exposure; it would be quite a ride if it was going that fast! - Fern

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mute Swans

I was out at Esquimalt Lagoon a few days ago. It's a bird sanctuary and I was wondering what kind of birds were there at this time of year. I didn't see anything surprising but enjoyed these Mute Swans when they came swimming along the shore. Mute Swans are not indigenous and these are descended from escapees from Beacon Hill Park long ago. They have naturalized themselves at Esquimalt Lagoon and also at Albert Head Lagoon just a little further west along the coast.

Friday, November 22, 2013

From Songhees Point

Coming home from downtown yesterday I realized it has been some time since I posted a photo of the oldest part of Victoria taken from Songhees Point, so I stopped and took this one. It's quite a warm looking photo but our temperatures have been hovering around freezing in the mornings and just barely above during the rest of the day.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Employee of the Month

I noticed that the birds were behaving irresponsibly with the feeder, eating recklessly and dropping a lot of perfectly good seeds on the ground so hired this squirrel to clean up the mess.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

At the Feeder

Fern recently installed a bird feeder in the back yard and I took some time yesterday to observe the surprisingly busy traffic. As well as trying out some new shooting techniques it also enabled me to continue with my quest to learn to distinguish all those little brown birds that populate our environment. Below are four that I have tentatively identified. If you're a birder, please feel free to correct me as I'm still not very confident when it comes to these little brown birds.

Mistakenly identified as a Pine Siskin. (See note * below)
House Finch
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
* Re: Top left photo - The Pine Siskin is similar to this but after looking at various field guides I feel quite sure this is actually a female House Finch. The red-capped male House Finches are relatively easy to id and since they are regular visitors in the same flocks, this adds additional weight to the case for this being a female of the species.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Another View

On Sunday afternoon both Fern and I independently sought the shoreline. Her photo, published yesterday, was taken from Saxe Point Park. I didn't go quite so far west and stopped at Fleming Beach and Macaulay Point Park, and took the photos above and below.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Painting With Light

This dramatic sky was a sight to behold from Saxe Point Park yesterday. The shifting light changed the scene from moment to moment, and if only the wind hadn't been so bitingly cold we might have stayed longer to watch the show! - Fern

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Shadow and Reflection

City streets transform on black rainy nights into giant black canvasses etched with tree shadows, naked till spring. - Fern

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Condos Rising

On the eastern side of the Johnson Street Bridge, old buildings are being refurbished on Lower Johnson, Pandora and Fisgard Streets. On the western side of the bridge the two large condominium developments are coming out of their slump and new buildings are rising, and apparently selling well. "Promontory" is a new building in the Bayview Place Development and kitty-corner to it, Dockside Green is also erecting a new building, already completely sold out.
Those splotches on the photo above are raindrops on the lens. It was dry when I left my house but by the time I got down to Bayview Place it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs. Can't complain - much of the rest of this province is getting snow.

Friday, November 15, 2013

House Sparrow

This is a House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), according to Wikipedia, "...the most widely distributed wild bird..." on this planet, though one that has not graced the pages of Victoria Daily Photo in the past, a regrettable omission. Part of my self-imposed discipline as a neophyte birdwatcher is to learn to recognize all the nearly indistinguishable little brown/gray birds that flutter around in the background of our lives here. There are about a half dozen kinds of sparrow around here and a bunch more close relatives such as the Chickadees. The other local challenge is sorting out the gulls - many different species look quite similar and I still can't tell one from the other with any confidence.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lower Pandora Do-over

As work on the new Johnson Street Bridge moves ahead other changes are being made to some of the derelict buildings and vacant lots in that area. The above incorporation of an old building's front into a new building is on lower Pandora Street adjacent to Swan's Hotel. Below you can see what it looked like before the above restoration. It looks like they are planning to mimic the old building's front (on the right, above) with a similar facing on the left.
Fisgard Street also has a new building. When it is complete I will post a photo. The Janion Hotel is also undergoing complete refurbishment so by next spring Chinatown should be looking quite different with three old eyesores transformed into new residences and business places.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Tracking this little bird, a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus), down has been a long process because he usually likes to swim and dive far offshore where he is visible but only just. Every day I would go down to the shore and snap a few photos of him but he was never close enough to show the details needed for a clear identification. Until a couple of days ago, that is. There he was, almost spitting distance from the shore, so I hope you enjoy seeing him up close as much as I did.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Legislature and Causeway

For all those of you who have begun to think that Victoria is mostly ducks and mushrooms and especially for visitor Matthew Feehan, who requested this photo in a comment, here is a quick look at what downtown Victoria was like on the afternoon of November 11.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
By John McCrae

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thetis Lake

I never, ever tire of this lovely spot. - Fern

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mallard Ducks (Anas platyrhynchos)

Here's a kind of duck I too often ignore because they are so common and live here all year round. They are Mallard Ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), the female on the left above and the male on the right. They are a widespread species and one that has adapted well to living around humans - that's why we see so many of them. They are attractive ducks and it is always a pleasure to see them peacefully dabbling in the shallows.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Some mushrooms pop up and seem qute happy as individuals (right) but other seem to prefer to erupt in clusters (above and below).However, chances are that the clusters are all from one mycelium just like a plant can bear many flowers. The mushrooms that we see above the ground are the fruiting bodies of large underground networks known as mycelia. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about mycelia:
Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae. The mass of hyphae is sometimes called shiro, especially within the fairy ring fungi. Fungal colonies composed of mycelium are found in soil and on or within many other substrates. A typical single spore germinates into a homokaryotic mycelium, which cannot reproduce sexually; when two compatible homokaryotic mycelia join and form a dikaryotic mycelium, that mycelium may form fruiting bodies such as mushrooms. A mycelium may be minute, forming a colony that is too small to see, or it may be extensive:

Is this the largest organism in the world? This 2,400-acre (9.7 km2) site in eastern Oregon had a contiguous growth of mycelium before logging roads cut through it.Estimated at 1,665 football fields in size and 2,200 years old, this one fungus has killed the forest above it several times over, and in so doing has built deeper soil layers that allow the growth of ever-larger stands of trees. Mushroom-forming forest fungi are unique in that their mycelial mats can achieve such massive proportions.
—Paul Stamets, Mycelium Running[1]

It is through the mycelium that a fungus absorbs nutrients from its environment. It does this in a two-stage process. First, the hyphae secrete enzymes onto or into the food source, which break down biological polymers into smaller units such as monomers. These monomers are then absorbed into the mycelium by facilitated diffusion and active transport.

Mycelium is vital in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for their role in the decomposition of plant material. They contribute to the organic fraction of soil, and their growth releases carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The mycelium of mycorrhizal fungi increases the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption of most plants and confers resistance to some plant pathogens. Mycelium is an important food source for many soil invertebrates.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


When I see something like this I realize that these mushrooms are fungi's version of what used to be a tree. All it needs is a spore and some water and a stump to make something completely new and different. Now that's recycling!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I am pleased to present a pair of my favorite little diving ducks doing their mating dance. Two male Hooded Mergansers here are competing for the favors of a single rather bored looking female. The dance consists of extending the neck to its maximum length and jerking the head back and forth in an attractive fashion.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Amanita muscaria

Here is a kind of mushroom that I look for every year because they are so colorful and have such a long and controversial history. Consequently I was very happy when I was alerted to this group growing in one of Victoria's residential neighborhoods. These beauties are both poisonous and psychoactive. They are called Amanita Muscaria or Fly Agaric and are probably the mushroom that most people think of when they think of wild mushrooms.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Old and The New

The Vic West Neighbourhood is rapidly changing and the contrast between old and new is quite remarkable. - Fern

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Disappearing Sun

This weekend we turn the clocks back one hour and face the final stretch of ever shortening days until December 21st, the Winter Solstice. - Fern

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Colorful Fungi

Above is the first mushroom I spied on my walk around Thetis Lake Park earlier this week and its extraordinary color was only a hint of the wide mycological palette I have experienced over the last few days. Had anyone told me I would be seeing blue or maroon mushrooms this week I would have doubted them. But here's proof. The hobbity mushroom below was photographed in Mount Douglas Park (Pkols).

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bumper Crop 2

This photo, taken from our ramble yesterday through the woods on Pkols (Mount Douglas), shows some of the wealth of fungi that are exploding out of the ground here right now. Not only are these mushrooms numerous, they are BIG. I have mentioned before that fall is like another spring here with the new growth of ferns, mosses and lichens and that autumn's mushrooms are analogous to spring's wildflowers but I've never seen such an extraordinary number and variety of mushrooms before - I've seen at least fifteen different kinds in the last few days. Today I plan to check out Swan Lake since it is quite a different habitat and may exhibit a few more species to add to my collection.