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Saturday, May 31, 2014


I know, I know, I've already posted a photo of some Canada Geese goslings earlier this month, but can you ever have enough baby geese? And this group is a little bit special since they must have hatched right along the Westsong Walkway somewhere. They were swimming just offshore when I was walking there yesterday morning and these babies are too young to be flying yet. I say this family group is "special" because while many different kinds of birds hang out along the urban shoreline, most go elsewhere to nest and raise their young.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Great Blue Herons are quite common in North America and I see them often on my morning walk. I like them because they are large, not too shy, and spend a lot of time standing very still - the photographer's ideal bird. However, even after a successful morning's fishing they always wear an expression of deep gloom, despair and desolation. Mallard Ducks, on the other hand, always seem to be smiling and calm. This has set me to thinking about how we interpret the expressions on the faces of birds and about human faces also. I have a particular empathy with the Great Blue Herons pictured here because I am often surprised by the expression on the face that looks back at me from the mirror every morning. With age my face seems to have settled into an expression of gloomy bad temper, a mood that I rarely feel. Yet I suspect that people seeing me often assume I am angry and dissatisfied when I am actually quite content, even merry from time to time. I am hoping that this is the case with Great Blue Herons.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Afternoon Light

Since I've retired, I like to take a walk every day and I usually do it in the morning. When I took this photo I had taken my usual West Bay Walkway route but in the late afternoon rather than in the morning. It was a whole different experience since the light comes from the setting sun in the west rather than the rising sun in east. It's a beautiful view of the Inner Harbor and the city at any time of day but perhaps a little more striking in the evening sun.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Swiftsure

Spring and summer are busy times in Victoria. Pretty well every weekend sees some kind of special event. Last weekend we hosted the annual Swiftsure Yacht Race and here you can see a few of the competitors. There are actually a number of different races over the weekend but for details I'll refer you to the Swiftsure website or the Wikipedia article on the race.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis)

During the winter a walk along the West Bay Walkway will enable you to see a half-dozen different kinds of waterfowl. Now that spring in here, however, they are all pretty much gone. There are a few Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese but the Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Mergansers (Common and Hooded), and Harlequins are all off somewhere nesting and raising the next generation. However, animals that have not been so visible in the winter are now re-appearing. I've seen more Blacktail Deer in the last couple of weeks than I did all winter. And, on the weekend, I saw the fellow above, a River Otter (Lontra canadensis), fishing with a friend in Sailor's Cove. Otters don't hibernate in winter but do apparently spend more time in their holts.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The View From Down Here

For a city whose horizon is often dotted with cranes as new buildings are going up all over town, I always take a moment to stop and enjoy the vacant lots still here and there. - Fern

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Random Acts of Art

While graffiti is controversial and the subject of much debate, I can't help but love that there are people out there that feel like celebrating their city by adding a little touch of beauty to what is otherwise a blank surface. - Fern

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Hippo and the Whale

Here's another sign that summer is upon us - those floating bus tours called the Hippo. These buses look pretty big on the street but next to leviathan they seem more like shrimp than hippos. Victoria Hippo Tours seem perfectly appropriate for a city that has so much to offer both on land and on the water.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

Here's another of my favorite wildflowers, Salal (Gaultheria shallon). There's something I find particularly attractive about these hairy little blossoms. The berries that come later are edible, as are the leaves, and these were a dietary staple for First Nations People on the Pacific Northwest Coast. Nowadays Salal is more likely to be harvested for its glossy green leaves since they are popular with florists.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Barn Swallows

Here's a pair of Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) that, like their relatives the Purple Martins, spend the winters in Central and South America and return here each year to breed and raise their young. They can be difficult to photograph because they catch their insect meals on the wing, swooping and diving with wonderful grace and speed. Thus I was happy to see this couple digging in the mud on the shores of a shallow puddle. They are collecting mud in order to build their nest. I found it interesting to learn that, when the young ones finally hatch, they will be fed not only by their parents, but by their brothers and sisters from the previous year's brood. I suspect this is a good way to learn the parenting skills required.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

At the Legislature....

Above, adherents of Falun Gong meditate in the sunshine while the Sultan High School Marching Band entertains listeners from the steps of the BC Legislative Assembly Building. This took place on Friday but there was more of the same on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Big Weekend

Victoria Day, the first long weekend of the summer season, is celebrated all over Canada but with special vigor here in Queen Victoria's namesake city. It started on Friday, when I took this iconic photo of Victoria's Inner Harbour and Causeway with the Fairmont Empress Hotel on the left and the Legislative Assembly Buildings on the right. Monday's Victoria Day Parade (See Fern's photos below) had lots of marching bands but many of them arrive on Friday and take turns giving concerts from the steps of the legislature. We'll have a look at them tomorrow.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The 116th Annual Victoria Day Parade

What a spectacular event! There was a little of everything and a whole lot of marching bands and the crowds were loving it all. - Fern

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The View from Yates Street Parkade

The weather forcast rain for the long weekend but it has been blissfully wrong! - Fern Long

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Purple Martins Are Back

I'm just beginning to realize how many of the birds we see here are not year-round residents but may spend only one season of the year here. Birds that breed and nest further north in the summer may spend their winters here. And birds that breed and nest here in the summer may spend the winters further south. Some birds also move up and down in the landsacape at different seasons, preferring the mountains in the summer and the lowlands in the winter. The Purple Martin (Progne subis) pictured above probably returned two or three weeks ago from South America where he spent the winter. In the autumn he'll gather with others to make the long flight south again.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Feels Like Summer

Well, officially it's still spring but when the temperature gets into the mid twenties (Celsius) or mid seventies (Fahrenheit) like it did this week, it sure seems like summer. Here's a sport that's popular with many Victorians, golf. This foursome is pictured on one of the greens of the Victoria Golf Club. The course lies on both sides of Beach Drive and is bounded on the east by the rocky coastline and some pretty awesome views.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

For me, there are two major challenges in birdwatching. The first is to sort out all the different kinds of seagulls. There are many and they all seem to look pretty much alike. I have yet to meet this challenge. However, I am getting a little on top of the second major difficulty - identification of all those little brown birds that flutter about and look very much alike - sparrows, wrens, finches, etc. The difficulties may be exemplified by the fact that there are over 35 different kinds of sparrow in North America and plenty of sparrow-like birds as well. I am proud that I can now identify at least the more common varieties found around Victoria although I am not always 100% certain. However, the sparrow above belting out his little heart on the shores of Esquimalt Lagoon is almost certainly a White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New Bridge

With all the fanfare over the new Johnson Street Bridge I have neglected to keep our visitors up to date with another new bridge that has recently been opened to traffic. Pictured above and below, this is the new Admirals Road Bridge over the Gorge near the Craigflower Schoolhouse and Manor. In the photo above, the schoolhouse is obscured by trees of Kosapsom Park on the right. Craigflower Manor is the white building directly above the bridge. This is not a new crossing but a new bridge to replace the old bridge.
While the design is simple and utilitarian I like the generous portion of the the bridge that is allocated to pedestrians and bicycles, especially in comparison to the narrow dimensions of the old bridge.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Afternoon Nap

After a busy morning paddling around after their parents these Canada Geese goslings took a break to nap in the warm sunshine. One of the goslings was so tuckered out that he just had to stretch out full length for a real snooze (take a look at the guy in the back row on the left in the photo below).

Monday, May 12, 2014

Urban Landscape 2

Here in Victoria, where the city is fairly hilly you can often be going along and when you hit a slight rise the Olympic Mountains just appear, magically. Not always of course, due to our ever shifting weather but when they do, wow. - Fern

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Urban Landscape

This is one of those images that resonates with me because it's so about 'nothing' that it soothes my overactive mind. My Mother's Day gift to myself. - Fern

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Windy Day

The West Bay Walkway has had some fairly brisk winds lately and this little Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) appeared to be taking a break from it the other morning. It's not called "Savannah" because it lives in the savannah or grassland, but because the species was first recorded in Savannah, Georgia.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bald Eagle

One of the exciting aspects of birdwatching is that you never know what you are going to see when you set out with your binoculars and/or camera. I went out to Pkols (Mount Douglas) yesterday hoping to see a hawk or two. They like to cruise the thermals rising from the mountainside. Turkey Buzzards are usually circling also. And often, there are a few Bald Eagles. I saw one of these swooping by quite low but then he disappeared to the other side of the summit. Later I wandered over to that side of the mountain and there he was, peacefully perched overlooking the Saanich Peninsula. He sat quietly for nearly a half an hour as I crept closer.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Norwegian Pearl

It's that time of year again, when these vast floating hotels nudge their way into their berths at Ogden Point (on the left) to give their passengers a few hours in Victoria. This one is called the Norwegian Pearl. The mountains in the background are on the Olympic Peninsula in the USA.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Traffic Jam

Volunteers at the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary have tethered floating logs here and there all around the edges of the lake as basking spots for the Western Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta bellii). But when I was out there last week all the logs were vacant except for this one. Why they all decided to pile up on this one log is a mystery to me. However, these animals have been around for about 15 million years so I guess they know what they're doing.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


At this time of year our front porch is a riot of pale pink as the clematis flowers. Simply gorgeous! -Fern

Monday, May 5, 2014

NOT a Primrose Path

This is one of several paths from the neighborhood that lead up into Highrock Park. While the proverbial Primrose Path looks beautiful but ultimately leads to disaster, this path takes you on a idyllic stroll through Highrock Park where lurks nothing more dangerous than a few lazy bumblebees. Who could resist such an inviting prospect?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Row, Row, Row, Row Your Boat Gently Down the Stream...

I am enamored with boats, and the sight of this little rowboat anchored in the Gorge Waterway makes me daydream of floating along on a sunny afternoon. - Fern

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)

I am happy today to share my first sighting of a species that is new to me, Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi). Several of these were perching and flying around the Garry Oaks at the top of Highrock Park Thursday morning. When seen from the back it's easy to mistake these for Robins because they are about the same size. But when I saw one from the front and realized it was missing that red breast I knew I was seeing something different. According to my field guides these birds prefer higher altitudes so I am guessing that those I saw were birds of passage on their way to higher ground for the summer. Townsend's Solitaire was named to honor the memory of ornithologist John Kirk Townsend.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Let the Fun Begin!

*HOT* weather for the last couple of days drew me down to the Inner Harbour yesterday to see if our most active summer venue had woken up. And yes, there were lots of people strolling on the causeway and wandering down onto the piers to see the Floating Boat Show. Buskers were busking, crafts people were crafting and artists were arting and though it's only early May it seems like summer has begun. (Okay, someone has to ask why it's called the "Floating" Boat Show. Is this to differentiate it from a show of non-floating boats?)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chocolate Lilies (Fritillaria affinis)

Here's another spring flower that seems to be extra abundant this year. I've noticed more of these in a wider variety of settings than in past years. This is the Chocolate Lily (Fritillaria affinis). This one was photographed in Beacon Hill Park. It looks good enough to eat.