Showing posts from September, 2013

The Little Birds

Most of us are impressed by the sight of a bald eagle in flight or a great blue heron keenly focussed on his prey, but the little birds we oft times ignore. Some are drab, all are small, and most seem hard to identify. But around the BC coast, the little birds assure us that the ecosystem is working. Food is eaten, mating accomplished, and eggs laid. Always a lover of finches and chickadees, I was able to widen my small bird repertoire this summer by learning about a few new (to me) species.

I photographed this charmer after a rain shower about 60 miles north of Vancouver Island. These bold mimics of the evergreen forest can imitate several other species; as well as, mechanical objects, and are known for stealing eggs from other birds' nests. They were named after Georg Steller, a naturalist on a Russian explorer's ship who "discovered" them on an Alaskan island in 1741. This crazy-crested predator was likely hunting peanuts.

The Black Oystercatcher was an entirely new…

Sky Gazer and Cloud Gatherer

Clouds have always fascinated me. I can remember learning their names--Cirrus, Cumulous, Stratus, Nimbo-Stratus--in elementary school, and later lying on my back in our orchard watching Joni Mitchell's “folds and folds of angelhair” drift by.  Standing on a rock in the ocean, the celestial dome spreads in all directions; each one often revealing very different types of clouds.

Last Thursday, when a thunderstorm rampaged through the Lower Mainland, I watched the backside, where the sky to the northeast bubbled with Mammatus.

Derived from the Latin mammalis meaning “having breasts” -- Mammatus are pouches of heavily saturated air that often hang from the underside of a storm’s anvil cloud. Staring at this cloud mass, I became mesmerized by what I discerned as the face of a god.

If you look carefully just above and to the left of the light, you can see a visage that looks very much like Zeus. Replete with  wild hair and beard, he seems to have descended in a rush of wind from the heaven…

A Few Words on Seals and Sealing

My grandmother owned a full length shiny black sealskin coat. I know this because it was passed down to me in the 70’s. Luxuriously soft and silky, I wore it for awhile during my hippie days, and don’t remember now, how I felt then, about the fact that the pelts were stripped from the body of some beautiful marine mammals, perhaps while they were still alive. I was a most unenlightened hippie. 

I didn't know, for example, that most of the world’s seal hunting occurs here in Canada (northwest Atlantic region) and involves the Harp Seal

Note: this is an intensively complex controversial subject that involves many players.

Hunting is regulated by DFO, The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans,who set quotas based on their studies of the seal population, and enforce “Seal Protection Regulations” to ensure humane killing and reduce competitive slaughter. DFO conducts studies and works hard to protect the species. They post a Q&A page here.

Harp seals can be commercially hunted …

My Shipping News

Vessels abound this Labour Day Weekend in the blue waters between Gabriola Island and the Sunshine Coast. It is bare foot tank top hot, the air calm, the sea rippled, the hazy sky sprayed in low white clouds. Definitely gorgeous. But also definitely dangerous. The combination of motion, sunlight, wind, waves and sound on water can impair a boater’s judgement. 

I’m creating my own little "Shipping News", watching the sailboats drift by soundlessly, the fisher folk relax into their lines, kayakers slip amongst the seals, while the ferries cruise businesslike up Fairway Channel towards Nanaimo. No PWCs here, no water-skiiers flanking souped-up power boats. This is a sensible stretch of water. Of course, I don’t have the inside story--I’m only a casual observer. I'm no Quoyle gathering stories for the Gammybird.

Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News is high on my list of all-time favourite books. Not sure if it’s the locale, the coastal village of Killick-Claw in Newfoundland, or Q…