Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The lowly seagull

I grew up in a seaside town, where seagulls were an everyday part of our environment.  We saw them so often that we seldom gave them any notice, except perhaps when they flocked down in droves as we sat on a log on the beach eating handcut, gloriously browned french fries with salt and malt vinegar, from cardboard containers wrapped in newspaper.  Dare to toss one of these delicious morsels to a lone seagull, and soon a hundred gulls were flapping and flocking and squawking all around us.  As Richard Bach wrote in that delightful fable Jonathan Livingston Seagull, "For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating."

There are no take out fish and chip shops along Crofton's waterfront, and the gulls here eat clams or starfish or mussels or young crabs far more often than fries.  Unless, of course, they have access to a smartphone.

Hello?  Salty's Fish and Chips?  Do you deliver to Crofton?
You do?  Oh, good, that'll be two extra large sides of fries, please! 

On my morning and afternoon walks with Maggie, I find it relaxing and fascinating to watch the gulls as they dive for crabs, tear mussels from the side of the wharf, wrestle with starfish bigger than their beaks, or drop clams from on high to the rocks below to crack open those tightly closed shells. 

Come here you darn sea star!  It's dinner time, and you're it! 

Now, where did I put my beer?

I've noticed they nearly always seem to wash their food - or, at least, the shell fish - dipping them at the water's edge or dropping them into shallow water before retrieving them and flying high to smash them on the rocks below. 


Mussels for breakfast!  Clean, fresh mussels! 

The other morning, I saw a gull spend a good twenty minutes locating a small crab amidst the rocks, catching it, washing it, and then prying each part open to suck down the insides.  By the time he was done, all that was left was a very clean, intact back shell and a few crumbs of shell from the legs.

C'mon, you, I know you are in there! 

Off to the water's edge to rinse him off!

Yum!  Fresh crab!

They are clever, crafty, and often beautiful birds with full and interesting lives, and seem to live quite harmoniously with the ducks and herons and oystercatchers who share their environment.

Gulls and heron on the wharf

I think she's talking about us!  Is this our fifteen minutes of fame?

One thing I have learned from watching the diversity of birds on Canada's west coast: there is no such thing as an 'ordinary' bird.  Each is unique, and remarkable in its resourcefulness, skill, social interactions, and problem-solving ability.  And even the lowly seagull brings great joy to my life.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Heart Tree

On Friday, I returned to Moorecroft Regional Park, previously mentioned in my post on the halcyon day in January.  This time, I went with my friend Pat and we took our dogs.  The scenery - bays and beaches, forest and meadow and swamp - was just as beautiful as ever.

Pat and the poms check out the swampy little lake -
which was deeper than the dogs expected!

The dogs like the beach the best - Cosmo and Lexi, the poms, eager to get into the water, and my Maggie always scanning the water for ducks.

No ducks here....let's move on!

Ha ha ha - can't catch me!

Maggie wasn't too upset at not getting to herd ducks, though.  She has become quite the little hiker now - content to follow the trail, content to wait patiently while I take photos or rest a bit.

Happy Maggie at Vesper Point

Each time I return to a park, I see something I didn't see before.  Like this dried fern protruding from a stump, looking just like someone had given the stump a french braid:

Or this arc of dead or dying trees against the sky:

Or this.  One tree split in two when just a sapling, or two trees whose roots entwined, but now covered with moss and gracefully curving apart and together.  It made me think of a heart.

See what I mean?  Happy Valentine's Day, Mother Nature.  I love you.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Springing forward in leaps and bounds

In many parts of Canada, February is the longest month of the year.  Cartoonist Lynn Johnston once had one of her characters describe it as "the four month period between January and March".  I identified with that quip because, at that time,  I lived in Canada's Northwest Territories, where the first frost arrived in August, and spring breakup wasn't until late May.  February was a very long, cold, dark month.

But here on Vancouver Island, February is one of the months I most enjoy, because most years it is when spring emerges.  And that is certainly the case this year.  I began capturing a few 'spring is almost here' photos about ten days ago - shoots poking through last fall's leaves, leaf buds swelling on the Indian plum trees, trees heavy with catkins or fuzzy pussywillow-type buds, crocuses poking their heads up, and of course the snowdrops in full bloom.

The first new growth appears through old leaves


Fluffy buds on a magnolia tree

Indian Plum, one of the first bushes to come into leaf here.

But before I could even get around to editing those photos and blogging about spring, those spring signs grew and blossomed exponentially, and more appeared - swelling daffodil buds (and one wide open in a friend's garden),  periwinkle blossoms, perennial herbs emerging in the pots on my patio, magnolias about to burst into flower, an early rhodo showing its red tips, new red growth on the photinia shrubs, a lone anenome in my garden.

Oregano, chives, parsley and mint




And today still more -  green leaves opening on the lilacs and hydrangea and willows, an iris in full bloom in my garden.

First iris of spring in my garden

It's hard to finish up other blogs I have stacking up, when spring is calling out my name. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018


I see this fellow quite regularly on my morning walks with Maggie - a large  raven high atop a tree, calling in his raucous voice, waking up the world.