Lighthouse Park wins again. Last May I remarked on my flora and fauna sightings on a visit to this park, and I was rewarded again today with a few really nice wildlife sightings. No flowers this time – it’s been far too cold recently, and the odd patch of snow still lingers even here in Lighthouse Park. (I think last year’s February sighting of a fawn lily was the exception rather than the rule – I’m sure it’ll be another month before we see those again.)
I walked down to the rocks at Point Atkinson and found a good place to sit and just take in the calm before me. I could see birds out on the water, probably surf scoters, as well as the usual woody debris. A couple of common mergansers paddled off as I approached. But having seen porpoises here before, I started scanning just in case. And – yes – was that a dorsal fin? It was, but it was far away. A kayaker out in the bay had stopped paddling and seemed to be just watching – maybe the porpoises, perhaps just the birds, or seals that I couldn’t see. A few minutes later the kayaker moved on and provided me with a great photo-op as they paddled on by.
As I was sizing up photos through the lens, I heard a sharp exhale and looked down to see a smooth shape slip under the waves. A moment later the shape resurfaced and I caught a clear view of a Steller’s (?) sea lion, barely 10 metres off shore. I grabbed a photo, and though not the best it was a nice clear sighting:
I haven’t mentioned the eagles yet. On the drive to the park, I saw and heard a couple, and within moments of stepping out of the car I heard their staccato cries from the treetops. They were very chatty today and I could hear at least four or five calling from different trees. A pair flew out to sea and back a couple of times, and I’ve taken enough eagle photos to know better than to bother with distant shots. However, on one of their returns, they approached on a line almost directly over me, so I sized them up hoping that I’d get a couple of decent shots as they passed.
And then they did this:
Cool or what? I remember watching a pair of eagles go talon-to-talon in (ironically enough) Porpoise Bay on the Sunshine Coast many years ago.
And so onto what was (for me) the star attraction. Now, it must be said that harbour porpoises are pretty low key performers and it’s perhaps true that my best photo is a little underwhelming: four dorsal fins in close proximity. What I can’t capture is that they were close enough to hear them exhale as they surfaced. And that was magic. Plus I had the rocks to myself at this point.
It was a great excuse to find a comfy rock and watch the porpoises get closer to the park as they followed the outgoing tide. I’d seen them a couple of times before, but hadn’t stopped long enough to really watch them. I estimated there were at least half-a-dozen individuals in the group I was following, and there may have been a second, smaller group nearby (with another 2-3) but it was hard to tell.
The porpoises continued out towards the strait, and I didn’t see them again after the boat from the Vancouver Police marine unit went by. Time to move on and I turned my attention to the lighthouse itself. I hadn’t actually noticed the old WW2 bunker facing across to Tower Beach at UBC before. I wandered on to the lighthouse lookout where one of the eagles was standing guard on the weather vane. Here I also encountered a huge flock of dark-eyed juncos, and stopped to watch (and listen to) a small group of nuthatches.
Finally I took a trail that I’d not taken before: the west beach trail. I’d noticed a lot of photos on Instagram that showed the lighthouse from the west and it makes a really nice photo. Which is how I ended up with this shot:
Possibly my favourite of the day – those clouds! – though one detail I really like about the photo is the cormorant. Photographically done for the day, and after a brief visit from a river otter, it was time to head back to the car and home.