Highlights of a grey day

Today in Vancouver could not have been described as a nice day. And yet, looking back I realized there were still a number of moments that really stand out as worth noting. There are many who extol the virtue of expressing gratitude daily; I haven’t got to that point yet, but perhaps this is a good start. It’s just nice to remember the good things that happen, and the good things you’ve seen.

The first moment was just after sunrise: despite heavy cloud, the sun found the smallest of gaps to shine through and for just a minute or two, lit up a couple of small cotton-wool clouds in pink. As that faded, a partial rainbow appeared. Soon that too had faded away and the fullness of the grey took over.

The second was meeting and stopping to chat with a couple of friends at the Vancouver Farmers’ Market, always a good thing. Once we were back home the rain returned and we watched the mountains play peek-a-boo with the passing showers. It may have been grey, but it was a soft, pale shade, almost like a mist ebbing and flowing. A gentle rain, not like the downpour to come later.

In the afternoon we braved the rain and went for a walk along the beach between Spanish Banks and Jericho. As we passed in front of the Jericho Sailing Centre, the sea had a lovely hint of green as it washed up onto the wave-smoothed sand. Even the grey mountains looked a fine sight across the water, its surface dotted with goldeneye and roughed slightly by an easterly breeze.

Now for the standout highlight. As we walked back to the car, a pair of bald eagles flew overhead, scattering the beached seagulls into flight before flying out of sight and landing in a distant tree. As it happened, that tree was close to our car, which we’d parked next to Spanish Banks Creek. We were about to drive off when the pair dropped out of the tree and over the water in front of us, wheeling around and chasing one another. I ran down to the water’s edge where they were more or less overhead at times. A second pair joined in for a moment, though the two didn’t interact, as if they were separated by an invisible line that neither pair would cross. Perhaps the creek marked a territorial boundary. Perhaps there were salmon in the creek awaiting their talons (though we saw none). In any case I stood in awe watching these giant birds soar and swoop above me, the smaller male calling all the while. Our guess is that they were a courting pair, or at least reaffirming their partnership since they mate for life. Whatever it was, it was a joy to watch.

Eagle sightings are something I will always notice, especially as they form the backbone of what I call “BC Moments”, those times that really seem to sum up living here in BC most appropriately. The picture below wasn’t taken today (it’s from our Cape Scott backpacking trip in 2016), but I really felt like showing an eagle photo.

Experiment Bight, 6 Aug 2016

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Summer sunrise

Despite not being a morning person, I love being up and about at sunrise. Something about the quiet, the coolness, the expectation of a new day. This gets a little more difficult in the summer but occasionally I just have to get up and find somewhere to watch the sun rise. May seems to be a particularly good month for me to do this, and somehow the peaks of Golden Ears are usually involved too. One day I’d like to get further up the Fraser Valley to catch the Cheam Range at sunrise.

Last year I got up early enough to drive out to Surrey and watch the sun come up over misty fields and the Serpentine River. That was a great spot. This year I decided that Queen Elizabeth park was far enough. I parked up around 5.30 am and walked up through the southern gardens, across the parking lot to the Bloedel Conservatory and stood on the wall to take in the orange sky to the east. A grand total of two people walked by: one man out for a brisk morning walk, the other from the Vancouver parks department checking on the bins.

Sure enough Golden Ears looked impressive with the peachy dawn sky as a backdrop and I sized up a few shots.

Vancouver sunrise, 14 May 2010

Within a few minutes the sun rose over the mountains, first catching the tips of the North Shore summits of Crown and the Lions, then sliding down until it reached the downtown high-rises. The sky was filled with thin high cloud, not enough to stop the sky looking clear but enough to flatten the light (unlike my picture-perfect sunrise of last year). At this point I stopped taking photographs and headed home for breakfast through the early-morning traffic.

W-otter view!

A pleasant Monday evening and I fancied a walk on the beach. Again. I headed for Kits Beach mostly to see for myself the efforts to free a small boat that had blown ashore in a recent storm. The Tuesday Sunrise was indeed still high-and-dry and half a dozen people were digging out a trench on the beach to enable water to flow around the boat at the next high tide.

Kits Beach, 19 Apr 2010

I felt a bit self-conscious taking photos while they were working so hard (I’m not a great people photographer) so I wandered off down the beach a little further before heading over towards the Maritime Museum. I normally avoid the dog beach but tonight I walked along it, having watched the antics of dogs and owners from up on the path. One dog took exception to me and barked from close quarters. I did my best to ignore it and kept walking, which seemed to work. I spotted a seal about 30 metres off shore and climbed the rocks up onto the path hoping for a better view. I passed the time watching the cormorants zip by close to the water, and soon gave up on the seal.

I walked to the end of the point and watched a pair of cormorants fishing. A heron flew over, squawked and landed on a nearby pile at the small marina (with the little Viking longship). Movement in the water caught my eye, and I watched a dark drown shape swim towards me. An otter! It lifted its head above the water, spotted me, and turned to head over to the dock. I snapped a couple of photos but the low light and movement made them blurry. But it was a treat seeing it at all.

With the daylight fading, I figured it was time to head back home. Walking round to the other side of the marina I saw a dark shape on the shore. Could it be? Yes – it was the otter, and it was feeding. I moved slowly along the path until I was alongside, the otter no more than 10 metres away. I took a few more photos and a minute or so of video. I reviewed what I’d taken and wondered if I could get closer. I moved round the corner onto the grass and crept towards the edge of the bank. I peered down over the rocks and there not more than 5 m away was the otter and the sizeable fish it was feasting on.

Kits Point, 19 Apr 2010

I took as many photos as I could, and more video. Chomp, chomp, crunch, crunch – I worry about encountering fish bones, but the otter had no such problem devouring the whole lot. Head, tail and everything in between. We locked eyes for a moment, then it turned and swam off. I looked up and saw the city, and thought how amazing it is to live in such a place.

April Showers

In search of fresh air and a place to stretch our legs, we headed to Lighthouse Park. We don’t go there too often so it makes a nice change to visit once or twice a year. On our way we were pelted with hail as a vicious little squall blew through West Vancouver, blowing litter, leaves and small branches everywhere. By the time we reached the park it had died down. We took a trail on the west side of the park and wandered down towards the lighthouse. Along the way I steered us down a dead end where we ended up on a rock with a great view out to sea. Well, on a nice day anyway. All we could see was a huge ominously-dark cloud over towards Vancouver Island, undoubtedly heading our way. Maria saw an impressive fork of lightning and we decided we should continue our loop and return to the car.

We stopped to admire some spring trillium and had taken one photo when we heard this deep booming “hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo”. We turned round and saw a large bird fly overhead, turn and land in a tree not too far away. An owl! Not any old owl, either, but a big barred owl. I fumbled a quick lens change, increased the ISO setting to 3200, and grabbed a few photos through the trees. Not too great really, but we walked around a bit and found a clear sightline to the owl, less than 10 m away. I took a deep breath and fired off as many shots as possible. To our amazement it stayed put for a minute or more, bobbing its head this way and that, looking and listening for prey. A few times it looked straight at us with those unsettling deep black pools of eyes (honestly, we’re way too big to eat!). We looked away for a second and when we looked back it had gone, without a sound. What a treat!

Lighthouse Park, 1 Apr 2010

Five minutes later we were back at the car, just as the next squall arrived and threw everything it had at us. Welcome to April.

Dusk down by the water

A mild evening down by the water near the Jericho Sailing Club, between Locarno and Jericho Beach. I was hoping for some rich sunset colours to capture over the water but it was too cloudy. I walked out onto the pier and decided to take some long-exposure photos of the Vancouver skyline. A seal bobbed up every now and then.

There’s a short period of time around dusk when even cloudy skies look very blue (at least to the camera) and it’s possible to get photos with an interesting white balance. In this case I let the camera decide the white balance, which meant the city lights came out quite nice and white while the sea and the sky became a deep blue.

Locarno Beach, 29 Mar 2010

I spent a few more minutes taking longer and longer exposures of the city until the sky lost all its blue. The low clouds glowed orangey-pink with the reflected city lights and the skyline became a mass of light. Despite the cool breeze, the water was smoothed out by the long exposure, making for quite a nice effect.

Now that it was properly dark, the air was quite chilly and it was time for me to head home. My short walk back to the car was accompanied by a chorus of frog song from the marshes.

Looking for an excuse

Despite supposedly unbreakable promises to myself, I usually don’t manage to get outside for some fresh air during the day. Lunch time and afternoon coffee offer perfect excuses to get out for 10, 20 minutes or even an hour. And yet, somehow I just don’t keep those promises to myself. I find a website to pore over, or more work to do, or whatever. The few occasions I have forced myself to leave my chair have been prompted by the fact that I have a camera with me, especially if it’s a nice day out.

On leaving home this fine Friday morning I grabbed the camera to force myself to take such a break. I took our older camera as it’s lighter and smaller (though it’s not light or small) than the SLR. The SLR takes much better pictures, for sure, but sometimes you just don’t need to be carrying that extra weight.

Having worked through lunch, I forced myself up and out of the office to walk off some post-eating sleepiness. I wandered past the library, past the carillon tower and through a small garden. Small birds tweeted in the trees and shrubs around me with not a hashtag in sight. I spied a pair of tiny birds investigating a lichen formation in a tree and stopped to get a closer look. I took one photo (they were very hard to see in the viewfinder) to aid with later ID but all I got was part of a head. Walking on a bit further I spied two unusually-silent crows – one asleep, the other keeping watch with a wary eye.

Next stop was the Museum of Anthropology where I walked around the outdoor exhibits. The museum underwent a series of renovations recently and part of that seems to include a great new salmon sculpture near the entrance. Two salmon, with bellies full of orange eggs, in a small pond. Very cool.

UBC, 26 Mar 2010

I walked around the back of the museum, pausing briefly to watch and listen to a pileated woodpecker in a nearby tree. I looked at the totem poles and cedar houses with new eyes after seeing the `Beyond Eden’ production about the removal and shipping of the poles from the village of Ninstints in Haida Gwaii to UBC. I walked through a new art installation composed of small plastic boats and found a rock to sit on overlooking the Burrard Inlet and the cloud-capped mountains of the North Shore. I could have sat here all day in the warm sunshine.

I checked my watch and decided it was time to move on. I stopped to explore the old gun battery from WWII and then walked back to my desk. I found one more thing to take photos of: new lupine leaves were beginning to decorate the sides of a grassy bank and in one or two, drops of water had accumulated.

UBC, 26 Mar 2010

I need more excuses like that.

New moon, new blog

Maybe there’s something in that…

It’s only a couple of days past the new moon and tonight the sky is clear here in Vancouver. Since young crescent moon sightings are favourable near the Vernal Equinox in the northern hemisphere I thought I’d keep an eye on the western sky as the sun set. Sure enough, not too long after sunset I spied the most slender of crescent moons about 20 degrees above the horizon. I’m a sucker for photos of the moon so I couldn’t resist putting the camera on its tripod and wasting more space on the memory card.

Here’s what I saw, the moon at about 54 hours old:

Crescent moon, 17 Mar 2010

I never get tired of seeing Earthshine…