Glacier lily season

Flowers!!! Nuff said really. Glacier lilies are blooming nicely, plus we managed to find some fairyslipper orchids, lots of wild ginger, a patch of very pale pinesap, and even some trillium still in bloom, complete with a well-camouflaged crab spider. My favourite time of year!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we saw some wildflowers on our hike to Goat Mountain (WA). Of course, not just any old wildflowers, we saw glacier lilies! And I’d be lying if it was purely a coincidence. I was so happy to be photographically spoiled for choice with the glacier lilies again, though as usual I still found it hard to come up with really good compositions. The challenge is finding a composition while staying on the trail, or at least on ground that is suitable to step onto. The meadows in the early season are probably at their most fragile and so should definitely not be walked on.

The most surprising photo in this batch, though, is the one of the trillium. At the time I took the photograph, I had barely noticed the fly, let alone the crab spider waiting on one of the petals. It was only later at home when I zoomed in to check focus that I saw the spider, it blends in so well! And I have to say I really like the result: the crab spider has adopted its characteristic menacing pose, ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey such as this small fly. The fact that the spider is on the white petal and the fly on the green leaf just makes the photo even more effective. Sometimes you get lucky!

Flowers of Lighthouse Park

It’s floral Friday again and here’s what I’ve been snapping this week: death camas, rattlesnake plantain leaves, Nootka rose with Saskatoon berry and climbing honeysuckle, a nice patch of western starflower, harvest brodiaea in bud, and a pollen-coated puddle.

There’s not much for me to add here, I think most of the images are fairly self-explanatory. Catching flowers in their prime is simply a delight, and Lighthouse Park is a good place to see a few species that aren’t very common near Vancouver. I’ve only seen death camas (always so dramatic-sounding, and yet so well-named) in the Lower Mainland in Lighthouse Park, on Elk Mountain, or on a mossy cliff along the Squamish Valley road. It’s more common on southern Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Island, as well as in the Okanagan and the Rockies.

The other rarity is harvest brodiaea (#5) a beautiful purple bloom that grows in really thin soil and only appears when the soil is completely dry. Here we caught it still in bud. I’m surprised it survives (and maybe it won’t in the long term) as the only places it grows in the park are right next to the trail, and not many people are careful about where they put their feet.

I’ve made many attempts at photographing rattlesnake plantain (#2), almost all of which have failed miserably. This time I had only the leaves to photograph, and I really liked the starry pattern they created. Continuing with the star theme, I couldn’t resist this lovely patch of western starflower (#4), as it made a welcome change from trying to get a single flower in focus!

In the final photograph (#6), I captured a puddle at UBC covered in yellow pine pollen after a recent downpour. That in itself was of sufficient interest to me to take its picture, but I also like the fact that the puddle has a quartet of pine cones that complete the story of how pines come to be.

That leaves the most colourful of the set, the third photo showing a photogenic combination of Nootka rose, Saskatoon berry, and honeysuckle. the colours and the arrangement of the flowers was perfectly set up, and right next to the trail. All I had to do was notice them.

Revolutum

A plethora of pink fawn lilies for fawn-lily Friday! So happy to find some as they’re very rare on the mainland. A big thank you to bustapbj for pointing me in the right direction 👍👍

Pink fawn lilies (Erythronium revolutum) are very rare on the mainland: I’ve seen only a single one in Lighthouse Park, a few on the UBC campus, and a handful more at the UBC Botanical Garden. So I was really looking forward to our visit to Vancouver Island, and to the Port Renfrew area in particular, where I’d seen a couple of photos showing pink fawn lilies at the base of a large tree. One of my Instagram friends let me know of another site where I might find them, which we drove past multiple times and every time I couldn’t see where they might be hiding.

But Sombrio Beach had a surprise waiting for me with a small area of pink lilies, some of which – alas – had been trampled carelessly. I picked my way through the tangle of salmonberry to find a nice spot with a few flowers in a photogenic arrangement. If those were all I’d seen I’d have to admit that they would do, I guess, though I was still thinking about trying to find this other spot.

On our last day, as we were driving back to take the ferry home, we drove past the “secret” spot one last time and I decided that it was now or never. Leaving Maria in the car with her book, I ran off in one direction. Nothing. I ran back past the car, saw a short trail disappear into the forest and took it. The environment looked ideal, but the only flowers were trillium (which, of course, I did stop to photograph as well…) and false lily-of-the-valley (which I did not, on account of not seeing a good composition).

Returning to the road, I crossed over and followed a different trail down a small embankment into what I thought would be a scruffy area (if not outright dumping ground as it was next to the road). I could not have been more wrong. Here, in all their glory, was the biggest patch of pink fawn lilies I had ever seen. It was stunning! Knowing we were short of time, I hurriedly snapped a few photos, not really taking the time to find good compositions. I ran back to the car and breathlessly told Maria all about them, and decided we had enough time for me to drive the 100 m back to that spot and show her. It was worth it 🙂

So, many thanks Shane – you were absolutely 100% right!

On a final, completely unrelated note, the “revolutum” part of their name instantly brings to mind the Queensryche album “Operation: Mindcrime” and, in particular, the song “Revolution Calling” which I will forever more think of as “Revolutum Calling”. Which they will do every spring.

Wild flowers, wild life

A combined wildflower-Wednesday and wildlife-Wednesday post: cheery white fawn lilies, waving in the wind, and a sea lion lolling in the waves.

Mid-April is usually a good time to see the white fawn lilies in Lighthouse Park. Being early spring, the weather can be somewhat unpredictable and so I found myself in the park on a blustery grey day, threatening rain. My first port of call was actually to head out of the park and over to Kloochman Park, a 5 minute walk away, where I had been informed I would also find fawn lilies. Sure enough (see the third photo) I found a few; I particularly liked this one in a patch of licorice ferns, and deliberately left the colours on the cool side to emphasize the feeling of the day. I found more lilies out on the bluffs, most of which were already fading and none of which were easy to photograph.

Of more interest, though, were the sea lions playing in the waters between me and the Grebe Islets a few hundred metres or so off shore. Occasionally one or two would swim close to the cliffs below my feet, rolling in the choppy water and diving under the moment they saw me. I readied the camera and waited for their next pass and caught one of them with its head and upper body clearly visible, as in the fourth photo. And yes, I can say that I included the branches of the arbutus tree for interest and scale, as well as to provide a sense of my having to be a little surreptitious in my photography (as all wildlife photographers surely must be!).

As I walked back into Lighthouse Park and down to Point Atkinson, the rain did indeed catch up with me. I pulled up my hood and sought temporary shelter near the washrooms, before shrugging and heading out onto the rocks anyway. The wind blew in strong off the sea, and I found myself alone out on the rocks braving the weather. The Vancouver skyline was invisible. It looked like a passing shower, though, and I stayed put as the rain stopped and the sun (and the city) began to make an appearance. Now with bright sunshine, I could feel justified in heading over to where I knew I would find the best lily display.

When I reached the point, the sun was out in full force, shining with that post-storm intensity. The wind was still blowing hard, and while I now had good light, the flowers were constantly in motion. Still, I put the camera on the tripod and sized up a few compositions. My patience was rewarded with occasional calm moments during which I quickly set my focus and took the photo. Even when not totally calm, there was enough light to keep my shutter speed high enough to stop the worst of the motion. And so I managed to capture the first two photos: the first shows the underside of the flower as it was blown backwards in the wind, while the second is a beautiful trio of perfect flowers with just the right amount of curl to their petals.

Flowers and sea lions makes a pretty good day to me.

Island flowers

Wildflower season is upon us! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to seek out spring flowers on Vancouver Island last weekend. Of course I knew there’d be white fawn lilies, trillium, and skunk cabbage and I was hoping to find shooting stars and common camas. But the highlight was all the gorgeous little satin flowers, which I’d never even heard of until I saw bustapbj’s posts. And – oh wow – are they ever beautiful!

View this post on Instagram

Wildflower season is upon us! I couldn't pass up the opportunity to seek out spring flowers on Vancouver Island last weekend. Of course I knew there'd be white fawn lilies, trillium, and skunk cabbage and I was hoping to find shooting stars and common camas. But the highlight was all the gorgeous little satin flowers, which I'd never even heard of until I saw @bustapbj's posts. And – oh wow – are they ever beautiful! #wildflowerwednesday #wildflowers #whitefawnlily #erythroniumoregonum #trillium #shootingstars #satinflower #skunkcabbage #commoncamas #olsyniumdouglasii #purpleeyedgrass #goldstreamprovincialpark #mountfinlayson #explorevi #explorebc #yourbcparks #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

Of course, “last weekend” was back at the beginning of April, when the first wave of wildflowers began to bloom. Despite the threat of rain, I was still able to head to Goldstream Provincial Park and hike up Mount Finlayson in search of a few of my favourite spring flowers. The fawn lilies were well in bloom on the southern side of the park, and only just in bud on the northern slopes of the mountain, so I got to see all stages of their growth (which I always enjoy). The bonus was seeing the trillium and fawn lilies together in a sea of white and green.

Once up into the Garry oak meadows, the shooting stars took over, and I was surprised to find the camas was only just coming into bud. Again, on the north side of Mount Finlayson, I found a couple of small clearings which were covered in the leaves and early buds of shooting stars: they must have looked great a couple of weeks after my visit! There were more fawn lilies, though none were in photographically-favourable places.

As mentioned above, the real treat was seeing satin flowers for the first time, and what gorgeous little flowers they are! And so well-named: the petals really do look like magenta satin. They were more or less at the end of their bloom so I hope I can catch them earlier next year. I don’t feel that my photos really captured them very well, so I would definitely appreciate another chance to check them out.

Lastly, the section of the road just before getting back to the car had some wonderful patches of bright skunk cabbage flowers.

As for the hike itself, it’s well worth doing though the views from the top are quite distant and the nearby development on Bear Mountain is a bit of an eyesore. I’m not sure I’d repeat the loop I walked: the route down the north side isn’t very interesting, and it ends with a few km of road walking. Still, it wasn’t all bad: at least there were more flowers along a few stretches of the road.

Trillia

The trillium is blooming at UBC so I went over to take a few photos. Taught me a few things about our new camera too.

It’s been over a month since I posted these photos on Instagram, and the trillium are now reaching the end of their bloom. But ever since I discovered this patch of native wildflowers on the UBC campus, I’ve been revisiting it often to check on what’s flowering when. I particularly enjoy seeing the trillium as they are plentiful and close to the path which makes them easy to photograph. Usually I just use my phone camera these days for Instagram posts, but on this day I had brought in our newest camera as I was eager to try it out on the first wave of spring flowers.

The downside to delaying the writing a blog post is that sometimes I forget the context of what I’ve written in the photo caption. A prime example is the comment above, as I can now no longer remember precisely what I learned from taking these trillium photos. I think I have an inkling, but, a month later, I can’t be 100% sure.

My suspicion is that I was referring to its focusing behaviour. Despite being a recent mirrorless camera with state-of-the-art(-ish) focusing capabilities (for the price bracket, anyway), I’ve found that I can’t always trust the autofocus. In the situation above where I was photographing flowers, I think the issue I ran into was that the camera would often focus on the edges of the petals rather than the part of the flower where I had placed the focus point. The solution was to use autofocus to get an initial lock and then switch to manual focus to ensure that the intended subject was actually in focus using the focus-peaking display (which is extremely handy, though not infallible).

Getting to know a new camera involves a lot of experimentation, trial and error, and patience. After some initial disappointments, I can now say that I recognize the fact that camera is definitely capable of producing good images, but that I cannot assume that it will always do the right thing. I suspect my expectations may have been a little too high; with it being the first serious camera we’ve bought in 6 years and having read some very positive reviews, I think I expected the focussing system to be, well, perfect. Of course, our previous cameras were not short of their own foibles and issues; they just seemed to be different ones…

A Medley of Moptops

A medley of moptops for wildflower Wednesday, definitely one of the most distinctive alpine flowers – I just love the way they catch the light. They only flower for a brief time as soon as the snow melts, leaving their fluffy seed heads to decorate the meadows for the rest of the short alpine growing season.

Moptop, tow-headed baby, hippy on a stick, muppets of the mountains… The seed-heads of the western anemone have multiple nicknames. Many people liken them to characters from Dr Seuss books; to me they’re just moptops. I didn’t have much exposure to the Dr Seuss characters when I was a kid but what little I had I didn’t think much of; I have a vague recollection of thinking that it was kinda silly and unrealistic, even at a young age. So, forgive me if I shrug or even grit my teeth if one more person exclaims about how Dr Seuss-like they are!

It’s remarkable to see how tall they grow and how they dominate some meadows when they start off so small. But the best thing about them is the way they catch the light, be it afternoon, evening, or morning. And I can’t stop taking their picture when that happens!