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.

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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!

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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

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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!

Peak wildflowers

How did it get to be wildflower Wednesday again already? The wildflowers are probably at their peak now and the late bloomers are starting to show up which means that, alas, the flowers will begin winding down soon. On show this week are lance-leaved stonecrop, small-flowered penstemon, the tiniest lupine you’ll ever see, arnica, spreading phlox, sulphur buckwheat, western anemone in its fluffy moptop phase, pink monkeyflower, and fringed grass-of-parnassus. Not shown are the intense red paintbrush, leather-leaved saxifrage, spotted saxifrage, pearly everlasting, purple aster, and partridgefoot among others.

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How did it get to be #wildflowerwednesday again already? The wildflowers are probably at their peak now and the late bloomers are starting to show up which means that, alas, the flowers will begin winding down soon. On show this week are lance-leaved stonecrop, small-flowered penstemon, the tiniest lupine you'll ever see, arnica, spreading phlox, sulphur buckwheat, western anemone in its fluffy moptop phase, pink monkeyflower, and fringed grass-of-parnassus. Not shown are the intense red paintbrush, leather-leaved saxifrage, spotted saxifrage, pearly everlasting, purple aster, and partridgefoot among others. #wildflowers #lanceleavedstonecrop #lupine #pinkmonkeyflower #smallfloweredpenstemon #spreadingphlox #sulphurbuckwheat #westernanemone #moptop #arnica #fringedgrassofparnassus #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #backpacking #coastmountains #explorebc

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Another weekend, another backpacking trip, and another chance to catch the wildflower bloom in the high country. The first flush of flowers is done now: anemones have become moptops, while glacier lilies and others are only visible as seed pods. The next wave of favourites is showing up in force with flowers such as pink monkeyflower, broad-leaved willowherb, and fringed grass-of-Parnassus.

  1. Lance-leaved stonecrop in flower – they’re hard to see but this flower takes its name from the tiny pointy leaves at the base.
  2. Small-flowered penstemon – well-named, this little flower is usually only a few inches tall, and often really hard to photograph.
  3. Dwarf lupine – as tiny a flower as you’ll ever see, and so easy to miss; the leaves are not even an inch across!
  4. Arnica – not sure which type, but this little perfect trio in bloom was too good not to photograph.
  5. Spreading phlox – widespread in the dry alpine soil, it was great to find a near-perfect little patch, with a few flowers only just opening up.
  6. Sulphur buckwheat – this was remarkably widespread way up on the ridges above the treeline. We’ve only really seen it in Manning Park before so it was a nice surprise to find it here.
  7. Moptops of course! Who can resist moptops, especially when lit up by the late-afternoon sun?
  8. Pink monkeyflower – common in wet areas, and when they bloom, they really bloom!
  9. Fringed grass-of-Parnassus – one of my favourite late-season flowers (check out the little golf-ball flower buds!), I recently learned of its un-fringed cousin that grows in the UK.

I could spend hours crawling around photographing these and more, even though the bugs were as hungry as we’ve ever known them, especially the horseflies that managed to take a chunk or three out of me! Unfortunately, the flowers and bugs go hand-in-hand; it’s impossible to get one without the other. I suppose I should be grateful for the insects but sometimes…! 🙂

Flowers, flowers, flowers

Wildflower Wednesday Part 1: a selection of flowers from our trip to the Southern Chilcotins. Glacier lily, paintbrush, moptops, Menzies larkspur, western anemone in flower, white bog orchid, white paintbrush in the snow/hail, columbine, Columbia lily, and a double feature of pink monkeyflower and broad-leaved willowherb. Good times!

Wildflower Wednesday Part 2: flowers from our trip to Phelix Creek. White and pink heather, kalmia (bog laurel), spreading phlox, alpine marsh marigold, a meadow of arctic lupine, rein orchid, alpine mitrewort, wood betony (bracted lousewort), one-sided wintergreen, and the find of the year, glaucous gentian. We only found two of these flowers, about 40 metres apart. To this day I do not know how we managed to spot these among all the heather and other greenery!

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Wildflower Wednesday Part 2: flowers from our trip to Phelix Creek. White and pink heather, kalmia (bog laurel), spreading phlox, alpine marsh marigold, a meadow of arctic lupine, rein orchid, alpine mitrewort, wood betony (bracted lousewort), one-sided wintergreen, and the find of the year, glaucous gentian. We only found two of these flowers, about 40 metres apart. To this day I do not know how we managed to spot these among all the heather and other greenery! #wildflowerwednesday #wildflowers #phelixcreek #whiteheather #pinkheather #woodbetony #bractedlousewort #onesidedwintergreen #phlox #spreadingphlox #glaucousgentian #reinorchid #alpinemitrewort #arcticlupine #alpinemarshmarigold #kalmia #explorebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #coastmountains

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What can I say? We saw lots of flowers on our two backpacking trips – it was wonderful! And these are just some of the species that I photographed with my phone; we took many more with our other cameras. I was pleased to be able to find enough flowers on the second trip that I hadn’t photographed on the first too, even though there was a fair bit of overlap (as you might expect). Not much else to add, really; I think the IDs in the text above are in the right order. If not I’ll edit them later 🙂

Flower season

If you don’t like wildflowers, keep scrolling! It’s wildflower Wednesday and the alpine flowers are beginning to bloom. Glacier lilies, spring beauty, western anemone, paintbrush, sulphur buckwheat, Sitka valerian, Columbia lilies, and white bog orchids can all be found in Manning Park right now along with many others I neglected to photograph!

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If you don't like wildflowers, keep scrolling! It's #wildflowerwednesday and the alpine flowers are beginning to bloom. Glacier lilies, spring beauty, western anemone, paintbrush, sulphur buckwheat, Sitka valerian, Columbia lilies, and white bog orchids can all be found in Manning Park right now along with many others I neglected to photograph! #wildflowers #flowerstagram #manningpark #ecmanningpark #ecmanningprovincialpark #glacierlily #springbeauty #westernanemone #paintbrush #sitkavalerian #sulphurbuckwheat #columbialily #whitebogorchid #bogorchid #bcparks #mybcparks #yourbcparks #explorebc #frostymountain #heathertrail #paintbrushtrail #beaverpond #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia

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I maxed out my allocation for this multi-photo post – I would have included more if Instagram allowed….

  1. A glacier lily backlit by afternoon sunshine – the perfect glacier lily photo! This photo was taken on our descent from Frosty Mountain and we arrived at this pocket meadow in the forest at just the right time for the sun to find a gap in the trees and light up the flowers. Beautiful!
  2. Of course, one is never enough but I like this one because it shows the under-appreciated (and hard to photograph) spring beauty, a gorgeous diminutive little flower that blooms alongside the glacier lily and anemone.
  3. Spring beauty in full bloom – see how pretty it is? It’s well named! We first encountered spring beauty when we lived in Maryland, though it was common in low-lying woodland rather than in the alpine (of which there wasn’t any really!).
  4. The glacier lilies may be my favourite, but the stars of the show up at Blackwall Peak were the western anemones which were blooming everywhere, and often right along the edge of the trail. That made getting photos very convenient!
  5. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the shot from the side or from above, so I posted both.
  6. I can never resist a photo of paintbrush either, especially when it’s still in bud like this. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much detail my phone camera captured, down to all the fine hairs on the reddening bracts.
  7. This was a nice surprise: sulphur buckwheat in bud. I like how the flower head is divided up into sub-flowers, each with their own collection of florets.
  8. Sitka valerian – the name conjures up the smell of autumn in the mountains as they have quite a pungent scent when they begin to fade. It was the shape of this one that caught my eye, and it was only later I realized I’d caught just a single flower blooming.
  9. This Columbia lily was blooming right next to our camp site, and taking its picture was the first thing I did when I got out of the car 🙂 We saw many at the roadside as we drove into and through Manning Park; I’d love to have stopped and taken a few photos but that’s just not a particularly safe thing to do on such a busy highway.
  10. Lastly, a tall white bog orchid. As with the Columbia lilies, we saw some really good displays of these by the side of Highway 3. But I was happy with this one at the edge of the marsh by the beaver pond. I love the contrast of the green and white on these flowers.

As I alluded to in the caption above, there were many flowers that I either didn’t photograph or couldn’t feature in this little collection, although a good many of those were taken with our “real” cameras which aren’t as easy to post to Instagram. This is definitely my favourite time of the year now, where I’m torn between seeking mountain summits and spending hours photographing flower meadows…