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.

Marmot

When you camp in a marmot’s garden, you have to expect a visit from the landlord… Payment was made in the form of half-a-dozen chunks from the grips of my hiking poles.

We knew there were loads of marmots here, and friends had mentioned how “friendly” they were. On our first night we confidently hung out food bags from a steeply-sloped rock face thinking that they were safe from marmots there. After all, marmots don’t climb rock faces, do they?

Well, the following morning we were relieved to find that our food bags were untouched, but we soon got a lesson in just how well marmots can climb as this guy scampered effortlessly up the very rock face we’d thought was unclimbable. Huh. After that the marmot explored where we were having breakfast and then had a good nose around our friends’ tent – where I managed to capture it for the photo above.

Having earned no food, the marmot wandered off into the rocks and that was the last we saw of it that day. I didn’t take my hiking poles out on the hike and it was only the next morning that I found the grips had quite a few marmot-bite-sized chunks taken out of the foam. All I could think of was how gross it was to have to now use those poles, all covered in marmot spit… Yuck!

Cinnamon

Cinnamon black bear munching on grass at the roadside, the third of four bears we saw on a mini road trip back in June

I love seeing bears in the wild, and despite the years of hiking and backpacking in North America (totalling close to 500 hikes), we’ve seen way more bears from the car than on foot. I can think of maybe 10 occasions that we saw a bear on the trail, and maybe only about half of those could be classified as encounters, the others being merely sightings at a distance.

The challenges of taking a good bear photo from the car include being able to shoot through an open window (without getting someone’s head or part of the door mirror in the frame), holding the camera steady enough in a car whose engine is still running (tip: don’t lean on the car!), and other passengers shifting around in the car! If you can deal with that, then you can be sure the camera will decide to focus on the grass instead of the bear… Thankfully in this case, the depth of field was just enough to keep the bear in focus too.

Snakes on a mountain top

A snake – on a mountain summit? Yup – this cute little garter snake was merrily swimming around a little pond on the third peak of the Chief last Saturday.

We’d just been photographing a beautiful reflection of the Copilot in a small pond on the summit of the Chief when movement caught my eye. I looked over and saw a snake swimming away from us, too quickly for me to get a photo or video. I followed it round to the other side of the pool and inadvertently startled it back across the water where it rested, this time with its head in plain sight, and in the sun too, that allowed me to take a couple of photos and a boring video clip (the first 5 seconds or so). As I stood up, the snake swam off again but this time I was ready for it and hit the video record button again (the interesting bit!).

We’ve encountered more than a few garter snakes in BC, but I think this is the first time we found one on a mountain top!

That snow otter

An otter in the snow. Just another day in Vancouver 🙂 I watched this otter for several minutes as it rolled and played in the snow, and was surprised at how close I was able to get.

I’ve seen otters a couple of times in False Creek – once I was able to get quite close to one munching away on a fish. I wouldn’t have seen this one had it not been for the nearby crows dive-bombing something at the water’s edge, hidden from view by the rocky embankment. Most people were just walking by, but the crows had me wandering over to take a closer look.

The otter and I saw each other at the same time. The crows fled and the otter dove beneath the water, coming up a few metres later for a moment before diving again and disappearing. I was kicking myself for being slow with the camera (and not having the faster-responding SLR), and thought that would be the last I saw of it. I watched it surface again around the corner and then it hauled out onto the snow-covered dock near the coastguard station. I took some (distant) video from here and then wondered how close I might be able to get.

As it turned out, much closer than I expected. I was able to walk along the dock almost to the last part where the otter was rolling in the snow. I stopped by one of the uprights and took more video and a few photos. It was only when my phone rang and I began speaking that the otter looked up, saw me and slunk off again into the water. A pretty good encounter in my books!

Here’s the final video:

Marmots

A pair of hoary marmots, aka whistlers. Except they don’t really whistle – it’s more like a high-pitched squeal or shriek. Either way, it’s really loud!

Hiking out from Russet Lake in the summer of 2015, we were about to descend into Singing Pass when we spotted a group of marmots close to the trail. We started taking photos while edging nearer (staying on the trail of course), until we got a clear view of these two. Their behaviour looked quite intimate – they went snout-to-snout a couple of times – but it wasn’t clear to me that they were actually a mating pair. I think they were just siblings, but I have to admit this (and one other photo I have of them) does look rather suggestive…

Bear crossing

Why did the bear cross the road? Probably to escape the camera-wielding tourists…

Yet another photo from our 2011 visit to the Rockies. We spotted this bear along the road between Jasper and Pyramid Lake, and of course had to pause long enough to get a photo or two. While it looks like the bear is crossing the road, it’s actually walking through an empty parking lot so there was a good distance between us. It looked our way for a few seconds before taking off into the forest.