Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Spirit of British Columbia

In the middle of our holiday with our daughter's family, we headed out for an adventure, aiming ultimately to see the Tulip Festival in the Skagit Valley.  Step one was a trip on 'The Spirit of British Columbia', one of the two ferries plying the route between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.  I enjoy ferry crossings, so I stayed outside and took lots of pictures.

This is not the ship that we sailed on, but its sister ship, 'The Spirit of Vancouver Island', which we passed going the opposite direction.  Two ships keep busy on this route every day in the summer.  As you can see, the route is pretty scenic.

This map shows the small parcels of land on the Gulf Islands that are part of the Gulf Islands NationalPark Reserve, but it also shows the ferry route if you can see the faint white line.  The ferry left from Tsawwassen just south of Vancouver (upper right corner of the map), sailed across the Strait of Georgia, and then in between several of the islands to dock at Swartz Bay, where #2 is on the map.

While still tied up at the dock in Tsawwassen, we were just across the bay from one of the big industrial docks in Vancouver, three container ships and a coal carrier (on the left) lined up at the docks.

These looked some large ocean-going ships. though the coal carrier is not the self-unloading kind that I see on the Great Lakes.

In the far distant haze to the north you could see the skyscrapers of downtown Vancouver, but the mountains behind were lost in the clouds.

Before long we were pulling away from the empty dock.  This was one of the drive-on/drive-off ferries like the Chee-Cheemaun here in Ontario.  We drove in the bow, and drove straight off the stern.  Several full-size transport trucks were aboard.

There was a cold breeze blowing and I dressed warmly to stay outside under the wildly flapping B.C. flag.  Took several pix to get this one that actually shows the flag.

About halfway across we entered the channels between the islands, as you can see quite narrow in places.

We passed the sister ship going the opposite direction.

And we disrupted a flock of gulls, which simply whirled around and settled down again.  If I enlarge a bit of this photo, I can clearly see that these gulls have black heads, and that means they are Bonaparte's Gulls, a species I have never seen before.

This photo over the islands reminded me of the distant view of ridges in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The islands are a popular place to live, and this is the warmest corner of Canada, so you only get a minimal dose of winter.  We look forward to exploring more - tomorrow, our visit to Butchart Gardens, just over those hills.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Great Blue Heron Rookery

Our most interesting adventure while staying in Abbotsford with our grandchildren was an outing to the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve near Chilliwack.  We'd been there last November, but of course there were no herons then.  Now the herons are there, and nesting!  I'd never seen an active heron rookery up close.

We had a good look at one heron fishing in the old canal just as we were starting down the trail.  Lots of other birds here too, especially swallows buzzing back and forth.

It wasn't a long walk down the crest of the dike to the rookery.  We were told there were 97 active nests this year.

Herons build huge messy nests of sticks, and return to use them over and over, adding a few sticks to refresh the nests.  They nest in colonies like this one, and in B.C. their numbers have been declining.

At first glance the nests seem mostly empty, but once you get out the binoculars and start watching, there are numerous herons visiting their nests.  I counted 12 herons in this picture.
We all had a great view of the huge ungainly herons as they flapped their way in to a roost or a nest.  Cropping the photos down I was quite pleased with the results.

Herons were constantly flying in and out, possibly returning with food for young, who would still be very small (if hatched yet).  My impression is that they nest in a colony but each heron has its own favourite fishing spot that it flies off to; they seem solitary when you see them away from the rookery feeding someplace.

This one was looking rather frazzled in the wind!

We also spotted a Bald Eagle circling high overhead, always nice to see.  It would be a rare sighting here, but is surprisingly common in the lower Fraser Valley.

And everywhere you went there were mountains in the distance - at least on sunny days.  This is a line of peaks far to the east, from the left Mount Cheam, Lady Peak and Knight Peak.

And this is the awesome Mount Baker, one of the high volcanic peaks in the North Cascades in Washington State.  Everyone in Abbotsford watches for Mount Baker on sunny days!  I thought this picture with the wilderness of Mount Baker in the background and the golden arches of our fast food society in the foreground said something ironic about modern life!

And I just thought this sign, which we saw in a number of places around Chilliwack, was cute, and perhaps memorable when you are walking your dog!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Western Adventure!

The seasons are bursting here; I'll have to mow the grass any day.  But I'm going to take you on our western adventure to southern British Columbia and a bit of Washington State for a couple of weeks instead of describing the seasons here.  So if you'd prefer to really see what the season is like here in the valley, click back to late April in 2015 or 2016 and follow along as spring unfolds.  Meantime, we had a great adventure out west.

The most obvious difference we noticed travelling west in mid-April was the number of flowering trees and shrubs, most of which wouldn't even survive here in the valley, let alone bloom.   This is a bright Rhododendron outside a house.

There were streets lined with Cherry trees in bloom.  Just stunning.

At our daughter's house the heather was in full bloom.  I don't think I've ever actually seen heather in bloom like this up close.

And the street where they bought their house is lined with Magnolia trees!  The odd ornamental Magnolia survives here in gardens, but a whole street lined with them!?  And they were just coming into full bloom the day we left.

On our little adventure while out there we got to Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, just a stunning place to visit!

And we got to see those amazing Tulip fields in the Skagit Valley, in northwest Washington State.  They're barely out of the ground here at home.  Lots more to come on that little adventure!  Hope you're enjoying the spring weather wherever you are.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Flowers in the Yard

We're back from our two week break, visiting our daughter, her husband and our grandchildren in British Columbia.  What a landscape, mountains in all directions, and more flowering trees and shrubs than we've ever seen!  I'll get to the 1500 pictures I took on our adventure soon.  But first, I need to bring you back to seasons here in the valley.  Spring has sprung in our absence and the first flowers are appearing in our garden.

The Coltsfoot is not in the garden, and though some consider it a 'weed', I think it's one of the most beautiful early flowers.

There's also a tiny patch of Hepatica on our property.  Usually the very first wildflower in the woods.

Across the front of our house we have quite a few bright blue Hyacinth, filling the air with their scent, and one patch of Daffodils (along with some shrubs that need pruning).

We only have one small patch of the typical yellow Daffodils, and these are the miniature version, only about 8" tall.

There's a bright blue patch of Anemones in the garden among all the brown stems of last year's flowers.

And a few smelly Fritillaria, almost ready to bloom.  I"ve seen these covered in snow in past years.

I've been mistakenly calling these Pasque Flowers, but they're actually Hellebores, similar shape but a different texture.

Our Forsythia are the best they've ever been, totally covered in brilliant yellow flowers, the brightest colour in the yard and probably the most common spring flowering shrub in Ontario.

I'm not even going to show you the rest of the garden.  April is clean-up month in the garden here, and we've missed 16 days of it, so I have a LOT of work to do!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sounds of Spring!

My photos from the weekend are a bust (see below), but I was sitting on the back deck in our 'cool summer evening temperatures', and listening to the mad chorus of Spring Peepers from across the road.  So I decided to go and see if I could record the 'sounds of spring'.  For me there is nothing like the Spring Peepers to mark the arrival of spring.  Here they are:

The picture isn't very exciting, but if you turn your volume up loud and listen, you'll hear the sounds of spring - both Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs.  The first are the loud 'peeps', and the second sound very much like gabbling ducks.  I was afraid they'd shut down when I got close, but I was able to walk right up to the little wetland and record them.  At the beginning of the video you catch a brief glimpse of our green house across the road, and there's an old farm field roller in the foreground part way through the video.

Photographer's Brainfart

I was over on the shoreline of Lake Huron on Saturday, and thought I had captured some great photos of the lake to share today.  But it was a disaster.  I had been photographing inside a building, and had the ISO set up high.  One of those newbie photographer mistakes, I failed to recheck my settings outside in the bright sun.  All the photos were over-exposed.  Never-the-less, I'm going to share three of them here to embarrass myself, in the hopes I will remember this occasion and not do that again!

Kincardine Lighthouse  

Lake Huron Shoreline

 The Bruce Nuclear Plant in the distance.

I worked away to change the bad exposure in Lightroom, but with very limited results.  All the colours are still way off!  The lighthouse picture isn't too bad, but the last two pictures of brilliant turquoise water and sky are TOTALLY unrealistic!

With that I'm taking a two-week break; will be back in late April.  Have a great early spring.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Northern Winds on the Bay

The aftermath of Thursday night's snowstorm left us with fairly fierce northerly winds on Friday, and we had reason to be in Meaford.  We stopped by the bay for 10 minutes to watch the waves crashing in onto the shore.  I'm not sure we have ever seen waves this intense, and it was a beautiful sunny to boot.

The sun had warmed the air nicely by afternoon, but when I stopped here for pictures my hands nearly froze in the very strong winds off the bay.

The waves were large enough a few of the local surfers were out.  Don't think this surfing compares to California, but you take your adventure where you can.  It's full wet suit surfing so you don't freeze!

At any rate, some serious waves were rolling into the little bay, and crashing onto the shore.  You can understand how ice builds up on these rocks in the winter.

Looking west the view was more distant, but you could see the whitecaps everywhere.

By the little playground the crashing waves were coating some trees with icicles.

Uniquely decorated icicle trees!

Nothing to beat Georgian Bay on a sunny day with a strong wind and white caps!  Here at home the snow is now almost gone again, as the temperature is soaring.  Spring my finally be here for good.