Here's a Lesser Yellowlegs, alone in a big muddy pond. Oh I love him/her. Has come all this way from the tundra. The tundra! And so much farther to go, to the pampas. The pampas! (Or maybe not quite there, but close enough and it would be a nice juxtaposition for a social media profile. You'll find me either in the tundra or the pampas.)
Legging along, with vapour trail. Lesser like heck.
The Rufous Hummingbirds have gone, set off for sunny Latin America. The stalwart Anna's Hummingbirds remain, happily monopolizing the feeders. We see a mixture of adults and youngsters, I don't know how many of each. The youngsters are fun. When I'm outside reading they hover close to the lenses of my sunglasses trying to figure out what I am. It's hard not to laugh.
This young one has mastered the long, scritchy song. See his puffed throat and slightly opened bill? They often sing when I'm too close to the feeder for their comfort and they feel they have to do something, so land nearby and sing a song of anger or frustration or who knows what.
Adults do that too. I didn't realize they look kind of shabby this time of year, at least their belly feathers. The gorgets remain pretty decent.
Last week we went up Cypress Mountain, which is the Mt. Tam of Vancouver. It was a bright but somewhat hazy/smoky day.
We went on the Yew Lake Trail in Cypress Provincial Park. It's a short, flat loop that takes you to a pretty little montane lake. There were a lot of loud people on the trail, but that's what happens in easily accessible spots. Many people were using those walking poles too. You can probably pick up a pair at any Pacific Northwest garage sale, lightly used.
The blueberries were out.
Blue poop (bloop).
And many had fulfilled their purpose.
"Dad is taking pictures of poop!"
Here is Mr./Ms./Dr. Bloop, processing more berries. Bloop was completely unconcerned about all the noisy pole-swingy people walking past 25 yards away. As we stood, watching, we could hear people coming from a hundred yards in either direction. Yak yak yak. Poke poke poke. In addition to swingy poles, some even had silly little bear bells that were no match whatsoever for their outside voices. Yak yak yak. Poke poke poke. Tinkle. They would walk past in groups of various sizes, not the least bit curious why we were standing at the edge of the trail, looking into the bush. As they passed, here's what would happen:
Me, pointing: There's a bear.
Them, pausing: Where?
Me: Over there.
Them: A bear!
Then they would experience the flight or smart phone response. Smart phone invariably won, although with difficulty because of the interference of swingy pole wrist loops.
Eventually bear shuffles away. Find a quiet place to bloop.
There was an extremely low low tide near noon yesterday at Boundary Bay. It was one of those days that takes about an hour of walking over sand bars and and wading through dips to get out to the true edge of the water. But it doesn't take long to discover the lugworms.
This is after all, the Kingdom of the Lugworms, as evidenced by their curlicue poop pagodas and ankle twisting downspout holes. But for us, we don't feel we've really done the low tide walk until we find the sand dollars, which start about halfway out in the deepest coldest dips.
First you find the bleached white tests of dead ones, but eventually you find the live, spine-covered purply ones. This is when I extol the wonders of echinoderms and the children walk away. We did have one new sighting this time, a recently deceased Starry Flounder.
Here is the bottom, or left side.
Here is the top, or right side. Most are right sided, but some can be left sided. I don't know how that affects their social lives.
Everyone loves low tide walks, but I'm not sure this person with the turtle floatation device realizes how far she'll have to walk to find deep enough water to float.
A woman on horseback went galloping past, leaving the rest of us wondering whether to be annoyed by a potential breach of beach etiquette, or to be wowed by a galloping horse. Notice all four hoofs are in the air.
Turtle floatie lady and horse lady. Never the twain shall meet.
A final view of the Kingdom, with North Shore mountains as a backdrop.
I would never burn a book, but I
will throw one across the room.
Having spent the first two decades of
adulthood reading vast numbers of scientific papers and manuscripts, I have a
huge fiction deficit. During those years
I scarcely read fiction at all. Who had time
But somewhere in my congested
head I always knew that you should read fiction, plenty of it. I understood this while bustling back and
forth between the Ramsay Wright Zoological Laboratories and the Royal Ontario
Museum in Toronto. A few times I saw
Robertson Davies standing outside Massey College at the corner of Hoskins Ave
and Devonshire Place waiting for a cab and I would think, He looks like an
interesting old kook. I should probably read
his books. On the third floor of Ramsay
Wright there was a small lab room, really just a prep room between two real lab
rooms, with a nameplate on the door, “Prof.
C.E. Atwood.” C.E. Atwood was a professor
emeritus, and I was pretty sure he was the father of Margaret Atwood. I never met or saw him, but I thought that putting
his name on a prep room door instead of a real lab door was kind of
disrespectful, and that I should probably read his daughter’s books, or at
least skim one.
I have a hard time reading. I have strabismus, still, after three corrective
surgeries (ages 8, 10, 20). I’m not the
wall-eyed confusion you might have met during earlier pre- and inter-op spans,
but there’s enough L-R disparity that my eyesight buggers up my ability to look
through binoculars or follow a line of text across a page. In high school, small-print Hardy and Dickens
were hell, and I should have been awarded high marks for even finishing those
books. My wife was an English major and at
some point I greedily hoarded all her old books when she was about to discard
them before a move because it’s so costly to move books. I shouldn’t have bothered. I doubt I will
ever read them. They contain too many
words without enough spaces in between.
But here they are at arm’s length, foxing away.
I no longer need regularly read grim
multi-authored papers on the phylogeography of skinks or the evolution and function
of the vomeronasal organ. As much as
possible I read single-authored fiction, and am always looking for a writer who
suits my needs and limitations.
My main requirement: Keep it moving.
Please don’t show what a fabulous
writer you are by describing something commonplace in excruciatingly clever
Last night I was reading a novel
in which the author spent the equivalent of four pretty pages describing the
people at a party—their clothes, their mannerisms, snippets of
conversation—meant to illustrate that they were hip, shallow people. I got it after about four lines, and had to
start skimming, searching for something my eyeballs and interest could glom
Perhaps being boring was his way
of illustrating how boring the party was, in which case, Success!
I would have thrown the book across
the room except that I had downloaded it onto my iPad.
Even if I could afford to throw
my iPad across the room, the inconvenience in replacing its data would have
been much worse than what Elvis went through when he shot TVs.
I learned book throwing from my
mother, who would read several novels a week.
Her trigger for throwing a book across the room was when an author described
a character having a dream.
Thank god for trade
paperbacks. You can throw them blindly. Hardcovers can mar the drywall or crack a fish
tank, so don’t throw them. Thump them broadside down on the carpet in
disgust, then carefully kick them at the baseboard.
But here’s the thing. I always feel ashamed for losing my temper at
a book. I know not everyone wants to write in strabismus-friendly snippets. Inevitably I pick up the thrown book and
repair any damage I have caused to it and put it back on the shelf lying sideways
across the other books. If I have read
at least a third of the way through prior to the throwing, I will at a later
date, somewhat embarrassed, pick it up, finish reading it, and wedge it in upright
among the others with its title and author clearly visible.
I was recently given a Kindle
Paperwhite, which is nicer to read from than an iPad but you can’t throw it
either, a flaw second only to the fact that it’s too easy to mistake for a
I don’t like e-readers and will
never download an unknown author again. Unless I know I can tolerate an author’s
style, I want a book I can throw across the room.
This week I took a group to Iona Beach Regional Park to see the Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Usually they are easier to hear than see, only occasionally popping up from the dense vegetation of the marsh,
But this time they were right at the parking lot, waiting to greet with their spectacular calls. There were males and females, and I wasn't able to make sense of exactly what they were doing--although it was, broadly speaking courtship, territoriality and other vernal exuberance-- because I was also herding humans, and there were non-associated naturalist types on site trying to take pictures--and one has to maintain a certain amount of mutual distance or be seen as an oaf. Birding isn't as simple as many would think.
I followed the flight of a little drab bird to where it landed at the top of a distant tree. I haven't figured out what it was. Almost instantly it was photobombed, then scared away by a pair of yellowheads. (In the above photo, mystery bird is below the female YH). The whole point of going there was to see the yellowheads, and having them there right at the beginning of the walk meant that the bar was set pretty high for the rest of the day.
They're still here. It's nearing the end of Snow Goose season; some hang around into May, but most should be Siberia-bound soon. There was a large flock Friday across the south arm of the Fraser from Vancouver International Airport. It started with about a hundred.
And then another hundred, and another, and then more, much like planes arriving at regular, noisy intervals.
Within 20 minutes there were a few thousand.
And still they came.
I don't know how many there were. Lots.
Today I took all our empty cans and bottles to the recycling depot. There is a woman who works there who can scan a flat of randomly placed cans and count them in about 2 seconds. She would probably be good at Snow Geese.
Snow Geese: 4,657 (or so). Cackling Geese: 1. I've never seen other geese mingle with Snowies before.