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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Commerce Canoe - Public Art in Bastion Square

The last time the sun was shining here I went downtown to see what was happening in Bastion Square, the heart of the old city of Victoria, and I realized while I was there that I had never featured a photo of the most recent installation of public art in the square, pictured above. The sculpture is by Illarion Gallant and is called "The Commerce Canoe."

Seeds are symbolic of potential, said Gallant, in explaining why they are featured in his work. "What is the potential of the city for growth over time?"

The sculpture in [being] silver, green and red "is supposed to be optimistic."

The canoe is a deeply Canadian symbol, said Gallant, adding he has used its form in other sculptures.
(From the Times-Colonist March 2, 2008)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Victoria Day Parade 6 - Ethnic Communities

I have to confess that the Victoria Day Parade is getting a lot of coverage here this year partially because the weather lately has been dreadful - cold and dark and rainy - so I have not been out and about much despite two very inviting outdoor events - the Highland Games and the Swiftsure Yacht Race. However, the parade really deserves more exposure than I usually give it so here are a few more photos representing some of the displays put on by Victoria's ethnic communities. The girls above were in one of several displays representing our vibrant Chinese-Canadian community and the young woman below was playing on a float celebrating the Polish ethnic community.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Majorettes and Beauty Queens - Victoria Day Parade 5

Here's two more traditional parts of every parade - the majorettes that often accompany marching bands (above) and the beauty queens representing various organizations. Those below represent Job's Daughters. There weren't very many beauty queens in this year's parade. I suspect the era of beauty queens is passing.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Victoria Day Parade 4

With any parade the bystanders on the sidelines are often as interesting as the participants marching past. This trio was having so much fun I don't think anyone nearby was watching the parade. It's been a long time since I played Ring Around the Rosie. If I fell down now I'd probably break my hip. This is one of those games that only works when you're still fairly close to the ground.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Marching Bands - Victoria Day Parade 3

Despite all the social changes in the last century here is something that seems to maintain its popularity - elaborately costumed kids' marching bands. When I was a boy I played trumpet in one that toured the USA and Canada one summer (1956), traveling from city to city and marching in their parades. Consequently these marching bands bring back plenty of memories. We wore dark blue capes lined with bright red satin that I thought were just about the sharpest thing possible. I'm sure the kids in these pictures are much more blasé about their outfits.

Trumpeters in beretsFlautists in buttons
Saxaphonists in kiltsClarinetists in plaid
Parades would be pretty dead and dull without the show these kids provide. Many thanks to the American and Canadian kids who marched and played.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Horses - Victoria Day Parade 2

These splendid horses belong to the Victoria Fire Department and were pulling an antique fire engine in the parade. I think they are a kind of horse known as a Percheron.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Clowns - Victoria Day Parade 1

Victoria always celebrates Victoria Day with a parade and over the next few days I will share some of the photographs I took of this year's. To set the mood here's a couple of photos of clowns. They are always always fascinating subjects since there is a double layer to their features - the makeup and the expression underneath it, each giving added depth to the other.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Like I Said Yesterday...

...the Fisgard Lighthouse looks good from any angle.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Photogenic Fisgard Lighthouse

Living close to the Fisgard Lighthouse is like having a beautiful model available to one at any time and it would be foolish not to take advantage of such a situation. Consequently, regular visitors to this blog have already seen several photos of this lighthouse and can expect to see many more. Last time I was out there I tried to find some new angles by walking around it several times. It looks good from every angle. I like this shot particularly because of the tiny cruise ship visible on the horizon to the left.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bastion Square

While the rest of the country seems to be experiencing extremes of weather - snow in some areas and heat waves in others, Victoria's temperatures have been on the cool side - it's not t-shirt and shorts weather yet although it is warming up. Bars and restaurants have opened up their outside patios and lots of locals and visitors are taking advantage of what sunshine there is such as the patrons of the Irish Times Pub at the entrance to Bastion Square in the photo above. Another sign of coming summer can be seen below in the arrival of backpackers (below right) - as sure a sign of the season as the cruise ships pictured yesterday.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cruise Ships

Almost exactly two years ago I posted a photo of the cruise ship pictured above, the Celebrity Infinity, as it turned before docking at Ogden Point. Cruise ships are an important part of the local economy since they represent considerable income, both from the various fees charged by the Harbours Board as well as by the money spent by their passengers while they are here - figure between thirty and fifty thousand dollars for each ship for an overnight stay. These huge floating hotels carry about 2,000 people each and as you can see by the photo to the right, sometimes we have as many as three of these ships here at the same time. Between now and October we'll see about 200 more.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wood's Rose (Rosa woodsii)

Here's another old favorite familiar to anyone who has ever spent any time outdoors in this area, one of the species of wild rose. I believe this one is what is called Wood's Rose (Rosa woodsii) but differences between the various species are quite subtle.They were just starting to bloom last week when I was out at Swan lake.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

There are a couple of kinds of swallow resident in Victoria but they are generally so busy swooping around catching insects that I am rarely able to catch a photo. This one, however, took a break from his hunting and perched on the walkway railing at Swan Lake long enough for this photo. This is a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), the most widespread swallow species in the world.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

While we're looking at "False" local plants, here's another, False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum). This plant and yesterday's post (False Lily of the Valley) are probably so named because of their close resemblance to the similar plants, Solomon's Seal and Lily of the Valley thus commonly named in Europe.Click HERE to see the original Solomon's Seal plant.

Monday, May 17, 2010

False Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum)

These lovely virginal white blooms are False Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum dilatatum). In my strolls through our local parks lately I have found this spring flower almost everywhere. The one above was photographed in Saxe Point Park.

The real Lily of the Valley is not native to this area but you can check its resemblance to this plant by looking at its Wikipedia entry HERE.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pink Anthers

I took so many photos on my recent visit to Swan Lake that it is going to take some time to process them all. I don't like to post photos of plants until I have identified them but the flowers above are so lovely and, with their pink anthers, are so unusual I thought I might see if any visitors here know what they are. These blooms were on a large, bushy tree with quite distinctive leaves also. Suggestions welcome.

11 AM: Nothing like a mid-morning nap to let the sub-conscious go to work. I woke up just now with the thought that this plant was Hawthorn and when I checked my field guides it seems to fit the description. This is most probably what is called Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna). It's an introduced or invasive species. There is, however, an indigenous species called Black Hawthorn but I think the leaves identify the one above as the introduced species. Common Hawthorn has a lot of folklore attached to it, not the least of which is an ancient association with Mayday. You can read about its folklore HERE.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cordova Bay from Mount Douglas

From the top of Mount Douglas there are wonderful views in every direction but the viewpoint and the summit favor views to the south,north and west and this view of Cordova Bay is generally blocked by a slightly lower summit. In any case this photo suggests what a glorious day it was yesterday. I hope you had a good one and that the weekend will be as bright and sunny as ours is starting out to be this morning.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris)

As I wandered amongst the bullrushes that line the edges of Swan Lake the other morning I became aware of what sounded like a large bird belting out a lusty territorial song. After some time I discovered that this volume of sound was actually coming from a very small bird, this little Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata)

Orchids, for me, are always associated with the steamy heat and humidity of the tropics. Thus I am surprised to find that we have over 40 different kinds of orchids growing wild here in British Columbia. Perhaps one reason we often don't notice them is that they are relatively small compared to the orchids we see in florists and supermarkets. However, I am beginning to discover that though small, our local orchids are no less beautiful and interesting. Here is one I came across in the Bear Hill Regional Park in Saanich, just outside Victoria. It is the Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata). This strange and beautiful little plant has no leaves or chlorophyll and gets its food from the mycelium of a kind of mushroom through its coral-like root structure.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

Here's another Victoria resident that many of us have never seen, the Western Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta). This one lives at the Swan Lake nature Sanctuary and was basking in some spring sunshine on the edge of the lake when I took this photo. There are only about a dozen species of reptiles in British Columbia so I felt a little privileged to see this turtle. It was quite large, about the size of a small dinner platter.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On the Rocks

I mentioned yesterday my fondness for cacti and succulents and one of the reasons for that fondness is admiration for how these little plants survive and even thrive under very difficult circumstances. While out at Fisgard Lighthouse on the weekend I also came across these tough little plants - not cacti or succulents. I think they are some variety of wild onion (Allium species) but I can't find anything in my field guides that will let me to be more specific and their grip on life in the tiny cracks they were growing from seemed so precarious I was not about to dig around to look at their roots or bulbs. The photo on the left may help in identification and I welcome suggestions as to what they are.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Yesterday I picked up a copy of Lewis Clark's Field guide to wild flowers of the sea coast in the Pacific Northwestin a local thrift store and found a lovely picture of this little plant that leaves no doubt as to its identification. This is Sea Pink, aka Thrift (Armeria martitima).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Broad-leaved Stonecrop (Sedum spathufolium)

I have a special fondness for cacti and succulents of all types and I am happy that we have some growing here. One of the most common around Victoria is Broad-leaved Stonecrop (Sedum spathufolium).The rosettes of leaves pictured above are not always red but may be a beautiful frosty green depending on how much direct sunlight they get. The flower bunches (left), however, are always bright yellow. These particular stonecrop plants were photographed on rocks near the Fisgard Lighthouse.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


As can be seen in yesterday's photo (below), Fisgard Lighthouse is joined to the mainland by a causeway. However, this is relatively recent and for many years the lighthouse keeper needed to keep a boat for traveling back and forth to Esquimalt for groceries and mail. On a day such as pictured above this would be a pleasant row but often the trip across this harbour entrance meant high winds and dangerous waves. At least one lighthouse keeper lost his life while making this crossing.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fisgard Lighthouse and HMCS Calgary

I went out to the Fisgard Lighthouse because it's an unfailingly picturesque scene and it's a delight to photograph something that always looks good at any season, any time of day, in any light or weather. However, that also means it's a bit of a challenge to try and see it from a new perspective. I had some help yesterday from the Canadian Navy when they sent the frigate HMCS Calgary through the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour while I was photographing the lighthouse. Esquimalt Harbour is home to Canada's Pacific Fleet.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

Much of the vegetation here is common in other parts of the world as well but there are some plants that particularly contribute to the unique character of this area such as the Arbutus and Garry Oak Trees, the splendid Camas Lilies and Salal (Gaultheria shallon), the flowers of which are pictured above. Salal is an indigenous plant here and thrives in the cold, salty winds of our west coast. As well as beautiful, it's a useful plant and the local native peoples used both the berries and leaves as food and as medicine. The flowers above were photographed in Highrock Park but nearly two years ago I posted another photo of some taken in Mount Douglas Park.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Indian Plums, Snickering Squirrel and the Elusive Northern Flicker

When I photographed the flowers of the Indian Plum earlier this spring I read that one rarely sees the fruit since it is a favorite food for wild birds. This is not surprising since it comes so early - right now there are no other wild fruits or berries to eat. I can also see why it is not a part of our diet - these lovely little fruits are only about the size of a pea. Shortly after photographing these I noticed the squirrel on the left below.

Why do I think the squirrel is snickering? I suspect it is because he knows I will fail once again to get a good clear photo of the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) (right). I have dozens of photos of parts of Northern Flickers. They are very shy and have an unerring sense of anyone watching them. They always manage to be partly hidden behind the trunk of a tree or a branch as in this photo and seldom perch for long in a wholly unobstructed fashion.
I might not be so obsessed with Northern Flickers if it were not for the tiny hearts that cover their breasts. (Click the photo to enlarge it and you will see what I mean.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Yellow Wood Violet (Viola glabella)

Roses are red,
Violets are blue... except when they're yellow, like the one above. Up until recently I always thought violets were violet colored, a sort of bluish purple. The variety pictured above, however, was recently encountered in Goldstream Park and is a common native wildflower known as the Yellow Wood Violet, Stream Violet or Smooth Violet (Viola glabella).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum)

Here's another spring wildflower encountered in Goldstream Park recently, our local species of Trillium, called Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum). Initially white, the flower turns this shade of purple as it ages.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Floating Boat Show

As spring blossoms in the parks in and around Victoria I've been neglecting my favorite haunts in the city such as the Inner Harbour Causeway, pictured above. The weather is still not inviting for strollers but a fair number of people turned out over the weekend to see the Floating Boat Show. It's an interesting name and I'm sure there is an important distinction being made there. Some of the new boats for sale can be seen above. You can't get any closer unless you pay admission so I'll wait for the Classic Boat Show later in the year which is free, hospitable and very interesting.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mount Douglas Panorama II

Yesterday's panorama from Mount Douglas was taken looking northward up the east coast of the island. Today's panorama is looking south with the city of Victoria spread out beneath us, the Strait of Juan de Fuca beyond it and the Olympic Peninsula (USA) on the opposite shore. Stretching out to the right is the west coast of Vancouver Island. (Click the photo to see the larger version, which you may have to click again to see full size.)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mount Douglas Panorama

The summit of Mount Douglas provides an excellent view of the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Here we are looking northward with Cordova Bay directly below us and Sidney Spit and some of the Gulf Islands beyond. Most of what's on the right are the San Juan Islands of the USA. This pano is quite large - click it to see the full size version. (You may have to click it again depending on the browser you use and the size of your monitor.)