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Monday, December 31, 2012

Cattle Point

With a warm beverage, these folks seem to be enjoying the pale winter sunshine on this rocky outcropping. This is a great spot all year round! Happy New Year to everyone. - Fern

Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Phone with Camera

I recently got one of these new cellphones with a camera and have been enjoying taking occasional snaps with it when I don't have my dslr with me. This was one of those moments when it was great to be able to reach in my pocket and catch these two gulls on the top of the poles before they flew away. - Fern

Saturday, December 29, 2012


This is one of a half dozen minute islands in Victoria Harbour. And this one is like the others in that it is basically just an enormous rock sticking up out of the water with a light dusting of soil here and there in its cracks, dips and depressions. Despite its Eden-like lushness at certain times of year, Victoria is not generally very fertile in the agricultural sense because it is built on rock and often the soil overlaying the rock is very shallow. The underlying bedrock not only shows up in the islands in the harbour but here and there all around the city. It's a rocky place.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fungus Friday

These mushrooms growing out of the side of a decaying log in Thetis Lake Park have clearly sensed which way is up despite the contortions of stem this requires in this situation. My question is, since they have none of that light sensitive substance, chlorophyll, how do they know up from down?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Two weeks ago I posted a photo of some Double-crested Cormorants relaxing on an island in the Inner Harbour. That's about as close as we usually get to these birds who seem to be much shyer than many of the other local waterfowl, so I was happy to see this one swimming around relatively close to shore in Sailor's Cove. These birds are called "Double-crested" because of the two large white crests they wear above their eyes during breeding season.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Butchart Gardens Christmas

One of the more famous tourist attractions in the Greater Victoria area is the Butchart Garden, a large complex of several gardens that have been developed over the last 100 years by the Butchart family and their descendants. At this time of year the gardens are lit with an immense number of lights and a series of tableaux depicting scenes from the popular carol 12 Days of Christmas - 12 drummers drumming, 11 pipers piping, etc. In the video below you can see the "seven swans a swimming" and get some idea of the spectacular light show. Music is part of the package as well and the brass quartet entertained the hundreds of patrons who were strolling in the gardens despite the rain (you can see umbrellas in the photo).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Ho Ho Ho!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tis the Season

This morning I got up early and before I did anything else, I turned on the Christmas tree lights and just sat quietly in its lovely glow before the mayhem of the next 24 hours began. I wish peace and tranquility for everyone this time of year. - Fern

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dogwalk at Fleming Beach

These two had such a good time running at Fleming Beach this morning, taking turns chasing each other. The sun even made an appearance briefly. - Fern

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)

Here's an old acquaintance on the West Bay Walkway, a female Common Merganser stretching her wings.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fungus Friday

Sometimes you find just one or two mushrooms growing by themselves. And sometimes there is a real crowd.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

I saw a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) at this place on the West Bay Walkway 2 years ago and now whenever I pass I stop and look to see if there's another. Yesterday I was lucky and watched this small woodpecker for about five minutes. The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest of North American woodpeckers. Its diminutive size is one characteristic that distinguishes it from its larger relative, the Hairy Woodpecker. Another distinguishing feature can be seen in the photo to the left - some small black spots on the outer white tail feathers. It is quite challenging to photograph these small birds since they rarely sit still when they are foraging for insects clinging to the bark of branches. The 30 second video below gives some idea of their constant searching movement.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Causeway Christmas

Here's Victoria's Inner Harbour Causeway with the Legislature's special Christmas lights. The rain spots on the lens in the upper left corner appeared almost immediately since it began to rain, and then sleet, as soon as I opened my camera bag and I fled for home after a few quick clicks of the shutter. (Compare with THIS.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


About this time of year I start to get hungry for green and when I can take my eyes away from the mushrooms and other fungi I enjoy the interesting green of the lichens that grow so well at this time of year. Actually even when I'm looking at lichens I'm looking at fungi because lichen are part fungi. They are actually two kinds of plant intimately joined together for mutual benefit - a mycobiont (the fungi part) and a phycobiont (the photosynthetic part - usually an alga of some kind).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some of My Favorite Things

While these months of cold, dark weather are hard on all of us, I take solace in the beauty of winter trees. No longer cloaked in foliage their branches reveal an intricate and delightful display. - Fern

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Silver Bells

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks
Dressed in holiday style
In the air there's a feeling
Of Christmas
Children laughing, people passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you'll hear

Silver bells
Silver bells
It's Christmas time in the city
Hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas Day

Strings of streetlights, even stoplights
Blink of bright red and green
As the shoppers rush home with their treasures
Hear the snow crunch
See the kids bunch
This is Santa's big scene
And above all the bustle you'll hear

Silver bells
Silver bells
It's Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas Day
Soon it will be Christmas Day

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shelf Fungus

Shelf Fungi are not a scientific category. The term is just descriptive of a large group of fungi that are stemless and look like shelves. Because they generally have pores rather than gills they are also sometimes called polypores. You can see the small pores on the underside of the one pictured above. I was attracted to it by the amazing droplets on its underside. They look like water droplets but there must be some extra ingredient to give them enough additional surface tension to hang there when fully formed into perfectly circular globes instead of falling to the ground.

Friday, December 14, 2012

More Mushrooms

I generally think of mushrooms as growing out of rotting leaf mold or some other kind of spongy medium but I've been noticing lately that they also sprout from relatively undecayed and hard looking wood such as these two examples.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

If you look carefully at yesterday's top photo (below) you will see that the pelicans are sharing their little island amicably with some Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus). I should say that the cormorants are sharing their island with the pelicans since this island almost always boasts a number of cormorants resting and drying their wings after their diving exploits and the pelicans are relatively short-term visitors. Generally the pelicans keep to the eastern end of the island and the cormorants tend to hang out on the western end - "Birds of a feather...etc."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


A pelican is a large bird - as big or bigger than a turkey - with a broad wingspan - about 6 feet (two meters) - and getting all that weight into the air without a runway or handy cliff-side must be an incredible effort. Pelicans manage, however, and make it look easy, launching themselves and flying low over the surface of the water with lazy grace. Above is the small rocky island in Victoria's Inner Harbour favoured by the pelicans for a perch to rest and groom themselves. Check out the video below (42 seconds long) of our Brown Pelicans taking off to find some lunch.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Toadstool Tuesday

I am still enjoying the fungi.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Nighttime Photography

I love going out after dark with my camera and I have visions of the kind of pictures I'm going to take but alas, it's so darn cold! I know, suffer for your art and I may be willing but my fingers are less inclined. Needless to say, this is the only picture that worked out and wasn't blurry because of chattering teeth or frozen digits. Time to bring out the tripod and a romote shutter release! - Fern

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Found Art

Walking home from town we came upon this crazy, cool little art project of someone's and were very impressed. This is part of a long brick wall that runs along Esquimalt Road and is very unappealing so this little square is pure magic really. Hat's off to whomever is the artist! - Fern

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

While the air of the Westsong Walkway was thick with Brown Pelicans I was happy to see this lone female Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) swimming around quite close to the shoreline. She is the only Goldeneye I've seen this year.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Juvenile Brown Pelican

The flock of Brown Pelicans that are currently visiting Victoria is a mixed group of adults and juveniles. Yesterday I posted a photo of an adult and above is a photo of one of the juvenile Brown Pelicans in the group.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

It was exciting to hear a few days ago that a small flock of pelicans were visiting Victoria (Thanks, Dean Lewis). Apparently they are visiting here from further south because of seasonal shoals of some kind of small fish. When I first saw them they were all perched on a small island in the Inner Harbour off the Westsong Walkway. I rushed home and dusted off the 500mm super telephoto lens and voila! The flock is a mixed group of adults and juveniles and we'll have a look at some of the others tomorrow. Above is an adult Brown Pelican.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Here are some more winter visitors, a pair of Bufflehead Ducks (Bucephala albeola). As you can see in the photo we are having a lot of weather that is more suitable for ducks than for photographers.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Toadstool Tuesday (again)

A brief glimpse of sunshine a few days ago took me out to Mount Douglas Park to see how the mushroom season is progressing out there. Despite the bonechilling weather we've been having this mushroom has such a warm color it looks like summer.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Trounce Alley Shoe Shine

Barbershops may have stood the test of time but shoeshines haven't been so lucky, not in Victoria anyway. Around town there are several old buildings that still have the original signage painted on them and they are a nice reminder of what the city must've looked like. - Fern

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cliff's Classic Barbershop

This is our local barbershop in Vic West and while I've never been inside, it seems like an old world haven to those who do go for a cut or a shave. Victoria seems to be having a bit of a resurgence of barbershops and I like it. Is this a tread other places too? - Fern

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hooded Mergansers

Another aspect of Victoria's wildlife (in addition to fungi, mosses and lichens) that also burgeons in the fall and winter is the bird life to be found along the shores. There are quite a number of species we see nothing of in the spring and summer but who return in the fall and spend the winter here. Pictured above are some Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus). I am always pleased to see these lovely little ducks arrive and they have been very numerous lately near the West Bay Walkway.