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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bumper Crop!

Apparently in this part of the world the rains came at just the right time to bring out a massive crop of wild mushrooms. I've been checking in the woods for a few weeks now but was overwhelmed when I went to Thetis Lake Park yesterday. There are mushrooms all over the place - in fact if you leave the main pathways it is difficult to walk without crushing some underfoot. Not only are there many mushrooms but there are many varieties. I photographed at least a dozen different kinds yesterday in many colors, shapes and sizes. The lovely little sulphur-colored ones above are just a hint of the riches that are scattered throughout the forest right now. I'm heading out to Pkols (Mount Douglas Park) today to see if there are others out there. I hereby declare that for the rest of the week this blog will be devoted to fungi.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)

When Fern and I were out at Goldstream Park last week I was pleased to spy this little fellow, a Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis), hopping around in the undergrowth and fallen logs while he searched for the little insects that are his diet. Another new species to add to my life-list! It's wonderful that no matter how often I go out into the forest I almost always see something new and interesting or some new facet of an old friend. Later this week when I've had a chance to edit the video, I'll share a Hooded Merganser mating dance I saw for the first time this week, though I've enjoyed these birds' winter company for more than a few years.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I Couldn't Resist

I know, I know, another sunset picture. Hasn't the world had enough?? But no, when you have a camera in hand and the sky is such an amazing palette of colors you have to, don't you? I do. - Fern

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Most of the time no one pays much attention to these places but I find them to be interesting in their economy of line and symmetry. - Fern

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Northern Pintail Ducks (Anas acuta)

These very neat looking ducks are Northern Pintails (Anas acuta), newly arrived from the north where they spend their summers. Like our ubiquitous Mallards, they are dabbling ducks, which means they prefer the shallows so they can root around (dabble) on the bottom for the food they like. It also makes them popular with me since they hang out fairly close to the shore unlike diving ducks who prefer deeper water and are consequently more difficult to photograph.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mr. and Mrs. Warbler (Dendroica petechia)

I was very pleased last week to add this bird species to my list of sightings. They are male (left) and female Yellow Warblers (Dendroica petechia). These were traveling with a group of friends, probably on their way south since they winter in Central and South America. They were very busy feeding, hopping and fluttering from branch to branch at the edge of the West Bay Walkway.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Although we are nearing the end of October, some hardy wildflowers continue to bloom as if it were summer. Here's two - above, a Wild Rose blooms on the West Bay Walkway. Below, small almost heather-like plants produce these lovely little pink bossoms, also on the West Bay Walkway, not twenty feet distant from where the wild rose is blooming.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


These puffballs look like they just landed from outer space. Sometimes they pop up as individuals (above) and other times a whole colony appears (below).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)

"Familiarity breeds contempt" goes the old saying but even if not contempt, familiarity often blinds one to commonplace beauties such as this Rock Pigeon (Columba livia). While not native to North America they have naturalized themselves here and over most of the globe and come in a wide variety of colors. Though they are often considered pests they are very attractive birds and the one above posed so nicely for me I felt quite grateful. Photographed at Esquimalt Lagoon on 19th October.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cross My Heart...

I know it's a little cheesy but I couldn't help myself. - Fern

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Goldstream Park

Sometimes light and water create magic. - Fern

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Coral Fungus

Fern and I went out to Goldstream Park yesterday to see if we could see any salmon spawning. We saw a few - immense fish tiredly lolling in backwaters on the edges of the stream - but the run has clearly only just begun. A visit to Goldstream is always a delight in any case, just to walk among the immense trees and lush moss-gardens. Above is a fungus new to me - apparently there are a large number of fungi in this "coral" family so I cannot identify this one precisely. No matter what's its name, it's a beauty.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Who Needs Meerkats...

...when you've got otters?

Watch the video below to see this little guy do his Meerkat imitation (stand on his hind legs and look unbelievably cute)(at 1:10 of the video). Take five minutes and play with the otters. This trio seems to have taken up permanent residence on the West Bay Walkway. I see them now almost every morning.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Racoons! (Procyon lotor)

I continue to be amazed at the amount and variety of wildlife that is visible from the West Bay Walkway on a daily basis. Just after snapping yesterday's photo of the Belted Kingfisher, I was putting my camera away when a gentleman passing by suggested I take my camera down the walkway a little further and look into a patch of blackberry canes where he had just seen five Racoons. I strolled down and found only two remaining but they posed nicely at first (left). Then when they heard the shutter one of them came towards me to investigate. Despite those big eyes, apparently Racoons are not very sharp-eyed and this one came close enough (above) to make me start wondering about rabies-crazed wildlife, etc., before he realized what he was facing. Then the two of them raced off into the brambles. They were quite small - I suspect they were part of this year's litter. Racoons have been hanging around this part of the world for a couple of million years and are very well adapted. Though I usually see them on the ground they also like to climb trees and have a wonderful adaptation for coming down tree trunks head first. They have reversible hind feet. Yes, they can turn their hind feet around to face backwards to make climbing down just as easy as climbing up. Now I'd like to see that! Read more about Racoons HERE.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I've posted photos of this Belted Kingfisher before but there has always been some problem - either I've been too far away or he has been too high up or the light is from the wrong angle, or.... But here, finally, the sun was at my back and he was perched low down on a nearby branch.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Harry Hippo

Victoria added a new activity to its tourist menu this year - Victoria Hippo Tours. If it looks like a bus on the water, that's because that's what it is. It's an amphibious bus that takes on passengers in front of the Empress Hotel, does a tour of the city streets and then takes to the water and cruises inside and outside of the Inner Harbour. Other cities located on the water have also developed this form of tour - I've been on the one in Seattle, called The Duck, though I've not yet ridden the Hippo here in Victoria.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Railyards

Next weekend this part of Vic West is going to look very different as Bayview Place (the condo developers currently building on the property) are hosting a massive party to celebrate 100 years of history on the site with all kinds of music, food etc. See here for the official info. I have mixed feelings about all of this. Progress is inevitable but still bittersweet. - Fern

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Albert Head Lagoon

It's Thanksgiving Weekend and what better way to celebrate than to enjoy a stroll along the beach? - Fern

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala)

Here's another winter resident, a Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala). These shorebirds breed only in Alaska during the spring and summer and then spend the winters further south. They like to poke around among the barnacles along the shoreline of the West Bay Walkway. Generally they move around in small flocks and this one was keeping company with about a dozen others.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lttle Landscapes

Much as I love to photograph birds, it is often frustrating since they are shy and hop around a lot, often in locations that are difficult for one reason or another. Thus I always welcome mushroom season since mushrooms are small, stable and close to the ground. It also means I can focus down and wander around in the extraordinary micro-landscapes that they inhabit, especially the smaller mushrooms such as the one above. We are also seeing larger mushrooms popping up now, such as those to the left.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus)

I was happy to note the arrival of some of my favorite little diving ducks, the Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) pictured above. The first pair showed up about ten days ago and others have arrived since. Above are three males. The white on their heads will develop into a upstanding crest that signals the beginning of the mating season.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Update on New Johnson Street Bridge

After what seemed like a long time with nothing happening, construction on the new Johnson Street Bridge started in earnest a few months ago. Here is what has been accomplished so far. In the foreground, the wood-covered platform rests on a number of steel piles that I suspect will provide the foundation for the bridge. There are similar piles on the opposite side of the Gorge. I imagine that the bridge structure will be erected on top of the platform that rests on these piles. There is a good live-cam of the construction available on the website the city has devoted to this project - Click HERE. As well, there are a couple of artist's conceptions of what the new bridge will look like - click HERE.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Arbutus Berries

The leaves of Arbutus Trees (Arbutus menziesii) don't change color or drop in the autumn but the some of the trees salute the season by bearing generous clusters of bright red berries. These provide a colorful setting for an American Robin (above) and a European Starling (below).

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall Colors

Autumn in Victoria means rain and rain means it's time to dig out the boots. No longer do they just come in black rubber; boots come with strips, polka dots and everything in between. These particular ones are being worn by my daughter who also took the picture...I think she likes them! - Fern

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Point Ellice Bridge

The Johnson Street Bridge is our more famous bridge (though soon-to-be no more sadly) but further up the Gorge, the Bay Street Bridge, as locals call it, has some nice lines as well. - Fern

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

I managed to catch this Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) from a little closer than usual recently. And, as you can see, the Garry Oak leaves are definitely adopting their autumn colors.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Here's another bird that likes to hop around upside down. This is a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), probably a female since the males have a red patch on the back of their heads and I couldn't see any red on this one as she hopped around looking for bugs in the bark. (Click here to see some shots of a male Downy Woodpecker.) She was sharing the same Garry Oak as the Brown Creeper we looked at a few days ago. They actually seemed to be hunting together since they arrived together and departed at the same time.
The West Bay Walkway continues to provide an amazing amount of wildlife sightings for an urban environment. This morning on an hour's walk I saw a Harbour Seal, 3 Northern River Otters, 2 Belted Kingfishers, 5 Hooded Mergansers, a Great Blue Heron, small flocks of European Starlings and Robins, a Chestnut-backed Chickadee, as well as a wide variety of joggers and walkers.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mushroom Season

Mushroom season has only just begun now but there are already a few of the smaller kinds of fungi visible on the forest floor, Above is one of my favorites, the Toothed Jelly Fungus (Pseudohydnum gelatinosum). I don't know if these guys glow in the dark but they certainly glow in the daytime. I think I also like them because they are one of the few fungi I can identify. The brown mushrooms on the left belong to that much larger class of fungi that I cannot identify. If there are any mycophiles out there perhaps you can suggest what kind of mushroom they are.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Vista 18 Restaurant

I had the pleasure last week of dining at Vista 18, a restaurant that sits atop the Chateau Victoria and offers splendid views in all directions, as well as delicious food. The view above is facing west towards the Metchosin Hills with Sooke beyond. The Legislative Assembly Buildings are on the left, some of the Fairmont Empress Hotel in the center and a bit of the Inner Harbour visible on the right. Click on the photo if you want to see the large panorama (3000 pixels wide) and scroll around in Victoria's skyline. There are also some nice views if one looks down instead of out such as Saint Saviour's Church (right) nestled between some of the newer highrise hotels and condominiums. The Vista 18 Restaurant used to be called The Parrot House and thereby hangs a tale...(Click here if you want to know why it was called The Parrot House.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)

This tiny little bird is a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) and here he is pictured hunting for insects in the bark of a Garry Oak overlooking the West Bay Walkway. I was thinking this was a fairly insignificant bird and then I realized what he was doing. Remember, in the above photo he is hanging upside down. As he poked here and there in bark crevices, he hopped upwards. The more I think about it, it seems, like the flight of the bumblebee, to be impossible. Why, as soon as he lets go with his feet, doesn't he plummet towards the earth? Well, all I can say is that he doesn't, and he makes this defiance of gravity look easy. Wonderful!