Photos from a wonderful day trip in British Columbia's E.C. Manning Provincial Park! The reason for the visit was the sub alpine meadows that are usually in full bloom in mid-July, and I can gladly report, they were.
In sub alpine plant communities, the plants are known as 'survivors'. They often grow low like a mat to maximize photosynthetic activity in the short summer and to stay low in windy areas. These plants do not grow large like those on the coast as resources and water are in shorter supply. Essentially, they are surviving, growing slowly but surely in hostile terrain. Because of this, all the plants here are on the same playing field and there is not one plant that dominates, allowing for incredible floral diversity. In a square meter, up to four plants can be found growing. The most common plants on a short sub alpine hike we took were; tufted saxifrage, western pasque flowers with their Dr. Seuss looking seed heads, alpine pussytoe, alpine aster, alpine arnica, arctic lupine, slender cinquefoil, partridge foot, common red paintbrush, and spreading phlox. That's a lot of plants for a few kilometres! There were also stunning views of surrounding peaks. On the drive up to the sub alpine, many specially adapted plants grew on the rocky slopes of the mountain at the Cascade Lookout. These included coast penstemon and sulphur buckwheat. Along side the road, Columbia lilies, yarrow, scarlet gilia, and lupine also grew prolifically out of the rock.
I also spotted a Clark's Nutcracker, the 253rd bird on my life list! These birds, related to jays and crows, live in high elevations where they feed on the seeds of whitebark pine. It is with the whitebark pine that the nutcracker has developed a symbiotic relationship. Nutcrackers will cache (store for later) tens of thousands of white bark pine seeds each year. The seeds that aren't eaten are dispersed, growing new pines. Nutcrackers can remember the location of thousands of different cache sites, making it a a remarkable bird!
One day in nature provided lots of beautiful sights!
What a wonderful morning I had at Stanley Park on Canada Day!
Near Lost Lagoon, I heard a bird calling with great insistence. After seeing and hearing two adult Red-breasted Sapsuckers earlier in this same area, I suspected a young Sapsucker. My hunch was right. I looked behind me and found a big leaf maple with six holes. Sure enough, there was a young sapsucker begging for food! It was a pleasure watching the parents feeding their young! Woodpeckers, including sapsuckers and flickers, are important in their ecosystems as they are the only animals capable of making a cavity nest. Once the birds are done raising their young, they will abandon the cavity, making it available for a secondary cavity nesting bird such as chickadee or a wood duck in the future. A great number of birds that range in size from a chickadee to an owl, depend on nests made by woodpeckers. These cavities are typically found in dead trees known as snags. That is why it is important to leave trees standing even if they're dead. What may seem like useless dead wood in your yard is actually of huge importance to biodiversity.
Following this exciting encounter, it was time to visit Lost Lagoon. A walk around Lost Lagoon resulted in the spotting of 17 species of birds. Highlights were a young clutch of Mallard ducklings, a young Wood Duck, an Anna's hummingbird flying right near me, and a Western Meadowlark! Other wildlife highlights were an abundance of dragonflies, a Swallowtail butterfly, and a cute Douglas squirrel.
Next on the list of places to visit was the Great Blue Heron Rookery. While looking at young Great Blue Herons in their rookery nests, I noticed a common city dwelling mammal. Three raccoons, one parent and two young, were occupying the same big-leaf maples as the herons. One of the raccoon didn't seem to want to leave its nice home in a broken branch. The adult displayed its amazing climbing abilities, walking down the tree with ease.
What links these encounters? Well it seems fitting that lots of the action took place in maple trees on Canada Day. How fitting!
"Birds Know No Borders"
My vision with this illustration was to incorporate many spectacular migratory birds into one, reasonably accurate looking bird, to represent the reality that birds know no borders.
First I will talk about the birds represented in this illustration.
The head is that of the Canada warbler. This wood warbler is smaller than a sparrow and migrates from Canada’s northern forests to Columbia and northern South America.
The bill is that of the tiny Rufous Hummingbird that can be found breeding as far north as Alaska and migrate to winter in Mexico. Compared to the distance undertaken by other birds on this list, this migration is relatively “short”, but it is important to remember that this bird has a wingspan of 4.5 inches, is 3.7
inches long, and weighs .12 ounces!
The breast is that of a Northern Wheatear. These birds breed in both the Siberian and Canadian tundra. Both populations migrate to sub-Saharan Africa for the winter. The Canadian population migrates across the northern Atlantic ocean to Africa, waiting for exact right weather before making a very dangerous flight over the North Atlantic.
The belly, slightly darker brown than the Wheatear, and feet are those of the Barn Swallow. There are three 3 subspecies of this bird. This is the representation of the North American population that breed in North America, migrating to South America for the winter. The birds in the European population breed in Europe and migrate to sub-Saharan Africa. The birds in the Asian population breed across the continent north of India, migrating to India, Indonesia, and the other islands in Oceania. I say the Asian, European, and North American populations, simply because that is where they breed. In fact, these birds spend more time in their wintering grounds than in their breeding grounds, so they could also be called the African population, but that’s a discussion for another day.
The wings are that of the Red Knot. These small shorebirds, the size of a robin, migrate from the Arctic tundra to the southern tip of Argentina and back every year. An individual that has been banded, B95, with its age taken into account, is thought to have flown the equivalent of a trip to the moon and halfway back in its lifetime, earning its name “Moonbird”. There is an excellent book about this bird that I strongly recommend called “Moonbird; A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95”.
And finally, the tail is that of the Arctic Tern, that like the Red Knot, breeds on the arctic tundra. However, the Arctic Tern doesn’t stay put in one area for the winter, instead it will travel great distances to feed over the southern ocean. The sheer distance of the migration and the dispersal within its wintering grounds put it near the top of the list for the largest animal migrations.
Each of these birds have amazing stories and undertake amazing migrations annually. Unlike humans, birds know no borders. A bird that may be protected in Canada where it breeds may be at threat of habitat loss in its wintering grounds. It is not the fault of the coffee farmers in Columbia, who are payed low wages and lack proper working conditions, that patches of forest that provide food and shelter for wintering songbirds are cleared. This represents a bigger problem, a global problem we must address. We must all be part of the solution. We have to ensure that every single human being across the planet is able to live peacefully, have a safe workspace and sustainable income, and have the fundamental human rights we all have and often take for granted. If we, as consumers, at home make responsible choices we can promote the well-being of those producing goods, that are too often treated poorly. If we all work together to fight inequality, we can in turn help protect the birds we love. We are all connected.
The biodiversity at Jericho Park this morning was impressive. There was a great diversity of life from butterflies to lupine and everything in between. There was amazing floral diversity on the beach, the sandy beach. Somehow, the blue dune grass and seashore lupine are able to survive with their roots in nothing more than sand! The grass was covered with Triphysaria pusilla (Dwarf Orthocarpus) a native annual plant that has a hemi parasitic relationship with the surrounding grass! To top it off, there were several of my favourite birds, the Northwestern Crow, feeding on the beach, one of their natural feeding grounds!
All new photos from a weekend well spent photographing birds, and a few dogs, at Trout Lake and Iona Beach Regional Park. At Iona Beach, the Snow Geese were feeding on the exposed mudflats about thirty yards away from me as I lay in the sand behind a log to minimize the disturbance of my presence.
I decided to go to Trout Lake and test my luck with the wildlife and see what I could capture. I ended up having very good luck. The fall colours were reflecting beautifully on the lake and birds were plentiful on the lake and in the surrounding deciduous woodland. Special sightings included two downy woodpeckers and a Pied-billed Grebe. I wasn't able to get a photo of the woodpeckers, but the grebe was less than 50ft from the shore and let me get some photos that I'm very pleased with. In the forest, licorice ferns were coming to life. These epiphytic ferns, growing out of trees, go dormant in the summer due to a lack of water and too much shade from its host tree. In the fall and winter in Vancouver, there is no shortage of water in the form of rain and the trees on which they grow loose their leaves and the ferns come out of dormancy, giving a splash of bright green to the landscape. In the city you will see these ferns growing in non-native maples and willow, but its most important natural host is the big-leaf maple. It's worth keeping an eye out for these awesome plants. I'm very grateful to have access to such wonderful green spaces within the city. Have a good weekend!
Today, my photographic inspiration was the water strider. After learning more about these fascinating insects and how they walk on water, I knew I had to film them, and I knew right where to go at Queen Elizabeth Park to find them. While at the pond, I was enticed by beautiful dragonflies (Aesgna palmata), fall colours, and songbirds. Here are a few photos from the afternoon and a short video of the water striders.
Fall is in the air. The colours are changing and migratory birds are arriving to our region for the winter. There were large flocks of Dark-eyed juncos, Black-capped Chickadees, and Kinglets. These song birds can be found year round in Vancouver, but will migrate to nearby mountains or other forested regions outside the city to nest and raise their young. Red-osier dogwood, a native shrub that thrive on the edges of wet environments, is turning a magnificent dark pink along with our native vine maples turning a deep orange/red. The non native (non invasive) Katsura trees are defoliating while creating an amazing sugary smell. It's a great time to get out and enjoy the fall colours and wildlife arriving to spend the winter in our mild climate.
On a more serious note, I spotted a Canada Goose, photo below, with a plastic floss stuck in its beak. I tried contacting the city, wildlife rescue, and the local conservatory, but the flock of geese had flown away before I could talk to someone. This was a sad, but important reminder to be more responsible with our use and discarding of plastic. Lets hope this goose can find help or dislodge the floss from its beak.
Last week, on a family vacation to Québec City, I had the opportunity to take lots of photos. When we weren't visiting family, we were going on day trips in nature.
Our first excursion was to Lac Saint-Joseph, 45 minutes north of Québec City. I had the pleasure of kayaking and paddle boarding on this beautiful lake. While kayaking, I saw familiar plants such as Myrica gale growing right on the edge of the water, partly in the water. A highlight, and a new plant on my list, was a small patch of Impatiens capensis, commonly known as spotted jewelweed. I. capensis is a herbaceous annual native to North America.
Our second excursion took us to la forêt Montmorency, an hour north of Québec City. This boreal forest wilderness is a research station and forestry school run by Laval University. The 4.5 km hike we took around lac Piché was very special. Living in a temperate rainforest, it was super cool to see the flora of the boreal forest, also known as the taiga. This beautiful forest is characterized by thin conifers such as spruce. This eco-region is found in the northern parts of Canadian provinces and around the globe at similar latitudes such as Russia and northern Europe. These forests are incredibly important for a wide array of wildlife ranging from songbirds to lynx. The abundance of trees also makes it a massive global carbon sink, mitigating climate change. I was thrilled to come upon Larix laricina, know as tamarack or larch. The reason why this was so cool was because it's a deciduous conifer. The genus Larix, is one of the few groups of conifers to loose their needles in the fall. Another example of a deciduous conifer is the swamp cypress, native to the southern US. There were two things found in abundance on both sides of the trail. Cornus canadensis, bunchberry, spread all across the forest floor alongside a lot of mushrooms. Not only were there lots of mushrooms, but there was also a high diversity of them. Some purple, some red, some orange. I've never seen so many mushrooms in one area. This was a great hike and worthwhile visit!
If anyone ever finds themselves travelling to Québec, a day trip to the boreal forest is well worth it.
I hope you enjoy my photos!
This morning, Burnaby Lake Regional Park was bursting with life. Many of our native shrubs including Nootka rose and thimbleberry continue to flower. Some shrubs are already developing their fruits, such as: osoberry (Indian Plum*), salmonberry, and black twin berry. As you transition from deciduous forest into a mix coniferous forest, Pacific bleeding heart and false lily of the valleys appear from the forest floor. Wildlife highlights included adorable mallard ducklings that remained beside their mother's side and a late spring Snow Goose. These geese should be on their breeding grounds in Russia by now, so I'm not sure what this straggler was doing. Regardless, it was fun seeing such a beautiful bird from close up.
* I'd be interested to know what indigenous people think about the name Indian plum. I know that Indian paintbrush is now called common red paintbrush, so should we come up with a new common name for this plant or stick to Osoberry?
I'm using my power as a photographer to highlight nature's beauty and the reasons worth protecting our incredible planet