Search because it has a song...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ardea Herodias

Squawking because Sparrow is on the beach...


     I took the dogs to Jericho Beach today. It's Monday so I knew it wouldn't be crowded. We walked down to the beach so I could throw sticks for Sparrow, who was already in the water - Hawksley beside me near my ankle.
He lands and watches a few tosses of chase the stick.
     We climbed over the last grassy bank to get onto the sand. I heard this guy before I saw him. A Great Blue Heron! My dad asked me if I have a picture of one in flight, so I keep trying. Today I got pretty lucky. As I said I heard him before I saw him, so I got my camera ready. He SQUAWKED a number of times, really loudly complaining that we were disturbing him. We were at least a hundred yards away - and only two other people on the entire beach! He probably thought my dogs would chase him, but they know better - besides this park is chalk full of coyotes, so if someone's dog did chase, I feel like the dog's just keeping whatever it's chasing on whatever it's chasing's toes. Most dogs are just into chasing, not catching. There's a German short haired Pointer and he just stands there, leg up like a statue- for twenty minutes at a time. It's so awesome, the first time you see it it looks a little alarming, the dog is so intently concentrating on the bunny- but then nothing happens and the bunny is just sitting there five feet from the dog, eating a discarded carrot. The Pointer- pointing.
     So I stayed there on the beach right where we were so he could either fish or fly and he chose to fly to the east of us, complaining the whole way! I thought about running a moment or two of video to share the funny sound this big guy made, but I really wanted to get the photos of the Great Blue Heron in flight, like my dad requested. Here's a good one:
Complaining loudly, he flies a few hundred yards east.
     You should be able to click on the photo to make it bigger- for a closer look. There are usually two or three of them here but it was getting warm already at 9:30AM. I noticed tracks all over the beach from dozens of different birds. They must have fished early. It rained pretty hard yesterday but the sunset sky ended with pink, so sailor's delight.
     This is the place to come if you really need to see a Great Blue Heron that day. It's a guarantee practically. I look for their feathers in a few spots and almost always find at least one. They groom in the trees above the duck pond. They fish in the pond all the time too.
     I wondered if they would eat a baby duckling and watched one fishing for frogs. I decided it probably would, and decided to stop wondering before I actually saw it happen. The Herons you see here now are the adults and offspring of the colony that roosts in Stanley Park across the inlet. If you read my previous posting, I Did Not Know That, I won't have to repeat myself here and describe the huge colony...
     We usually leave the beach area and walk towards the Blackberry brambles where the bunnies are. The berries are ripe and cover the vines. Sparrow eats them right off the vine, carefully avoiding the prickles. The pug waits for us to feed him his share. Both dogs love the berries. So do we! There are tons of birds and bunnies that fill this little area. a few weeks ago Eliza and I watched hummingbird fledglings getting flying lessons. Talk about adorable. I was unable to get any footage because it was the one and only day I didn't bring my camera on our walk.
video
     Lately we have been going to this awesome dog beach. It isn't over used or over run, with about a hundred and fifty yards of shallow water that even Hawksley can play in. Check out this adorable video of him looking for his ball after it sank. He was able to find it again by using his feet, he communicated to me that he had it between his back feet by looking up at me and not moving them and then slowly looking back and into the water - then slowly back up to me. I felt between his back feet and there it was! Smartie! Cutie!
     I have accumulated a number of Great Blue Heron pictures and here are a few. I hope you enjoy them. I don't mind if anyone* (*except for a company or corporation, or for profit or mass reproduction) uses my photos. (So if you are going to profit off of it or publish it please ask me first.) I don't watermark them. I would like the credit for taking them, and would love to hear how and why you used them if you do! I take pictures because I enjoy seeing these sights, and want to share the nature as far and wide as I can in the hopes that people who aren't aware of how important it is will become aware. We need to protect it and support it.
     BIG GREEDY OIL are currently doing something really bad in Alberta for profit. It's called the TAR SANDS. Basically it's a really messy and dirty way of getting oil out of the ground. It uses millions of gallons of  fresh water and created huge environmental catastrophes.
     This is happening and we need to stop it. There is a huge protest going on in Washington DC about stopping a pipeline from going all the way from Alberta Tar Sands to Texas refineries. This will be a major environmental disaster in more ways than one. This isn't just a treehugger (which I am, proudly) sounding off, this is the opinion of brilliant scientists and educated environmentalists alike.
     If you enjoyed my blog, and the photos, please take a moment to look into this threat and spread the word that it is not the direction we all need to be taking. BP's oil spill has destroyed the Shrimp, Pelicans are STARVING to death. The Tar Sands project has had safety issues, and pipeline breaks or oil spills all the time. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the pictures.
     When you are done, please take a moment to click on (if you haven't already) any and all of the coloured links above to better understand the importance of this information...
Fishing off Granville Island
His long head feather is so cool!

Extra! Extra a whole bunch of photos!

This sweet Red-winged blackbird is a fledgling!  He is so sweet, and so proud of himself....

Here are a few few shots from the feeders up around my place, and also of the Northern Ficker's nest...
  Flicker bolts back to her nest atfer feeding on the paddle full of Suet we have hanging on our back porch. The male and both females feed regularly off of the feeder.
The feeders are shared by a variety of birds and no one seems to mind the other... like the Sparrow & House Finch for example...
This fledgling Starling makes a lot of noise when his mom is feeding, demanding to be fed like a big baby. She often feeds him. When she flies away, he hops back onto the feeder and feeds himself. I remembered that when I was a nanny, the kids often would rather I would feed them than feed themselves, like it was an exhausting effort to put spoon to mouth. Unless it was dessert, of course...
I am helping Eliza get her ETSY page up today, so I will just quickly post a bunch of photos of birds from all around Vancouver. Eli & I like to go junking. Actually for a while it was a bit of a compulsion. But we aren't hoarders, so we put the brakes on. Besides, these days it's trendy and a lot of places were got cool stuff for reasonable prices (next to nothing) have jacked up their prices. That's not as fun anymore. Even Value Village raised their prices to stupid levels - donated stuff, someone's garbage- now at inflated prices! We have seen things priced more than if you bought it new in the store. Sure, in capitalist societies it's every money grubber for themself, but when thrift shops raise their prices like they are selling vintage clothing, and when they want five hundred bucks at the Sally-Anne because the levi's jacket has a big E, it means poor people can not dress nicely, not even in someone else's used give-aways.
   But back to the birds... We returned to the Great Blue Heron Colony to see if my cell was there. F(*&^. It wasn't... might go fully cell-less now. Seem to be saying I shouldn't have one since I have lost a cell about every 6 months or so.
     It was raining so hard, but this crow guy just perched here on the driftwood that looks like the sign for I Love You... so it must be Bawlckey.
I haven't mentioned yet that there is a giant bunny population at Jericho. They live in the blackberry brambles... Bunnies galore: black ones, red ones, blonde ones, spotted ones, ones that look legitimately wild... right now, of course - because it's spring and these are bunnies there about a million babies! Probably why this is also a place, where over which, you usually see an eagle or falcon flying...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hello again!

Happy summer! 
There is so much that has happened since I last posted that I think today we will just start with some photos.
Stellar Jay on Bowen Island

Stellar Jay successfully begging for handouts.

I worked on Bowen Island for a day last week and  it was such a  great day. The wildlife there is all around you. Birds calling each other, deer wandering everywhere, otters playing on the docks right next to seal cubs sunning on the beach waiting for their mothers to return.
The only real predators on the island, are humans. No bears, coyotes, wolves or cougars although from time to time one will swim across and have to be relocated or in many cases hunted by the human official types. So this makes the mule deer that are prolific on these types of islands, pretty relaxed. For example I was using a palm sander to sand down a few planters, and this particular deer, whose name is Vinnie because of his torn ear, was waiting for me to be distracted enough to loot the apple bucket.
Playing shy guy at first so I turn my back and think he's gone.

Hid behind the tree until the apples were alone.

Success! Took his own apple out of the bucket! See his torn ear?
We have been going to Jericho beach a lot. There are no longer Red Wing Blackbirds everywhere, they left when the Folk Fest took over the park for the weekend. I want to find out where they migrate to during this time. There are only one or to still at the marsh, they call out and are unanswered. It sounds lonely although I am sure they chose to be where they are...
The Gray Herons are still feeding in the marsh and along the beach. We see quite a few each time we go. They fly really high and the only way to tell them apart from eagles at a quick glance is the long legs hanging out behind!
This was one of the biggest Great Grays I have ever seen.

Still trying for the wide open wing shot...

Watching seagulls eat salmon heads @ the marina

Time for a quick grooming under the arm pit.
Hunting in the marsh while the ducks nap.
I was taking pictures of this last Heron when there was a commotion overhead! The Heron was distracted from hunting as something crashed into the tree above me. A branch broke off and fell down, knocking debris from the other limbs as it fell. Eliza saw the whole thing and pointed out the culprit...
This is Heron Looking up at commotion...

This male Belted Kingfisher was the noisy chaser!
I am making an effort to get back into posting each day. It was a hard loss when the Northern Flickers had their tragedy earlier this summer. As far as I know, two females survived to fledge from Gibson's Wildlife Rescue.
From time to time there is a Flicker outside in the Birch. She calls a few times and no one answers her so she flies off. A few blocks away she has a family that she stays near, they all call to each other. I wonder if she isn't the second Mrs Flicker looking for her Mister and Sister wife...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Existential Extinction

Mrs. Flicker's lovely breast feathers... I thought these were just polka dots, until I got a closer look.
     I was born in a small suburb outside of Toronto called Ajax. It was back in the day when kids could go out into the streets all day with little or no adult supervision, and after a long day of tearing around the neighbourhood, we would end up safely home in time for dinner. As the town grew and became more populated, my parents felt the draw to the country. We moved out of this small town and I grew up in an even smaller one, surrounded by nature and farms.
She flew out all by herself to get fed!
     At Lockhart Public School, one of the things we were were schooled on that I learned about and retained some vague knowledge of, was dinosaurs. We were taught about extinction caused by dramatic world events known as Natural Disasters. Meteors, Ice Ages, Flash Floods, Volcanos... pretty much anything could happen to us at any given time to wipe us all out, we were told - but not to worry - because it would all be over before we knew it, and in the blink of an eye - if that ever happened during our lifetime. Still, these doubtful inklings would creep in just before dozing off to sleep... what if?
     The brainwashing continued when they petitioned for, built and activated Nuclear Reactors on the very big & beautiful, Lake Ontario. Don't worry, it's perfectly safe. They stated. No chance of an accident or they wouldn't build it in the first place, our parents convinced themselves, and us. One minute they were teaching us how to hide under our desks and where to go in the event of a Nuclear Disaster, the next minute they were telling us it was impossible and to just continue to carry on living our day to day lives.
     It is only recently that I started to look at these teachings to see how they made me not see reality the way it is in it's natural state. Catastrophic events caused extinction, we were told. Huge, rumbling, sky blazing, smoke filled events that the whole world would witness. Not just hurricanes or tornados, but entire planet threateners.
     I was not taught in any school that extinction was happening each and every day at an alarming rate. Extinction of races of humans, of types of birds, fish, entire species of mammals. Each day. Every day. I wasn't informed of this, it isn't on the six o'clock news. I had to look for this information, I have had to open my own eyes to these realities.
     The Northern Flickers that were nesting in the Birch tree outside my window have been gone for 2 weeks exactly. I started bird watching because of the mating dance between the two females and one male that lasted upwards of a month. We were delighted to see hatchlings squawking for food from mama and daddy. We wondered where the male went, and assume he was killed somewhere around June 7th. I found the mother, dead in my back alley on the 10th and took her 8 nestlings to the Night Owl Bird Hospital where 6 survived the night. In the morning they were prepared for a trip to Gibson's Wildlife Rehab Centre to fight for survival under the gentle care of the good folks there...
     A few weeks ago, I was in put touch with a doctor of ornithology from UBC who told me that Northern Flickers had a very low survival rate. Northern Flickers only have a 46% survival rate. Forty. Six. I am not a wiz at the math, but this statistic tells me these wonderful woodpeckers are heading toward extinction. Fast. I didn't post the statistic before because I didn't want to jinx anyone who might be trying to raise a Flicker family just outside my window. I had high hopes for everyone in the birch tree. This brutal statistic was validated this past week in the loss of another four of the original eight Northern Flicker nestlings that we rescued from the birch cavity. If I include the father and mother, that's eight of ten, dead and gone. I can only hope that one of the original two females that was mating with the male is still alive somewhere. I have no way of knowing. There is one female up another back alley that calls out sometimes when we are walking the dogs. I can only hope it's her.
After lunch she flew up onto her feeder's head to show off!
     I have looked at nature all my life with admiration and awe, and I  have also looked away with great respect. It's fleeting and though full of passion, nature can seem clearly devoid of emotion. The strongest will survive and that's how it works when evolution is the momentum fueling the journey. Really sad moments will be justified during tragic events by humans, but people think that animals seem to just push through tragedy without reaction.
     Today,  only two female nestlings are surviving at the Gibson's Rehab Centre. I went there with Jill & the dogs on Thursday. They have no idea what was caused four of the nestlings to die. There were no warning signs, just little dead Flickers in the bottom of the cage. The first one died within the first two days, it was the weakest bird, but not the smallest. Last Sunday when they went in for the morning feeding they found two males dead, the following day one more male. They were tested repeatedly for parasites, and still found no apparent cause for their passing. It devastated the caring folks who love them and feed them everyday, and their sadness was made harder by having to tell me, and ultimately everyone who reads this that all but two of the six brought to them have perished.
Two little females perch on a log in their cage at GWRC.
     It was a nice visit, and really busy at the centre so we didn't stay long. The fine and wonderful people who take care of these creatures are the only ones on the coast, so they get pretty busy at this time of year. People cutting down trees, re-roofing their homes, clearing out their bushes and sheds disrupt a great deal of nestlings. There is little or no care taken to give birds and other small creatures a fighting chance. On the farm, trees are removed in the fall or very early spring long before there is any chance for babies to be disturbed or essentially killed.
     When I was a kid, in that small town of Ajax, we used to watch movies down the street at the Tarjan's house. We saw stuff hat we normally wouldn't be allowed to watch at home. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? scared the bejesus out of us. We sang, "the worms crawl in the worms crawl out" after seeing Picture Mommy Dead even though the song itself gave me nightmares until I was 12. When we saw The Blob, we laughed that that actually frightened people. Clips of people running from old movie houses represented the very best of scary movies back then. We heard War Of the Worlds and were told that it caused major hysteria in it's day. Sent people into a state of panic, jammed phone lines created grid locked traffic from believers fleeing for their lives.
Mrs. Northern Flicker feeding 2 of her 8 hatched nestlings before she was hit by a car & killed on June 10, 2011.
     I am afraid that most people are waiting for this type of dramatic display to take action against the slow poisoning of our fresh water sources. It's rapid in reality, but what if the daily decline of our wildlife isn't fast enough for everyone to care in the timely manner that we need it to take place. When folks went to see The Awful Truth, Al Gore's movie about the climate crisis, no one left the theatre running, for the first time I felt like it. Does everyone have to wake up to no birds singing to notice we have a serious problem? Because it'll be way too late then, and the credits will be rolling...
     There are things we can do to wake people up faster. I think putting a stop to the coal mine in the watershed on Vancouver Island near Parksville in the Comox Valley would be a great way to show people all over the planet that we have a real crisis that needs to be addressed. People look to the west for sound advice. We lead the way in North America for natural healthcare services for ourselves and for our pets.  We know the right way to do things here, and have the capacity to make the right decisions. It's time to make the changes we need to make. Ending the production of coal in Canada is just one...
     We parked the car in the shade of some nice trees to let the ferry traffic pass and die down. I heard the familiar PEER! of the Northern Flicker through our open windows. I looked up into the tree behind the car and saw a knot had been hollowed out about 20 feet up into the tree...

Young male Northern Flicker waiting for mama to feed him.
    I thought it was pretty great, we saw a female getting fed, and moments later, her brother appeared for his gullet to be filled. His red cheeks just filling in against his light grey head.
    He peeked his head out and shouted at his mom to bring him more food. A mother mule deer walked right behind me escorting her two spotty backed baby fawns. She startled when she saw me, but didn't run into the traffic, she carefully guided her babies to safety behind the tree line next to the chain link fence that surrounded a hydro station.
    I know that even though four of those little Northern Flickers we brought in didn't make it back to nature, they died with full bellies, safe and warm and cared for. They didn't merely starve to death in the cavity of the birch over a period of time that would have been cold and lonely and a stark contrast to the love and care they got right up to the end. Intention takes a back seat to nature's master plan and that's the way it should be. That's why we need to stop doing things that go against nature. Like mining coal.
     It's Sunday June 26th, 2011. CLICK here to: STOP A COAL MINE!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rescuing Nestling Northern Flickers

The Flicker Nestling Rescue


Last few photos of Mrs. Flicker, landing and feeding...
     Friday was now history, and Saturday sunrise was met without the chirping of the Northern Flicker family of West Eleventh Avenue. We had a few things to organize before the trip to West Vancouver, and then across on a ferry to the sunshine coast to the Gibson's Wildlife Rescue Centre. We wanted to walk the dogs early so they would be comfortable for the trip. I loaded them into the car and walked around to the driver's side. There were some feathers swirling around on the grass beside the alley next to the parking spot. Feathers I missed when i gathered Mrs. Flicker from the alley. I picked them up now...
     A small detail that comes only from a sort of intimate study of a Northern Flicker, like when they aren't alive anymore. I felt like I was let in on a kind of secret. The spotted chest or Mrs. Flicker isn't polka dots at all. Blowing across the grass near where I found her body were tiny cream coloured feathers, each one with a little black heart where I had expected to see a polka dot. I was glad to know it and sadder for knowing it at the same time. Somehow it made me even more determined to save these little nestlings from the unrelenting city.
Landing with a gullet full of food... second last time.
      And- can I just say, that I understand that sometimes animals are struck by cars and it is completely unavoidable-save for never driving a car- but this rare woodpecker, with 8 babies, was hit in a back alley next to a curb. If the driver were paying attention, not speeding carelessly, Mrs. Flicker would still be with her offspring. The nestlings wouldn't be in a cage in a Vet clinic on West Broadway waiting for us to drive them a hundred miles away to give them a fighting chance at survival.
     And to the advice of those who don't think that people should interfere with nature that quickly or drastically, downtown Vancouver isn't nature. A city park, isn't nature - it's landscaping. Nature is where people don't come first, or second or even third. There are ways we can help nature succeed to include us so we can evolve with it, but it means Everyone putting effort towards controlling corporations and governments to force them into behaving the way we expect them to, and by NOT PUTTING PROFIT FIRST ANYMORE. If you are confused, or not convinced, go see a Michael Moore documentary, or watch The Corporation, check out the David Suzuki Foundation, talk to Leonardo Dicaprio or Ed Begley Jr. if you don't feel like figuring it out for yourself.
     And folks, you can't expect a bunch of famous people to sing a song or hold a benefit and fix things. Each person has to make a little effort. Okay, no more lecture. I am just saying... wake UP, look  around. Slow DOWN notice things. Pay attention to your surroundings... do SOMETHING!
Now, back to the Flickers...
     We went to the Night Owl Bird Hospital and collected 6 baby Northern Flickers to deliver to GWRC. 2 of the nestlings did not survive the night. It seems that Mrs. Flicker was already having a hard time keeping up with all the babies as it was. 4 were really healthy, 2 noticeably smaller ones would require a little more attention but were doing really well, but the two that perished were an indication that she was just barely keeping up. The doctor mentioned she was surprised she even had enough food to feed all these little ones. Eliza mentioned our suet paddles and Dr. MacDonald thought that could have been what was keeping everyone alive.
6 nestlings packed up and ready for travel...
     Night Owl had fed and readied the babies for the journey, so we didn't even have to lift the towel that covered their cages until we presented them to GWRC. The trip and ferry ride were uneventful and pleasant. The babies made weird noises that perked our dogs ears the entire ride...The kind folks who run GWRC were excited to have this cheeky species back in their folds, they had raised two before and successfully released them in back into nature. We were lucky to have rescued them so fast that they didn't really suffer a great deal of trauma. They didn't really need to recover from anything or be nursed back to health, they were lively and alert and HUNGRY!
This is the Northern Flicker's fresh nest at GWRC.
     Immediately expert hands of the lady of the house went into action. She had each bird fed in mere moments, using a plastic coffee stirrer, and a special formula developed by the Ornithological Society of America.
Because the babies are eager to eat and open up for feedings, they won't require too much handling and won't become too trusting of humans. This makes their chances of survival so much higher. Being wary of people makes them nest further from poisons, urban encroachment, cats and of course, traffic.
     We got the grand tour of the Rehab Centre. It's just a wonderful place operating out of the goodness of these people's hearts. Please donate generously through their website if you can contribute to the caring of some really wonderful creatures, including the Flickers!
off the front of the ferry to GRWC
Ferry to Sunshine Coast with Flickers.
looking out the side of the ferry


6 fed nestlings, ready to nap...
     In my neighbourhood we would learn to adjust to the amputated Birch across the street, and now that  the nestling Northern Flickers are in the right hands, they will live and be released back into nature! With any luck there is something in them that migrates them back to Gibson's or somewhere else safe on the Sunshine Coast, and not back here into downtown chaos.
     I talk to GWRC every day. Progress is the only thing to report! the runt is the boldest, demanding food first, and last - most are perching on the lip of the cage and waiting to be fed, the other 2 are on a cloth still a little small to perch on their own. But no one needs to have their beak pried apart & held open for feeding! They are all eager eaters and that makes them even more likely to survive to adulthood! We are going to visit them tomorrow.
This could be a Flicker home...

... and look how remote! 

Paradise for any woodpecker, right there in Gibson's on the Sunshine Coast.