25 July 2007

Not so lazy days

It is very hot and humid this week and this evening we added Baltimore Oriole to the garden year list which now stands at 63 species since January first. I have been told of a nearby Merelin's nest which I hope to get to see in the next day or two.

A friend up the road has a large quantity of rocks in her garden to dispose of and so the last couple of nights I have been barrowing huge weights between out two houses as we have plans for using rocks ... not the same plans, we have to reach a mutual plan, but plans nevertheless. Fortunately, our garden is down hill from the source - I honestly don't think I could barrow this weight up hill.

Relaxing on the deck afterwards and beginning to think about cold drinks, we looked up and saw Chimney Swifts flying back and forth high up in the insectosphere while in the corner of the garden a couple of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were having a hissy-fit with each other. very aggressive little bundles of fluff are Hummers. Later yet, we were entranced to watch one of the Hummers deleiberately seeking out and flying in and hovering in the strong spray from a watering system we were using to wet the potatoe and blackcurrent beds - he seemed to be having a whale of a time.




21 July 2007

Lazy days

There are ever more junior birds of many species in the garden at the moment - I don't know how many we have aided in successful breeding this year but certainly the boskier the herbaceous borders and the wild corner become in the garden, the more breeding there seems to be.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are back - attracted by the stand of Monarda.

15 July 2007

Sourdough discovery


I have been making sourdough breads for years but this morning J created sourdough blueberry pancakes from a portion of the infamous "Breadzilla" starter I lovingly tend ... superb, light, fluffy and absorb the butter and maple syrup like a sponge.

There are still things the new world can teach us old-worlders then!

14 July 2007

Summer joys

Number one ...

A happy hour in the sunshine picking pounds of ripe, fat blackcurrents to the singing of Song Sparrows

Number two ...

Standing in one of my huge compost heaps turning the mix when I find I am also standing on the roof of a wasp's nest ... took me quite a clamber to get in there and about a nanosecond to get out. Ouch!

10 July 2007

Babes in the Woods

As I said earlier - the garden is full of junior birds trying to become teenagers ... this young Song Sparrow had just been for a bath in the pond - not like human kids, he/she bathed voluntarily!

08 July 2007

Fruit

A gardening post this time - no birds other than a note that the garden is suddenly full of apprentice Woodpeckers, Chickadees and Grackles plus innumerable Song Sparrows let out by their mums to learn how to be big birds.

Suddenly it's real summer - have just picked some early gooseberries, there will be baskets full of blackcurrents in the next week or so and Friday we had the first "new' potatoes from the garden, than which few things taste better. It has always been a puzzlement to us that it seems impossible to buy genuine new potatoes in North American stores. A unique taste which people would pay for - they do in Europe and I'm sure they would here given the opportunity but all you can get are small or large red or white or yellow when it comes to potato varieties. Here in Quebec we can buy grelots which are as close to new pots as are sold but, nice as they are, they aren't the real thing ... and so this year's decision to replace the tomato bed with spuds is beginning to pay off.

06 July 2007

Vancouver Island - June/July 2007

We have just returned from a couple of weeks on Vancouver Island - wonderful place (with weird right wing politics) and a collection of photos will appear shortly elsewhere for thos interested - details to come - meanwhile, here are some impressions and details of the birding ... and the restaurants:

Sunday 24

Flew to Vancouver - plane sat for ages on tarmac at V airport waiting for a storm to pass and make it safe for groundcrew to allow us off. Rental car "trendy" PT Cruiser and hotel on Robson St. 40 storey tower with rotating restaurant. Dinner by harbour - Herons Resto - v. Good food with stellar service.


Vancouver


Monday 25

Mostly spent birding in Stanley Park - wonderful trees despite the storm damage from last winter. Birds seen included Red-breasted Sapsucker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Three-toed Woodpecker and Violet-green Swallow. Walking back from SPark we watched Bush Tits fossicking around their strange hanging nest in a tree. Intended to have a light (and cheap) meal in evening but somehow found ourselves in CinCin's superb (and expensive) Italian resto instead - another stunning meal followed by a walk through Gastown.


Red-breasted Sapsucker in Stanley Park with his sap-well "farm"

Cute, eh?


Chestnut-backed Chickadee


Tuesday 26

Not a birding day, though we did add Bald Eagle. Quick visit to walk over the 450ft. high wobbly Capilano suspension bridge ($30 each for entry !!) which was remarkable and lived up to its reputation even if some of the presentation was a little commercial. Then Horseshoe Bay and an hour-and-a-half ferry crossing to Nanaimo on V-Island. Saw flock of birds on crossing just too far off for good ID but probably Alcids of some species. Howard-Johnson hotel this time - slumming it.


Vancouver Island from the Nanaimo Ferry


Wednesday 27

In bright sunshine we drove from Nanaimo via Qualicum beach - Caspian Tern - and the utterly amazing 800 year old huge Douglas Fir and Hemlocks of Cathedral Grove (800 year old trees mean that all the birds you can hear are five times higher above you than usual - many birds heard, almost none seen) then along the Port Alberni summit road down to Tofino on the west coast of V-Island. The Wickaninnish Inn is a stunning place - on a glorious rocky/sandy beach (lots of creature-filled rock pools for J) that we walked along before an outstanding dinner in the restaurant looking out west over the sea to the setting sun. Bald Eagles were not hard to see including one on its nest surrounded by perching, noisy Crows. Several Black Oystercatchers puttered about on the barnacle covered rocks, occasionally flying up in small groups to shout at the world. Does life get better than this?


Caspian Tern



800 year old trees in Cathedral Grove



Starfish - Tofino


Bald Eagle on nest at Chesterman Bay - with "chorus" of Crows


Thursday 28

Very wet for much of the day (this place receives 10 feet of rain annually and rain falls on 2 out of every three days throughout the year) but we watched Bald Eagles perching in the trees along the shore right beside our hotel room balcony and heard the fluting call of quite a number of Swainsons Thrushes in the trees ... and the rain just got heavier! On the sea, far enough away to be unidentifiable as to species. were assorted Alcids etc but in the early light we did add a definite Leach's Storm Petrel (this season they come to land at night for nesting - we checked) to the list. So - despite the breakfast waitress's comments about this being a "pyjmas day" we borrowed rain slickers from the hotel. and spent several wet and happy hours walking the cliffs and the rain-forest until finally we saw, rather than heard two Swainsons Thrushes. Then back to the hotel for another beach hike, a check of rock-pools for crabs and starfish (many) and a superlative gourmet meal.


Chesterman Bay



Osprey


Bald Eagle


Friday 29

We left the best (and potentially most expensive) hotel we have ever stayed at and set out to spend the-Canada Day w/end with friends in Campbell River on the other side of the island ... needless to say, it was raining heavily again but all those years vacationing in Scotland have trained us for this sort of stuff but by the time we had reached CR on the opposite coast the day was coot but dry and an evening stroll brought Rufous Hummingbirds, Savannah Sparrow and Western Tanager as new sightings for the trip list.


Rufous Hummingbird


Saturday 30

Spent the day at the Woodhus Slough reserve on the shore south of CR - superb mixed habitat, forest, marsh, fields, shore, shrubs. Amongst species seen (apart from snakes) were close-up Bald Eagles, Surf Scoter, Purple Martin, Bonaparte Gull, Least Sandpiper, Willett, Spotted Towhee, Savannah Sparrow, Pigeon Guillemot, Pacific-slope and Olive-sided Flycatchers (plus maybe a Hammonds?), families of Common Mergansers and a flotilla of 15-20 Harlequin Ducks. A very fine day ... and good beer at a good pub at the end of the trail.


Spotted Towhee


Sunday 1 July (Canada Day)

Evening fireworks and appropriately patriotic CDay things like that were preceded by a marvelous day spent across the channel on Quadra Island, mostly walking trails on Rebecca Spit where Bald Eagles along the shore were ten a penny but this time behaved impeccably in the sunshine and posed for their pictures. Birds also seen included Rufous Hummingbirds, Common Loon, Spotted Towhee, Common and Thick-billed Murres, a 75% certain Black-throated Gray Warbler, a 50% possible Orange-crowned Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and Ravens. Lots and lots of Ravens who first announced their presence with loud, mechanical "ker-chung" calls in the trees around us followed by deep croaks and then two of them flew into sight and escorted us out of their territory. Later we enjoyed watching a couple on the shore squabbling over a tasty crab (see photograph). Quadra Island is a pretty fine place - I have decided that a house on the eastern shore of QI with an upper-floor office overlooking the water would perhaps make a good place to pathologise from in semi-retirement (if only it was in Quebec - people here are very nice but have funny politics and strange tin-hut roadside churches of a fundamentalist leaning).


White-crowned Sparrow - large breeding population


Beach on Quadra Island - a nice place to live?


Ravens squabble over a crab for lunch


Harlequin Duck flotilla


Yet "another" Bald Eagle


Monday 2

Drove S to Victoria - little to comment upon other than the hotel was as centrally placed on the inner harbour as you could wish, the weather was warm and sunny and the bird of the day was a House Sparrow. Dinner at an award-winning brew pub was excellent - Swan's import their malt and hops from the UK and brew a better "English" beer than many English breweries ... The accompanying shepherd's pie was very good indeed but nothing like the real thing, much too sophisticated.


Tuesday 3

Lunch and dinner at Swan's pub, and a touristy exploration of Victoria.

Swan's Pub - wonderful beer and food

Wednesday 4

Several hot and sunny hours spent exploring the Butchart gardens - we are life-long, seasoned garden visitors but these were impressive ... amongst the best anywhere, including England, especially impressed by the roses and the Japanese garden. Earlier in this posting I referred to the weird religious tendency that is overly-visible out west (though if religion becomes compulsory, then the tiny Church of the Vineyard is the one for me), well the B-Gardens were infested with demure girls in Victorian costume shepherded by their menfolk - Mennonites, I assume (?) - why do these women put up with it? Later took the ferry back to Vancouver - beautiful crossing threading between the gulf islands in hot sunshine with eagles and seals and far off one brief glimpse of an Orca.

Roses in the Butchart Gardens


Entrance to the Japanese Garden

In the Japanese garden

The Gulf Islands on the return to the mainland


Thursday 5

Early morning flight back to Montreal and familiar eastern birds. An excellent vacation.


C'est tout ...