Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gowlland Tod Park (part II)

In round one I started the trail at McKenzie Bight and headed south. This time I headed north from the Caleb Pike Access for a 8 km (round trip) tromp to Jocelyn Peak, where I'd left off last time.

First impression - the south end is a little nicer than the north. Then again the margin is small and the weather was considerably better on my second hike, so that's a pretty subjective opinion.

Again wildflowers everywhere, looking spectacular. Up top is sea blush (Plectirtis congesta) a pretty, pink plant I called clover until a friend corrected me (thanks Dawn!).

At right we have either the few-flowered or the tall mountain shootingstar (Dodecatheon pulchellum or jeffreyi).  One of those creations I can hardly believe exists in real life, not just in a cartoonist's imagination. I used to feel the same way about marine creatures like sea stars and urchins. Turns out they are real, too.

And speaking of marine creatures, the best part of this hike was catching a grey whale foraging deep in the Saanich Inlet, down in Finlayson Arm. Could easily have missed it, but it just happened I was out on a bluff looking at a sail boat making its way up the fjord.

Grey whales are not uncommon in this part of the Pacific. They make a long staggered journey from calving grounds in Mexico up here to feed in our plentiful northern summers.

Having worked on a whale-watching boat in this area, however, I can say that seeing a grey whale scooping sediment from the bottom of Finlayson Arm is a highly unusual occurrance.

The photos aren't great — merely evidence.

In my defense, this is how high above the water I was. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gowlland Tod Park (part I)

I visited this park many years ago, but rediscovered it this spring and it seemed larger and wilder than I remember.

I've now made a few trips in order to span the 13 km ridge-top trail above the Saanich Inlet.

My first discovery along the trail was this little orchid. The fairy slipper (Calypso bulbosa) grows in dense forests along the coast from Washington State up to Alaska.

All of the wildflowers seemed especially plentiful and brilliant, possibly due to the long, cool spring we've had.

I started from the north end at McKenzie Bight and hiked the Timberman Trail along the top of the mountains standing on the east side of Finalyson Arm, deep in the Saanich Inlet.

The rest of the suspects were usual. This grey squirrel rushed my lens during the time it spent investigating me. Seemed very tame even though we met nearly smack dab in the middle of the trail where the fewest hikers venture.

Like so many Vancouver Islanders I've looked over at these green hills while racing along the Malahat drive on the other side of the inlet and wondered at that great stretch of wilderness.

One minute you're in town, the next you are out there on a ridge top, looking above at a kettle of turkey vultures and below at a little sip of the Pacific coming in to meet the salmon rivers that pour off the land.

My preferred stop on this hike was the Malahat Lookout where the big raptors soared.

I can't help it. I like it when I'm above the eagles.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Osprey on the island

It's been hard to know how many osprey are around the Victoria are because I have little time to watch them.

I saw this one at Patricia Bay on the Saanich Inlet in early May, handily scooping fish from the shallow waters.

This would be pre-nestlings, so the birds aren't yet rushing about. 

There's time for perching and eating without disturbance.  That will have all changed by now in nests that have successfully produced young. I know of two in the Victoria are that I'm concerned about.

One is in Esquimalt and the female on that nest died last summer after fledging two chicks. The wildlife rescue centre that received the dead bird reported that she was riddled with tumours but they did not manage to do a necropsy (long story).

The other is the nest of the campus sweethearts from last summer. They lived high above a soccer field at the University of Victoria. So far this year, I have only seen the female hanging around what remains of the nest, seemingly waiting for the arrival of her mate.

So there it is. There are plenty of osprey to chase, and not the time to do it in. I'm planning though, don't worry, I'm planning.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Caught this peregrine at Patricia Bay on the Saanich Inlet of southern Vancouver Island.

It sat in one of the Douglas fir trees lining the beach, inconspicuous among the bald eagles and osprey spectacularly soaring around.

I went round and round the tree trying to get a clear shot. When I moved, the falcon moved. Very common experience.

Finally a crow spotted the intruder and flew over to dive repeatedly at the peregrine. It grew tired of the attack (which went on behind a leafy branch) so I snapped it on the wing as it flew off (in disgust?).

You just can't get any peace at the beach anymore.