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British Columbia

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Having been out for a significant chunk of the day on Friday last (not returning home until around six o’ clock of the evening) I realised on our return that I had not yet checked the mail.

Now – for our first month in this house, back in 2015, the post was still delivered to the door. Ever since then we have been obliged to scamper along to far end of the terrace to the new roadside mailbox stack – an ‘improvement’ to the service which has naturally been planted in quite the most inconvenient of locations. These days I usually break out the bike and cycle up the road: Friday being no exception.

As I went to get my bicycle from the store in which we keep all of our outdoor equipment I glanced – as is my habit – out to sea. I was immediately taken by an unusual pattern of marine movement; an odd assemblage of a not insignificant number of assorted vessels. One gets quite used to the tracks that boaters take across the bay and this unusual gathering of craft – some eight or ten of them – was definitely not normal. Something was up.

We live up on the hillside above Highway 17 (the Pat Bay) at a point at which it follows the coast quite closely (a little below the uppermost ’17’ on the accompanying map) on about the same latitude as the top end of James Island. It takes less than five minutes to ride down the hill and to cross the highway on the pedestrian bridge to get to the shore. Coming back up takes a a little longer as one might expect, for the gradient is quite severe.

As I rode along the terrace I could see that the cluster of boats below was still extant, though now moving slowly southwards down the coast. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided that I just had to ride down to see what was going on. Once I reached the waterfront I could see that the craft had arranged themselves into a broad U-shape between the shore and James Island – a stretch of water called the Cordova Channel. There was clearly something unseen at the centre of this formation.

Image by djmboxsterman on PixabayA little patient watching and waiting revealed the answer: a pod of some five or six Orcas! My best guess is that the boats were trying to guide the Orcas out of the channel into the open ocean, thus preventing any of them becoming beached in the shallows around Cordova Spit.

What a stunning and beautiful sight! Inevitably I had neither camera nor mobile phone with me (hence the splendid stock image accompanying this piece) though I very much doubt that I could have got any decent shots in any case.

This is not a sight that one sees every day. Had anyone suggested – ten years ago – that on a Friday evening in August I would have been watching a flotilla of small boats shepherding a pod of killer whales past the bottom of my garden…

…I would have had a good chuckle!

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Now that the wildfire smoke has dissipated – from the coastal regions of southern BC if from nowhere else – much of the Salish Sea and its surroundings have sprung back into their normal summer focus… with bright sharp colours and sparkling vistas.

A trip with good friends on ‘Dignity’ to Sidney Spit provided an opportunity for some relaxed photographic reconnaisance:

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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For the past twelve days the Georgia Strait and surrounding areas have been enveloped in a miasma of smoke from the wildfires (to which I made reference in this earlier post) which are still ablaze in the BC interior. The image at the head of this missive (and at the top of my last post) give an idea of the impact that this effluvium has had.

There have been mornings on which my customary first gaze out of the windows has given the rapid impression of a seriously hazy day, only for the realisation to dawn that the layer of vapour was not the result of any early morning micro-climatic condition, but rather a dense layer of smog lying immovably atop the sea.

The more northerly view from our deck normally reveals Moresby Island, with the higher Pender Island pair behind. On a clear day we can see further – all the way to the mountains behind the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver. The more southerly view stretches out across Sidney Island to the American San Juan islands beyond – and then all the way to distant Mount Baker.

For the last several weeks it has been just about possible to make out Sidney Island, but even Moresby has occasionally disappeared into the murk, leaving only the Little Group visible in the immediate foreground.

It really has all been quite depressing.

The reason that this cloud of noxious fumes has hung low over the sea (and of course over Greater Vancouver and beyond) for so long is that a ridge of high pressure became wedged over the BC coast – depriving the region of the usual cleansing zephyrs that should have dissipated the pollutant.

Finally, yesterday (Saturday), the weather system began once again slowly to move, the winds changed direction and – as if by magic – the banks of smoke dissolved, leaving ‘not a rack behind’. The sun renewed its efforts and Mount Baker became once again illuminated by the late afternoon glow.

Then, as an evening of croquet and good cheer in the garden with our dear friends from Saanichton entered its twilight phase, the first rains for nearly two months began gently to fall.

Today the world (this part of it at least) is a different place!

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Smoke from wildfires in the BC interior hangs heavily over the Malahat mountain opposite Brentwood Bay on Tuesday night.

2017 is already one of the worst years for wildfires in recent times and the situation is expected to deteriorate further as the province heads into a heatwave over the next few days, with temperatures soaring into the high 30’s Celsius in places.

More than 800 fires have been tackled since April 1st – of which some 138 are still active and currently being fought by around 3,700 firefighters. Additional firefighters from other provinces are joining the battle as well as – for the first time – more than one hundred from Mexico.

Whereas the early part of the year was marked by above average rainfall (with records for precipitation set in Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria during March) it has not now rained in Victoria since the middle of June.

No sign of Mount Baker either…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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I am always quick – when friends or acquaintances make appreciative observations concerning our garden (yard!) – to sing the praises of the previous owners of this fair domicile, who clearly knew a great deal more about gardening than do I (though it must, of course, be pointed out that that is not difficult!).

Yet – even though I make reference to the fact that there is scarcely a week during the spring and summer months when there is not a riot of colour and activity somewhere within its boundaries – I still find myself surprised that – just when it looks as though the display is about to peter out – some fresh wonder bursts forth.

All this by way of making apology for yet more photos of plants!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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…read all about it!

Having returned from our trip up island we discover that our hummingbirds have grown dramatically – to the extant that they can scarce any longer fit in the nest (however expandable it might be). As they are not yet quite ready to ‘fly the coop’ they spend their time patiently sitting (apparently) one atop the other on the rim of the nest, remaining as still as possible to avoid attracting predators.

It can now be but a few days until they depart. Herewith a couple more (grainy as ever) photographs…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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The beautiful summer weather has finally arrived here in BC just in time for us to entertain long standing friends from the UK. I have seized the opportunity to take a short break to bring them up island for a visit to Tofino.

First – however – from Port Alberni a trip on the much loved ‘Frances Barkley’ down to Bamfield and back. The ‘Frances Barkley’ is a working ship and makes stops all down the Alberni inlet to deliver the post and all manner of other essentials to communities that have little or no road access.

Here be photographs…


Photo by Andy Dawson Reid
Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

This is one cool way to collect a delivery…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

No fisherman’s tales here. This guy looks pretty proud of his catch…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

…and here is the ‘Frances Barkley at Bamfield.

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

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It occurs to me that regular readers (should any such be in attendance) might care for a progress report on the hummingbird that chose to nest on the string of festive lights that were left hanging immediately outside our front door. Any such adherents will doubtless be delighted to hear that the mother is finished her long stint of nest sitting and is now furiously feeding two rapidly growing chicks. The nest itself is starting to expand to keep pace with their increase.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIn the above image you can just make out one chick’s fast growing beak poking out of the nest. Whilst in the egg the bill is tiny – no more than a bump – but it grows quickly once hatched. I must apologise, incidentally, for the grainy nature of these images, to which a certain amount of enlarging, cropping and processing was required for them to become at all clear. I really don’t want to impose myself any more than I have already done on these gorgeous but minute creatures.

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIn this image above (double-click to get it as large as your screen will allow) you might just be able to make out the mother delivering a regurgitated mixture of insect protein and nectar to one of the chicks. Yum!

Here below – one hopefully happy hummingbird family (sans father, naturally!)…

Photo by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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I wonder if some kind soul out there might be able to assist me with the identification of some plants (whose images appear below) that seem to be all too prevalent in our garden (yard). I have endeavoured to ascertain their particulars but thus far without success.

Should the gentle reader be tempted to advise me simply that they are ‘weeds‘ – then my gratitude might seem somewhat muted. That much I already know!

Thanking you in anticipation…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Greater abundance?… Further abundance?…

Hey ho!

Pictures of flowers in the garden…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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