December 30, 2007

Squamish Day Trip = Eagles, Salmon, Rivers, Ocean

The Brackendale eagle run is underway (provincial park info here), so Yumi and I took a day trip up the Sea to Sky highway to the Squamish area for some nature photography.

We stopped off at the beautiful new tourist information building in Squamish to pick up a new provincial parks annual parking pass, and were pleased to discover that the price had been cut in half to $25.

Next stop was the eagle viewing area along the Squamish River. There was plenty of snow, and few eagles -- the volunteer guides had recorded only 16 adults and a few juveniles today. There wasn't much salmon spawner evidence either -- few carcasses and almost none of the distinctive odour :-).

Here are a few shots from that location:

The Squamish River on a sullen winter day.

Eagle on the shore of the Squamish.

Gulls reeling through the leaden sky.

Disappointed by the meager count we decided to head off to the Cheakamus River and the North Vancouver Outdoor School. The gate to the property was open, so we drove in. The manager was out and about wearing a Squamish Streamkeepers cap so we introduced ourselves as fellow streamkeepers, and he told us there were eagles visible from the dike on the river.

There were more spawner carcasses, and we got a lot closer to several eagles as well.

A view of the Cheakamus looking south from the bridge on the Paradise Valley Road.

The Cheakamus looking north from the bridge on the Paradise Valley Road.

Bald eagle on its perch over the river.

Here's some evidence of the lifting power of eagles: a salmon skeleton draped in a tree!

This salmon spine was around 80-90cm long, so it was a hefty fish.

A salmon jaw in the same tree -- perhaps it belongs to the skeleton above.

On the way home we stopped at Porteau Cove to take in some great views of Howe Sound.




Gull framed by pier view-tower structure.

We made one more stop, driving up to the Cypress Mountain viewpoint. It's days like this that make up for all the winter rains!

Looking south over Vancouver and Burnaby with Burnaby Mountain to the left.

And one more eagle soaring over the Cypress Mountain snow line.

Posted by Paul at 06:19 PM

December 26, 2007

Bold Chickadees, Towhees at Foreshore Park

While Yumi did some Boxing Day shopping (at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in keeping with our sustainable Christmas :-), I headed down to Foreshore Park in southeast Burnaby and found bushes quivering with friendly chickadees and some towhees that were quite bold for their usually shy species. One of the chickadees was so forward and used to being hand-fed that several times it nearly fluttered onto my head or my camera.

Chickadee on a blackberry.

Chickadee in a chain-link fence.

Towhee in the bush.

I'm still terrible at distinguishing sparrow-like birds...

Perhaps it's a wren, or a finch. Then again, if a wren and a finch had a good time, it could be a wrench! :-)

North arm of the Fraser River under looming winter clouds.

For those who are interested, all photos shot on this day were taken with a Canon S5 IS digital superzoom, usually at the Auto setting, but a few with exposure compensation. All these photos were shot with the camera on a light tripod used as a monopod to follow the birds, because even image stabilization cannot compensate enough for extreme telephoto shots on overcast days. I noticed that often the auto-focusing had trouble locking onto these small, fast-moving balls of feathers.

Posted by Paul at 07:39 PM

Fishing Birds Feast on Byrne Creek Trout

When Yumi and I arrived at the sediment pond in the artificial spawning habitat on Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby today on our weekly salmon spawner patrol, a heron struggled into the air, two rotund cormorants plunged off of the concrete lip at the lower end and into the pond, and a kingfisher chattered at us angrily.

We saw a couple of dead cutthroat on the bottom of the pond in the 25-30cm range and for a heart-stopping moment we thought there may have been another fish kill, but we finally saw a couple of live trout as well.

The two cormorants refused to fly -- they simply dove under and swam from end to end depending on where we moved to, and we finally surmised that perhaps they had gorged themselves on trout to the point that they were having trouble getting airborne. The big schools of trout were all gone, perhaps they skedaddled downstream when they came under protracted attacks from all the fishing birds. Maybe the birds had killed the large trout and then had been unable to swallow them? Or they were finally full?

(Note: By "refusing to fly" I don't mean that we were trying to drive the cormorants off -- we were being as non-threatening as possible and just observing -- I've just never gotten that close to cormorants before!)



Note: the apparently different colouring on the bottom bird is just a matter of lighting and exposure.

Posted by Paul at 07:32 PM

December 24, 2007

Hume Crafts Beautiful Essays

I finished Stephen Hume's Off The Map: Western Travels on Roads Less Taken earlier this Christmas Eve. I couldn't have chosen a better book to while away a few hours on this slow-moving, relaxing, yet emotionally intense day -- my first Christmas following the death of my mother.

Hume has a knack for unearthing stories about British Columbia and then painting them in words that stir the reader's soul. His sense of human history within the natural environment imbues his prose with haunting detail and emotion. He shares his strong conscience, and is not afraid of pointing fingers at those who would despoil our land, kill our rivers, and strangle indigenous cultures while blithely assuming the mantle of "progress."

This collection of essays is a must-read for anyone who cares about our great land. I am not shy to admit that several passages brought tears to my eyes.

Posted by Paul at 09:01 PM

December 21, 2007

DFO Audit Must Result in Action

It's high time the DFO was audited -- its dedicated, hard-working field personnel have been downsized, overworked and hamstrung for years, its management has sucked, and it is not fulfilling its mandate to protect our fish, rivers and oceans. Here is a chance for public input to have a real effect:

"Madame Sheila Fraser, Auditor General of Canada is undertaking an audit of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada's Habitat Management Program effectiveness, success and ability to conserve, project or compensate for loss of viable, productive habitat in Canada.

"Please contact the audit team responsible for Fisheries and Oceans. They would be happy to speak with each of you to ensure broad community input and submissions to inform this process and add to the findings. You may contact either the audit Principal, Mr. Eric Hellsten at (604)666-7600 or the audit Director, Mr. John Sokolowski at (604)666-7608. They are both located in Vancouver at 250-757 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6C 1A1."

Commissioned by:
Sheila Fraser, FCA
Auditor General | V?rificatrice g?n?rale
Office of the Auditor General of Canada | Bureau du v?rificateur g?n?ral du Canada
C.D. Howe Building, 240 Sparks Street, West Tower
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0G6

Telephone 613-992-2512
Facsimile 613-957-4023

So if you have a beef with DFO, here's your chance to really make a difference. Internal government auditors have extensive investigative powers -- it's not just economics and finances, they can poke into all sorts of stuff. If enough people come up with enough war stories, Madam Sheila Fraser could well feel justified in expanding her mandate into overall DFO (in)activities, including the huge bugbear of enforcement. In other words, the auditor general could very well come to the conclusion that DFO is not fulfilling its mandate to preserve our "resource."

Support your local DFO community advisors, your thinly stretched DFO enforcement officers, and us dedicated volunteers... And make those DFO head-office bureaucrats and their elected minister in Ottawa sweat. Speak Up!

Posted by Paul at 08:54 PM

December 20, 2007

How You Can Help the Environment

Down-to-Earth Choices

Tips for making where you live one of Canada's Healthy Neighbourhoods.

A simple-to-use guide from Environment Canada offering hundreds of tips and suggestions on environmentally sensitive habits for individual Canadians to practise every day, everywhere. Our choices and our actions will determine the future of the environment. Let's choose to act wisely now and make the world a safer and healthier place to live in.

Thanks to the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation for posting this link.

Posted by Paul at 09:30 PM

December 19, 2007

Ludicrous Price for Car Remote Entry Fob

The remote entry (door unlocking) fob to our '98 Subaru Outback cracked the other day, so it fell off my keychain. I knew replacing it would be expensive, figuring perhaps $50-60. So I called the dealer, and was told, get this, $144. Yikes!

Now you've got a couple of square centimeters of molded plastic and a tiny circuit board -- I'd be surprised if the cost to make one of these gizmos exceeded $4-5. Toss in a couple of bucks for shipping, a few more bucks for labor to order and stock the thing, and I still don't see how it could cost more than $10. Oops, how about programming it? OK, let's add $10 for at most ten minutes of work. Ah, the time to write up the invoice and run my credit card... Another $5? We're now up to $25, and unless I'm really missing something, that's generous.

That's quite the markup!

Anyway, Yumi sewed a little leatherette casing around the cracked case, I drilled a hole in the corner of the leatherette, and voila, it's back on the keychain and we saved $144 (not to mention taxes...).

Posted by Paul at 08:01 PM

December 17, 2007

Review: Gettysburg Novel, History

I've been on a Battle of Gettysburg binge over the last few days. It began when I read a book my sister had given me: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. It's a well-written novel based on the pivotal battle in 1863 during the U.S. Civil War. Shaara does an impressive job of putting words and thoughts into the mouths of key players on both sides of the engagement while sticking closely to historical accuracy.

Having had my interest sparked by the novel, I then plowed through Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage by Noah Andre Trudeau, which had been sitting on a shelf unread for a couple of years. It is recognized as a definitive work on the battle and is superbly researched and engagingly written.

I used to be a military history buff, and found such works stimulating as a teenager and young man, but now I tend to focus more on the horror.

As I emailed a friend yesterday: "Am in a troubled state about all that killing... And the eagerness to kill... And to die for 'honor.' Does that sort of courage = stupidity? Sometimes I think the basest human instincts (fight, kill, those different, them, the enemy) are somehow manipulated into being viewed as the noblest (courage, valor, buddies, us, our state, our country)."

Posted by Paul at 08:46 PM

December 13, 2007

Roderick Haig-Brown on Sustainability

Long before Brundtland, decades before the term "sustainability" was overused, abused and corrupted beyond recognition -- a great fisherman, naturalist, and writer said it all:

"It seems clear beyond the possibility of argument that any given generation of men can have only a lease, not ownership, of the earth; and one essential term of the lease is that the earth be handed on to the next generation with unimpaired potentialities."

Roderick Haig-Brown

Posted by Paul at 09:15 PM

December 12, 2007

Making it happen

"When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened."

Carol Christensen

I prefer to be one of those who make it happen -- in a positive, environmentally, economically, and socially acceptable manner.

Posted by Paul at 09:10 PM

December 11, 2007

Edmonds Association Xmas Party

The Edmonds Town Centre Business and Community Association held its Christmas party this evening. The event was hosted by Myles of Beans and a big thank you to Kim Mostat and her crew for putting on a great spread of food and drink.

It was my first event as the newly minted president of the group, and I would like to thank past president Dave Fairhall, and other board members including Kim Mostat and Jim McQueen for doing the bulk of the work in preparing for the evening. I would also like to thank Monica Mueller for organizing games and door prizes.

We had a great turnout, including Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, Burnaby Councillors Sav Dhaliwal and Pietro Calendino, and Burnaby Parks, Recreation and Culture Chair Paul McDonell.

If you reside or have a business in southeast Burnaby, this is YOUR organization to join and support to make this neighbourhood a great place to live, work, and have fun!

Posted by Paul at 09:37 PM

December 10, 2007

Heron in Byrne Creek Ravine

A heron was fishing in Byrne Creek today and I got a couple of photos of it on my ravine ramble. It had its eye on me, so as I angled for a better view, I kept talking to it in a soothing tone in an attempt not to flush it -- they can be quite twitchy. That seemed to work as I snapped a few quick ones and then quietly moved away and let the bird continue looking for its lunch.


Posted by Paul at 08:22 PM

December 05, 2007

Salmon Patrol Finds Dead Cutthroat

On our weekly Byrne Creek salmon spawner patrol, Yumi and I found no spawners but did find a dead 23cm male cutthroat trout with no visible external damage. There were live trout in the same pool, so we don't know why this one died.


Posted by Paul at 08:31 PM

December 04, 2007

Burnaby Rainbow, Sunset

A lovely rainbow graced Burnaby late this afternoon, followed by a golden sunset.



Posted by Paul at 04:50 PM

December 01, 2007

Stream of Dreams Expands to Toronto

The Stream of Dreams Murals Society based in Burnaby, BC, is spreading its environmental education and community art project to Toronto.

The Toronto District School Board has a wonderful writeup about the recent project at Dewson School.

Posted by Paul at 11:19 AM