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Surf Scoter

Ever seen a Surf Scoter? In Vancouver, November is peak season to see these diving ducks. Large rafts of them hang out in English Bay where they feed on clams and mussels.

To see the ducks so close to the shore, however, is a bit unusual. I got lucky one afternoon about a week ago.

Steller’s Jay

I was beyond thrilled to see my first ever Steller’s Jay a couple of weeks ago while on a long walk through Stanley Park.

About six of them darted back and forth from the trees to the seeds put out by a fellow birder and back to the trees again.

With migration season upon us, you never know who you might bump into while out for a walk in the woods.

Through My Lens: Autumn Walk

After all my whinging about the rain, we’ve had some spectacular fall days these past couple of weeks.

And here’s a thing about Vancouver: when it stops raining, the entire city drops what they’re doing and goes for a walk.

Because, this time of year, we know it won’t last.

At the Nat

All right. It’s high time I post something to acknowledge the game often referred to as the “national pastime.”

And no, I’m not talking about Canadian federal elections — although, given our proclivity for minority governments (yesterday we elected our third fourth in 15 years), you would not be wrong in thinking so.

I’m talking about baseball. And yes, I know it’s our neighbours to the south who consider it a national pastime much more so than we Canadians do, but we do have some fans in this country. Basically, all of Toronto during the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. (I was one of them.)

Here in Vancouver, we don’t have a Major League Baseball team, but I know a few people who will be tuned in to the first game of the 2019 World Series, which got underway tonight.

Some of those people I’m related to, and they like to hang at the Nat every summer. I went along one night last August, just for something different to do (and to take a few photographs).

The full name of Vancouver’s ball park is Nat Bailey Stadium, named after the founder of White Spot (a popular Vancouver restaurant chain best known for their burgers). The home team is the Vancouver Canadians, the one Canadian team in the Northwest League of Minor League Baseball. They are also the Short Season A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays — and please don’t ask me what that means, as I have no idea. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

It turns out that the Nat is a really fun place to hang out on a summer’s evening — with all the emphasis on fun. Several of each season’s home games are followed by a fireworks display and one is designated Dog Day of Summer — you get to take your four-legged best friend with you to the Nat. If you’re thirsty, there is craft beer; if you’re hungry, there are three-foot long hot dogs. And for entertainment (in addition to the game, of course), there are the Sushi Mascot races — Ms. BC Roll, Mr. Kappa Maki, and Chef Wasabi race around the diamond. A winner is always declared, but if your appetite is whetted, be assured you can also get sushi at the concession stands.

As it happens, the game I went to last August was a close one, finishing off with a walk-off single. But even if the Canadians hadn’t won, the night was winner.

Red Arrows Over Burrard Inlet

Every once in a while, I manage to be in the right place at the right time.

Such was the case this afternoon.

The Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows have been on a North American tour. This afternoon, they did several flypasts over Burrard Inlet.

I was there.

Return of the Wet

Enough already!!

Could this month be any wetter? Vancouver has already received more than twice the average rainfall for September — and we still have another week to get through.

Sigh.

Yes, it’s time for my annual kvetching about the transition from what was an absolutely spectacular, magnificent, fabulous summer (as far as the weather is concerned) to the annual Wet.

I know, I know. It’s inevitable. Unavoidable. What was I thinking would happen?

But did it have to happen overnight? And so close to Labour Day? This month’s quick change in seasons reminds me of Septembers in Alberta, where I grew up. The day before Labour Day always seemed like the heat of summer was still in full swing. The day after Labour Day? Out came the long pants, the woolly sweaters, and a coat thick enough to keep away the chill of the prairie wind.

When I lived in Toronto, I absolutely loved fall. Four months of humidity will do that to you. All I could think come September was, “Relief!” (Not to mention that the colour display by Toronto’s tree canopy is among the best in the world.)

But on the Wet Coast? Not such a fan. Earlier this month, I decided to put some effort into making a nice dinner one night to cheer myself up. A thought flashed through my mind — “Oh, this is cozy” — and I immediately felt betrayed by my own body for adapting much more quickly than my brain to our vanishing summer.

The truth, however, is that there is nothing for it but to get on with it. Buy a new umbrella, dig the gum boots and Gore-Tex out of the closet, and just … get on with it.

What else can I do?

Happy Autumnal Equinox, everyone!

Happy Birthday, Canada Line!

Ten years ago today, and three months ahead of schedule, the Canada Line came into service. Built for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, it connects downtown Vancouver to the airport in 24 minutes. (That’s as fast as a taxi and a whole lot cheaper.) Right from the start, it exceeded ridership estimates and is already running nearly at capacity.

The Canada Line has forever changed how I travel to and from Vancouver. Being able to get from my downtown condo to the Vancouver International Airport (known as YVR around town — the name of the Canada Line station is YVR Airport) as quickly as I can for only $2.50 is a traveller’s dream.

It has also forever changed this city. High-density residences and retail spaces that weren’t even dreamed of ten years ago have been built at Marine Drive and are in the planning stages for Oakridge. I saw a quotation this week that pretty much summed up how the Canada Line has changed Vancouver: “you don’t build urban rail primarily for transit, but for shaping growth.”

And so … happy birthday, Canada Line!

Raccoon at Scarborough Bluffs

I spent much of May gallivanting around the Eastern Time Zone, and most of June sorting through my photos and planning what blog posts I might write about my travels.

This photo though. Not your usual holiday snap, but it makes me laugh every time I look at it. I met up with this raccoon one evening in Toronto while exploring the Scarborough Bluffs with a friend.

For my non-Canadian readers, raccoons are known in this country as trash pandas. They’ve adapted remarkably well to urban living and are known for finding their dinner in our garbage cans. Toronto spent millions developing and purchasing raccoon-resistant green bins — only they turned out to be not so resistant.

Back when I lived in Toronto, I had a mom and her three kits hanging around my house for an entire summer. Every evening, like clockwork, they would amble along the fence in my backyard as I watched from my kitchen window.

Here in Vancouver, I see raccoons mostly in Stanley Park, although one hot summer afternoon, I noticed a hefty raccoon napping in the tree outside my window. The tree is long gone — it came down in a winter storm — but I thought the clever creature had found a innovative solution to the heat.

The raccoon got its name from the Anishinaabe word aroughcun, which means “one who rubs and scrubs and scratches with its hands.” Raccoons are known for washing their food before they eat it.

Turtles at Lost Lagoon

Everyone I talk to in Vancouver these past few weeks is gushing about the fantastic summer weather we’re experiencing. Yes, gushing!

Canadians can be pretty low-key except when it comes to (1) their sports teams and (2) the weather. We get absolutely patriotic when our teams win (sorry — I just had to get in at least one Raptors’ reference) and we get absolutely giddy when the summer temperatures kick in.

To celebrate the 16 hours and 15 minutes of sunshine that Vancouver experienced today on the first day of summer, here’s a photo I took of the turtles at Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon.

They, like most Canadians, take their sun-worshipping seriously.

Northern Pintail

This elegant fellow is a Northern Pintail. I came across him while walking the seawall along Burrard Inlet about six weeks ago.

The Northern Pintail is rarely seen in my neighbourhood — this was my first-ever encounter — but Vancouver is on the Pacific Flyway and they are a migrating duck. And so, in honour of World Migratory Bird Day (that would be today), I’m happy to post this photo.