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Through My Lens: Siwash Rock at Dusk

After a miserable fall, a weird and wacky winter, and a cold, wet spring, we are finally experiencing some summer weather. And you know what? It’s absolutely spectacular.

Vancouver is at its best in the summer. Because of that, and because summer is usually the busiest time in my line of business, I rarely do my travelling in July and August.

This year is going to be an exception, however, as I’m gearing up to spend the summer in Europe. I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity that has come my way. But I am also feeling just a little bit wistful about all the fun I am going to miss right here at home.

And so, for the next few posts, I’m going to show you what is so spectacular about Vancouver in the summer.

For my first photo, I give you Siwash Rock at dusk. Dusk in Vancouver in the summer is late — I took this photo in early August just after 9 p.m. — and that means there is no excuse for not going for a long walk after work.

Walking the Stanley Park seawall is probably one of the city’s most popular activities for locals and tourists alike. And although we locals do it year round, it is so much more pleasant on a summer evening.

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River Otter

In my last post, I mentioned that one of Lost Lagoon’s four remaining Mute Swans had been killed by a river otter. These furry fellows can be found in Lost Lagoon, but also like to hang out wherever there’s fish. Sometimes, that brings them to the beach in English Bay

Which is where I took this photo.

River otters are not the same as sea otters, so don’t be confused by the fact that they can be found near the ocean. They go wherever the fish are, so if that means they hang out on the beach, so be it.

Sea otters, I’ve been told, are not found in the Salish Sea. They live on the west coast of Vancouver Island or along BC’s northern coast. One clue, apparently, to tell the two types of otters apart: river otters almost never swim on their backs, while sea otters often do.

Mute Swan

Indulge me, if you will, as I post yet another set of bird photos. This is the Mute Swan, which, until last August, was a common sight at Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon.

The reason Lost Lagoon no longer has any resident swans is that the last three swans were officially retired and now live at an animal sanctuary somewhere in the Fraser Valley. The move came after a fourth swan was killed by river otters. The swans are geriatric, and it was decided they should live out their remaining years without the threat of predators.

The Mute Swan is not native to North American, but you see them everywhere on this continent, mainly in city parks. Back in the 1960s, there were at least 70 of them living at Lost Lagoon. These days, however, the caretakers at Stanley Park are keen to ensure that native species thrive over invasive species. (I could tell you about the blackberries, but that’s a whole other post.)

Don’t worry, though. This isn’t the last you’ll see of swans in Stanley Park. Because the park is on the Pacific Flyway, you have a good chance of seeing either the Trumpeter Swan or the Tundra Swan as they pass through when they migrate — and they are far more likely to stop in if there are no more of the territorial Mute Swans.

But, invasive species or not, aren’t they magnificent creatures?

One last note: The Mute Swan is the national bird of Denmark. Does that surprise you? It sure did me. I would have guessed England, but apparently that country is still trying in the process of choosing a national bird. As is Canada.

Stanley Park Windstorm

Ten years ago today, a massive windstorm devastated Stanley Park. Hurricane-force winds off English Bay levelled 41 hectares of forest, about 10,000 trees in all, some of which were more than 500 years old. It was the most violent windstorm to hit Stanley Park in 40 years.

Although it was overwhelming to see the devastation, the forest was long overdue for a regeneration. The wide open spaces changed the look of parts of the park and increased the diversity of both plant life and animals. Woodpeckers, for example, are now thriving. More than 15,000 trees and shrubs were planted by park staff and volunteers. I was walking near Prospect Point recently and it struck me how tall those young trees are already.

I was out of town on December 15, 2006, but I remember taking a walk through the park on Christmas Day — as much as it was possible to walk through the park since every trail was blocked by fallen trees — with my mouth open wide in shock. The seawall was also extensively damaged and remained closed for some 18 months until the repairs could be finished and the cliff tops above the seawall stabilized.

This photo is of a tree that came down near the Georgia Street entrance to Stanley Park. It lies near where it fell, trimmed of its foliage, and has been left as a memorial to that storm. It is now a popular photo stop for tourists, who I am sure have no idea why it is lying there.

Georgia Street Tree

Northern Shoveller

One bonus about summer being over is that it means there are only a few more weeks to go until the return of the winter birds. I haven’t seen any sign of them yet, but they’ll be here soon and are most welcome.

This is a Northern Shoveller, one of the dabbling ducks that like to hang out at Lost Lagoon. I myself haven’t seen them that often, but that might be because I first mistook them for the much more common Mallards. From a distance, their colouring looks quite similar. Upon closer inspection, the beaks are longer than a mallard’s and are a noticeably different colour.

Northern Shoveller

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker 1

Here’s someone I met on one of my walks through Stanley Park this month.

This is a Pileated Woodpecker, the largest (about the size of a crow) of the four species of woodpeckers found in the park. This particular woodpecker loves forests and the best way to find him is to look up.

Way up.

Check out that grip.

Pileated Woodpecker 2

Common Merganser

Common Merganser Male 1

I started this month with photos of a pair of Hooded Mergansers and I’m going to finish the month with photos of Common Mergansers.

Common Merganser Female

Of all the ducks that overwinter in Stanley Park, these two are what I like to call the Odd Couple. He looks so dignified with his tuxedo look, and she ― well, her crazed hair style always makes me laugh.

Common Merganser Male 2

Hooded Merganser

In honour of Vancouver Bird Week (who knew we had such a week?), which started today and ends next Saturday, here are my photos of some Hooded Mergansers I found at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park.

This is the male, much more colourful than the female, as usual.

Male Hooded Merganser

And this is the female.

Female Hooded Merganser

Missing Stanley

Stanley Park Trees

Oh, who am I kidding?

I’m no suburbanite.

Walking through Deer Lake Park while I’m hanging out in Solo is all well and fine, but I couldn’t wait to get back to my own urban park. (That would be Stanley.) I even felt a pang while crossing the Lion’s Gate Bridge the other day on my way back from snowshoeing with a friend. I looked at the wide expanse of Stanley Park from high above Burrard Inlet and said, “Ohhhh, I miss my park!”

What I like best about “my” park is how I can fit a walk through it in between errands. Like today. I returned some library books, headed over to Lost Lagoon to say hello to the ducks and to check if the river otters were out (they were), walked back along the beach, picked up a few groceries, went to the post office, and then came home.

And what did I see on that walk?

(What didn’t I see?)

Lots and lots of trees. The beach.

Ducks (including mallards, Wood Ducks, American Wigeons, American Coots, Common Mergansers, and Lesser Scaups), Canada Geese, a couple of Spotted Towhees, the above-mentioned river otters, and a raccoon.

And that was a short walk.

Oh. And, um, daffodils.

In full bloom.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

This handsome fellow is an American Wigeon ― another water fowl that is already settled in for the winter at Stanley Park. The male ducks are identified by their white foreheads and the patch of green behind the eyes. I see these dabbling ducks most often in Lost Lagoon, but have also noticed them foraging close to the seawall in both English Bay and Burrard Inlet.