As you can tell by this photo, it finally happened. Winter is here.
After a couple of false alarms last week, snow has come to Vancouver. The polar vortex everyone is talking about? It’s here too. (Although, truth be told, what we call “cold” is considered positively balmy in the rest of Canada.)
The thing is, we’ve been crowing for weeks already about our super early spring. The daffodils were in full bloom more than four weeks ago — that’s two months earlier than usual — and our smugness was enough to make the rest of the country want to push us off the continent and set us adrift.
Those poor daffodils? With last night’s dump of snow, they’re goners.
I took the above photo late this afternoon on my walk through some snowy woods.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Check out that grip.
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.
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.