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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: Snowy Woods

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.

Through My Lens: Daffodils

Is this not the wettest, coldest spring ever?

I know, I know. I have no right to complain considering how many parts of the country are experiencing their longest winter in decades. Southern Ontario is in the grips of an ice storm as we speak, Edmonton has broken a 44-year record with 167 consecutive overnight lows below 0 °C, and Calgary’s forecast is for 10 to 20 centimetres of snow.

I have absolutely no right to complain.

And yet, I am. See the dark clouds in this photo? That’s what the skies in Vancouver have looked like for the better part of this winter and our oh-so-cold spring.

I’m posting this photo because these daffodils have been the one bright spot for me this spring. They appeared about a month ago along the seawall in English Bay, a new addition courtesy the Vancouver Parks Board. I love that they were planted in the middle of the grass, rather than set off in some flower bed somewhere.

Nothing says April like a crowd of daffodils.

Except in Canada, I suppose, where nothing says April like one last blast of winter.

Through My Lens: Snowy Rocks on the Beach

Typically, in February I am posting photos of crocuses. Instead, here’s a photo I took this morning of the snow-covered rocks along the beach at English Bay.

Which means it’s not a typical February. (Although … come to think of it, last year’s February wasn’t so typical either.)

Vancouver got dumped with about 25 centimetres of snow yesterday and last night. It’s not an unusual amount of snow for us — we often have one, maybe two good snowstorms every winter — but what is unusual is to get so much snow so late in the season. It’s almost March, folks.

The crocuses, I assure you, are in full bloom, but are well buried today. And tonight’s forecast is for rain, so tomorrow is going to be an unholy muddy mess.

Through My Lens: English Bay Morning

Now I’m really back.

Back in Vancouver, that is. After three months away, I’m so happy to see my English Bay again.

Isn’t it beautiful?

Through My Lens: Sunset at Sunset Beach

And … boom.

No sooner is it officially summer and we’re in the middle of our first heat wave. Heat waves in Vancouver are rare, which means few homes have air conditioning.

Which means I’m awfully warm.

Some friends surprised me with a picnic at Sunset Beach this evening, and instantly I was able to cool down. There’s often a breeze that comes in off the bay, but it also helped that the clouds moved in to block the sun’s heat from us as we enjoyed our meal.

Which means I didn’t take this photo tonight.

But you get the idea. There’s nothing like a picnic on the beach while watching the sun set.

Through My Lens: Celebration of Light

For three nights every summer, three different countries compete in Vancouver’s annual fireworks competition, known as the Celebration of Light. More than half a million people from the ’burbs descend upon my neighbourhood to watch some pretty impressive pyrotechnic displays set off from a barge moored in English Bay. This year will be the 27th consecutive competition. It’s the longest running offshore fireworks competition in the world and, I am told, BC’s largest event.

Which is obvious once you’ve tried to make your way through those crowds.

I used to overlook English Bay from a ninth floor apartment and I could watch from my balcony. Now, I walk down to the beach a few minutes before they’re scheduled to start and I always have a great view.

It’s one of the perks of living in the West End.

Northern Flicker

Today is the first day of Vancouver Bird Week and to make it a little more interesting, the city is taking a vote on which of four birds should be Vancouver’s Official Bird.

Vancouver has had a City Bird for three years now. The Northwestern Crow was selected in 2014. In 2015, the honour went to the Black-capped Chickadee and in 2016 to the Peregrine Falcon. But this year is different: the honour of City Bird will become permanent.

Oh, the pressure!

None of the previous City Birds are considered eligible. Bummer, as my favourite Vancouver bird is the Black-capped Chickadee. Also not eligible are any birds that are a city, provincial/state, or national bird elsewhere. (That kinda narrows it down. Another choice of mine would have been the Bald Eagle, of which Vancouver has plenty.) Two final stipulations are that the potential City Bird cannot be viewed negatively by any cultural groups (?), and cannot be commonly found outside of the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver’s City Bird has to be uniquely West Coast.

So, which birds made the Final Four??

Those would be the Spotted Towhee (photo here), Anna’s Hummingbird (photo here), the Varied Thrush (sadly, no photo), and the Northern Flicker (below).

Which one did I vote for?

Now that would be telling.

But may the Best Bird win.

Vancouver Biennale: Engagement

Engagement

Here’s one more Vancouver Biennale photo, this one from the 2005 to 2007 exhibition. It’s called Engagement and was created by Dennis Oppenheim, an American. It overlooks English Bay at Sunset Beach Park.

Vancouver Biennale: A-maze-ing Laughter

A-maze-ing Laughter 1

Speaking of cheerful, here are the guys from A-maze-ing Laughter, the hit installation of the second Vancouver Biennale. Fourteen supersize cast-bronze figures with smiling, happy faces completely transformed Morton Park in English Bay when they were installed in 2009.

A-maze-ing Laughter 2

The beauty of A-maze-ing Laughter is that it’s completely interactive in the best way possible. You can’t help but smile at the figures, touch them, imitate them, and, for some of us, climb on them.

A-maze-ing Laughter 3

The artist is Yue Minjun from China. That’s his face smiling back at us.

A-maze-ing Laughter 4

A-maze-ing Laughter is probably one of the most popular public art installations Vancouver has ever had. Like all of the Biennale pieces, it was for sale when the two-year exhibition was over. All of Vancouver wanted the figures to stay exactly where they were, but at first it seemed impossible, due to the hefty price tag of $5 million. But when Yue Minjun saw photos of people interacting with the sculptures, he dropped the price to $1.5 million with the condition that they remain in a public location. Thanks to a private donation by Chip Wilson, founder of lululemon, and his wife Shannon, the laughing men are here to stay.

A-maze-ing Laughter 5