Blog Archives

Costa Rica revisited

I know, this is not Vancouver Island, but I just couldn’t resist. I spent 23 days in Costa Rica back in 2008. At that time my camera was a point-and-shoot Canon Powershot S5 IS. I also had a Canon 430EX flash that was used on many of my shots. My main purpose of the trip was the photography and for this reason I did not go with a group, but rather on my own. I also only visited three lodges, Selva Verde in the lowlands for 6 days, Rancho Naturalista at middle elevation for 9 days and Savegre Mountain Lodge at high elevation for 8 days.

After getting back home I processed the images to the best of my, and the software’s ability and posted them on my site on Pbase. In 2011 I switched to Smugmug and ended up reworking some of the images at that time. Just recently I was looking at my images on Smugmug and I realized that there were some that I knew I could improve. The software (I use Photoshop Elements) has improved greatly, and so has my ability. Ultimately most of the images were reworked at least a little, and some quite dramatically. In fact a few of my favorite images are ones that I had totally rejected at first and this go around I was able to make them look much better.

I had intended to keep the images to 10, but when I had narrowed it down to 14 I was really struggling to eliminate any more, so I decided to keep them all. So here they are with some notes. Hope you enjoy and if you want to see more of my Costa Rica images look at my slideshow gallery here: https://terrythormin.smugmug.com/CostaRica/Costa-Rican-Slideshow/The-Best-of-Costa-Rica/ .

Central Valley 4aThis is a view from the highway between San Jose and Selva Verde, my first stop. It is the Central Highlands looking down into the Sarapiqui River Valley. The orange trees are Mountain Immortelle Trees, Erythrina poeppigiana, and are a favorite of hummingbirds and tanagers.

Emerald Toucanet 7b - ChinThis Emerald Toucanet was photographed at Chinchona, a small town in the Central Highlands about half way between San Jose and Selva Verde. An enterprising local set up a platform and bird feeders that attract a good variety of birds and this has become a regular stop for birders and photographers.

Green Basilisk Lizard baby 5b - SVThis is a young Green Basalisk Lizard, also know as the Jesus Christos Lizard for it’s ability to run across water. Check out the very long toes on the hind feet. This was a very common lizard at Selva Verde, especially along the shores of the Sarapiqui River.

Long-nosed Bats 4c - SVI took a couple of boat trips along the Sarapiqui River and saw a good variety of wildlife. One of the highlights for me though was these little Long-nosed Bats. They roost during the day in vertical rows on tree truncks overhanging the river. Most of the time they are so well camouflaged against the bark of the tree they are almost impossible to see. This was the one time they stuck out like a sore thumb.

Red Potato Beetle - Leptinotarsa rubiginosa 1b - SVThis is a Red Potato Beetle,  Leptinotarsa rubiginosa. I spent a fair bit of time looking for interesting insects at all three lodges. At Selva verde, because many of the trails were elevated, and covered boardwalks. it was easy to go out looking even in the rain or at night.

Mantled Howler Monkey 14b - SVAlthough Mantled Howler Monkeys were quite common at Selva Verde, they managed to hide very well in the tree tops, and I heard them far more often than I saw them. On this one occasion a small troop of them came out to the trees right beside the main road that runs past the lodge and I managed to get a series of photos including this shot.

Snowcap in flight 1e - RNOne of the highlights among the hummingbirds was the Snowcap. This pretty little hummer is endemic to southern Nicaragua, Costa Rica and western Panama. Here it is feeding at Porterweed, a native plant that is commonly used as hedges and is closely related to verbena. The best place for this species is Rancho Naturalista

Crimson-collared Tanager 4c - RNWhen I was planning the trip, the one place I was adamant I was going to visit was Rancho Naturalista. That’s because I had heard of the bird feeder setup there and had seen many photos taken of birds at the feeders. This is a Crimson-collared Tanager, a regular visitor to the feeders.

Black-cheeked Woodpecker 6b

Another frequent visitor to the Rancho Naturalista bird feeders was the Black-cheeked Woodpecker. This photo was originally a total reject until I looked at it recently and realized that I could easily clean up the messy background.

Collared Aracari 7b - RNI love the toucans, with their large colourful bills. This is a Collared Aracari, a smaller member of the toucan family and a regular at the feeders at Rancho Naturalista.

Moth C2b - RNI have never been able to put a name to this beautiful little moth. Another reason Ranch Naturalist appealed to me is their black light setup for attracting insects at night. Not only does it bring in some great insects like this moth, but it also attracts a number of species of birds that feed on the insects and don’t go to the regular feeders.

Green Violetear 4d - SavI really enjoyed trying to photograph the hummingbirds, and in the end I got photos of 23 species. This is the Violet-green Hummingbird, I high elevation species in Costa Rica that I photographed at Savegre Mountain Lodge. This species has wandered as far north as southern Canada.

Walking Stick B1c - SavWhen I first saw this walking stick, I thought “Wow, this is bizarre”, and I still think the same. It really looked like it was covered in moss, and I am not at all convinced that this is natural. I would really love to hear from an expert as to what is going on here. Again photographed at Savegre Mountain Lodge.

Collared Redstart 1c - SavMy last photo is a Collared Redstart, a species of tropical warbler. One of my favorite trip birds, it was oblivious to my presence, and several times I found myself backpeddling because it was too close for the camera to focus. This is another high altitude species found at Savegre Mountain Lodge.

Advertisements

For Love of Hummers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It has been over two years since I last posted a blog. I’m not sure why I lost interest in blogging, and I’m not sure why I’m back again, but perhaps that doesn’t matter anyway. I am here because I have an urge to write and post some photos. It is going to be light this time, nothing deep or philosophical, and I figure what better way to start than to blog about hummingbirds.

We have two regular species of hummingbirds here on Vancouver Island, the Rufous and the Anna’s, and it is warm enough in the winter that the Anna’s overwinters as long as there are hummingbird feeders to help them out. Even though I live in a townhouse with a very small backyard, I regularly get Anna’s Hummingbirds through the winter, and the Rufous visit the yard during both spring and fall migration. This year for the first time since I moved here seven years ago I have had Anna’s coming to the feeder all summer long. So here are some photos of these birds from both last year and this, with some comments about them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I found this little beauty last year in a friend’s front yard right beside the driveway. It is a female Rufous Hummingbird, and the delicate little nest is made of lichens and spider silk. Because she was so close to the driveway, she was quite tolerant of human presence. At this point she was sitting on eggs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Five days later and the eggs had hatched and the young were already a fair size. Here you can see one of the young begging for food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here mama is feeding one of the young, an act that any sword swallower could learn from. Although there were two young it was clear that one was the dominant bird and was getting the lions share of the food. Only one bird successfully fledged and we later found the other young dead in the nest. This is a common strategy amongst birds as it allows both young to survive when food is plentiful and still ensures that one will most likely make it when food is not so plentiful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had at least three Anna’s visiting my feeder this past winter. This is a subadult male showing rather distinctive plumage

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The same hummer stretches it’s wing while guarding the feeder. This was the dominant bird at the feeder all winter long, and would often perch on a branch of the lilac bush that is right beside the feeder

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a different male Anna’s guarding it’s chosen territory early in the spring. It is in the process of repositioning itself on the perch, hence the body contortion. As tiny as they are, hummingbirds can be ferocious birds, chasing away much bigger birds than themselves if they are perceived to be a potential threat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My friend Carla has a wonderful backyard for hummingbirds, which she allows me to use for my photography. In fact the first image at the beginning of this blog is a female Rufous Hummer at a fuschia taken in her yard. Here a male Rufous hovers in front of me, giving me the once over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Still in Carla’s backyard, this female Rufous hovers in front of Crocosmia looking for a drink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What are you doing? You get at the nectar from the other side! Actually, we figure that this female Rufous is picking off tiny insects from the backside of the Crocosmia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even birds get itchy and have to scratch. This is a young Anna’s in my backyard taken this summer. Her throat feathers are matted and I suspect that it might just be the sugar water from the feeder. Even young birds can be messy eaters.

Anna's Hummingbird 43b

This male has dominated my feeder all summer long, terrorizing any other hummer that tries to get a drink when he is around. I have to wonder if it is the same male from last winter. I just love the variety of colours in his gorget.

I absolutely love hummingbirds. They are amazing jewels with an attitude and ferociousness that belies their diminutive size. But they are descendants of the dinosaurs so maybe that’s where it comes from.

If you want to see more of my photos, including many species of hummingbirds from Costa Rica, please visit my website at :terrythormin.smugmug.com/

Ode to the Nuthatch – Annie Pang

Oh, what a grey, rainy start to November we have had indeed!  For us in Victoria, though not as cold as other parts perhaps, the cool and damp just sink into the bones it seems and makes one wish to crawl under the bed and hibernate for several months!  The house is cold, and I go outside to rake leaves just to warm up, exhausting myself in the process.  But the fresh air and hearing the birds in the trees restores my spirits to a degree, while picking up chestnuts from four separate Horse chestnut trees most certainly does not!  What a relief to put the rake and bucket away and come inside again to carry on, and glancing out the window, to see my little feathered friends.

 I recently heard of a sighting of a Western White butterfly in Medicine Hat, Alberta and it nearly made me cry to see the picture of the lovely creature.  Ironically, I have not seen a butterfly of any kind here in so long now I can’t recall and ….well …this is Victoria!!  We’re supposed to be the “Oasis of Canada”… but it would seem, not for butterflies.  And so I turn to my beloved birds to bring me solace now.

 I call this blog “Ode to the Nuthatch” because these little birds are such remarkable and resilient little characters and they cheer me up from the foulest of moods when they come to see me at the suet feeder daily outside my kitchen window.  Unfortunately, the lighting has been so very poor these rainy days and my time so limited, it is rare that I get what I would call a “good” shot of them so I settle for what is passable and am just grateful I can get any shots at all as these little ones move so very fast, like the bushtits and chickadees.

P1310107 Nuthatch Nov 2nd rev

P1310109 Nuthatch upside down Nov 2 reva

P1310105 Nuthatch November 1st good shot rev

Having said this, a day later the sun came out and I managed two much better shots with the improved lighting and was able to add them to the blog.

P1310171

P1310173

 But as it gets cooler, the Nuthatches have been coming more often. I say “they” because there are a pair, a male and female, often coming at the same time, and sometimes I even manage a shot of them both on the feeder.  They dart in and out at what appears to be the speed of light. I once was at Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary and heard a loud knocking on the side of the Nature House only to discover a tiny nuthatch banging away at the wood on the side of the building like a tiny woodpecker, no doubt looking for insects.

P1310132 two nuthatches end pic

 The camera I use is not a DSLR, but my same old point-and-shoot 18x optical zoom Lumix from years gone by.  At the time it came out, it was the best (in my opinion) camera of its kind on the market and any so-called “improvements” by Panasonic since then have just not been as good.  My friend in Saskatchewan and another friend in Alberta ironically both have the identical model of camera and they are both seasoned photographers with far more experience with cameras than I have ever had.  How funny to have met them through the Alberta Lepidopterists’ Guild and to discover we had this in common.

 Below is a poem I was inspired to write in the wee hours on November 2nd after managing to get some decent shots of these little birds.  Enjoy and may November show us some more sunshine along with the rainy days.

Ode to the Nuthatch

Oh little character so small,

you entertain me now in Fall,

a comic piece of Nature’s art,

your body streamlined as a dart.

Upright, sideways, upside down,

you acrobatic, tiny clown –

sharp upturned beak and bandit eyes,

each day you come to tantalize

and lift my spirits from the grey

of sadness on a rainy day.

And even strolling through the park,

I catch you clinging to the bark

just out of range on tallest trees,

your “Yank! Yank!” call upon the breeze!

You make me laugh, you make me smile

and savor freedom for a while.

Then back, outside my window’s pane

you join the Juncos once again,

oh little character so small –

Come! Entertain me now in Fall…

© Annie Pang November 3, 2014.

In the Early Days of Fall – Annie Pang

How disheartened I was when my custom-made feeder came apart this summer! I had no idea whom I could even call on to fix it (I had not made it) and had neither the tools nor strength to do it myself. Everyone around here is always busy, busy, busy with their own daily tasks and affairs and so I decided it would just have to be left to fall apart for now. Last winter it worked reasonably well, although the suet feeder had to be hung too low so I could refill it from ground level and, as a result, many of the shots I was able to get from the kitchen window were rather distorted. Still I was able to get many good shots and I could reach the feeder to refill it.

As the seasons have been changing, I became more and more concerned about how Andrea and I would keep swapping pictures. Andrea is my best friend, but unfortunately, for me she lives in Saskatchewan. However, she is a determined soul and was not about to let distance stand between her wish to see my pictures of birds they don’t get there, over what she saw as a mere technicality. She made the necessary arrangements and, much to my surprise, I came home from an appointment one day and found the perch repaired with the suet feeder hanging higher up for good measure. This is a much better angle for picture taking!

I was so very touched and pleased, and apparently so were the birds as they seem to have wasted no time in returning. A small foot ladder from Home Hardware solved the problem of accessing the higher placement of the suet feeder and I now look forward to seeing my feathered friends on a daily basis again. I have not been disappointed!

On Tuesday September 16th I was able to get these bird shots. This time the tiny bushtit (that many of you like so much) is a female. The male bushtit has brown eyes while the female has yellow-gold eyes with tiny black pupils. At least this is what I’ve been told by birders. These little critters move very fast, so it is always a neat challenge to get pictures. I hope I don’t bore you with any number of them this coming fall and winter, but they are such cute little characters!

P1300707 female bushtit 1

A pair of Downy Woodpeckers have also been coming along which I included in the poem that follows along with some pictures. The male has a brilliant red tuft of feathers on the back of his head. He fed after the female and then, much to my surprise, parked himself on the trunk of the feeder stand and ….had a nap!

P1300706 female Downy 2

P1300733 Male Down headshot great rev 4

P1300737 Male Downy napping 5

There is also a pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches but as yet no good shots. And as always, there are the House Sparrows, House Finches and Starlings that are starting to show up now that they’ve found an easy food source. I am not as enthused about these birds since they were introduced and do their best to pester and crowd out other indigenous species.

The last of the moths are also still making the odd appearance at night, so I did manage to keep two overnight and get some shots of them during the day before they took to the air.

The first one in the poem (and poetograph) is a Brown-lined Looper. I’ve had quite a few of them these last few weeks.

P1300721 Borwn lined looper rev 6

The second one is from Europe, known as the Lesser Yellow Underwing, so-called because when it spreads its wings there is a brilliant yellow underneath. Unfortunately for me, this time it took off after sitting on my hand without spreading its wings, however I did see it flashing yellow in flight and was lucky enough to get a close up shot of its sweet little face. It is a remarkable sensation to feel their tiny feet on my hand when they do decide to stay there long enough for me to take pictures. Then…all too soon they are off to live out their short lives and carry on until their days are over.

P1300715 Dorsal shot of Yellow underwing 7

P1300717 Lesser Y U faceshot 8

On top of a fair amount of yard work, indoor work and grocery shopping, I took time out of a busy day to take these pictures of the moths….always a tricky business at best. On a lucky day, like today, they hang around long enough, but sometimes they are off as soon as I remove the lid from their overnight “guest chambers”.

The frustrating part for me in the kitchen, where I see the birds, is that it is usually when I’m up to my elbows in rubber gloves and dishes or juicing veggies or other messy activities (it is a kitchen after all!) that the best photo ops occur! But isn’t that the way of all things?

I hope you enjoy this little tale, poem, and poetographs, and on a hope and a prayer, my suet feeder stand will stay up for some time to come. As it is made from an old tree trunk and branches, I know its days are numbered, but hopefully it will see me through for a while.

My very best to you and yours as the days get shorter and the tell tale nip of fall becomes evident in the air. We’ve been fortunate to have all this sunshine and it comes as a shock when the skies turn grey. I am grateful to Andrea for insuring my birds come to keep me company, as well as the generous help from the kind fellow who repaired the feeder.

Read on, have a look at the poetographs and pics after the poem and keep in touch. It is always good to keep in contact. For someone as “low-tech” as I am, it is nice to hear from people….and to see my birds and have Nature in my life.

In the early days of fall

In the morning come to call

in the early days of fall

there’s a lady at my perch

on a greedy eating search.

Eyes of yellow-gold has she

but she pays no heed to me.

With her flock she’ll feast on food

in her rather thankless mood.

Messy Downys in a pair

never waiting for their share.

She eats first, off in a flap;

he eats next – then has a nap!

Looking like a carpet cloth

you may say “it’s just a moth!”

but then it dances through the air

more brilliantly than Fred Astaire!

Here is one more in my palm

tiny feet a soothing balm.

Sweet of face and large of eye

off it flies to live and die…

Soon the moths will all be gone

and birds I will depend upon

to keep away the darkest thought

reminding me…..today…..

is all I’ve got…

© Annie Pang September 16, 2014.

P1300731 Male Downy looking at me with caption 3

The Pesky Pest Promenade – by Annie Pang

Well, this spring has been one to end all springs!  I have no pictures that go with this particular story or poem, but let’s just say that I’ve taken quite the beating of late.  It never occurred to me to take pictures of any of the mice I’ve had to trap over the last months (since March!!) as they ended up dead, except for the ones in my suet feeder.

It looks like I won’t be feeding the birds this winter as a result since I do not have my cats to keep the mice away from the inside of the house.
 
One of the ladies who comes to help me with housework happened to point out a wasps’ nest a few weeks ago and yet I decided to just live and let live……until…..

Well, I walked into the large back room that used to have the cats hanging out in it and was cleaning up when I heard a very odd sound coming from the walls.  Oh Lordie. I could hear the chewing from a meter away!  It was carpenter ants!!!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! 

I went weak at the knees and was glad I didn’t own a GUN!!!  “Enough already!” I screamed inside!  Then I had to call a pest control company.
 
Well, today all but the mice were taken care of.  A very kind friend had been clearing away all the rotted wood from beneath and beside my old, dilapidated sundeck along with old plastic pots, junk, vinyl siding…..oh, the list was endless as was the junk left behind!  It was good timing that he finished the day before I had scheduled the pest control treatment because although I was only planning on having the back wall drilled into and treated for the ant invasion, the pest control guy ended up spraying underneath the cleared out ant haven under the deck, and even suited up to get rid of that wasps’ nest.

Of course this meant that the three entrances to my house that I use were all off limits because of chemicals or angry wasps, so I ended up doing a very odd thing indeed.  I had to use the front door which I never do!
 
So I wrote a poem that I hope makes you laugh.  It was a tough day, but I did get a pic of a Western Tiger Swallowtail outside my home on some phlox once I made my exit to go over to someone else’s house for a few hours (the friend who had kindly done all the clearing and hauling away of junk).  Sometimes you just have to get the heck away!  We ended up having a really great talk about my favourite subject too. Butterflies!

P1220183

P1220182

Then I went for a walk in the park where I managed a shot of a Robin with what I thought was a freshly plucked worm in its beak, and a bumblebee which I have yet to identify. I have since had an email from Cris Guppy who states “I believe the “worm” in the robin’s beak is a pupa of a cranefly – the cranefly larvae eat the roots of your lawn. So yet another pest, although you can ignore it unless your grass starts to die.”

P1220187

P1220188

P1220189

During my walk, I met up with an older gentleman, and he was very interested in learning about insects, from carpenter ants to butterflies!  Yes, it was definitely GOOD to get away from the house and out into Nature…just for a nice and healing break and to feel useful again.

A special thanks to Gabe for all his help today, for the lovely cup of tea and conversations about the future of the Gorge Park Community Garden and what part I may end up playing in all this, and to my good friends Andrea and Charley who kind of coerced me into doing this blog in their gentle and kind way.
   
If I manage to wade through my challenges, I think I may find that life has its rewards. It always seems to come back to how we relate to ourselves and Nature. Having said that, I will add that I do wish some aspects of Nature would stay out of my house!!!

Enjoy the poem and hey, as you can see I have even included some pictures after all, taken after my pesky ordeal for you to enjoy. Please excuse any typos as it is late (again) and I’m not quite as sharp as I’d like.
 
All the very best to you and yours,
Annie 
 
The Pesky Pest Promenade
 
Oh woe, oh woe, oh woe is poor old me
the pests have left me very weak at knee.
The humble ant, a common summer feature,
was chewing up my wall, the nasty creature!
All trembling as I’m no procrastinator
I called the local pest exterminator.
He came out to investigate things here
but couldn’t with his rather deafened ear
pick up the noise of all those ants a’munching
within my walls, while I could hear them crunching
a meter from the wall; but he agreed
to stop the critters’ too-destructive feed.
A few days later, just around the bend,
the man returned, my misery to end.
But then refused to please remove his shoes
so now I’ve got the dirty carpet blues!
The ants, I hope are in a better place,
than chewing up my walls right to my face.
And as my sanity was not the best,
it didn’t help to find a waspy nest
outside next to my favourite exit door;
I didn’t think I could take any more!
My hopes in being free of pesky raid
had really long ago begun to fade,
but the exterminator took his spray
and got ’em too, their nest he took away.
Of course, all good things always come in thrice
and so I still have darling, pesky mice!!!!
Now too smart to go after baited traps,
they like my underwear drawers for their naps.
Oh woe, oh woe, oh woe is poor old me!
Sometimes I wish that I’d been born a tree
or else a butterfly now flying free,
though they all have their troubles as do I
they live their lives until the day they die…

© Annie Pang May 31st 2014

Swallow Dogfights – Terry Thormin

Well I haven’t posted for over a year now. I just found that I had taken on too much and decided to back off for a while. Now that I am back I am approaching this differently. I will not attempt to follow any schedule and I will probably concentrate more on the photography and less on the text. I am after all primarily a nature photographer.

A couple of weeks ago I went down to Union Bay, about a 20 minute drive south of Comox on the east side of Vancouver Island, to check to see if the Purple Martins were back at the nest boxes at the boat launch. Purple Martins on Vancouver Island nest in individual boxes set over the water rather than the large, communal boxes that most people are used to. As it turned out, the martins did not return to these boxes this year, although other boxes along the coast are now fully occupied. Instead the use of the boxes at Union Bay, and there are only two of them, was being fought over by several Tree Swallows and a couple of Violet-green Swallows. I spent an hour or so trying to get photos of these birds and here are the results.

Image

As you can see this was one angry swallow.

Image

Ready to defend it’s nest box at all cost.

 

 

Image

Going in for the kill!

Image

Looks like it is time to give up and let the other bird have the nest box.

 Image

Most of the time the fights were between Tree Swallows as in the first four photos. It was during these fights that I was best able to get photos as often the birds would be relatively stationary and predictably in front of the box entrance. Only once did a Violet-green Swallow come in for a landing when I was ready, and then I just got a shot without any interaction.

Ten days later when I went back to check on the boxes, things had settled down and it appeared that both boxes were occupied by Tree Swallows.

An Adventure on Christmas Hill – Annie Pang

 

This blog is a bit late in coming but I’d like to post it for you to enjoy.  It is short and sweet!  Enjoy.

On May 26th, my confinement to the house had become unbearable so, at the first hint of sunlight, I decided that I must try very hard to get to Christmas Hill.  The last time I’d gone had been by myself and it held many sad memories for me.  Still, I was driven to face my demons and to embrace the hill again.  I was convinced there might be some Western Elfins there but the weather had been damp and cool.  Even though the sun was out at the house, when I finally arrived at the hill it was quite overcast. But I was determined to pass the time in the healing of nature, and so I climbed the hill once again.

What a daunting task it was and what made it more so was finding nothing at all other than some bumblebees, and not even very many of those.  Not a single butterfly could be found.  Yet I didn’t feel it was a waste of time or energy because I felt better this time.  I was alone, weak, dizzy and light-headed, but I was doing it.  I noticed things – really saw them.  I didn’t take any pictures of the vegetation but the Yarrow was out and most of the Camas was spent and going to seed.  How much I had missed!!

I did make it to the summit and only found a family of parents with their two children at the top.  It was cool and breezy and, finding nothing, I decided I’d better head back down.  On the other side of the hill I checked for Western Elfins.  Each dwarfed Garry Oak was examined but there were no butterflies.  I was so discouraged but soldiered on and decided it was time to throw in the towel.

Near the bottom of the pathway, however, a surprised awaited me.  A hummingbird whipped around my head in the shaded light beneath the Arbutus and Douglas fir trees.  A shot seemed hopeless but when I saw it was nectaring on Western Trumpet Honeysuckle I managed to get a silhouette shot.  I thought “Better than nothing” and kept watching and listening.  Then, to my astonishment, the wee bird landed on a branch very close by and it allowed me the opportunity to get a few shots.  I knew that at least one of them had turned out and suddenly the world became a different place altogether.  Gone was my weakness, my pains, all thought of worry.  I was elated!

Such is the healing power of nature and my delight was complete when I came home and saw that indeed one shot had turned out perfectly and the silhouette leant itself to being lightened up with a bit of software as you can see.

P1190661 original silhouette cropped

P1190661b Hummer in flight

I was inspired to write this poem, half of which was written in my car on the spot and the rest just now.  Today I am exhausted from my exertions, but I have no regrets and I wanted to share this special moment of healing in nature with you with these pictures and this poem.    Like many, I do not know what lies ahead for me in life, but for an instant in time, it didn’t matter because Nature had given me the present of Now.  And Now is all we ever have.  I think hummingbirds and all of wildlife know this and they make the most of the time they have.  I could learn a lot from them.   Two poetographs follow the poem.

 

A Hummer Hummed…

 

I searched the hill for butterflies in flight,

but to my disappointment I found none.

Then, waiting for me in the forest light,

a hummer hummed “Your life is just begun.”

She flew about my head with buzzing wings

and nectared on some honeysuckle sweet.

This miracle of nature’s wondrous things

seemed destined that the two of us should meet.

What joy!  Upon a branch she chose to land

and quietly I moved in for a shot,

my camera slightly shaking in my hand –

yet luck allowed her likeness to be caught.

I climbed to find a dream upon a hill,

but something waited on the way down

that was better still…

P1190664 May 26 2013 Hummer Xmas Hill

P1190669 Western Trumpet Honeysuckle

 

© Annie Pang May 27, 2013.

 

The Garden of my Dreams – Annie Pang

Perhaps this is a strange title for a blog, but it centers around my garden, a friend’s garden, as well as the few shots I got along the Gorge which I have been walking regularly up until my garden called. 

 But I must include a picture I managed to get of a lovely Golden-crowned Sparrow right from my kitchen window.  It posed so beautifully on the suet feeder and considering these birds are ground feeders, I felt I must include this shot first.

P1190421Gold crowned sparrow

 Golden-crowned Sparrow

 While on some of the walks along the Gorge I took very few pictures.  On one walk, even though I had my camera, I was unable to get photos of two of the three butterflies I did see there.  It was quite hot and so they were not landing.  The first one I saw was a Mourning Cloak and what a surprise that was!  I hadn’t seen one along there before.  Then suddenly it was chased off by a Satyr Comma, which landed so briefly I could not get a shot of it either, but could see it clearly.

 On another walk, I was able to get a rather poor picture of a Cabbage White butterfly which I will include below.  It was such a long shot and I was lucky it landed at all, frankly.  It had become so hot in Victoria so quickly that it made anything I saw impossible to photograph at the time.

 P1190444 Cabbage White

Cabbage White

 But it was interesting to see an Arbutus tree growing out of the rock wall!!  How resilient are our native species.  If man vanished from this planet suddenly, is this not proof of how Nature would just take over and soon cover any evidence of our prior existence?  It is a humbling thought indeed, and also a comforting one from an ecological point of view.

 P1190445 Arbutus tree on Gorge

Arbutus growing out of the rock wall

 The day the garden called was the day that three generous people from the Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers group volunteered to come over and help me start getting my garden ready for planting.  The task was far too overwhelming for me to undertake in my present state of health, and so my friends put out a call for help.  Although everyone else in the group was busy, my friends, Kendell, Laurie and Brad showed up on a Saturday and I ventured out to try to do what I could which wasn’t too much. 

 That was when a little miracle happened.  In all the years I’ve had my gardens, I’ve seen only three butterfly species; Cabbage Whites, Western Tiger Swallowtails (not out yet) and Lorquin’s Admirals.  But this year was very different and it transformed me completely at the time.  Brad and I were digging compost and later, Laurie and I found a shady spot to sit and weed….and when I saw a Cabbage White appear I went to grab my camera.  When I returned, I was very surprised at what happened next.  Every time the Cabbage White tried to land, something very dark swooped in and chased it off.  And then it landed – a Mourning Cloak.  I couldn’t believe this.  I’d always gone searching for them when I’d had more aid for field trips, and often never found one, yet here was one in my backyard??  Well of course I took pictures. 

 It took off and returned many times.  It even landed on Laurie’s jeans.

 P1190486 on Lauries jeans

Mourning Cloak on Laurie’s jeans

 Then it landed on my head!  I knew it was attracted to my hat so I removed it and stuck it on a pole in the garden, and sure enough, the Cloak landed there many times. 

 P1190499 MC on my hat May 4, in garden poetograph

Mourning Cloak on my hat

 Several times it landed on some Yarrow seed heads.  Yarrow, when in bloom is a very good butterfly nectaring source and if I keep the faded blossoms dead-headed it will flower throughout the summer. 

P1190506 MC on Yarrow in garden May 4 poetograph 

Mourning Cloak on Yarrow

Here is a sideview of the Mourning Cloak.

 P1190474 sideview of Mourning Cloak in my garden May 4, 2013

Sideview of Mourning Cloak

 The gardens were being prepared for both human and wildlife consumption, especially hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.   The Red-flowering Currant is quite a favourite of the hummingbird although mine hasn’t gotten big enough to be of interest as yet.  Once we have the plants in the ground I imagine they will grow rapidly. 

 P1190389 Flowering Red Currant poetograph

Red-flowering Currant

We were all very happy to have such a visitor to watch us at our labours, as if to bless the garden.  Kendell was good enough to bring along organic snacks for all to sample and so, with a Mourning Cloak in my garden, I had my very first tea party of sorts after our hard work.

P1190516Brad, Laurie and Kendell poetograph

Brad, Kendell and Laurie

 GTUF, short for Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers, is a group dedicated to producing our own food on the land we have.  Being on my own now, that task is overwhelming as I mentioned, but I do hope, with enough helping hands, that many will benefit from my gardens this year.  I just want to see the land used and my gardens there to welcome the butterflies and other insects.

 Later that day, Laurie emailed me a picture of two butterflies for identification.  They were two more Mourning Cloaks and it appeared that they were mating on the side of her Mason Bee box.

 photo of Lauries mating Mourning cloaks

Mourning Cloaks, photo by Laurie

 The next day I was invited over there to see what I could find in their garden.  There was a fair bit of activity but my camera was only able to get this honey bee and a Paper wasp, or Thread waisted wasp, Mischocyttarus flavitarsis, as well as a Bumble Bee.

 P1190527 Honey Bee at Laurie's May 6, 2013 poetograph

Honey Bee

P1190531 Paperwasp at Lauries poetograph

Paper Wasp

P1190540 Bombus species on Laurie's Lillacs

Bumble Bee

Laurie also had a different Bleeding Heart than my cultivar, and she felt it was probably the indigenous one. 

P1190532 Bleeding Heart at Laurie's indigenous 

Bleeding Heart flowers

Meanwhile, here at home, there was activity at night as well for awhile.  I turned on my porch light and this attracted two different moth species.  The first was a good sized one and although it decided to plaster itself on a window far above the ground, I was still able to get a serviceable shot.  This moth is known as the Crucialis Woodling Moth (Egira crucialis) and it was a welcome sight indeed.

 P1190413 Crucialis Woodling Moth (Egira crucialis)

 Crucialis Woodling Moth

The other moth I have found a few times is a “micro moth”, Alucita montana, or Montana Six-plume Moth and I have even found it in my office tonight as well as outside.  Here is my best picture taken as I write this now in my office.  The little guy let me get really close!  Originally I was going to show this moth taken outside, but this picture turned out better.

 P1190566 Six plume moth in office May 9

Montana Six-plume Moth

 Although I was certain I saw a Green Lacewing outside, I couldn’t get it to land so there were no shots to be had until a later date, but I did manage to find this male Cranefly at the time (family: Tipulidae).

P1190545 male cranefly, family Tipulidae. 

Cranefly

Here is the Green Lacewing I got at a later date, again, at night.  It was another long shot, but better than none.

 P1190575 Green Lacewing

Green Lacewing

So while I am still here in my home I am trying to enjoy as much of the wildlife as I can find.  The Mourning Cloak returned briefly the next day, but then was off.  They are mating now and I suspect, worn as they are looking, they will live longer still before they depart this world. 

In closing, I will leave you with my best wishes, as well as a poem and one last picture of my Bleeding Heart cultivar.  It is the food source for my favourite butterfly, the Clodius Parnassian, that I doubt I will see again since I cannot go back to the hills where they are found.  But one never knows….one never knows.

 I did once find one in a very unusual place that was not too far away….but then that is another story I may tell sometime….

 

The Garden of my dreams

 

What soothing balm does Nature bring

what wonders in the garden

with butterflies and birds that sing

with trees that fence my yard in.

I wander in my solitude

along the Gorge at times;

a Cloak of Mourning greets me there

and speaks to me in rhymes.

But there are times that come along,

and suddenly there’s life

for Nature sings her special song

and sings away my strife.

And in the Garden of my dreams

outside my very door

an ocean full of sunlit beams

now calls me to its shore.

The honey bee is buzzing and

the moths might come at night

for life is always all about

and flying to the Light.

May people join their hands to help,

to save my bit of land.

May kindness shown stay with me now

and help me understand

that Bleeding Hearts have beauty too

and Nature always heals.

May faded blossoms bloom again,

through cracks in concrete seals.

Though hardship faces all of us

in Nature must I trust,

to have this Phoenix  rise again

from ashes and from dust.

 

 P1190390 Bleeding Heart cultivar End poetograph

Bleeding Heart cultivar

 

© Annie Pang May 9, 2013.

 

 

 

 

Nature’s Angels by Annie Pang

Today, I was finally inspired to write a story again.  It was a week ago, the last day of March, when I took my first maiden voyage in my car as far as Christmas Hill on my own.  I was quite overwhelmed with my lack of confidence.  I had no hopes of seeing any butterflies and so it was mostly a test of my endurance since I’d become ill.  What was so amazing was that I actually made it without any problems, aside from a horrendous amount of anxiety!!

Up until then, my photographs and stories throughout the fall and winter seasons had been about birds coming to my feeder or ducks along the nearby Gorge Waterway.  Therefore this trip to Christmas Hill was, for me, a long and lonely drive.  With camera and water around my neck I started climbing up the hill.  I didn’t have to go far at all.  Swirling orange was there to greet me almost immediately!  Two Satyr Comma’s were dancing in the sky, twirling around each other, probably for territory.  And then one landed right on the path to sun itself.  Although it took off several times, I know these butterflies and they tend to come back to the same spot.  One only needs to be patient and slow in approaching them to get a decent shot.  I got several and I was elated.   Due to territory disputes the other Comma was not allowed to land on the path and although this butterfly looked a bit worn, it was my first shot of the season.  Here are two of the best shots I managed to take.

P1190344 Satyr 3

P1190346 Satyr 2 with verse

I climbed up to the top of the hill and spotted a single Sara Orangetip but the day was far too warm for it to want to land. It took all of my energy just to get up to the summit and back down again.  But I was both thrilled and a bit sad because of my feelings of nostalgia.  How many butterflies would I see this season?  To date that is an unknown.

During this time of testing for me, the birds have kept coming to my feeder and on very special occasions, I have had a symbolic “visitor”, namely that lovely male Goldfinch.  As he has become more golden with the season, a friend has urged me to include this picture that I took since my last blog.  This occurred at a time when I needed feelings of hopefulness, and it seems this is when the angels of Nature come with their blessings.   Although I took many pictures, this pose shows him at his jaunty best.

P1190365 Goldfinch HP with verse

I’ve also had a flock of Pine Siskins return and their comical antics always make me smile.  They are fast little critters so to get shots of them on a branch is a treat indeed.

P1190375 Pine Siskin HP with verse

The nostalgia I’m feeling takes me back to the last trip I took to SwanLake a few weeks ago.  The day was fairly overcast and I had help getting there so I made the most of it.  I had seen several Golden-crowned Sparrows, but one happened to fly up onto a branch.  This presented a much better chance at a pleasing photograph than one would normally get, as these birds are mostly ground feeders.  I was pleased with this opportunity and made the most of it.

P1190334 Golden-crowned Sparrow March 31 Swan Lk HPDI with verse

So now I will leave you with a poem.  I have discovered something I never thought I would.  People.  People are a part of Nature too, and now they have become a very important part of my world.  They have read my stories and enjoyed my photos, poetographs and poetry. Today, one of them decided to do something very special for me because she had enjoyed my blogs so very much to date.

So here is to the human spirit and the kindnesses I have seen in human nature.  We are all connected and we need to remember that.  This poem and dedication that follow were inspired by one such “angel” today.  Alas, I do not have her picture except in my mind’s eye.

Nature’s Angels

I thought that spring had left me in the cold

I thought that maybe it would never come

because my weary spirit felt so old

because the shocks of life had left me numb.

But came a bird of gold again one day,

returning just to give me back my heart

and then a flock of Siskins came my way

and gold crowned angels came to do their part.

Up Christmas Hill I ventured all alone,

not thinking that I’d see a butterfly,

but there two Comma’s saw me on my own

and fluttered down from swirling on up high.

And then a Robin’s song came ringing clear

reminding me of angels always near…

Dedicated to my friend, Robin, who took me into her heart today. With healing hands and no strings attached, she helped me start on the road to a better life, where all things are possible when I believe and have faith in all of  Nature’s angels…and, most importantly, in myself.  And here is a thank you to all the human angels who have blessed me with their presence as they walk alongside me on my journey.

 

© Copyright by Annie Pang April 7, 2013.

 

For the Birds again: Part III – Annie Pang

Hello again.  It has been quite a while since I have posted anything so thanks again to my blog partner, Terry, for his entertaining and informative blogs…and the great poetry he writes!

Well, back here in Victoria, it has been an unseasonably mild, but moody and grey winter.  On the occasional sunny days I have tried to get out to the Gorge with my camera, but most times I’ve been there it has not been sunny.  So this blog covers early to mid-March including what has been going on here at my home bird feeder and just a few things along the Gorge Waterway as well.

The snowdrops had been out for some time so here is a picture I took in GorgePark.  As they are white, I find it difficult with this camera to get well-defined shots, but here is one.

P1190112 Snowdrop

At the beginning of March, I was so pleased and surprised when, after no sightings of my beloved Goldfinches since last spring, I saw a pair flutter in to feed briefly.  The male was only just beginning to show a bit of his spring plumage with a few black and yellow markings on top of his head.  This is the picture I got of him.

P1190213 Male Goldfinch Mar 1 2013 w verse

The female was evident as she had no such changes occurring.  These were the only two that I saw.

P1190209 Female Goldfinch March 1 2013 edge

As the day was sunny, I headed out to the Gorge Waterway where I was pleased to find my old friend, the Great Blue Heron, had returned to his favourite feeding spot.  The light was bright enough and the tide was low, so I was able to get this shot.

P1190194 Blue Heron returns Mar 1 2013

Although I saw a small raft of American Wigeons up feeding on grass, no diving ducks were evident and I found this troubling since the numbers I’d seen were fairly diminished this last season.

P1190198 Wigeons along Gorge

There was one exception however, a raft of Goldeneyes and there was a surprising number of Goldeneye males…seven actually, and only two females.   How many fellows does a gal need…or even want?  I wonder what happened to the rest of the females.  A good birder friend in Saskatchewan has told me how brutal the mating rituals of the male ducks can be, practically or literally drowning the female during the act of mating with several males pursuing one female at one time.  This may account for the diminished numbers.  Apparently when the male ducks run out of females to mate with due to fatality or flight, they will engage in mating with each other and also remain companions for the entire season.  As we don’t really witness diving ducks mating here in Victoria I guess I’ll have to take her word on this one as there seems to be no other explanation for the diminishing numbers of female Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Common Mergansers, etc. in the last number of years when they overwinter here.  In any case, I was lucky to get this shot of the most Goldeneyes I have ever seen here and hope you enjoy it.

P1190181 Raft of GoldenEyes Mar 3 2013 w verse

There was also a lovely pink rhododendron in bloom along the Gorge Waterway and I was cheered by the promise of spring.  This plant has sometimes started flowering as early as January so I was surprised that it was coming out this late.

P1190221 Rhodo along Gorge WW

As Saskatchewan is seeing probably one of the longest and most brutal winters in about 20 years, I felt compelled to send my friend a cheerful picture of some ornamental Japanese plum blossoms that were just coming out in early March.  These were taken at my home.

P1190234 Plum Blossom

She was very pleased to see flowers, something she tells me she won’t be seeing for another couple of months as things stand.

Time passed…in actuality only two weeks or so, when I got a very pleasant surprise;  a few actually.  The first one was when a male Northern Flicker showed up at my kitchen window feeder.  What was remarkable and exciting was that this was a male Hybrid between the Red and the Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker.  The underfeathers were yellow and there was the tell-tale red-crescent on the back of the neck, however his “mustache”, normally black on a Yellow-shafted was red, which was from the Red-shafted “parent”or ”grandparent”of this bird.  What a pretty sight I thought to myself.

Northern Hybrid Flicker 1st pic and poetograph

P1190294 Hybrid flicker 2nd pic and poetograph

A few days later, I heard what sounded like a jack-hammer on my roof, and it took a while to realize that, as I’d seen both Red-shafted and Hybrid Flickers, one of these was looking for food on my roof!!  At least that’s what I thought it was doing but again, I found out that this “drumming” ritual was more of a territorial behaviour at this beginning of mating season.  I’m not so sure I’m crazy about that, but it didn’t last too long and only for a couple of days.  Maybe my roof didn’t taste that great.  One can only hope I suppose.

The last and most lovely surprise, after a two week absence, was another appearance of the male and female Goldfinch.  The male was dramatically altered and had a complete black cap now and mostly bright yellow feathers.  I was fortunate to have someone there to point him out to me so I grabbed my camera and took as many shots as I could.  At the end of this narrative, you will see my altered Goldfinch friend as well as another parting poetograph at the end.

So…now other than those pesky Starlings and House Sparrows as well as the House Finches, who are looking a bit worse for wear, this narrative has been my excitement here in Victoria.  My outings have diminished for now, but I remain hopeful to be able to find the time and strength to venture out into nature again with my camera and some warm sunshine.

I may even find a butterfly but for now, I will leave you with this poem of reflection that echoes my concerns and moods about our ever changing environment and bird population which, as always, I find parallels my own inner being.  I still hold onto hope that things will improve, because one must believe or hope dies.

 

In the Spring Sunlight

 

So many weeks ago since the Goldfinch had been

with his promise of spring not yet to be seen.

I left my home to find the ducks

and I found a life raft of Golden-eyed luck.

The water glistened as I walked along

and carefully listened for sweet birdsong

but all was quiet except for some crows

clawing and cawing their aggressive woes.

The water glistened in the springtime sun

with the blossoms smiling with new life begun

and I walked along in my melancholy mood

looking for the love for my spiritual food.

But none did I find outside of the sun

and the blossoms and life I saw had begun.

So I dove within for inner sight

and found myself in the spring sunlight.

Then the Goldfinch returned to show me his gold

and suddenly I didn’t feel so old…

 

P1190305 Male Goldfinch on branch Mar 15 13 crpd w verse

P1190286 Sun through trees HPcrp w verse 

 

© Annie Pang March 15, 2013.