Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creatures of the Air and Sea

A mere seven-and-a-bit years ago when, as incredible as it seems today, MySpace was a viable (and avidly followed) blogging option, under the title Supernature I reported in an excitable manner on my early impressions of the wildlife and scenic wonders of my new environment.
From that day to this I remain utterly in awe of it all. Hardly a week goes by without my seeing something extraordinary - even if it might be a 'common' sight like hummingbirds, that I see often, or even daily. Yet, I must say, this last few days has been particularly mind-blowing.
On Halloween morning I was pottering about getting ready for work. I walked from the office into the kitchen and, without thinking, looked up and saw something that stopped me in my tracks. Sitting on our deck railing, as bold as you like, was a magnificent Red-Tailed Hawk!
My heart started to race as I reached for the drawer next to the kitchen sink, where Susan keeps her camera. I had never before been so close to a wild raptor, and there it was, sitting there, staring at me. I managed to get the camera out of the case and capture a couple of shots through the dirty screen door before it took off, its wingspan surely as wide as my arms outstretched. The hawk circled the backyard twice, then settled in our neighbour's tree, tantalisingly out of sight. Wow...just wow!
The week prior we had found some white and a little beige fur in the path running alongside the left of the house. It seemed, perhaps, to be the aftermath of a cat fight, but we'd not heard anything at night, so could only speculate. Now we cannot help but wonder if this hawk had taken a neighbourhood cat or maybe a rabbit, and was back in the hope of more. A keen birding friend described the Red-Tailed Hawk as an "opportunistic and lazy hunter," so perhaps so? We may never know, but the mystery cannot diminish the incredible thrill of seeing him or her.
Just a few weeks ago I was walking home from work when I ran into my friend Russ Morland (who created the tattoos in the previous post) near St. Andrew's Church, and he said, "Dave, look in that tree." I looked up and there, in broad daylight, was a Barn Owl! Russ said the owl had been there all day, watching the world go by. I stood under the tree, no more than 12 or so feet below the owl, and it looked down at me, blinking, then tilting and swivelling its head about to eye up a small dog that was passing by, oblivious. Then I see this hawk in my yard, and am beginning to wonder if there is a subtle, gradual invasion of predatory birdlife underway! Soon we will be under their command!
On Monday November 3rd we travelled by ferry to Vancouver to see a show. Around 25 minutes out of Departure Bay a woman sitting behind us suddenly piped up, "Wow, is that a dolphin?" And indeed it was, breaching a few hundred yards away, but clearly visible. Then another appeared, and more and more and MORE! An announcement was made by the ferry Captain that we were encountering a large (approximately 100) pod of Pacific White-sided Dolphins!

(Photographer: Holly Fearnbach. Image used without permission, but I'll take it down if she complains.)

It was just INCREDIBLE! Wave after wave of these amazing creatures breached individually and in pairs, zipping through the sea, under the ferry and away across the Georgia Strait. Apart from a great sighting in Australia in 1996, this was the closest I'd ever been to dolphins, so I watched completely transfixed until the pod has passed through. When the spectacle was over Susan and I just looked at each other, shaking our heads in disbelief. We'd seen Orcas at distance the last twice we visited Mayne Island, but this was in a different league altogether. Truly awe-inspiring; a sight that will live with me forever.

When we'd arrived home from Vancouver the following day, I received a text message from our friend James, as he in turn returned to Vancouver Island from the city. "Just sailed past a pod of humpbacks!" it said. That was his reward for missing the ferry we were all meant to catch together! Ah well, he didn't see the dolphins on the way over, so it all balances out.

It's hard to get my head around the natural wonders of this area sometimes. But it's all there, and available to me every day. I am so, so lucky, a fact that will never be lost on me.

"Supernature"? Good heavens, yes!