Tag Archives: birds

Friday’s Ferry Ride

Commuting from the islands to Victoria is a regular event for most of us. Some people take the ferry often enough that they lose their sense of wonder at the landscape.

Leaving Swarz Bay, island views in the distance. Photo by Andrée Fredette

Not me. I pay attention to details. The lovely beach with logs strewn about, shown above.

Cormorant Reunion, near Swarz Bay. Photo by Andrée Fredette

And the cormorants who hold reunions on the ferry traffic buoy near the Swarz Bay terminal, on Vancouver Island.

Cormorants get-together on buoy. Photo by Andrée Fredette

And details on the venerable Mayne Queen ferry itself…

Mayne Queen Ferry lifebuoy. Photo by Andrée Fredette

On older ferries, the pictograms can be quite puzzling.

Pictogram on Mayne Queen Ferry. Photo by Andrée Fredette

Perhaps letting people know that this is not a garbage can…

Rusty links, story of my life. Photo by Andrée Fredette

I did write that the ferry is a venerable piece of equipment. It is over 50 years old, and despite regular maintenance, is showing its age.


Ferry wake, dramatic sky, Friday afternoon. Photo by Andrée Fredette

On a sunny afternoon, sitting on the back deck of the ferry offers up absolutely beautiful views of the wake, and the dramatic sky. On the right, the lumpy shadow is Salt Spring Island.

And arriving on Saturna, the ferry disturbs the birds that were perched on the dock pilings… But before they took off, I was able to get these shots, through the car window.

Cormorant, waiting. Photo by Andrée Fredette

The standard cormorant, first.

And a gull, of course.


Seagull, waiting for the ferry. Photo by Andrée Fredette

And I will close with my favorite shot of the day: a detail of the lighting on this 50+ year old ferry.


Lighting detail on the Good Old Queen. Photo by Andrée Fredette

My garden in January – Photo Wednesday

Header photo above: rosemary plant in bloom, in January.

Right now, it is raining. It has been raining for two days, pretty steadily. But I don’t mind, because it is definitely better than shoveling snow, like back East.

Before the rain, three days ago, I checked out all the things that need to be done in my garden.  A lot of work awaits me. This post, however, is a visual report of what I found (not the jobs, just the beauty, life, and colours!)…


Pacific Calendula in bloom, January 2016 on Saturna Island, BC. Photo by Andrée Fredette

First, the orange flash is a self-seeded Calendula (Pot Marigold), one of the great-grand-children of the original Pacific Beauty seed packet I purchased years ago. Very hardy plant, that one. It keeps giving back all through the winter (I have even found blooms under a blanket of snow, one particular winter!).


Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Saturna Island, BC. Photo by Andrée Fredette

Among the jobs: replenishing the bird feeders (there are 8…). This Chestnut-backed chickadee (Poecile rufescens … had to look it up) and friends really enjoy sunflower seeds.


Snowdrop (Galanthus) abloom, January 1st, on Saturna Island, BC. Photo by Andrée Fredette

Naturally, it wouldn’t be winter in the Southern Gulf Islands without a batch of Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) blossoming in the lawn, between the rocks and even in the gravel driveway…


Red-breasted Nuthatch on Saturna Island, BC. Photo by Andrée Fredette

One of my feeders is known as the “party feeder”: it offers assorted nuts, including cashews (they must be the industrial rejects of packaging plants for human party mix, I tell myself). All manner of woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches are regular visitors of the party feeder. Above: a Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), one of a gang of very lively and argumentative little birds.


Crocus popping up, January 2016, on Saturna Island, BC. Photo by Andrée Fredette

And elsewhere, the first few Crocus are starting to come out, a little timidly, but all the rain is going to encourage them to blossom. And the weather is still decidedly above 5 degrees Celsius… so…


Winter heather, January in a Saturna Garden, BC. Photo by Andrée Fredette

The winter flowering heathers are also coming into bloom. Above, a close-up, with a little filter play to  make it more “painterly”…


Rosemary in bloom, January 2016 on Saturna Island, BC. Photo by Andrée Fredette

This is a close-up of one of the larger rosemary plants in bloom – right now – on Saturna Island. The first winter after we moved here, ten years ago, I was amazed at this show of bright blue in the winter garden (it was a very large and old plant, about three feet wide and high, and covered in blossoms).

And finally, a reminder to all Gulf Islanders, and people on Vancouver Island as well: don’t forget the Anna’s Hummingbirds (Calypte anna), who are spending the winter in the area. One of them flew by my kitchen window, paused and looked me straight in the eye. Almost saying: “Hey, you forgot to refill the feeder!”…


Anna's Hummingbird male, January, Saturna Island, BC. Photo by Andrée Fredette

No worries, my friend. Fresh mix of sugar water replenished!

And below, I found a video from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that illustrates how a seemingly all-green Anna’s Hummingbird male can just turn his head, and flash you an extraordinary brilliant red colour!


The marvels of iridescence…

Boat Pass Hunter: A little drama

During the winter, all kinds of waterfowl spend the winter in the waters around these islands. Here is the story of a little drama I got to witness, a while ago.

The setting: Boat Pass, between Saturna and Samuel Islands. When the tide moves in or out at Boat Pass, the current moves swiftly, like rapids…


Boat pass, between Saturna and Samuel Islands. Photo by Andrée Fredette

That day, on the strait side of Boat Pass (to the right, in the above photo),  rafts of surf scoter ducks were floating about, feeding on the fish coming through with the tidal current. Rows upon rows of them, taking turns at diving – when at the front line – to feed. Very orderly system…


Surf scoter ducks in "raft" formation, minding their own business. Photo by Andrée FredetteMinding their own business.


The hunter: a sea lion, riding the tide through the pass. Clever sea lion, using the tide to increase his speed and stealth… The only reason I spotted him was his loud breath (I was sitting on a rock, right next to the flow, at water’s edge, and he surprised me. These are really big animals, the size of a cow…).

The Boat Pass hunter: a sea lion, riding the tide through the pass for added speed and stealth. Photo by Andrée Fredette

While in the pass, at speed, he dove…

…and surfaced right in the middle of the birds.


Surf scoter ducks, escaping a predator. Photo by Andrée Fredette

The birds exploded into flight. Well, not quite flight because if you’ve seen surf scoters take off on the water, you’ll know that they need some serious flapping and “walking” on the water to take off. So their escape was not quite successful.

I am going to guess that some unlucky one (or more than one) did not make it… Score one or two for the sea lion.


Surf scoter ducks reform the raft, after the danger has passed. Photo by Andrée Fredette

Once the drama was over, the sea lion could be seen, swimming to the rocks the Belle Isles chain…

And the birds reformed into an interesting shape, and drifted off toward the islets in the distance.

Nothing to see, folks, move along.