Saturday, November 26, 2016

Snow geese in Richmond, November 2016

This is turning out to be a very big snow goose year in Richmond, BC.  I haven't heard any reliable data, but a general opinion is that there sure seem to be a lot of them this year.  I don't know how you would count them once they're here.  They course around the city and beyond, dropping by the hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands into parks, schoolyards, and wilder areas near the mouths of the river.  The flock in these pictures is grazing between Garden City Road and St. Albans Road, half a block south of Blundell Avenue.  Large numbers have been visiting this green space over the past week.  Today, I would estimate that there were between 10 and 20 thousand -- but how the heck to count them?  They were in every corner of several acres of sports field divided up by baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and school buildings.  I'm certain that this is the biggest flock I have seen in this city since they started overwintering here a decade or so ago.

This seems to be a "bigger" year than the last big one (2011-2012), which was when our son did a school  project on Snow Geese in Richmond.  A lot of information on the geese can be found here.

Snow geese, from Siberia to suburbia.

A diamond in the rough, a needle in the haystack, a blue morph.

Even a single bird is striking.  A flock of thousands is something else. Something a lot bigger.


Saturday, August 15, 2015


A species of mosquito fern (Azolla sp.) has blanketed the man-made slough at Terra Nova Rural Park in Richmond BC.  In places it looks solid enough to walk on.

It isn't. It's a billion tiny floating ferns.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Blue Hawaiian

Please, not here too.

You would think paradise is easier.  

It isn't.

The place wipes you out.

Yet you'll sell your piano to go back.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How it went down. (The green flash).

About 6:35, ten minutes to sunset.  Time to start taking pictures.

The beach at Fort DeRussy Park is a good spot, quieter than the rest of the strip.

It's getting close, dropping like a stone. A big yellow burning gaseous stone.

Down in front!

Okay, good.
Two guys started talking about the "green flash," and whether tonight was a good night for it.  I missed it a few nights earlier, perhaps because I had too soon rendered my retinas temporarily blob-struck.  Some claimed to have seen it.  


Supposedly in the second(s) after sunset, the longer wave-length blue-green light makes a last desperate grab to stay in the present day, and a green crescent, or even an upward-shooting ray can be seen.

This night I was ready for it.  A good night, clear horizon, calm weather, no deer-like staring at the thing.

December 31, 2013: I watched the sun go down from exactly the same spot, the sun setting on the year.  When it sank into the sea, the beach erupted in cheers as if it were the ball in Times Square, which, given the time difference it may as well have been. There were no green-flash exclamations or musings.  Everyone was probably already drunk.

There it goes, and faster than you would expect.  You know how a cough drop melts away in your mouth if you have the patience not to chomp it to bits, how that last little bit is one second there, and then gone?

This time, no one cheered.  Ho hum, another day over, mumble about what to do next.

But do you see it?  The green flash.  Had the camera shutter opened a split-second earlier, it would have been clearer in the picture, because it was there.  I saw it through the view-finder.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, also spelled Humuhumunukunukuapua'a or just humuhumu for short; meaning "triggerfish with a snout like a pig...

That was from Wikipedia.

The Waikiki Aquarium has one, a Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, but we didn't see it on the first pass through.  The aquarium is relatively small, and it didn't take long to peruse the inside exhibits, which are very well done, and then go outside, where there are a few more exhibits, and then go back inside, passing through the gift shop. A woman working there asked, "Did you see the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a?"

I was pretty sure we had not.  I had heard of this fish, because people like saying its name, but I had no mental image of it and had seen no sign inside or outside explaining where to look for one.

She plucked a metal key tag from a rack.  "It looks like this."

Oh.  It was a kind of triggerfish.

"There's one in the outside tank."  She described in detail how it endlessly swims a particular route through the tank, and where to stand to get a picture of it.  

Well why not?  We went back to the outside tank and stood where instructed to, and voila.


It has an odd legal history:

From Wikipedia:  "The reef triggerfish was originally designated the official fish of Hawaii in 1985,[3] but due to an expiration of a Hawaiian state law after five years, it ceased to be the state fish in 1990.[4] On April 17, 2006, bill HB1982 was presented to the Governor of Hawaiʻi, which permanently reinstated the reef triggerfish (humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa) as the state fish of Hawaiʻi.[5] The bill passed into law on May 2, 2006, and was effective upon its approval.[6][7]

Close-up of Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.  Beauty.
One should naturally be glad it was permanently reinstated as the state fish.

This is my favourite shot because the lighting helps show the thoughtful expression typical of triggerfish.

Thank you to the kind woman in the gift shop who told us how to see this fish.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Basically pointless collection I failed to make: dogs in leis.

On a previous visit to Hawaii, I made an image collection of people carrying surfboards along busy downtown sidewalks.  Why did I do that?  Because I found downtown surfboard toting pleasingly odd.

This time, had I been more clever about being similarly silly, I would have realized early-on that another basically pointless image collection easily made in Hawaii is dogs wearing leis.  The picture above was on our last day there.

The pictures below, of Surf Dog,  were taken on the first day.  There were other lei-laden canines seen over the intervening days, but I was too sun-addled to realize what a scrapbook I was flipping through.  I failed to digitally record them.


Surf Dog.

Sand makes her tired.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Gifting bird, for Easter

If ever you are among the first of the general public to be admitted to the Honolulu Zoo, hurry to the Southern Ground Hornbill enclosure and be their first visitors of the day.  That's what we did one day last week.  (Not pre-planned, just turned out that way.)

Southern Ground Hornbills are great big black birds with scarlet fleshy facial features.

"One has something gross in its beak," our daughter said.

True.  It was holding a dead hatchling bird, I'm pretty sure not a hatchling Southern Ground Hornbill, minus its head.  The hornbill stuffed it through the metal mesh, as if presenting it to us.

Here.  Have this.

The other ground hornbill seemed miffed. Something complicated and odd was going on.
Then we read the signage.  (Only about 17% of zoo visitors bother to read the signage.)

The sign said, after covering discouraging conservation issues, "Entertaining birds to watch!  Ground hornbills play with each other, mutually groom, intimidate each other and show off by displaying with leaves or food in their beak tips.  These social behaviors serve to cement the bonds between the birds of a group, and motivate them to assist the breeding pair in raising their young..."

Something had gone awry here.  The bird wasn't cementing bonds with his enclosure mate.  He was cementing bonds with us.  Hence the miffedness of the other.

Be among the 17%, read the sign:

Questions arise:  Does the Honolulu Zoo supply the Southern Ground Hornbills with fresh decapitated dead baby birds every day to perplex and entertain the first lucky Southern Ground Hornbill visitors?

Do the birds regularly use them to miff each other?

Although we had no want or need of a dead, headless baby bird, we felt somewhat special because of the offer. (Especially after reading the sign.  Please read the signs).

Zoo opens at 9AM sharp.