Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Dear Crows: I am not a predator

In late May, generally, according to the quick research I’ve done, crows turn into death from above. And by death, I mean “scare the hell out of you”. This is the time when their chicks turn into fledglings, getting ready to pop out of the nest and get ready to fly. Obviously they’re pretty vulnerable, so the crow community goes into red alert.

For some reason, this season is still in full swing in Vancouver, having either started later, or lasted longer than normal – if you live anywhere with trees near sidewalks, you’ll know what I mean.

Here’s the good news – like all animals, attack is never the first option. Attack risks harm, and being harmed only makes sense when warnings don’t work. Which is what this is – warning behaviour.

Now, I’ve tried to have a reasonable discussion with them, carefully explaining that the sidewalks are city owned and available to all. As well, I tried to point out that humans aren’t big fans of eating crow babies, doubly-so here in Vancouver, with it’s notable vegan demographics. But their reply was alway, “KAW!” (wing in face.) Jerks.

So, here’s what you do;

1) Don’t freak out. That rush past your neck wasn’t a missed attack, it was a warning. And you’ll want to be calm because you’re going to do one of two things, and one option involves cars, and you want to be thinking straight.

2) Move on as fast as you can, calmly. You’ll get swooped again, but the point is to not turn spaz (which never helps with the crows) and get out of their nest area fast. A second option is to veer off and cross the street. Remember: cars. The internet says carry a stick or an umbrella to wave at them, but that sounds like escalation to me. Just get out of there.

3) Enjoy your rare, urban interaction with the wild that doesn’t involve skunks and raccoons.


Is it just me, or is the city being undermined by ants?

About a month ago, I noticed piles of dirt and sand piling up around the cracks in the walkway to my front door. Those piles turned into little mounds, complete with dead-giveaway ant holes. Then, ants. Busy little antholes that they were, the sidewalk was being consumed pretty quick – then I noticed them by the retaining wall closer to my door. Out of curiosity, I pulled back a brick. Bad idea. It was alive down there, and even more cunning, they’d made their egg nurseries, or whatever they’re called, right underneath the brick. So very alien. Ew.

So, after doses of pink poison and corn meal – common wisdom says they can’t digest it, but they’ll eat it, thus killing themselves – common wisdom seems to be full of crap. They’re still there. And why would one of the oldest, most evolved organisms on the planet not be able to tell food from not-food?

I even used a personal loophole in my mildly Buddhist approach to life on Earth – “bugs are icky – if they get in the way, do what you’ve got to do.” I devised that one when I was 6, because dodging bugs while riding a bike never ends well, and my knees and elbows had filed a complaint. Anyhow, I turned to boiling water. It pushed them back, but not for long.

So, my question to you all – is this diving flag syndrome. as in you never notice all the cars and trucks with diving flag stickers until you take up diving yourself. Ants are pretty prevalent, but they seem more prevalent lately, at least in Mount Pleasant area. Is that because they are actually very active this year or is it because I’ve got bugs on the brain?

And if it’s the former, how do we kill them? Ok, ok – how do I kill them? “Take off and nuke them from orbit” is technically the only way to be sure, but a bit drastic, I feel.

[photo by poagao]

It’s Berry Season

Himalayan Blackberry
Despite being a manly, athletic, dog-owning guy’s guy, I also enjoy picking wild-growing fruit. And ’tis the season.

What is in season now are the early berries like salmonberries, mild in flavor and not very sweet. But the real heyday starts with blackberries, which come into season somewhere between now and the end of August.

The fun thing about blackberries is that they grow everywhere and produce fruit like crazy. So grab a bucket and chances are you’re within 500 feet of a blackberry bush already. But I have a few hints about how to harvest them.

Keep in mind that the species you will almost certainly encounter is the non-native Himalayan blackberry (rubus discolor). Tasty fruit, came from Europe. You can tell it from the less common native Pacific blackberry (rubus ursinus) because the former has 5-leaf groups, and the latter 3-leaf groups. The Himalayan blackberry is a pest here, but that’s to your advantage: the other problem is that blackberry bushes are unpleasantly prickly. Solve the pestilent plant problem and the prickly plant problems with a hand pruner.

No, really: take a hand pruner with you, and cut the branches away as you pick. You’ll get more berries faster with fewer pricks, and you’ll be doing the ecosystem a solid by helping (however slightly) to reduce the spread of this alien invader.

Note that if you really want to wipe out a blackberry bush, you’ll have to use more desperate methods, which amount to either pesticides or completely mowing the canes and then digging up the roots. Apparently goats will eat blackberry bushes in preference to almost any other food, so if you have a herd of goats, kiss your blackberry problems goodbye.

Maplewood Farms is a touching experiance

Maplewood Farm

Maplewood Farms

405 Seymour River Place
North Vancouver, BC V7H 1S6
(604) 929-5610

So it’s been awhile since you’ve touched an animal, and you figure you should.  You know now that more people live in cities than rural areas throughout the world too few of us have really ever had our clothes chewed on by goats.  It’s that sort of one-on-one nature experiance that keeps us grounded.

“But where,” you ask, “can I touch some animals in Vancouver?  The Vancouver Aquarium won’t let me hug the baby beluga whale and I got fired from my job as a dog walker after I lost Alex Trebark.”

My answer to you, for all your animal touching needs, is North Vancouver’s Maplewood Farms [mwf], which is a great petting zoo.  For just $4.90, $2.85 for anyone 16 and under or 65 and older, there’s a whole lot of farm animals waiting to be petted.

Okay, I’ll be honest this is one of the few things I’ve ever blogged here about where you probably should take kids to.  As part of a late twenty-something couple I felt slightly out of place in a park dominated by pre-teen children and their harried parents.  It was still however fun, and a good photo oppertunity, but for the most part kids will get more out of it than adults.


Fibrefest International 2007


If you’re into the fibre arts thing like I am (I crochet and sometimes knit) you won’t want to miss the fun little festival at the Tradex in Abbotsford. It’s a bit of a drive from Vancouver, but definitely worth it. I’ve gone and volunteered the last two years and will definitely be attending on one of the two days it’s happening – Friday and Saturday, May 11th and May 12th, 2007.

Snakes at a Fair (Kensington Community Fair)

Rearing snake, Kensington Community Fair
Rearing snake, Kensington Community Fair

As fairs go, the Kensington Community Fair is a slightly odd one. This is a small neighbourhood fair held at Kensington Park (Kensington & Hastings) in North Burnaby that this year was on Saturday 12 August.

Attendance is good, but most of the people attending are neighbourhood residents, and possibly a good proportion of those realizing there was a fair on that day only because they passed it on their way to or from home. As such, the feel of the fair is more like an open house than a fair: not many people go there to buy stuff; there are few merchants, and those that are there tend to be neighbourhood purveyors of services–music instruction, karate lessons, that sort of thing. Most of the booths are those of local charities, societies, and clubs.

But as I said, the fair is a slightly odd one.

What did that bear ever do to you? had to look twice just to make sure the effect wasn’t intended by the original artist.

Yup. Some vandal has definitely tagged the country-style spirit bear at the corner of Smythe and Burrard outside the Paramount Theatre.

Graffiti has been part of the urban scene since before Rome’s most famous citizen scrawled “Julius wuz here” on beachfront property in England. It will always be with us.

Actually, some of it, I don’t mind; on back alleys, overpasses and underneath bridges, people with too much time on their hands can go ahead and stake out as much turf as they like. Some of the art is even appealing.

Itchy n’ scratchy


According to the GVRD Website, there is currently no health risk from mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus and potentially infecting the population due to the fact that no case of WNV has been reported anywhere in BC.

Despite these reassurances from The GVRD Mosquito Management Department, there is somebody in North Burnaby who thinks otherwise and is more than happy to oblige you with preventative measures to assuage your paranoia.

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