Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

City art – Eagles, bears, and tadpoles?

I’ve had in recent days three things sloshing around in my brain, all of which I only realized today are all thematically connected, as they are all, for lack of a better term, city art. Which is to say it’s not urban art (graffiti, posters, building murals), or art about the city, but art that exists only because the city allows it to exist as part of the city.

The first is an old throwback, which is one part world’s-lamest-scavenger-hunt (as there is only one thing to find and you win nothing… plus, I tell you where to look, so, not much actual hunting) and one part segue. Remember those Spirit Bears that dotted the city a couple of years back? Well, I think there’s one on the roof of the optometrist shop, South-East corner of Broadway and Quebec. It’s either that, or I’m hallucinating. Either could be fun.

[photo – City of Vancouver]
And there’s the segue, as this year the City of Vancouver and the BC Lion’s Society has unveiled the third animal in their Spirit of Art series (after the aforementioned bears and the Orcas from 2004) -the Eagle. I only became aware of this because you can’t miss the pastel blue bird sitting outside City Hall as you pass it. And as much as I’m in favour of helping the children (more on that soon), I’m not a big fan of the Eagles – the choice to put them upright on a wingtip seems awkward, and in fact it took me a second to register that it was a bird. But, there are still a lot of birds to go (the city will be rolling them out over 2009 and right up to the start of the Olympics) and part artists have made some amazing works – Darth Vader bear? Bookshelf Orca?

Finally, how did it miss that we have art manholes? Walking down Main Street the other night I literally tripped over the tadpole (frogs? fradpoles? togs?) design as I was crossing at King Edward (East side of Main, South side of King Ed), and a little research revealed there were two designs – anybody know where I can see the bubbles design?
[photo – me]

As cool as they are (well, the fradpoles at least), I like the traditional Chinese decorations in one. The salmon and raindrops on water is nice, and the woodgrain idea was inspired – totally should have gone with that one?

What else is out there? I think we should start sharing more of the artistic bits and bobs we see around town – send us your flickr links!

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.


Port Expansion Roberts Bank BC 2008 04 12

It may be a really stupid idea, given that the US economy has gone into a tailspin, US freight and container imports in particular having been in decline for the last two years. It has also miserably failed any objective environmental assessment. And the port is actually under utilised at present. But the construction of new container berths at Deltaport continues.


A story in this morning’s Vancouver Sun emphasizes why this development has to be stopped.

An international team has discovered why half the world’s western sandpipers touch down on a specific tidal flat just south of Vancouver every spring. The secret is in the mud, more specifically in the snot-like “biofilm” coating the mud.

The tiny shorebirds, weighing about 30 grams each, suck a remarkable 20 tonnes of the sticky slime off the mud every day as huge flocks swoop down to refuel during the spring migration, the scientists estimate.

This is not a trivial issue. The port expansion has always been dubious from an environmental standpoint. Now it stands condemned. The response from the federal government (ports are a federal not a provincial responsibility) should be firm and swift.

Reifel Bird Sanctuary: A Hidden Gem


Despite the hit or miss weather lately, there have still been than a handful of pleasant days, and what better way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon than by getting in touch with nature?

One of the Vancouver area’s great spots for getting away from it all is the Reifel Bird Sanctuary on Westham Island [link].

Previously known primarily by bird watchers and other bird enthusiasts, each year loads of others are finding what it has to offer: a beautiful tranquil walk through the coastal wetlands, more waterfowl and other birds than you can shake a camera at, and occasionally the chance to spot some other interesting critters as well.

I’m no bird expert, but on my last visit, I spotted loads of geese and ducks (including a lot of baby ones), a huge sandhill crane, a nest of baby barn swallows, some bald eagles circling far overhead, and even a furry little marten scampering down the trail. If you’re into the more serious birdwatching, the front office keeps a list of bird species recently spotted onsite so you can round out your collection of photos, or challenge a group of friends to an afternoon game of birdwatching bingo.

The trails are kid-friendly, and you can even by duck food onsite to let your little ones (or your own inner child) find out what it’s like to be surrounded by a quacking mob of hungry feathery friends.

The park is open during the day from 9am – 4pm daily, and admission is only $4 for adults and $2 for children.

Joining the Orcas and Spirit Bears

Just after we’ve gotten rid of the Spirit Bears, Vancouverites can now look forward to being inundated with bald eagles.

The majestic winged creatures will soar into the cities of the Lower Mainland in 2009 and will be on hand to greet the international masses at the Olympics. Once again, Judson Beaumont, creator of the Orcas and Spirit Bears, has designed the seven-foot birds with wings spread for the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities.

At least one local American professed enthusiasm over the news.

“I think the eagles are exciting,” says a GVRD resident of Texan extraction. “They are so patriotically American.”

Others have taken issue with the implications of BC Lions Society president Stephen Miller’s statement that “No West Coast bird is more majestic than the bald eagle.”

“Majestic?” scoffed suburbanite F.G. Maktaaq. “What about the bold raven? The street smart crow? The urban pigeon in iridescent splendour? The French fry-thieving sea gull? The wily whiskey jack? What’s with the anti-scavenger mentality in this city?”

The eagles will complete the trilogy representing land, water and sky. Pending the success of the eagles, the BC Lions Society is looking for inspiration at other elements (i.e. wood represented by the mountain pine beetle) and even other dimensions (i.e. a will o’ the wisp to represent the supernatural in Super Natural British Columbia).

Greyhaven Looking for a New Home

The Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary, at 4490 152 Street in Surrey, is losing its donated 500 square foot space on March 31. The parrot sanctuary, which houses conures, budgies, cockatiels and other exotic birds, has been upstairs of the Outdoor Garden Depot since 1998.

I’ve visited Greyhaven twice with one of their volunteers to get to know their birds and to help out. With the growth in the exotic animal trade, Greyhaven has outgrown its modest space. While averaging some 115 successful adoptions a year, the sanctuary received 159 new birds last year.

Aside from donating 1000 square feet to the non-profit society, you can donate your time, cages, bird toys, stainless steel dishes, bird food, first aid kits, arbutus and willow branches (for perches), T-stands, climbing trees, crafts (which Greyhaven can sell at fund-raising events), Canadian Tire money, or, of course, real money. If you’re really thinking of buying a bird, don’t! Talk to Greyhaven about other options.

Selfish Human Complains Yet Again

Cloverdale Dead Crow

Being pro-crow, I was disgusted to read about another person complaining about the birds in the Burnaby News Leader. Barbara Watt, some fish inspecting twit, had little compassion for the birds and their use of the Still Creek area for their nightly roosting. It seems that, while the Burnaby roost hasn’t changed, the trees the roosting crows once used were cut down six months ago, forcing the birds to encroach into the office district.

“If you want a volunteer with a pellet gun, I’m in,” she says, offering two lame reasons for wanting to get rid of the birds: the excrement on the soles of her shoes and, most especially, because the birds make her wash her car.*

Let’s see, humans – a pestilential species – can flush their shit down the toilet with impunity, not really giving any thought into whose backyard it goes, yet they can cut down the crows’ habitat and then complain when the birds land a poop in our territories.

Along with the whiners who live on our clearcut mountainsides and freak out when a bear gobbles up their shih tzu, it’s obvious Vancouverites are liars when they say they live here for the nature. What? You only want the bald eagles and the killer whales?

*Birds shitting on your car is good luck, in Romanian superstition. Canadians really should learn to appreciate this fact.

Coquitlam Owl Attacks

Photo of Mundy Park’s Lost Lake courtesy Matt Musselman.

The owls are going crazy, according to one jogger in Coquitlam’s Mundy Park. Jogger Linda Epplette received several cuts to her scalp, requiring a tetanus shot and an appointment with a chiropractor; the Now interviewed three others who have also been the victims of barred owl attacks.

The birds seem to hate bald heads and ponytails. Most likely, as Ministry of Environment bird specialist Myke Chutter points out, “They could be young birds who have just fledged and they’re looking to set up and defend their territory for the next year.” Or, says SFU biologist David Green, “If they have young or they’ve been nesting nearby, then for some individuals, humans are sort of a potential threat.”

Also known as the northern barred owl, the swamp owl, the striped owl, the hoot owl, the eight hooter, the round-headed owl, le chat-huant du nord (French for “the hooting cat of the north”), the wood owl, the rain owl and, mistakenly, as the bard owl, their only known enemy is the great horned owl.

But they will fight just about anyone to protect their nests.

Little Sparrow Garden

Sparrow Garden

Along Granville, in the downtown core, there is the Little Sparrow Garden. Does anyone know who made it? What’s the deal behind it? It’s such a cute idea – does anyone know if there are other public gardens around town for other birds?

More eagles in the news

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Dad Preening IMG_5784.jpg, originally uploaded by wildorcaimages.

While everyone with an internet connection is watching two eagle eggs in Vancouver via a web cam [mbv] the front of The Province has a far more harrowing eagle story, that of the eleven men charged with killing over 50 bald eagles in North Vancouver [cbc].

The charges include “possession and trafficking in dead wildlife”. More charges may be laid.

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