Just a Little Bird Watching

23 06 2015

You just never know when wildlife is going to appear at your window.  Recently there have been videos bouncing around with orca whale sightings in Burrard Inlet – which have made me SUPER jealous.  One day I hope to be in the right place at the right time.

In the meantime, I shall pack the camera on random errands….just in case.

And although I do not have any whale sightings to report, we did manage to have quite the bird watching day recently.

First we enjoyed the sights of a sleepy Saturday morning aboard the Southworth ferry.
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And although we had only planned to run some errands in Port Orchard and have lunch in Poulsbo, we took a little detour to Seabeck to enjoy the views.

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We caught a Sea Gull enjoying some lunch…

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And a Great Blue Heron that looks like she’s curtsying for an unseen audience…

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And then we were WOW’d by a Bald Eagle sitting on a telephone pole, like he was overseeing his pride lands.

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I am still impressed at how big these eagles are.  You can’t really tell when they’re circling up in the sky.  But, when this eagle started getting harassed by the crows and took to the skies for a little bit of size intimidation…well it’s pretty obvious he’s just a little bigger than the crow.

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I’d be pretty intimidated if this was coming at me – talons first.





Non-Manditory Family Time

3 06 2015

I am sure it is the same with other siblings, but it has taken almost 30 years before my younger brother and older sister and I have truly bonded to each other.  No longer are we forced to spend time with each other by living in the same house, or by being squished three kids in the backseat on family vacations or because we just happened to see each other at school.  Now, as my younger brother approaches 30,  the three of us live in three different cities: Vancouver, BC, Seattle, WA and Houston, TX  – we have finally come to the point of leaning into each other.  We share our stories and want to know updates.  We send a flurry of cat photos back and forth to each other, since we have all ended up with a cat(s) of our own – which I secretly feel is a competition we play to see who has the cutest, most personable cat.  We each have a different answer…go figure. We ask for help, we share our successes and we actually look forward to seeing each other.  I’m sure our parents are happy to see that their children have finally, after almost 30 years, figured out how to do more than just tolerate each other because we have to.

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This year is the first year since we lived together in our family home that we have all seen each other more than twice a year.  I guess that’s what happens when you scatter in all directions after high school, and then even further after University, and then when conflicting significant other familial responsibilities come into play, well, we would be lucky if we saw each other at all during the year.

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So we’ve come together and during my trip to Vancouver we bonded over all you can eat sushi, spring rolls and pho, calamari and bellinis, ketchup and salt and vinegar chips.  Perhaps we have realized that our deep bond is through food…and cats.

I left Vancouver, speeding away on an Amtrak train back to Seattle, feeling like we’ve made peace with our little trio, which, as a middle child who’s role is the peacemaker, made me feel pretty good about how we’ve all grown up.

My train ride photos: From Vancouver BC to Seattle, WA

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The “White Rock” of White Rock, BC

 

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The Elusive Wildlife

27 05 2015

I don’t think I would ever make it as a wildlife photographer.  I’ve come to realize throughout my experiences stalking birds, cats and bumble bees that I just don’t have the ‘spidey senses’ when it comes to spotting animals or the patience when it comes to catching them in some photo worthy action.

It may sound like I’m only focusing on the birds, cats and bumble bees BUT that is pretty much the only subject matter that shows itself to me.  The other day I opted to not join Nathan on an errand.  And what do you know, he sees a young humpback whale breaching in the water and a dolphin was chasing his ferry and playing in the wake.  WHAT!??  Of course this happens, the one time I decide not to go.  It is still my dream, and hopefully achievable goal, to see whales (orcas preferably) in the wild while not on an actual whale watching trip.  You would think living in cities that consider ferry boats to be a normal mode of transportation would allow me tons of opportunities….unfortunately these whales have been playing hard to get….for the last 31 years.

Well I did manage to luck out with some wildlife photos during my last visit to Vancouver.  Stanley Park is home to one of the largest urban Great Blue Heron colonies in North America.  It’s pretty common to see them doing their long-legged strut in Stanley Park and along the seawall at Coal Harbor.  And with Great Blue Herons it’s always nice to snap a couple of photos of them doing there thing, searching the water for their next meal, but rarely do you see them actually ‘fish’, much less catch anything.

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But this time on an evening stroll with my brother and sister as we headed out to dinner, I took a little more time with a specific Great Blue Heron.  Essentially, I had to be willing to be left behind because there was no way my siblings were waiting around for some bird to do something…possibly.    And just when I was about to give up and resign myself to the fact that once again, I was only going to get the standard standing tall, maybe head cocked to the side, photo.  Whoosh.  Great Blue Heron headless – neck deep in the water.  I honestly had put the camera down and started walking away, when I heard the water splashing and whipped the camera back up to see what moments I could catch.

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Head whipping back and forth.  Dinner dropped and picked up again.

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Dropped and picked up again.

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Another round of head thrashing to try to whip that eel into submission.  And finally dinner gave up the fight.

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An eel!  Yeah!  Good job Great Blue Heron!  We’re eating EEL tonight!

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Ta Da!

And yes, this is still in my normal range of birds, bees and cats but I felt just as triumphant getting these shots as that Great Blue Heron felt munching on his eel.

 





Fields of Gold

14 05 2015

Tulip Festival?  Yeah, that’s exactly what a 16 year old boy wants to do

I detected just a hint of sarcasm when my friend Kyle said this to me after I spoke of our detour plans to cap off our West Coast Spring Break adventures.

Heading back to Seattle after spending a night in Vancouver – it just made perfect sense to stop in at the Skagit Tulip Festival…especially on a week day.

The festival runs April 1 – 30 and hundreds of thousands of people visit each year to take in the immense colour story that takes place.  But, mother nature has a way of marching to the beat of her own drum and there was talk of an early bloom in March.  So since we were passing by anyway, we took a shot and although we were a little early in the season for the rows upon rows of colourful tulip fields, we did get to experience the fields of gold filled with daffodils standing tall….without the weekend crowds.

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Well, Kyle was pretty much spot on.  After an initial nod of appreciation to the seemingly unending yellow fields, Jonathan followed me around the planters filled with early tulips and hyacinth and watched as I crouched down low to get up close and personal with these perennials and tried to capture shots of the buzzing bees busy pollinating up a storm.

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He thought maybe he’d have a little more luck of some sort of entertainment tagging along with Nathan, but those hopes were short lived – as soon as we crossed back onto US soil Nathan’s phone was back ‘online’ and without the fear of exorbitant roaming fees, he was back to work and could be seen ‘enjoying’ the view weaving through daffodil fields aimlessly while talking on his phone.

Jonathan found himself drawn back to me and my honey bee stalking.  After some frustrating moments trying to capture my bees with a camera with no auto focus, I gave up, manual focus requires the guaranteed stillness of plants.  But even that isn’t guaranteed – one stiff breeze, or even a gentle sway, and everything starts to get a little fuzzy.

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Well, there’s only so long you can drag a teenager around in the flower beds, so we headed out for lunch in La Conner – chowder and fish and chips by the waterfront – something a little more exciting than flowers to our ‘foodie in training’.  Well, another visit during peak tulip season is in order, but perhaps we’ll leave the 16 year old at home.

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Spring Break: WestCoast Style

5 05 2015

Spring is here!  And with Spring comes Spring Break.

Now, it’s been years since I’ve thought about Spring Break and that’s only because I happened to visit Lake Havasu City during Spring Break and got to witness the shenanigans that took place – drunk guys wearing boxes on their heads, girls sporting pasties and old men showing off what they’re working with in waaaay less clothing than they should be wearing.  And before that, when I should have been one of those dancing beach bombshells (kidding) we didn’t really have ‘Spring Break’ – those of you at SFU know that what we had was ‘Reading Break’ – which doesn’t really inspire spontaneous trips to Cancun or Cabo or some other spring break sounding place.

Well this year, Nathan and I took Jonathan, who is now 16 years old, out for Spring Break – WestCoast style.

First up:  Victoria, BC

After narrowly missing the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria because we just HAD to stop for the ‘Best Fish & Chips’ at JJ’s Fish House in Poulsbo, we found ourselves basking in the sun on the upper deck as we motored our way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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After an hour and a half we found ourselves in downtown Victoria – which brought back memories of Spring Break like times from yesteryear….first year university and all the girls went for a road trip and found ourselves in Victoria.  We all chipped in to stay at Paul’s Motor Inn (which I saw this trip) and after, probably more than a few drinks, found ourselves on the stage at a Karaoke Bar singing Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  And I think we made it through a verse and a chorus before somehow the song was over already and we were being ushered off the stage….still haven’t figured that one out. Ha!

Well for this trip to Victoria, we took the opportunity to walk the harbor and take in the Parliament Buildings.

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After a quick overnight, we were back on the road and headed to Tofino, BC.

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Now, this is the second time we’ve been here with Jonathan so we knew the drill.  Our first stop was to rent a couple of wetsuits and boogie boards.  And after a quick lunch on the water we were suited up like seals with hoods, gloves and booties ready to brave the balmy 48 F waters of the Pacific Ocean.

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Cox Bay Beach

 

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An hour and a half later we dragged ourselves out of the water.  I was still on an adrenaline high – for a girl who can’t really swim and isn’t the best at water sports, I was riding those waves all the way onto the beach!  Now Jonathan on the other hand, well turns out his gloves had holes in them, so after an hour in the water he ended up with white hands and what locals would call ‘The Claw’.  It took a soak in the hot tub and another couple hours inside before his hands started to resemble something other than an arthritic old man.

Our second day in Tofino we decided to ease back on the water activities, at least those as physically demanding as hurling yourself at an oncoming crush of water to see if it’ll let you go along for the ride or if it’ll twirl you around and spit you out on the other side.  So we went on a boat ride in the middle of rainy/stormy weather to enjoy the Hot Springs.

And after a bumpy, slightly nauseating ride where we saw eagles, harbor seals, seal lions and a glimpse of a sea otter, we found ourselves at Maquinna Provincial Park and just a 2km walk through a WestCoast rain forest from the Hot Springs.

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We arrived to the Hot Springs platform and change rooms about 45 minutes later and although there was a slight sulphur smell in the air, the view was enchanting.

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There’s something about sitting in geothermically-heated hot springs with the rain falling down on you as you hear the roar of the waves crash against the rocks around you that just seems a little crazy.

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After a soak and then watching some adrenaline daredevils jump from the rocks into the waves…we headed back to the dock…

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…where we were greeted by our ride home!  After enduring the hour and a half ride jostling in the waves to get there, the Sea Plane – with its 15 minute trip time – never looked so good!

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View of the Hot Springs from above

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It was a gorgeous way to see the coastline and a perfect way to cap off our time in Tofino.

The next day it was an early morning drive to Parksville – a stop in to see my parents – before hopping on a ferry to Vancouver, BC.

I always forget how beautiful and peaceful it is on the Island – I definitely took it for granted growing up there – but I never forget how fortunate I am to have called Vancouver home, even if just for a short time.  It’s just gorgeous!

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View of Coal Harbor from the Westin Bayshore

And so there you have it – ferry boats, boogie boarding in wet suits, marine life, Hot Springs, sea planes, mountain views and all you can eat sushi (not shown but definitely eaten):  Spring Break – WestCoast Style!

 





Time to Fly

13 11 2014

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Driving up to the festival grounds I had my eyes peeled.  We were running late and crawling through the traffic trying to get parked and onto the field where the balloons were launching and I didn’t want to miss seeing the balloons in full glow.  Is that one!  No – just a tower light.  That’s definitely one.  There it is – look at it!  No that’s just a tree lit up by a parking lot lamp.  I scoured the darkness around us because you would think that you’d be able to see hot air balloons glowing in the darkness.  Nothing.

And then we got parked and made our way to the ticket booth and gates.  Ahh.  There we are.  Tension was released, and it was like everything was right in the world now.  I found them.  And I just knew.

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Since this was our second time visiting the festival, it was slightly less overwhelming.  I felt like we kind of knew the rules – when you hear the zebras whistling….get back!  So I took time to really see what was happening on the field.

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It was a great opportunity to see the camaraderie and teamwork as balloon after balloon was sent on its way.

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Normally things in large numbers kind of freak me out (birds, ants, really bugs of any kind all in one place), but hot air balloons may be the only exception.   Watching all these balloons float up into the sky is kind of a zen experience.

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It was a privilege to be able to attend this great event for the second time and I don’t think it will ever get old.  But next time, we’ll have to go flying.

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Transitioning: Summer to Fall

8 10 2014

Now that green is starting to ease into yellow, orange and red and a crispness is starting to add a little snap to the air, I’m starting to reminisce on my summer moments.

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Maybe I was ‘living in the moment’ and really living in the experience rather than thinking about how I was going to re-tell the story.  Or maybe I was too busy trying to pack as much activity into the warm weather as possible that I rushed through one activity in search of the next.  Either way, Fall is approaching, and with the changing of the leaves brings just enough transition that it’s made me pause in place and gather photos from the summer.

Everyone goes through the transition from Summer to Fall.  Preparation for hibernation perhaps?  The excitement to bring back over-sized sweaters, cuddly scarves and of course those Fall boots!  I have a love-hate relationship with said boots.  I spend my days admiring the different boots that I see prancing down the street – chocolate brown, black, wedge heel, flat stomping boots, sleek and stylish high-heeled boots.  Needless to say, I have boot envy.  I see everyone looking fantastic in their fall boots – really the perfect accessory for fall outfits.  But whenever I find myself on the hunt for the perfect boots I end up frustrated and sad because, after all, I carry my height in my torso.  I have short legs and athletic calves.  The worst combination!  Which essentially means that boots don’t fit me – even the ones with extended calf sizes :(

But enough about the boots.  I find myself on a tangent as meandering as the paths I hope to stroll through this Fall – stomping through all of the fallen leaves and hearing that satisfying ‘crunch crunch crunch‘ as I walk.

Finally I’m looking back at what took place this summer – a summer that took Seattle by surprise with day after day of 80+ degree weather.

Seattle Sights:

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The Great Wheel

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Kayaking around Alki

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Making Discoveries!

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Alki Sunsets

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Great Friends…

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And Ferry Boats.

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Mt. Rainier Sunsets

Exploring the ‘wilderness’ of Port Orchard:

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Whirlwind Work Trips in Chicago:

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Chicago Art

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Chicago Architecture

Home (Vancouver):

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Vancouver Icon – ‘Canada Place’

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Sunsets at Vancouver Harbour

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Deer Lake Park

Food – delicious, beautiful, tasty morsels of goodness!

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Neapolitan Style Pizza

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Farmer Fresh Artisanal Snack Plates

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Chocolate Covered Figs

It feels like the summer was over in a blink but at the same time, with so many consecutive days of sunshine, it seemed like it was gorgeous day after gorgeous day – which puts a lot of pressure on a person.  Especially a person from the Pacific Northwest, where you cannot take sunshine for granted and on each sunny day you feel pressure to kick yourself out of bed and DO something.  Anything really.  You’ve got to head straight to those walking/running paths, be in or on the water, be at the farmers market every weekend, and eat and drink on every patio you come across.  By the time Fall arrives you’re just exhausted from all of those sunny days and secretly wishing for a rainy day so you don’t have to feel so guilty for spending a day inside watching movies (or a How I met your mother/Orange is the new black/House of Cards marathon).  

LOVED summer.  LOVE summer.  But (as I look right and left and duck my head) I’m kind of ready for Fall.  I’m sure in a month, when Seattle descends into its Grey season and there are more rainy days than not rainy days, I will take back those words – but for now, after over 40 days of 80+ degree weather this summer – I’m ready for an excuse to have a lazy day.








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