Monday, February 25, 2002

Finn and I went for a walk today in the forest. It was a beautiful day here in the island, cool and crisp and dry, with sun shining through a high lace of cirrus clouds. Kilarney Creek was a raging torrent, swelled from the rains of the past week, rain which was almost constantly pouring for 48 hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

To our delight, we came across a pair of American Dippers chasing each other up and down the water fall. These are the strangest songbirds in our region, for they feed primarily by plunging into fast rushing streams, swimming under water and plucking insect larvae or small fish out of the current. As the article in the above link says, "this feat has been compared to cafeteria dining inside a washing machine."

To the untrained eye, the dipper looks like a jittery starling, or a big wren with a nervous disorder. They constantly bob up and down on their tiny spindly legs like they are on the verge of imminent urination. Then without warning they leap into the white water, or perhaps jump into the air and fly like a dart up and down the stream, weaving in and out of branches and bushes. With a coat of down under their feathers, they seem to be half duck, half songbird.

We seem to have a breeding pair on hand in the woods, and with a bit of luck, we may get to see the raising of their young. Young dippers are trained for life as the keystone cops of passerines:

Even the baby birds handle white water like, well, like dippers. Adults often build their soccer-ball-sized nests where the fledgling young go straight from sanctuary to surging stream. "I've seen them hit the pounding current, tumble head over heels, get whipped downstream, then bob to the surface and calmly swim to the side," says Osborn. "However, I don't think this is their preferred way to leave the nest."

We'll keep our eye on them and see what they get up to this spring.

More on dippers here.

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Hey! There is someone else on an island off the coast of BC keeping a journal too.

Click here to go live to Race Rocks.

Monday, February 18, 2002

First really windy night since the new year. We have gusting southeasterly gales outside right now which are topping 70 km/h. On the Outer Coast, on the west side of Vancouver Island, these winds are said to be around 100 km/h.

Stormy. Hooooo boy.

Sunday, February 17, 2002

We went to the Grand Opening of the library today. It was one of those events that only happens in small communities. An event where everyone knows each other, where the speeches are delivered with a touch of irony and self-parody, but where everything gets said that needs to be said, where the hard working among us get thanked and acknowledged and where ribbons get cut and hands shaken.

A couple of chocolate cakes appeared out of nowhere and were set up on a table at the back of a canvas tent covering the 50 odd people who braved the rain. The Snug provided coffee and tea, and the kids led the way in to the building after the ribbon was cut, and headed en masse to a large chess table with oversized pieces, where they lined up in teams of four and pretended to play each other.

Everyone else stood around in various parts of the library talking and enjoying each other’s company. In the government documents section, an earnest conversation took place over the draft land use by-law. In the adult fiction, several people caught up with each other with embellished stories of Mexican vacations. Kids darted in and out, and one determined group finally located the Harry Potter books and tried to take them out only to find to their dismay that the circulation desk was not taking orders today.

A marvellous small town event. We left with smiles on our faces for all the good reasons that we moved here.

This evening, curiously, a pine siskin has alighted on our front porch and gone to sleep in the cone of light cast through the window by a reading lamp.

Yesterday Aine and I took a drive up to Hood Point, which is the northernmost extremity of the island. We went to visit musical friends from Vancouver who were staying at a relative's place there.

View of Hood Point and Finsterre Island

Hood Point is a quiet little enclave that seems in many ways to be set apart from the rest of the island. To get there, you have to travel over the very windy Eagle Cliff Road which twists and turns its way along the cliffs north of our place. Eventually, the land levels out a little as Mount Collins drops away to the north, and a little hook shaped piece of land, with an island at the end, comes into view.

A lot of the houses along here were old cottages, although turning west, one comes to the newer, and larger, homes of Hood Point West. The old cottages crowd along a hook of land that sweeps out to Finisterre Island, which is odd for the fact that it is connected to Bowen at low tide, and has a tunnel drilled into it through which the little island’s sole resident enters his abode.

The point gets blasted by Squamish winds, which is its major drawback, and probably one of the prime reasons why it was mostly a summer residence area for so long. Someone had to invent special windows to install in houses that swallow the brunt of a Squamish wind. Judging by the age of the permanent places, that didn’t seem to happen until the mid 1970s…

We visited a cottage that seemed like it was built in the 1940s, before eagle Cliff Road extended to the point, and in the days when the area was serviced by its own ferry from Horseshoe Bay. It was a cosy place to enjoy company, play some tunes and stay out to allow Caitlin and Finn to recover from a bout of the flu.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Another beautiful day here in the Sound. The smells of spring are in the air. I found my first carpenter ant yesterday, looking rather dazed and confused and wandering aimlessly around the mud room. We still have fires in the morning and at night, but the wood pile is almost gone. I think we will need three cords next year…

Yesterday there was a weird column of smoke that rose up from Deep Bay. I had no idea where it was coming from. By the time we got down there to investigate there was no evidence. I have no idea what it was. Either a full house burned down or a BIG brush pile.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Funny how a few weeks can pass, and the seasons can change. On the 28th we visited friends who were celebrating the Jewish holiday of Tu B' Shevat which is a celebration of trees and a kind of nod to the return of spring. It was hard to pipcture that with a nfoot of snow on the ground, but sure enough the weather has been steadliy warming. The bulbs are coming up, most of them bitten off as they poke through the ground by eager deer. The flocks of siskins and chickadees that descended upon us have found nfood elsewhere and we only get a steady stream, not the full on invasions of the colder weather. We've even had a hummingbird, which we supported with a feeder, as it showed pluck in trying to feed on a couple of ever flowering snapdragons.

No snow around here any more, and the snow line on the mountains has risen to about 1400 metres, which keeps the ski hill at Cypress going, but keeps it dry down here.