Monday, May 31, 2004

They really are orcas! Reports from commuters on Tuesday last week that the 6:35 ferry was amazed a small pod of orcas, two adults and two calves, but all accounts. And Steve adds another sighting to the thread below.

All very cool, to have these whales back in the Sound, even if they are just passing through.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Just come through a couple of days of heavy rain, which has been a welcome relief from the dry conditions. Big puffy cumulus clouds are filling in the Sound now, lifting from the low stratus that has been dragging through the treetops in recent days, as if the forests are breathing.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Following up on a comment below about a whale seen off Keats Island, today I got a report of a pod of orcas off Tunstall Bay. I am assuming this was out in the Strait of Georgia, and probably not visible from land.

Sometimes at Tunstall Bay, and at Galbraith Bay, one can see spray out in the water maybe 500 meters off shore. This is often confused for whales blowing, but actually it is from seals chasing fish and splashing around at the surface.

The report of orcas is just about right for this time of year though, as the resident Georgia Strait pods move up to Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago for their summer jobs of entertaining tourists in Telegraph Cove and Robson Bight.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Bowen's own star fiddler Moritz Behm has just released his second CD. He got a nice review in the Whistler Question.

Go visit his website and buy a record or two.
Lots of things going on around here these days:

  • First Swainson's Thrushes calling in the evening. Haunting, delicate call which you can hear here.

  • Salmonberries are ripe and being eaten. Looks like a good year for them. Thimble berry blossoms are thick on the bushes and promise a better than average harvest this year. Huckleberry looks average, and salal looks good but if it gets really dry again this summer, they may not get as big and juicy as they are able to.

  • Western Tent caterpillars, which had invaded the west side of the island last year have moved over here and are eating foliage on the alders, ash and cherry trees. Not as bad an infestation as last year on the west side, but we hardly had any over here last spring.

  • No carpenter ants in our house so far (knock on what's left of the wood). I think I found their lair last summer and drenched it with water, probably drowning the queen.

  • Lots of development along Miller Road. A large stand of alders has been completely clear cut for Abbeyfield House, which after many years of planning and fundraising, is now beginning construction. Further along there is a new house being put up three doors down from us. Our neighbour two doors down, Gord, is in the process of tearing down his cottage and building something new. He's is one of the hardest working men I've ever met. Our next door neighbours, Brock and Kim are blasting some rock today to build out their driveway a little. The piles on our house shake every time the bedrock trembles.

  • And finally, it looks like we are in for a very dry summer again. Several days this week it has threatened rain, but it's almost as if the sky has forgotten how to drench us. With summer drought and aumtumn deluges, we're becoming more and more like California every year.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Round here we're a small and friendly community. Everyone knows what everyone else is up to and if they need to get the word out fast, folks use the un classifieds in the Undercurrent. On any given Friday you can find a decent rundown on the REAL news on Bowen: who lost what, who found what, where the garage sales are, how to get your tickets for the choir show. A couple of years ago a roofer who had been notoriously unreliable even posted an apology in the unclassifieds, promising to return phone calls from now on.

in other words, the unclassifieds section of the paper is not just a place to sell and trade, but a finger on the pulse of our island.

So you can imagine the outrage as the Undercurrent has started taking classified from the mainland. The paper is owned by a chain and obviously the chain wants to put the same ads in all of it's papers. So now we have ads for lost dogs in Langley and car wash attendants in Slave Lake Alberta. It's absurd. Nothing lost on the mainland is going to find it's way to Bowen Island without help and a ferry ticket. But to make matters worse, our little colourful slice of local life is now buried in tiny print amid all of this uselessness.

Read the thread on the Bowen Online forum at the link above. Folks won't let our identity slip quietly into the inky black noise of offshore classifieds. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 10, 2004

We celebrated Mother's Day with a hike into the wilderness of Cape Roger Curtis. It was a beautiful day and the tide was really low, so I was able to get a photo of these ochre sea stars.

These are the dominant intertidal starfish of our island. Down near the bottom of the intertidal zone, you'll see them piled up one on another in these large groups, feeding on barnacles, mussels, sea urchins and other hard shelled creatures. The stars eat by pulling open the shell of the prey and then inserting it's stomach into the animal, where it digests the prey from within. The results of course, are beaches littered with all kinds of shells. Yesterday I found a small sea urchin shell, an unusual find in the intertidal zone.

These are pretty remarkable creatures as any number of sources will tell you. They are tough, and resist drying, and so they can stay out of the water for up to 50 hours. Like all sea stars, they can replace broken or eaten limbs and they can live up to 20 years.

Sea otters eat them by chewing off a limb and then throwing them back, which does no lasting damage to the sea star. Gulls on the other hand ingest small sea stars whole which leads to the common and amusing sight of a gull with a broad lump in its throat as it takes a few minutes to swallow its spiny meal.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Sad news on Bowen as Helen Holte passed away on May 1. The tributes have been coming in, acknowledging a piece of Bowen history that has passed into the books. Her family posted a modest little item in The Undercurrent today which reads:

The family of Helen Holte would like to thank her many friends and acquaintances for the concern and kind words expressed over the past few difficult weeks. We would especially like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Kit and Frank Dale.

When Helen left us on the morning of May 1 the folks at the hospital couldn't tell us exactly why. An email posted on a local Bowen Forum suggests a reason that is probably as good a diagnosis as any: When there were no more "Senators" sitting at her counter, I think she chose to join them and run the big Bowmart in the sky. I will sorely miss her, she was the last of the Titans, may all the gods bless her.

This comment, and many more like it phoned, printed, emailed or left in cards on the steps of the Bowmart, have reminded us just how many lives Helen has touched in some small but memorable way. This has been of great comfort to us.

Helen requested there be no service for her. Perhaps at some quiet time and in our own way we could all reflect for just a moment on the values and joy of a more simple and gentle era. Thank you all.

But just as one life passes, a new life joins in and in a typically Bowen Island way.

It seems last weekend that a most unusual birth took place. A woman went into labour and, for whatever reason (I hope it wasn't an emergency) a medevac helicopter was called in to transport her to Lion's Gate Hospital on the mainland. Apparently, the helicopter only got a few metres off the ground when it was clear that the baby wasn't going to wait, and as a result, the child was born on the playing field at the Bowen Island Community School. I expect that the regular Saturday soccer games had to be cancelled. Whether the child qualifies for a lifetime of free Parks and Rec programs is yet to be determined!

More details if and when I find out more of the story.

The eternal doesn't just happen normally around here.