Double-crested Cormorant

A Double-crested Cormorant swims near the Stanley Park seawall.

On a walk around the Stanley Park seawall this morning, I got a lucky break in the clouds and an even luckier opportunity to photograph this Double-crested Cormorant that was foraging very close the the seawall path. The proximity allowed me to capture the beautifully turquoise eye, made all the more vivid against their orange face.

Fall back…

A Double-crested Cormorant airs it’s wings in Lost Lagoon at Stanley Park.

I’m currently reading The Mosquito, a remarkable book by Timothy C. Winegard.

For many of us, having grown up in the time and place we did, mosquitoes have been little more than an itchy nuisance. This book opened my eyes to just how myopic my experience has been: through most of our history, and in many parts of the world to this day, mosquitoes have been our deadliest predator.

The Mosquito lays out how these small insects and their cargo of diseases — especially malaria — have profoundly influenced the course of history and human evolution. One of the shocking facts revealed in the introduction:

The mosquito has killed more people than any other cause of death in human history. Statistical extrapolation situates mosquito-inflicted deaths approaching half of all humans that have ever lived.

The Mosquito, pg 2.

I finally found a chance to read an engrossing article entitled American Green (via Longreads.com), an excerpt from a book of the same name by Ted Steinberg. In the article, Mr. Steinberg unearths some disconcerting facts about our green obsession, including:

Between 1994 and 2004, an estimated average of 75,884 Americans per year were injured using lawn mowers or roughly the same number of people injured by firearms.

American Green, Ted Steinberg

And finally, a few days ago I watched Treeless Mountain (나무없는 산 – Namueopneun San), a 2008 South Korean film directed by So Yong Kim. I won’t give too much away, but it follows two young girls caught up in the implosion of their family. I was really impressed at how well it captured the experience of childhood without becoming sentimental. Peter Rainer aptly summarizes the film, describing it as “one of those artfully small scale movies in which nothing happens and everything happens.

I’m reticent to post the trailer for the film as I don’t feel it does the film justice, just as a two-minute summary of the summer when you were seven would be ridiculous. Despite that, I’ve included it in hopes it encourages someone to search out this film.

Autumn at Blackie Spit

An autumn morning on the path at Blackie Spit in Delta, BC.
The sun rises on a chilly autumn morning at Blackie Spit in Surrey, BC.

This weekend I visited Blackie Spit Park, located on the eastern shore of Boundary Bay, a vital stop-over location for migratory birds along the Pacific flyway.

I got there shortly after sunrise, not dressed particularly well for the temperature. But once I get focused on finding birds I barely notice how cold it is — and I always remind myself that the birds I’m watching have been outside all night with only their feathers to keep them warm.

A Common Loon

Fall migration is in full swing right now — perhaps you’ve seen lines of Snow Geese flying overhead, or spotted lots more ducks than usual around (and not just Mallards). Millions of birds are flying from their summer grounds in the Arctic to their wintering grounds that range across North America down to Patagonia in South America.

Wetlands, mudflats and salt-marshes are especially important habitats for many birds, and their destruction is in large part responsible for the almost unfathomable loss of three billion birds in the last fifty years. Protecting these vital environments needs to be a priority if we hope to stave off even worse declines in the future. If you’ve got a little extra money, please consider donating to The Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society who are working hard to protect and restore Boundary Bay and the Fraser River delta.

A Long-billed Curlew in the gold morning sunlight.

Apart from hundreds of ducks and the usual suspects, I had the luck of spotting two lifers (a birding term for the first time you see a species of bird). A Long-billed Curlew and two Marbled Godwits. Neither are rare, but I’ve never spotted either before.

A Greater Yellowlegs

There were also a few Greater Yellowlegs around, including this one that I was able to get much closer to than the Curlew.

And to end, here’s a Ring-billed Gull in flight I captured shortly before leaving.

A Ring-billed Gull in flight

For more photos, please take a peek at my flicker account.

October’s end

A Hermit Thrush scurries along the path beside Lost Lagoon.

From a few weeks back: CBC’s Front Burner podcast (which I highly recommend) had an episode with Dr. Jen Gunter, a vocal opponent of the “wellness” industry, especially the manner in which it preys upon women, exposing the essential patriarchal ideology implicit within it.

An in-depth article on how we can understand Bruce Chatwin‘s book The Songlines on it’s 30th anniversity.

It’s difficult to deny that the social and technological experiment that is the Internet has essentially failed – instead of becoming a forum for the free exchange of ideas, we’ve been subsumed by for-profit algorithms, disinformation, and trolls spewing hatred. While it won’t solve most of these problems, there’s a great browser extension called Shut Up that blocks comments on most sites.

Lastly, this Nick Drake song has been in my head this week.

Mid-October

A Stellar's Jay (Coastal subspecies) at Stanley Park
A Stellar’s Jay (Coastal subspecies) at Stanley Park

This is the first installment of a weekly check-in – a place I can share ideas and articles that caught my attention during the week.

Firstly – some rare good news in environmental protection: Court Blocks Trump’s Plan to Ease Bird Protections on Oil Lands (NY Times)

Harold Bloom, a giant in literary criticism, passed away on Oct 14th. NY Times obituary.

I recently finished reading Lisa Margonelli’s book Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology and I highly recommend it, even if you don’t think you’re interested in termites. I had no idea how much I didn’t know about termites and what they reveal about the complexity of natural systems.

Finally, I’ve been listening to a lot of John Coltrane lately, and I can’t get enough of his performance of ‘My Favourite Things‘ on the album Afro Blue Impressions.