I’m sitting in my blind under the old growth fir tree on the steep bluff, peeking down at the ocean below and the low tide rocks. A Mama seal climbs out of the sea and rolls over to nurse her pup. I call the little one Spunky. He makes a half-hearted attempt to climb out but turns around and swims away, saying “Catch me if you can”. Mama enters the game and chases him. Again she climbs out ready to nurse. Spunky does the same trick, wanting only to play.
Finally he is tired and hungry and he begins to nurse. The tide is rising. Mama dozes. After 45 minutes Spunky falls asleep. His little flippers are extended out and he barely moves. Now the flood tide washes him away – far away from Mama – and still he sleeps.
When Mama awakes, she dashes into the sea and quickly finds him. He rides on her back to the nursing rock, and plays in bull kelp, draping it all over his sweet face as Mama watches from close by. There is no question whatsoever that Mama and Baby seals adore each other.
This morning I woke to a brilliant sky turning gold and pink, with electrifying colours. The air was fully charged. Slowly a full rainbow appeared over Vancouver Island, and then a double one came – faintly. My neighbours down the Narrows at Hope Point saw the morning sky and they were awed by it, too.
July 9, 2014
This morning I was in the blind on Bold Bluff Point for four hours. It is heaven here. I sit under a giant old growth Douglas fir tree on a rocky ledge that forms a perfect seat, and I am hidden from the boats that ply Sansum Narrows and also from the animals .. well, almost! I sit under a sloping branch, draped in an olive green net that wraps around my giant camera lens and tripod. I can barely see out of it.
This morning I changed the location of my camera and tripod, moving it farther out so I was more visible to the creatures that visit the rocks at Bold Bluff Point. A baby raccoon walked by on the low tide rocks, looking wet and scraggly and so cute with its masked face. I had just a few seconds of opportunity to get the photo. The coon heard my camera click and saw me staring at it through the giant lens, and scampered off.
Well, that was satisfying. It was my first sight ever of a raccoon on the beach at Bold Bluff Point. How many times have they slipped by me when I have been tucked away in the blind?
And why are we drawn to raccoons? They are warm-blooded mammals like us, and they are adorable to our eyes even though they raid our gardens. Perhaps they will be the next marine mammals, as they spend so much time in the intertidal zone, turning rocks over and eating tiny crabs.
Peek-a-Boo! Who was faster?
July 3, 2015
I’m back in Sansum Narrows as a guest of Joan and Aubrey Cobham. They invited me to spend two nights in their off-the-grid cabin on Vancouver Island that looks across the Narrows to Bold Bluff and majestic Mt. Maxwell with its perpendicular stone cliffs rising high above the blue sea bay. From the Cobham’s cabin I see the old growth fir tree under which I sat for many hours and weeks, photographing the abundant wildlife that gathered on the rocks at low tide.
Aubrey met me in the heat of the day at the Burgoyne Bay Wharf, and we loaded up his Silverstreak boat with my camera gear, food and extra clothing plus my Toy Poodle, Zuri. It was heaven returning to the Narrows where I had spent 20 years without a road, and I was once again filled with awe at how undeveloped this area is, and how abundantly green and it is only 20 minutes from the heart of our island village where you feel the bustle of village life.
After a yummy chicken and garden salad supper, we began guessing where Mistress Moon would rise, and when. We knew she rose about 8:30 pm on the horizon, but we were flanked by mountains, and thought she might show her face around 10 pm.
I set up my tripod and camera on their open deck, and waited for the glimmer of light to shroud the shaggy black night fir trees on top of Mt. Sullivan, announcing her presence.
I waited, and waited. Joan and Aubrey went to bed. I waited and dozed off, opening my eyes every once in awhile to peek to see if she were coming. Nope. Then I dozed off again. About 15 minutes to midnight, I opened my eyes to see the fairy dust glimmer of light sifting over the ragged fir trees.
I stood on guard at the tripod and when she rose snapped pictures. She was brilliant. It is a challenge to get the trees in focus and the moon’s craters, too.
This July is a Blue Moon month, when two full moons will appear. I’ll be back in the Narrows for another photo shoot.
Moonrise over Saltspring Island
We are in for a rare occurrence in North America, where 4 total lunar eclipses can be seen every 6 months for the next two years. This is called a tetrad. So, on Monday night we on Salt Spring Island were anticipating watching it. Alas! We had nothing but heavy clouds and wind.
Many islanders gave up and went to bed. Being passionate and stubborn, I decided to set my alarm every 1/2 hour, taking peeks outside – just in CASE the wind had swept the clouds away. At 1:15 AM I thought, “This is the last. If the Moon is not visible, I am going to pack it in for the night”.
Well, there she was in all her glory, just emerging from being blood red in the total eclipse. I took photos of her for the next two hours, watching her gradually get brighter and brighter.
I hope you enjoy a few of these photos.
Lunar Eclipse Emerging out of total
Lunar Eclipse 1:20 AM April 15
Lunar Eclipse April 15
Lunar Eclipse Almost back to Full Moon
This seal was surprised by the waves of a passing boat.
Moon of the Frog Chorus – March 7, 2012
My neighbours, Joan and Aubrey Cobham, invited me to photograph the rising full moon over Burgoyne Bay and Mt. Maxwell. Since none of us have roads to our homes, I took my boat and Shepadoodle dog, Daisy with my tripod and camera to their home across Sansum Narrows. It was a spectacular evening – and cold. We waited for the golden moon to rise over the mountain while dining on hot chilli and home-made corn bread.
Sure enough, a golden glimmer appeared in the clouds, announcing the appearance of Mistress Moon. Dashing outside, I hunkered down with my camera and watched in awe as this moody moon rose over the shaggy fir trees, lighting up the swiftly changing clouds. The moon actually rose over my own home, Bold Bluff, and not over Burgoyne Bay.
Thoroughly satisfied, I drove the boat home in the dark with a golden river of light spilling over the ocean. I was up at 1 am and again at 5 am to photograph this glorious moon when it was totally full, and when it was setting over Vancouver Island. It is always a surprise what you will get when attempting to take photos of the full moon. Often it is raining, or cloudy, but you must get up anyway to peek outside or you might miss something spectacular.
Has anyone heard the frogs sing yet? We have lots of robins back, eating yummy worms.
Yesterday I woke up at 5 am with a bright light shining into my bedroom. I thought it was the moon, and jumped out of bed with my shepadoodle dog, Daisy, at my heels. It was a tug boat plying Sansum Narrows and shining its search light over the landscape. We raced down the boardwalk to check if the moon was out, and found it stupendous, one day short of full. It hung low in an indigo sky and soon was to sink behind Vancouver Island.
I fetched my camera and tripod, and brought it to the boardwalk to watch and photograph the bright moon which set at 5:45 am.
Waxing Frost Moon Sets over Vancouver Island
Today I woke at 6:30 am and just missed the full February moon setting over Vancouver Island. Tomorrow, rain is forecast, so it looks as if I have missed the real full moon setting this month. It is challenging to get photos of the full moon setting every month due to rain, snow, fog – and pure sleeping in too late.
From October through April we have Stellar Sea Lions hanging out at Bold Bluff. They are fun to watch as they enjoy physical contact and often snooze together in groups, creating aquatic ballets. The males can weigh up to 2,500 pounds when they are fully grown. On a recent Bold Bluff hike, I was surprised to see a sea lion with numbers branded on its left side. Never have I seen this before.
At home, I sent a photo to Orca Network on Whidbey Island, WA to see if they had information on branding sea lions. Susan Berta and Howard Garrett tracked this sea lion down to Rogue Reef, OR in 2001, when scientists branded 179 sea lion pups. (Hence the “R”). This sea lion was #23 of the 179 branded that year.
Through the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in WA state, I found out this was a male who swam to SE Alaska where he hung out for 5-6 years. Recently he has been seen on the West Coast of Vancouver Island and now at Bold Bluff, Salt Spring Island, BC. The scientist who provided this information, Pat Gearin, thinks he is heading back down to Rogue Reef, OR where he will attempt to establish a breeding territory – when he is a bit bigger – in a year or two. (Neither the USA or Canada brands marine mammals anymore).
Branded Sea Lion 23R at Bold Bluff
What a gift of a day! On April 15, 2011 my neighbour phoned to say there were two orcas travelling south in Sansum Narrows. I found them by Burial Island and followed them for 45 minutes in my Boston Whaler with my Shepadoodle dog, Daisy. They were a beautiful sight, surfacing together and diving. We left them at Cherry Point and on our way home the ocean simply exploded in action near Burial Island, a tiny rock where seals haul out. Transient Orcas eat seals, so I assumed these were Transients having a feast.
My memory card was full, so I zipped home and fetched the 2 fellows pruning my orchard, begging them to come out and see the spectacular sight – a once in a life-time encounter. Dave drove the boat, I took photos, and Raj got to experience it! There were lots of babies and we thought there were at least 40 – 50 whales. I had no idea what the whales were doing because I was behind my camera, snapping photos wherever action occurred.
These whales hung out and had a boisterous party for six hours in front of my house! At home, I alerted Graeme Ellis and John Ford, marine mammal biologists in Nanaimo, BC. They came down to Bold Bluff by boat and recorded 31 Transients. This is highly unusual, as these whales usually travel in small groups of 3 – 8 whales. Not until I downloaded my photos did I see what they were actually doing.
Transient Orca Party! If you look closely, there is a baby in this photo. Can you see it?
This summer I watched a baby heron stride down a slippery sea weedy rock into the mud flat ocean. Wading in eel grass, it struck its beak into the sea and brought up a treasure – a huge flounder too big to swallow. This baby would not let it go. For over an hour it tried to stuff it down its throat. Then it flew off with the fish bulging its neck and landed on a bluff rock. An older heron flew into the cove and I turned my attention to it, so lost track of the fate of that flounder.
Biting off More than You can Chew
Gulp! An Impossible Bite!
December 10, 2011
I was prepared to photograph the total lunar eclipse early morning December 10th. Friends spent the night with me, drumming to the moon. It was bright and clear early in the morning, and I got a few photos at 1:30 am. We were excited. Setting the alarm for 4 am, the moon had disappeared behind a blanket of clouds. Up at 5:30 am – no moon! Up at 6:30 am, when the moon was in total eclipse, and still no visible moon. I hope some of you got to see the eclipse!
Photographing the moon and nature takes patience, fortitude, luck, anticipating opportunities, being in the right place at the right time, and above all, passion. Another important ingredient is having good equipment. Be open to the gifts that come your way. Life is full of surprises.
Cold Moon – Eclipse Moon Rising
Cold Moon Over Vancouver Island