Passenger Pigeons at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, UBC

Passenger pigeon small

Currently, I am working on a new project involving species loss. For part of it, I wanted to photograph a Passenger Pigeon, the one hundredth anniversary of whose extinction was mourned in 2014. I discovered that the Beaty Biodiversity Museum had two of the beasts in their collection and the curator of birds, Ildiko Szabo, kindly allowed me to come and photograph them, as well as some of the other related species and creatures in the “bone room” and lab. Interestingly, I learned that scientists in the US are right now working on bringing the passenger pigeon back to life by “de-extinctioning” it. I’m not sure if I have that terminology right, but apparently they will be taking the DNA of the pigeon and by some magical process creating pigeon sperm and eggs and implanting these into chickens. The eggs thereby produced will not be chicken eggs, but Passenger Pigeon eggs. Fascinating but not without ethical issues … I am not sure how far along in this reclamation process those individuals are.



The Passenger Pigeon is the brown-breasted bird in the bottom left corner of the image above.



The second Passenger Pigeon is contained in a glass case within the Victorian Curiosity Cabinet display in the Museum itself, along with many other tetrapod specimens. “Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities, arose in mid-sixteenth-century Europe as repositories for all manner of wondrous and exotic objects. In essence these collections—combining specimens, diagrams, and illustrations from many disciplines; marking the intersection of science and superstition; and drawing on natural, manmade, and artificial worlds—can be seen as the precursors to museums” (MOMA).

plucked pigeon

Ildiko removed a tray of pigeons from their enclosure in one of the Museum’s cabinets, which she carried out to the hall underneath the gigantic whale so I could photograph them in better light. These were the Passenger Pigeon’s closest living relatives, brownish banded pigeons from the Transval in Africa and the larger wild pigeons we see everywhere around us today; I also photographed their bones and eggs. In addition, I photographed two specimens which looked plucked and semi-skeletal, preserved such that they demonstrate the way the birds’ feathers grow.

Pigeons small

While in the bone room I took many photographs of the Passenger Pigeon from many angles, as well as closeups of its head. I was also able to access the drawers of similar bird species, including a very large white Rock Pigeon. I find it fascinating to compare the sizes and colours of these related birds, some of which are very small and others quite large, the latter used by poultry aficionados for pigeon pie.




Finch small

In the bone room was also several other specimens of tetrapods (four legged species), including a Canadian Bison with a tiny squirrel beneath its stomach,

squirrel and bison

bison eye

some large-horned goat-like creatures (they were not labelled), and a fantastic group of colourful birds, including several beautiful pheasants from the collection of Plato Mamo.

I was invited to take a look at the lab, a “wet room” where specimens are prepared in various ways. I saw a number of aquaria containing recently-obtained bones and skulls, upon which beetles are crawling and feasting. These bugs do the work of cleaning the bones very efficiently (although Ildiko did mention that they initially turned their collective noses up at a crocodile head).


skull and bugs

Many thanks to Ildiko Szabo and the Museum for allowing me access!

See more information about the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

Read about my earlier visit to the Museum here.



Walking, rolling and owling in Stanley Park

“APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain …”

Invoking the memory of TS Eliot, our April was a mix of torrential rain and glorious sunny blue-skyed cotton-cloudy days, all the better to stroll with Brubin along the seawall,

or skate with Barb and Christine.

Ty and I spent a sunny Saturday riding our bikes through the Flats Arts District, so-called, on the former Finning Tractors industrial lands between Great Northern Way and Terminal. The Capture Photography Festival is still on for the next weeks and we caught the last day of Colin Smith’s show at the Winsor,

I loved these camera obscura works in which the artist made the interior of his Boler trailer into a gigantic pinhole camera, recording  the external landscape projected upside down onto the walls of the trailer and rightside up through the windows. I also enjoyed the infrared images in the west gallery of Los Angeles’ canals (example below) by Jason Gowans.

and the photo shows at Monte Clark and the Equinox.

Our first Friday night roll of the season was a windy evening around the seawall, enjoying the bright yellow sulfur piles against the deep blue of the North Shore mountains.

This week is Bird Week in Vancouver and we took in the Night Owl Prowl sponsored by the Stanley Park Ecological Society.

After waiting for a bit at the Lost Lagoon Nature house, and intuiting that the event would not be taking place there, given the dearth of people, we hoofed it up past the Rose Garden to Pipeline Road, lost in space with a number of others who were looking for the owl venue.

We finally found it twenty minutes late upstairs at the Stanley Park Pavilion, where we joined about 70 others for an illustrated talk on the owls of the Park and a night walk down to Beaver Lake to try and locate some of the birds.

The bird specialist described the technique for the scientific study of owls currently being conducted: first one transcribes the weather, using a scale of 1 to 5, then the noise level, using the same scale. Then, one fires up the owl recordings and blasts the sound of virtual owls out into the forest, hoping to get an answering call and/or a visit from said bird.

On alternate evenings one calls in only the big birds, then only the small ones, since the small owls are prey for the big ones and one would not want to see a pygmy owl devoured by a barred owl.

This evening all 70 of us stood quietly in the dark and listened as the recorded call of a barred owl was wafted over the forest three times – no reply and no sign of any barred owls. Then we walked to a different part of the forest for one last kick at the owl-calling can. We waited while a birder held the recorder aloft and projected the call of a screech owl into the trees – amazingly, we received a call back.

A screech owl is alive and presumably well in Stanley Park! The bird experts were ecstatic because this was the first time since 2011 that a screech owl had been heard in these parts and only the third time in 20 years. Yippee!

See more photos here.

Ceramics and other Fun in the Sun

While I wait for El Diablo to be dry enough to fire and glaze, I am working on a new creation.  This piece began life as an alien with three eyeballs and five tentacles, inspired by the octopus piece Froylan is helping Andy build.

First El Maestro threw a pot on the wheel which then became the rock on which the octopus sits. Then he and Andy crafted a hollow head for the beast and eight curling tentacles which I greatly admired.

I decided that my alien, too, would have curling tentacles; however, I didn’t have the skill to create as beautiful ones as those on the octopus.

The first two smaller tentacles I adhered in place of eyebrows, while three others were attached below the nose. These ended up looked like moustache whiskers. A further larger couple I initially intended to attach below the mouth but, upon further thought, I decided against it.

After asking me whether my creation was a predator or a vegetarian – vegetarian – Froylan had an idea for the mouth, based on a trumpet fish he’d seen while diving. He crafted me a very nice small mouthpiece on the wheel; subsequently, we decided that one of the smaller tentacles would be best placed coming out of the mouth for feeding purposes.

As I continued to work on the piece, it mutated from an alien into the Vegetarian Sea Santa you see here. The shape of the mask suggested a beard, so I carved wiggly lines into the clay to indicate wavy hair.

Scales were cut into the cheeks and algae into the area around the forehead; if I had time, I’d probably have made the algae hair more three dimensional by attaching separate fronds and leaves. Given that there’s not much time left to complete the piece, that will have to wait for another opportunity.

The other night Ty and I made our way down to the Sea Monkey beach bar to watch the pelicans swim and wait for the sunset.

While there we enjoyed watching a pair of golden long-haired dachshunds play on the sand, running and digging holes.

Other than that, we have drunk cups of coffee at various outdoor cafes – Caffe del Mar, also an art gallery containing the ceramic work of Rodo Padillo and the paintings of Angie McIntosh –  is a good one,

as is A Page in the Sun, a combo bookstore and coffee shop,

played a few games of pool at the Crowbar in our neighbourhood, run by a woman from Chilliwack,

had a few lunches at Mi Cafe, a fantastic spot around the corner from us,

and spent Sunday evening at a potluck film fest put on by Nathalie at Art VallARTa, watching Birdman and Gone Girl, while sampling some spicy chili, pasta salad (made by me from scratch), pizza, and lots of baked goodies – fun!

I really love the colourful streets here, with fabrics of many colours and stripes, beautiful flowers, and vibrantly painted cement buildings.

See more here and here.

South Side Strolling

Every second Friday night is the South Side Shuffle along Basilio Badillo. Some of the venues have changed from last year; Kathleen Carillo’s gallery has moved around the corner to Constitucion St and the Color Pod lady has packed up her palm fronds, left PV, and gone back to Florida.

However, the main galleries along here, Galeria Dante, Ambos Galeria and Contempo Gallery, are still rolling and bringing in the crowds, at least as long as the vino doesn’t run out …

Live music still gets the crowd going and adds to the festive ambiance. I particularly love the outdoor sculpture courtyard at Dante – I could sit there for a very long time – it is extremely pleasant.

I also really enjoyed meeting a small Mexican hairless dog in front of Cassandra Shaw’s jewellery shop. Poor old Ty has been fighting a cold for the last few days so unfortunately he was not well enough to join in this time.

Some of the things I love about this place are interesting roof lines, including this imitation Greek temple across the street from us, and cupolas;

skeletons and skulls, found all over the town;

angels, including this beauty at the Hacienda San Angel in Gringo Gultch;

dogs and cats, including these guys on Los Muertos beach;

and cold cervesas under an umbrella.

In my desire to be living “local” in PV, I had forgotten some of the idiosyncrasies of living in a typical Mexican neighbourhood. Let me give you an idea of what these are:

1) The small cluster of buildings in which we are staying which seemed so quiet when we arrived is now the site of a small-scale construction operation. Two guys showed up two days ago with jackhammers and buzz saws and proceeded to generate an enormous racket while presumably installing plumbing in two of the empty apartments. And, since PV does not seem to have any noise regulations, or at least none that are enforced, who knows how many days and hours this will go on.

2) Doggies and roosters I have already mentioned; there are several in the immediate vicinity. One rooster gets going at 2:30 am.

3) Our first Friday night in the Old Town was last night and it brought all new noise joys, above and beyond what we have already experienced. About 11:30 pm a blast of music startled us when a mariachi band, from the volume seemingly right in our living room, but actually on the street just around the corner, began playing at full volume to the delight of the local youth whose cries of joy added to the general mayhem. Then, around 3 am, when the mariachi band had finally finished their set, the tourist folks down the block, who’d obviously been having a few brews, began blasting their music at a thousand decibels, while screaming, yelling, and fighting, until 4:45 am. Even the animal noises disappeared into the background with all the commotion. Viva Mexico! Viva la difference!

** I realise that the whole noise issue is a cultural thing – we come from a culture of large houses (mostly) and concrete condos which mute neighbouring noises. Mexicans, at least those who are not wealthy, mostly grow up with lots of noise in the neighbourhood, houses that lie very close together with not much in the way of sound-proofing, and are accustomed to being surrounded with lively, noisy activity day and night.

One of the benefits of staying in this area is the plethora of local bars and restaurants; below is Que?Pasa just down the road from us. Here live music entertains the crowd seven nights a week and they do have delicious tortilla soup.

The Emilano Zapata farmers market is the place to buy food in this area, with several fruit and vegetable tiendas and a central area of butcher stands, as well as this little taco stand just outside.

Mid-day today, though, the scent from the meat stalls was too ripe for my sensitive nose.

While we were strolling around the area a tiny beautiful butterfly took advantage of my hat to hitch a ride. After riding around with us for quite some time, and showing no inclination to fly off, I gently swept it off my hat and onto a welcoming flower branch nearby.

See more here.

Deadhead, Night Roll & Bike Rave 2014

This past Saturday was cloudy but not raining, a perfect day to visit Deadhead, an art installation aboard a barge moored near Heritage Harbour at the Maritime Museum. Ty, Brubin and I headed out on the False Creek ferry, were dropped off at the dock, and carried by another shuttle ferry out to the barge.

From a distance the Deadhead barge looks pretty much like any working barge on the water, full of wood, metal, and strange to me machinery.

Once on board, the complexity of the construction is evident; many different levels, stairways, small rooms, and skylights have been erected on the base of an industrial barge.

The central cylindrical tower has been covered with a photographic mural and inside hangs a large hunk of wood which would be perfect as a surface on which to project images.

We all loved Deadhead; I think it would be a fabulous surface to paint and gouge into with printmaking tools.

Back on the dock at Heritage Harbour we saw this skittish little tortoiseshell cat hiding next to a small rowboat.

Before heading back, we spent a bit of time at the dog beach so that Brubin could race around on the sand and dig holes like a sand alligator.

It was hard to tell what the weather was going to do but later that evening we met a group of friends as scheduled for a night roll around the city. While waiting for everyone to arrive at Science World, we were treated to the passing parade of the undercover walk for below the belt cancers.

Finally we were all assembled and off we rolled through the downtown eastside to our first stop, the Casa de Gelato on Venables, with its incredible array of ice cream flavours.

We had to skirt around the Union Street Block Party and head down the back alleys where Ty was kind enough to block the street traffic for us.

Ty was very pleased with his bright red and blue cone, the blue staining his lips and tongue for many hours after.

From the Casa we rolled through Strathcona, across Hastings, down along the docks and over the Main Street Viaduct. After zooming down the viaduct’s off-ramp, Ty chased Winson who had decided to sprint off head, catching up to him as they neared Canada Place.

Along the waterfront, under Canada Place, and up onto the Convention Centre plaza we went, stopping for photo ops at the Olympic cauldron and overlooking the seaplane harbour.

The last half of the roll saw us along the seawall through Coal Harbour and around Stanley Park.

Lots of wildlife was out as the sun started to set; obviously the feeding was good because herons were perching hunting and sea otters were munching on crabs.

We watched a family of three otters as they cruised around looking for food. One lucky critter snagged a crab which he did not share with his brothers.

We had head that the Annual Vancouver Bike rave was happening that evening but had not yet seen them. However, while we were sitting at the Pirate Pub having a bite after the roll, the Rave road right past us, with a stop under the Burrard Bridge.

Many high fives all round as thousands of cyclists passed by our front row seats, decked out in lights and costumes and playing tunes on speakers mounted on bikes.

It was a fantastic show and a great way to finish up the roll. See more photos here.

See Greg’s photo and video collage here.

Puerto Vallarta Markets and Beaches

Old Town Puerto Vallarta is lucky enough to have two Saturday markets, one at the Paradise Community Centre and the other at Lazaro Cardenas Park, just off the Malecon. We decided to hit them both, since the day was cloudy and a bit too cold for the beach (says she whose home town is only 5 degrees …).

The Paradise Community Centre market was packed with throngs of people and lots of vendors sending vintage clothes, jewellery, kids’ items, art, books, and especially, wonderful food and baked goods.

I sampled an apple square and Ty gobbled down a huge cinnamon bun as we pondered the wares for sale. A local artisan was selling some beautifully-made bracelets and necklaces; we bought one of each.

A few blocks north of Paradise is the Lazaro Cardenas Market, also busy, and I bought three little foot decorations – like earrings for feet – which, hopefully, one of these days when my left foot has healed from whatever is ailing it and I can walk in sandles again, I can wear.

After browsing, feeling some drops of rain hitting the top of our heads, we ducked into the nearby book cafe and had the good fortune of meeting Jay, a fellow from Iowa sitting at the next table with a group of ex-pat friends.

After a delightful chat, and telling him that we were looking around for long-stay accommodation, he told us the story of meeting Lily, their house’s owner, and how he and his wife Ardis came to be staying in an apartment in Conchas Chinas, the next colonia south of Amapas. Jay was kind enough to invite us over to see the place, thinking it might be a possibility for us in the future. (Apropos of nothing … below is another majestic Queen Death figure, this one on the steps of the Hotel Catedral downtown. I love these figures, even thought their implications are sobering …)

Back wandering around the old town again, this time looking for a barbecued chicken, we walked past the vegetable stand which had had few fresh veggies before. This day it was full of great looking fruits and vegetables, obviously just having been replenished by its suppliers. The key is to figure out which day the new shipment of goodies comes in and shop for vegetables on that day. We also saw the closed hulk of a former supermarket, which Jay told us had closed down after people stopped buying there when their fresh produce deteriorated.

Sunday saw a return of the sun and a trip to the beach was in order. We plopped ourselves down on the sun loungers at the Swell Beach Bar and whiled away the afternoon sipping and munching.

Puerto Vallarta is full of pelicans roosting on the fishing boats; they are wonderful animals and I love to see them fishing and diving in the waters here. Coming screaming down out of the skies, they easily scoop up fish in their gigantic beaks.

The picture above shows Los Muertos Beach, “our beach” at the foot of the hills where we’re staying.

Although we are, as usual, on a fairly tight budget here, we want to spread a little of our cash around the place so I indulged in a reflexology foot massage by Rosalie, whose hands were incredibly strong and left my old feet feeling very relaxed.


Monday we visited Jay and Ardis, and met Lily, a lovely Mexican woman who rents out the three story hillside house they stay in. She has the ground floor suite, a couple from Edmonton stay on the middle floor, and Jay and Ardis have the top. Their space is incredible, huge, with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, and an enormous sunny roof-top deck with a view that lasts forever out over the Bay and the Marietas Islands.

While sitting and visiting on the deck, we could see, and hear, the many small green and yellow parrots flitting around in the treetops. Occasionally, when a gigantic frigate bird cruised by, they screeched and squawked up a storm – funny creatures. Many butterflies also fluttered about; one landed on my hand and stayed for quite a while, a very tiny, gentle presence.

Later, we hopped the orange bus to Mismaloya, the next settlement south of PV along the coast, made famous by the film Night of the Iguana, starring Liz and Dick, filmed there in the 60s. The beach there is accessed down a path that runs along the outside of a hotel compound and over a small wooden bridge across the creek.

Many small boats are docked here and pelicans roost on them hopefully. The bay is small, with a few beach bars, and was pretty quiet this day. The place felt a bit desperate and we wondered if the tourist trade here is much diminished because of the weakness of the North American economy. Likely, the tourists who visit Puerto Vallarta are not spending as much as in previous years. We hope that the ill effects of the economic downturn will not damage the economy of this city too much; it really is a beautiful place to be.

Today, back on the road again in Old Town, I headed back to Isla Cuale and the printmaking studio. Lo and behold, it was open and I had a chance to speak to the maestra, Ireri Topete.

She explained how the studio works and told me it would be possible to use the space, either by enrolling in classes or as a visiting artist. It’s a nice space with a good sized etching press and a small litho press not currently in use. Good to know for the future. This day there were about five students working on etchings in this space, and quite a few others in the painting and sculpture studios across the way. This will be a great place to work if we are successful in being able to come here for the winter in the future.

See more pictures here, here, and here.

Thoughts on Bees, Light, and Fog

Cultivate, up recently at the Roundhouse, was an exhibition of community-based art practices in Vancouver and featured the work of artists exploring ecological and environmental concerns. I was particularly taken with the work of Jasna Guy who presented an incredible, and enormous, silk tissue and beeswax printed “bee carpet”. The artist was interested in representing the “miracle of bees together, teeming thousands, living cooperatively and interdependently, raising their brood, foraging for nectar and pollen and creating unique products of honey and wax” (artist’s statement).

As most of us know by now, much to our distress and anger, bees are dying around the world in staggering numbers. Many scientists link these losses to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides; new studies have shown that neonicotinoids block the part of their brain bees use for learning, leaving them unable to make link between floral scents and nectar (Damian Carrington in The Guardian).  When all the bees die, so, too, will we … hand-pollinating crops can only take us so far. Guy visually makes this point in her bee carpet through the giant skull image that is the centrepiece of the work.

This work is really exquisite, both visually stunning and also appealing to the nose with its lingering scent of beeswax. Also visually stunning are the coloured lights that illuminate the Roundhouse Turntable Plaza at night, their shifting and changing hues giving the plaza a darkened rainbow affect.

Our fog-drenched few weeks in October made for some nice skies, below a view from our balcony above the fog bank out over the bridge.

“Sometimes fog makes me thirst for fields aflame with flowers” (David Marshall, Haiku Streak). Since I don’t have fields aflame with flowers, I will leave you instead with a painted tree.

See more pictures here. Read the Guardian article on bee death here.

Okanagan cycling and wine tasting – La Dolce Vita

All saddled up and ready to go wine tasting! Nothing like a beautiful weekend of bike wine tasting to put one in a good mood. Our home for the weekend in Oliver, the “Wine Capital of Canada”, was the Bel Air Cedar Motel and RV Campground, a sweet little facility on the highway just outside of town.

Barb, Christine, Ty, and I rolled along the 18 km riverside Hike and Bike on a hot, cloudless day – who needs Tuscany when you’ve got the Okanagan!

The trail is flat, with beautiful views of the rolling desert hills and river. Next to each of the pedestrian river crossings are signs warning of extreme drowning dangers due to submerged weirs. I wonder how many people have actually tried to swim in this area …

We started out fairly early, trying to avoid the mid 30s heat, but by 10:30 it was getting hot.

Someone had kindly left a couch riverside for anyone in need of a rest.

Periodically we had to stop in the shade to let poor Brubin cool down.

However, the best way to cool down is a dip in the river … which Ty proceeded to take, from a convenient rope swing, helmet and all.

He hit the water with such force that he lost the visor on his bike helmet … splash!

Ty at river Ty at river2

The views along the river were beautiful.

Our first wine tasting stop was the Church and State, a rather lavish outfit on the hillside; as it happened, this winery had received a Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in BC Wines and the LG was on site with her tour bus entourage presenting the winery with the award for their Coyote Bowl Syrah 2010.

After stationing Brubin in the shade of the grape vines, we sampled four of their vintages.

Next up on the wine route was Silver Sage, a smaller family-run operation that specialises in fruit wines.

As you can see, Ty was excited about the possibilities …

The folks at the Silver Sage have their patter down pat, a very amusing running commentary on the wines and their characteristics. After tasting our crew did pick up a case load of it.

Silver Sage has a lovely rose garden out front and a beautiful view out over the countryside.

Further down the trail was the Oliver Twist Estate Winery; here Christine contemplates the Sauvignon Blanc.

We loaded some of our wine catch into the wine-mobile trailer.

Although I do love my bike, I was tempted to score a new ride at the Oliver Twist, something a bit more colourful.

Back at the Bel Air ranch, Christine had fun with the doggies, Doug’s two Duck Tolling retrievers.

Next morning saw Ty, Brubin and I out again on the bikes, this time on the trail heading north towards Gallagher Lake.

Our destination this morning was Jackson-Triggs; below you can just see Ty and Brubin disappearing around the corner towards the winery.

Since we were early in the day, there were relatively few visitors at this facility; a very pleasant attendant helped us sample some of the varieties.

After wine tasting we had intended to spend the afternoon at Gallagher Lake but were disappointed to discover that there was no public beach access there, only a private campground which did not allow dogs.

Back on the road again, we headed south to check out Tuc-el-Nuit Lake right in Oliver Town; while it did have a small public beach area, it, too, did not allow dogs. Brubin had to remain in the trailer. We wondered about this apparent antipathy toward dogs in this area …

In amongst all the private property signs (never have we seen so many private property signs – Karl Marx would be spinning in his grave), we managed to find a small trailway taking us back onto the Hike and Bike Trail down past a housing development.

Saturday evening saw us hillside at the Tinhorn Creek winery’s amphitheatre for a show by Canadian band the Matinee.

Since, unbeknownst to us, we had arrived rather late, we had to walk up the hill to the theatre to get to the concert venue.

The band put on a great show, thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Our final day in the Okanagan was spent riding along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail that hugs the side of Skaha Lake, running from OK Falls to Penticton.

Since the trail follows the old railway bed, it’s flat and relatively wide, with interesting vegetation and rock formations, including a couple of lightning-blasted trees.

Just as in Turkey, where trails like the Lycian Way wind past ancient ruins, here, too, are ruins, these ones the hulk of the former Kaleden Hotel built in 1913.

Past Kaleden, a land dispute has made a small section of the biking trail private property, so we had to push our bikes up through some trees and around a fenced off area.

I got pretty tired of all the Private Property signs in this area … obviously, this seagull is trespassing.

Skaha Lake is beautiful and also has a really nice public beach area on its shoreline.

Being a fan of ancient cities, I did love the old hotel ruin; we decided that it would be a great venue for an art installation.

Back at the ol’ Bel Air, the pool was a refreshing end to the day.

Our final wine-testing was at the La Stella winery just outside Osoyoos on the way home.

They specialise in Northern Italian style wines; here Christine savours a nice Gewurztraminer.

See more photos here.

Here’s the link to our accommodations at the Bel Air.

Here’s some info about the 2013 BC Wine Awards.

Summer in May

It’s summer in May – global climate change, anyone? Seemingly overnight, the temperature here on the rain coast has gone from 9 degrees to 25, and the cloudless skies continue … We decided to hop on the aquabus and head over to Habitat Island for an afternoon exploration of the area around the Olympic Village.

Approaching the area along the south seawall, you can see the highrises of Main Street and Telus Science World in the distance. Habitat Island is the small peninsula directly in front of them.

The bushes and undergrowth along the shoreline here are home to more than one resident; along with a colony of crows whose rookery occupies the higher trees, folks sleep rough here.

The rotting remains of a public art project are still here; this was once a card- and particle-board replica of a caterpillar digger.

From the City of Vancouver website, here is a blurb about this area: “Habitat Island is an urban sanctuary along Southeast False Creek. Deep layers of soil have been added to the area to provide nourishment for new trees to grow. Boulders and logs commonly found along the coastlines in this region of British Columbia provide a home for plants, small animals, insects, crabs, starfish, barnacles and other creatures. Surrounded by water at high tide, the island is also a sanctuary for birds.

More than 200 native trees, as well as shrubs, flowers, and grasses that grow naturally in this region have been planted along the waterfront path and on the island. The island was created as part of the development at Southeast False Creek, site of the 2010 Winter Games Athletes Village. To build Habitat Island, shoreline and inlet, about 60,000 cubic metres of rock, cobble, gravel, sand and boulders were used. The ebb and flow of the tide on the rocky shoreline creates an ideal home for starfish, crabs, fish, shellfish and other creatures.”

The tall leave-less trees jutting up in front of the mountains provide resting places for birds, including bald eagles.

Habitat Island is interconnected with the adjoining wetlands which take in water from the storm drains in the area and rehabilitate it before it enters False Creek. This shoreline restoration has resulted in herring returning to spawn in False Creek; often you can see great blue herons fishing, too. Originally, this peninsula was to be an actual island but the powers that be were afraid that people would be stranded on it at high tide; the small causeway connecting the island with the seawall was raised to prevent that possibility.

These wetlands were also recently home to a young urban beaver; although we hoped to get a glimpse of it, the beast was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he’s moved on to a larger watering hole.

Along with the mysterious beaver, another wild life visitor has captured the hearts of Vancouverites, the juvenile elephant seal currently molting on Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver. Barb and I rode our bikes over to take a look.

As you can see from this photo, the moss on the trees along the stream at Ambleside is incredible, a testament to this area’s status as temperate rain forest, not that you would know it from our current weather.

From the beach we watched as a Turkish freighter came into the port.

The elephant seal occupies a fenced off area on the west end of the beach. Looking decidedly unhappy, this day he was lying mute and stationary near the water, seemingly indifferent to all the curious spectators.

While over there, I took the opportunity to gather some drift wood for an art installation I’m preparing.

Farther down the waterfront a woman was feeding the seabirds and crows near John Lawson Park.

There are quite a few arts spaces along this stretch of water; we stopped in at the Silk Purse Gallery, formerly the home of an eccentric local who donated it to the West Van Arts Council some years ago.

See more photos here.

Invoking Venus, Feathers and Fashion

Marsha, Ty, and Dana at the opening of Invoking Venus, Feathers and Fashion.

INVOKING VENUS, Feathers and Fashion features photo-based images by Catherine Stewart and accessories from the clothing collections of Claus Jahnke and Ivan Sayers.

Using bird specimens from the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Vancouver-based Stewart explores the role colour, patterning and adornment play in courtship and attraction. Through the juxtaposition of images of bird plumage with images of vintage fabrics and actual feathered fashion accessories, the parallels in human and bird behaviour become apparent. The lush and sensuous images magnify details in avian plumage and vintage fabrics, revealing a multitude of rich and varied hues that combine to create the colours, textures and patterns observed when viewing birds and humans at their finest.

“On the surface, birds and humans are very different. Yet, if you really observe these two groups you can start to draw many parallels in their behaviour,” explains Yukiko Stranger-Jones, Exhibits Manager, Beaty Biodiversity Museum. “Through pairs of images, Stewart engages us in a visual dialogue that examines the role adornment plays in the courtship of both birds and humans.” (text from the Beaty website)

The opening reception included a fashion show featuring historical clothing and accessories from the collections of Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke. The show was hosted by Ivan Sayers and explored the history of feathers in fashion. Clothing from about the 1880s to the 1970s was worn by a series of models who strutted their stuff on the red carpet running beneath the gigantic whale’s skeleton in the Museum’s atrium.

Seated right below the whale’s huge jaw bones, we contemplated the possibility of being crushed if the “big one”, the huge megathrust earthquake overdue in these parts, were unhappily to occur this evening.

In his comments Sayers pointed out the action and reaction of clothing designers whose dresses became longer or shorter, tighter or looser, bigger or smaller depending upon the changing political and social status of women through time. (It was difficult to get a photograph that was in focus – the models did not stand still for very long).

Similarly the hats alternated between gigantic feathered confections and small, close-to-the-head caps and bows.

One of the most bizarre hats included the head and feathers of a small animal on its front face. A break in the proceedings allowed the audience a chance to view Catherine’s photos works hung along a corridor framing the Beaty collection.

I rather like the Francis-Bacon-like effect in the picture below. See more pictures here. More information about the show is here.