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.