American birds - Goldfinch and Bittern

While making lunch today, I found this spider on the floor in front of the fridge. I quickly scooped it up and moved it outside to save it from feeling the wrath of my mother's slipper. I also took these photos of it on the plant outside.


Good news!

After months of waiting and worrying, here's the introductory part of the electronic letter that I received today!

Life just got a bit brighter and clearer...with a lot of hard work ahead. Yippee!


Busy Bee and Cool Cat

I headed towards London Farm again this afternoon. But before I did, I went to the sharing farm across the street and saw nothing. London Farm, on the other hand, was lively with pollinating European Honey Bees. I saw one bumblebee here yesterday, but didn't get a chance to photograph it, and didn't see it today.

The most popular plant today was the Hellebore (I believe it is Helleborus foetidus with the purple edge on each petal). According to Wikipedia, it has up to ten nectaries, which is probably a efficient plant for a honey bee to spend a long time in one of them.

European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)


Blossoms and then Cooper's Hawk

First thing today was going to London Heritage Farm to find myself some critters. I didn't see much until I reached the back corner of the farm and saw bees flying towards it.

It's a Bee Yard!


Phantom Cranefly (from Ontario)

I still have several unidentified critters from the past summer in Ontario, mostly insects. I was just surfing online and found the identity to one of them - Phantom Cranefly (Bittacomorpha clavipes).

Unknown Insects

If I remember correctly, this was taken on one of my off-days going to Head Lake.

Spider, Wasp, and Blossom

First thing I did today was head out to the South Dyke Sharing Farm to see if I can I find and observe some critters. But most of the gardens are still not yet planted, so it was pretty barren with dead vegetation from last year.

I didn't see much except for these spiders running around the dried dead grasses, which form excellent hiding spaces for these spiders. I think I have seen them before near the Terra Nova Sharing Farm, quite abundant and common.

Unidentified Spider



Sometimes life is just like today...one day, everything was going your way, and the next day, nothing is going your way. I am talking about wildlife watching, of course, although I can't really complain because I still saw quite a lot.

Today's weather was gorgeous!


Blossoms are here! Good day to be out

Besides seeing the American Bittern today, I also saw many interesting things.

First, the blossoms are here! Despite seeing them every year, it's still exciting to see these beautiful flowers. I took these from the Phoenix Pond in Steveston, but they are starting to blossom everywhere in the city now.

Bit of Bittern

I will have to separate today's post into two because as you know me by now, when I see something rare and/or interesting, I will take a lot of photos, and today's American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus) was one of those things. The last time I saw a bittern was exactly one year from today, what a strange coincidence!

I think I first noticed this bird when I saw something flew from the marsh to the ditch while I was photographing a couple of Song Sparrows. However, when I got to where I think the bird landed, I only saw a couple of Mallards. But as I pedaled further along, I noticed this thing (below).

That's too bulky to be cattail reeds.


Officially Into Spring

One day into the actual Spring, and it was chilly and cloudy (compared to yesterday). It is never good to get your hopes up.

I went looking for pollinators in London Heritage Farm today. But given the weather and the flowering conditions (almost zero), most of the honey bees I saw were sunning (when the sun was out briefly).

There is a sharing farm in the back with several private gardens. One of them was guarded by this toy Stegosaurus.


Signs of Spring, and then Supermoon!

What counts as signs of Spring?

Skywatching Saturday
Nice weather? Not really, but I'll take it over any rainy days.


Better day than expected

It was a better birding than I expected, given that it was spitting rain when I left the house and a few more times while outside.

Unstable weather.


Heron and other critter watching

Haven't gone out biking in a few days - busy with stuff, bad weather, etc. Anyways, there was a couple of sunny breaks in the afternoon and so I thought it might be good enough to bike to Terra Nova.

Sky-watching from Garry Point Park. The large puddle/pond has disappeared!?


[Another rambling post] ...What can we do?

The major earthquake in Japan has once again humbled and reminded us how powerful Mother Nature is and how little we as humans can do to prevent it but to slowly recover it, one life at a time. It is a devastating event, for the Japanese people but also for all of us as citizens of the globe. However, I am amazed at how resilient and calm looking the Japaneses look on the news. I suppose it is the fact that most of them have experienced earthquakes once or twice in their lives, undergo earthquake drills, and to some extent it has become a part of their lives. Us, as Vancouverites, I fear, are not as experienced nor possess the calming nature of the Japanese people. I doubt that most of the buildings in the Lower Mainland are equipped to handle major earthquakes, am fairly certain Richmond will be crushed, swept away, and became a distant memory. When will it happen? Does it matter? Where will I be then?

Why is it happening? There are scientific reasons behind an earthquake, but to me, it's all about karma. I am not saying the Japanese people did this to themselves, heck no, I am saying we as humans have done enough destructions on this planet that perhaps it is just time for Mother Nature to respond. Right now, one natural disaster takes place one after another (Haiti, Iceland, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, and now Japan), but what if two disasters strike at once, or three, or more!? Do we have the resources or power to save everyone? I do not think so.

I am a pessimist and a believer of the "doomsday" in 2012 (not so much Y2K because we can easily turn the computers off for that, no?). I think it's not just a coincidence that ancient cultures somehow all agree on the year 2012, and with the string of disasters happening nowadays, I have no doubt it will happen.

As I think about my mother, myself, my family in Taiwan, my friends all over, I do not know what I can do to save the people most valuable to me. But then I think about life and death. Death to all of us will happen someday, the only difference is will we be of a young or old age? A slow or quick death? Then there are the things we go through between birth and death - survival. If I survive today, will I survive tomorrow? All of these thoughts occur to me at least once a day when I am faced with situations and view them from a life-and-death perspective, but more so for the last two days.

Either I will survive or not. That is all. And if I die, I die. It is a part of life. And life will go on.

PS - God bless Japan, a beautiful nation and its proud people.
PPS - Finished my CPR-C / Emergency First Aid training this afternoon. It was more useful than I imagined.


Seeing birds up-close: robin, cormorant, and falcon

Another day of gorgeous weather! Look at the beautiful blue sky.


Keep on birding

Feeling the need to start building my insect knowledge, I first went to South Dyke Sharing Farm to see if I can spot any insects. No such luck.

Keep on birding until spring arrives, I suppose.

Mew Gull (Larus canus)
Weather was nice today when I went out. Mew Gull (I think) flying by.


Snipes and Coyotes

Another bike ride to Terra Nova today. Passing the large group of Mallards and Coots.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Handsome Mallard male.


Good quotes from "The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles To Timbuktu" by Kira Salak

I just finished reading "The Cruelest Journey: Six Hundred Miles To Timbuktu" by Kira Salak. It is quite an amazing journey taken by the lone female adventurer Kira Salak through one of the difficult and dangerous terrains in the world. Along the way, she had some pretty profound discoveries, emotionally and physically. Below are good quotes from the book that I think are pretty accurate descriptions about the journeys of life, and worthwhile writing down and going back from time to time.

"[M]an whose soul has been enlightened by is Creator, and enabled, though dimly, to discern the wonders of salvation, will look upon the joys and afflictions f this life as equally the tokens of Divine love." - Mungo Park

"Self-confidence for any difficult or risky endeavours relies largely on the power of imagination, on a person's ability to see the end before the end has come, to see oneself exactly where we would like to be." - Kira Salak (K.S.)

"[M]y trips allow me to unearth parts of myself that I've long since buried as dead, showing me who I can be. They are, in many aspects, processes of rebirth." - K.S.

"[T]he necessity of revamping all of my requirements and expectations for life, of doing without, of knowing that I need very little to sustain me." - K.S.

"Here is the epitome of travel to me: being dazed by newness and exoticism, with all previous experience, all former reference points, deserting me utterly." - K.S.

"We are all at the mercy of a whole slew of forces that are more easily ignored than faced. Forces out of childhood, forces from present causes and conditions, forces as enigmatic as life iteself, that tell us we must try to achieve something or get somewhere. No expedition, no journey, no personal challenge seems a product of whim or accident, initiated because something is simply "there."" - K.S.

"My journey on the [Niger] river is inevitably teaching me humility. I am learning that body can survive on basic foods, and that they needn't taste or look good to perform their task of quieting the stomach and providing nourishment.... [A]nd how strongly the West tried to convince me otherwise.... We're taught to think we need certain things if we are to be comfortable, safe, happy. And so it's all about fear. Fear of having the "wrong" rather than the "right" things, fear of not having as much as the next guy, fear of what we look like and how we sound. The endless fears." - K.S.

"There are times when I'm traveling when I forgot that things pass, and then the so-called benefits of an experience elude me, and I can think only of the difficulties. I find it hard to appreciate anything with the sweat running off my face and burning my eyes, the sun's heat scorching my skin, my body aching from holding the paddle. What room for "experience" when there is only a wish to get to the next place faster, so that the end might be nearer?... [Y]es, at times I forgot to see the beauty for all my sweating and paddling and exhaustion. What I did not say was that beauty doesn't forget me, that it intrudes even in the midst of my slow, often tedious way of travel. It surprises me in clouds of birds shooting across an early morning sky outside Mopti. Or shows us in the white butterflies struggling across the Niger, beating fragile wings. Or in all these evenings spent in thatch-hut villages, the nights dazing me with stars. It is beauty enough for me. Too much beauty, at times, so that I must shut my eyes to it all." - K.S.

"The West, with all its rush and stress, has trained me to believe that I must fill every moment of every day with something "important." What counts as "important," though, is never entirely clear.... [A]ll worthwhile endeavours have clear and definable objectives from the start...must yield something tangible, something valuable, which furthers one's career or brings in money or achieves a certain standing. These are the things I would be doing instead, if I weren't on this river." - K.S.

"I feel a new patience that requires no effort on my part. It results naturally from each day, from an understanding that no matter how hard I paddle, it makes little difference. Timbuktu stays far away, and these hours don't pass any faster. I have no obligations out here; my mind can't scold and cajole me into a new project. I'm not bothered by calls or e-mail or people at my door. Here, I have no choice but to be completely present in each moment of my life. Mali slowly, meticulously, imprints itself on my mind." - K.S.

"I'm wishing I could explain it to people - the subtle yet certain way the world has altered over these past few weeks. The inevitability of it. The grace of it. Grace, because in my life back home every day had appeared the same as the one before. Nothing seemed to change; nothing took on new variety. It had felt like a stagnant life. I know now, with the utter conviction of my heart, that I want to avoid that stagnant life. I want the world to always be offering me the new, the grace of the unfamiliar. Which means - and I pause with the thought - a path that will only lead through my fears. Where there are certainty and guarantees, I will never be able to meet that unknown world." - K.S.

Strange weather day

The weather in Richmond was quite strange today. It was sunny for one moment, then cloudy and rainy the next. At home, I kept staring at the blue skies in Vancouver and the dark clouds over Delta; in the end, my urge to go outside won over and I quickly grabbed my backpack and biked to the dike.

The tide was quite high when I got there (the highest was 3.1-m at 15:47).


Last Grey Day...of 2011 Feb

I registered for a CPR & First Aid course this morning, the course will take place next Saturday. It's something I have been meaning to take for a while, plus I will need it when I head out to this field this year.

Anyways, I went for a bike ride in the afternoon to Finn Slough, but worrying the rain might come down any time.

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