Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sandpiper Invasion At Crescent Beach

I INCHED MY way forward to see what was drawing photographers to the edge of the sandbar at Blackie Spit Park in Crescent Beach.

At first glance, it could have been round brownish-gray pebbles lining the curve of the shore.

The feathered heads of what seemed to be thousands of sandpipers bobbed amid a chorus of congenial, at times nervous, bird chatter.
Although they were unsure about humans, it was a boat whizzing by that caused them to lift in unison, their wings beating as if with one heart.

How were they able to fly so closely without touching in midair I wondered? Each sudden flight was like a burst of feathers in a pillow fight.

Mostly, however, the birds displayed patterns and amazing synchronicity.

These little soldiers marched to the same tune.

To my untrained eye every beak, tweet and feather looked identical.

Dozens within the larger flock turned their heads in similar directions.

When I examined the choreography (above) I found only a few missteps.

Despite initial appearances no two were alike ... that is the true nature and limitless creativity of existence.

Closer inspection hinted at the differences amid similarities as they moved with the ebb and flow of whatever grandmaster was pulling their strings.

Seagulls went about their business. They didn't mind the bird invasion.

From a distance, the sandpipers could have been seagulls when the sun glinted on the bright white underside of their wings.

I was told this bird species likely had already settled in the region but was pushed to the shore due to high tides covering the nearby mudflat areas they normally inhabit. I took pictures of their visit over several days.

Locals simply sat and enjoyed the show that had flown to their doorstep.

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There are many more birds to discover at Wild Bird Wednesday.

Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Freedom Is Complicated For Released Seals

WE WATCHED with wonder for the magic to unfold. Fifteen seals were about to be released back into the wild by an organization working in conjunction with the Vancouver Aquarium.

There was no big announcement. I was one of a few passersby lucky enough to stumble on the event at Crescent Beach during a recent walk.

The curious were drawn to the water's edge, slogging through the squishy beach floor with a sense of anticipation.

As we got nearer we could see the crates that contained the seals.

When volunteers and staff carefully unlatched the gates, the released seals must have wondered at their fate.

Their futures unknown, identification tags will give clues of their travels.

They slowly slithered their sluggish bodies along the sand to the sea a few feet away. Only one or two swam off without a single glance backward.

Most looked back, not ahead, with big puppy-dog stares at their caregivers as if to say, "Do I really have to go?"

Yes, they had to go. Their caregivers held a wall of boards to gently prevent them from coming back to the shore. Like birds in the nest or young adults in the basement, it was time to leave the comforts of what had become a nursery and loving home to the lost, malnourished, injured and abandoned.

Someone came along to record the important "coming of age" ceremony.

"Do I look my best? Is there a little seaweed tangled in my whiskers?"

Freedom is as dangerous as it is delicious. These seals must now catch fish in the wild on their own while trying to avoid being a whale's next meal.

Their lot, however, will likely be far better than what some seals in Canada, in stark contrast, sadly experience HERE.

In a paradoxical world of selective compassions, these rescued seals are fortunate to have been given a second chance at an independent life in the wild. Nonetheless, there was understandably some apprehension.

Mostly, however, there was exhilaration at seeing these endearing creatures continue on their journey in a natural way. People who gained their trust and became their friends seemed to say, "Here is the world ... enjoy it ... see what you can do in it. Try not to do anything foolish and if you are afraid try to be brave because the world, as they say, truly IS your oyster!"

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Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Horse Of A Different Colour At Crescent Beach

TINY HOOFLESS HORSES with curly tails are sometimes known as Horse Caterpillars when translating the word Hippocampus from Latin as it relates to small fish. I remember seeing seahorses live at the Vancouver Aquarium years ago. Someone posted a video of this unique sea creature HERE.

Petite seahorses spark our imaginations and are often replicated for decoration. They are so cute they sometimes look cartoonish to humans who are their number one threat. Pollution and catching them by the millions yearly, particularly in Asia where their dried bodies are considered cures for various ailments, cuts their numbers down drastically.

The seahorses I see during my walks at Crescent Beach are usually far bigger than the real thing, which ranges from under an inch to just over a foot long. The statuesque stone seahorse (above) is on a pillar at a gate.

This seahorse with a greenish eye lends playfulness to the rust coloured gate.

This large version (above) is one of several similarly painted carvings located by the swimming pool at Crescent Beach. Two tiny ones are on the sign below.

The Seahorse Grill has a seahorse in the widow. Here is a closer look below.

A black painted seahorse (below) hangs over a pot of geraniums.

Most often seahorses are painted bluish-green like the three inch one tacked to the fence below. I am not certain of the true colours of the sea creature as they tend to match their surroundings and can look yellow to vibrant red.

The seahorse below is also pictured at the top of this post. On a different day from a different perspective the colour changed from white to pale gray.

I like the metal gray one (below) welded to the reeds.

There are three small woodcarvings of seahorses to find amid the fish below.

Someone even injected seahorses into Crescent Beach scenes and then tacked the printed pictures onto poles ... perhaps for a treasure hunt.

Live seahorses are a treasure, indeed, but the hunt for them is not a game. Uniquely designed so that the male gives birth to future generations from its mini frontal pouch, these "horses of a different colour" deserve to survive.

The fact that they barely seem real adds to their wide appeal. There is something otherworldly, waiflike and magical about seahorses. Their adorable snouts, miniature horse-like heads and flowing flexible tails seem more suited to a mermaid's tale than a nonfictional world.

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Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

Monday, September 14, 2015

Do More Of What Makes You Happy

ODD TO SEE a kitchen chair on the sandy floor at the beach I thought. Odder still that it faced the path where people walk, rather than the ocean. I take this route at Crescent Beach often so the new sight caught my attention.

As I got closer I saw a tiny painted shell on the chair with a message. It seemed a caring person hoped to inspire passersby.

It said, "Do more of what makes you happy."

It is hard to argue with that unless eating cake and ice cream all day long is your favourite thing to do.

The mystery deepened and the message became less clear two days later when I found the shell replaced by sunglasses (pictured below) and the chair moved to the opposite side of the same beach.

Hundreds of bright red rose petals, encircled by seaweed, mingled with crushed seashells and countless grains of sand. What could it all mean?

When I returned the following day, I found the sunglasses replaced by a phone number of the person who took them scrawled on the seat of the chair. For the first time I noticed sticks amid the seaweed framing the flower petals with the shape of a heart. Something compelled me to place the chair within the heart.

When I sat on the chair, it felt a bit magical and even transformative being there amidst the petals, sand and sparkling sea.

After a day of heavy downpour, I went back to the same spot. Seaweed, flower petals and sticks mixed with the grainy sand, tattered by the rain and ebb and flow of the tide. Although the chair had vanished, its fleeting moment of enchantment could still be felt along the damp beach floor.

Later, the seashell message still tugging at my imagination, I drew a note with my wishes and sat it on the chair that now stands in the unknown somewhere.

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Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms