Tuesday, August 01, 2006

suburban wildlife

DISCLAIMER No, this is not turning into an pet and/or animal blog. Regular art service will resume momentarily.

I need help identifying my latest find after a recent early morning run in Burns Bog. This time of day and year is a gold mine of opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts -- and taxidermists. Zappa and I have had our fair share of close encounters, from the heron that flew up and practically knocked us over when we turned a corner, to a dead beaver. Early in summer is the best time to see the young hare, still too green to make themselves immediately scarce when a 65 lb carnivore of the speedy sheepdog variety is up the trail. These aren't the domestic bunnies released into the wild, then breeding like rabbits and wreaking havoc on gardens in suburbia, like these ones I photographed at the University of Victoria (hard to see, but there are at least three in the photo) last spring. These are speedy little brown hare, one of which Zappa caught last week, much to my amazement.

But it's not just the bog trails that provide wildlife, dead or alive. On morning runs in winter we've seen a coyote at the top of our street, a dead opossum on a highway and then once, when it actually snowed, we saw this:

followed by this:

Bob, next door, used to have a koi pond. Raccoon families and herons would regularly come and sample his wares. One winter day, realizing his makeshift net was a failure, he got desperate and exhumed a large doll from his wife's mountains of craft items to scare the herons away. That very same day I got this photo from my kitchen:

Bob gave up after that.

Larger animals enjoy the occasional take-out meal, too. As a teenager I lived in Lions Bay. Coming home late one night from a babysitting gig I discovered a bear outside my bedroom window, no doubt looking for fast food from our garbage cans.

I took this photo near Powell River last summer:

But I seriously digress. Zappa and I went for a routine morning run a couple of days ago and ran by this not-yet-fully-developed-but-no-shell-in-sight baby bird on the roadside near the entrance to the trail. I was so curious about this creature that, typically, I had to run home and get my camera. It was huge, about 18 cm or 7 inches long, and with only a few feathers, a long way from hatching. But what is it? The only birds I see regularly that would produce a fetus this size are Bald Eagles (we have a pair in the neighbourhood) or Great Blue Herons. It looks like a heron. Help?

Zappa on a bad hair day


Blogger Jana Bouc said...

I'm sorry I don't know what the bird is but I must say your dog is adorable. I have a friend who had (had being the operative word) a koi pond that was constantly being pilfered by herons and racoons so she too gave up. I wish we had bunnies around here, but I'm glad we don't have bears!

2/8/06 12:01 a.m.  
Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

That poor thing has gone on to the great Heronafter..

I have a giant Raccoon terrorizing the neighbourhood named Orson (Welles)who takes all of my tacky novelty plastic animals out of our little pond...every night he fishes out the plastic frogs and turtles just to annoy me.

Last year Orson took my prized 'rock' lobster and I have yet to forgive him. He has eluded the Provincial trapper that I had summoned 2 years running so I will just have to learn to live with him.

2/8/06 12:10 a.m.  
Blogger kyknoord said...

Poor, poor Bob.

2/8/06 1:36 a.m.  
Blogger carla said...

Poor little bird! I have no idea what it is, but it seems to have a heron-like appearance. I love these pictures, especially your friend Bob's scaredoll. Hah! My mother'sformer neighbor had a similar problem with her koi pond - racoons were poaching the fish and the rabbits were eating all the decorative foliage.

I really get a thrill out of all the wildlife I see around my house. I haven't seen any herons near our property, but we do get lots of deer, some bears, turkeys, rabbits, quail, weird turtles, and even a baby coyote who was living under our workshop. Last summer, we had a visit from a Sicilian rock partridge (probably an escaped pet) who stayed around for a few days and then just... disappeared. I'm sure it made a meal for some predator.

What a look on Zappa's face. She's like, "What? So I'm wet and dirty...I'm a dog, silly!" Question...how do you jog, walk a dog, and carry a camera? You're superwoman!

2/8/06 4:05 a.m.  
Blogger susan said...

i love your wild life!
zappa is a cutie patootie and i would bet money that the bird is a heron.
we have huge rookeries here in our city and the great blue heron never ceases to awe me.

2/8/06 8:05 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Jana: Apparently the rabbits have become such a problem for farmers in some areas (thanks to irresponsible pet owners) that they're considering culling. So sad.

HE: Har de har. :) And I think it's very sweet that you keep your 'neighbour's' active little brain and hands busy with toys...

Kyk: If you knew Bob, you'd know he deserved at least that much. :)

Carla: Aren't quail a hoot? We once ran across a nesting hen on a backwoods trail who actually took on our van in an ettempt to protect her babies! I had to get out of the van, chase her away while the van sped past, then run and hop in! (BTW don't tell anyone my secret identity now that you've figured it out!)

Susan: We used to have one who'd sit in our trees (keeping his eye on Bob's pond!) and when we frightened him/her the whoosh of those great wings was awesome. They are such shy birds, too.

2/8/06 8:26 a.m.  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

I like your disclamer. That's what I love about your blog. It's a lovely mix of "art and..."
I think I want to get a dog.

2/8/06 8:48 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Brian: There's nothing like running with a dog, but you'll need a specific kind of breed to keep up with you. I highly recommend Australian Shepherds.If you need someone to lobby for a dog I can be very persuasive... :)

2/8/06 8:56 a.m.  
Blogger kj said...

andrea, i loved your disclaimer, the fab photos, and your sweet sweet dog. you've got your priorities straight!

i live in a kind-of urban neighborhood setting but abutting a great park and surrounded by farms, so we have occassional visits by cub bears, foxes and the best: one day i'm sitting on my patio and through the gate walks/waddles a mother duck followed in single file by her 7 babies. they walked/waddled the long distance of my fence and scooted underneath, headed for the nearby pond.

it was the highlight of my month.

i'm loving your artwork.

:) kj

2/8/06 11:58 a.m.  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

I love this post Andrea!!! All the wonderful build up and you serve a total smile inducing shot of Zappa completely mud soaked and he is so adorable! Poor little bird and I don't have a clue but I like you, love anything animal related so I try to become a detective...
The place that you grew up is amazing and it made me wonder why anyone would leave it? I understand why but it's a place that you would try to get back to, right? Awesome!!! I'm going to catch up on more of your posts and Thank You for visiting me and your nice comments!

2/8/06 3:49 p.m.  
Blogger Caty said...

Oh! poor little bird! I don't know but it doesn't look very much like an heron to me.......

I have been on these places Andrea! tanks to remind me how beautiful nature is there! racoons? I used to see them in my garden at Burnaby!

2/8/06 11:07 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great pics ! I understand with observing the track photo, where you integrate this into your work. Interesting ! :) P.s./That doggie of yours is too funny !

3/8/06 5:05 a.m.  
Blogger Carlotti said...

I too have no idea what the bird is. Great photos, and I promise to support Joyce through the dog process if Brian succeeds in getting one........

Thanks for stopping by, and I'm looking forward to that painting!

3/8/06 5:56 a.m.  
Blogger Within Without said...

Heron? Looks like an austrolepithicus to me, or at the very least a pterodactyl.

What a gorgeous dog...a one-of-a-kinder.

3/8/06 7:32 p.m.  
Blogger Nabeel said...

awwww how cute .. loved the photos .. getting close to nature haan .. nice !

5/8/06 11:56 a.m.  

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