Saturday, February 19, 2011

Creatures great and small

The sun finally overpowered the clouds, and, by the end of the afternoon, even warmed our backs. We wasted no time heading for Tsawwassen and Centennial Beach. At the entrance to the park, the hawks and eagles were out in force, several in every clump of trees, the leftovers sitting on power poles. An osprey was casting back and forth over the swamp, hunting. (And we think we've found their nest; next time, we'll head that direction.)

In the centre of the duck pond, the redwings are nesting, and making quite a racket about it, almost drowning out the chattering ducks (mallards, wigeons and assorted hybrids) and the gulls, who were arguing, as they do, over a few handfuls of bread crumbs.

Juvenile redwing on spotty reeds.

Off-shore were more ducks and gulls, and far out in the bay, flocks of small, dark birds, flying back and forth in long lines or bobbing up and down on distant waves. These came close enough to be identified, just barely:

Surf scoters. The white spots are the backs of their heads; the pink triangles are those ridiculous beaks. The two in drab are females.

And this made us very sad:

Gull with torn foot

He came right up to my feet, begging for food. He even tried to eat the cracked corn I was carrying; most gulls just look at it scornfully. Happily, a woman came along with bread and crackers. I hope he gets a good share of tomorrow's barbecues. (I'm hoping it's still sunny.)

The poor gull could barely put his foot on the ground; mostly he hopped or flew. The foot was not only broken, but badly mangled and torn. Here's another view:

Looks painful.

What could have done this? It looks to me as if he had been grabbed and shaken by a dog. Both the leg and the foot are ripped in several spots, and the bone is broken.

I love dogs, but I wish people would keep them on a leash if they have the slightest tendency to chase birds. It's not as if they were having to hunt down their food; they're not wolves or coyotes any more.

On a happier note, I found this spider running along the sand. I've never seen one like it before. I've submitted a couple of photos to BugGuide.

Orange and black sand spider.
(Update: Lynette Schimming, at BugGuide, says it's a wolf spider, of some kind. Update # 2: Arctosa perita.)

More cheerfulness:

But it's serious business.

And on the way home, we saw this small merlin, the first I have seen close up. I had to lighten the photo quite a bit, because it was silhouetted against a bright sky.

As interested in us as we were in him.

And Laurie got his feet soaking wet inside the boots, collecting water and seaweeds for our critters in the tank. They appreciated it: he's so good to them!


  1. Sorry for the gull - at least he's getting some food, but that might be hard to mend.

    Beautiful eagle!

  2. I believe it finally got up to -11 here yesterday but this morning? -27! Guess I'll be firing up the wood stove as soon as I crawl out of my toasty bed. I knew it was cold - the house always pops and groans when it gets real cold.

    Glad YOU had such a lovely day of explores.

  3. Eileen:
    "Glad YOU had such a lovely day of explores."

    I had to laugh at your emphasis! Your ice and snow is beautiful, but -27 is just a bit too much. I hope it warms up for you soon.

  4. Poor gull! I found one once with its foot some stuck inside an oyster shell. I notified a ranger and then helped him catch it in a towel to release the foot. So strange. I think your merlin might be a Cooper's Hawk. Great blog!

  5. Jen, I thought of Cooper's Hawks, but this one was far too small. I wish the wires would come with length markings!


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