A harbour is a body of water deep enough for ships and sheltered from the open sea. Many of the world’s cities have harbours, or should we say the reverse – many of the world’s harbours have given rise to cities. Thus it has been everywhere I have lived. Victoria Harbour is one of two that happened to be created side by side here at the south end of Vancouver Island; the other being Esquimalt, which is used for a naval base. The most interesting things happen in the Inner Harbour however. That body of water is presided over by the Parliament Buildings of the Province of British Columbia, the Empress Hotel, the old CP Steamship Terminal, and various other buildings of note. It is also an international airport, with seaplanes coming and going constantly.
My favourite sight is the coming and going of the Coho Ferry however, which I happen to have watched so many times I couldn’t count. At one time it was a ritual of morning break to grab a cup of java from the office machine and walk a block to a viewpoint where we could see the ferry leave at 10.30. There was a blast of the air horn and then she’d ease away from the dock and back slowly across the harbour before pivoting and heading out to sea, destination Port Angeles, Washington. This ship has been doing that trip daily for over 50 years, and it’s still going strong. A few years back they put in new engines and she still runs like a charm, a simple boat with no fancy shops or lounges, and the same old hamburgers and hotdogs wrapped in foil like at a ball game. Last week a fellow came over on foot to buy 2 typewriters from me, via Coho. When the ship gets underway they play a recording of Bing Crosby singing about the Blackball Ferry Line, the owner of the ship. They’re down to this single ship now but once they were a major ferry line around Puget Sound.
My plein air of the weekend was painted on the side of the inner harbour to which the Coho backs up before departing. It looked far away when I began sketching and fortunately I knew it was about to leave so I painted the ship in first. When it backed up it came practically right up to my nose, whereupon it was several thousand times larger than it had been when I began, figuratively speaking. I didn’t even watch it go, as I was too engrossed. Subconsciously I figured it would be here later and tomorrow and probably forever, but one day it won’t be – so at least I have one more sketch of it.
view from the sunny side – she always has her back to the sun
The baby hummingbirds arrived either Sunday April 8, or Monday the 9th. Anyways, on Monday the mother was feeding and the day before she was not. She keeps her back to the sun and so when I shoot from the east side my camera can’t deal with the brightness of the sky and the dim light within the tree.
feeding baby hummingbirds
I managed to fix them up as best I can, and they do give an idea of what’s going on. I was lucky to get a shot of the mother’s long tongue quite by luck.
Coincident with the hatched hummers, comes the first turtle of the season.
Plein air: a term for sketching or painting outdoors.
Recently I read a wonderful book, Defiant Spirits by Ross King, the story behind the famous Canadian painters known as The Group of Seven. They used to journey out into the great woods with portable painting kits, and did many little oil sketches as studies for larger, more complex works that were produced later in studio. I had been toying with oil paint, hoping the magic of oil might suddenly be revealed to me, but my experiments with that medium have resulted in frustration, so for now I am sticking with acrylic, my favourite paint. Acrylic is simple and easy to clean up – that’s for me! I took my sketching kit out this afternoon with some 8×10 panels, a good size for carrying around.
I am trying to keep in mind not to overwork my sketches; to stop just before they seem finished. Usually they are truly finished at that point. I may have overworked this, but I hope not too much. It was a cool, dull afternoon on the side of the mountain looking out to the distant hills. I was lost for over an hour, as the sky spit a few random drops and the breeze caressed the hillside. Sometimes a grey day can be more beautiful than a sunny one.
April afternoon, Garry Oak meadow
quietly she waits, keeping the eggs warm
The hummingbird sits patiently still. No babies yet to be seen. Nearby we see some other birds, no doubt thinking about nesting, or are they?
flicker chipping holes
spotted towhee, and a golden crowned sparrow
I visited 2 days ago, and it was raining.
I thought the nest was empty:
not quite empty
On closer inspection I saw that the mother was there, when she decided to shift position.
The new bridge is finally open. It cost over $100,000,000 for a bridge over a narrow channel. Fixing the old bridge would have cost one quarter of the price. But heck, now we can sell a pile of scrap steel to China!
Never mind – it’s National Poetry Month, so here is a poem.
Spring and plants awake again
Pollen in the air brings pain
Coughing sneezing, choking, wheezing
Eyeballs itching, drips displeasing
Nature fights against oblivion
While men destroy her
With hearts harder than obsidian
In the bough tiny birds nest
Because survival allows no rest
Mother Anna incubates a pair
Underneath the Red Hawk’s glare
On the street motorbikes race
Courting death they speed apace
Spewing toxic fumes and dust
Eventually they all will rust
Nearby on the hill appears
A looming condo confirming fears
All bow and praise the economy
Forget about your lost autonomy
Forget about the forest lost
We must have progress
Damn the cost!
Back to the nest this afternoon, and the momma was sitting there when we arrived. No babies yet. Once again it was sunny and windy. I sat on the opposite side of the sun and tried to get some shots but the light was bad. Just then I looked up and there right above the nest, perhaps within 20 feet, sat a very windblown red tailed hawk. It too had the sun at its back so I had to move about to try and get a shot from a better angle. I was going from hawk to hummingbird, adjusting my camera and trying for a good shot all the while the wind was blowing the hawk’s feathers and the hummingbird nest all over the place.
female Anna’s Hummingbird
I bet the hummingbird knew the hawk was there – she hardly moved while we observed her, the hawk right above her nest.
Red Tailed Hawk
A few people passed by and didn’t notice anything, so we didn’t bother to tell them what we were looking at either. Further on we saw numerous birds and one oddity – a Rufous, or Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), an uncommon bird hereabouts.
Rufous or Eastern Towhee
The regular crowd was out too; one Great Blue Heron, Mallards, Song Sparrows, Coots and Stellar’s Jays
More scenes from forest and field:
Stellar’s Jays are back for a while in transit
established lodgings for sparrows, after years sitting empty
Grape Hyacinth (muscari) in the field