A few weeks ago, a friend recommended that I use single-point auto focus as opposed to multi-point when photographing Hummingbirds. Online and reputable sources recommend otherwise but I thought I would give it a try. The results are about the same, multi-point might be a little bit better. Regardless of what focusing strategy you use, photographing Hummingbirds is challenging. 6-9/250 shots were worth keeping but that is a very successful day for any nature photographer. 

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This past weekend, my friends, Allan Edwin, Les Hudson and I set out for a 4 day paddling and camping excursion on NE Vancouver Island. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, aside from some high winds at times which didn’t seem to affect the sea state too much. The waters were a little turbulent during a crossing back over on May 11th but it wasn’t anything that we couldn’t handle. 

Our intention was to make camp elsewhere but after the initial crossing on May 8th, Les suggested that we check out what appeared to be a campsite and upon landing and checking it out, we decided that this was going to be where we would stay. It was a great suggestion and quite a find.

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Each night we enjoyed wonderful campfires, way out on a bluff that we nicknamed “Urchin Point.” There was a natural pit in the rocks that made our fires very safe. Les found a variety of Urchin shells that we decorated a nearby tree with and so that’s how the point got its name.

Allan, a “campfire connoisseur” could always be counted on for both starting the fire and dealing with large pieces of driftwood.

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Unbeknownst to us, the tent platforms, constructed by a commercial operator that the site is tenured to had “names.”

Allan had “Ripple.” Les had “Guardian” and I had “Argonaut.” There was some brief discussion as to what this meant, without any real consensus but I will offer some of my own interpretations. Les was “the elder” in our group and with age comes wisdom and guardianship. Allan seemed to be the best at navigating through currents and whirlpools while we paddled, so it makes sense that he got “ripple.” As for me, I’m definitely on a quest to find “the golden fleece.” In fact, I think I am wrapped in it already and may need to remind myself of that from time to time.

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Allan and I spent some time exploring Blackfish Sound, one of the best places in the World to see Orca. We didn’t have any luck but we enjoyed a great viewpoint from the Spout Islets.

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Whirlpools

I am more used to paddling waters off the West Coast of Vancouver Island. So, it was a refresher to get used to some currents and in all places – Johnstone Straight and the Broughton Archipelago during a big Moon. Here’s a video – the waters had to be moving at about 6-7 knots around a point. I tried but couldn’t make it. Allan got through, Les barely but they were ahead of me and the flow increased before I caught up. Ha! Allan and Les are both very able and skilled paddlers and I was glad to pick their brains on matters and to discuss their navigation of this by the campfire later that night. See the video here:

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Another thing that I seemed to be plagued with, were these 1.5 meter wide and 1′ deep whirlpools constantly opening up in front of me and throwing my kayak around, intimidating to say the least. Each day of paddling, there was at least one or not multiple experiences with these whirlpools. I couldn’t seem to find the eddies in time but was really good at finding these damn whirlpools.

Last but not least, my “novel coronavirus hairstyle” is coming along nicely.

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Allan hides his with a toque and a sour face!

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I was graciously invited by my dear friends, Eric and Trish Boyum from Ocean Adventures to help bring the Great Bear II back to Comox from Vancouver between April 30th and May 4th. Eric had business to tend to during the first few days but we motored out early on the morning of the 3rd. It was pretty surreal to pass through Vancouver Harbour, to see the downtown skyline, Stanley Park and pass under the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Vancouver is a very special place to me.

While Eric tended to business, I was kept busy with tasks aboard the boat, was able to do some reading, met some of the locals at the marina and one of the crew members of Ocean Adventures too, Marjan Watt – a delightful person that I look forward to getting to know more so.

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Above: Some lads that just arrived on a big trawler, trying their luck with a crab trap.

IMG_7863Above: Myself and Eric along with Rick and Kathy enjoying some old stories. Kathy read me a bit of a “riot act” on some matters but I was glad to listen.

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We followed the Sunshine Coast, passing by Gibsons and Sechelt before adjusting our course for Sabine Channel, in between Lasqueti and Texada Islands. The winds were at our stern and the tide carried us at almost 8.5 NM. We made good time.

About half way through Sabine Channel and wanting to get some aerial footage, a drone flight was decided upon. Eric warned me that it might be a little too windy but I decided to try anyways. Long story short and after much effort to recover the drone, it found a watery grave in Sabine Channel. We both watched it’s demise into the ocean before the screen went black. Lessons learned! The DJ Mavic Mini does not manage wind very well at all. It will be replaced. No big deal but still unfortunate.

As I licked my wounds, we carried on and started to round the NW end of Lasqueti Island and I at the helm. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted what seemed to be “blows.” I commented to Eric “Orca” and just as he looked, he agreed and kept an eye out. A couple seconds later, blows again and it was confirmed. “Orca!” We kept our distance as per regulations but I was able to get some shots of the dorsal fins. My friend Nick Templeman from Campbell River Whale & Bear Excursions has identified the pod as being the TO90’s. To me, this more than made up for the loss of the drone. I was thrilled and so happy. In a bit of a broken voice that I hope he couldn’t tell, I shared with Eric how happy I was to get to see the Orca. I was glad that I was wearing sunglasses, my eyes started to water a little bit. I love Orca so very much. We spent about half an hour with them, watching them come up for air as they moved along the shoreline. We then carried on nearby to our anchorage at False Bay.

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Above: T090B identified by my friend Nick Templeman.

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Eric and I enjoyed a few beers on the deck and a dinner of sloppy joes and garlic potato that I had prepared in advance. In addition, we treated ourselves to some of Marjan’s jalapeno cornbread which was amazing! We both retired early for the night.

This morning, the morning of the 4th we motored out of False Bay at about 6:30am. At the helm again, I kept course for about a couple hours in what were some decent seas and swell. Eric was able to keep reassuring me, the great mentor that he is, and it was fun to build my confidence further. I think I did pretty good.

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We arrived at the Comox Marina shortly after 10:00am and got tied up successfully.

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To conclude, I don’t know what I ever did to deserve to have such wonderful people in my life. Thank you, Eric and Trish for embracing me, just as I am, our continued friendship and for all of the incredible memories and experiences that we continue to share in together. I look forward to many more.

What do you get out of it?

Through the course of conversation over the phone recently, I was asked by a friend why I volunteer and what I get out of it? It caught me a little off guard and I didn’t really have a well thought out explanation. I made a mental note to revisit this and collect some of my thoughts which maybe could inspire others.  

Over the last 4 years, I have volunteered with BC Marine Trails in a variety of capacities.

The vision and mission of the association is as follows:

Vision
The entire B.C. coastline
linked through marine
routes and land sites for
sustainable water-based
public recreation.

Mission
To work with First Nations
and stakeholders to build,
protect and promote a
public network of marine
trails allowing recreational
navigation of the BC
coastline with minimal
impact on the environment.

I love exploring coastal British Columbia by sea kayak, camping, exploring, observing and photographing wildlife among so many other things. It’s both challenging and reinvigorating to be one with the elements and nature. It’s pretty amazing to set out in a remote coastal environment, paddle to your intended destination and pull your kayak up on the beach and to be able to call it “home” for however long you might choose. The work that BC Marine Trails does encompasses all of these things that are important to me and so much more. It was a natural fit to become involved and to participate. I am so lucky that I found this association and a group of like minded, passionate people.

So, in no particular order, here’s THE TOP 5 REASONS why I volunteer with BC Marine Trails and what I get out of it by giving my time and energy:

  1. To maintain a sense of work life balance. Essentially, providing myself an outlet.
  2. To learn about things that I otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn about.
  3. To develop new skill sets or improve on those that I already have.
  4. To meet new people, those with similar levels of interest and passion.
  5. To help protect, preserve and promote for others, something that has provided me so much joy and unique experiences.

 

I am honoured and privileged to receive the support from the Board of Directors to now serve in the capacity of Vice President of BC Marine Trails. To find out about all the incredible things we are doing, visit our website.

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The Great Blue Heron prefers to live in large nesting colonies, the distribution of Herons on Vancouver Island is very specific. Two colonies of 50+ breeding pairs exist on the island, one on the northern portion of Saltspring Island, and one just west of Duncan. Several smaller sites, with an average of ten breeding pairs exist and are located in Downtown Victoria, Esquimalt, Sooke, Bamberton, Nanaimo, Parksville, Hornby Island, Courtenay, Merville, and Quadra Island. They prefer low-lying wetlands, and long, shallow, nearshore habitats where wading is an efficient method of fishing. Unfortunately, these are attractive areas in which to build cities and as such, many of the urban centers on Vancouver Island are also Heron nesting sites. Overall, the island likely supports 200-300 Herons in total.

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You can see this in the first 3 images. A Hummingbird’s tongue can stick out as far as its bill is long. The bird dips its long, forked tongue lined with hair-like extensions called lamellae into a nectar-rich flower. The tongue flicks in and out of the bill, up to 12 times a second. 

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I visited my friends Rod and Susan at their farm, near Courtenay, on the 12th. Susan has kept me well informed about all of the Hummingbird activity on their property and I was eager to try my hand at it again, given the success I think I had in early March. 

Recommendations? 

  • Shoot from a tripod if you can, it’s not really a show stopper if you can’t.
  • Use shutter priority and CH / burst mode.
  • Keep the ISO as low as possible, if you have good light.
  • Compose for a green, brown or grey background.
  • Shoot at 2.8 or more and at 1/6400th of a second or 1/8000th of a second, exposure and shadows can be adjusted later in Lightroom.

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I have been all through the Discovery Islands on multiple occasions with my friend Nick Templeman and Yukon – #chiefwhalespotter from Campbell River Whale & Bear Excursions but this was my first time paddling and camping here. For whatever reason, I have been adverse to the area, mostly due to strong currents, rocky landings and the lack of long sandy beaches which I tend to prefer in more far flung destinations on the west side of Vancouver Island. Nonetheless I decided to give it a try between April 8th and April 11th. 

My friends Pavel Novy and John Kimantas had made previous recommendations and more recently, Nick and BC Marine Trails President, Paul Grey offered further insight.

I settled on visiting Penn Island SW, a short paddle from Coulter Bay on Cortes Island. Launching or landing from Coulter Bay in a kayak is best on a mid or high tide as it can be quite muddy otherwise. Be aware of winds that can pick up suddenly if you’re committed to a direct crossing to Penn Island SW.

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Penn Island SW – Image created with a DJ Mavic Mini Drone

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Launching from Coulter Bay, Cortes Island

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The crossing from Coulter Bay to Penn Island SW

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Showing off my 1480 Kodiak Outback hat – inspired by my friend Steve Best, check out one of Steve’s epic videos here:  mryerblog.com/…/steve-best-gwaii-haanas-2019

Landing on Penn Island SW is also best on a mid or high tide. The gradient is steep and there’s large boulder sized rocks. About 75% of the way down, on the east side of the beach is a sort of “boat run” which offers the best access point.

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The Landing on Penn Island SW

Potentially, there’s beach camping above the high tide line but by far the best camping is up on the west side bluff. I counted 4-5 flat areas where a small tent can fit nicely. The views are spectacular.

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Once landed and settled on Penn Island SW, I stayed put for the entire time. I enjoyed lazy days, basking in the sun, finishing off one book and starting another and watching the sun set next to a campfire each night. Recommended reading is Kayaking Vancouver Island – written by Gary Backlund and Paul Grey.

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On the last morning, I woke to a setting moon directly in front of my tent out on the bluff. A fitting way to end a wonderful stay, in a magical place.

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This area is well known for both Orca and Humpback Whale sightings and offers 180 degree views should you be fortunate enough. I didn’t have any luck this time but maybe I will, when I return and explore the area more.

Lastly, on another note, I want to thank Lucas and crew from the Armada who rescued a capsized kayaker not far from where I was camped, on the late afternoon of April 9th. I hope all is well for the paddler. My friend John Arnold checked in with me that evening, knowing that it probably wasn’t me but still just wanted to make sure. Thanks John. You can read about the story here: nationalobserver.com/…/first-nations-fishermen-rescue-kayaker-quadra-island

 

Yesterday, March 9th was my first time trying my hand at “Hummingbird photography.” It’s something that friends of mine that live just outside Courtenay and I have been wanting to try for a while. 

A little bit about Anna’s Hummingbird

The noisy, adaptive, and highly visible Anna’s Hummingbird has become a common sight and sound in the southwest corner of British Columbia. Since the 1930’s it has expanded north and east from a range that was previously restricted to coastal California, likely assisted by an increase in non-native flowering plants and sugar-water feeders. It arrived in British Columbia in the 1940’s but breeding has only been known here since 1986. It is one of British Columbia’s earliest breeding birds, starting to nest-build in mid-winter. Females can quickly re-nest, some females initiating second nests while young are still in the first nests, and sometimes taking and reusing nesting material from occupied nests. One female has been recorded making four consecutive overlapping nests in one season.

The Anna’s Hummingbird is a resident in the southwest of the province, but may make local movements. Since the publication of “The Birds of British Columbia”, the breeding range of the species has expanded in coastal British Columbia to include the entire lower Fraser Valley, the southern Gulf Islands and southern and eastern Vancouver Island, with occasional records during the breeding season north to the mouth of the Stikine River. 

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