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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Long overdue, I finally got to visit Fort Chipewyan and Wood Buffalo National Park on February 27th. 

Fort Chipewyan is Alberta’s oldest settled community. Over 200 years of rich history has created a destination that has enticed explorers, fur traders and adventure enthusiasts since the 18th century. Fort Chipewyan’s roots can be traced back to the Northwest Company trading post built there in 1788.

Located on the southwest tip of Lake Athabasca, one of western Canada’s largest lakes, Fort Chipewyan is nestled in some of this country’s most spectacular natural beauty and wildlife reserves. The quiet beauty and remote location create the impression of stepping back in time. A must see in Fort Chipewyan is the Bicentennial Museum where Aboriginal and historic displays depict the key role Fort Chipewyan played in Canada’s early exploration and fur trade.

Steeped in history this region is a living testament to the people who live here. The region is stamped with their time honored traditions, their natural and authentic way of life, and their love for the land and water. Fort Chipewyan is the launch point for your adventure into Wood Buffalo National Park. This UNESCO Heritage Site is home to the world’s largest free roaming herd of buffalo and over 200 species of migratory birds, including the most famous and rarest – the Whooping Crane.

April 4th – 2020!

I am excited and honored to be a featured speaker at Susan Conrad’s upcoming workshop! Susan is an award-winning author and expedition kayaker. Find out more details and sign up here. I will be taking workshop participants to a very remote and special place – The Brooks Peninsula. I’ll tell you how to get to this remarkable place, that few have ever been to. Less even know that it exists. One of the first 10 early registrants will be eligible to win free attendance in the workshop. Early registration deadline is March 1st. The registration deadline is March 25th.

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Stop thinking about that grand seafaring adventure and start preparing for it! Susan Conrad, an incredibly accomplished expedition kayaker and award-winning author will teach you how to plan and execute a human-powered expedition, from a week-long vacation to a months-long expedition. I’m honoured also to be presenting on day 1.

Although Susan will use resources and planning tools specific to sea kayaking the Inside Passage, the principles of adventure planning will apply to any destination, conveyance, or time frame. No previous paddling or trip planning experience is necessary and if you have even the slightest sense of adventure, you’re not going to want to miss this workshop.

Sign up here!

One of the first 10 early registrants will be eligible to win free attendance in the workshop. Early registration deadline is March 1st. The registration deadline is March 25th.

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For those that are keen, this location may be recognized. A friend of mine suggested to me that I not disclose the location, so I will certainly honor that suggestion.

My friend Allan Edwin and I spent three and half days in late December exploring this area on remote Northwest Vancouver Island. Most of the time was spent under our tarps, watching and listening to five-meter seas crash ashore as the wind howled and the rain poured. We struggled to get a fire going but got lucky on night number three, just in time to ring in the new year accompanied by Allan’s expert culinary skills and gourmet steaks.

It got cold at times, especially when the sun went down – not that we could see it, but you could tell there was a difference in temperature. Luckily Allan had what he referred to as a “Plan G.” I’m not sure where the G comes from but can assume that it was far enough down on the alphabet to account for everything else failing. Plan G was a “Mr. Heater Buddy” and in a harsh coastal environment, it increased our margins and then some. Well done Allan, well done!

As many of you know, I have had some incredible experiences in 2019 with my friend Nick Templeman  and Yukon – #chiefwhalespotter from Campbell River Whale & Bear Excursions.

Get in touch with Nick so that you have a spot in 2020 – if you really want to see Humpback, Dolphin and Orca – Nick and #chiefwhalespotter are your one and only choice! 

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