Friday, August 31, 2012

in the land of the singing whales...

whale under half moon

the main voice in the video is my friend's, not mine - just because several people have mentioned it

calm before the storm


lunge feeding

* fair warning, there will probably be several posts coming up about our trip to nootka sound. i'll probably intersperse them with posts about crafting, etc., but be prepared for me to wax a bit poetic about nature (even more so that usual!).


The good omens started as soon as we arrived at Cougar Creek, and quickly spotted the misty blow of a humpback whale across the inlet. Actually, it could be argued that the first good sign appeared all the way on the other side of the island that morning, where i sat on the foreshore as a sea lion lazily worked his way up Discovery Passage. Nonetheless, when we pushed our kayaks out onto the water at 5:30 in the evening we had our eyes peeled for whales. Sure enough, as we paddled around the headland and into the wider channel, more spouts appeared, at least six spread out in the distance. We paddled easily in the waning late afternoon breeze, the sun creating a path of jewels shimmering on the sea surface. Directly in our path ahead was a plume of mist coming up at frequent intervals, a little closer than the others. We elected to veer slightly left and skirt around the active whale. Yet as we drew nearer it surfaced abruptly, just 100 feet ahead. It came up again in a large exhale of mist, then its back arched steeply and the tail broke the surface dripping water. It slipped below and all was quiet. We waited, unsure of the humpback's plans. Our kayaks slipped forward silently, paddles hovering just above the surface, eyes and ears alert to every bit of movement or sound. As I turned my head to check behind me it came up with a blast, about 30 feet to the right and behind. Our hearts jumped up in our throats and a swear word or two escaped our lips. The humpback continued moving away behind us and slowly we started forward again.

Not farther along and there was another spout straight ahead, but this one passed to our starboard side with less fuss. I mused that I hoped we could see the whales from our campsite, but AK assured me our destination bay was much too small and tucked away for any whales to come in. It seemed true, as we guided our boats carefully through rocks to the tiny beach where we made our camp. In the fading light we set up our tents and got to work making dinner. Then, clearly through the trees, a sound that could only be a whale blow; a resolute exhale of breath. With high tide cutting off the shoreline route we set off through the woods, over branches and under bushes, climbing moss covered bluffs in an attempt to reach the point. AK was first out of the bush, calling to us as we scrambled over the rocks. Gaining a vantage point once out in the open, we understood his jubilation. A large humpback was making its steady way in our bay, arching and diving as it went.

In the low light I struggled with my camera, knowing photos would be nearly impossible even under the brightening half moon. We waited, breathless. A rough circle of bubbles began to form on the surface, and then the gaping mouth of the whale thrust through it, pointing straight up to the deep blue sky as it swallowed a gullet-full of fish along with innumerable gallons of seawater. The whale gathered a few breaths and then repeated the process at least a half dozen more times. In our spellbound state we had barely noticed that the night had taken over, but we were reluctant to leave. Farther out along the shore two more humpbacks blew spouts, and our whale moved out to join them. The three lunge fed together by the pale light of the moon.

As we picked our way back to camp to eat dinner a haunting sound broke the stillness. The alien song of the humpback whales, a sound I can't even begin to describe, came to us through the darkness in a serenade. As we climbed into our sleeping bags, we fell asleep to the humpback's song and the occasional shotgun-like crack as a whale breached clear of the sea. Our trip had just started, but we felt welcomed into the sound with wide flukes, er, arms.

so much more to come...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


morning light

We're back from our escape. A few days spent kayaking in Nootka Sound, on the wild wet (and I mean that quite literally) coast of Vancouver Island. The weather was a bit, ahem, inclement, but the wildlife viewing more than made up for it. The moment we arrived at our put-in point, a humpback whale was spouting out in the channel. We proceeded to see humpback whales at every turn, including some close encounters while in our kayaks, from on shore, and even fell asleep the first night listing to the whales singing. Incredible. Add to that an equally abundant sea lion population (both species in the area to eat large schools of mackerel), quite a few sea otters, porpoises, and a lot more other creatures. It filled us up. I don't have too many photos of the wildlings, both because my camera generally stays safely tucked away while I'm paddling through unpredictable waters and due to the wildlife's knack for putting on prime performances just as the daylight is disappearing. But I have a few, plus other shots of the scenery and beauty of the sound. Back soon with more pics.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

fall is creeping in...

fall is creeping in

late summer

fall is creeping in about the pace of a caterpillar. But you'd be surprised how quickly one of those little fluffy dudes can move. The spiders are spinning webs every which way I turn (which is sometimes directly into said webs, unfortunately). The light is changing, from that harsh glare of summer to a cleaner, crisper glow that filters into my bones. The air is shifting too; crisp is the wrong word just yet, but it's thinking about it.

This week is chock full, and then we're trying to escape for a little getaway. If something pops up or I have a spare moment, I may post again before saturday, but otherwise you probably won't hear from me  until late next week. As well, anything purchased in the shop after tomorrow will not ship until next Friday, August 31. Thanks for understanding.

>> Also, does anyone know what kind of caterpillar this is? I don't think I've ever seen a white one around here before.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

fish hunter...

salmon shark

salmon shark

Amidst the woodland creatures and mushrooms taking shape these days, a beast of a completely different sort popped up. This past week was shark week, and with my growing obsession with wildlife and nature shows, I've been enjoying a lot of shark action these past few days. I thought a shark from my own hands was in order. Somehow, the TV schedule programmers again seem to know what I'm working on (see octopus, as yesterday while finishing up the stitches on this little fellow, I stumbled upon a show about salmon sharks gorging themselves in Prince William Sound in Alaska. The water was full of these ragged looking beasts breaching clear of the water as they lunge for unsuspecting fish. An apex predator getting in on the salmon before they leave the ocean, much like salmon-eating 'resident' orca populations. This could turn into a tangent about how many creatures and ecosystems are dependent on salmon and their importance on the coast, but we'll focus on the shark for now.

This little salmon shark is stitched from a worn pair of blue jeans, and an underside of white silk. As I watched that shark program yesterday I noted how ragged those salmon sharks were, and thought this one could use some boro-stye patches. He is a small little shark, only 8.5 inches long, which is considerably smaller than the two sharks i made for my nephews, and this one has real gills too. While he's focused on tasty fresh salmon, I wouldn't totally take my eye off him either. He is in the shop.


I'm a bit reluctant to have her go anywhere, but the red fox vixen is in the shop now too.


The weather has settled in a bit grayer and cooler today, and I think I'll get back to stitching mushrooms... Wishing you a happy Sunday.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

first light fishing...

oh so this is what 5:30 am looks like

first light fishing


dawn on the river


breaking light

My alarm sounded in the darkness, although somehow I was partially awake already. Tucked into the truck, we headed north in the pre-dawn twilight as mist curled over the fields around us. I wanted to stop and try and capture these scenes I could barely see, but knew we had another goal in mind. Where the road curved out along the water though, I had to make AK pull over. I caught a few images of the coast range mountains outlined in pink, just in time before the colour faded out in the growing light.

Along the river road a few cars rested in the gravel; we pulled in alongside and ducked into the trees on foot, to emerge moments later in the mud of the shore. A handful of fisherman already stood thigh deep in the water or perched on rocks. My eyes immediately fell on the berry-seed-heavy pile of scat at the water's edge, fresh remnants of an earlier visitor. AK waded into the water with the others, but I found myself scrambling over slippery clay-covered rocks with camera in hand, watching both the light in the sky and the fly-tipped lines whizzing in the air nearby.

There is so much to notice at the riverside at dawn. The raucous screes of gulls as they squabble over scraps. An occasional high pitched whistle from a bald eagle alighting high in the trees to survey the scene. A swarm of flies swirling just above the water's surface, and the constant splash of salmon jumping. Every once in a while my ears would note a more significant splash, a heavy spring (chinook) instead of the smaller pinks dominating the current right now. Two belted kingfishers flitting back and forth across the river or perching in branches, while seeing whose hoarse rattle was the loudest. And a large black shape ambling along the far shore, the possible culprit for the scat I eyed warily earlier. It was looking for a meal just like the fisherman, but smartly stuck to its side of the river now that the two-leggeds had moved in with the light.

The pinks are getting tired this late into august, even this close to the mouth of the river and so early in their upriver journey. Few were biting this morning, focused instead on their ultimate sacrifice ahead. At about 8:30 we called it quits, accepting defeat as the river began to fill up with other anglers looking to try their luck. A second breakfast seemed entirely appropriate for the drive home.


a few things:
>> these corn and cauliflower tacos were fantastic. I added mushrooms to the roasting pan and topped the mix with feta and avocado slices.
>> I've become so bored with my plain jane hair, I'm contemplating doing something a bit drastic.
>> would love to traipse through the autumn woods in these mukluks.

Friday, August 17, 2012

week end...

Fresh from the onion skin dye pot, ready to be hung up to dry.

>> happy to be finishing off a long week, watching the dusk slowly slip in and feeling the air cool off, just a little.

>> feeling full, after riding our bikes into town for dinner, sitting on the deck of the local mexican restaurant and drinking pineapple/lime margaritas in the late afternoon sun.

>> pulling gorgeous yellow-oranges out of the onion skin dye jar to dry overnight.

>> thinking that freshly dyed fabric might could become more chanterelles before sunday night.

>> planning to get up before dawn tomorrow to go fishing on the river as the sun comes up. i suspect the others will be fishing and i'll be 'shooting' instead in that early morning light.

>> feeling settled in our decision to move into a little house in october, an opportunity that came out of nowhere but has all sorts of possibilities our current basement suite does not - a whole house, quick access to the beach, a basement workshop, a sewing room, room for a garden, perhaps room for a dog...

>> wondering what else the weekend might have in store. wishing you a good one.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

[not so] wordless wednesday...



pileated woodpeckers

I've been meaning to post these for over a month, but time keeps flying by. anyway.

There are those days when a walk in the woods is quiet, with the birds keeping high to the treetops, spring flowers gone and fall fungi not yet poking out. The late afternoon sunlight ripples gently through the leaves on a light breeze, and your feet crunch the old dry leaves underfoot as you walk, softly. The forest is keeping most of the treasures to herself some days, but rewards you with a pause where you feel like the only thing for miles.

And then you meander home, out of the woods and back down the street. And into your driveway, where glistening black feathers catch your eye. A pileated woodpecker, murmuring gently to itself as it works its way up a tree trunk. And then a second one, flitting in beside it. A mating pair, you think. but then the male, his crown and mustache a rich dark red, does something you hadn't expected. He leans in to his companion, of equal size but with a paler - and spikier - hairdo, and shoves a beak full of bugs down its gullet. Aha! The dynamic has changed, and you smile as you sit witness to a father teaching its fledgling child, while still indulging it with meals it hasn't quite figured out how to get on its own. and you didn't even have to leave your own driveway.

Fittingly, I just heard the call of another pileated through the window as i sit here typing.

ETA: looking back through these shots I just noticed that while the adult's eye is yellow, the juvenile's is light blue. Interesting...


p.s. the little beaver is in the shop.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

on the river...





Yesterday, late morning, a merry band of woodland creatures took to the forest trail, intent on a little photoshoot amongst the moss and towering firs. Walking the winding paths, gravel and dirt crunching underfoot, the rush of water and the slightly metallic smell of the river wafted through the trees. Before long I found myself wading through the shallows to let a few of these creatures survey the river from their very own rocky perch. I mentioned the other day about the relationship between forest and river and here in this spot it is especially clear, one flowing into the other in more ways than one.

The newest beast around these parts is a little coyote, a scrappy fellow still getting used the island (like the fox there are no actual coyotes on this island). He is not sure about these warm summer days of August, already decked out for fall in donegal tweed and scraps of a wool sweater. But he likes to go stalking through the dry grass in search of small prey, or as here, keeping an eye for fish in the river. He was joined at the water by the little beaver, who was much more interested in chewing on some juicy logs (I had to draw the line at actual swimming though), and little raccoon who likes to wash his food before he eats it.

As mentioned, the shop is slowly having a woodland invasion. There is the raccoon, and a trio of edible mushrooms. Later today I will be adding an amanita muscaria, and we'll see what else gets in there. The days are swirling by so quickly, don't you find? Much like the river these days - not in a full flood, pausing in a gentle pool here and there, but heading with determination downstream all the same.

Happy Sunday folks.

Friday, August 10, 2012



morning solitude


end of day

A few more shots from our escape last weekend. I get so entranced by the light and reflections on the sand - how about you? Looking through these shots again makes me want to take another jaunt out to some ragged shore this weekend, but I'll have to wait a bit longer.


It feels ever so slightly cooler this morning. Not an autumn nip, but something in the air has changed just a little bit. The forecast still promises another hot week ahead, but the light in the morning has shifted a little, a hint of things on the horizon. Despite my bewitchment by the sea, the woods are calling too. It hasn't rained in a while, so I know there is still some waiting to do before fungi start poking through lush moss. Good thing I'm making my own. The raccoon is now in the shop and I will be adding more creatures and 'shrooms this weekend. I'd like to take them all out to the forest for a proper shoot. There is a new beast that will get his finishing stitches tonight. Now I'm debating about what other woodland creatures need to join the collection. Any suggestions? Some new bears (or maybe some spirit bears?) might be in order; maybe an elk? Or another beast I haven't tried before?


A got up before dawn for the second day in a row, to head to the river to fish. Here's hoping he gets something to make up for the two that got away yesterday. I need to convince him to go out on a morning when I can join him - I bet the river is wonderfully peaceful in the first light of the day even with the other fishermen around. The forest has a well-entwined relationship with the river, which also gets me thinking about adding some seasonal swimmers to the  mix. Anyway, now I'm just rambling. Hope your week is finishing on a good note.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

snap crackle pop...

morning walk

pink tips


glowing shells

that's a big jelly

tide pool exploring

if you've ever walked a rocky shore at low tide, you might know what i'm talking about. all the barnacles exposed as the water crept away make a noise very much like the breakfast cereal i enjoyed as a child. with that white noise to accompany me, i did a fair bit of exploring along the sand and rocks of our northwest island bay. the outer coast of the island is generally much more rugged and windswept than my east side home, and although there are many creatures in common (like that purple ochre star at top) there are also guaranteed to be some i'll only see out there.

along with the giant green and moonglow anemones we see on the inner coast, a little tide pool exploring revealed smaller pink-tipped anemones unfurling under the water. if you've never had the chance, it is amazing to run a gentle finger along those delicate tentacles and feel the gentle tug in return as the anemone both retreats and tries to take you with it. chitons clung to the crevices and alien gooseneck barnacles clustered together amongst the large acorn barnacles. back in the sand along the high tide line, i found two mermaid's purses abandoned after their owners hatched and moved on. (remember the one i made?) the larger one here is from a big skate and the smaller is from a longnose skate, the two main species we have in this area. and while the hermit crabs are quick to take over abandoned snail shells, a quick survey of a small area still yielded up a plethora of giant western nassa, purple olive, and other assorted shells.

while paddling in the bay, we saw dozens of fried egg jellyfish pulsating below. these fellows are aptly named, with a white-ish body punctuated by a golden yellow middle. there were a few small ones, but many were 2 feet + in diameter, with long trailing tentacles behind. at the time, i couldn't remember the status on their sting, but i was not inclined to find out (thankfully while playing in the surf we didn't have any run-ins). i've now learned that they have a relatively mild sting, but probably still not something you want to play with. anyway, all that to say i didn't get any shots of them in the water. my big camera stayed safe ashore as we explored the coastline. i spent a bit of time with the gopro mounted to my paddle just outside the surf zone as i tried to capture some underwater shots of one of them, but between the swells, the opposing wind waves, low underwater visibility, moving jelly, and moving me on my board, i wasn't very successful. oh well. early the next morning when i wandered the beach i found many had been left behind by the receding tide. you can compare the scale of the one above (and squint to see the tentacles trailing out) with my sandal beside it.


how's your week going?

Monday, August 06, 2012

night / morning



home again after a blissful weekend at the beach. much sand, sun and saltwater, and falling asleep under the light of a bright moon. soon it's time to crawl into a real bed, but i'll be back again tomorrow with some more shots. hope your weekend was a good one.

Friday, August 03, 2012

foxy loxy

foxy loxy

foxy loxy

lock up your chickens, there's a new vixen on the prowl. or at least that's what i told A, which was a bit confusing since he doesn't have any chickens. probably safer that way, with a wiley red fox now roaming the house. this little vixen is stitched up in orange and white linens, with some black wool boots and ear tips. thankfully she doesn't seem too interested in the raccoon or the beaver, but who knows what might happen if any rabbits or mice appear. speaking of that, i think creatures and mushrooms will start to enter the shop next week too, but i'll be sure to give you a heads up.

while there are foxes in bc, there are none on vancouver island. and so, the one time i saw a fox was from the window of a train rolling through the english countryside. a serendipitous little glimpse in the early morning light. but as we slip into the lolling days of august my mind is distracted by all sorts of woodland creatures these days, as you have already gathered. we are heading into what promises to be a scorcher of a weekend and yet my mind is thinking about crisp clear autumn days in the forest. soon enough, i know, and i'll enjoy the summer while it lasts.

tomorrow morning we are pointing the truck north, heading to a remote beach where the air is a bit cooler and there might even be a bit of fog and swell. there'll be some paddle surfing, some reading, and some exploring as we while away the weekend with a couple friends. hopefully there'll be some wildlife too. wishing you all a good weekend (a long one here in canada) and i'll be back next week.

eta - just a little "behind the scenes" of the distractions (and possible dangers to foxes!) that can appear while doing a photo session. rustling bushes alerted me to the neighbour's cat coming over to say hello...and immediately stretch out for a good scratch and play.

behind the scenes