The River Sportsman

In the town of Campbell River, above the banks of the Campbell River, is a wonderful sports shop called The River Sportsman. In one corner of the store you can sit almost on the river while you have a coffee and decide which fly rod you want to mortgage the house for.

Oi veh! My tongue is in my cheek as I notice the camo gear on the right. You may remember my post about camo gear. https://wordsfromanneli.com/2018/03/09/camo/

Inside the store are many samples of wildlife that have been mounted (taxidermed) – (stuffed animals). The lighting is very bright and the glass cases in which some of the mounts are kept reflect the light, making it difficult to get a good photo.

The first is a grizzly, which is not USUALLY found on Vancouver Island, although several instances are recorded of grizzlies who have obviously swum across from the mainland, most likely island hopping and making short swims to finally reach Vancouver Island.

This is not a particularly large grizzly, but I wouldn’t want to meet him just the same. Intimidating teeth and claws, in spite of his pretty smile.

Another bear we don’t have here is the polar bear. Of all the bears, I think he is the most dangerous and close to the size of the Kodiak (which, like grizzlies, are a subspecies of the brown bear). The largest polar bear on record weighed 2209 lbs. and stood 11 ft. 1 in. on his hind legs. The bear on this photo is nowhere near that record, but I wouldn’t want to get a bear hug from him.

Another animal we don’t have on the island is the Rocky Mountain goat. It makes a handsome addition to the zoo in the sports shop.

Now we come to the animals that are prolific on Vancouver Island. Cougars are all over the island. I can’t imagine why I worry about black bears  when I’m mushroom picking, when I really should be worrying about these cats instead. They are much more likely to attack a person than a black bear is, especially if that person is walking alone or with a small pet.

The sports shop is full of birds and mammals on the walls and in glass cages. One of the walls has a wolf mount, but I didn’t feel inclined to take its picture. Now that I’m writing about the prolific cougar, I’m wishing I had a wolf picture to place with  the cats. Wolves are also plentiful, especially on the northern part of the island. I have no illusions about what a wolf can do to a deer or a lamb on a sheep farm.

The visit to The River Sportsman was entertaining for me while my friend shopped till she dropped. Maybe they put these animals in the shops on purpose to keep customers in the stores. It seems to be working.

It’s a Bitch Getting Old

Ruby was a sweet looking puppy, but her behaviour was wild during her puppy days. She grew out of her monster stage and turned into a wonderful dog.

Ruby had her 11th birthday in February this year. She’s a bit gray around the muzzle, and now sports bushy white eyebrows. Like many dogs her age, she was packing around several fatty lumps on her body. One of them was getting uncomfortably large and pressing on her throat. It was time to do something about it.

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We have great confidence in our veterinarian and admire the way he cares for our pets. He removed the worst of Ruby’s lumps, taking great care with the one that was near her carotid artery.

Since two of the lumps are near her shoulders, wearing a cone would not stop her from scratching at the itchy stitches, so a T-shirt was recommended. The trouble was to find something small enough. With some creative cutting and knot-tying, I managed to fashion a covering for Ruby.

Most of the time, it works, but this morning when I was wanting to take her outside, she didn’t move from her doggie bed. I had a closer look and saw that she had straight-jacketed herself in trying to get out of the shirt.

She hadn’t hurt herself. The material is very soft. But at least she wasn’t able to scratch herself.

She is healing well and I’m sure she’s glad to be rid of those lumps. I’m sure she’ll also be glad to get rid of her “hospital” nightgown.

Another Scavenger

Perhaps not quite as likely to eat litter as a crow is, the seagull is still a bit of a scavenger. He’s not very choosy about what he eats. Whatever is handy (usually animal matter) on or near the beach, or  even farther out on the water, is good enough to qualify for a meal. Fish guts thrown overboard from a fishboat make a delicious smorgasbord for seagulls.

Clams, crabs, herring roe — anything that is easily available near the beach makes a tasty snack. But we should be thankful they clean up the beaches for us. Imagine the smell if they didn’t eat the dead or dying animal matter.

I was shocked to learn that they will even eat a starfish that is much too big for their stomach. I’ve borrowed this photo from Wikipedia.

On the beach where I saw the brant from the last post, this seagull was eyeing up his meal.

Apparently it was worth dipping into the water for.

Out came something long and gooey, possibly from a broken clam shell.

Now, doesn’t that look tasty?

There’s a good chance that our seagull is responsible for this crab’s lost claw and a few legs – postmortem, most likely. Too bad for the crab, but good of the seagull to clean up the beach. I’m sure he or his friends will  come back to the crab to finish off the snack later on.

After all, who can resist crab on a bed of kelp?

Brant Migration Time

When I look out from my house I see, far away, the opposite shore of Comox Bay. This day I drove around to the far side of the bay to see the brant,  annual visitors who always stop in our area on their northern migration.

The brant like to feed mainly on eel grass (probably called that because of its long flat shape) that grows in shallow tidal areas. The little sea geese don’t often come ashore to walk around. They are safer in the water, away from people and their dogs running along the beach.

Because of this, they are often too far away to offer good clear photographs, but I tried to hold the camera steady and took five times as many photos as I needed in the hope that a few of them would be usable. The brant I was trying to photograph are the last row of what looks like rocks way out in the water in the photo below.I walked out as far as I could and tried again.

Here is a small portion of the flock, zoomed in and snapped up with a shaky hand.

You can see (below) that some are tipped up, reaching for grasses to feed on, while others are alert and watching for danger.

Among the brant I noticed several widgeons dabbling around. I see four in the photo below. The ducks and geese don’t seem to mind each other’s company.

You may also see, if you look closely, that the brant near the top middle of the photo below has a piece of grass in his bill. They are still in water that is shallow enough to be exposed at low tide, allowing the eel grass to grow.

At high tide, this grass is out of reach of the brant so when they happen to fly past a beach on their way north and want to stop to rest and feed, it is best when the tide is low and it is daytime so they can feed. If the tide happens to be high when they need to rest and feed, they find much less food accessible to keep up their strength on the long journey north.

In our area, the brant stay for many days, feeding and building up their strength for the continued flight north.

I have often wondered how the geese decide that it is time to continue the migration north, but however they communicate this major decision, it is an amazing sight to see. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of brant geese leave the bay and head up high in the sky to continue the trip north to their annual nesting area. I love to hear the distant  nasal honking of these flocks as they share with each other the excitement of traveling onward.

The photo above shows a wood carving of a nesting black brant done by our friend Bruce Glover. (The other bird is a duck decoy that has nothing to do with the brant except for sharing shelf space in our house.)

What Good is a Crow?

Sometimes in the winter, the extra high tides peak just when extreme winds blow the waves towards the beach and up over the edge of the road. Sand  churned up in the shallow water of the beach is deposited on the pavement as the waves retreat. At its most furious, the storm makes the road impassable due to waves carrying logs and sand, crashing on the pavement.

Something had to be done.  Why not use the logs that keep washing up on the shore to build a breakwater?

The only drawback was that access  was limited for people wanting to  spend time on the beach. Only a few pass-throughs allow access, but this is a small price to pay for keeping the beach material off the road. On the left foreground of the photo below, you can see the root system of a tree used in making the breakwater.

It makes a great perch for this crow to survey the beach and assess the possibility of nabbing a bite to eat.

Closer to the bluffs where the spit begins, people are enjoying the sunshine in spite of the cold brisk breeze.

Apparently they have brought some picnic food, and our crow is on the alert. See him in the foreground (below), keeping an eye on the people?

Those pebbles can twist a crow’s ankle. He hops up onto a better stand while he talks to us.

My name is Corby, I’m a crow,

A useful bird, I’ll have you know.

I clean up beaches, parks, and schools,

‘Cause people are such messy fools.

“A scavenger,” they say and sneer,

But really I’m an engineer.

A sanitation engineer,

Patrolling beaches without fear.

I’m much despised for baby theft

Of eggs and fledglings, moms bereft,

But on the beach and in the park,

With my intentions not so dark,

I use my observation perch

And beady eyes to scan and search

For chip bags, Ding Dongs, peanut shells.

I simply follow kiddies’ yells

For fast food wrappers, greasy hits

Of french fries, ketchup, burger bits.

I hop-skip over, spear a fry,

And poke some Cheezies with a sigh.

I fly up high, and watch, and call,

My cawing soon assembles all.

The local corbies cruising by,

Spy the garbage as they fly.

They’ve come to lend a helping hand

To clean the litter off the land.

They caw, “We are the cleanup crew,

Don’t look at us with eyes askew.

Don’t throw those rocks to chase us off,

You need us still,  you silly toff.

As long as you mess up the land,

Be thankful for the crows at hand.”

 

Farmers’ Market

The Farmers’ Market in Olympia, Washington, was full of interesting things to see, but although we are officially into spring, this March day was particularly cool. An icy wind blew through the open-air building. Spaced around the corridors were heaters that attracted shoppers who huddled near them to chat for a few minutes before moving on.

Some of the merchants had heaters set up right in their own selling space. See the tall heater on a post above the lady selling baked goods? Notice one of the customers walking by wearing a warm jacket? It was a COLD day!

The lady who sold lavender products wore her quilted jacket zipped up to the top.

What a wonderful assortment of organically grown mushrooms. No problem keeping them chilled.

The girls selling homemade jams were happy. But no wonder! Do you see the heater on the left, glowing and sending out warming rays?

For a brief moment I contemplated buying a treat for my little dog, but then I realized that these bones are bigger than she is.

And that price is in U.S. dollars  – $14.00 for each bone. For a Canadian, that’s a hefty chunk of change, and even if I were to “bite the bullet” and splurge on my dog, and if I were allowed to bring it across the border,  I would probably frighten her with it.

They must have some awfully big dogs here in the United States. 

There is much more to see at the Farmers’ Market, but that will be for another post.

After the Rain

This morning when I did my walk

I had to brave the rain.

I trotted like a racehorse 

Just to hurry home again.

Once in the door, my feet were wiped,

A towel rubbed me dry.

I lay down on my usual place 

And let out a big sigh.

Then came my treat, a nice warm throw

Just taken from the dryer.

The toasty warmth was better than

A rocker by the fire. 

I snuggled in and closed my eyes

The people smiled at me.

I didn’t move a muscle and

Was quite content, you see.