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.”

 

Sea Lions

The tiny community of Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island has a very small population (something over 800 people) but I think it would be half as large again if you could count the sea lions that have taken up temporary residence there. At first it was only a stopping place for the Steller sea lions but in recent years their smaller cousins, the California sea lions, have traveled farther up the coast following the food source.

At this time of year when the herring arrive to spawn near the beaches of Vancouver Island, the sea lions have decided they like the sheltered east coast of the island. Later, many of them will move farther north and also onto the west coast of the island open to the Pacific to chase the salmon in the summer, much to the annoyance of the commercial fishermen. The last thing they want to see is a sea lion following their trolling lines, eating every fish they are lucky enough to hook before they can even think about bringing it aboard.??????????

The photo above shows only a small fraction of the clusters of sea lions of both types that are now living here, quite close to people and boats. Some even try to get aboard.

??????????

Let’s go fishing!

I’m not sure I’d want to have my sailboat anchored so close to these guys. I suppose the side of the hull is high enough so they can’t climb aboard, but I wouldn’t be dangling that crab pot on the stern. Sea lions can leap up from the water high enough to make me nervous if I were aboard.

If you click to enlarge some of the photos, you may see that many of the sea lions have battle scars. The stories they could tell.

??????????

Sea lions don’t sound much like lions, but rather more like dogs — huge ferocious dogs with over a thousand pounds of weight pushing the deep vibrations out of their fat throat. “OW! OW! OW! OW!” they bark in their baritone voice. I couldn’t help wondering what they were saying.

??????????

The size difference is not always immediately apparent, but when you see the California sea lion (on the left, below) next to a Steller sea lion (the paler one on the right, below) you can easily believe that there is a difference of more than a thousand pounds between them (about 660 lbs. for the adult male California sea lion and 2200 lbs. for the adult male Steller sea lion).

053

They don’t seem to mind lying side by side on the breakwater, although none of them is giving up his spot, real estate being at a premium.

One thing I wondered about, is why they sit with their head thrown back. Several theories occurred to me:

  • they’re just enjoying the sunshine
  • they’re letting their last meal digest (since they swallow their food without much chewing)
  • their head is so heavy that by putting it back over their shoulders, they don’t have to hold up the weight and strain their neck.
  • they’re being snobbish
  • they’re trying to escape the smell

If anyone knows the real reason, I’d love to know.

??????????

The ones who are not lucky enough to get a place on the breakwater simply raft up together nearby. They seem to be relaxed enough, floating on their backs, noses in the air for easier breathing as they doze.

Their main enemies are humans, sharks, and killer whales. Safety in numbers.??????????

Another raft of sea lions. They seem to be everywhere.
016

A Steller sea lion in the photo below is quite content to rest his chin on the California’s backside. Cal doesn’t seem to mind. “Oh, Stella, Do that again. Yes, right there. Scratch harder. Feels so-o-o-o good!”

??????????

??????????

After a while, the uninterrupted clamour was enough to have me digging frantically in my purse for a couple of Advils. I suppose I could have done what this fellow did – book an island retreat and go for a soothing swim all alone, far from the madding crowd.

Sandy Island – Tree Island

It isn’t windy. That’s the important deciding factor. I’m a wuss when it comes to being seasick, so it doesn’t matter that the skies are overcast, as long as the sea is calm. The fishboat will go out on a day trip. A picnic on a nearby island will double as a test to see if the boat is running well after a winter of maintenance work. Before the commercial fishing season starts, the boat needs to be in good condition to lessen the chance of a breakdown and a loss of production in the middle of the season.

Aboard the Eden Lake, Ruby and I join Captain Gary for a mini-adventure to the island the locals call Tree Island and the non-locals call Sandy Island. Here we are looking back at Comox. The town looks very dreary in this muggy atmosphere, but it really is a very nice town.??????????

The aluminium skiff is tied onto the overhead boom. It will take us to shore on the island while Eden Lake stays anchored in deeper water.

??????????

Captain Gary adjusts the navigation program so he can watch out for the sandbar between Comox and the island.

025

The water is flat calm and my stomach is in heaven. No ups and downs. No nausea today! While we travel to the island, I put some potatoes in the oven. They’ll be perfect when we arrive. Sour cream and butter, salt and pepper on them, they’ll make a fine, hot lunch before we go ashore.

The photo below is actually a picture of a sea lion who dove before I could focus on it. I only captured a tiny ripple instead.036

We arrive at the island and anchor the fishboat. After lunch, the fun part comes when we try to get the skiff down from the boom. I’m sure two men could have the skiff in the water in no time but when I’m expected to reach, lift, and push the end of the skiff out over the water so it can then be lowered, I find that it would all be so much easier if I were just an inch taller. That way I could reach the bottom of the skiff rather than swipe at the air around it. But the captain does the work of two, and launches the skiff.

The shore looks a bit gooey but it’s not as bad as it looks. It’s just wet sand with a bit of sea lettuce, and as we hike up to higher ground the beach is lovely and sandy.  066

The island is a marine park and the whole blooming place is full of flowers. As you can see, Alberta’s provincial flower, the wild rose, looks great in British Columbia too.

071

This maple has been around for many years. Someone thought the trunk offered a good place to build a platform with driftwood to read a book or sleep on.

076

What can be more beautiful than nature’s own garden?

082

A walk around the island gives you a chance to fill up with pure sea air as you admire the many species of grasses and flowers. Looks like the tide is out. Hope Eden Lake hasn’t run aground!

 

087

Ruby is ready to go home, all tired out from investigating so many new smells.

095

My carriage awaits me, and home we go.

097

Three Treats

Here is a fabulous deal for anyone with an e-reader. For the next month, until May 15th, just in time for Easter and Mother’s Day, my e-books will be on sale for only $1.00. Do you like reading the kind of book where you come away feeling like you’ve learned something new? I know I do. The setting and background in each of my books are very different from the usual.

1. The Wind Weeps takes place on the West Coast of British Columbia and takes you up the coast from Vancouver Island, to the mainland, and north to the Queen Charlotte Islands and back. But it’s not a travel book. The characters live and work on the coast and this is where their story evolves. While I have you in the grip of romantic suspense, you will inadvertently be finding out about life on the coast, at times, on a fish boat and at times in a remote cabin. Ah … a romantic remote cabin. How wonderful! But only if you’re with the right person. For $1.00 you can can enjoy chewing your nails to find out what happens next.

The Wind Weeps

2. If you’ve ever been to the Mexican state of Baja, you’ll enjoy revisiting the trip as the events in Orion’s Gift unfold in that setting. This one is not a travel book either, but you’ll feel as if you’re right there, with my main characters, Kevin and Sylvia. They each are looking for an escape to the unhappy situations they have left behind. The sparks fly and we think they might have found real love at last, but what they don’t know is that their spurned spouses are hunting them down. Discover Baja, a setting that is like a double-edged sword with its natural beauty and its raw harsh elements. Please take the time to see a recent review of Orion’s Gift at Luanne’s Writer Site. 

Orion's Gift

3. Now for something completely different again, we go to Europe in the days before, during, and after WWII. It is not a war story, but a story of a young woman who lived through it, hoping to find the man of her dreams. Timing and circumstances are rarely in her favour, but her love for her children carries her through harder times than she could ever have imagined. Love triangles always end in heartbreak for someone. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry when you read about Julia, but you’ll end up loving her, too.

Front Cover OnlyYou can buy all three of these books for a grand total of $3.00.

Go to Anneli’s Author Page to see all three books for Kindle.

If you have an e-reader other than Kindle, you can buy the books at smashwords.com. Click on the book you want to buy at the regular price and then type in the coupon code to get the bargain price of 99 cents.

Here are the links and codes for each book:

The Wind Weeps Coupon Code NF43D

Orion’s Gift  Coupon Code UQ49E

Julia’s Violinist Coupon Code JH64Z

Who Goes There?

001The snow hangs onto branches like popcorn balls, but the sun is coming out and the snow must go. But before the serious melting began Sherlock Holmes discovered some interesting evidence at the beach.

??????????It seems that this beach was a very busy place overnight and the snow held onto the evidence long enough for a few photos by Mrs. Holmes.

Small creatures walked across the snow. Some kind of bird investigated the freshly exposed rocks and weeds.

??????????Checking out the seafood smorgasbord was a raccoon.

??????????Someone’s dog had gone for a run along the beach, too.

??????????A deer had gone by but the sun was already melting its print.

??????????But what could have made these large prints? We put a toonie in them to show the size. I measured the toonie, and it is about 1 and 1/8 inch in diameter, so the print had to be at least three inches across and a bit longer than that.

cougar [2] ??????????Any ideas? I have my suspicions, but I wonder if we have any tracking experts out there who might verify them. Seriously, it’s not a joke print that we made up. Could it be a cougar track? They’ve been known to walk along the beach to get out of the deep snow.

The snow will be gone in a jiffy. Two Canada geese flew over on their way to tell their friends that spring is on its way at last.

??????????

More Books Under the Tree

Today I invite you to come for a quick sidetrip to the Baja Peninsula, a state of Mexico, just south of California. We are going along with Shiree, a large woman who likes to throw her weight around, as she heads for the airport in Loreto. She has just nudged her ex-husband, Kevin, off the cliff with her car and is trying to make her escape.

This is where it happened!

armenta (1)

Warning: Shiree is a rough character and uses rough language. I apologize on her behalf for what you are about to read.

Excerpt: 

I was shaking so much I could barely manage to keep the car on the road. I only hoped that turning left at the highway was taking me south, back to Loreto.

“Dumbass Kevin! Such a stupid jerk. What did he have to go and fall off the goddamn cliff for? I mean all he had to do was say ‘Okay, I’ll share the money.’ Greedy bastard.”

I hoped he wasn’t dead. He was a nice enough guy, and I didn’t really want the kids to be without a father—for some reason they still cared about him. But still, why should I care about him anymore? He’d obviously moved on. That skinny stray he was with … God! You’d think he could pick a girl who wasn’t so undernourished. Scrawny bitch. What rock did he turn over to find her? But what did I care anyway? The bimbo was working on him at the bottom of the cliff, so maybe he wasn’t dead.

“Aw, who the hell cares? If he’s dead, I should get all the money. For sure I’ll check it out.”

I had to tighten my grip on the steering wheel. The roads down here were so goddamn twisted. You hardly got around a corner going one way and it started to turn the other way. Couldn’t they bloody well make up their minds when they were building the damn road?

“Oh, shit!” I slammed on the brakes. “What the hell are those? Goats? Goats, crossing the goddamn highway? Jesus, what a place.” They took their sweet time prancing across the road. A few of them decided it was easier to walk along the highway in my lane rather than keep crossing. I leaned on the horn and gave them a nudge with the car bumper. They scrambled down into the ditch.

“About bloody time,” I yelled out the window.

“Krikey! I’m losin’ it. Talking to a goat.” I groped for my purse and dug around in it for my ticket. I nearly went off the stupid winding road trying to read the departure time.

“Aw, crap! Might as well slow down. I’ve missed today’s flight out of here. I’ll have to stay at a hotel in Loreto and catch tomorrow’s flight home.”

*****

Next morning I parked the car and dropped off the keys at the counter. The rental people were nowhere in sight. Just as well. They wouldn’t see the damaged front end till I was gone.

Over at the airlines counter, I dug out my ticket and pushed my way to the front of the line to check in.

“My ticket’s an open return. I want to be on today’s flight.” I showed her my passport. “See? All in order.”

Momento, Señora,” the airline employee said. She picked up the phone and talked in Spanish so fast I doubted the person on the other end of the line could understand her. “Please come this way,” she said. She held up her hand to the next customer in line, telling them to wait. I smirked at them over my shoulder.

She took me to a side room. “Sit down please,” she said. “One moment.” Then she left, and I thought I heard the lock click on the door. I checked it and sure enough it was locked.

“What the hell?” I banged on the door. “You didn’t have to lock it,” I yelled.

It took a little longer than I expected, but at last the door opened. A police escort onto the plane? But a niggling thought wormed its way into my brain. Maybe I wasn’t going to get out of here so easily.

“I have a ticket,” I said. The two uniformed men ignored me. Maybe they didn’t speak English. I waved my ticket in front of their faces. “Ticket? See? I have ticket.”

“Señora. You must come with us. Please turn.” Next thing I knew I had cuffs on.

The nerve of them treating me like that. My throat felt dry and I swallowed hard.

“Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing? I’m a guest here. I have a ticket to go home.” One was already propelling me out the door. The other grabbed my purse from beside the chair. Passengers standing in line turned to gawk at me. I stuck my nose in the air and looked away as I marched past.

Outside the air-conditioned terminal, the midday heat walloped me extra hard. I felt perspiration beading on my forehead. Things were not going according to plan. It couldn’t be about Kevin. Nobody could say I did anything to him. The stupid oaf just fell off the cliff.

The guy who had me by the arm opened the back door of the police car.

I jerked my arm away. “What do you think you’re doing?” I yelled. “I’m not getting in there.” He grabbed my arm again and pulled but I braced myself. Next thing I knew, I had a pain in my ribs and I went flying headlong into the back seat. “Police brutality!” I screeched. Surely there’s someone around who can do something.

The goons drove off. Yelling hadn’t worked, so I changed my tactic and tried to talk nice to them, but they just shook their heads and laughed as they talked to each other.

My body was drenched in sweat and my stomach burned.

***

Orion's GiftOrion’s Gift is available as a paperback or Kindle at all amazon outlets and as an e-book in all formats at smashwords.com.

amazon.com

amazon.co.uk

amazon.de

amazon.fr