Tag Archives: Comox

Water on Three Sides

What are you looking at here? Let me help you get your bearings.

The hills in the distance, and beyond them the mountains you can’t see because of the low cloud cover, are on the mainland of British Columbia, just north of Vancouver. I am standing on Vancouver Island. You can deduce from that, that the city of Vancouver is not on Vancouver Island. In this photo we are looking to the east.

I’ve climbed up a hill a little way and am now looking to the south. You can see a spit of land that reaches out from the land’s end. The spit has been formed by a gazillion years of wave action swishing the sand along and dropping it to form a giant finger of sand. All the land you can see in this photo, including the mountains, is on Vancouver Island.

Looking to the west, you can see the sheltered water on the inside of the spit, and the harbour of Comox in the distance. Those toothpicks sticking up are the masts and trolling poles of fishing boats and sailboats in the marina. The two boats at anchor in the foreground are getting free moorage.

A few weeks ago, the Captain and I went for a walk that took us to the inside of the sheltered bay. You can see part of the spit in the distance on the far right horizon.

On the way to the trail we noticed the run-off from the excessive amount of rain we’d had. This is not a year-round creek, but a temporary run-off creek. I feel sorry for the large tree that has its feet in water, day and night. It may soon go the way of the broken off tree trunk in the photo below this one.

It may be broken off, but this tree is still serving a useful purpose. It is making many birds happy. Nuthatches and woodpeckers will make holes in the trees to nest in,  and the bugs they find in the trunk help give them strength to continue their work and to feed their babies.

Farther along, we came to the boardwalk. I love this scene. You see the run-off creek completing the water cycle as it brings the rainwater back to the sea. It’s great to have the boardwalk and not have to wade through the creek.

The trees along the water are mostly deciduous types. They are probably cottonwoods and a few poplar or alder types mixed in. My guess is they are cottonwoods because those grow taller than the others, and these are a good size.

Even in the cool weather, you can have a great day going for a walk around your neighbourhood.

Creeping Fog

I had to think of Carl Sandburg when the fog came creeping into the Comox estuary a couple of days ago.

FOG

THE fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

First it came padding in from the ocean and filled the bay.

002

Then it reached out little wisps to test how far it wanted to continue.

003

Fortunately, like Sandburg’s cat, it didn’t stay too long.

The Estuary

Between  Comox and Courtenay, the road runs along the estuary. I always see at least one interesting thing when I pass by there.  It is a place where many species thrive, and a refuge for them when the weather is extreme. 124

From Comox Bay, boats sometimes (not often) come partway up the river. In old times they might have been going to the ways to be hauled out, or they might be going to the small government wharf in Courtenay. The Town of Comox has the much bigger facility, with easier access from the Strait of Georgia. Markers and pilings in the river mouth help to guide boats along the deeper river channels. Many a boat has run aground here, for lack of better navigation aids.

123

Birdlife is everywhere. Here are two kinds of ducks.  I’m ashamed to admit that a long time ago, I thought all ducks were brown and their ducklings were always yellow.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Duck plumage is as varied as that of other bird species.

Drake mallards are immediately identified by their green heads, but look more closely and you’ll see other markers. Yellow bills, chestnut breast feathers, a hint of a white collar on the neck, beige sides, darker brown on top, dark blue wing speculum outlined by white bars. Flashy little devils, aren’t they? Their wives are dull for camouflaged safety when nesting, but in spite of the boring mottled brown, they do have the same dark blue wing speculum bordered in white. Oh, and notice the bright orange of the feet. Both male and female have these cool boots.

Beyond the mallards a flock of widgeons are milling around. Again, the drakes are the flashy ones with their white head stripe and black and white rump feathers. A slash of white under the wing takes the boredom out of the brown body colour. The hen widgeons, again, are dull, dull, dull. And in this case, neither drakes nor hens have those cool booties like the mallards have. The widgeon boots are a more modest greeny-gray.

I find it interesting that the two kinds of ducks are together here and yet they are keeping to their own groupings by species.

Most likely they are here in the estuary because there is snow on the fields just now. Usually, the widgeons visit grain fields where they are like lawnmowers when a group of them get together, nipping the tops of the grass. A new planting of grain can be devastated by a huge flock of widgeon grazing for a few hours.

The mallards, on the other hand, will forage for other things. They don’t mind eating rotten potatoes left in the field, or kernels of corn left behind. If they are hungry enough, you might see mallards snacking on a rotten salmon on the shore, something that is beneath the dignity of the widgeon.116

But see (below) who has moved in from the frozen fields and the mist of the last blog post. The Canada geese!

And if you look closely, in the distance, you’ll see another visitor, sitting on a branch on the island in the estuary (maybe click to enlarge the photo). He’s watching for anything edible, be it fish or fowl. The bald eagle seems to sit a lot, but his “eagle eye” is watching for any sick or crippled ducks that would be easy pickings. Barring that, there may be a careless fish in the shallows. You never know what might wash up. Just now it is a hard time for eagles. The spawned out salmon  are almost gone and it is a bit early for the herring to show up. But they are always on the lookout for an easy meal.

128

The estuary is full of life.You never know what you’ll see but there is always something of interest.