Tag Archives: wharf

Tide Out, Fish In

At first glance you might think it’s a sandy beach, but your nostrils will tell you that iodine  breeze holds the smell of low tide.  That sand would be very soft to walk on and I wouldn’t advise it. When the tide comes in, all that “sand” will be under water. Meanwhile, there’s no telling how far you would sink into that sea bottom.

This is the east side of the causeway that divides the wharves where fish boats can tie up. It is what they call the new side, more recently dredged to provide more moorage and shelter for local boats.

The older side is more crowded because “the old salts” tie up there. It is busy with fishermen getting their boats ready for a summer of salmon and halibut fishing, often far enough from home that the men and their boats may be gone for many weeks.

You can see the roof and the rigging of the Captain’s boat on the bottom right-hand side of the photo below.

The new side is also busy, but is more convenient for boats that come and go more frequently.

Those who have fish for sale will want to moor on the new side. It is handier for the public to visit for dockside sales of whatever is in season. It might be prawns, shrimp, salmon, halibut  or other. Today it is halibut. The customers lined up on the dock know that they have to buy the whole fish. The price is high, but they gladly part with well over $100 for a small halibut. These flat fish have a delicate white meat which, though highly priced, is also highly prized. If you could see what the fishermen have to risk and endure to catch and bring these fish to harbour, you would say the price is a bargain for the customer.

As you can see, there is no shortage of people wanting fish for their supper.

I have removed the name and number of the boat to allow some anonymity for the boat owner.

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.

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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.

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

 

Walking Off Calories

After the usual overindulgence at Christmas, a walk was in order. Not too far from my house is a great place to stretch your legs. There’s a spit of land that reaches out into the part of the ocean that is between the mainland of BC and Vancouver Island. If you look towards the inland side of the spit, you’ll see the wharf at the Town of Comox.001

Looking back from the spit you can see where it is connected to the main part of the island. The left side of the photo below shows the mainland of British Columbia in the distance and the more open water that has washed countless logs and tree roots up onto the sandy spit. A breakwater of sorts has been built with short logs to make a fence, in the hope of keeping high surf from washing debris across the road that goes along the spit (beside the hydro poles). No surf today though.

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Looking towards Comox again, the chill of the newly fallen snow brings a breeze that stings reddened ears. The sleeping prince and princess of the Comox Glacier are on this photo, but hidden behind a swath of clouds.

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Doesn’t that water look chilly? That’s because it IS.

New Stomping Grounds

032After two weeks of packing boxes and unpacking them again at my sister-in-law’s new place, we took a break to explore her “new stomping grounds.” The trail leading to the beach was a good two-mile walk through ungroomed forest (my favourite kind). This area, near Lacey, just north of Olympia, Washington, gets a LOT of rain in the winter and spring, as you can see by the moss on the trees.

The Hawks Prairie Trail is named after one of the local pioneers (pictured at the bottom of the information sign) and the area around it is preserved in as natural a state as possible.

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Ivy is finding a lot of traces of scents left behind by other visitors.

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The first glimpses of the ocean tugged at me as I hadn’t seen my beloved seashore for a couple of weeks.

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I could see the old wharf that, apparently, was once a busy loading and unloading place.

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Now to get down to it….  An iron structure had been built to make it easier to descend to beach level.

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I was impressed, but Ivy was not. She stopped in her tracks and would not budge.

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Then I saw why. The gaps in the stairs were too big for her tiny feet.

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Luckily, Ivy is tiny enough that she’s easily picked up, so she wasn’t deprived of her romp on the beach.

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