Birding, May 17, 2024: Follow the blackbird

Where: Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Boundary Bay Dyke Trail (Delta), Piper Spit, Burnaby Lake (Burnaby)
Weather: Sunny, 12-16°C

The Outing

After The Burning™ of last week, I made sure to cover myself all over with sunblock and reapplied it midday. As it turned out, it was also so windy (14-20 km/h with gusts up to 35 km/h) that I ended up wearing a long-sleeved shirt, so most of my body was covered, anyway. My legs did not burn again.

We started out with our old standby of Reifel and this time we saw a few black-capped chickadees come out from hiding. Yay. Weirdly, though it was a Friday, there were many kids around. They were relatively well-behaved, but I’m assuming the schools must have closed early for the Victoria Day weekend, or home-schooling has suddenly gotten very popular. The geese were also relatively well-behaved, and I have no explanation for that. One approached me with its mouth open, but it wasn’t hissing or being aggressive, I think it just wanted whatever yummy seed I had in my pockets (I had none). It seemed sad at the loss.

We started along the usual east dyke trail and when a family went to bird blind B, we opted to go to bird blind A next door. After we were done (the return of purple martins to the bird boxes in the marsh flats confirmed), Nic wanted to skip bird blind B (see above: children), insisting we would see nothing (to be fair, most of the time we just see the slough and no birds, whales or anything else). But just as I pressed to go back, a blackbird suddenly appeared and landed on a branch directly above us. It screeched chirped insistently at us and was very loud, then flew off in the direction of the bird blind. It was A Sign.

We went to the bird blind and lo, there was a heron perched on a branch just on the other side of the blind. Granted, herons are not exactly uncommon (though this was the only one we saw on the ground), but still, it was something! Thanks, screechy chirping blackbird!

Reifel was otherwise pretty light on both song birds and waterfowl, with many ponds empty or sparsely populated. It gives the mallards more room to roam, though. We spied no Northern shovellers again, though maybe they’re just hiding. A few pintails were lurking, and the massive turtles at the entrance slough were still hanging out on their favourite logs.

We got more shots of marsh wrens. I guess this is the time of year when they just let it all hang out. Such is the way of love and seeking the same.

We next took a trip to the Boundary Bay Dyke Trail, which we haven’t been to for a while. Again, it was very windy, but we did see Savannah sparrows a-plenty–on logs, on fence posts, on the golf course. They never got very close, as is their way, and I had to use manual focus for all of my shots to prevent them from appearing as bird-shaped blobs, but we got some respectable shots. I opted not to shoot a distant robin.

I shot a lot of planes as we passed under the flight path of nearby Boundary Bay Airport. They’re like giant birds, but a lot more predictable. If I could shoot swallows the way I shoot planes, I’d be an award-winning photographer. In my mind, at least.

We rounded off the day at Piper Spit, which was pleasantly unpopulated by people. Here we saw a lifer: a semipalmated plover, which looks similar to a killdeer, but is somehow more adorable. We also saw (and Nic shot) a cliff swallow, which is a darker, non-shiny swallow uncommon to the area. Surprisingly, a lone wigeon and The Last Coot, which I’d thought had already left, were present.

Goslings a-plenty were being shepherded around, but off the main trails. It seems the adults have learned to keep their babbies away from people. And kids.

In all, a fine day of mid-spring birbing, once again being boosted by some unexpected visitors.

The Shots

Soon™

The Birds (and other critters). Rare or rarely-seen birds highlighted in bold.

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Barn swallow
  • Brown-headed cowbird
  • Cliff swallow
  • Marsh wren
  • Northern flicker
  • Purple martin
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Rufous hummingbird
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Tree swallow

Waterfowl and shorebirds:

  • American coot (one!)
  • American wigeon (one!)
  • Blue-winged teal
  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Long-billed dowitcher
  • Mallard
  • Northern pintail
  • Sandhill crane
  • Semipalmated plover
  • Western seagull
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • American crow
  • European starling
  • Rock pigeon

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle

Non-birds:

  • Several squirrels
  • Butterflies!

Time travel: Future or past?

I saw a poll on YouTube (a post, not a video) where the person asked if people would want to visit the past or future. The future was winning by a small margin. I voted past, and thinking about it now, I think it’s because the past is knowable. It would be a nostalgia trip (depending on how far back I’d go). If I could peek at the future, but not have to worry about some weird monkey’s paw scenario happening, or a Twilight Zone-style twist, then I’d be tempted to change my vote to future. It would probably be depressing, but it would also at least be interesting to see how our world would look in, say, a hundred years. Or even 50 years.

Given the current arc of history, I’m still leaning toward visiting the past, to indulge in a quieter and simpler time (for me).

Walk 110: When the wind blows

View from Cariboo Dam, approximately halfway through the walk

I debated whether to go out today and what to do if I did. Do that 3K run I’ve been putting off? Walk? Walk/run? Hide? Well, maybe not hide.

In the end, I went for a walk/run and discovered we had been in the middle of a very recent windstorm. This was evidenced by:

  • The fact that it was still very windy
  • The trails were littered with leaves, twigs and in some cases, full branches that would leave a mark or two if they clobbered you on the way down

I felt a bit pokey walking to the lake, but picked up the pace on the way back, bringing my overall pace to 8:35/km, which is perfectly cromulent. As mentioned, the wind was very windy, but I didn’t encounter much in the way of flying debris. The wind did factor in my decision to not run at the lake, though. (others were there running, however, and it was probably fine). I did see a bunch of goslings with some parents, which was nice. They are still in their cute stage.

Even better than baby geese, my right ankle did not protest in any way during the running segments today. Yay.

Overall, it was good to get out after skipping yesterday. I am birding tomorrow, so may go out on Saturday for some form of exercise.

Some of the wood-based victims of the wind:

This is actually off the main trail. Probably a good thing!

Stats:

Walk 110
Average pace: 8:35/km

Location: Brunette River trail/Burnaby Lake
Distance: 9.02 km
Time: 1:17:35
Weather: Sun and cloud
Temp: 18°C
Humidity: 61%
Wind: strong, with gusts
BPM: 120
Weight: 169.8 pounds
Devices: Garmin Forerunner 255
Total distance to date: 832.65 km

Are moustaches coming back in style?

I kind of hope not. I’ve seen a few lately and I’m getting strong 70s vibes. This is not something I have been craving, I should note.

Also, I asked Adobe Firefly to give me “A man with a large moustache standing on a sunny sidewalk, holding a cat in his arms, laughing; horizontal orientation” and this is what it produced:

Pros:

  • There is a moustache
  • There is a cat
  • There is a sidewalk
  • It is sunny

Cons:

  • He is not really laughing
  • Is that a large moustache? I say no.
  • There is nothing horizontal about this image. Maybe I should have specified “landscape.”
  • That cat is terrifying
  • The hair is also kind of terrifying

Walk 109: Form over function

View of Brunette River, early in the walk

I was going to do the other part of my 5K today (the 3K part) after not doing it on Friday for reasons, but then slept in (bad), though I had a good sleep (uh, good). In the end I did a good old-fashioned walk-run, with a fair bit of running mixed in, including one full km of uninterrupted running at a pace of 5:30/km.

The only AOC1Area of Concern was my right ankle. Right near the end of that 1 km stretch, it started to twinge again. I stopped running (as planned) and when I tried a bit later, it twinged once more, but then seemed to settle down. I don’t think it’s actually hurt/sprained/broken or anything, but it’s weird and off-putting. I have enough trouble with my knees now, I’d like the ankles to behave. Maybe I need to look up ankle workouts.

As for the experience otherwise, it went well. The weather was mild, with a light breeze and a mix of sun and cloud. Humidity was high enough to avoid DMS2Dry Mouth Syndrome, always a nice bonus.

The title of the post is not in reference to me, as I try to keep my form functional when running. There was a guy who ran past me, though, who had a unique running style. He was also wearing a polo-style shirt, which is super rare for running (it’s 99.9% t-shirts and the other 0.1% is shirtless). Usually when you run, you pump your arms up and down. It kind of happens automatically. Some pump fast, some pump slow, some pump with gusto, some pump in a more minimalist manner. I am pretty average here. The main thing that is common to all runners is the motion is vertical.

This guy was doing it horizontally. He almost but not quite looked like he was flailing his arms. It did not seem very aerodynamic. He ran past me to the end of the river trail and circled back, so I hastily grabbed a photo as he went by, to see if I could capture the arm motion. I was partly successful:

Anyway, despite the late start, it was nice to get out and move my body.

View to left of the turtle nesting area, approximately halfway through the walk/run.

Stats:

Walk 109
Average pace: 7:58/km

Location: Brunette River trail/Burnaby Lake
Distance: 10.02 km
Time: 1:11:53
Weather: Sun and cloud
Temp: 17°C
Humidity: 63%
Wind: light
BPM: 130
Weight: 170.7 pounds
Devices: Garmin Forerunner 255
Total distance to date: 823.63 km

18 again

Not to be confused with Eurythmics’ 17 Again.

There is a science fiction time travel trope/plot (yes, it’s Time Travel Week on my blog) that goes something like this:

The protagonist is sent back in time, put back in the body of their younger self, but while retaining the memories of their present-day self. Shenanigans follow.

I’ve played with a variation of this for a novel or short story where a middle-aged dude (someone probably 50+) gets sent back to the day of their 18th birthday, waking up in their 18-year-old body and then deciding on what to do to change/preserve the future. The hook would have been something like they know they have an incurable disease or some such and have a second chance to try to change the inevitable course of their demise. Something light and fun like that.

I never did write the story, but it’s been rattling around long enough that I wondered how I would handle such a scenario. This would be too personal for a blog entry, but I can give some broad strokes and raise inevitable questions about the whole thing.

Being put back into my 18-year-old body would mean waking up on the morning of September 19, 1982. I’d be in my bedroom in the family home in Duncan, City of Totems®. At this time, my main activity would be attending Malaspina College in Nanaimo in the theatre program. I did share a small apartment with a classmate there, but came back to Duncan for the weekends, because Duncan was still my home and Nanaimo would never be.

The first thought, once I’d checked out my amazing 18-year-old body (it was not that amazing, really, but it was pretty flexible), would be: Once I get out of this bed, anything I say or do or not say or do could drastically affect the rest of my new, second life. I would be a living version of the butterfly effect. That would stress me out for a bit. Maybe a long bit. I have no idea how well people compartmentalize profound, world-changing thoughts like these.

And while all of my present-day memories would be fully intact, I can tell you I remember not a single thing I said, did or thought on my 18th birthday, so I’d have to get good at acting like I totally knew what everyone was talking about really fast. But what would I actually do, once I settled in? What would be my short term plans? Long term plans? Would I just go with the flow and not plan anything different at all? Would I draw elaborate diagrams trying to plot out cause and effect? “If I do X, I will probably never meet Y”, things like that. It’s hard to say without actually magically going back into my 18-year-old body, so my best guesses would be something like these:

In the short term, I’d eat healthier, get more attractive glasses, a haircut, and start jogging regularly (the regular jogging didn’t start until I was in my mid-40s). This would make me look better, feel better and make me more confident. This could potentially change a lot, so it gets really fuzzy after this. I’d finish that first year of college out of a sense of obligation, but knowing I didn’t finish the second year, I’d have to decide whether to preemptively skip the second year or commit to it and see what happens. I’m not sure which I’d do, but lean toward acting preemptively and skipping the second year right away. But then what? Move to Vancouver in 1983 instead of 1986? Maybe!

On a more mercenary level, how could I use my advanced 2024 knowledge to benefit myself in 1982? There are obvious things, like buy Apple and Microsoft stock. I could solve all of my money issues with just a few wise early investments. That would also change a lot.

As for other people, the big one would probably be my dad. He smoked like the proverbial chimney, and it literally cost him his life, via a massive and fatal heart attack in 1991, at age 58. That untimely end would come nine years after I return to my 18-year-old body. Would I be able to convince him to stop smoking before it was too late? I don’t know, but it would probably add a level of anxiety and dread that would undercut everything else, like having a quietly ticking bomb in the background and knowing exactly when it’s going to go off.

Speaking of, at my 10th high school reunion in 1992, I asked an old friend and classmate how his younger brother (who would have been 24 or so at the time) was doing, only to find out he’d died from a brain aneurysm in January of that year. Awkward and depressing. But with this foreknowledge, could I have saved the younger brother by letting him know what was to come? Not to mention, how do you even convince someone of something like this without coming across as a total lunatic? Establish a pattern of correctly predicting the future to prove you’re the real time-travelling deal? Probably. And because I couldn’t bring any fancy 2024 tech back with me, I’d have to rely 100% on my memory. What if I misremembered a “prediction” and got some aspect of it wrong, damaging my credibility? Complications!

In a way, it wouldn’t feel exactly like reliving my past because all of my actions would be constantly altering bits of my previously known future, making them less known and different. That could be liberating, in a sense (a clean slate), but also terrifying. What if something significant didn’t happen, as I’d expected it to? What if it became clear that things were heading in a new and unknown direction, and I clearly had no control over any of it? Would I want to relive all those years (40+) again without being able to mentally prepare for what comes next? If everything comes down to generally unknowable fate, I could end up with a worse life instead of a better one, but it would be even worse than that, because I’d know about the better life I did have, then lost. There’s a classic Twilight Zone twist. All it needs is Rod Serling to come out and pontificate on what a sap I was to leave my known life on the gamble of something better. Be happy with all you have, etc. (Serling died of lung cancer because he, too, smoked like a chimney.)

Still, I’d at least be rich from all that Apple and Microsoft stock. And this time I’d keep my Amiga. And I’d dress at least a little better.

Birding, May 11, 2024: It burns

Where: Tsawwassen Beach Trail (Tsawwassen), Iona Beach (Richmond), Tlahutum Regional Park (Coquitlam), Piper Spit, Burnaby Lake (Burnaby)
Weather: Sunny, 15-25°C

The Outing

Today was kind of a weird birding day, with maybe the greatest number of steps to the smallest number of birds seen. Part of that is due to migrants having left for the warmer months, but we also didn’t see a number of the usual birbs, like black-capped chickadees. Also, the last coot at Piper spit has apparently finally joined its brethren to make more freaky-footed offspring elsewhere.

I logged just over 30,000 steps and despite putting on sunblock (twice!), still managed to get a bit burned in a few spots. Not too bad, really, and the second application was too late to help (I kind of knew this as I put it on, but put it on, anyway). As you might suspect, it was sunny and quite warm, rising to at least 25C by mid-afternoon. We started out at Tsawwassen Beach Trail, or more accurately, the gargantuan Tsawwassen Mills mall, where we parked. We walked to the beach trail from there (only a few blocks) and covered probably around 11 km there alone, looking for shorebirds or any birds. And we did see some, including killdeer, some gulls, barn swallows and some smaller shorebirds that were too far off to positively ID (I did not get shots). And that was the main issue I had with Tsawwassen–we didn’t see much, and what we did see tended to be well off the shore (the tide was extremely low). Nic did get multiple chances to shoot Savannah sparrows, but they regularly foiled him by having their backs turned, or the lighting was bad and whatnot. Also, the kelp was really stinky.

I got some good shots of tires, though. And also some nice pics of a couple of cute marmots and a juvenile heron who wasn’t fully-developed yet, but already had perfect stabbyface eyes. And I would be remiss to not mention a trio of female buffleheads in a pond that apparently decided migrating isn’t for them. They were diving and swimming and having a good ol’ time without any pesky men ducks around.

We next went to Iona Beach, hoping to find a yellow-headed blackbird that has been seen in the area. We did not see it. We did see more swallows and regular blackbirds, but again, not much in the way of shorebirds. The tide was so low that the first cut in the north jetty (so the fishies can swim through) was passable by just walking across it. The most abundant creature was probably crabs and, well, they were all dismembered and dead.

Undaunted, we moved on to Tlahutum and its community gardens. We were teased by one crow, who almost let us shoot it up close, then flew off, probably doing the crow equivalent of a Nelson “Ha ha1”, but other than that it was mostly swallows again. I’m not complaining. Swallows are pretty and fabulous, but a little more variety would have been nice. We only went as far as the bridge over the Coquitlam River, as by this time we had walked about 5,000 km.

We made our last stop at Piper Spit and got a nice treat there–a Wilson’s pharalope, which could have been a bit closer, but gave us plenty of time to capture it on virtual film as it waded through the shallows, often with a smaller shorebird in tow (a least sandpiper, apparently). We’re outside the pharalope’s breeding range, so they are considered rare here. Neat! There was also goose drama, of course, but even fewer bird species than the last time. The remaining coot decided to scoot, I didn’t see any Northern pintails, even though they allegedly don’t migrate, but the one Sandhill crane was still hanging around. And several geese families had their new broods in a fenced off area adjacent to the park, which is a pretty smart way to keep the goslings clear of twerpy little kids (and adults).

In all, it wasn’t a bad day of birding, but the variety and quality of my shots were both a bit lacking. At least I know the extra spots to apply sunblock for next time.

The Shots

Soon™

The Birds (and other critters). Rare or rarely-seen birds highlighted in bold.

Sparrows and sparrow-adjacent:

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Anna’s hummingbird
  • Barn swallow
  • Brown-headed cowbird
  • Golden-crowned sparrow
  • Marsh wren
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • Savannah sparrow
  • Song sparrow
  • Spotted towhee
  • Tree swallow

Waterfowl and shorebirds:

  • Bufflehead duck
  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Killdeer
  • Least sandpiper
  • Mallard
  • Sandhill crane
  • Wilson’s pharalope
  • Western seagull
  • Wood duck

Common:

  • American crow
  • Rock pigeon

Raptors:

  • Bald eagle

Non-birds:

  • Several squirrels
  • Two marmots or one teleporting marmot
  • Butterflies!
  • A fat bumblebee
  • Those weird beetles again at Iona Beach
  • Tires (more than you’d think)

Is it weird to want to time travel back to 1977?

In 1977, I was 13 years old. Now, I don’t want to be 13 again, particularly. In fact, for this bit of time travel, I’d want to time travel back while in my 23-year-old body. Hey, if it’s my time travel fantasy, I get to make the rules. And the rules are simple:

  • Travel back to a specific year
  • Be whatever I’d consider the optimal age for when I arrive

Why would I want to be 23 in 1977? To better appreciate the peak of disco? Well…sort of. Let me explain.

I went down one of those inevitable YouTube rabbit holes and ended up watching an Andy Gibb video of him performing his song “I Just Want to Be Your Everything”, which was a huge hit in 1977 (I remember it well, the song was constantly on the radio. Kids, ask your parents what a radio is). This was a live performance from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and is actually pretty good. The fashions are, of course, extremely 70s and Gibb has that beautifully feathered mane that was the style at the time. Band members unironically wear suspenders. There are two keyboard players, one on each side of the stage, both also doing backup vocals. The one on the left is wearing very 70s shades, but the one on the right is wearing a red flannel shirt, which looks positively anachronistic. He also has that medium-length but big mound of hair (helmet hair?) that covered the ears. While this was also very 70s, it doesn’t look as dated to me. That, combined with his clothing choices, make him look a bit timeless.

And also adorable.

And that is why I’d like to be 23 in 1977. To admire his…keyboard playing. Without feeling like a dirty old man.

To answer the question in the title: Yes, it is weird. I am weird.

Here is the video (complete with incorrect, Enrgrish-style title):

Here is the keyboard player, caught from the 240p or whatever it was video. Apropos of nothing, I always liked the style of microphone shown in the still below. Very 70s, yes, but not in a bad way. It’s stylin’.

The hair also formed a protective layer for the skull.

Walk 108: Now with more walking

View from Cariboo Dam, slightly different angle to avoid sun glare

Today I whimsically (?) decided to walk 10K instead of 8K. Why? I don’t know! But I did walk, without any real running, because I ran yesterday and I’m running tomorrow and I don’t want to scare my knees.

Instead, I walked at a gradually increasing pace to the lake, then went around the Spruce and Conifer Loops before heading back.

The biggest changes:

  • Slower pace of 9:05/km (no running, as mentioned)
  • It was 25C! It didn’t feel overly warm or anything, thanks to a strong breeze.
  • 10 km! So far, this has not had any noticeable side effects.

I wore sunblock for the first time this year, but it’s Hawaiian Tropic, and it has this weird fruity smell I don’t really like, so I may have to go back to Banana Boat. We’ll see.

I am over 20,000 steps on the day as of 5:31 p.m. I think I’ll take it easy now.

The lake trail, with even the tall grass mostly green already. (There’s a lake, trust me.)

Stats:

Walk 108
Average pace: 9:05/km

Location: Brunette River trail/Burnaby Lake
Distance: 10.02 km
Time: 1:31:01
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 25°C
Humidity: 40%
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 114
Weight: 170.4 pounds
Devices: Garmin Forerunner 255
Total distance to date: 813.61 km