Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – Eagles active at Coracle Cove

Our resident family of eagles have been extremely active lately. While their nest is hidden  in the forest, as the day begins to lighten they return to their regular perches along our shoreline to watch for breakfast opportunities, and eagerly call back and forth  to each other.

an eagle visits coracle Cove

Occasionally one of the family will perch in our big fir tree and give us a great close up. It’s a magical moment for our guests and a reminder to always have your camera ready.

Bandit

“Bandit” whom I named last year for the band of adolescent brown feathers over his eyes, will now undoubtedly, have a full head of white feathers. His younger brothers and sisters, however, jostle for landing space as they land in the nearby trees. Toward the end of each day, they can often be seen practicing their flight manoeuvres, chasing each other in the sky and calling out with their distinctive high-pitched whistling.

IMG_5785And sometimes, we’ll get another close-up when one of them perches on the railing leading down to our dock… all the better to catch their next meal.

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We often think of eagles as being at the top of the food chain, but only about one in ten actually survive past age three. We’re very lucky as Bandit has several brothers and sisters  Proud Parents

While all this is going on, the parents are never too far away, and should be very proud of their efforts in raising such a large family and beating the odds that Nature so often extracts.

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Walking Tours on the Sunshine Coast – #7 – A tasting tour of Gibsons

Catch our Drift is a new tour company with a novel approach to helping visitors connect with the Sunshine Coast by providing them with unique local experiences. I went along on the Taste of the Landing Tour  the other day, and while I’ve lived here for almost 40 years, I learned quite a bit about my own community and met some pretty interesting people.

smitty's outside plank table

Our first stop was Smitty’s Oyster House where we had a sampling of fresh raw oysters from Gorge Harbour on Vancouver Island. The large plank table that you see in the image above sits just a few feet from the salty brine and we were encouraged to toss our empty oyster shells over the railing to help seed a new oyster bed. The table has an interesting story. When the restaurant first opened, the municipal council of the day were only prepared to allow a single table for outside seating. I guess you can fight City Hall!

taste leos

After following the boardwalk along the shoreline we cut through a beautifully landscaped park and found ourselves at Leo’s Tapas & Grill where a plate of freshly prepared calamari was waiting. Leo’s also hosts a Seafood Festival in January and a Greek Festival in February. I’ll be marking both of these dates on next year’s calendar.

taste mikes

We left Leo’s and walked a few steps down the street to Mike’s Gelato where we were greeted by an impressive array of 64 varieties of gelato. It was tough narrowing my choices down to our allotted three but with a little help from our affable and engaging server I choose the Chocolate Snickers, Radical Rolo and Twisted Sweet & Salty.

taste black bean

We walked a couple of blocks further to the Black Bean Cafe, a coffee shop that uses only organic, fair trade beans, which they roast themselves. I had a caramel macchiato and sampled some strawberry-rhubarb muffin… what a great combination. They do all of their baking on-site and have a very loyal customer base.

taste daffodilly

We crossed over to the other side of the street and were welcomed inside by the owner of Daffadowndilly, which offers an eclectic collection of work by local artists. The building was built in 1928 as apartments for loggers and fishermen and has a colourful history. When we commented on the slanting floor, the owner shared the story that the building had been partially knocked off its foundations by a runaway truck that had careened down the steep hill some years ago.

taste grammas

This is the impressive view from Gramma’s Pub, our next stop, and another business with an interesting story. The pub was the first licenced marine pub in the province, opening over 40 years ago. A family owned business, it was named after the mother who had a penchant for the cool amber fluid.  We were served a glass of Landing Lager, which is the house brew and made by Russell Brewing specifically for Gramma’s.

taste blackberry

The Black Berry Shop was our next stop and as you can see from the image and guess from the name, they offer a lot of blackberry products. We had a sampling of an interesting  blackberry/garlic jam over cream cheese on a cracker and it was delicious.  There was also blackberry chutney, syrup and vinegar as well as some straight up blackberry jam. The store is a cooperative for over 65 local artists and food producers and offers a wide variety of wonderful products.

taste gypsy cove

Gypsy Cove is right next door and we were able to sample some of their food products as well. We started with a refreshing glass of iced tea made from one of their many specialty fruit teas. They offer over 35 different teas for a variety of tastes and needs, including a good selection of “wellness teas” to help with energy, relaxation or jet lag. We also sampled some of their infusion sea salts with some raw veggies – my two favourites were the Spanish Rosemary and the Salish Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt.

What a great day!! I was able to sample some very tasty food products made right here on the Sunshine Coast and I heard lots of interesting stories. All in all it was a very entertaining day and provided me with some unique experiences that helped this long-time resident connect even further with the community.  You can find more information about Catch Our Drift on their website.

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – Spring Birding at Coracle Cove – Part 2

Spring is here and as you can see from this image, we’re having a little trouble keeping our bird feeders filled here at Coracle Cove.

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spotted towhee at feeder

I took this photo from the outside deck off the suite and caught this Spotted Towhee in the act. He’s a bit bigger that most of the others and has a particular preference for these black oil sunflower seeds.

Song Sparrow belting it out

We have a large variety of LBJ’s (little brown jobs) mostly from the Sparrow family. This male Song Sparrow has one of the most beautiful mating songs which they sing upon arrival in the Spring to establish territory and attract a mate.

White-crowned sparrow

I think this White-crowned Sparrow is a particularly handsome chap with his black and white stripes, and he’s a pretty good singer as well.

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This is another of those LBJ’s that are sometimes difficult to identify. It looks like a sparrow but the yellow wing and tail feathers ID it as a Pine Siskin, one of the flock of Siskins in the opening image of this blog.

All of these images were taken just a few feet away from our feeders so be sure you bring your camera when you come to Coracle Cove.

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – Spring Birding at Coracle Cove – Part 1

As a novice birder, I’ve approached this new-found interest with enthusiasm, and one of the great things that I’ve learned about birding is that it has a season. Migratory birds set off from distant points south, and arrive here on a schedule that has been in place for eons. The arrival of the Rufous Hummingbird is a much anticipated event among local birders here on the Sunshine Coast.

Hummingbirds are of course, are extremely hungry after their migration, which could have been up to 9,000 kilometres long. They are naturally attracted to feeders and with two freshly filled feeders installed, I had my first visitor today – did I mention that there is a competitiveness among our local birders to announce the first sighting. It wasn’t me, but I was close.

They’ll stay for most of the summer, providing us with lots of entertaining moments and opportunities for taking pictures like these. It’s one more reason why you should bring your camera when you come to stay at Coracle Cove.

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All that Jazz… and so much more

What do you get when you mix together a hot line-up of cool jazz in an incredible seaside location… why the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, now in its sixteenth year.

Pender Harbour has been called the “Venice of the North” due to its many little communities connected to each other by boat. The Jazz Festival is an annual event for us, but this year we decided to take our boat to fully experience the flavour of this great weekend.

We tied up at Fisherman’s Resort,  just a short 5-minute walk from the Garden Bay Pub which was offering three jazz concerts that afternoon and evening. The sun was shining as we sat out on the expansive deck, overlooking the marina, while  listening to the bluesy jazz vocals of Ruth McGillivray.

Later that evening Doc Fingers took centre stage, together with a stellar cast of partners in crime, who kept the joint jumping well into the wee hours.

We woke up the next morning to bright sunshine, surrounded by water and boats. The water was as flat as the proverbial pane of glass, producing a surreal set of reflections.

It was another short walk, across a little wooden footbridge to LaVerne’s Grill where we had their rather substantial Boater’s Breakfast. Satiated, we wandered back and found front row seats  just as Anagram was setting up for their morning concert.

Back on our boat, we headed across the harbour to Madeira Park for the afternoon Jazzapalooza, four different groups, each offering one-hour sets and ranging from hot Afro-Cuban Jazz to mellow, straight ahead standards.

Here, Company B Jazz Band was on stage entertaining the appreciative audience with their beautifully harmonized renditions of the Andrews sisters and other songs from the 20’s to  40’s.

We made one more crossing, back to the Garden Bay Pub, to soak up the sunshine while listening to yet another fine group of jazz musicians. Wow… what a weekend. We’ll be back on our boat, heading up to the harbour next year for sure.

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Walking holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #6 – Escaping through Smuggler Cove

If you are looking to get away for the weekend or wanting a short side trip from Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast is a beautiful destination and Smuggler Cove, with its pristine beauty and colourful history makes for a great escape.

Shortly after leaving the parking area you’ll reach the first of several wooden walkways that cross over flooded areas and skirt around small ponds. If you’re lucky you might see beavers busily building the dams which have caused this flooding.

The 1.3 km trail winds through a diverse rain forest habitat with several twisting Arbutus reaching above the canopy, and continues with outlooks onto the cove itself, as well as Welcome Passage and Georgia Strait beyond. In the near distance you can see several islands, including North and South Thormanby and Texada.

During the summer months the cove is often full of anchored sailboats and other pleasure craft. You’ll see large boats navigating carefully through the narrow entrance to the cove, hugging the far shoreline to avoid several rocks lying just below the surface.

The cove has a colourful history dating back to the late 1880’s when it was first used to smuggle Chinese labourers into the United States to work on the expanding network of railways. The head tax required to enter the country was prohibitively expensive forcing them to resort to other means.

Later, American Prohibition, spawned a burgeoning industry for many Canadian boat operators, attempting to make ends meet during the Depression. Small, fast boats would load up with illicit liquor from stills on nearby Texada Island, to meet up with their American counterparts in international waters, 12 miles offshore. Each side of the sale would hold a torn dollar bill, to match up as proof of purchase.

Getting There:  Head north from Sechelt along the highway for approximately 10 minutes  and watch for the well-marked sign to Smuggler Cove. Turn left and follow this winding road until you reach a small parking area, where the trail begins.

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Putting the Pedal back into Pedals & Paddles

Pedals & Paddles celebrated their 21st season on the Sunshine Coast with an Open House this weekend at their fabulous new location on Lamb Bay, just 5-minutes away from Coracle Cove. This is a perfect location to put in a kayak with its protected bay and several nearby islets to explore.

Owner, Laurie Reid is delighted with her new location, situated at the base of Mt. Richardson, saying it has allowed her “to put the pedals back into Pedals & Paddles” as the 78 acre site is riddled with a network of old logging roads just waiting to be explored. Her staff are just in the process of finishing a one-hour green level loop for novice riders and in preparation they’ve added mountain bikes to their line of rentals.

Pedals & Paddles offer rentals for kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards and the latter has become an extremely popular water sport on the protected waters of Sechelt Inlet. They also offer a number of guided tours, both in the morning and evening, as well as once a month under a full moon.

The staff is extremely professional offering personal instruction for new comers to the sport. They provide all of the regulated safety equipment and take the extra time to ensure that you are properly prepared before you set off. The protected waters of Sechelt Inlet are appropriate for beginners, yet also enjoyed by experts for its easy access and spectacular scenery.

Imagine going from city to wilderness in just 2 hours. Sechelt Inlet offers abundant opportunities for viewing wildlife on the water, land and in the air. In the short time I was there I saw eagles soaring in the sky and seals bobbing their heads at the water’s surface. A few weeks ago, while in my own boat I saw a black bear at the shoreline and have been hearing recent reports again this year of dolphins frolicking in the water nearby.

Pedals & Paddles is just a five minute drive from Coracle Cove making it a great option for our guests looking for some outdoor adventure, and whether you’re just a newbie wanting to try something new or a seasoned expert, there’s a variety of choices to meet your needs.

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Chasters creates the art of dining… and fine music

It was my birthday this weekend and also the start of a week long jazz festival, two of my favourite activities. It seemed like a good reason to celebrate and Chasters at Bonniebrook Lodge was offering a fabulous combination of dining and music.

We were seated on the patio when we arrived and were able to enjoy the warmth of the late afternoon sun while watching a parade of cruise ships in the distance.  With a glass of cold bubbly in hand we were treated to an assortment of delectable canapes – creamy Stilton on a paper thin wafer, salmon mousse, mussels in a savoury curry and duck over a sweet onion confit.

As if choreographed, the setting sun crept behind the tall trees and it was time to move inside for the rest of our set menu dinner. The menu included a  wine tasting flight and we started with a buttery Chardonnay to accompany our creamy celeriac potato soup. Our glasses were then refilled with a sweeter Pinot Gris, the perfect compliment to our salad course, freshly picked local organic greens with toasted maple pecans, feta and a honey hazelnut dressing.

We both chose the catch of the day for our entree, a perfectly cooked white fish over a soft pillow of potato mash, generously topped with a tomato and olive oil caper dressing. This was served  with a crisp, dry Chablis to moderate the rich olive oil.

While enjoying this wonderful food experience, we were also treated to the wonderful voice of jazz vocalist, Pat Collier and like each of the fine wines, her sweet, sultry voice was a perfect compliment to the evening. With just a simple keyboard to accompany her, she paid tribute to to the legendary ladies of those great jazz standards, singing straight from her heart.

Dessert was a fine finale to this evening of sensory experiences, a rich chocolate mousse offset with a tart berry sorbet served in a crunchy maple cup, and this accompanied with a creamy, espresso liqueur.

Chasters at Bonniebrook Lodge has truly created the art of dining and I would strongly recommend that you check them out for your next celebration.

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Coracle Cove – hot tub offers more than a great view

A recent Trip Advisor review for Coracle Cove was headlined “Best view from a hot tub in BC!”  We’ll let you look at the accompanying picture and you can judge for yourself, but as you read this blog, we hope that you’ll learn that there’s more to a good hot tub than a great view.

We brought our hot tub in by a barge and used a crane to set it up on our waterside deck, just a few feet from the briny ocean.  There is an incredible view throughout the day and well into the night – a variety of work boats, sail boats, motor boats and kayaks pass by during the day; the water changes from flat calm in the early morning to gentle ripples as the first sun strikes the water; lights from the distant shore twinkle across the water as the evening sky darkens.

We know that our hot tub is an important part of the Coracle Cove experience and we take extra steps to ensure that the water is professionally managed to ensure that it is a completely pleasant experience.

Typically, hot tubs are treated with a mix of harsh chemicals which can irritate sensitive skin. Instead, we use Spa Solution, an enzyme based spa conditioner which is an environmentally friendly, non-toxic, non-allergenic compound . An ozonator is used to naturally oxidize any contaminants. Each week, we take a water sample into Watermaster  where it is computer analyzed to ensure that it is sanitary and properly balanced.

We want our guests to have a completely enjoyable experience at Coracle Cove and we understand that a hot tub should offer much more than a great view.

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Sechelt Market – new location, great ambience

The Sechelt Market re-opened last weekend and I wanted to check out their new location.  They’ve moved to a quiet little area of downtown with lots of nearby parking. Both ends of the street are blocked off,  adding to a great ambience that just lends itself to a leisurely Saturday morning stroll to check out the products offered by over 80 vendors.

The Market is a great place to find fresh, locally grown food products as well as some of the work of our large population of local Artists. Jon Bell, shown below was one of the leaders  who worked to facilitate the new location.  In addition to keeping me supplied with rhubarb and arugula, he makes a fantastic slow-cooked Highland Marmalade and if you ask nicely, he’ll tell you the secret ingredient in his recipe.

Many of the food vendors have jams and preserves for sale and I was most interested in a little jar of wild nettle pesto offered next door to Jon. Further down the line, local beekeeper Martin Cook had a variety of honeys for sale .

Next door to the beekeeper I found this wonderful collection of aromatic hand made soaps and lotions… mmm, I wonder whose birthday is coming up?

… and if you’re in the need for a new coffee cup for that early morning java fix there are several talented potters to choose from. I love the warm natural colours.

© Getty Images

 There are also three or four very talented photographers at the Market and one of my favourites is Peggy Collins. I get a lot of inspiration from Peggy’s work and always make a point of stopping to talk with her. Peggy has just produced her first e-book and has it listed on Amazon.  Her macro image of the fern below is a promising reminder that we’re approaching fiddle head fern season… now what did I do with that recipe??

© Getty Images

The Sechelt Market is always an enjoyable and relaxing Saturday morning activity, as well as a place to pick up a special food item which can often inspire an entire menu for an evening dinner. Check out this recent blog for such a dinner.

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