Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – The Birding signs of Spring on the Sunshine Coast

We’re hearing lots of old familiar sounds these days, more signs that the winter season is giving way to Spring. This Song Sparrow is one of the earliest singers and also one of my favourites. He has a beautiful song, with several bright notes followed by a sequence of warbles and trills . Listen to this recording – you may recognize it as one you’ve been hearing recently.

In nearby Sargeant Bay, the red-wing Blackbirds have been singing for a month. It is the males who sing in the birding world,  to both announce territory and attract their mate. The blackbird not only has a distinctive song but also flashes its brightly coloured shoulder markings while issuing its territorial call.  Red-wing Blackbirds can be found in marshy areas and often perched upon the furry seed heads of long cattails.

The Woodpecker family doesn’t sing but that doesn’t stop the males from drawing attention to themselves as they seek their mating partner. Instead, they drum upon trees and snags in the early Spring to announce their presence.

The most obvious is the drumming of the Northern Flicker with its impressive red slash across its cheeks. This common species inhabits our gardens and has discovered that drumming on chimneys and metal flashing produces a louder sound.

While homeowners ofter worry that these birds are drilling into the wood of their houses, this is not the case, but rather an ageless courting ritual that does no damage.  One way to get a closer view of these colourful and interesting birds is to hang a feeder filled with a suet mixture, as we’ve done here. Be sure to have your camera ready.

Special thanks to Tony Greenfield for the inspiration behind this blog and the opportunity to share some of my birding images (click on images for a larger view.) Tony has been birding on the Sunshine Coast for over 30 years and leads birding groups on the first Sunday of each month. Contact us for more details.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #4 – Homesite Creek Waterfalls

My B&B guests hiked into the waterfalls at Homesite Creek this past weekend and gave it a definite two thumbs up.  So the next day we set off with our backpack loaded with camera and a picnic lunch to check it out.

Homesite Creek is located north of Sechelt in Halfmoon Bay. Follow Highway 101 about 3km past the north end of Redroffs Road and watch for the small sign on the left of the highway. Take the trail to the left and follow the small arrows. You’ll  reach the falls in about 20 minutes.

The hike is best in the late Winter/early Spring when there’s lots of water flowing in the creek, and there was a pretty strong flow when we were there.  We could feel a definite force of air when we were down beside the falls, and it was a bit of a challenge creating these images without too much mist fogging up my lens.

We followed an easy trail up to the top of the falls where I was able to compose this third image using a very slow shutter speed to exaggerate the movement of the water. This was also a  good place for us to stop for our picnic lunch. We could enjoy the both the sight and sounds of the moving water as well as the verdant green of the moss-draped cedars in the mist-filled air above the falls.

This was another great hike and met all of the criteria to be included in the Sunshine Coast Walking Holidays Collection – it’s just a short drive away; it can be done in under an hour; and you’ll enjoy some magnificent scenery. Follow this link to read about some of our suggested walking experiences.

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Falling for the Sunshine Coast – Part 2

There is a peacefulness about the Fall season. Maybe it just feels that way after a busy summer, but there are also some definite physical changes underway and I find it very relaxing.

I took this picture a few years ago on a first day of Fall, September 22nd. It’s mid-day, the water is a flat relective surface, and mirrors the white clouds floating above.

This picture was taken just a few days later, the early morning mist wrapping everything in a protective cocoon. The water is still,  with a few ripples from a passing boat.

The protective mist extends deep into the forest, releasing moisture laden droplets on everything, both large and small.

To see more of my images of the Fall season at CoracleCove, visit my website www.coraclecove.com where I’ve produced a short video of some of my other favourites … enjoy!!

 

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #3 – Foraging for Wild Mushrooms

It’s mushroom season on the Sunshine Coast. The few days of rain we had last week  have coaxed these delicacies of Nature to make their annual appearance. If you’re patient, and know what to look for, and where to look you will be rewarded. We found a small patch of these Coral Mushrooms with the help of Tyler Grey, owner of Mikuni Wild Harvest, who grew up on the Sunshine Coast.

We were in pretty good hands. Tyler has been foraging for wild mushrooms for most of his life, a passion that was handed down to him by his mother. That’s him on the right with my youngest son, Colin and they’ve just found a patch of Hogshead Mushrooms – a healthy handful that we enjoyed later that day in a savoury wild mushroom pasta, cooked with some garlic that I’d been drying in my cellar, and olive oil. That was all we needed – talk about letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

The ultimate find for the day, however, were the covetted Chantrelles (pictured below) and we were rewarded a number of times for our patience.

Mushroom Foraging is a popular Autumn activity on the Sunshine Coast and it seems that everyone has their own secret place or two.

The Second Annual Sunshine Coast Mushroom Festival takes place this weekend in Pender Harbour. Several workshops on identifying mushrooms are offered and most of the local restaurants will be featuring wild mushrooms on their menus. If you’d like to get some expert advice on identification this is a great opportunity. Of course any opportunity to escape from the big city to visit the Sunshine Coast is always worth considering.  Happy hunting!!

 

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #2 – Birding at Sechelt Marsh

Sechelt Marsh has a winding trail around a small pond with a smaller island in the middle. The pond is fed by both fresh and tidal water, offering a rich habitat, and an abundance of ducks, mostly Mallards and other common species is usually present. The island offers a level of protection to new arrivals, and many rarer ducks have appeared including Canvasback, both the Redhead & Tufted Duck,and Blue-winged & Cinnamon Teal. Green Heron and Gray Catbird have also occurred.

The winding loop passes through trees and bushes surrounding the Marsh and can be good for a wide variety of passerines at any season. Recently, this has been the most reliable location for Black-capped Chickadees which are presently colonizing the Sunshine Coast. A White-throated Sparrow was seen several times this past winter (2011) Porpoise Bay, which is adjacent contains many species of waterbirds in winter, and the mud flat at the head of the bay is good, at low tide, for shorebirds in the summer and fall.

I always enjoy making several loops around the Marsh, both for the exercise as well as the opportunity to see something I may have missed.

Sechelt Marsh is located just north of the town centre at Porpoise Bay. More information about birding on the Sunshine Coast can be found at http://www.sunshinecoastnature.com/

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #1 – Sargeant Bay

It’s birding season and when the skies cleared yesterday afternoon, I set out with my camera and tripod in hopes of capturing some of our recently arrived visitors. Unfortunately the wind was conspiring against this, and I was a bit early in the season, but who cares, it was a good excuse to spend some time in one of my favourite places.

If you’re looking for a place where you can enjoy a walk in solitude, Sargeant Bay is pretty well guaranteed. It has been a favourite of mine for a long time.  A perfect horseshoe-shaped bay with piles of driftwood stacked haphazardly along the pebble beach… and more often than not, I’ve had the whole area completely to myself.

Sargeant Bay was established as a provincial park in 1990 after a decade-long, heated struggle by local residents to prevent an outside investor from developing it. The plan was to  subdivide the property into 145 lots, dredge out the bay and build a large marina. A prime example of paving paradise to put up a parking lot and local Sunshine Coast resident Joni Mitchell would have been proud of the efforts to prevent this from happening .

The park can be reached by following the main highway from Sechelt for about 5-minutes, turning off at Redroofs Road, and following this for another 3-4 minutes. There are two parks actually. The upland section is an extensive network of well-planned connecting trails. The lowland section has a trail along a raised berm with the curving pebble beach on one side and marshy wetland on the other.   The combination of boreal forest, saltwater and wetland provides a rich habitat for birds with 157 species identified in the park

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Falling for the Sunshine Coast – Part 1

When I was working, the Fall season always seemed like a glass half empty.  But, now that I get to play all year round, I have time to appreciate its true beauty. I find myself looking forward to its approach, knowing of the opportunities to  capture its many colours…  like these golden leaves floating with some kelp in the bright, low lying sun.

But it’s not just the changing colours of the leaves. The sunsets (and sunrises) during the Fall season are a much celebrated event. I won’t try to explain why this happens; it’s just the magic of the season. As each day draws to a close, there is an eager anticipation, watching the sun tuck behind the hills to the west and waiting for the colours to emerge.

I captured the image above  on a Halloween evening, two years ago, and then just a couple of days ago, this image of the same hillside presented itself.  I’ve been using the camera on  my iPhone quite a bit lately and used the HDR function to take the picture.  I’m quite pleased with the result. The two pictures of the same scene seem like mirror images, with the vividly coloured clouds like brackets on each side of the hills. I’m not sure which I prefer – which do you like?

To see more of these images of the Fall season at CoracleCove, visit my website www.coraclecove.com where you can see a short video of some of my other favourites … enjoy!!

 

 

 

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Jazz on the Sunshine Coast

We get to listen to a lot of good music on the Sunshine Coast and the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival is one of my favourite events. Mix great jazz of all styles with very, very small venues and you have the phenomenon that is the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival. And how about those venues… waterside restaurants and pubs – it just doesn’t get any better.

Pender Harbour is a collection of small, friendly communities joined by a highway but more connected by water. Its days go back as a fishing community and it was much easier to get around by boat. The nautical influence continues, like this mural on the side of the community hall which hosted  yesterday’s event – a series of four one-hour performances ranging from a tight sextet playing old gold jazz to my favourite, Van Django’s punchy gypsy jazz.

Van Django is influenced heavily by the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt who played at the Hot Club in France during the 1930’s. Here they are tying it all together with a last minute rehearsal just before going on stage. It was an extra bonus for me to sit and listen in this casual setting.

This was the fifteenth annual Jazz Festival hosted by Pender Harbour and it’s easy to understand why it has become an annual destination event for a crowd of jazz lovers from across the Pacific Northwest. Mark your calendar for next year – the third weekend in September.

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Hidden Grove on the Sunshine Coast – a story of survival

The history of Hidden Grove is described as one of survival… survival from natural fires of several centuries ago, which has left charred bark up to a foot thick on the largest Douglas firs. More recently, the area was scheduled for logging, but meeting stiff community resistance, it has been saved again.

Today these precious 125 acres have been set aside solely for recreation.  Less than 5-minutes away from our bed & breakfast, they provide our guests both solitude and a re-connection with nature.

 

Shortly after leaving the parking area you’ll notice several cedars which have undergone a limited bark stripping. The trees are unharmed, and members of the Sechelt Indian Band use the cedar bark for traditional baskets, regalia and clothing.

The main trail rises gently , passing rocking ourcrops and mossy plateaus and brings you to the Ancient Grove, a concentrated group of tall, stately firs.  Some of the old growth have been dated as much as seven hundred years old. Partial logging in the late 19th century has left many larger second growth trees like this.

 

The network of trails, created entirely by community volunteers has been very thorough with signs like this at each intersection, so it’s impossible to lose one’s way. On a recent walk, we followed the “Northern Loop” and were able to complete this section in just under an hour. There are also connector routes leading to the adjacent Sechelt Heritage Forest, and my wife Sheila, and her two hiking partners spend a couple of hours walking these trails three mornings each week.

 

Be sure to keep your eyes moving, both up and down, as you never know what you might see. I used my iPhone for all of the images in this blog and was generally quite pleased with the quality of its 5-megapixel camera. I was pretty impressed with the detail that I was able to capture on this fungus.

 

So, how good is that… a walk in solitude through a beautiful forest that’s only 5-minutes away,  and a chance to do some photography – sounds like the perfect outing for me!!

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Summer Days on the Sunshine Coast – a day for relaxing

traffic report from Coracle Cove

Most mornings I hear the Vancouver traffic report on the radio while I’m preparing breakfast for our B&B guests. I had the morning off today, and as I was enjoying a coffee down on my dock, I thought it might be fun to send out my own morning traffic report.  This is the picture that I Tweeted out.

As you may have guessed, today’s blog is all about relaxation and taking time for yourself. This is the fifth in my series of seven daily blogs in which I unlock the secrets of the Sunshine Coast and share a few of my best insider tips to help you get the most out of your getaway.

There’s nothing better for relaxing than a Yoga class and my favourite studio is Yoga by the Sea.   The drop-in rate is only $15 for a two-hour class and they’ve got all the gear you need. The instructors always provide a great mix of both mental and physical activity; the classes are small; and you get as much attention and help as you want. So don’t worry about anything – give it a try.

 

My dinner recommedation for tonight is the Old Boot in Sechelt.  This is an easy and relaxing dining experience – the food is good, the servings plentiful, and the prices reasonable. The menu is just the right size with a selection of pastas, steak, ribs and seafood.After dinner head back to Coracle Cove and down to your favourite waterside seat on our dock. You’ve had a good day, feeding both the body and the mind, so take some time to remind yourself of how much you have to be happy about. click here to return to our website www.coraclecove.com

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