Saturday, August 27, 2016

New Kid In Town

Big Bopper the hybrid goose - photo by Junie Quiroga
Every day there's something new to see and learn, if we just keep our eyes open and aren't always in such a rush to get someplace else.  It's so easy to overlook the obvious or what's right in front of our noses. A recent example is when I was on my way to the beach for my morning swim and encountered an unusual looking bird who was honking at me as if to say "this is the Big Bopper speaking what are you doing here my good man?." It looked a bit like a Canada Goose but it was much bigger and had a very different coloured head and neck.

Canada Goose
After doing a little research I discovered he was a hybrid goose and probably a cross between a Canada goose and the slightly larger snow goose. How this happens is open to some speculation (i.e. mix ups in the nest and/or forced sex by the male of one species with the female of another) but the fact remains it is biologically possible for geese of two different species to successfully mate and produce offspring that are also capable of re-producing. This is quite different from crossing a horse and a donkey which produces an infertile mule.

Snow Goose
Big Bopper as I liked to call him was quite friendly and eager to greet all the joggers and pose for any camera bugs along the seawall. If you had a scrap of bread even better. He was definitely new to the area and very sociable. He was also the biggest bird around by far.

Standoffish Canada geese - photo by Junie Quiroga
In spite of singing very nicely "Chantilly lace and a pretty face, pony tail hanging down, wiggle and a walk, giggle and a talk, make the world go round"  the other geese completely ignored him. Perhaps sensing he was a little different, or else jealous of the attention he was getting from everyone else, the Canada geese in the area seemed to shun him and he was left all alone to amuse himself.

Nelson & the Big Bopper at English Bay - photo by Junie Quiroga
It's not easy to fit in when you aren't the same as everyone else. The world seems to demand conformity rather than differentiation even though the only way we ever make any progress is by questioning the status quo. While most of the females will probably stick with what they know perhaps one will decide to take flight with the new kid in town and start something new. I hope so for the Big Bopper's sake.

Big Bopper & Friends
A few days later it appeared the Big Bopper had indeed made some friends with the other geese and they were all happily working the Parks Board lawn circuit. In fact it would appear the others had elected him their spokesperson because he was doing all the talking, handshaking, and baby kissing while they all went about their business. It's campaign season after all and what could be more important than getting one of these gals to vote for him.

Big Bopper & his latest date

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Low Tide Of High And Dry Boys

Beached Big Skate on Spanish Banks - photo by Junie Quiroga
Walking along Spanish Banks at low tide the other day I came across a strange sight, a Big Skate that had somehow ended up high and dry on the beach and died. At first I thought it was some kind of ray until I did a little research and found out what differentiates one from the other, in particular the two dorsal fins in the tail. The bigger mystery was how the hapless creature had ended up there in the first place.

The Big Skate is found along the Pacific coastline from Alaska to California and typically lives in water 80 - 400 feet in depth. It has some commercial importance in the California fishery, mostly as bottom trawler bycatch, where the pectoral fins are sold as skate wings but, because of its slow reproductive rate, it is now rated as a near threatened species. If they are caught by a recreational fisherman they are typically released or discarded and that's probably what happened to this skate and another one I found not to far away as well.

Nelson and beached Big Skate on Spanish Banks - photo by Junie Quiroga

Beached fishing boat on Spanish Banks - photo by Junie Quiroga
Since they spend most of their time buried in the sand it's not inconceivable the two Big Skates were caught out by a rapidly ebbing tide, similar to what happened to this embarrassed fisherman a little further along the same beach on the same day. How a boat could end up on the wrong side of gigantic low tide marker is no doubt part of the "fish that got away" story he will be sharing with friends and family but it's a pity the two skates weren't aware of the markers themselves.

Spanish Banks low tide marker - photo by Junie Quiroga
Getting caught out by low tides isn't something likely to happen to my seal swimming companions though. At worst it would mean a little extra suntanning time though they prefer to be on rocks as opposed to lying on the sand. Whether it's the heat or too many beers, the summer season can always be counted on to provide them with an amusing story to share with their friends and family; in this case the low tide of high and dry boys.

Curious harbour seal - photo by Junie Quiroga