Monday, April 30, 2012


On a walk through Sedgewick Forest yesterday, I was impressed by the profusion of trilliums that carpeted the forest floor. It seems they are out a little early this year.

I know it's illegal to pick our provincial flower but is it okay to transplant them to my garden?

I doubt it. They look happy, like they belong here. I think I'll leave them be!
a cross-view 3D image

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Volunteer Week

Last week was National Volunteer Week and on Thursday the Volunteer Centre of Guelph/Wellington held a special screening of ten videos they commissioned about volunteer organizations in the area - including one that I work with 
called Focus On Nature

The video, created by Angus McLellan, is now up on YouTube. It gives a great overview of the the FON program, 
featuring several of the volunteers - including me! Have a look.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day

tree ferns in the St. Lucia rainforest
Earth Day is about more than picking up our garbage. We each need to seriously consider what we can do to make this a better place for all life on Earth. Our time is short and it's the only home we've got!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Searching for Jacquot

The mountainous centre of St. Lucia is a roadless rainforest and home to the country's national bird, the St. Lucia Parrot, locally known as Jacquot.

A taxi driver had told me to visit the local zoo if I wanted to see this endemic bird, whose protection in the 1970s also led to the preservation of the forest.

Instead I hired a local birding guide, Donald Anthony, for a 5:00AM pick up and long drive up twisting roads to the edge of the forest reserve.

As soon as we got out of the car and started hiking we could hear the squawks of hidden parrots overhead. The rainforest was alive with birdsong, frogs and crickets.

Soon I had a roosting Jacquot in my camera's sights and by mid-day we had spotted virtually every endemic bird of St. Lucia. 

While hunting for birds with binoculars and camera is rewarding in itself, the real pleasure for me is in experiencing nature at its most sublime. The damp cool air, the early morning light, the strange sounds and the gorgeous patterns of green growth that surround me will linger pleasantly in my memory for years to come!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coco Palm

Feet up poolside at Coco Palm

Staying at Coco Palm resort is not the lap of luxury but it is a genuine Lucian experience. Beautiful rooms and pool. Steps to the beach. Friendly 'Looshan' hospitality. What more could you want?

Gail & Allen
Gail made friends with the owner of Coco Palm, Allen Chastanet, who also happens to be the Minister of Tourism! He's given us his recommendations for the best seafood restaurant in the village and the best site for snorkeling - at his other resort down the coast, called Anse Chastanet! We'll go there on Sunday.
Our neighbours kids

The resort seems very multicultural: French, Brits, Canucks and folks from other Caribbean islands all hanging out together.

The guests in the room next door - Lucians now living in England - invited me to share a drink on their patio, and were happy for me to snap a few shots of their cute kids.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I rode the 'Ocean Angel' today for a boat trip down the coast to see St. Lucia's famous Pitons, a pair of remnant volcanic cores that grace the island nation's flag.

The local beer is also named after this World Heritage Site.  Cheers!

One of the highlights of the land portion of the tour was a visit to the sulfur mud baths, where everyone was encouraged to get in and get covered in mud.

I decided to keep my cameras clean and just document the mayhem instead!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

St. Lucia

Our first day in St. Lucia couldn't have been nicer. An early morning stroll down to the sea gave us an unspoiled beach with hardly a soul around. Lush volcanic landscapes, tropical waters and carefree skies make a delightful welcome to our week's stay in St. Lucia!

Morning visitors to our patio garden included the Antellean Crested Hummingbird (left) and the Bananaquit (right) whose incessant chatter is getting on my nerves!

Click on the photos for a closer view.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Yesterday, I noticed double-crested cormorants perched in a tree beside the QEW highway on Hamilton Bay.

I pulled over onto the service road, parked the car and grabbed my camera.

There were hundreds of them! They looked like they were nesting in many rather dead-looking trees. I managed to get close enough for a few portraits without disturbing them.

Living near Lake Ontario, I often see cormorants - usually flying fast and low in single file - as if they had a destination in mind.

They are large diving seabirds that have to dry their wings by holding them open, as they don't have oil to make their feathers water-repellant.

The males and females grow the double crest feathers on their head during mating season.

With their green eyes and orange neck skin, they are impressive indeed!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Today I had the pleasure of taking students on a Focus on Nature field trip in Rockwood Conservation Area . It's a small but interesting park on the edge of Rockwood village, near Guelph. Throughout the park are over 200 'kettles' or potholes carved into the limestone bedrock by swirling rocks and water during the retreat of the last ice age some 12,000 years ago.
It is a beautiful place to explore with a camera and a clutch of eager students of nature photography. After a brief lesson from me on the 'Elements of Design' and some guidance on camera technique, they produced some great images that captured the beauty of the place, and then shared them as a slideshow at the end of the day.

Monday, April 2, 2012

King Eider

Saw my first king eider duck today on LaSalle Beach in Burlington. They are sea ducks that normally live far to the north. This one is a male yearling.  He was rather drap compared to the mallards around him.

But give him a little time and he will out glam the mallards by a mile as this photo from the internet shows!

Birthday Party for Four Friends

Ross, Rajni, Simon and Paul - photo by Gail
I don't normally make a big deal out of my birthday - being April Fool's Day, it could be embarrassing! But this year I celebrated it with about twenty friends, three of whom are born within a few hours of me.

Paul and Ross go way back as old buddies from the 1970s, and Rajni is a new friend through Paul, who was the always-gracious-host of the evening!
Blowing out the candles on Gail's home-made chocolate birthday cake