Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Pompasetting

Christmas is a little different here in Barbados. In Bridgetown, the capital, people are up, dressed and attending church at 5am. And how they like to dress up! Putting on your best clothes and looking good is called "pompasetting."

After church on Christmas morning, Bajans gather in Queen's Park to listen to the Royal Barbados Police Band, to promenade and admire each other's outfits.

Tourists like Gail and I are welcome to join in the fun, so I got into my 'SNAP' mode and started asking everyone for a photo. Even the local newspaper asked for a photo of us!

Local fashion houses get the young Bajans to model their clothes.

Whole families get in on the fun by choosing a colour theme for their outfits.

A German couple, who have been coming for many years: the tradition is over 100 years old!

Despite the rain there's community spirit and sense of joy that shine through on everyone's face.

The dapper dudes all got together for a group shot.

You can see more photos on my YouTube channel.
Be sure to leave a comment!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

St. Nicholas Abbey

Up the road from where we're staying in the hills of Barbados sits St. Nicholas Abbey,  a most interesting  plantation house dating from 1658. It is one of only three Jacobean-style buildings that remain standing in the western hemisphere. It was named for a place in England and was never an actual abbey.

Owned and managed for centuries by absent English landlords, today St. Nicholas Abbey is owned by the Warren Family of Barbados, who have managed to make it self-sustaining through public tours and the sale of rum distilled on the 400 acre plantation.

We visited a second time to attend the St. Nicholas Abbey Annual Christmas Fundraiser for the local hospital.  With rum punch in hand we sat outdoors singing carols accompanied by the Royal Barbados Police Force Band.

Old Saint Nick made an appearance to hand out candy-canes to his young fans.

The house and grounds are filled with reminders of another time of sugar production, slaves, and a bio-diversity now gone.
A Sailor's Valentine: shells are not common now in Barbados due to the collapse of the reef eco-systems

Slave records at the time of emancipation showing their value in pounds

Large gears used in the production of sugar

Standing beneath a 200 year old mahogany tree

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bajan Birds

After being in Barbados for a week I've noticed that, while there are lots of birds around, there aren't the usual variety of tropical species to be found here. Apparently, this is a result of Barbados being a relatively flat island that for centuries was devoted to one crop - sugar cane. Without their required habitat most of the indigenous species went extinct.

Here are some of the common birds that are plentiful on the island today:

The Carib grackle lives in large flocks and has a variety of calls and rather clownish behaviour.

The Barbados bullfinch are as common as house sparrows up north and probably fill the same niche. They are the only endemic species on the island now.

The beautiful zenaida dove is also common in towns and in the countryside. Its call is reminiscent of the mourning dove.

The bananaquit is a nectar feeder with a thin wispy call. Locals call him the yellow bird.

The scaly-naped pigeon is quite large and timid. I've been told he's not welcome as his poop will take the paint off your car!

The gray kingbird is the common flycatcher on the island. He seems very similar to the kingbirds we see in Ontario.

High over the ocean I spotted a frigate bird, the pirate who steals food from other birds by harassing them.

There are a few other birds still to be photographed here: hummingbirds, egrets and herons. I'll add them to this post as I find them.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Coyote in the Hood

"COYOTE!", exclaimed Gail, while looking out across our back yard today. It was on the move, so I grabbed my camera and tried to follow. A neighbour up the street had spotted it too and offered me a ride.

We tracked the female coyote as it weaved its way toward Coronation Park on the shores of Lake Ontario. It stopped when it saw squirrels and geese but they would take off at the sight of this new predator.

Apparently, the coyotes that are living in our neighbourhoods may be coywolves, coyote/wolf hybrids. The CBC's Nature of Things recently aired an excellent documentary about them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nature Heals

Did you know that exposure to nature - even through a photograph - can reduce the need for pain medication and can speed healing? This is only one of the many benefits that a connection to the natural world gives us.

This is one reason why the Guelph General Hospital Foundation chose to commission 60 images of nature by young photographers in the Focus on Nature program as a tribute to the hospital's recently retired CEO.

These photographs, printed on washable plexiglass by Photo Media Decor, are on display at Flo Space in Guelph until December 9th, 2014. After that they move to the hospital where they will forever brighten the lives of patients, visitors and staff alike.

Congratulations to all the young photographers for your beautiful art that will make a positive contribution to the lives of others! The complete Nature Heals collection can be viewed on Flickr.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Elora Photo Walk

The Elora Mill always invites a photograph

Fifty photographers wandered through the picturesque village of Elora this morning, including yours-truly. It was a perfect day for a photo walk and part of the World Wide Photo Walk organized by Scott Kelby with proceeds going to the Springs of Hope orphanage in Kenya.

As you'll see I started shooting the scenic landscape and fall colours but soon was transfixed by the misty light over a waterfall on the Grand River.

An unusual feature on the river is a flowerpot island called "the Tooth of Time".
Even when I stopped to rest, I'd look up and the last of the autumn leaves shimmered still in the morning light.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


We drove north to Midland Ontario last weekend to enjoy the fall colours.

Midland sits on the shores of Georgian Bay, an area sometimes called Huronia. It was the ancestral home of the Huron people who called themselves Wendot. Huron was a french word meaning ruffian.

When Jesuit missionaries arrived in 1639 their lives changed forever, and not in a good way. The french missionaries brought deadly diseases and tribal division through religious conversion. The Jesuit settlement only lasted 10 years but that was enough to weaken the Wendot and to leave them vulnerable to their enemy the Iroquois.
Today the settlement has been recreated as Saint-Marie among the Hurons, and is worth a visit.
Nearby is the Wye Marsh, a large and significant wetland where trumpeter swans have been reintroduced. 

Take a walk along the boardwalk and you might just see an otter looking back at you!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Devonian Coral

I visited an old coral reef on shores of Lake Erie today... make that 400 million years old! The coral creatures I saw are fossils now and lived in a warm shallow sea when Ontario was near the equator in a time called the Devonian era.