Saturday, December 26, 2015

Raptors

A Cooper's hawk pays us a visit.
A Cooper's hawk...
We live close to a nature sanctuary so it's not unusual to see less common birds in our yard. We keep a lot of bird feeders around to attract them. It's always especially thrilling to see a bird of prey up close.

The bird above is a Cooper's Hawk, one of the smaller members of the hawk family. S/he landed on our patio lamp a few days ago looking around for a small mammal to eat. 

We were once sitting in our backyard on an early summer evening when we noticed a small mouse exploring some of the rocks in our garden only a few feet away from us. The little creature was entertaining us with his scrambling when WHOOSH... one of these hawks came screaming around the corner of our house barely five feet off the ground. The little rodent had only enough time to let out one quick squeak before the raptor snatched it in a blur and flew off, leaving us stunned at how fast it all happened. The unfortunate critter was barely an inch long. I still wonder how the bird even saw it from around the house.

The bird below landed on our garden fence a couple of months ago. It's a red-tailed hawk. They are frequently used for falconry. If you've ever watched any Hollywood movie that featured the sound of an eagle or a hawk, you were probably listening to the cry of one of these birds. We have a lot of fat grey squirrels in our neighbourhood that like to raid our bird feeders. In a weird way they are also bird 'feeders' for raptors like this who come around looking for the squirrels.

A red-tailed hawk looking for a meal in our yard.
A red-tailed hawk...
Finally, here is something I learned while looking up this pair of birds... a group of hawks has many collective nouns, including a "boil", "knot", "spiraling", "stream", and "tower" of hawks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Royale-ty on the Mayan Riviera

Our resort in Playa del Carmen...
Early morning at the resort...
The Royal Playa del Carmen is located along the waterfront resort strip of Playa del Carmen about sixty kilometres south of Cancun on Mexico's east coast.

It's considered one of the smaller resorts although my wife and I found it plenty big. If you're curious about our impressions of the resort, check out my Tripadvisor review...

Sunrise over the Royale...



Friday, December 11, 2015

Sunny Hola-days in Mexico

Carvings celebrate The Day of the Dead.
Carved masks celebrate Mexico's Day of the Dead.
So far Victoria has been having a wild and wet winter. Still it was nice to recently spend a week down on the Yucat√°n Peninsula in Mexico.

We stayed on a resort in the VERY tourist-y town of Playa del Carmen. Many of the nearby tourist shops featured wood carvings of this sort that are a theme of El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), a traditional Mexican holiday that coincides with Halloween in North America.

Whereas our version of the holiday is all about scary things that go bump in the night, their version is more uplifting... it's the time of the year when spirits of departed family members can briefly unite with their still living loved ones.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Overdue thanks...

A pair of Mikes, post-repair...
A pair of Mikes...
Today I need to express my way-too-late thanks to some people who stepped up to help us during our recent trip through Oregon. Almost from the start, our vacation was plagued with technical problems.

On the day we were due to leave Cannon Beach, our bike rack which mounted to the bumper of our trailer suffered catastrophic failure.

Although I'm smiling in the photo above, it was a different situation an hour or so before that. I found myself at the side of the road trying to jury rig a repair while my wife walked back down the road to our campsite to seek help. Four-letter words were flowing freely from my mouth I'm embarrassed to admit.

Suddenly a passing car pulled off the road and in behind me. The driver leaned out his window and asked if he could help in any way. That's how I met Mike and his family.

After surveying the situation, Mike went way out of his way to drive me to the local hardware store. He helped me to locate some of the bits and pieces that I needed to effect repairs. Once we got back to the trailer he also provided the tools and some of the labour to get us fixed up and mobile again.

During this ordeal, his wife Katie and their kids patiently sat in the car waiting for the two Mikes to sort things out so they are equally deserving of a shout-out.

Thanks, Mike, for all your help, patience and advice... you saved us from a vacation disaster...


Friday, December 4, 2015

High over Portland

US Bancorp Tower in downtown Portland...
US Bancorp Tower in downtown Portland...
The 30th floor of the US Bancorp Tower in Portland is home to the award-winning Portland City Grill which offers the best views of the city skyline.

Portland towers...
Portland towers...