Wednesday, 28 November 2007


If you live in North American, there is a high probability that you have seen or heard the bird song of the Blue jay, Cyanocitta cristata (Linnaeus, 1758).

Blue Jays are in the family Corvidae — along with crows, ravens, rooks, magpies and jackdaws. They belong to a lineage of birds first seen in the Miocene — 25 million years ago. 

These beautifully plumed, blue, black and white birds can be found across southern Canada down to Florida. The distinctive blue you see in their feathers is a trick of the light. Their pigment, melanin, is actually a rather dull brown. The blue you see is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather as wee barbs.

Blue jays like to dine on nuts, seeds, suet, arthropods and some small vertebrates. 

If you are attempting to lure them to your yard with a bird feeder, they prefer those mounted on trays or posts versus hanging feeders. They will eat most anything you have on offer but sunflower seeds and peanuts are their favourites. 

They have a fondness for acorns and have been credited with helping expand the range of oak trees as the ice melted after the last glacial period.  

Their Binomial name, Cyanocitta cristata means, crested, blue chattering bird. I might have amended that to something less flattering, working in a Latin word or two for shrieks and screams — voce et gemitu or ululo et quiritor. While their plumage is a visual feast, their bird chatter leaves something to be desired. 

Their cries are quite helpful if you are an animal living nearby and concerned about predators. 

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, a Blue Jay is known as kwa̱skwa̱s

The Kwak’wala word for blue is dzasa and cry is ḵ̕was'id. For interest, the word for bird song in Kwak'wala is t̕sa̱sḵwana

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Qualicum Beach: The Gem of Vancouver Island

Qualicum Beach, a quaint community just 47 kms or 30 minutes north of Nanaimo. Offering everything the year-round traveler could want.

Whether its the beach that draws you or the leisurely stroll through town, you have many options for your oceanside visit. Visit the local galleries, boutiques and cafes that make Qualicum feel like a European village or check out their famous garage sales for their many bargains.

The outdoor enthusiast will appreciate the long stretches of sandy beach, old growth forests, nearby mountains with winter skiing and mild climate for year-round golf.

A trip to Qualicum Beach is a bit like visiting a garden county in England, all hanging baskets and clipped lawns. There are many hidden treasures in the area.

You could take in the fresh air and hike the alpine trail leading to Mount Arrowsmith Lookout or follow gentle paths amongst the 850 year old Douglas Firs at MacMillan Park’s Cathedral Grove.
There are fossils to be found... though not extracted from the park at Englishman River Falls or you could explore the Crystalline interior of the Horne Lake underground caves - an intriguing side trip just west of the town of Qualicum. Those in the know travel to these moist refuges to take in the quiet and walk in wonder and shadow with the help of one of the local guides.

No trip to Qualicum Beach is complete without a trip to the Qualicum Museum.

Here you’ll see the life-time collection of Graham Beard, co-author of West Coast Fossils and Chair of the Vancouver Island Paleontological Museum Society. With his wife, Tina, a talented artist and fossil collector in her own right, he has been actively collecting fossils on Vancouver Island for over 30 years.

Getting there:

From the Departure Bay ferry terminal in Nanaimo, stay to your right and head up the hill and head north on the Island Hwy north. Take the Qualicum turn-off. The road heads straight through this picturesque little town, past quaint little coffee shops and continues to the seashore. To visit the Qualicum Museum, turn left onto Sunningdale just as you cross the railroad tracks.

The museum is at the end of the street. They have a sweet interglacial walrus found in Qualicum and a nice selection of other local fossils.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Friday, 16 November 2007

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Thursday, 8 November 2007