SPES Saturday: Heron Report

Saturday, December 14th, 2013 — 10:47am PDT
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StanleyParkEcologyThis post has been contributed by Ben Hill, Communications Volunteer with the Stanley Park Ecology Society (“SPES”). I have been following SPES since I moved into the West End almost eight years ago and I recently became a member. I wanted to offer the team an opportunity to share their news, events, and work so I have created “SPES Saturday” where they will be contributing stories with my audience once a month.

Support a local bird in need this holiday

Here at the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) we consider ourselves very lucky. Why? Because one of North America’s largest urban great blue heron colonies has chosen to make its home right here in Stanley Park.

SPES Photo credit: Martin Passcheir.

The Pacific great blue herons, currently a subspecies at risk in BC, first took up nesting residence near the Beach Avenue tennis courts in 2001 and have been coming back every spring since.

It’s unusual for a colony to nest in such a densely populated area. Human disturbance would normally cause the birds to abandon their nesting areas but the Stanley Park herons have learned to adapt, and in fact, moved in on this already busy area.

In 2013, SPES counted 122 nests; 81 of those were active and produced healthy fledglings. Although the number of overall nests was lower than in previous years, the percentage of nests that successfully produced fledged chicks was the highest since 2007. (Click here for the full 2013 Great Blue Heron Report)

What also makes the location of the heronry so remarkable is how easily park visitors can observe these amazing birds at close quarters.

SPES Photo credit: Martin Passcheir.

What to look for when visiting Stanley Park

Mid-February – Mid-March
The herons start to return from winter foraging grounds often around Valentine’s Day. That seems appropriate as both males and females are looking to start a family. Males and females dance together in the tree tops with their wings and necks outstretched. After a pair has formed a bond, the male searches for sticks in nearby trees and brings them to the female who decides if the stick is good enough to use in her nest. If the stick is not quite right she tosses it out of the tree but if she accepts it, she carefully weaves it into a nest high up in the branch of a tree.

March – April
Once the nest is complete, the female lays an average of 3-4 pale blue eggs in it. For the next 30 days, mom and dad take turns incubating (sitting on) the eggs to keep them warm. The newborn chicks look almost comical. Fluffy and grey, they have grey mohawks on their heads and they sway their necks as if they have no control over them. At this age they still need a parent to sit on them to keep them warm and protect them from predators including owls, eagles and raccoons.

May – June
Feeding time for older chicks is a flurry of activity as fights between the chicks break out and loud squawking fills the air. The adult herons search for fish and other small animal such as frogs and voles, which they bring back for their young. By seven weeks the chicks are almost as large as their parents, they start to flap their wings and walk along the branches by the nest.

July – August
By the end of August the heronry becomes quiet again. The last few chicks have left for their feeding grounds. SPES’ hope is that they will return to start their own family in two years.

How can you help Vancouver’s great blue herons?

Adopt a heron nest today! It’s a great holiday gift for anyone interested in helping wildlife in BC. This vulnerable subspecies doesn’t migrate, making the herons particularly vulnerable to habitat loss. They need protection, understanding, and community support if they are to survive the increasing pressures of urban development.

Herons // click image to enlarge
Photo credit: CogitoErgoShoot on Flickr

See the heronry now!

Filmmaker Mike McKinlay made a great short film about the Stanley Park herons which was narrated by Robyn Worcester, SPES’ Conservation Programs Manager.

The Great Blue Heron of Stanley Park from Mike McKinlay on Vimeo.

For more info visit the Stanley Park Ecology Society website or call (604) 718-6523 to inquire about membership.

About the Guest Author:

If you want to support a non-profit organization that makes a difference for wildlife and people in Stanley Park, please make a donation or become a member of SPES. For more information visit the Stanley Park Ecology Society website. Follow SPES on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.

The Missing Ingredient Subscription Giveaway

Saturday, December 14th, 2013 — 9:14am PDT
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One of the Lower Mainland’s ultimate foodie destinations is Well Seasoned in Langley where you can grab a gift basket, take a cooking class, and pick up essentials to make meals based on Founder Angie Quaale‘s recipes. Well Seasoned’s lastest project is The Missing Ingredient, a subscription service that delivers hard-to-find specialty ingredients which have been hand-picked by culinary experts right to your door each month.

Angie Quaale is a member of the BC Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, founding board member of her community farmers market, and the province’s first female BBQ pitmaster. She is on top of the latest culinary trends and has access to some of the greatest ingredients local producers and worldwide artisans have to offer.

MissingIngredientHere’s how The Missing Ingredient works:

  • Subscribers may sign up for themselves or give a subscription as a gift (gluten sensitive boxes are available too)
  • Choose the subscription length, a one, three, six month, or annual subscription
  • Each subscription includes the cost of shipping
  • Boxes are delivered directly to the recipient’s door
  • Open, enjoy!

Boxes vary with each month; subscribers will receive an assortment of full size items that range from hard-to-find food items to must-have kitchen gadgets. Items are typically more difficult to locate, and not available at your local grocery store-chain.

The Missing Ingredient features local, Canadian producers, and international artisans, and will never duplicate an item. Boxes include a recipe or two that will offer the subscriber ways to use their featured ingredients, a practical tip from our professional chefs, and a monthly “Meet the Maker” profile.

Well Seasoned has offered a 3 month subscription for The Missing Ingredient for me to give away again this year. Here’s how you can enter to win:

  • Leave a comment naming a “must have” ingredient you keep in stock (1 entry)
  • Post the following on Twitter (1 entry)
RT to enter to win a 3 month @mingredient subscription from @WellSeasoned1 & @Miss604 http://ow.ly/rLKVL

I will draw one winner at random from all entries at 10:00am on Saturday, December 21, 2013. Follow The Missing Ingredient on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about the service.

Update The winner is @CherylStephens!

Robson Square Ice Rink Events: 12 Days of Christmas and Miss604 Night

Friday, December 13th, 2013 — 12:44pm PDT
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The Robson Square ice rink in the heart of downtown Vancouver is your hub for holiday-themed events this season. Starting tonight, they’ll host live music and performances to add to your skating experience and I have a very special announcement for the New Year as well.

Family fun at the outdoor rink at Robson Square
Photo credit: BC Gov Photos – Submitted to the Miss604 Flickr Pool

Robson Square Ice Rink Events

12 Days of Christmas at Robson Square features local bands, carolers, musicians, and more. Here’s the lineup:

  • December 13, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – The Christmas Celts
  • December 14, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – The Strays
  • December 15, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – JC and The Wailin’ Wassailers
  • December 16, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – John Gilliat World Music Ensemble
  • December 17, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – Phat Santa Swing
  • December 18, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – The Christmas Celts
  • December 19, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – The Dal Richards Band
  • December 20, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – The So Tight Band
  • December 21, 2013, 3:00pm to 5:00pm – The Charles Dickens Carollers
  • December 21, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – JC and The Wailin’ Wassailers
  • December 22, 2013, 3:00pm to 5:00pm – Santa’s Brass
  • December 22, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – Caviar & Lace
  • December 23, 2013, 3:00pm to 5:00pm – The Charles Dickens Carollers
  • December 23, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – Rumba Calzada
  • December 24, 2013, 3:00pm to 5:00pm – Santa’s Brass
  • December 24, 2013, 6:00pm to 9:00pm – The Tom Arntzen Showband with special guests The Hot Mammas

The rink is open on Christmas Day from 12:00pm to 5:00pm and there will be a family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31st along with an early countdown. Regular hours return on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 (9:00am to 9:00pm Sunday to Thursday; 9:00am to 11:00pm Friday and Saturday).

Skating is free with your own skates otherwise rentals are available. Skate rentals are $4, helmets $2, and ice cleats are $2. The rink also features a concession stand with snacks and warm drinks.

Miss604 Night at Robson Square Ice Rink

I will be hosting a special night of skating on Thursday, January 2, 2013. Along with your free admission, I’ll have free hot chocolate (when you mention MISS604 at the concession) and thanks to Robson Square, I’ll be giving away a brand new pair of skates. Miss604 Night at Robson Square will run from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

You don’t need to RSVP, you can just show up, but I have created a Facebook event so that you can add it to your calendar.

VanDusen Festival of Lights

Friday, December 13th, 2013 — 9:08am PDT
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The VanDusen Festival of Lights opened this week adding even more beauty to Vancouver’s stunning botanical gardens.

Happy Holidays! (VanDusen Botanical Garden at Night)
Photo credit: TOTORORO.RORO on Flickr

VanDusen Botanical Gardens Festival of Lights Festival of Lights at VanDusen Botanical Garden

VanDusen Festival of Lights

Until January 4, 2014 enjoy this magical experience with the whole family as you explore over a million twinkling lights between 4:30pm and 9:00pm daily (closed Christmas Day, December 25, 2013).

Dancing Lights on Livingstone Lake starts nightly at 4:30pm with two different shows alternating every thirty minutes throughout the evening. Explore the Gingerbread Wood, Golden Chain Walk, and Candy Cane Lane throughout the gardens as well. Take photos with Santa until December 24, 2013 and sit in on the following performances throughout the month:

  • Scandinavian Christmas Gnomes, Svend and Jens, appear nightly in three performance areas
  • Mischievous Grinch and his secret hut
  • Shadow puppet performance by the talented duo Mind of a Snail
  • Choirs on the Performance Stage
  • Community choirs (December 11 – 20)
  • VOC Sweet Soul Gospel Choir (December 21)
  • The Christmas Revelers (December 22 – 23)
  • Make-A-Wish Candle Grotto
  • Candy Cane Express model train
  • Make-A-Wish “Room of Joy” featuring a Parade of Lego creations by the Vancouver Lego Club

You are encouraged to purchase your tickets in advance since this is such a popular event. You can do so at the Admission Desk in the Visitor Centre (no service charge applies), at Tickets Tonight (service charge applies), or online.

VanDusen Botanical Garden at Night During the Holidays

Enjoy light fare and full meals at Truffles Café during the Festival of Lights and dinner is served every night at the Shaughnessy Restaurant (reservations recommended). VanDusen Botanical Garden is located at 5251 Oak St (37th and Oak) in Vancouver, BC.

Belkin Grip Power Battery Case Giveaway

Thursday, December 12th, 2013 — 5:46pm PDT
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Over the next few days I will be profiling a handful of gadgets and tech gifts. Some will be a part of a general gift guide and others will include giveaways. They are all items that I have used (the giveaways will be brand new, just for the winners of course) and that I find useful.

Belkin Grip Power Battery Case Giveaway

I love my smartphone and all of the useful apps that I talk about when I get invited to join Dotto Tech‘s radio show however at this time of year the battery just drains at an expedited pace. Being on the go, checking email, taking photos of festive sights, running apps for shopping, parking, and productivity all mean that my battery isn’t going to last very long after it charges overnight.

battery-case-iphone-back-whiteFortunately the Belkin Grip Power Battery Case can keep you going, doubling battery life by providing a full, additional charge on the go.

The Grip Power Battery Case’s rechargeable 2000 mAh battery capacity means you can talk, text and browse the web twice as long on one charge than with your phone alone. It’s easy to use — just press and hold the power switch to turn the battery power on and off, and press it once to see the battery’s status.

I have been using a similar battery case from another manufacturer and two things it does not have, that the Belkin does, is headphone compatibility and the shock-resistant bumper with secure-hold grip.

Other features of the Belkin Grip Power Battery Case (for iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s):

  • A Micro-USB charging cable: just plug the cable into the side of your case, and in one charging session, you’ll have full iPhone power and backup power whenever you need it.
  • Putting on the Grip Power Battery Case takes just two simple steps: First, slide your iPhone 5 into the battery pack and connect it to the built-in Lightning connector. Then, snap on the outer shock-resistant bumper. In seconds, you’re fully powered, fully protected, and ready to go.
  • The Anti-Glare Camera Ring doesn’t get in the way of your camera flash, so you can keep on snapping great pictures.

If you would like to win a Belkin Grip Power Battery Case, here’s how you can enter the draw:

  • Leave a comment here naming your favourite app this season (1 entry)
  • Post the following on Twitter (1 entry)
RT to enter to win a @Belkin Grip Power Battery Case from @Miss604 http://ow.ly/rIRKU

I will draw one winner at random from all entries at 12:00pm on Tuesday, December 17, 2013. Follow Belkin on Twitter and Facebook for more gadget gift ideas. The Belkin Grip Power Battery Case is for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s only and the prize is the white model.

Update The winner is Emilia!