Friday, December 2, 2011

Golden Hill Country Park

I came across this confiding Great-spotted Woodpecker at Golden Hill Country Park, Freshwater, this morning. You can see how well adapted he is for the job (the red patch behind the head indicates that this is a male). The two-forrard and two-aft facing toes give a great grip, even upside down, whilst the stiff tail steadies the ship! And that beak can do a lot of damage. Then there’s the tongue…I did read somewhere that it is an amazing 14cm long, its sticky saliva and bristles preventing any grubs or other invertebrates from escaping. In fact, you’ve got to feel a wee bit sorry for any grubs this individual comes across. After all, it’s a pretty mean machine!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Afton Marsh SSSI

Lots of bird stuff has featured on the Blog over the last few weeks, so I thought I’d try to get my first glimpse of the local Water Voles on what turned out to be a beautiful warm, sunny day.

At Afton Marsh it didn’t take long to find a number of signs indicative of an active Water Vole population.

This photo shows the most interesting feature - a closer view provides the detail:

It's a feeding platform that is obviously well used. You can see how the Reedmace has been chewed right to the ground on the right and, to the left, you can see several fresh droppings.

I followed the trail of an obvious run close to the water’s edge and came across these droppings…

…and these short pieces of Water Vole-chewed Sedge close by.

At the far end of this open stretch of water was a small stand of vegetation in the middle of the channel….

…..again, obviously a favoured food supply!!

All in all, I spent several hours leaning against an Alder tree overlooking the feeding platform, but this was the only visitor!

And when I got home this Black Redstart flew over my head as I parked the car. So, even more avian video, I guess, but I’m determined to catch up with a local Water Vole soon – and the signs are looking good!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Peregrine Falcon @ West High Down

During my walks on West High Down I’m very fortunate in seeing a Peregrine Falcon or two at about the same frequency that Mario Balotelli scores goals per game for Manchester City, i.e., pretty regularly!!
This bird was sitting on one of its favourite spots at the top of the chalk cliffs half-way along West High Down. Earlier, I had spent ten minutes watching another bird bullying the local Ravens, gaining height and soaring before launching into a dive and ‘buzzing’ them time and again. I swear it was enjoying itself!!
Other highlights on a relatively quiet morning included 2 Isle of Wight ‘firsts’: a flyover Brambling and 2 diminutive Firecrests….brilliant!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Stinkle in Colwell Bay!

This confiding Rock Pipit at Colwell Bay first thing this morning shows all of the classic plumage features which set it apart from its cousin, the Meadow Pipit. For a start off, it’s a much sturdier bird and the large bill is particularly noticeable at this range. It’s a much darker bird overall, with its dark back, smudgy breast and flank spots, all supported by two black legs!
In some parts of the country the Rock Pipit is known as the Shore Sparrow. And, if you happen to be drinking a cup of coffee by the shore on Fair Isle and hear a local say, “There’s a stinkle, here”, chances are they’re not dissing the establishment but pointing out one of these birds to an interested party!! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

West High Down - November 1st

This morning I had my first opportunity for a while to walk over West High Down…and a glorious morning it was – is it really November??!
There were 2 Black Redstarts at The Needles Battery, including this male perched on one of the interpretation boards. I hadn’t realised that it was only following the devastation of the Second World War that this, originally rocky mountain inhabitant, continued its expansion through north-western Europe and began nesting in London’s new rocky habitat, conveniently sculpted by the Luftwaffe! The first nesting record for Britain was in 1845 but it was as a ‘bomb-site bird’ that the population really began to flourish, giving it the impetus that has led to the establishment of some hundred pairs or so in the south-east today.
West High Down itself was quite quiet apart from a few Wheatears and the odd Stonechat, so I was really pleased to come across my first island Short-eared Owl in the eastern –gorse-dominated – area.

Magic!! Owls always are!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fox Moth Caterpillar

During walks over West High Down in recent days I have come across a number of these large caterpillars making their way across the short grass or, in this case, across the tarmac of the adjacent road.

They’re the larvae of the Fox Moth or, as they call it in France, Le Bombyx de la Ronce! These caterpillars are big and hairy. I was hesitant to handle it for fear of the hairs having irritant qualities and causing a rash, but it turns out that I needn’t have worried and I’m informed that I can let the next Bombyx de la Ronce that I come across crawl up my arm!

They are members of the Eggar family of moths and the male Fox Moths are regularly seen during the day, too, but the females prefer the twilight hours.

I imagine the ones moving about at the moment are gorging themselves on bramble and the like before searching out for some cosy leaf litter in which to pupate and wait for the Spring.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ring Ouzel-fest!

An early morning walk to the Needles and over West High Down came up trumps when I came across at least 9 Ring Ouzels, probably 10. Other birds of note included a beautiful Peregrine Falcon, a number of Wheatears & a Dartford Warbler. At Station Pond, Yarmouth, a single male Bearded Tit was spotted (there were 9 of these seen yesterday, too!). I've uploaded a bit of video of the Ring Ouzels:

A Ring Ouzel study group has been set up because of the decline of this species. On their website - here - they publish some interesting facts:

Ring ouzels were once (still are?) called Michaelmas thrushes on the Isle of Portland (Dorset) on account of their arriving during early late September - October on their southward migration. The great naturalist of the 18th century, Gilbert White of Selborne, also referred to ouzels arriving at Michaelmas.

An old Scots name for the bird is aiten chackart (ie chat of the juniper; aitionn = Gaelic for juniper; chackart = Scots for chacking bird).
750+ migrating ring ouzels were counted in just over 2 hours at Margate, Kent in Autumn 1998.

Ring ouzels generally nest in trees on the continent, whereas they generally don’t in Britain, preferring to nest under heather or bracken instead.

Although earthworms usually make up the bulk of their diet in spring and summer, they feed largely on juniper berries in winter.

Very occasionally, individual ring ouzels have been known to spend the winter in Britain.

Ring ouzels are now extinct as a breeding species in Galloway (south-west Scotland), whereas that region was a stronghold for them up until the late 1980s.

There are three races of ring ouzel, varying in the extent of white fringes to the (black/dark brown) body feathers. Britain and Fennoscandia have the nominate race torquatus which has the least white; race alpestris of continental Europe have more extensive white fringes on the body and flight feathers, whilst race amicorum of southern Turkey, Turkmenia and northern Iran, has a larger white crescent and even more extensive white fringes to the feathers than the latter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

West High Down specials

Several people have asked me when I'm going to continue posting reports to this blog. It's been a crazy few weeks with little time to write anything up. I'm also changing the name again as I've now discovered another local website with almost the same name as 'Wild on the Wight'. So I'm going to call it simply, 'The Wild West'! A walk over West High Down this morning resulted in sightings of 2 special birds that made my heart leap.

Assuming it's the same one, this Wryneck has been around on West High Down for at least the last week or so, but I had only managed a brief view as it flew away before today when it 'performed' close by for a good 10 minutes or so. I think the Wryneck is one of the most amazing birds - in plumage, behaviour and reputation - but this once common bird is only usually encountered as a passage migrant in the early autumn nowadays.

Its Latin name is Jynx torquilla. 'Torquilla' means 'little twister' and refers to its ability to twist its head around like a snake. It's this characteristic, with the snake's association with fertility and eroticism in the ancient world, that led to the 'Jynx' part of the name. The relevant section in Birds Britannica makes for fascinating reading:
'In ancient Greece and Rome wrynecks were associated with fertility rites that involved a rotating wheel-like charm known as a Iynx. The bird was apparently spread crosswise in the wheel as it was spun, when the device was thought to have the power to charm a prospective partner or, according to one source, bring back an errant lover.
On the evidence of Greek mythology, the bird magic worked equally well for both sexes. Aphrodite, for instance, helped Jason win the heart of Medea at Colchis with the aid of a wryneck wheel, while the goddess Iynx worked a similar spell on Zeus so that he fell in love with a beautiful moon-goddess called Io. Unfortunately, Zeus' official consort, Hera, learnt of her husband's infatuation with Io and punished her rival by changing her into a white heifer, while the spell-casting Iynx was herself transformed into nothing less than a wryneck.'

Hmmm, there were several heifers in the field behind the wryneck! :-)

I was also pleased to catch up with this bird - a male Ring Ouzel or the Merlo-de-peito-branco as it is delightfully called in Portugal! This is the 'Blackbird of the mountains' and is on its way south to southern Spain or northwest Africa to spend the winter. Sadly, this species has been very much in decline, too, over the last 5 decades or so, which makes every sighting special. They're normally very shy and flighty, but this one flew into an Elder tree just a few metres away from me! By the way, if you're wondering where all of the Chiff Chaffs have gone, they're all here!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Brook Plant Walk

Yesterday evening we watched a couple of Red Fox cubs on our front lawn enjoying the peanuts, sultanas and jam sandwiches that we had left out for them. They were followed by a very lively Badger that hoovered up the remains.

And, then, this morning we went on a walk brilliantly led by Irene looking at some of the plants found along the coastline close to the village of Brook. The photo above gives some idea of the variety of plants that are flowering at the moment.

We came across a swathe of Hop plants and I was surprised to learn that the Isle of Wight was the fifth largest producer of hops in the mid-1850s. One reference I came across informs us that,

The Royal Navy who had a huge presence in Portsmouth had a far more liberal attitude to alcohol than these days and needed to make sure that their sailors had enough beer to drink. Although the agricultural land in Hampshire is fine for malting barley its shallow chalky soil is not suitable for hops. The agricultural land on the Isle of Wight, particularly in the Arreton Valley, on the other hand was perfect. Sadly the navy’s disapproval of drunken sailors and the import of cheaper foreign hops made hop production unviable and the practice died out.’

There are a lot of big Burdock plants around at the moment. Irene is from Scotland and delighted in telling us the story of the Burry Man who, about this time each year, makes his way through South Queensferry in Scotland preceded by a boy ringing a bell.

He’s actually covered with thousands of Burdock burrs. The origins of the Burry Man are shrouded in mystery but the tradition nowadays is that he drinks a glass of whiskey with a straw at each of the pubs on his route….and a toilet stop is not an option.

The Edinburgh City Museum writes: “The task of being Burry Man is extremely demanding, requiring stamina, a strong bladder, an indifference to the discomfort caused by more penetrative burrs, and a conviction that this custom should not die out.”

Fascinating! :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Golden Ridge Moths

With our Bedfordshire Moth Recorders, Andy & Melissa, encouraging me on Facebook to get the moth trap out, I thought it was about time I gave it a go and so set up the trap in the back garden yesterday evening. There weren't many specimens in the trap this morning, but it did include two Nationally Scarce B moths (recorded from 31-100 of the UKs 10km squares since 1980), though I'm assuming both are pretty common in this area.

This is the Jersey Tiger (I will endeavour to get a better photo in the future). It looks even more dramatic when it flies with its orange-red underwings. It's the 3rd one I've seen over the last few weeks as it frequently flies during the day and is present on the Golden Ridge Country Park. I've seen them in France before, but it's great to see them in the UK.

And this is the micro-moth Madder Pearl (Mecyna asinalis), named after its Wild Madder foodplant.

The other species present were 4 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwings, a Square-spot Rustic, 2 Shuttle-shaped Darts, a Rustic, a beautiful Willow Beauty and this one which, being out of practise, has confused me. It looks like one of the Brocades but I'm hoping Melissa will be able to identify it for me:

Thanks to Melissa, and Bill in the comments section, who have kindly informed me that this is a Cabbage Moth. I've got a feeling that this one has confused me in the past...and I've got a feeling that I'll be needing further help in the future!! :-)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Butties & Birdies!

Over the last week we’ve continued unpacking boxes and settling down into our new home. I’ve not had the opportunity to get out much, but today I spent nearly 2 hours wandering around Parkhurst Forest while Carole was in Newport. I didn’t see any Red Squirrels, but I did come across this worn Silver-washed Fritillary in a clearing full of Hemp Agrimony. It was also good for hoverflies, with 15 species, including Xylota tarda, Seromyia silentis & two tiny species: Paragus haemorrhous and the relatively rare southern hoverfly Pelecocera tricincta.

Back in Freshwater, I walked back from The Coop via The Causeway and was surprised to come across a flock of 43 Black-tailed Godwits just over 10m away from the road. I couldn’t believe how close these birds allowed me, several cyclists and a large group of horse riders without taking flight. Indeed they seemed totally at ease in our presence and fed constantly! I tried taking a bit of video footage with the new camera and was pleased with the result (the other 2 photos are taken with the same equipment):

Friday, August 5, 2011

We've arrived!!!

A few days ago we finally arrived at our new home in Freshwater on the far western side of the Isle of Wight. I've already been assured by a number of people that 'the West is best and everyone else can keep the rest'!! Of course, I can't speak from experience, and the last thing I would want to do is upset anyone who is fortunate to live anywhere on this beautiful island, but the West Wight does tend to be less 'touristy' than other areas and there's some beautiful countryside that I'm really looking forward to exploring once we get unpacked and the house is a bit straighter.

The Common Toad pictured above was found under some bramble close to our's one of the biggest that I've seen for a long time and not a bad specimen for my first Isle of Wight amphibian!

This is a map of the Isle of Wight - if you click on the picture you will get a larger version...and you can see what I mean when I say that Freshwater is in the west!

And here is an aerial photo of The Needles which is just down the road from us. Freshwater is a part of the village you can just make out in the distance.

This blog will now become an account of what I begin to find around me, and I'm sure it's going to include many pleasant surprises. I'm told that there are no deer on the Isle of Wight (the New Forest on the other side of the Solent makes up for that!); there are no American Mink...which makes for a flourishing Water Vole population; and, likewise, the absence of Grey Squirrels makes for a thriving population of Red Squirrels!

I have one problem which I'd appreciate help on...what am I going to call this blog now? I was going to call it 'Wight Wild', but there's another website called 'Wight Wild SOS'. I'm a bit stuck so any suggestions will be gratefully received!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Flitwick Moor & Maulden Wood

Last week I spent a great day in the company of Jason, Alan & John, focusing on the invertebrates of Flitwick Moor in the morning and Maulden Wood in the afternoon.

We found all kinds of stuff through the day but this was my favourite fly, the Square-spot Deerfly, Chrysops viduatus. Before now I have only ever come across the Twin-lobed Deerfly, Chrysops relictus, in Bedfordshire. The names refer to the shape of the black mark on the top of the abdomen. Identification cannot be confined to this marking alone, but the wing markings help to confirm that it is, indeed, C. viduatus. I’ve got a healthy fear of these Deerflies, the females of which can give a painful bite, usually on the back of the neck.

I’ve shown a photo similar to this in the past. These hats appear to be remarkably effective in Deerfly areas!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A ghostly Squirrel & a muggle Polecat!

Many thanks to Dennis for these photos of an albino Grey Squirrel that is running around in Station Road, Ampthill, at the moment.

I love the photo which shows the contrast with the accompanying Grey Squirrel and Blackbird!

On Friday the last episode of the Harry Potter franchise is released. Will Voldemort and his 'pure bloods' triumph over those inferior wizards with muggle ancestry? I found this Polecat earlier today close to the Stewartby turn, and I'm not sure whether it's a pure-blood Polecat or a muggle Polecat-Ferret! There seems to be a few too many pair hairs on the facial pelage, and I need someone more skilled than myself to have a look.

During the Vincent Trust’s Polecat Survey of England, Scotland & Wales (2004-2006) road traffic casualties comprised the majority of the 1,273 records and, of those, 86.2% were verified as true Polecats. Here in Bedfordshire the majority of our records follow this trend. I’m going to let Richard, our County Mammal Recorder, make the call on this one! You can contrast some of the features on the Vincent Wildlife Trust’s downloadable resource here.

Having looked at the side profile, it was reckoned that the pale appearance may well be down to the Polecat beginning to come into its winter coat, even at this early stage. The front profile above, with the brown nasal mark extending right to the nose suggests that this is, indeed, a pure blood and not a muggle!

Bees Bee-ware!

These two flies are both members of the Conopidae or Thick-headed Fly family. They were photographed near the Oasis Swimming Pool in Bedford last week.

Conopid flies are to our Bumblebees what Sparrowhawks are to our Sparrows! They perch on leaves and flowerheads waiting for their unsuspecting victims to alight and then, before you can say “Beware, Bumblebee, Beware” they fly alongside it and quickly deposit an egg inside the unfortunate victim using a razor-sharp needle-like ovipositor. The larva which hatches out consumes the Bee from the inside out, overwintering in the chitin husk. Gruesome, or what!!

This deep-red Conopid is Sicus ferrugineus, which is very common in this area. The head looks like it’s being blown up like a balloon!

And the wasp-like waist on this fly means that it is almost certainly Physocephalus rufipes.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Duck End Nature Reserve

Yesterday I went out into the local countryside for the first time since getting back from our holiday in Canada & Alaska. I didn’t see any bears or whales, but an hour at Duck End Nature Reserve emphasized, once again, that there’s a jungle out there, wherever we may be. I have to say that I didn’t see many flies during our holiday but here’s a few from Duck End which is heaving with ‘em!!

This first one’s cheating a bit because it’s a Damselfly and not a true ‘fly’ at all. But I had to include it because I was really pleased with the photo. It’s an Emerald Damselfly. This species seems to me to be going through a real increase in numbers, and no more so than at Duck End where it was relatively uncommon until a mini-population explosion over the past few seasons. I love the metallic green colours and the way in which it holds its wings out like the larger dragonflies.

And here’s another stunner – the generally scarce wasp-mimic, Chrysotoxum verralli Hoverfly, the only record for Bedfordshire so far this year. Mr Verralli seems to have lent his name to a number of species: the flies Aphantorhaphopsis verralli, Brevicornu verralli & Thaumalea verralli, the scuttle-fly Megaselia verralli, the midge Tanytarsus verralli, the cranefly Ephelia verralli, a horsefly Tabanus verralli…the list seems to go on and on!

At this point I decided to do an internet search to find out something about this character whose name I mention regularly! It turns out that Wikipedia have an article about George Henry Verrall, who was born in 1848. I was reminded about the famous song which begins, “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly…” Several verses later it concludes, “I know an old lady who swallowed a horse, she’s alive and well of course.” For George it was the other way around: he started with horses and ended with flies! To cut a long story short he became Clerk of the Course at some of the most prestigious race meetings, eventually moving to that horse-racing Mecca, Newmarket. To be fair, his interest in flies developed alongside his proper job and, from 1866, he was over time a member, Secretary and then President of the Entomological Society. He and a colleague described some 900 species of Diptera! Alongside his entomological pursuits George was also a doughty politician and it appears that exhaustion from an election campaign led to his demise in September 1911, aged 64.

I shall never look at Chrysotoxum verralli in the same way again!

Here’s a fly that’s not named after George. It’s the tachinid fly, Thelaira nigripes. Thanks to Chris Raper for the identification. This is another photo that I was really pleased with (it’s a shame that the Chrysotoxum flew off before I could get anything more than the record shot above). It clearly brings out a number of the features of this tiny creature. You can see why George and others have fallen in love with flies…

….O.K., maybe I’m pushing it a bit there!! :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Canadian Rockies & Alaska

I’ve fallen in love again! My love for Carole hasn’t diminished at all, and it was our special celebration of 25 years of marriage that led directly to this fresh focus of loving attention: our recent trip to the Canadian Rockies and cruise up Canada & Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Allow me to share my experience of the mammals seen – some 26 species in 16 days.

The sightings began to rack up even as we travelled from Calgary Airport to Banff with Mountain Goat and a couple of Elk.

On our second day we travelled to a number of sites in the Banff National Park and it was at Johnson Canyon that we caught up with this Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel. Two other members of the family were seen that day: Hoary Marmots were running around and whistling below us as we rode the Lake Louise Gondola, and a Columbian Ground Squirrel was later seen close to the impressive Bow River Falls in Banff.

There were several of these cheeky birds on the flying to and fro along the shoreline of the dramatic Lake Louise – Clark’s Nutcracker – but the most surprising sighting of the day occurred when, unseen by the crowds, a delightful Short-tailed Weasel hunted for prey in the ornamental plant beds!

The following morning I went out for an early morning walk, hoping to spot deer. Following a fruitless search in woodland just outside of the town, I came across this Mule Deer (named after its ears) in a small piece of woodland right next to our hotel. It was perfectly at ease in my presence, allowing me to take these photos from just a few metres away.

Later that afternoon, Carole and I went for a walk around the marshland alongside the Bow river. We watched the dramatic courtship of a male Rufous Hummingbird as a Wilson’s Snipe called from the marsh behind us. There were signs of Beaver, but the only mammal seen – and seen in abundance – was the delightful Red Squirrel. It was only later in the holiday that I learned of the common sightings of Pikas alongside the Vermillion Lakes on the other side of the River, which would have swayed the decision about where to walk that afternoon!

At the same time as we were on our walk, several people in our party had seen Black Bear during a trip along the famous Icefields Parkway, but my sighting had to wait until our trip across the Rockies to Vancouver on the Rocky Mountaineer train. I can’t begin to express how wonderful it is to spend 2 days travelling through the most amazing countryside and scenery. Soon after departing Banff we spotted two Elk wading through the waters of the Vermillion Lakes and I was fortunate to see a Snowshoe Hare next to the track, but the highlight was the Black Bear which I saw a few hours later as I was hanging out of the window. It was right next to the track, looked up at me, and gave me a wave before bounding into the forest! Later that day I also saw my first White-tailed Deer staring at the train from a forested hillside.

On the second day of the train journey we saw a number of Bighorn Sheep in the surprisingly arid wilderness west of Kamloops, Yellow-Bellied Marmots sunning themselves close to farmsteads, and a River Otter in the extensive lake system east of Vancouver. Another mustelid was added to the list thanks to the previous tenant of our hotel room who had forgotten to cancel the early morning alarm call! Wide awake, I decided to go for a walk in the wonderful Stanley Park. I was sat on some boulders close to a lake when the Red-winged Blackbirds suddenly called out in alarm and an American Mink suddenly appeared just a few metres away, running behind one of the stones and then launching itself into the water where it swam underwater to some reeds before surfacing. Later I saw it sprint alongside the far bank of the lake and into some scrub from which it didn’t reappear. It was good to see Mink where it belonged (and Canada Goose)! I was disappointed not to see any of the local Raccoons, but I have to say that I'm pleased that I didn't have the experience of one of our party who tried to feed one, was bitten, and had to be carted off to hospital for rabies jabs!

And here’s something else where it belongs! Grey Squirrels in Stanley Park were numerous.

The mammal list was dramatically extended over the following week as we cruised the Inside Passage as far as Skagway. This breaching calf Humpback Whale was seen during a dramatic morning whale-watching out of Juneau. The mother seemed content to feed, but the youngster was obviously enjoying itself! I’m embarrassed by my photos, but I’ve got some great video!

We also came across this harem of Northern or Stellar's Sea Lions.

And then, as the Captain of the boat put it, we got the ‘Grand Slam’ when we came across this pod of Killer Whales. We were told that they appear about once a week in the area and are the resident community, ranging over some 50 or 60 square miles. Now and again smaller pods of transient Orcas will pass through. Whereas the resident Orcas feed on fish, transient Orcas will feed on just about everything else, including the Sea Lions! Later that morning, a friend managed to get some much better photos, so - with a big thankyou to Peter Kipling - here are a few of his photographs (We've both got some amazing video but I'm not able to download video to my computer - something I'm going to rectify):

During a visit to one of the glaciers up what is called the Tracey-Endicott Arm, we spotted a number of Harbour Seals on the ice floes, many of the mothers having gone their to give birth to their pups which could be seen rapidly putting on weight! I also spotted 3 Sea Otters in the distance from our cabin balcony at one point, but it really was the whales that remain in my mind from this trip.

I had spotted a lone Orca whilst sailing out of the Puget Sound from Seatttle, and managed to see a number of Humpbacks by patiently scanning the shoreline. The highlight of the trip was a 15 minute period whilst travelling down the Lynn Canal from Skagway. Carole and I were sitting on our balcony, our breath taken away by the dramatic mountains to the west. We were watching a couple of Humpback Whales feeding and spouting when, suddenly a pod of Orcas swam past! Carole was as excited as me. I told her that I just needed to see Dolphins now and, as I sat down, several Pacific White-Sided Dolphins suddenly appeared riding the ship’s waves just in front of our cabin – wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! A couple of Dall’s Porpoises also swam close by about a half hour later, their white-marked fins looking like they’d been dipped in a tin of paint!

I say that the whales were the highlight, but there was one more special event for me when, the following day I went on a one and a half hour fast-boat trip from Prince Rupert to the Khutzymateen Inlet. After a focused search, we finally came across a female Grizzly Bear and her two cubs grazing the Lyngby’s Sedge on the shoreline. She was quite nervous, and so we wisely kept our distance but, as I stood there watching them I knew in my heart that I would be coming back to this wonderful land someday soon!