Being Outdoors, May 2023

And now one-third of the year has passed. I used to mark all sorts of numeric milestones during the year when I was doing my photo-a-day project a decade ago, and it surprised me how many times I could make something of them. I wouldn’t do another photo-a-day project, but I did really enjoy writing a short post about the photo I chose for each day. (Check it out, if you like, at

So what did we get up to in the past month?

If we were being outdoors today, I’d complain about the weekend weather we had in April! Seriously! We had a run of a few weeks where we’d have fine weather during the working week only for the clouds to gather and the heavens to open come the weekend. Boo. We managed a couple of walks on the beach in between showers, though we would have preferred to get out hiking somewhere. And it remained cool – we even had some fresh snow on the mountains and a sharp little hailstorm that dropped half-an-inch of ice pellets. Brr! And yet the cherry blossom still bloomed across the city, and we did force ourselves outside on one rainy hike to see Cypress Falls. That was a soggy day! (And yielded my sole blog post for April too!) But, on the other hand, it did mean I had some fine bike rides to and from work (with one notable exception where I was soaked before I even left the UBC campus).

If we were being outdoors today, I’d spend a while telling you about our wonderful long weekend trip to Salt Spring Island. We stayed in a cabin for three nights and explored the island, finding a short hike to do on each day we were there. As expected for a weekend in April (see above), the weather was mixed, so having a cabin with a log fire was very welcome, but we managed to dodge the showers when we got outside. We saw plenty of spring wildflowers – which was one of the main reasons for visiting in April – with some amazing displays of fairyslipper orchids and lots of white fawn lilies. At Baynes Peak we saw some spring gold but the cool spring means that the flowers are probably a week or two later than usual. As a result, we saw only buds for flowers such as sea blush, common camas, and starflower. Oh, and a single chocolate lily. One surprise was finding some of the most extensive swampy meadows of skunk cabbage we’ve ever seen. We didn’t take any photos but the sight of countless bright yellow swamp lanterns growing in the dark brown waters of woodland ponds was exceptionally cheerful. We saw and heard plenty of birds, too, saw a couple of river otters, some deer, and heard hundreds of frogs at the lake next to our cabin. I’m planning to write about this trip in a separate post – hopefully stating this in writing will hold me to it!

If we were being outdoors today, I would want to show you some of the spring flowers that have braved the cool weather. We visited Lighthouse Park at the beginning of the month to check on the fawn lilies there, which I also found blooming at UBC. To my surprise, I found some pink fawn lilies on campus too! The bleeding heart is coming along nicely, as is the trillium, while the salmonberry bushes seem to have suddenly gone from pink dots on bare stems to a colourful mix of pink and green. The camas near the Beaty Biodiversity Museum has started to bud; it won’t be long before we see those lovely blue flowers again. And of course, we were treated to all those fairyslipper orchids on Salt Spring Island.

If we were being outdoors today, I’d say that it was a good month for seeing and hearing birds. A former co-worker told me about an app called Merlin that would identify bird songs and calls. I tried it out and – whoa – it’s like magic (even though I know how it works, it’s still like magic). Even better, it helped me identify the birds responsible for a couple of calls I hear every year but never see the birds. We IDed Bewick’s wrens, song sparrows, chestnut-backed chickadees, golden-crowned kinglets, dark-eyed juncoes, orange-crowned warblers, Pacific-slope flycatchers, Townsend’s warblers, back-throated grey warblers, Hutton’s vireos, and brown creepers. I highly recommend getting this app – it’s now on my main screen on my phone. In terms of sightings, we saw a curlew at Jericho Beach and watched flocks of snow geese fly north and loons while on Salt Spring Island, we got some nice close-up views of hummingbirds and swallows, had bald eagles and turkey vultures soar past at eye-level on Mount Erskine, watched varied thrushes, wrens, and spotted towhees in Lighthouse Park, plus we saw a pair of mountain bluebirds on the beach at Spanish Banks. A pretty good haul, methinks!

If we were being outdoors today, I’d be happy to say we ended the month on a hiking high-note with a sunny day of snowshoeing to Round Mountain, just over half-way to Elfin Lakes. Sure, the snow was awful – wet, soft, and slushy – but the trail was quiet (well, apart from the sound of our snowshoes!) and the views were stunning. We took a very relaxed approach and stopped off at a couple of places on the drive home, most notably Porteau Cove where we watched and listened to a couple of dozen noisy sea lions basking on the platforms of a pair of old ferry bumpers. We were also surrounded by noisy swallows flying back and forth, facing off with one another in the air, and perching on the railings of the pier. I could get surprisingly close with the camera and captured probably my best ever swallow photos.

That pretty much sums up April for us. Let’s hope that May brings warmer weather and melts some of the snow so we can get out hiking again! I really enjoyed the sound of running creeks on our Round Mountain trip which put me in the mood for waterfall hikes. May is usually a good month for that.

I gratefully acknowledge that these words were written and photographs taken on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Stó:lō, Á,LEṈENEȻ ȽTE (W̱SÁNEĆ), Quw’utsun, Stz’uminus, Semiahmoo, and sc̓əwaθenaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsawwassen) First Nations.

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