Posts Tagged With: cormorants

BLAINE MARINE PARK, PEACE ARCH PARK

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Memory is not dependable. We knew we had visited this area in 2011. The problem was, we visited both parks in 2009, not 2011. I remembered so well the marvelous blackberries but forgot to bring a container.  Luckily I had a plastic bag in my purse. The Blaine Marine Park must have a mile of blackberries in several different stretches. But here we picked once before.DSC07714 (Copy)

The plants were bigger and meaner. Blackberries grow on new growth, so the old canes are big and sharp. We contemplated that the park must have to mow the whole works down at some point to keep them in such tight control.  I ate my fill and picked enough to take home. We had a big lunch earlier at Lizzies, all wonderful, homemade cooking. So we decided to stop at the store for ice cream before going home.

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We walked the docks where all the fishing boats come in across from  Semiahmoo point. The breeze was heavenly and ruffled the feathers of the gulls. They are messy and bomb the wharf with clams to break them open, but we enjoyed watching them for about an hour.

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They seem to know where to find the biggest clams.

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When they fly around, we tend to think of them as white, but they really have a lot of variation in color.

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Then I noticed this pigeon. I didn’t think pigeons hung around salt water. And look at those red feet.DSC07727 (Copy)

This must be mama, though she seemed to be chasing him. She is bigger and less colorful than the male.

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We walked out through the commercial buildings on the dock. This truck belonged to a Crab Buyer but his logo is a lobster.

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We were following the raucous sound of the birds. These cormorants were screaming and hollering to a similar colony across the water from them,  along with some gulls.

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Then we drove over to Peace Arch Park.

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We wandered through the gardens and then walked to the Canadian Side of the arch, first.

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Then, the U.S. side.

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On the inside of the arch is this commemoration from 1914. On the opposite side, the same gate with the statement, MAY THESE GATES NEVER BE CLOSED. It is refreshing to see this wide open border between our countries and sad to think of the horrible gates between the U.S. and Mexico.

 

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The gardens and sculpture on display at the Peace Arch Parks, both Canadian and American are spectacular. I’ll post some pictures tomorrow.

At home,  we ate blackberries and ice cream in place of dinner. Jim and I both realized in the five years we’ve been together, we’ve never bought ice cream, other than a cone here and there along the way. Neither of us are big on ice cream. But, it was heavenly with berries.

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PORT LAVACA, TEXAS

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I love small local museums because they are bound to have something you’ve never seen nor will ever see again. Aha!  This broken clay pot is a weapon. The shrapnel balls were put in a similar pot with boiling oil and set on fire.  When tossed aboard an offending boat, the sailors would try to put the fire out, the oil would spread fire everywhere and the cold water would hit the shrapnel ball, explode it and kill anyone near it. Amazing.

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This painting by Frances Kruse shows how the local natives lived before the white man forced them inland.

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This buffalo head is as close as I want to be to one of the handsome beasts. A folk story here tells of a soldier wounding a buffalo. The Padre with him got its attention so the soldier could reload his musket. The chase was on. The buffalo trampled the Padre and walked off. Both lived through the encounter.

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Oyster shellers worked near a window so they could throw the shells outside into the water. They eventually figured out how to use oyster shells to make roads.

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These outrageous hats were obviously the cat’s meow, but I found them pretty funny. It’s hard to imagine wearing one of these toppers.DSC01205 (Copy)

From the museum, we went to the Port Lavaca Bird Sanctuary. Another walkway around a marsh. The birds avoided being close to the walk way. The marsh vegetation here gives no cover. DSC01197 (Copy)

Even so, I got some fuzzy pictures. This one looks like an ibis but I looked up birds with grey/black beaks and never could identify this bird.

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This one is definitely an ibis.

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And, a couple of hungry roseate spoon bills.

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At the water frontage, a beautiful snowy egret. We learned that one female shrimp lays over a million eggs that hatch within 24 hours. No wonder they all come here to fuel up for their long flight north.

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We took a pleasant drive to Indianola and cruised Magnolia Beach. There are many hurricane houses here. The town was completely wiped out by hurricanes twice. They build smarter but is it smart to build here?

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Close to shore a congregation of birds gathered on an old dock, three of them black cormorants. In the water were porpoises swimming close by.

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We just can’t seem to get enough of the birds around here. We drove to another bird sanctuary.

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Indianola has a working fishing fleet. All the boats were out. The town ends  at the water’s edge and here was this picture postcard view nearby.

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A  pelican flew in and  decided to sit right where we could take pictures of  him.

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A guy at the bar told us of another bird sanctuary and off we went. We tried and tried to get a good picture of this huge bird. We thought at first it was a whooper. But, no. Another type of egret. All in all, a lovely day with good weather.

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SUN AND MOON PAGODAS

We’ve left the Urumichi area, which means oasis. It is part of the Gobi desert and we saw oil refineries that the government controls.  We are headed for Guilin, pronounced guay-leen and the roadsides are lush with terraced gardens. In 1998, this area flooded and 1500 people died. The government let the area return to farmland and forest. Makes me think of New Orleans, where the best solution is to let the river have its way, but we don’t have an autocratic government, we have property rights and developers rights and political sensitivity.  The horrifically expensive taxpayer fix will result in  more flooding, reduced wetlands necessary to buffer severe storms, more loss of property and life, and eventually the City of New Orleans will  sink anyway. The Army Corps of Engineers keeps building levees and moving sand from one beach to another ignoring science and heeding the popular political fix.

Clustered housing here is practical and uses less land than individual farms. A collective. It is a method that can stifle innovation and experimentation. But, Vicki says, it is tried and true. After all, people have occupied the area along the Li River since 214 B.C.  Why not high rises? Because no one can build higher than 20 floors so not to obscure the view of the beautiful mountains. Oh, my. A sentiment to admire.

Guilin was destroyed by Japanese bombs, but has been rebuilt. We are aghast when Vicki calls Guilin a small city of only 640,000 people covering 67 kilometers. We stop at a tea factory for a formal tea tasting.  As in days of old, tea is packed into bales, bricks, wheels and multiple sized rounds. We find the same shapes we saw in Jiliang that we didn’t recognize as tea. Not a tea bag in sight.

Everything here is loose leaf and smells divine. The city is famous for its osthumansis (acacia) trees that are in bloom. Intensely fragrant, like orange blossoms, they are used to make wine, tea and perfume. Guilin has 13 nationalities. The Yau and Dow are predominant. There are 3,000 caves in the mountains here, many of them open to tourists.

This magnificently carved wooden Buddha tray is outfitted with a gas burner and we are about to taste ten different kinds of tea. The rules are thus:  First, you smell the cup. Then you sniff the tea and chew the leaves a bit to make sure it is good and strong. Then hot water is poured in the cup to warm it while the tea is brewing in hot (not boiling) water. You surround the cup with your hands to warm them. You can drink the water or pour it out before the tea is poured. Then you slurp noisily. That is considered the best way. It was fun. Then there was theatrics of tea. A dragon tea pot that turns from green to red when the hot water is poured into it. And a baby boy tea pot that pisses into your cup when the water heats it.  There was a lot of slurping and laughing and talking and comparing. They sell aged, 28 year old  Puer tea, said to reduce blood pressure, cure diabetes and clean your liver. You can use the leaves nine times before the flavor and benefits disappear. Hmmm!  I bought some. It stayed flavorful for about four cups made with the same leaves. Their cups are smaller than mine, though.

We get to our beautiful hotel and Michal is taken by a carved jade dragon boat. Priceless. It is a free day for us and we can wander the town and eat anywhere we want though Vicki warns us to beware of pick pockets and even some merchants are rip-off artists. Our stop here is to boat up the Li River and see a part of old China and some famous, mystical rock formations.

Guilin is quite modern and university students go to coffee shops like Western students do. The whole city smells like orange blossoms though we don’t see the trees. The Dau people hold a folk song festival in Guilin in the spring. The Dau people have a beautiful courtship ritual. A woman throws her bouquet at the man she wants. If he catches it, that is his acceptance and they are one.

As we gaze around we run into Vicki and she points out a modern Chinese pharmacy.

Kind of reminds us of a fish and herb market. But, there are lizards and insects and worms and animal parts, very clean and dried.

The Chinese have centuries of medicinal experimentation with herbs and such and it seems prudent to respect it, even while we know many remedies don’t work, such as rhinoceros horn and other animal parts. Our own drug companies have learned much from the Chinese. They are healthy people.

After dinner we load into a boat near these Twin Pagodas for a ride on the Li and Peach Blossum Rivers as they merge together and form four city lakes. These pagodas are joined underwater and one can swim into and out of them. At night they are lit up beautifully.

Pictures are impossible, but you get the idea, anyway. The lake shores on all sides are lit up like Christmas trees. Entertainers sing from various famous boat replicas, like the Marble boat from the Summer Palace, and a dragon boat. Bands play modern and traditional music every section of the way.  You see people dining on shore or in pretty boats as  you continually pass under bridges, all replicas of famous bridges. Twelve of them. Each has frescoes of great beauty and interest. We point and guess, the Brooklyn Bridge, Golden Gate, Glass Bridge, Cambridge Math Class Bridge. We didn’t recognize them all.  It was another dreamland journey as we stayed mesmerized by the passing scenes. Near the turning point we saw  fishermen night fishing with their cormorants. The boatman smacks them with his cane if they try to steal a fish out of the basket and pretend they caught it.  He calls to them, “Ai, ai, ai!”  The birds continually fly out and back. We see live fish, flopping in the baskets that will soon be delivered to a local restaurant. Another magical experience that clings forever in memory.

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TWELVE BRIDGES AND OLD CHINA

The Li and Peach Blossom rivers merge together at Guilin  and form four city lakes before they move on down the mountain. The lakes are joined by locks and we take a night boat tour to see  the twelve bridges  joining the mainland to an island in the center of the lakes.

Picture taking is difficult as the boat chugs along.  The twelve bridges  are small imitations of world-famous bridges with frescoes and decorations of great beauty and interest. It‘s ooo and aahh time. They imitate the Brooklyn Bridge, Cambridge Math Class Bridge, The Golden Gate, the Glass Bridge… I didn’t recognize all of them or get them into my journal. The Cambridge Math Class Bridge is so-called because students at Cambridge supposedly took it apart to understand how it was built and then put it back together again.  In the dark, night fishing with their cormorants, the boatman uses a cane to keep them moving. He smacks and scolds when a bird circles behind him and  tries to steal a fish out of the basket and pretend  it was newly caught. He calls to them, “Ai, ai, ai”!  The birds work quickly,  fly out,  dive,  and return. It was musical;  his voice echoing  over the water as the boat moved away.

The famous Sun and Moon pagodas are beautifully lit up at night.  One leads to another under water. We saw a charming tea house on an island with a replica of the Empress’s Stone Boat we recognize from the Summer Palace.
The  trees, on shore and on the islands, the bridges, are all  lit up with specialized lighting.  Bands play from the shore as we pass by.  Built to entertain, More realistic  than  Disneyland, we floated along, mesmerized by the sights,  thinking, how lucky we are to take this magical boat ride

The next morning, we load onto a boat like this one for an 83 kilometer trip up the Li to view unique karst rock formations. The osmanthus, a type of purple acacia,   is in bloom. It  reflects its color on the water and fills the air with a fragrance like orange blossoms. It is used for tea, medicine and perfume in China.

Ten thousand boats a day cruise the Li. Sampans furnish them with fresh fish and greens for the meals they prepare. Chinese people do not eat  “dead” fish. Restaurants in China have aquariums full of fish and only kill it when you sit down and order. The boat kitchens are always at the back of the boat.

Uniquely shaped hills of the Li are often clouded with a fine mist giving them a mystical quality.

The formations are world-famous and many artists and photographers come to see one of China’s great  “pearls”.

I find myself more interested in a glimpse of “old China” revealed on the banks and water of the River Li, like this boatman ferrying a man and his bike across the river. We see many of these flat bamboo boats that seem barely able to float without swamping.

A house boat.

The age-old manner of carrying a heavy burden.

Washing clothes.

If you don’t have running water you must carry it up from the river in buckets.

While some farmers depend solely on water buffalo, others have a modern motor.

We  see kids bathing their water buffalo. Buffalo, pigs, and dogs roam quite freely, sometimes invading a golf course near Guilin.  Vicki tells us that on another tour she saw a farmer drive a herd of buffalo across the lanes of the freeway. People drive slowly here, and they stopped and none were harmed.

A crude fish trap.

A fancier ferry. The boatman chooses to paddle even though his ferry has a motor. Vicki says he saves gas.

A fisherman’s hut.

Vicki tells us that the minority people from this village were persecuted 120 years ago and moved up higher in the mountains. The buildings still stand. Some tours take you into various villages along the Li.

When our boat docks, the cormorant fishermen are waiting for the tourists.

If they see you are trying to take their picture, they turn their backs to you.  They want you to pay. Vicki gets angry and says don’t pay them. We try our best to sneak a few shots.

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