Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Another Lower Mainland natural gem discovered

It's a sin we're all guilty of, I think, knowing about a cool place that's close to where we live, a place we keep intending to visit, but somehow never managing to find the time or inclination to make it there.

I guess "sin" is probably too strong a word. But so often if we do eventually make it to such a place, we often mentally flagellate ourselves for not going there sooner.

I had one of those moments this past weekend.

I'd known about the Maplewood Flats Conservation Area for almost as many years as I've lived in Vancouver (nine and counting). It kept popping up on my radar but I never, ever seemed to make it out there. 

The only reason I went out there this time was because plans to visit another natural area fell through the works due to a series of unforeseen events. But, needing a nature fix, I finally decided we should pay a visit to Maplewood.

Greeted by a heron
Within minutes of jumping out of the car, before even getting to the entrance way to the trails, we spotted a great blue heron, sunning on the rocks in a pond by the parking lot. 

Seeing wildlife that soon into an outing as always a good sign, at least as far as I'm concerned.

Managed by the Wild Bird Trust of B.C., Maplewood Flats is a parcel of land in North Vancouver, about 300 acres in size, bordered on the south and east boundaries by the Burrard Inlet. Access is off the Dollarton Highway (south side), just a few kilometres east of the Second Narrows Bridge.

It only took 20 minutes to drive there, right from our front door to the entrance way, so it's very close. Yet once you walk a few minutes into the area, you'd never know you were so close to a large metropolitan area. Mind you, that's just my first impression, and we didn't explore much of the area's 3 km of trails. We basically headed for the one that took us right out to the eastern shore, on Burrard Inlet.

Then the show began.

An osprey looks for supper...
We'd hardly arrived at the mud flats when we looked up and saw an osprey chasing after a bald eagle.  Apparently, the eagle had flown a little too close to the osprey next (there are at least three along there, built on old pilings formerly used to secure log booms.) 

The volunteer greeter had told us there had been a new baby eagle born there this spring, but this was an adult being harassed by the much smaller osprey. This round went to the osprey.

We just sat and soaked up the sunshine, watched a few kayakers paddled across the inlet in the distance and then out of the sky appeared one-two-three more ospreys.

We watched one of them hover high up in the air, scanning the water for fish, then swoosh! splash! It quickly transitioned from practically motionless to jet-like speed to nail what looked like a flounder or some other kind of fish then flew off with its prize, probably to share with its babies.

Birds do it, bees do it...

Sitting in the shade of a small mountain ash, we listened to the water lapping at the shore, enjoyed the scent of the ocean on our nostrils, enjoyed watching the bees buzz around the flowers that dotted the edge of the woods, just luxuriated in the solitude, the peace, the quiet...

Because we'd had a late start, all too soon, it was time to go. But after hearing stories from other visitors about the otter family and the deer that live in Maplewood, we vowed it would not be long before me made a return journey, so we could - to parrot Jewel Akens - spend some more time enjoying "the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees..."

It certainly will not take us another eight years to get here, as it did our first visit...

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