When you live in a city as naturally beautiful as Vancouver, it’s easy to lose sight of some its gems. In childhood, we made untold visits to Queen Elizabeth Park, a 130-acre property known for its spectacularly landscaped garden in what was once a quarry. When visitors from out of province or out of country came to Vancouver, this was among the must-visit spots.

The park is home to the Bloedel Conservatory, a pitch and putt golf course, tennis courts, a lovely restaurant, lawn bowling and more.  As the highest point in the city, visitors also have expansive views of the city and North Shore mountains, and countless couples and their wedding parties have posed here for photos on their big days.

I drive by the park fairly regularly, and it struck me last week that it had been ages since we’d been there. This weekend, it was time to rectify the situation. I was among the early morning visitors there to enjoy the sunrise and, after photographing some of the gorgeous plant life, I made my way along the paths back up from the quarry.

I was surprised, part way up the path, to spot what I thought was a faux owl on the hand rail along the walkway. It was perched and poised, so still that I thought it wasn’t real. We were less than eight feet away, and I simply stared for a few seconds. Cameras in hand, I began walking again … only to watch what was clearly very much a live owl swoop up into the trees in response to my movement.

I felt privileged to have had the encounter, although not a little frustrated at my lack of perception. So, with a happy buzz for the rest of the day, I determined to try my chances again shortly after sunrise yesterday.

Barred Owl 7391Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

This turned out to be a great call, for I was able to spot not one, but two owls on my second visit this weekend – and did not make the same mistake a second time. I also benefitted, this visit, from conversations with a local birder. If I was the jealous type, I’d have felt that way looking at his lens; instead, it was another treat to listen to his insights. He explained that these were Barred Owls, known for making their nests in nearby Van Dusen Botanical garden and for relying on Queen Elizabeth Park as their hunting grounds. He also referred me to a great birders’ site, Birding in British Columbia.

This is just one of a few gems I captured on the weekend, between visits to Queen Elizabeth and doing the Grouse Grind. I’ll leave you with this image for today, with more to follow.

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