Summer in a Dome

On a grey, wet winter day, we sometimes escape the gloom to spend the day at the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. For bird lovers, it’s a mini tropical paradise that’s close to home.

canaries by connie sobchak


I had intended to take macro shots of the plants while my husband photographed the birds but the conservatory was still decorated for Christmas. While poinsettias are beautiful and multicoloured, a portfolio of various shades of leathery leaves was not what I had in mind. I already have a collection of artsy shots of palm fronds and close ups of seed pods so I decided to wander about and simply look at the birds, perhaps scouting out a few of the more elusive ones for Gary to photograph.  What a delight to wander around without a coat, surrounded by greenery and tiny bursts of rainbow coloured birds.

I chatted with one of the volunteers who was standing in the foliage with an African grey parrot on one shoulder and a cockatoo on the other shoulder. He told me that these two birds had been his five years ago until he learned that the conservatory was looking to replace Rosy, the African grey who had died. Whenever his work schedule allows, he visits his old friends in their new home and they perch on his shoulders while he educates visitors about birds. It seemed like an ideal arrangement for all involved.  Other birds at the conservatory are either donated as these two were or given a new home after passing through Grey Haven Exotic Bird Sanctuary, where they may have been rescued.

pheasant by connie sobchak


Deep in the foliage, I kept hearing a quiet clucking but could never spot anything. I imagined a furtive greenish bird flitting from branch to branch until a blazing gold and red Chinese pheasant scuttled across some open ground to a new covert. Once again I was struck with the way that such brightly coloured creatures can become invisible.


finch by connie sobchak


A flutter of wings near my head drew my eyes upwards and there on a perch in front of me sat some finches. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take some shots but at the same time, I anticipated disappointment when I viewed them as these perky, jerky little birds would no doubt be blurry bright blobs when captured with a macro lens. Sure enough, I deleted many photos but my mood improved immeasurably when I scanned through the feathered foliage made possible by gregarious, somewhat tame birds and a closeup lens.
Today, as the snow builds up again and a grey week of intermittent rain and winter weather is predicted, I anticipate reliving the warmth and colour of the conservatory by browsing through these images.

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