It’s baffling to me how some people seem to walk through life without ever really seeing what’s right in front of them.  One of the best things about taking a camera with you is that it forces you to slow down a little and look.  And like most good adventures, it’s the little unexpected surprizes along the way that are always the best part.

Cowichan Estuary - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Winter can seem dark and brooding on the west coast of Canada, which often has it’s own deeper beauty.  Yet as we patiently await, the skies suddenly yawn and stretch as the first slivers of gold make their way through the blinds, beckoning us to get out and go exploring.  Time to grab the Canon and fall in love all over again with our little spot in the world.

Cowichan Estuary - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

A few minutes down the road is an old farm, and around it is a wonderful walking path.  Well, sort of.  Scaling a path lovingly enveloped by craggy roots that skirt the banks and reach deep into the ground is more of a dance than a walk, but who doesn’t feel like dancing on the first day of Spring?

Cowichan Estuary - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

The path meanders along the farm borders, revealing all sorts of marvels along the way.  At one point we wondered if we had found a dragon skull, but as the lens zoomed in to investigate it turned out to be just our imaginations.  (It’s totally a dragon skull.)

Cowichan Estuary - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

An unruly row of pillars patiently wait for the water to once again meet their feet, now surrounded only by long grass and the constant chatter of resident birds and critters.

Cowichan Estuary - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Then suddenly, as if hiding in plain sight all along, the most diverse and special landscape on earth, the estuary.

Cowichan Estuary - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Home to the Coast Salish people for more than 12, 500 years, this is a place of gathering, of nourishment and of great meaning.  Home to more than 200 species of birds, salmon and trout, it has been an integral part of the local Native history.

Cowichan Estuary - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Threatened by logging and other industrial encroachment, there is an on-going effort by many groups to protect and restore this fragile and extraordinary melting pot of life.

Cowichan Estuary - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Cowichan Estuary – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

The neighbours are friendly and welcoming and nothing short of breathtaking.  This pair of adult bald eagles are just some of many different kinds of birds who call this place home.  Effortlessly circling high in the blue sky, their enormous wingspan cast shadows on us as we stood in absolute awe.

Bald Eagle – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Bald Eagle - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Bald Eagle – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Bald Eagle - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Bald Eagle – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

It just cannot be overstated how amazing it is to see these birds , no matter how long we live here.

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Myriad smaller residents perch in the still-bare branches, looking curiously at the passers-by as shutters click in unison.  This particular day was filled with hummingbirds, who despite their tiny size, are just as brave and fearless as their cousins in the sky.

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

We later identified these little guys as Anna’s hummingbirds.  Their iridescent feathers changing colour each time they move, it was mezmerizing to watch them flutter about.  They weren’t the least bit afraid of us and almost seemed to be posing for the camera.  I guess when you’re this pretty, you get used to being a super model.

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

As we peered up at them, they peered right back at us.  And then, this happened…..

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Seriously.  This has to be the cutest bird shot.  Ever.

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

As quickly as it stretched, it was back to being as serious as a ninja.

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna's Hummingbird - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Anna’s Hummingbird – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

As we came to the end of the path, we found this little red head guy floating serenely on the water.  Neither of us had ever seen one, so we just had to check it out as soon as we got home.  Turns out he’s not a water version of a roadrunner (my best guess!) but a Common Merganser.  Having never once seen one before, we seriously have to question the “common” part!  In any case, he was pretty special to us.

Common Merganser - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Common Merganser – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Common Merganser - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Common Merganser – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

*Ok, another cute bird pose alert*

Common Merganser - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Common Merganser – Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

I guess if you want to see the world’s cutest birds , you’ll just have to come and see this place for yourself.  But even if you don’t bring a camera, do yourself a big favour and take the time to stop and look and listen.  We promise you’ll be just as amazed as we were.

Thanks so much for joining us for a short stroll on this first lovely day of Spring.  We hope that the sunshine is warming your shoulders as you read this!