Forest Bathing

sun in trees

Sometimes a little dip into nature does the trick, but sometimes, nothing short of full woodland immersion is going to work.

Most days my spirits can be revived by a quick dog walk round the block, appreciating the changing leaves, a bit of moss here and there. The crows, of course.

Last week though — I’m not sure it was a touch of flu, too much turkey at Thanksgiving, or watching the second US presidential debate — but I was running on my last cylinder.

Although I felt mostly like sleeping, we went for a walk around Lynn Headwaters Park.


Because fierce rain and windstorms were predicted, last Wednesday seemed bathed in a golden light. It was a perfect fall day, all the more special for the impending weather doom and gloom.

Also, I hadn’t been in the woods for several weeks due to a series of unfortunate lower leg events. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it.

Three hours felt like the equivalent of a week’s magical vacation.

Coincidentally, ever since then I’ve been seeing the Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing” or “Shinrin-Yoku” popping up on my social media, and even in today’s local paper. If you Google the term “forest bathing” you’ll see that everyone from The Globe and Mail to Oprah is talking about it.

It seems that something we’ve always known intuitively is backed up by science. A walk in the woods is good for your health — physical and mental. No need to work up a sweat either. It’s simply being in the presence of trees that provides the benefit.

So, if you can, get out and find some trees to bathe with right now.

If you can’t fit it into your schedule immediately, I hope you’ll enjoy these photos.

Think of it as just a preview of your own real woodland walk, coming soon.





Lynn waters

Should you ever doubt the calming effect of a woodland walk, compare Geordie’s before and after pics.


BEFORE – in the car on the way to the park. Geordie always suffers a bit of car-ride anxiety, worrying perhaps that we’ve changed our mind and are returning him to the shelter in California whence he came.

AFTER: Geordie, blissfully one with nature.

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The Crow Calendar is Coming


You may (or may not) have been wondering where in the blogosphere I’ve gotten to for the last few months.

Well, puppy training is surprisingly time consuming … and then there has been my City Crow Calendar project.

The puppy training and the cat/dog peace treaty are both, by the way, going well.


But for a while it looked as if there wasn’t going to be a calendar this year.

First, there was the Canada Post dispute over the summer. I was worried that it would linger into to the busy mailing season and I’d have to hand deliver each and every calendar. Time to start Geordie’s sled training!

Happily, the dispute was settled by August. But then I thought maybe I’d left it too late.

Requests and queries started coming in. When will the 2107 calendar be ready? It did sell out by the beginning of December last year, so I guess people were anxious that they might have missed it already.

So in mid-September I finally got into calendar creation mind set.

Narrowing down the 12 images to feature is tough. From the thousands of crow images on my hard drive, it took at least a week to narrow it down to the dozen.

I could have been done then, and have the calendars already printed, but …

I had this lingering thought in my head that I’d like to give people more than just a calendar. I’d like to make it even more of a “crow-promotion” by adding interesting little facts about crows for every month. I also wanted to add some extra photos to help tell the “crow story”. I decided I could do this by using the little bits of vacant real estate on the calendar left by the grid spaces in each month that don’t have dates in them.

It wasn’t too hard to come up with “crow facts” for every month, although it took quite a bit of tweaking and editing to get them concise enough to fit into the little calendar grid boxes. It took a little bit more time to pick out the extra photos.


I thought I was finally finished last Friday, but then I found that the reason that more sensible people don’t make these cute little additions is that it’s a technical nightmare!

I won’t bore you with the InDesign technical reasons why this is such a fiddle, but suffice to say that I spent hours this week going over it with a fine tooth comb to get the weensy boxes of text and mini photos to align perfectly with the grid part of the calendar.


Geordie waits patiently while the crazy woman mutters at the computer screen.

Finally I decided that my nitpicking was going beyond the rational, so Geordie and I took the file off to the printer today. It is now, I am happy to report, out of my hands.

I expect it to be back into my hands early next week when it will be available to order online. I’ll be sending out a newsletter when they’re actually available, just in case you’d like to get your hands on one.

UPDATE: The City Crows calendar is now available for order on my website. 


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The Dog and Crow

Crow and Dog © June Hunter 2016

Sounds like the perfect name for an English Pub. I like to think there is one somewhere, and that I’ll enjoy a pint there one day.

But for today it’s a just good title for my blog.

Geordie at New Brighton

A new dog is a lot of fun, but so much work. Not a single blog post has been written since the arrival of Geordie, except for the one I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how he got to us.

You may think the crows are being neglected. But fear not!

It’s true that I’ve had less time to take photographs of them, but all of the walkies I’ve been on lately have kept me well informed of their progress.


Hank and Vera are our “resident” crows. During the rest of the year the other crow families (Eric and George’s) stop by, but during nesting season they get more territorial. Eric and family do occasionally swing by, but this causes mighty outrage on Hank and Vera’s part.

Vera and Hank, Crow Couple © June Hunter 2016

Vera disappeared for a while, and only Hank came for food so I think they had a nest. But then Vera reappeared, and at the same time I saw part of a dead baby crow on the neighbour’s lawn, leading me to think that (like last spring) a racoon or cat spoiled their plans. Vera seems to have vanished again, so I think they might be giving it another try.

Hank Sore Foot © June Hunter 2016

Of all the local crows, Hank is one I worry most about. He’s always had a limp, but his left foot and leg seem to be getting much worse. He often stands only on the other leg, and sometimes has a hard time making a landing.

Vera, on the other hand, has gone from the Cinderella crow of last spring, to Boudicea the Warrior Queen. Still a little smaller than the other crows, she makes up for it with sheer attitude. I think she, rather than Hank, is responsible for jealously guarding their territory from other crows.

Crow Photography Boadicea Vera - Spring 2016 © June Hunter 2016

Boadicea Vera – Spring 2016



Eric’s clan claim the tall poplars on the west side of Notre Dame School at the east end of our block. Their challenge this year is the fact that the school finally cleaned out the rotting portables and tangle of blackberry bushes. While it does make the area a lot nicer looking from a human perspective, a lot of that “wasted” space was perfect for keeping crow fledglings out of sight of predators until they learned to fly.

Every time I walk by the school on “their” corner, Eric comes down to say hello.

Crow Crossing © June Hunter 2016

Crow Portrait © June Hunter 2016

I haven’t seen any young ones yet, but it seems that Eric, Clara and at least one of last year’s youngsters are busy. I’ll be listening out for the lovely quacky sound of baby crows any day now.


George in the Rain Crow Photography © June Hunter 2016

Of all the neighbourhood crows, George has most enthusiastically adapted to our new dog walking schedule. Every single time I walk to the west side of the block, George is there.

I’m especially happy to see him as for weeks he seemed to have vanished. I was worried that his bad luck had gotten even worse. On the contrary though, he and Mabel seem to be doing just fine and George, broken beak and all, looks to be in the best of health.

Every single time Geordie and I get to “his” corner, George comes and lands on a fence right beside us. I always try to have a few peanuts on board for him — although he’s also pretty fond of dog treats. His beak doesn’t look as if it’s going to grow back any more, but it seems to be well healed and I’d say George is managing just fine.

Crow on Fence © June Hunter 2016

And what does Geordie think of the crows?

Like many of the new things in Geordie’s life, his first crow sightings were cause for nervous fidgeting and fretting. Now, having seen hundreds of them in the last few weeks, and the same ones several times a day, they barely register on his doggy radar.

He does like to listen to whatever Vera is saying from the roof of the house while he’s relaxing in the garden.

© June Hunter 2016

Geordie tries his hand at interpreting “crow”.

Dreamy Dog © June Hunter 2016

Geordie gets to the deeper meaning in Vera’s message.

Oh, and if anyone does know of a pub called The Dog and Crow, do let me know and I’ll put in on my bucket list.

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Gone To The Dogs

That Face

This week I was going write a blog post with an update on the nesting crows.

There were a lot of things I planned to do this week.

But everything has gone to the dogs. Well, THE dog.

Our house has been dogless for over two years, since Molly, the last of the brother and sister Labrador duo, died at the age of 15.

We’ve been thinking of getting a rescue pup for the last few months. Our daughter, Lily, introduced us to lots of fabulous rescue dogs through her volunteer work with Leash of Hope, so it just seemed the right way to go.

Leash of Hope is a wonderful charity that rescues unwanted dogs and trains them to be service dogs. You can read more about the amazing work here.

Leash Of Hope Group

Photo by Lily Ditchburn

Lily and I visited some local shelters, and tried local dog adoption agencies but we found that many small/medium dogs and puppies were quickly spoken for.

We began to spend hours looking at heart-breaking photos of puppies online. Most of them were in the US or abroad in what are known as “high kill” shelters. In Canada, dogs are generally kept in shelters until they’re adopted unless found to be too aggressive or too sick to be saved. But in the US, Mexico and other parts of the world, the sheer volume of unwanted dogs means that they have only a short time in a shelter before being moved to the “euthanize” list.

It was so tempting to just send for any of the lovely little faces we saw on these web sites, but I really wanted to meet the dog we were going to share a home with for (hopefully) 15 or more years before committing.

Also, there’s Edgar. Any new family member would have obviously have to pass the Edgar approval test.

edgar watching

Then, as I had a feeling it would, the very perfect dog just appeared.

About a month ago, a Leash of Hope trainer saw this photo online and brought the puppy to Vancouver from a shelter in LA.

Shelter photo

He had only a few days left there before running out of time, and they hoped he’d be a good candidate to be a service dog.

However, his traumatic early days in the shelter (and wherever he was before that) had left a mark. After being assessed while in foster care, it was determined that he was a just bit too nervous for life as an assistance dog. And so a home was needed.

First, there was the Edgar test. It helps that Edgar is one of the most relaxed cats in the world. He was very tolerant of the pup unless he went into “let’s play” mode. Edgar, first of all, gave him a hiss and a rapid-fire series of a slaps to the face (no claws) to express his disapproval. Message received. When the pup forgot the first lesson an hour or so later, Edgar only had to languidly raise a paw to refresh his memory.

Just to make sure, we had the pup over one more time. We decided he was definitely the dog for us. An intensive naming debate ensued. Suggestions were texted furiously back and forth between family members and collected on this white board. A final selection was made. Geordie was the unanimous choice.

Edgar makes sure to add his opinion to the puppy naming debate

Edgar makes sure to add his opinion to the puppy naming debate

For one of the best Mother’s Days ever, we brought him home for good.

While his shelter profile had him listed as a Lab, I don’t think there’s much, if any, labrador retriever in his make-up. Some border collie for sure and perhaps some spaniel ..?

Edgar Kisses Geordie

Everyone is thrilled with Geordie.

He’s a lovely dog and I’m sure he’s going to be the perfect family dog.

Geordie is a great new studio assistant.

Geordie is a great new studio assistant

Making himself at home in the studio

… although he does seem to sleep on the job quite a bit.

While some puppies are boundlessly optimistic and bold, Geordie seems like an old soul. He’s been through a lot in the four short months of his life, which tends to make him a bit pessimistic about anything new (particularly vans and crates). For now, he sleeps on the floor of our bedroom, rides in the car with a seatbelt harness, and gets a little bit more optimistic every day.

Geordie cu

Geordie and Edgar have already discovered a shared interest in bird watching.

Geordie and Edgar have already discovered a shared interest in bird watching.

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Hug a Crow This Earth Day

Not literally, of course. Crow hugging is fraught with peril at the best of times, but especially in spring when nesting season has them a bit tense.

Baby Face Crow © June Hunter Images

Please, do not hug me.

But I do suggest that you give the crow (or pick your favourite bird, plant, patch of moss or mollusk) a special thought today.


coral bark maple © June Hunter Images

mussels at Botanical Beach © June Hunter Images 2016

It’s Earth Day so, ideally, we should be extending our love to the entire planet.

But that’s a hard thing to do, particularly when what the planet needs from us right now is massive change —change that is going to be really tough for us to make.

John Marzluff quote2

The majority of the world’s population now lives in cities, where we often feel very cut off from what we think of as Nature.

Lyanda quote

So, given that most of us are urbanites these days, how are we to develop the necessary connection with nature in order to care enough to make change and move towards saving the planet?

As my dear mother used to say, “wherever you go, there you are.”

And where you are now, even if it’s in the heart of the city, has tenacious bits of nature thriving in it.

It just takes a slight focus shift to start becoming aware of, and amazed by it.


This crow is tending a nest at Hornby and Robson in the heart of downtown Vancouver, right by the Art Gallery. A friend who works at the gallery told me that it’s probably the same pair who nested there last year and caused a traffic kerfuffle when one of their babies flew into the back of someone’s convertible just outside of Café Artigiano.


Collecting nest furnishings in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Often the thing you tend to notice first, just because of its size and boldness, is a crow.

CameliaCrow ©June Hunter Images 2016

I find that the crow is your gateway bird, leading to the habit of noticing the bird world as a whole. Once you’ve started to look up to see what the crows are up to, you can’t help but start to notice the robins, sparrows, bushtits, chickadees and hawks going about their more subtle, but equally fascinating, avian business.

Bushtit in the Rain © June Hunter Images 2016

Coopers Hawk on William © June Hunter Images 2016

Chickadee in the Snowbell Tree © June Hunter Images 2016

And noticing birds is, in turn, a gateway to the wonder of nature in general.

Colin Tudge quote

The task of saving the earth often seems far too big and therefore hopeless.

The tools we need this Earth Day are empathy and hope.

Someone who embodies both of these qualities is 87 year old Jean Vanier, who created L’Arche — a unique and loving community for mentally disable adults. Here are some of his thoughts on birds, as told to columnist and writer, Ian Brown in a Globe and Mail interview.

Jean Vanier quote

Eric and Erica on Roof

Hmmm, something to think about …

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Some notes on the author’s quoted in this blog post:

John Marzluff’s Wikipedia page says this:
“John Marzluff is a professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington and author of In the Company of Crows and Ravens, Gifts of the Crow, and Welcome to Subirdia. His lab once banded crows with a Dick Cheney mask.”
— so you know he’d be fun guy to know!
Subirdia is his most recent book about the amazing adaptability of birds, their importance, and what we can do to help them survive in our urbanized world.

I first discovered Seattle author Lyanda Lynn Haupt when I picked up a copy of Crow Planet several years ago. It remains one of my favourite books, combining science, poetry and humour  in a way that I could read all day. She’s also written a wonderful book on city wildlife in general (The Urban Bestiary) and I look forward to her next one on the subject of starlings. And she has a blog: The Tangled Nest.

Colin Tudge is a British biologist and entertaining author, The Bird is only one of many books he’s written. I next want to read his book The Secret Life of Trees.

You can read more about the life and work of  Jean Vanier on his website.

Ian Brown is an author and  columnist for the Globe and Mail newspaper. His books include Boy in the Moon, about his severely disabled son and his latest, Sixty, The Beginning of the End, or the End of the Beginning?  That one’s also on my reading list.


The Colour of Crows

Crows and ravens are generally (and understandably) described as birds with black plumage. It is their darkness that allows them to grace the sky with such striking calligraphy.

Formal sentences composed on wires; more fluid, improvisational characters when taking to the air.

crow dance

But it’s so much more complicated, and beautiful, than that.

Feather collage

Crow and raven feathers are highly iridescent. They collect and reflect the light and the colour of the world around them. Gunmetal storm clouds, cornflower blue summer skies, the fire of the rising or setting sun — all paint their feathers with fleeting shades of indigo, lavender, copper and gold.

Copper Dawn Crow

Dawn crow, gilded

George with Luminous Feathers

George, with his eye on the sky … and the sky reflected in his feathers

Vera Reflecting garden

Crow takes flight from birdbath

These reflected shades are often featured in my photography and jewellery, so I think of, and marvel at, corvid hues often.

Raven pendant

Raven pendant

Sometimes I wonder, idly, about how many colours you could actually find in a crow or a raven’s feathers.

Imagine my surprise when a computer glitch answered my question.

I recently downloaded a batch of photos taken of a crow (Vera) in my garden. I use software called Bridge to organize my images. It allows me to see the images from my camera in thumbnail size, like an old fashioned contact sheet. It’s handy to see at a glance what’s there and do a quick edit.

Bridge capture2

I was amazed to see that some of the Vera images had been randomly translated by Bridge into, part normal photo, and part digital sampling of the colours in the photo.

Crow Colour Abstract

Vera’s plumage of many colours

At a glance, I see lavender, lilac, violet, mauve, periwinkle, indigo, charcoal, forest green, sand, pearl, slate — hardly any black, in fact.

It was an ephemeral glitch, but I managed to “capture” a couple of versions.

Crow Colours abstract

Quasi-scientific proof that a crow is not just a black bird.

Young crow in the sun

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