Geese and Ducks

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Wow! the last day of May. It was a warm to hot day out, and I went for a walk in the neighbourhood to the local park. The park is nicely treed and has an ornamental pond, a favourite place for local people to hang out and relax. We have some feathered friends that like to come to visit, a pair of Canada Geese, and a pair of American Wigeons. The geese seem to be the smaller variety.

Two geese, quite relaxed and preening.
Maybe he will go into the water but I captured the image just at this moment.
Drake American Wigeon who has lost some of his green breeding colour on his head
Hen scouring for something
Two of them preening, a perfect way to spend the day and close off the month.

Scenics from Chickakoo Lake

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I enjoyed my walk there last week. This week I am on the computer while resting after my Cortisone shot in the knee on Friday, so it is a good time to go through photos.

I like Chickakoo Lake recreation area, it is familiar to me and though I can’t go as far as a few years ago I can still cover some of the trails

Here is the terrain from the Indian Ridge Trail where I went last week:

Lots of Warblers and Flycatchers in these birch and poplar stands.
Near the parking area there is a playground and a few benches and picnic tables with scenic views of the spring Greens. These can be found in various places on the trails, too.
There is more Spruce at this part of trail. I saw a Robin here and heard a Red-eyed Vireo.
Close-up of a birch bark tree.
Marshy area on Dog Leg Pond. The trail on the opposite side from me is called Nature’s Way.
Back at the parking lot, I took a close-up of the blossoms.

Chickakoo Lake

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Went with a friend to this pleasant recreation area with a few trails about an hour away from the city. As soon as we got out of the car we heard Yellow warblers everywhere and I thought I heard a Robin, but it was a faster cadence so I looked around and there it was, a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. I haven’t seen one in quite a few years so this was a thrill.

I have a walker now, something I stubbornly resisted until I was offered one for free from a woman who had one but it was not a good fit for her. I decided to accept the offer and realized it didn’t make me into an older woman but gave me more freedom. I took it with me on this trip and the person I went with had been slowing down to my pace, but after a short stint she wanted to walk further and faster, so we agreed to go our separate ways and meet back at the car in a couple of hours. I could go birding and take my time while she got a good, brisk walk and we both could enjoy the sights along the way at our individual pace. I still use my cane, but it is great to have a walker because I walk straighter, and can sit down when I get tired without having to find a bench or stump.

Here are some of the birds I saw that I could get an image of:

First Bird we saw was a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak
A Flycatcher? Made a Che-bek! sound.I will try to ID it later.
My first male Yellow Warbler this year-a little cropped. It was a challenge to capture because it moved all the time.
Sat on a bench at this small lake and had a lunch while listening to all the bird songs.
A somewhat closer shot than in the above photo. What I thought may have been a Merganser turned out to be a Common Loon
Next to me was an inlet and a pair of Blue -winged Teals
I heard a familiar song and patiently followed the sound until I saw movement . Delighted that this White-throated Sparrow came out into the open , save for a twig in front of his face.
A Robin flew ahead of me so I got a quick shot.
The trail was very pretty with spring green, sometimes totally enclosed by forest and sometimes open with views of the lakes.
Near the end of this trail was some marshy area.
At the edge of the marsh I was awarded with a visit from a Friendly Black-capped Chickadee with a juicy meal. Maybe food for a nearby family?

I enjoyed the quiet immensely, except the songs of the birds which are so plentiful and singing their hearts out. One song I heard but never spotted the bird was that of a Red-eyed Vireo. My friend and I both got back to the car about the same time and shared our stories about what we saw and heard. I also met a woman who, seeing my camera, shared information about a near-by site that is loaded with birds. Hmm, maybe next time.

In Full Bloom

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I have checked a couple of times to see if the Crab Apple blossoms are in bloom and two weeks ago they were just coming out . With a couple of rainfalls and time last week they were in their glory. I usually think mid May and I was not disappointed. On the 17th I went to a nearby look-out and took photos-lots of photos along the promenade of two kinds : red and white.

Last week just opening.
This week, in bloom
A favorite, the Double-flowering Plum shrubs which only last about a week, so catch them when you can because they are a sight to behold.
Walking down the promenade you get to breath in the scent of the red and white blossoms
The white blossoms that grow right out of the trunk.
A great place to go for a stroll because there is always a bench to rest on when you get tired.
I enjoyed being outside with all this colour.

Alas, in typical Alberta style, we got a spring snow storm, so it was white mixed with green, pink and white. I was crushed. A messy photo showing the snow.

Looking out today, all the blossoms are still there so they survived. Feeling grateful, mixed with a little trepidation as the forecast calls for more snow. Sigh, enjoy it while you can.

My first Blossom this year

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It is a double something-or-other. I went for a walk on the promenade yesterday overlooking the valley and saw this yesterday and that is when I captured the image. This evening I went for a walk again after a light rain, but without the camera, and the blossoms are coming out on the pink and white flowering crabapple trees. I will get back to take photos tomorrow, but for now enjoy this one!

Lots of Scrapping

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I went to a lake in the city with friends this week and we were quite entertained by the geese. I think there was a nest down the hill from where we gathered because as I started to walk down the hill to see more, two geese walked toward me, not hissing, but staring. I took the hint and changed direction.

From the bench I saw lots of action which was a good opportunity to capture some action shots.

Just stay away!
While one partner calmly watches the other gives chase.
Other times the pair of them work together to cover both directions.
On guard. they came out of the water and chased another couple a short distance.
They just chase others far enough to set a boundary.
Quite acrobatic feats of flight.
There are longer periods of time times when the scrapping settles down and the geese go back to eating.
There is also time for preening the feathers and they don’t seem to mind my presence, though I am mindful to keep a respectful distance and use a long lens..

Courting Gulls

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I found the courting behavior of these Ring-billed gulls to be very quaint. They alternately dipped their heads into the water then dipped simultaneously. At one point they looked at me (third image) and obviously acknowledged my presence, then ignored me the rest of the time. I like the reflections of them in the water as well as the reflections on their chests.

I wonder if they see their reflections?
Lots of head-bobbing, looking around
Am I interrupting?
Such a refreshing drink!
Taking Turns
Drinking Together

Early Signs of Spring

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Spring is unpredictable here in Alberta. Many years , but not this one, we have a snowfall on the first day of Spring. It did snow today but melted when it hit the ground. Other years we have had a blizzard on April 1st. Ha Ha some joke. A lot of us are happy for the warm weather as well as worried about forest fires because it is too dry. We need more snow and rain. I have heard geese, crows and a robin in the last couple of weeks, just waiting for my first sighting of a Robin, then the Ring-billed gulls.

Here are some images of the first glimpses of more to come. I am savoring it.

Time for rubber boots soon.
First pair landed and went straight to the puddle.
Second Pair came within minutes.
They went over to the pond and challenged the other pair. Sorry about the wires, can’t be helped.

Flocks of Waxwings (Bohemian) are gathering in the trees, getting ready to leave.
I think they just mated, it was quick.
In the rural areas there are geese flying over and crows cawing. The ice is coming off the ponds in the wetlands where later I will see Blue-winged Teals, Mallards, Barn Swallows, Sora, Northern Shovellers,, Ruddy Ducks, Warblers, Song Sparrows and the Red-winged Blackbirds as well as a few Yellow-headed Blackbirds. I feel very happy as I wait in anticipation.

My Pandemic Story

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We have been in this pandemic for a year now since the first case in Canada and we were invited by one of my church groups to share our pandemic story with one another by e-mail which a few of us have done. I thought afterward to include my story here with a few changes and added photos, as follows:

It was a bit of a shock that week in early March when  there was no eating at meetings, then the next week I received notices from every place I ever went to , that all were cancelled. It has been a Godsend to watch church worship online or in person when able, and attend Scripture Reflections and Spirited Arts Studio on Zoom. It has kept me sane.

Collage done in Spirited Arts Group while online

I stayed home a lot and did not go out much, except for walks in the neighbourhood. When Covid-19 case numbers dropped  and the parks opened up in July, I rented a car and treated myself to a couple of nights at the Sunwapta Falls Resort in Jasper National Park while exploring the sites close by. Food was purchased in Hinton, just outside of the park and I cooked in my room as well as treated myself to a couple of delicious meals and afternoon tea in the resort’s dining room.

All the staff were friendly and wore masks, social distancing was practiced, plus there was hand sanitizer at every entrance so I felt safe. Another safety feature was Bear Spray that I borrowed from the front desk when I went out for walks.

Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge in Jasper National Park
Sunwapta Falls , a short walk or drive from the resort.

I enjoyed sitting on the veranda in the morning while sipping on coffee and reading my daily devotionals.

My morning spot for reading and coffee.
My view from my chair on the veranda

I enjoyed driving the Toyota Corolla rental through the mountains and did go to a favorite stop and saw an eagle in her nest with an eaglet!

I stayed in Hinton one night outside Jasper National Park to see the Beaver Boardwalk with trails through the woods and over the water. The warning signs about bears, cougars and wolves sure kept me attentive but did not see any wildlife – there was an abundance of the Indian Paintbrushes and Western Lilies.

Beaver Boardwalk in Hinton, Alberta
Western Lily

I joined one or two friends on hikes at Wagner Bog area, Strathcona Wilderness Center and Bunchberry Meadows. Wonderful!

Shooting Star at Wagner Bog west of Edmonton
Ruffed Grouse at Strathcona Wilderness Center east of Edmonton
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail at Bunchberry Meadows west of Edmonton

I also went to Miquelon Lake with a friend for a weekend and stayed in a tent and cooked over a single-element gas stove. We were proud of ourselves because we got the tent and tarp up just as it started raining and we managed to stay dry throughout the night. We played Cribbage in the tent and survived one of the worst thunderstorms I have ever been in while camping… hours of crash and boom and rumbling, one storm after another. The next night we met up with another friend and we sat in lawn chairs on the beach until it was pitch black and watched the Perseid meteor showers and listened to owls and coyotes. That was a blast although the dark was a little scary!

3 fun-loving women waiting for a meteor shower
Dragonfly on a nature walk at Miquelon Lake

Christmas was fun with a Zoom visit with 5 households in Ontario-chaotic and noisy, almost like being there while watching my great nieces open gifts.

Christmas morning via Zoom

Since then I go on occasional walks with a friend, both of us always wearing masks to protect one another . I have damaged lungs and she has cancer, but we have had good walks and talks throughout the pandemic. I have gained a lot of weight in the latter months so a friend helped me get a rack to mount my bike and ride it in my apartment, and I bought trekking poles from Mountain Equipment Company.

Need the step stool to climb onto the bike and I can see out the window while I pedal.

I miss everyone but am somewhat used to being alone and spend a lot of time on Zoom to keep in touch with people. Hope to get outdoors more once it warms up a bit, been -20 or lower for about a week. Stay well, everyone!

Golden Hour

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It was the right time of day, in the late afternoon, so I took photos of what I was attracted to, trying to capture the glow. I like the late afternoon when the sun is going down, leaving a warm cast of light and the shadows are long.

The sun was setting and cast a glow on these shrubs. With the cool back ground I was drawn to the contrast as a composition.
I liked what the light did for these worn railings in a small garden park.
Close-up of a leaf with some artistic warp filter.
Walking along the promenade.
Sunny Hillside

Magpie Hunting a Vole

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If you are squeamish, make your choice about viewing this or not. It is not something I have never seen before, so of course I decided to record it.

This Magpie poking at something and since it was fairly close, I started shooting with my camera. The object was hidden by a bump in the land and some snow, then the magpie was picking up a small creature, poking it, shaking it, dropping it. I was thinking, “What has it got hold of?”

The magpie had caught a vole and was poking the poor critter, maybe taking some bites and I thought I saw movement and even told the magpie, “C’mon, don’t make it suffer, kill it.” The light was strong from the setting sun and I was looking down from the top of the hill so the details are not very clear.

The magpie is picking the vole up and shaking it. Must have learned this from the coyotes.
This was when I could identify the vole, with its short little tail.
A pause.
The vole looks like it is sitting up but no, it is dead and some flesh is missing behind the ear.
The vole is just beneath that little ridge and I guess I was intruding , because the Magpie looked at me, took a couple more jabs, then left. Maybe it will come back later.

It is the first time I have seen a Magpie eating more than grasshoppers but have seen them eating meat out of a bowl at the zoo. I have never seen a Magpie hunting a vole before.

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Out in the Streets

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I love this section of my town (city, actually) because of the big decorations they have in the streets. It sure creates a festive spirit. I started off looking for the conjunction of the planets , but it was cloudy, so I continued walking around the neighborhood a bit and took some photos that I have been meaning to take. Enjoy!

One area is lit up like this all year, with the colours changing according to the season.
So glad I got out for a walk with my camera.
Corners come in handy for those head-on shots.
One spot on the street has a little park full of lights large and small, twinkling away.

Horse Heaven

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I went the 5 Freedoms Ranch which is a rescue and rehabilitation ranch outside of Edmonton with my Camera Club and got my horse fix after being away from them a long time, petting them almost as much as taking photos. These people are a society of horses lovers who rescue horses from abusive and neglectful situations as well as from meat packers so they can live their final days in freedom and with lots of food and water and space to move.

5 Freedoms stand for:

freedom from hunger and thirst

freedom from discomfort

freedom from pain and injury

freedom to express normal behaviours

freedom from fear and distress

Some of the horses were very skinny, starved where they were previously kept. Others had a wild look in their eyes when they saw people coming near, and stayed away from us. Most were well fed and easy to approach. The staff and volunteers work diligently with them to build trust and nurse them back to health. We were allowed to go into the paddocks with a staff person. Quite a few members of the Camera Cub showed up and a couple of them brought carrots so a few horses were enjoying the pampering.

Here are a sample of photos taken that morning of the better-looking horses, I didn’t have to heart to share the ones who are skin and bones:

Fresh hay is always available
All sorts of breeds and mixed breeds are taken care of here.
Some foals were born here
She is taking care of the foal beside her
Not just horses, but also mules and donkeys
Drippy Lips
Getting a drink. One mare lost her foal and when a newcomers youngster arrived, adopted it.
I loved this horse’s colour
Bays, Sorrels, Chestnuts, browns, Pintos, Greys. They are pretty comfortable and getting used to people who are loving and kind

The horses, especially sorrels, looked very nice with the fall colours. The one above on the left had ribs sticking out, some were too fat, and there were others who were racks of bones, as a result of an owner, or owners who never bothered to feed them. I was so glad to go here, very appreciative of the staff and volunteers for what they do to restore the animals back to health and build trust with people. Our members donated our photos to help their cause.

5 Freedoms Ranch and Rescue Society is holding a raffle to raise money to feed the horses and care for their needs over winter. You can check out the webpage at https://rafflebox.ca/raffle//5frrrs

On a different note, I have not been too regular with posts or comments on other’s posts because I got a call to see an apartment in a senior’s independent living building and decided to take it. The vacancy came up out of the blue and I had little time to decide, but did decide to move there, signed the lease today and now I am excited. I am down-sizing and packing and hope to move before we possibly have more restrictions in our city due to the rise in new Covid cases. Back to the blog soon!

Geese are Gathering

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I took my friend’s car to my favorite local park and there were lots of geese. There were a few taking off and a few landing, so I had lots of practice at panning the camera to follow the birds. All were in pairs except for small groups landing or taking off. I wondered if they are just doing some practice runs, getting ready for the long flight that is to come.

Incoming!

It was very noisy, everyone honking wildly as they landed or took off, or when they were on the ground and someone else got too close.

Constant coming and going
Some were languishing quietly but looking a little stressed.
Others were less than welcoming.
Another welcoming party. Not a great shot but I liked capturing the behaviour.
No, one does not want to lie on the ground now in this park. Might be slippery.

This scene seemed relatively quiet, but with all the squabbling I wondered how they choose the leaders and get along for the long flight that is ahead of them.

Recap of Birds I Have Seen

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I have spent more time reading other people’s posts and and have not been getting out and posting myself. It was a shocking reminder to get moving and maybe catch some birds during migration a couple of days ago when the temperature dropped to an overnight low of 3 degrees celsius. Weather should never stop me but I did get an extra blanket out of the closet and hunkered down for the night.

Today my post is about looking back at what I have seen in the last few weeks. Some may be new, and some may be repeats.

Oh, there are two young ones following Momma Ruffed Grouse.
She is making noises to alert the chicks to stay in hiding.
Immature Ring-billed Gull soaring on the wind, almost completely still at times.
At first glance I thought this might be an Eastern Kingbird because the breast is so white and the tail has white trim as well. Otherwise I think it would be a Phoebe.
Juvenile American Coot sunning on some driftwood
Red-necked grebe further out in the water
A curious Black-capped Chickadee
We saw this squirrel carrying a young one up a tree, then she came to check us out.

I am planning to visit a friend who has her family’s trailer parked at a lake south of where I live. This has always been a good place for birding and I am looking forward to our visit and shared photo shoots in a couple of weeks.

Sunset on the Beach

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It has been years since I sat under the stars and was able to see them so brilliantly. I was with two friends sitting on a beach waiting to watch the Perseids meteor shower last week. Out of practice with camera settings and putting up a tripod with telescopic legs that need to screw open or shut and got nothing with my camera, but saw a few streaks across the whole sky and on the horizons. It was good having company in the dark, never would have had the nerve on my own. We were southeast of Edmonton in the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve where light pollution is at a minimum. Here are some photos of our view as the sun set.

I missed the full glow in the clouds as I spent so much time fiddling with my tripod, finally took this by hand.
Some Canada Geese were out in the water with some Grebes, Gulls. Far away but still nice to see them.
Picnic table made a decent foreground subject.
A beautiful calm night. Cold too! glad I had a tuque and layers under my jacket.

The clouds did clear to some extent and we had a great view of the Milky Way and could hear the yipping of Coyotes and two great Horned Owls calling to each other along with our excited voices exclaiming, “there goes one!” ” I saw it!” “It had a tail!” “Did you see that??” ” Right across the sky!”

Great night; great memories.

Athabasca Falls

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Upon arrival at the parking lot, the rain poured down so I stayed in the car and waited it out for about 10 minutes. Once it cleared I was good to go. It is a very short walk to the falls but the weather was still “iffy.”

Mount Kerkeslin peaking through the clouds on the east side of the highway across from the Athabasca river and falls.
Stopped for this rock with it’s impressive lichen and moss.
I skipped a couple of viewpoints because I knew what I wanted, but stopped because this ledge of moss was so beautiful. my photo does not do it justice.
I took this from the top of a set of stairs from which I had a better view, but had to wait for people to get out of the way. That is the Icefields Parkway in the background.
This is where the water goes after the falls. On the other side of the fence you can go down steps to the river. When water is lower, it is a beautiful aqua colour.
taken in May 2012
My camera and I got soaked from the spray rising from the falls as well as the rain. Was constantly wiping off my gear.
Top of the Falls. Lots of power.
Slowed the shutter speed down for this shot, a little blurry but like the effect on the water.

I was soaked so went back to the lodge for a shower and nap, then had a bowl of cream of yam soup with masala spice, and a chai latte in the restaurant. Such luxury!

After supper it cleared up and the sun even shone, so I went to one of my favorite spots in the park, not far away, which is one of the reasons I chose to stay at this location.

Sunwapta Falls

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The road to the falls is right beside the lodge and it is not far at all. I have been here before but am always attracted back – is it the energy? the roar of the falls, cascading over the rocks? Yes, and yes. I love the roots of the trees here, but it is very hard to step over them, was holding onto the trunks for dear life as I came down a slight grade.

Bear activity is up in the park with less people being here, and there is a big black bear in the area so I gladly borrowed some Bear Spray from the front desk(mine has passed the expiry date) and practiced getting the can out of the holster and pulling off the safety clip like a kid playing cowboy before leaving. It did rain and I kept my hood down so I could hear, and sang some of the weirdest songs as I walked along the trail. I had watched a video about how to use bear spray and one guy was singing “Roxanne” and that is what I did , as well as singing “How Great Thou Art” and “Old Dan Tucker” and “Teddy Bear’s Picnic.”

The classic view from another bridge above the gorge. I went to where that person is standing and to the fence on the left that is higher up.
closer but staying on the right side of the fence-the level can rise up quickly and the rocks are slippery.
The water is high.
taken from the upper fence lookout
Lower down slowing the shutter speed
Using a slower shutter speed and small aperture again. I was getting soaked from a steady drizzle of rain and spray from the falls
These are the roots I mentioned earlier but oh, so hard to walk down.
I just had to check this out.
The gorge after the falls.
Enjoyed the wild flowers beside the trail.
Bunch berries
Twin flowers beside the gorge
My one wildlife shot-ha ha!

On to Sunwapta Falls Lodge

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Sunwapta Falls Lodge is 53 km south of Jasper on the picturesque Icefields Parkway and where I booked my stay for two days. “Sunwapta” is a Stoney Indian word meaning “turbulent waters”. Before I entered the lobby, there was a bottle of sanitizer on a table beside the entrance. All the staff wore masks indoors and out and everyone was very friendly and helpful. My hosts had my information from the booking so there was no more transaction to carry out. They gave me a bigger room than expected with two double beds in a long building like a town house with a shared porch.

Off the lobby was a gift shop then the dining area. There were signs and markers that guided one to the entrance and exit in the dining room which was log style and decorated with animal fur draped over the rafters A couple had the table in front of the fireplace and there was another room off the main dining area if it got crowded and people were well spaced from one another. I felt quite safe with regards to Covid-19. The food was great and I also had brought some with me.

Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge-the display to the right of the Tipi displays the stories and prints of famous Indigenous Chiefs such as Black Bear, Poundmaker, Crowfoot, etc. The lobby is in the middle with the entrance to the right and the restaurant is on the left side. I forgot to ask about the totem poles.

It is very expensive for my lifestyle but always wanted to come and treat myself after stopping here a few years ago. Only regret was that I did not book one more day. My plan was to stay on the parkway and visit some favorite spots that I have been to before, as well as go to places I hadn’t been. I lessened the list on my itinerary but drove shorter distances and relaxed more.

A courtyard in the middle of a cluster of cabins.

My favorite features were the microwave that I asked them to bring in, coffee maker, round table beside the window where I knew I would be writing, and a chair outside on the porch where I could have a leisurely morning coffee and do my reading. The latter feature was very important to me because I live in an apartment without a balcony. Here’s my view from the front door. Glorious! I didn’t mind the cars as the mountains were much bigger in real life. I enjoyed the constant chatter of Pine Siskins and even saw some Robins.

View from my Front Door
A little closer
Peak on the right side

I explored the grounds and met the resident Ravens.

They had names which I have forgotten.
Pretty tame Raven

Time for bed and be ready to explore Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls the next day.

First Day in Jasper

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I must apologize for the long pause after my last post. I was away and had only my tablet with me. I find the screen small for accessing all the features available on WordPress. I am back at home and comfortable(except for the heat) working on my desktop.

I left Hinton mid-morning and saw the Roche Miette in the distance, one of the first mountains you see coming into Jasper National Park from the east, a familiar welcome to the rockies.

Roche Miette meaning Crumb Rock. The locals talk about the face looking upward at the right side of the photo.
Roche Ronde seen from a pull-off stop beside highway 16 or Yellowhead highway.
Low-lying clouds all day but no rain.
First stop Maligne canyon where there are signs reminding people to socially distance.
The water is high and roaring through the canyon that includes 6 bridges that you cross as you follow the trail.
close-up of the beginning of one of the falls as the water goes downhill
I braced myself against a fence and slowed the shutter speed and closed the aperture to f32.
In the winter you can go on ice walks at the bottom of the canyon, which amazes me when I see it now during run-off.
Some of the garbage I saw, left on the rocks. Who do they think is going to clean up after them? I saw discarded plastic water bottles and cans a few times. I want to tell them, ” If you can’t carry out what you brought in, or show no respect for nature, stay home.”
Lower down the Maligne Canyon Trail
The falls at the first bridge, a very deep part of the canyon but there is so much water it is hard to see this.

The trail from the falls at the first bridge leads to the Maligne Wilderness Kitchen where there was hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit. I stopped for a hearty Vegetable Potage soup which was very satisfying. I was so thirsty and the water they brought to me was in bottles with a stopper on top. The servers sat me a safe distance from other guests , wore masks and brought stainless steel utensils that were wrapped. This was the first restaurant I have attended in months and I felt comfortable.

I decide to go up the road to Medicine Lake, so named because it empties in the fall to riverbed and fills up in the Spring and Summer. Of course this summer it is very high due to all the rainfall we have received. There was a forest fire there about five years ago and it is interesting to see the changes.

Medicine Lake looking south from the look-out.
Looking back in the general direction from where I took the previous photo.
Usually later in the season you can walk to many of these “islands”.

At this point instead of going further up the mountain to Maligne Lake, I decided to head to go down the mountain to highway 16 and go west then south on the Icefields Parkway to Sunwapta Falls where I was staying for two nights- a couple of hours drive.

The Character of Stumps

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When I decided to post some photos of stumps, I thought I knew where they were because I take photos of them. I did find some favourites that I was thinking of and I know there are more… somewhere. Regardless, this has spurred me on to start a new folder dedicated to that topic.

It is wonderful when you continually return to a favourite trail to observe the change in landmarks over a period of years. Some stumps certainly fit into this category and I have seen upright trunks totally disintegrate. For example the log behind the stump in the first picture is a small pile of wood chips now.

The next photo shows a mere skeleton of a stump that I have seen waste away over the years, but I think it has a lot of character.

This one stands sentry to the beginning of a trail in Whitemud Ravine, Edmonton.

Do you see the old man’s face in there? Whitemud Ravine, Edmonton
Some stumps support a whole world of living things. I call them fairy homes. Cavell Lake, Jasper National Park.
Part of a stump, you can see where my eye was drawn to. This was on the Maligne Canyon Trail in Jasper National Park.
Here is another favourite of mine that has disintegrated since this photo was taken.

Hope you enjoyed seeing some of my favourite stumps. I will going to Jasper NP tomorrow so hope to find some subjects. Ha! You know I will!

Summer Moments

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Getting out to Elk Island National Park for the first time this year was a joy after being locked down since March due to Covid-19. I took a lot of photos and did notice that I did not see as many birds as in May and June, which does not surprise me.

There were a few birds, and butterflies and other things that I want to share under the headline of summer moments. There are some moments that will stay in my mind for a long time, because I remember the excitement associated with it, as well as the beauty. I hope you enjoy the following photos.

I shared the Cedar Wax Wings with you last post but I figure there is room for one more..
This Song Sparrow came and posed for me and I managed to get a few shots. Others were too high and too distant, so this was a bonus.
I did not see the spots on the leaves before until I enlarged the photo so almost 100% sure these are Buffalo Berries. Birds love them . So do bears.
I find that Fleabane are pretty when they are in full bloom. I am starting to recognize some common names for the wild flowers.
Saw a small herd of Bison and can’t see too well but I think it is the bull that has all the birds on his back.
This might be a Taiga Bluet Damsel Fly. Bluet for sure.
Four Spotted Skimmer
The water is very high which kills those saplings on the edges of the shorelines. Calm waters make for beautiful reflections.
Nice reflections of the clouds which did build up and gave us a shower, but a light one so it was refreshing rather than a soaker.
The Living Waters boardwalk is not accessible because it is under water. In middle ground is a Red-necked Grebe feeding a chick.
This is a new Butterfly for me, it is called an Inornate Ringlet.

Too many photos are too many, so will stop here. I like shooting everything in nature, first birds then Butterflies then dragonflies. I am tentatively starting on wildflowers, or maybe I should say “trying to ID” wildflowers. It is the same with butterflies, I mean, really, just how many Fritillaries are there!?

I had a photo with a stump in it a while ago and one of the people that reads my blog told me that she likes stumps. I haven’t forgotten and found a couple of my favourite stump photos, so that will be the topic of my next post. Have a great day!

Cedar Waxwings

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I have been lucky to spot a few Cedar Waxwings this year so wanted to share what I saw the other day when I visited Elk Island National Park for the first time since it reopened, but must say they move around a lot and I found it difficult to get a good shot because of shadows and trigs, etc.

This one stopped for a moment, for which I am grateful
A few Waxwings came at the same time and seemed to love these berries which I have not yet identified.
Cedar Waxwing gorging on berries.
My friend alerted me to this when we went up an unknown trail to see what was there. I am glad we went .
Waxwing giving itself a good shake. I like this shot.

Canada Geese and Goslings

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Thanks to a kind friend, I got a ride to the park to blissfully spend time with my fine-feathered friends and shoot to my heart’s delight. First I will share some photos of Canada geese and goslings , whom I am happy to report, were all ages from quite young to fully grown.

A pair of Canada Geese, mated for life.
Preening and sleeping after a swim on the pond
A gaggle of geese coming out of the pond right where I was standing. Probably a grown up family.
A proud parent keeping watch over the “teens.”
I respect their space, not getting too close and let them approach me. This family seems comfortable with my presence.
Yum, dandelion is good!

Warblers, Warnings and Rain

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It was an interesting walk today. I approached the valley via one of the stairways and could hear the Yellow Warblers calling back and forth, “Sweet, Sweet, I’m so Sweet.” Everything has filled out so much , I had trouble seeing into the trees. I saw a flash of Yellow and waited and watched. This is as close as I could get , but happy to see it.

Male Yellow Warbler
Male Yellow Warbler further up the path. I suspect the females are nesting.
I wonder if this was the coyote that I was taking photos of a few weeks ago?

I walked down the path to look for another Warbler as well as keep my eye out for Coyotes, wishing I had my walking stick with me and planning to put my camera bag above my head to look “bigger”, if I needed to. I didn’t go far because the clouds were getting darker and I heard the distant rumble. I stopped to take some photos of the sky.

A little bit of blue that soon disappeared.
Can definitely hear thunder now.
Rain coming down in the distance

It wasn’t long before I turned around and headed home. I got wet, but found it refreshing and it was very nice to have a warm bath when I got home.

Ruffed Grouse

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My friend and I came upon this bird in the middle of the trail, at the Strathcona Wilderness Center east of Edmonton which I supposed was a Grouse at the time. I checked my field guides when I got home , and to the best of my ability identified this as a Ruffed Grouse, based on the squared -off tail with a black band at the end, the black at the upper breast, the white eye line.

At we got closer, I brought my camera to my eye and took a picture. A few steps closer, I stopped for another shot. As we drew closer, taking a couple of steps and one photo at a time, it walked stealthily toward the woods where it disappeared. Luckily it wasn’t rushed out of sight and gave us some opportunity to observe it.

Following are some of the photos I managed to take.

First sighting and subsequent image.
The place where it was lying to the right of the bird was not checked. Was it going to try to nest there?
a little closer walking across the grass.
The closest we got before it ducked into the safety of the bush.

Feel free to set me straight if I am wrong, it is certainly known to happen. I enjoy these finds when out for a walk in nature.

Bountiful Blossoms

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They have reached their peak and bless the neighbourhoods with their eye-catching beauty and pleasant perfume. Don’t miss them, they don’t last long. I seem to have misplaced a few images of blossoms-did I delete them from the camera before downloading? H-m-m-m.

Lilacs are everywhere
Honeysuckles? I am not sure.
The Crab Apple Trees along the promenade
Nice smelling and so pretty.
Friends Visiting in the Scented Air
Pause…

In My Neighbourhood

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In the immediate neighbourhood, it is the same: Magpies, House Sparrows and House Finches, though the latter are hard to spot. As well as being in the immediate vicinity, there are many flyovers of Canada Geese, Crows, Chickadees and Ring-billed Gulls. A lot to be grateful for.

Then just down the street, there is more. With May and June being peak months for breeding and raising young, I am itching to get “out there” and happy to find the regulars as well as my first sightings for this year.

As close as I can get, plus some cropping, but happy to spot a male Yellow Warbler.
I was hoping this male Yellow Warbler would land on this branch.
We were both curious. I think this Black-capped Chickadee is a juvenile.
A Black-billed Magpie, taking a pause, so a good time to grab a shot

First Ruddy Ducks This Year, Mating Rituals

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Seeing a Male Ruddy Duck for the first time in a year is always special for me, and this small urban pond pond had a pair. I first saw the male at the edge of the reeds, then the female. They were swimming close together then made a hasty retreat among the reeds where they quickly mated, then came back to open water.

Drake and Hen Ruddy ducks swimming close together
The hen retreats and lowers herself in the water while he follows.
He goes to the side or behind, hard to tell from where I was, she is facing us, partially submerged.
A bit of splashing going on.
More splashing as he mounts, chest all puffed up…hard to tell what is where.
Deep crease in his chest.
Putting on a nice display for the lady.
And the hen is giving herself a shake , followed by pruning by the both of them.

It will be fun to come back to this pond and check for more Ruddy pairs and ducklings. Taken with the lens extended the full 300mm and then cropped.

Robin, Coyote and Magpie

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Maybe the latter two have more in common, both being tricksters but this is what I saw this day.

American Robin: For a while I didn’t see any, now they are everywhere. I like their singing, even at 3:30 a.m.
Not a great shot, but I learned their underwings are red like their breasts.

In the valley, Magpies are hanging around waiting for a bite to eat as this Coyote hunts.
Above the valley, this Magpie obligingly posed for me, with its fine feathers. They will go through a molt in due time, but usually look this way.

Celebration of Tulips

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Tulips are one of my favourite flowers, and I picked up these tulips at the grocery store. When I got home I realized these are Maple Leaf Tulips, designed with a shape of the maple leaf on the sides. They were designed for the 150th birthday of Canada, a gift from the Netherlands.

Gifts of tulips has been a tradition since Queen Wilhelmina sent 150,000 tulips to Canada after the war was over as a way of thanking Canada for the liberation of the Netherlands from the invasion of Nazi Germany. But before any of that happened, when the Germans originally invaded the Netherlands, Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard were forced to flee to Ottawa to escape the conflict. Juliana later gave birth to her daughter Margriet inside the Ottawa Civic Hospital in 1943, after Canada’s federal government declared the maternity ward extraterritorial so that the birth could still technically take place in The Netherlands.

Tulips are not originally native to Holland, but were introduced from Turkey in the 1600’s.

The Canadian Tulip festival takes place in our capital city, Ottawa, from May 8-18th. You can go online and take virtual tours of the gardens.

Maple Leaf Tulips-a welcome addition to the dining room table.

Hungry Huntress

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Hundreds of coyotes live in the river valley and I have run across them while walking the dogs and often hear of encounters from others. One of my wishes has been to spot one in the valley and get a shot with the camera. While I was looking for birds, I spotted a shape at the bottom of the hill and thought, “Ah! it’s probably just some garbage.” I took a closer look through the lens and to my delight, it was a coyote. I used a 300 mm lens and cropped some of the images.

Magpies hanging around for scraps.
A mother has to keep herself fed. She will show me how it is done.
The Pounce.
Another leap.
I see a short tail it might be a vole.
A couple of gulps and down the hatch.
One last look before we each continued on our way.

I took lots of photos of her as I watched her hunting in the grass. She caught about 5 small critters. I was blessed to be able to observe her for ten full minutes.

Greening of the City

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Having more time on one’s hands allows for more frequent checks on the change that is taking place this spring. The grass is turning green and the sound of lawn mowers echo in the neighbourhood. The leaves are growing and slowly filling the forest with a canopy to shelter all below. Yet if one is busy, all these changes happen and it becomes a new world rather quickly. It wasn’t too long ago when snow lay on the ground and the wooded areas were dull grey or brown. Don’t miss it.

Here is an update on the trails that were photographed last week.

The first blush is growing.
Early in the morning and it is quiet
Someone out for a stroll on their bicycle.

Prairie Hare

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The following images are not of bunnies, but are Prairie Hares, sometimes referred to as White-tailed Jackrabbits. I thought our neighbourhood had three regulars but I am probably mistaken. There may be many more, because they only live from 12-14 months. They don’t really hop as much as leap and can reach speeds up to 60 km per hour. They are probably a little safer here downtown from the coyotes. I enjoy seeing the Hares, as they lay on the lawns in between apartments or nibble on the grass in the park or on the boulevards. The mothers will leave the babies alone because they have no scent, but will come back to check on them. If you see a baby hare in the wild or even in the city, it is best to leave them alone.

Here’s one between two buildings as I come up the street.
It has come closer to the front sidewalk. Someone is raking leaves on my right side.
It has decided to cross the sidewalk in front of me.
Picking up a little speed as it heads for the road. Where is it going?
Where is it going? Across the street, to meet up with this friend.
Moving faster than my camera speed.

The first hare in the photos was crossing the road to meet the second, I have seen them in relatively close proximity before at the nearby park. The second one still has a lot of white in its fur. In the summer they are brown or gray and in the winter they turn totally white, except for the tips of the ears. They weigh up to 3.5 kilograms and eat up to a Kilogram or 2.2 pounds of greens a day and twigs, branches and bark of landscape plants in the winter-not popular with the gardeners. They may have up to 3 litters in a year, with 4-6 babies each time.

I enjoy seeing them in the city and will observe to see if any are paired up or have babies.

Signs of the Times

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There are new signs on the streets that remind us that things are a little “different.”

This is one that is continuously ignored.
At some crossings people wait (its not a long wait) at others, the bags have been ripped open.

This one put a smile on my face. I missed it at first and walked past it, then came back to take a look.

I wish all of you good health, happy spirits and a chance to get outdoors. Stay Safe!

First Blush of Spring

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There is a hue of green that one only sees in the beginning of the season, appropriately named “spring green.” It is a feast for the eyes and soothes the soul, a cause for celebration.

The green leaves appearing amongst the conifers.
View from the top of the valley
Lots of growth starting on both sides of the trail and garbage on the trail. How’s the social distancing in your neck of the woods?
A female Downy Woodpecker in a newly budding tree.
The green arches over the path backlit by the lowering sun.
Capture of a black-capped Chickadee in the evening light.

This is a beautiful time of year and a good excuse for a walk. Yes, restrictions are easing , but remember to continue washing your hands, and keep a physical distance of six feet for the sake of yourself and your neighbour.

Far Away but My First Robin

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I passed a tree last week where I saw a Robin, most likely this one and it flew over to where I was walking. I think they are curious and can’t resist checking us out, maybe because now it is his neighbourhood.

I was close, but it was too dark that night. Tonight he was high up in a tree, but the light was shining nicely on him.

Perched proudly on the lookout.
Preening

Beautiful Day! Critters (and a rant)

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I went out for a walk today and made it to the river valley for a total of about 3 hours. It is above zero, sunny and warm. The paths are wide and most people keep their distance. I am at high risk of getting seriously ill or even die if I were to get infected with Covid-19 so I am very careful as I continue to go out, for reasons of exercise, fresh air and mental health.

I politely reminded two young women who were walking close together, wearing headphones and busy chatting, to keep 6 feet away and suggested when they walk in pairs, to go single file when passing others so everyone has room. They actually thanked me and said it was a good idea. Who knows, maybe they called me a crazy old b— once I was out of earshot but I took care of myself.

Another couple went single file on the opposite side of the trail as they approached me and I gave them a “thumbs up” and thanked them while giving them a big smile. It feels good to be assertive but at some point it is better to come home because my mood starts to sour dealing with the ones who are just not paying attention.

The two people in the distance demonstrate that there is enough room to pass as long as people move over.

I saw runners go up a stairway where there is a sign not to use the stairs for repetitive exercise. I asked if the water bottle on the rail at the bottom was one of theirs as they both jogged up the stairs. “Yes,” one replied. I reminded them about the sign. One said “Oh, we are only going to do it once.” Do you think I believe them?

I guess this doesn’t apply to the “privileged few”.

 I am tempted to take photos of these folk who think the rules don’t apply to them and post them on my blog once a week and call the post, “Blog of Shame.” Okay, end of rant.

Most of my walk consisted of time spent birding and taking photos. I heard some birds such as Canada Geese and Ring-billed Gulls, and saw some Chickadees, Juncos, chipmunks and squirrels that I took photos of. Where are the robins? I keep looking and listening…

Always happy to see the Chickadees.
A Murder of Crows
Downy Woodpecker
Red Squirrel
A very poor job of branch removal -my apologies-Black Eyed Junco.
Someone left seed all along the fence, so I did take advantage, but did not “bait” these Lesser Chipmunks myself.
One of many Lesser Chipmunks

I hope everyone gets some fresh air and sunshine, staying safe by keeping a distance of at least two metres or six feet, washing your hands often and keeping hands away from face.

Peanuts in the Park

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This squirrel, whom I believe is pregnant, is fighting with a Crow and a Magpie to get the most peanuts that have been left at the base of a tree. She takes one peanut at a time, and goes up the trunk to the house. Her round belly creates a bit of a challenge getting into the house.

She just chased a bird away and is running back to the tree.


Stopping to grab a peanut.


Aiming for the destination.
A bit of a scramble.
A little awkward
This is what makes me come to the conclusion that she is pregnant or has babies.

This Crow is in competition for the peanuts.

This Magpie wants some peanuts, too.

I will make a point of returning to this little park and see if I can spot further activity. the antics of the animals entertained me for some time.

Snow and Someone’s Knocking

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I cooped myself up in my apartment for two days and needed to get outside to shake the cobwebs out. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the temperature, -14, but the sun shone so brightly, it was irresistible. There was a fresh blanket of snow on the ground which I find so pretty after seeing the slushy filth on the streets the last couple of weeks. I went out in the later afternoon when the shadows were lengthening but there was still plenty of light.

Fresh, white and sparkly, pretty well untouched.
Love the long shadows and the simplicity.
Rush hour on the main street. There was traffic, but not stop-and-go.
The knocking part, after some investigation, turned out to be this female Downy Woodpecker

The colder weather might last a few more days , then it will be more spring-like. Two friends on Flickr have images of the male Mountain Bluebirds in the area. In the past , the cold and snow killed off a large portion of the Bluebird population and they have been recovering nicely. I hope they survive this cold spell.

The Easter Bunny?

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I saw this Alberta Hare in the neighbourhood. Could it be coming for Easter? I walked up the back alley and saw three of them, still white but with darker hair showing underneath.

Huddling near the building
That is a pink rock behind it, like I thought. Took a couple shots then left it alone.

Yesterday, I met a friend and we walked to a promenade with wide sidewalks where we could be practice social distancing. We found two adjacent benches and we sat, one of us on each bench and talked for a couple of hours. It was nice to see each other face-to-face and talk. It was a nice way to spend time on my birthday and I did not want cake but decided to treat myself…Cherry Nibs! I enjoyed them, Laura. Stay safe everyone!

A Walk on the River Trail

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I took a longer walk this particular day, warm but with a slightly chilly breeze. I was hoping to see Canada Geese, but no luck. I did shoot photos along the way, of things that caught my eye.

Someone made a snow person and put it up on a tree branch

I liked the patterns in this patch of broken ice.
Only got a rear view of this skittish squirrel. It has such a bright red coat.
“Just” a common House Sparrow but he is so handsome in his breeding plumage, I could not pass on the shot.
Finally! A chickadee and a very fast one. I usually prefer to leave out the feeders but I will take what I can get.
Patches of snow on the trail, but I do see signs of spring in the colour of those branches.

It was the longest walk I have gone on this year, and I felt chilled and sore afterward, so a hot bath did me good once I got home. No regrets!

Black-Billed Magpie in Colour

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I had more luck yesterday because my camera settings were correct and I went up a street where there were lots of Black-billed Magpies. I soon saw why. There is a man in the neighbourhood that feeds them regularly and has established a relationship with them. There were about six directly around him , but further away, and in all directions, at least a dozen more. I was lucky to get somewhat closer to this bird, although on the opposite side of the street and further away from the “food source.”

I got a few shots of this Magpie but I has to wait for an image where the light worked in the best way.
Getting a drink
Finally! I can see its eye but not the highlights in the feathers.
A little more of what I am going for.
Cooperation from the model and the light

Squirrel and Magpies Building Nest

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On a walk two days ago, I saw this squirrel in a tree and he was definitely keeping distant. He was keeping an eye on me keeping an eye on him. I had changed my camera settings on the outside of the camera to colour, but it stayed in monochrome mode. I realized after the fact that I needed to go into the menu.. That is why this post is black and white.

Definitely not suffering from lack of food or perhaps pregnant?

Across the road from me there were two magpies building a nest. They work very cooperatively.

It is as if it is “tamping down” the sticks
Breaking off twigs for the nest.
More twigs
A completed nest down the street. as you can see, this one is huge!

Although you cannot see this, the two Magpies were close together, although not for my lens, and regularly took turns in the nest and gathering twigs. I think there is one nest in every block so there is lots of noise, especially when the eggs hatch.

What is Wrong with People?!

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On the way to a friend’s today, I saw a few discarded medical gloves, lying in the street or right beside the sidewalk. I found this very disturbing and felt disgusted. If people can be busted for social distancing, something that the police are in conversation with health officials about, then there should be fines, in my opinion, for discarding gloves. Shame! There were garbage cans only 30 feet away at the most.

There were more gloves, all within a 2 block area. I thought maybe the birds pulled them out of garbage cans, but they were not near the garbage cans. Some people are very selfish and inconsiderate. Enough ranting, the next blog is back to nature!

Adjusting

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All the inconvenience and the sense of isolation hit me as I kept getting emails telling me that this or that club was canceling meetings, medical appointments were postponed and buildings were closing until absolutely everything I usually do had been cancelled and all the public places I usually visit have been closed. All of this occurred within one week.

It is a good time to take on-line courses through Universities and other schools all over the world. Many are free. Local senior centers have support groups or numbers you can call just to talk to someone. Friends in senior’s residences or hospitals can walk around inside the building but no visitors are allowed. Phone them.

I am getting my internet provider to send me a wireless modem to enable me to get access to streaming using my tablet because my computer has no camera or microphone. It lifts me up to hear my friends voices and see their faces.

I am grateful that we are not on total lockdown so we can get out for walks-don’t forget to smile while practicing social distance. Walks are good. I am going out with my camera today to hopefully capture images of birds.

My sister-in-law sends me videos of her online exercise class and although I can’t keep up with all of the moves, I can do what I am able to do, and feel better for it. There are options for low-impact exercise so my neighbours are not disturbed. It is important to watch what I eat because being home so much can lead to snacking, which I did, and my belly was expanding. Obviously I was not alone as I noticed the bags of chips and snacks were flying off the store shelves almost as fast as toilet paper. Being active keeps the weight down and spirits up.

I am very grateful for modern technology. I can “attend” church classes and worship via live-streaming. I can have virtual visits with family and friends; all these acts are mutally beneficial.

It looks like this self-isolation could last weeks, even months, so be prepared for the long haul, but take life one day at a time and practice being grateful. On that note, I extend huge thanks to truckers, grocery store personnel, our healthcare workers and all who are taking risks working with the public.

Happy Spring!

Magpie on a Snowy Day

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Another cold day a week or two ago, I managed to capture this Black-billed Magpie surveying its surroundings from a higher perch.

They are very intelligent birds and can be a real tease to other animals, sneaking up behind them to nip them in the butt, or a pair will take turns tormenting someone’s pet, one flier in front and the other behind the poor harassed animal.

Another time I watched a lone Magpie perched in a sapling beside a parked car. It took fruit off the tree, then dropped it onto the roof of the car. The bird did this a few times, pausing after the drop, cocking its head to the side each time the fruit made contact, making a “ping” as it hit. I wish I had a movie camera!

No such thing here in the following photos, but it is watching the other birds and waiting to swoop down and grab something for itself.

A Walk in the Park

I can’t find this page “A walk in the park” that I wrote, yet I have comments on this. I am ANGRY! I could not see my usual posts so I upgraded to a paid site and now they WordPress is talking in a language I do not understand about domains and I am paying money for it?! and can’t see what I just posted?!

I HATE this!

I want it to be like before. I don’t want to deal with domains and pages of instructions that I don’t understand. I am tempted to quit because I did it to relax and enjoy. This is not enjoyable! This is stressful! A walk in the park-not!

Red-winged Blackbirds

I saw lots of Red-winged Blackbirds in this wetland area the other day, with both male and females calling, so some of them may still be looking for mates while others are nesting. There used to be a good number of Yellow-headed Blackbirds here, but I think the Red-wings chased them off.

Male Red-winged blackbird calling and displaying his patch of red on the wing.
One of many other males calling
I have never seen a female calling until this moment. In full breeding plumage there is a ruddy tinge to the shoulder.
A nice pose that shows off the yellow on the eye line and throat.

Northern Shovelers

During a recent trip to a natural area just north of the city, I was happy to spot both male and female Northern Shovelers. The wetlands were pretty dry, but am hoping the rain and snow from a few days ago helped to top up the water level of this popular spot for both birds and people.

Two Northern Shoveler Drakes
A pair of Northern Shovelers in a small bay near the first area shown above. Both have an intense light blue speculum, the coloured part of the secondary wing, seen more clearly in flight.