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.

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What is Wrong with People?!

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!

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Adjusting

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.

Downy Woodpecker

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This cute little Downy caught my attention near the feeders at the park, and I managed to get some images away from the feeders. It is a male, distinguished by the splash of red at the back of his head. Another feature that confirms that it is a Downy Woodpecker, are the spots on the outer white tailfeathers.

Downy Woodpecker approaching the feeder
Checking out possibilities
Here you see the spots on the tail
Looking Handsome

Chilly Chickadee

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I had the use of a friend’s car last week and made a short trip to a park that usually has bus service but it is cancelled due to construction. We have two seasons here: Winter and Construction Season, and now they are over-lapping.

It was a lovely snowy day and I stopped at the bird feeder on the west side where I saw a “banditry” of Black-capped Chickadees. This one had its feathers puffed up to keep warm while it was singing it’s Spring call.

Sometimes I take them for granted because they are common but I haven’t seen many birds this year so was quite happy to observe these gregarious little birds. They are good to practice photography with because they do not stay very still and are clever at hiding in the bushes behind branches and twigs. Despite overcast sky and little to no catch-light in the eye, I figure I “lucked out” with these shots.

Eating and Calling for Connection
Cool Chickadee on snowy day
Hanging out in a protective thicket

Hold off on Spring

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I am getting a lot of blogs with teasers on Spring. I love spring, it is my favourite season, when everything comes to life again. The Chickadees here are changing their tune to one of more of a “come hither” variety, but I look outside or even go outside with a lot of layers of clothing still. I just don’t want to get too impatient or unrealistic in my expectations, because around here it can be cold and white until the end of April.

Today is a beautiful day , warm, sunny with temperatures above zero Celsius. Two days ago it was -28 Celsius with a wind chill of minus 40. I tell myself not to have great expectations too soon, but do enjoy that occasional whiff of fresh air that says “Spring is coming.”

Today, I enjoy a different kind of beauty.

Common House Sparrow weathering the storm

Fresh snow blankets the trees and ground
Good weather for x-country skiing
Our most recent snowfall
Still snowing -no, not Spring yet

Sneaky Squirrel

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I enjoyed the antics of this Red Squirrel in the river valley on the first day of the year. He wasn’t really sneaky, he was quite brazen, which was good for me because I could get very close with my wide-angle lens, the only lens that I had with me. That bird seed was oh, so good.

A big afternoon stretch for the goodies.
A little shy for a moment, checking me out.
Still keeping his eye on me and going for the seeds.
Enjoying the snack, but darn! that shadow.

I am confused about what day it is, with a holiday in the middle of the week. Are you finding that, too? Regardless, I think that even in a small way, I am starting off the year right, keeping my promise to myself to get out in the natural world and take photos. Any day out in nature and finding critters to take photos of, is a good day!

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Welcome 2020!

I made it out tonight with a friend and we went to the legislative grounds where the city held the celebrations because downtown is in renovations because of light rail transit construction. It was the warmest I have ever experienced, which drew out huge crowds and we enjoyed the hot chocolate, arts and crafts, fireworks and free transit-a great night.

New Years Eve

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New Year’s Celebrations from 2017 at Alberta Legislative Grounds

I saw a photo of the Australian Harbour where they had, it looks like to me, a great light show of fireworks. They needed to get approval due to the massive forest fires decimating the country but it was okayed. It is interesting to me to see that celebrations on the same day, New Year’s Eve, was yesterday in Australia and not going to happen until tonight in Canada.

This Christmas has been rough. Still weak from the flu at the beginning of the month, I discovered I had an infestation of bed bugs. I had my suspicions in the past and was told by the apartment manager that I needed proof. For months all the apartments around me and below me had the exterminators visit. It was explained to me months ago that the apartments across the hall were done side by side and below, because the next door apartment and the one below was included when someone discovered bed bugs in their home.

I found out from my next door neighbour that they had their last of 3 treatments 4 weeks ago. Why was my apartment not included? Since I live next door my place should have been fumigated at the same time. I found out just before Christmas my whole apartment was full of bedbugs. Now, on New Year’s Eve I have had my place sprayed once, and the apartment is going to be sprayed two more times in 2-week intervals.

It is tough. I wanted to have company during Christmas and bought two brand new chairs for my living room about 4 weeks ago. Now everything is in bags piled up on tables. It is a chaotic mess!

This past decade has had some real highs and lows, with the lows being a bad relationship, and three moves when I lost almost all my belongings every time. The highs were having a car of my own, ironically located with the help of aforementioned relationship and the solo trips I took through the mountains, dropping in on friends, camping and taking nature photos along the way. Those were wonderful journeys and my heart truly sang.

I am looking forward to spending time with friends, doing some more travelling, getting out in nature, taking photos and finding a new place to live that is clean and well-managed. I have been very aware of the troubles in the world such as the massive fires, floods, earthquakes, etc and know I am not at all the only person having difficulties, in fact my troubles are so small compared to most. I have heard of all the violence and suicide this Christmas season and it is so apparent we need to stand by and support each other with a kind word, gesture, and offer hope.

I find it hard to get help during the holiday season and once bed bugs are mentioned, everyone takes a step back, but if you are going through this, you do need to take responsibility and precautions to prevent spreading the bugs and eggs. Or, if you have a freezer, storing things for 4 days. People will stock bags on their balconies but that is only effective if it is -20 Celsius and we are having warm weather now and I don’t have a balcony. It is time-consuming and exhausting.

As anyone knows who has gone through this process, everything is supposed to be washed and dried at high heat and put into airtight bags, especially everything I wear outside. I have a couple of outfits in bags, the same with toiletries, that I keep in the bathtub. I am grateful for friends who invited me into their homes for stays when my place was fumigated, for meals and we went through the laundering process and bagging to be safe and prevent spreading anywhere else.

I am going to heat-treat my camera bag and take some photos tonight of the fireworks at the legislative grounds. I am attending with a friend who has taken me to meetings and stores to buy bags and storage bins this week, and I am most grateful. I am also grateful for the friends who let me stay overnight, who fed me and lifted my spirits. I am grateful to the family who had me over for Christmas dinner, a beautifully-decorated table full of delicious food and pleasant company and laughter. We even had those crackers that bang when you pull the ends apart and wore those paper hats that are rolled up inside with the toy and joke, then played games after dinner.

I wish for all a more peace-filled year, a gratitude for the people in our lives and to treat each other, and our planet, with kindness.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

New Year’s Eve in 2017 Not many people as it was -27 and windy!

Nuthatches and Brown Creeper

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The weather is up and down like a yo-yo with about a 15-20 degree span the last couple of weeks. I get cold from either the lower temperatures or from the dampness when it goes above zero. It is amazing how many excuses I can come up with for not going out, but I did buy a 1.5 T external hard drive without a program, so I can cut and paste and have been having fun going through old files. I copied over 3,000 photos and it took 10-15 minutes. With my last drive I did not know any better and I got one with a program, a fact that was not explained to me by the sales person. That drive would back up all my files and programs but it took overnight. I had very little control over how much it would back up and every time the program would copy everything all over again, so the space was filling up pretty quickly. I got a warning on the drive that if I delete anything that is backed up, it could wreck the program. That scares me, although I do copy photos without incident.

Needless to say, although my new external drive does not back up the system I am very happy that it is fast and only does what I want it to.

Going through the older photos I have discovered that I have some in their original sizes, another thing that makes me happy because I used to resize images to 400 by 600 pixels just to save room on my hard drive. Later I learned that that isn’t a good size for doing much with.

Here are some images of Nuthatches and Brown Creepers, some old , some new, found in Central Alberta (and the depths of my computers):

(c) Jane Chesebrough Red-breasted Nuthatch.
(c) Jane Chesebrough Red-breasted Nuthatch
(c) Jane Chesebrough White-breasted Nuthatch
Backlit White-breasted Nuthatch ( I know, lots of poop on that branch…)
(c) Jane Chesebrough Brown Creeper winding its way up the trunk.
Brown Creeper, just landed at the base of the truck, ready to turn around and wind its way up the truck again.

I hear the Nuthatches in the neighbourhood frequently so hope to get some new images soon. As for the Brown Creeper, that may take some more time, but there is always something to look forward to. Happy shooting!

It has Arrived!

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I am referring to snow. Sure, we have had a few “skiffs” over the past few weeks, very light layers that cover the grass, but this time it looks like it will accumulate to a thicker coating and stay.

Hope your snow tires are on and cars plugged in. For those of you in the south, we of the northern regions start to plug in our cars soon. There is a heater beside the engine block that keeps the engine warm so the car will start when the temperature dips to -20 degrees Celsius, otherwise the battery goes dead. The plug comes out under the hood or the grill, and is often attached to an extension cord running from the house if one doesn’t have a garage.

With most of the leaves gone from the trees and everything looking rather bland, I welcome the change to the season of “winter wonderland.”

Big fat flakes falling gently from the sky, creating a blanket for the earth.

More photos to come soon…

Ruddy Ducks

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Every spring there would be a competition between my friend Pauline and I regarding who would spot the first Ruddy duck of the season. That person would take the other on a surprise car ride to a destination where we could share the site. Pauline has passed on, but I always think of her when I spot my first Ruddy. The last two seasons have been fruitful, because I have not only spotted the male, but also the female and their ducklings. Here is a review of what I saw this past spring and summer.

My first sighting of a male Ruddy Duck, sleeping with one eye open, watching.
Now fully alert, inspecting the pond for rival intruders.
Male and female Ruddy Ducks with a territorial Coot coming up behind the male.
Same Ruddy male? or another one in a nearby pond.
Later in August a way away from the original pond, I spotted the female Ruddy Duck with her 5 ducklings.
I hit the gold mine last year when I found this large family of a Ruddy female and ducklings.

Chickadee,Blue Jay and Magpie

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Out walking with a friend last week to enjoy the warm rays of the sun in contrast to a few gusts of cold and capture some of the last colours of fall foliage. We were lucky to discover a Black-capped Chickadee, a Blue Jay and a Magpie in one of the parks we stopped at. I had seen some blue Jays up close when they landed in front of me two weeks ago, but I did not have my camera with me then. Seeing these three birds when I had a camera with me was a treat. Both of us took lots of photos and these were the ones that turned out the best.

Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
I think this Magpie is a juvenile because of the blue eyes. It is cropped because I shot through lower branches, which got in the way.

Autumn Reflections

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Walking around a pond or beside a river is calming to me and often I stop, because the beauty speaks to me and beckons me to be still and observe what is in front of me and around me as well as what is within. I look at the grass, trees, the foliage and all that is reflected in the water. I give thanks for the beauty and the peace.

All these photos were taken in the early evening near the end of September during a time when I had access to transportation to this downtown park which is one of my favourites for walking , skiing and birding. Since then it has been closed for renovations and the entrance is blocked, so I am glad I made it here when I did.

Stormy Weather

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I like the drama that I see in an approaching storm, the kind that tells me I better get back to shelter, make sure I have a bag to put my camera into to protect it from the elements and pull on a raincoat to keep me relatively dry.

One storm rolled in from the other side of the lake this summer that made me run for cover but I was able to stay under a roof ledge to take some photos. At first I faced it but I had to move to one side of the building because the wind was blowing the rain into the shelter and getting me wet. It rained hard for about a half hour, but was happy to wait it out and get a visual recording of the storm.

These people don’t seem to know that it would be wise to head for shore.
I could see it moving across the lake and have taken cover under a ledge that pokes out from the roof.
It is pouring rain now, both on the lake and all around me.
Storm still moving across the lake and I am seeing brighter sky in the distance.
Still pouring rain. At this point I wasn’t going anywhere , just hugged close to the building.
A bit of hail-that would have hurt! so stayed under cover. Glad I had water and snacks with me.
When the rain lessened, I went inside the Astotin theatre and watched a documentary of the bison being rounded up and shipped to Banff National Park. Then the rain stopped and the kids went outside to play while we adults played dress-up. Soon after it was time to return home.

Park Bus Done for this Year

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Oh, I so enjoyed catching the bus that went to Elk Island National Park all summer! Unfortunately I missed three trips due to illness, in particular the last two on the Labour Day weekend. I am so grateful that the bus runs out to the park in the summer and got so much pleasure from watching the coots, Pelicans and Ducklings grow from hatchlings to young adults. Here are some of my favourite moments.

A nest right beside the Living Waters Boardwalk where I saw an adult American Coot with young that were only a day or two old.
A Teenage Coot who is in molt having a good leg stretch
A very young red Plains Bison calf loping across the field
A Plains Bison Bull with an injured eye about to wallow.
A bellowing Plains Bison Bull in rut.
Cows and calves resting in a woodlot on the bison loop.
Western Sandpiper on the beach at Astotin Lake
Muskrat crossing the road.
Gaggle of Canada Geese in the bay
This American Coot got too close for comfort for this Blue-winged Teal
One of many dragonflies that I had the pleasure to photograph this summer but the big one got away…
A male Common Yellowthroat taking a breather from singing his heart out.
Grebe Parent feeding Chick

I could go on and on but will stop here. It was a good summer and I will check out neighbourhoods closer to home to see what birds may be still passing through, getting ready to leave or staying for the winter. There will still be more autumn colours to capture, as well. I have so much to be grateful for and am still thinking of the people devastated by the hurricane. Please, let us not forget them, and send donations in this time and in the future. They need us.

A few Images of Birds on the Trail

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It is funny where you find the birds, sometimes I hear them but can never spot them except for a flash. Then in this one picnic sight I seem to find some young ones that I haven’t identified yet. I know I did see some Red-breasted Nuthatches there, but oooh, the pictures were deleted-bad shots. I did manage to capture images of this White-breasted Nuthatch.

White-breasted Nuthatch
Making Eye contact

The next is a mystery bird. I am curious because of the stripes on the flank on the butt shot, the underside of the tail looks familiar. I will have to get these photos developed and go to one of the wild bird stores in the city and ask for help.

Mystery Bird
I never said I was an expert. The mask reminds me of a Common Yellowthroat and the tail looks familiar. I did see some in the area early this summer.
Welcome back, black -capped Chickadees! They were not gone, just quiet when they were nesting and in molt, now they are chattering and making many appearances.
A flying gaggle of geese, that makes me feel nostalgic.
Adult Red-necked Grebe.
Juvenile Pied-billed grebes.
Juvenile Red-necked Grebe.
Adult American Coot, resting on one Leg

It is a lot quieter now, where birds are concerned. I see flocks of gulls out in the lake and crows and ravens fly by, but the American Pelicans are gone, as are the Crested Cormorants and Common and black Terns same for a few stragglers. Sigh. I just tell myself there may be some passing through while migrating and there will be new ones as (b-r-r) winter approaches.

But for now, lets enjoy the wonders of the latter days of summer and keep my eyes and ears open.

Now, What Happened to those Ruddy Ducks?

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I was very happy to see a few pair of Ruddy Ducks in the ponds and on Astotin Lake earlier this spring and summer, then they seemed to disappear. I discovered they moved further west on the lakeshore and in some adjacent ponds. Most had ducklings attended to by the hens, perhaps the males are hidden and in molt, or have moved on. I saw one hen had seven ducklings with her. I was so happy to see the families, who were so busy diving that it was hard to count them.

Ruddy Hen and her ducklings in a beaver pond beside the Shoreline Trail at Astotin Lake.
One in the middle of a dive, with two siblings and the hen just outside of the frame.
A bit closer image of the hen and one of her offspring.

Beaver Boardwalk

On the way to Jasper National park, I spent a night in Hinton so I could save money and visit their “Beaver Boardwalk”. It wasn’t far from the hotel and I was curious. Early evening gave me some good light for a variety of flowers and only a couple of birds.

Beaver lodge but no activity
Western Lily
Nice visit from a dragonfly.
Good time for reflections
More reflections.
hanging bells or lungwort.
View from the hotel and where I was headed the next day

I picked up some food to take with me and got a good sleep and headed out in the morning after filling the gas tank.

I am house-sitting now and using my tablet which I find difficult, so some features may be missing. Please bear with me.

Common Goldeneyes

There were a few Goldeneyes at the pond, with ducklings of different ages and some were quite comical as they scooted across the pond very quickly. They are in the water on the first or second day after they hatch. Females lay anywhere from 5-17 eggs sometimes in high places such as trees and it is amazing the chicks make it out alive when they drop to the ground. The young feed themselves while the female keeps an eye out for predators. They can be very aggressive in defending their young. I have seen ducklings diving on their own, but all of a sudden the female will come from out of nowhere if another duck gets too close. I have seen the female dive and come up underneath the intruding duck. I saw no males, but am pretty sure I heard the squawk sound of a male that he makes when he is displaying.

Seemingly by themselves, but the Hen is close by.
Not great light , but the Mother Duck is leading her ducklings. The fluff is from the poplar trees.
The one duckling in the lead has stopped while the others “run” to catch up.
Hey, wait for me!
They jump up out of the water to take a dive, then pop up like corks.