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.
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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.

A Hill of Candles

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It was my last year volunteering at the Edmonton Folk Music festival this year, my decision. It was not an instantaneous decision, in fact it is one that I have been mulling over for 3 years. My age is catching up with me and I want to ease the pace and have the energy and time to enjoy the music.

I work on a busy crew, serving beverages to over 2,700 volunteers and performers over the weekend. I, with the rest of the crew, but to a lesser degree now that I tire easily, mix drinks, stock cream and sugar for coffee, wipe counters and fill up the fountains repeatedly, which is quite the feat when you are short and need to stretch up to reach the top of the tank. It has been fun for about 20 years but time to take a break.

I am so sore after the first couple of days and too exhausted to actually enjoy the music, often going home early, thus missing artists that I was hoping to see. I look forward to just planting myself on the ground in front of one of the smaller session stages and get up and dance when inspired without worrying about making it to my next work shift.

I enjoy the intimacy of the smaller stages and the spontaneity from the mix of musicians who may be meeting for the first time or reuniting after a few years apart. This is where the magic moments happen.

Deep regrets for not being able to make the “Influences” session with Bruce Cockburn, Mary Gautheir, Ani DiFranco and Alynda Segarra. Can you imagine what that would have been like?

I did get to the “Turning Points” session. Listening to Mary Gauthier who wrote music with veterans and their wives to support and give back to these people when they are “fighting the war after the war” is a heartfelt experience. On the same stage is Courtney Marie Andrews whom I have never heard before but am definitely taking notice now, and talented father and son, Kevin Welch and Dustin Welch singing songs with catching lyrics as well as Robert Francis, another new artist to me.

Onstage: Dustin Welch, Kevin Welch, David Francis, Unknown but great fiddler, Mary Gauthier

Although I sadly missed Don Bryant and the BoKeys because I needed my extra recovery sleep, I enjoyed listening to the Hamiltones with their soulful harmonies and Digging Roots, Anishinabec musicians from Ontario who got the crowd up to circle a whole field to do a round dance, with modernized pow wow music.

The main stage has its magic, too, but in a bigger way. Digging Roots, Trampled by Turtles, St. Paul and The Broken Bones and HOZIER kicked off the festival on Thursday night-that was a great start to the weekend and enjoyed the showmanship of St. Paul and the Broken Bones.

My voice went hoarse when I cheered for Brandi Carlile on Friday night and it still hasn’t recovered 2 weeks later. She and the two brothers that accompany her were great, the reach and harmonies are mesmerizing. It was really something to hear a crowd of 27,000 sing a belated Happy Birthday to the “twins.” , definitely a love-fest happening between singers and fans.

Brandi Carlile with twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth.

Also on Main Stage were Bruce Cockburn and Blue Rodeo on Saturday Night but I was exhausted and didn’t get to enjoy with my full attention.

I love the variety of music, West African, Celtic, Blues, County but one of my favourite things when I am in front of the main stage, is to look around me and see the thousands of candles held by the fans. It is such a pretty sight and next year I will be back, on the hill, holding my candle, too.

Looking up the hill from one side of Main Stage.

Bugs on the Trail

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It is a nice time of year to take photos of not only birds, but also all those bugs, like butterflies, dragonflies and bees, etc. and I did some of that while on the Shoreline Trail at Elk Island National Park. I previously wrote something on this subject but to my knowledge it was not saved or published, so I am going to try again.

A beautiful bumblebee gorging on clover.
White Admiral Butterfly amidst Prickly Rose
Outer Wing Design of an Azure Blue Butterfly
Inner Wings of an Azure Blue Butterfly
Seven -spotted Ladybug, an introduced spies to Alberta
Wood Nymph Butterfly
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

There are a few that still elude me, but I am having fun going out and about, seeing what catches my eye and am sure there is always more to see.

Red-Necked Grebes

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When I returned to the lake last Saturday, the first place I went to was the boardwalk to check on the nesting Redneck Grebe. Still sitting. Here is the nest from last week when both parents were quite busy building it up.

Both were busy adding to the nest as is typical.
This week where some of the nest has disappeared but it is substantial under the eggs.

I am expecting, ha, no pun intended, that the chicks will hatch this week, as they incubate for about 21-33 days. While one was incubating, its partner was bringing more material to firm up the nest. They both take turns sitting on the eggs and building the nest. That must be a tough job since it has been raining every day for weeks. Today is an exception. Cloudy, but no rain! Yay!

That is a long stretch.
Grebe family with their two chicks out in the bay. Parents seem to be having a lively and noisy discussion.
One of the parents feeding it’s chick a juicy tidbit.
Close-up of one of the Chicks
Parents take turns staying with chicks and going to fetch food.

It was fun watching the families in this bay. Red necked grebes will nest in colonies with spaces in between. They are the noisiest ones on the lake with long, braying calls, squawks, clucks. etc. After the chicks hatch, they will mostly ride on their parents back for 7-10 days, and will stay on even while diving. The young may be fed by the parents for up to a month and a half, and can fly at 50–70 days.

I am eager to return and hope to capture some images of the young on the parents back.

The Grass is Greener…

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Most of you know the rest of this popular saying. I saw this in action the other night. Let the pictures tell the story.

No animal was harmed in the process of this shoot. At first I was concerned about how he got his head out of the fence, then realized it was a double hole.

I did learn that I need to be careful how I upload and store photos. I usually upload to Windows, then edit in Corel Paintshop Pro. When I upload, the file numbers start over, so I get duplicate numbers for different photos. It wasn’t a problem at first until I clicked on Edit, to go back to the original image, but instead of the one I was working on, it went back to the first image of the same name and I lost the image that I was working on. This taught me that I need to make sub-folders within larger folders or risk losing some photos when I have so many files of the same name within one large folder. Gee, I liked that photo…it was a picture of another rabbit within the enclosure. Live and Learn.

A Visit with Barn Swallows

A friend and I went travelled a few kilometers north of Edmonton to see what birds we could find at John Poole boardwalk at Lois Hole Provincial Park in St. Albert. This natural area is host to many species of birds and we lucked out to find some Barn Swallows here. They were constantly in the air at one end of the walk as well as in the middle, but at the far end from where we started, they were landing in the reeds. I saw one feeding another but missed the actual moment, however did get some images.

A pair of Barn Swallows finally stopping to land
Hard light but managed to capture a pose. May be a male and female, although I thought the latter was a juvenile.
The male moved to a different perch, a little out-of-focus and in the shade.
My favourite shot with a turn of the head and glint in the eye.

Autumn Colours Starting to Show

I have missed two weeks at Elk Island NP so it was something to see the change in colours. In this post I will share some scenic photos and the next will feature a few of the birds.

A few Aspen leaves are starting to let go and drift earthward.
Lots of paddlers on the lake, the busiest this summer that I have seen.
High-bush cranberries which will turn a bright red. Lots of berries with all the rain we got.
Aspen saplings showing their colour while people on paddle boards and canoes drift by the islands and shoreline of Astotin Lake.
As per usual this time of year, lots of duckweed in the water, bottom left.
Sandy Beach at Astotin Lake. Lots of Spruce and Aspen trees.
Golden Reflections in Grebe Bay
Newly coloured, the leaves are not full of holes and torn yet. A buck bush?
Aspen, Beech and Birch line the trails with mostly green leaves.

Changes at the Park

I went on both Saturday and Sunday last week to Elk Island and on Saturday we saw lots of action with angry bulls, even charging cars but not connecting, thank goodness, and the next day we did not see one bison. As for the birds, they are mostly in molt, and I identify them mostly by clicks, s-s-s, peeps, and singular sharp notes. I usually see birds near the beginning of the park at the visitor’s center. I go birding while the rest of the group go on the tour of the bison handling facility, then we all go to the drop-off point at Astotin Lake.

Looking at the bill, and markings , I wonder if this is a female immature Red-breasted or Black-headed Grosbeak. Seen near the Visitor’s Center.
We were close enough to hear their almost growl-like sounds. I had my long lens and couldn’t get all of him in photo.
He went down beside the bus.
Then rolled…getting down and dirty.
These two “butted” then stood beside each other. the one facing us has an all -white eye, injured possibly in a fight. After a while they went separately into the field. Of course we waited and gave them the right-of-way.
This younger bull trotted down the road and rushed at a van that passed by that was shielding a bunch of bicyclists.
Bellowing Bull with his tongue sticking out, tail swishing back and forth.
At Astotin Lake at the Living Waters boardwalk, this young Grebe would flap its legs noisily behind it to rush toward the parent. A diving lesson? Seemed that the parent was weaning it, only feeding it occasionally. Or was it being encouraged to dive? There was another “teenager” with the other parent doing the same thing.
This bird flew into the bay, circled a couple of times…I wonder if these people saw it?
Went back the opposite direction…
And I saw it land here in the reeds, and freeze in the standard American bittern pose. (center left) that was a thrill!
Immature Bonaparte’s Gull, named for Charles Lucien Bonaparte a Ornithologist who visited America, who was also a nephew of Napoleon the French Emperor.
Molting non-breeding Bonaparte’s Gull adult hovering over the waves.
Followed the Lakeview Trail and saw this very young American Coot with its parent (just outside of the frame).
I think this is a female Meadowhawk of some sort.
A lovely Bumblebee on Clover
A pretty look-out over some bog and the storm clouds are rolling in.
The sky told us to return to the bus at this point. It was time to rendezvous anyway.

These photos were all taken on Saturday. I want to go back to this trail because there were things I want to revisit, such as a splendid blue Darner Dragonfly, one of twelve varieties in Alberta. Like finding a needle in a haystack, ha ha.

Next post is of Sunday’s “finds” from the Living Waters boardwalk. I was tired the second day out there and didn’t go very far, but it forced me to slow down and see more of the passerines.

Stormy Weather

We just had a short but intense storm when the wind picked up , the rain fell hard, then I heard bumps, clangs as hail hit cars parked outside, thumps as hail hit the roof and cracks as some hit the window and sidewalks. I looked out the front and saw some sizable hunks of ice and had to go outside once it quit and collect a few just to see if those big blobs on the ground were really hail. They were. Wow, thank goodness they weren’t all as large as that-they could do some damage.

Calgary, Alberta has the dubious title of hail capital of the country but I have read that it is the worst in the world. Around Calgary, they seed the clouds in order to make the hail smaller. We sure had some big chunks today.

One above my thumb is normal size of most of them but there were a few like the ones in the palm of my hand.
More hailstones that I picked up from the front lawn.
I got a few, sorry the focus is so bad.

Staying in, because earlier this evening there was a tornado “watch”, meaning “possibility” of tornados forming. Now it is a severe storm warning for the next couple of hours, which means it is imminent. Right where I live, I still hear the rumbling in the sky but the sun is shining. Strange weather.

A photo of hail that fell in west Edmonton on Friday evening.
this was on the news and looks deadly with all the spikes on it.

Images from Late Afternoon

I went with a friend to Elk Island this week later in the day than I usually do when going on the Parkbus. We saw bison, birds and glorious light.

You needed to keep your eyes open on all sides because lone bulls were showing up in different directions.
This is blurred because he started to run toward the car. My camera is zoomed in but he was moving fast. We left.
We were being very cautious and didn’t stick around long, although they were magnificent.
We went to Tawayik Lake (Cree for half-way) where the Pope visited 30 years ago. The larger lake is pretty well dried up now, but the smaller lake is still there. It is a nice trail through aspen and coniferous forest and open meadows.
We saw a molting Red-tailed Hawk beside the parkway. Sorry for the poor quality.
The iconic island seen from Sandy Beach on Astotin Lake.
This is the Grebe’s nest with no adults in sight.
Canada Goose Adults and “Teenagers” on Sandy Beach on Astotin Lake
Grebe Bay Reflections
Grasses Backlit by the lowering sun.
Bulrushes in late afternoon light.
Coot Chicks diving, showing their big feet.
Sunset on the trip home.