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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed sitting on the veranda in the morning while sipping on coffee and reading my daily devotionals.
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.
I joined one or two friends on hikes at Wagner Bog area, Strathcona Wilderness Center and Bunchberry Meadows. Wonderful!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
I explored the grounds and met the resident Ravens.
Time for bed and be ready to explore Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls the next day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This pair was found at a small urban pond outside of Edmonton. Their blue bills and animated looks made this a no-miss opportunity. A handsome couple, indeed. these are a medium sized diving duck that often dabble. the sometimes lay their eggs in other ducks nests. It is the first time I have seen them this close.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Across the road from me there were two magpies building a nest. They work very cooperatively.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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):
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!
I was at home tonight, we had just reached midnight and I heard fireworks! Everything has been cancelled this year, but obviously there were a few private parties celebrating. I am on the 11th floor and looking out the window saw a number of fireworks going off on the horizon to the north, northeast and west. I zoomed in on a sizeable display to the north as best as I could and got some shots. Totally unexpected.
It has been a while, didn’t realize that I was going to take such a long break. I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, something you feel in your heart without the distractions. I enjoyed getting my few decorations out early this year as a way to brighten things up .
I wish all my visitors and readers, fellow photographers and creative spirits a Merry Christmas, Happy Yule. This has been a tough year for many and we have lost some friends but may there be peace and hope for better days ahead and a happy healthier New Year. Thank you front-line workers at the hospitals, the grocery stores, restaurant owners, cleaners, the list goes on. Have strength, I hope you get rest and a chance to rejuvenate. Blessings to all and remember to be kind. Peace.