Nuthatches and Brown Creeper

Featured

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!

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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?

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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

Featured

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…

Featured

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.

Last Colours of the Season

I mentioned in my last blog that a friend and I went out to capture some of the last colours of the season. A lot of the trees have lost their leaves but many of the bushes are still aglow.

I forgot the name again , something berry something aster. but they are abundant in Edmonton and give rich colour.

Close-up of the hedge.
Berries are not edible, but decorative.
Fence with background foliage.
Oak and Maple leaves in a pool of water
Birch and Spruce with camera motion.
A wider view of the park.

Autumn Splendor

Yellow aspens, burgundy bushes and red cranberry trees adorn this prairie city with such colour that it is a joy to go for a walk and endure the briskness of the morning when walking the dog.

I so enjoyed the colours that I went out again on my own after walking the dog just to record what I saw with the camera, experimenting with still photography and motion photography, either zooming the lens or panning up, down or sideways. I focused on both large landscapes and close-up intimate shots. and switched between aperture and time value modes. It was fun!

I haven’t looked at all the photos yet, let alone edit them, but here are some I picked out from the last day of September.

The meeting spot
The path that runs beside the south hill.
The path above the west -facing hill
Leaves at their brightest
Panning up an aspen grove with a slow shutter speed.
Slow shutter speed and faster movement.
Camera motion with different colour of saplings.
Using a slightly faster motion.
Open field with circumference of trees and bushes.