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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
The colours of autumn inspire me to play with camera movement to achieve abstract images that I like. I slow down the shutter speed and move the camera, up and down or diagonally, sometimes slower in one part of the picture plane than others in order to capture some of the reality of the scene before me. Other times I like the totally abstract, unidentifiable streaks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.