For the Birds: April 23, 2017

I am becoming frustrated about birding photography because I am growing to recognize focused photographs and can easily determine that a lot of mine are not (focused, that is)!  At times, my equipment IS holding me back and I’ve decided that, given that I am highly enthusiastic about taking photos of bird species, likely my point and shoot Canon Powershot will not always feel adequate. Today, however, I’m going to post some of those poor quality photographs because, as I’ve said before, I’m trying to archive my sitings as my interest lies primarily with my observations and encounters and only as a sidebar, the photography.

I can not share with my readers what utter joy I have been having exploring this one pond ecosystem and it seems as though every season, I’m discovering more.  My eyes are wide open, that’s for sure!  Read Birds, Art, Life by Kyo Maclear  and you will find me inside those pages!

The nesting platform that has been for four years, attended by a pair of Osprey, this year, has been occupied by a ‘sitting goose’.  Damn! How could this happen?  Surprisingly enough, I’ve witnessed it happen before at the more westerly platform location and watched as the Osprey family violently fought the goose away.   This year, the Sikome Osprey couple arrived just a week ago, to learn that it was impossible to inhabit their familiar platform with such a stubborn, however, unusual bird already well-moved-in. You know, dear readers, and I know that this is going to lead to a certain fate for the large numbers of goslings that will fall crashing to their deaths, not long after hatching.

However, Enmax, who DID respond to my call for help in very short order, was unable to reach the nesting bird in their long armed bucket yesterday, due to the changed drainage ditches and rock retaining systems that were constructed before fall of this past year.  They wrote to tell me that the Osprey would have to wait until the gosling hatching and then, mayhaps, they would reclaim the nest.  I just wondered, after this response, why they can not erect a new platform in the meantime…and so…more drama today!

As I drove to Frank’s Flats, Maxman in tow after Mass this morning, I noted that Mr. and Mrs. Osprey were sitting on two different light standards staring, with evil eyes, in the direction of the platform.  The goose sat, indifferent.  I sent off a post to social media once I arrived at the pond.

Returning home, the first stick was set down.

“Uh oh,” I thought to myself, “by end of day, this, a nest will be!”

Sure enough, after Pow Wow dancing class (you should try it!), I drove down to check on progress!  A full nest is well engaged on the top of the sign that appears east 22x just before the bridge.  This nest edges the bike path directly and has a view of a bustling and particularly noisy traffic area.  Oh dear!

Yes, I HAVE let Enmax know….but, what saddens me is that, at the destruction of this nest, the Osprey will have to sort out a new location…and there just isn’t one that makes any sense.  What makes sense is for Enmax to grow some determination, get that goose down, and let the Osprey nest.

I’ll keep you informed…and in the meantime…this is all for the birds!

People are now out and fishing on the river.

I watched as a Bald Eagle and the two Osprey did the work of negotiating their way around these wires that cross over the Bow River…in the name of advancement.

The Black-headed gulls have returned to the south…I noticed this first when I was in my neighbourhood park at dusk last evening and hundreds of them flew overhead…pure magic!

First time for everything…I watched Mr. mount Mrs.(not posted here)

At Frank’s Flats…the past couple of days…The male Loon appeared yesterday and fished the pond for the entire day.  Today, he was gone.

Since chopping down most of the trees and leaving this single deciduous tree just on the other side of the fence, the crows are at a loss for where to build new nests.  They gather together these days, in far larger groups than this…but, I’ve noticed a change in their activities.

 

Today’s Birds: April 18, 2017

I’m just so disappointed that I can’t share with my readers, images of the Buffleheads doing their courting dances at Frank’s Flats.  However, I never steer clear of the act of documenting the same subject again and again, whether it’s in paint, poetry or photographs.  I think in revisiting content,  you grow to know it more.

So, today…a few more images of the Mallards and the Blackbirds.  It was a glorious day at the the pond…a cool spring day.  Watch those ant hills!  They are awake and actively moving…you want to be wearing your rubber boots!

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Today’s Birds: April 14, 2017

Anyone watching me make my way around the pond today would say, “There’s a weary woman!”  Honestly, I’m so tired.  I’m not used to working every single day.  Most times I wonder how human beings carve out a life when they work so hard, raise families and try to stay healthy, all at the same time.  Are we enticed by the promise of something that, in the end, doesn’t really come to us?  Food for thought, this Good Friday.

I didn’t put in a whole lot of effort taking photographs today, but did quietly observe the birds, their comings and goings, and their efforts to also eek out a living on a pond that is obviously suffering the impact of a progressive-aggressive species, humanity.

While we all experience personal struggles, I also spent a bit of time meditating on the state of a world where weapons/bombs/chemical warfare are viewed as a solution to terrorism and unrest.  I just don’t understand how human beings continue to go forward, ignoring the mistakes of our history and believing, somehow, that ‘this time it will be different’.  So many layers of unrest in the human heart.  It is discouraging.

Today, I’ve made a choice to let go of fear and anger and frustration.  I’m choosing love.

Max and I stopped at our local park and watched the Merlins this morning.  Both female and male were in the vicinity.  Both came and went and hung nearer the nest.

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Nest taken over by Merlins three springtimes ago.

Only one male Bufflehead on the pond…shy guy…who hung around a pair of Goldeneyes…sort of forcing himself on them.  He spent a lot of time stretching out on his back.  And, of course, remained, as much as he could, out of range.

 

Today’s Birds: April 12, 2017

My favourite image captured today was a simple one of three geese.  They seemed to be suspended or floating on perfectly calm pond water.  Obviously just as curious about me, we spent about five minutes exchanging gazes, alternating with times looking at the environment that surrounded us.

I spent a great deal of time enjoying the antics of the Goldeneyes, also, but, at their preferred distance from me, very little again, in the way of successful capture.

©Kathleen Moors

Likely 50 male Goldeneyes at Frank’s Flats today and a continued effort at capturing their ridiculous courting rituals.

I think this little girl is a female Wigeon.  I had seen a male at the pond on April 11.Today, I also spotted a single male Bufflehead.  He was unobtrusively wandering through the Goldeneye chaos.

A very fuzzy image to document his presence…

Today’s Birds: April 11, 2017

Frank’s Flats 10:00 am

No fewer than thirty male Goldeneyes today and not a single good photograph! Regardless, it was a wonderful experience watching them dance around the few females (not an accurate count because there were also a large number of Common Mergansers in the mix).

There were more male Lesser Scaups today, but I could only identify two females.  Also, more Redheads.  It was a great morning at Frank’s Flats, with the water looking mercurial due to the atmosphere of soft cloud over sun.  For some reason the mud was stirred up along the water’s edge, sort of a strange phenomena.  Geese followed me for the entire circumference of the pond, like a flotilla of approval.  “Just thought we’d keep our eye on you.”

First siting of a Coot for the season and an enjoyable time watching trees full of Common Starlings.

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Max and I begin every morning, stopping to watch the nesting Merlins.  Today, this guy was enjoying watching me.

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The courting action for the Red Winged Blackbirds is in full swing!

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This was a beauty.

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Stick?  Max’s ACL has healed adequately enough, I let him go for a bit of a run on the flats and leash him up once we are edging the pond so as not to disturb the nesting birds.

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Starlings wrapped around tree branches, everywhere.  Once and awhile they would lift off…amazing stuff, this nature-thing!

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Wanted to pick up on some markings.  This wasn’t a bad zoom.

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Not perfectly focused, but the camouflaging on the Northern Flicker is so amazing…had to post.

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There’s a single Wigeon in this picture.  Can you spot it?  I’m so sad that I didn’t get some comical shots of the Goldeneyes today.

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Still trying for a clear photo of the Scaups.

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Two gents with their lady-friend….three more males were just out of this frame.

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I think it snowed a bit last night…would that have caused this weird phenomena?

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Redheads romancing.  Lovely birds and a little less wary of me.

Today’s Birds: April 10, 2017

Frank’s Flats 10:00 a.m.

Multiple Male Canvasbacks and 2 Females
The documentation isn’t great because I was such a great distance away.

These are fast swimmers and in their mating rituals, they do a lot of diving and showing off.  Shy birds, they, like the Mergansers, crossed the pond each time I came around to their side.  This is very annoying for me, and when I lose patience, I just put the camera down and watch.  I feel more excited to be closely observing and learning from these spring romancers.

I have been very interested in the mating rituals of the Mallards…just ‘ordinary’ ducks…but, I have developed quite a respect for the tremendous resilience and determination of the female Mallard.  I’m watching her more closely this spring, in terms of her attempts to hold off the aggressive drakes.  I caught a really lovely photograph today of one of these ladies.

©Kathleen Moors

Only the past two days, the songs of the Red Winged Blackbirds have returned to the pond and while I haven’t sighted any females yet, the males are calling in a very determined, if not impatient way.

It seems that as large groups of birds are sighted, with the disruptive activities around the extension of Stoney Trail, the waterbirds, for the most part, are moving on.  The Goldeneyes were here in large numbers, as were the Common Mergansers, but today, they seemed to be replaced by the Lesser Scaups and the Canvasbacks.  The Geese look hunkered down for the long haul, although on the south side of the fence, I fear they are bound to lose their youngsters this year.  The Mallards are also nesting in the tall grass along the slopes to the pond…but they will also be in harm’s way, either through the marauding populations of displaced coyotes or the extensive and dismissive nature of human activity.

Magpies are watching on from the cheap seats.

I hope to get some good photographs of the Lesser Scaups this year, but they did manage to avoid my efforts last year.  We’ll see.  I love their powder blue beaks and the lovely patterning on their backs.  Their eyes are the most luminous gold colour.  They are just lovely to watch.  Also, shy.

Documentation of an Hour

The weather was brutal, as I headed to the pond with Max-man, something between pouring rain and snow, but not of the ‘flake’ variety.  I thought that I sited 12 Goldeneyes, from a distance.  Having left my camera in the car due to the weather conditions, I quickly began to have my regrets because the mating dances and the chases around the pond were so theatrical and even funny.  Somewhere during the circle of the pond, I realized that the count was actually six male Common Mergansers, one female Merganser and three Goldeneye couples.  So much brilliant white on the grey landscape!  Absolutely stunning!

Once I got Max settled back in the vehicle, I had to grab the camera and attempt some documentation.  Unfortunately, the Mergansers were shy and were slightly out of my range for focus and the Goldeneyes, not much better.  However, I’m posting a few here, as a matter of context.  I had the most enjoyable time, literally laughing out loud.  I feel overcome on behalf of the females for the intense circus they must negotiate at this time and the wild frenzied flights as they attempt to ward off aggressive males as much as they can.

Things will only be more crazy over the coming weeks.  There are so many pristine, clear photographs of these species on line that I’m almost embarrassed to post these, but heh, today I was caught up in the wonder of having experienced these birds and I’m grateful.

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Crash Landing on Ice ©Kathleen Moors

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Walking the Ice: Mirror ©Kathleen Moors

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Restful Poses in Inclement Weather ©Kathleen Moors

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Atmosphere at Frank’s Flats ©Kathleen Moors

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Six Male Common Mergansers Vying for Attentions of One Female ©Kathleen Moors

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Does She Look Interested?  Did she even do her hair?  ©Kathleen Moors

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Female and Male Common Mergansers ©Kathleen Moors

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Imagine Multiple Male Goldeneyes Performing Like This!  ©Kathleen Moors

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Over and Over Again! ©Kathleen Moors

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Time to tidy up! ©Kathleen Moors

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Courting

It’s spring and the water at Frank’s Flats is only, today, beginning to open up.  So, it was no surprise that three couples were there to greet me and Max-man…all three on the same section of open pond; Common Goldeneye male and female, Mallard male and female and Canadian Goose, male and female.  I managed to get a few good photographs and had opportunity to watch Mr. and Mrs. goose participate in their courting dance.  Quite spectacular, but in some ways, frightening.

First…the Goldeneye twosome.

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And next, the geese and their special dance.

The two arrived and did a mirroring activity, scooping the neck down and up, beak into the water and then out, over and over again.

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Then, in unison…notice how their beaks are turned toward one another.

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Then, as if from no where, this happened!

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Mrs. is fully submerged here.

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He begins to move on…

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And he makes quite a scene about being happy and proud and ‘all that’…

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I guess she feels pretty grateful, also.

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Rituals at the pond never cease to amaze me.  By observation, I learn so much.  Last year, one of the nesting geese at Frank’s Flats became widowed and it was so heart breaking to watch.  The widow did not stop looking for its mate for over a month and mournfully journeyed the circle of the pond every single evening, returning again and again to their chosen nest site.

If one looks closely, even the water bugs, although their life cycle is very short, are multiplying on warm days and in sunshine.  I took these photos on March 31.  Every rounded rock exposed along the pond’s edge was a wellspring of activity.  Today, April 1, the stones were absolutely clear, with no signs of yesterday’s chaos.

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This Spring’s Spark Bird

Every year, I become more intrigued with the act of watching birds.  The book, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear put some of that into perspective for me…in fact, when I poured over the pages, it was the first time that I could really connect with why I am so driven to investigate Frank’s Flats; the wildlife, landscape, atmospheric changes and ecosystems.

I think that Maclear proposes that there is a single spark bird that draws the everyday person into the act of bird watching.  However, for me, it seems that every year, in springtime, I am renewed to the experience by a particular bird.

This year, that bird is this one, a Merlin.  And…I could be wrong in my identification and challenge my readers to look at its markings and confirm with me if I am mistaken or correct.  About three years ago, in my neighbourhood park, I noticed a nesting couple and likely heard them first.  They have a very particular high pitched call.

Merlin

Adult male (Prairie)
  • Light blue-gray crown
  • Pale face with no distinct pattern
  • Streaked breast
  • Dark eye with pale eyebrow
  • Prairie subspecies occurs in Great Plains states and southern Canada

This year, I’ve been close enough to the nesting pair to have received a bit of an annoyed reaction.  They are very defensive birds and protective during the nesting period.  As I’ve discovered on line, their talons and beaks provide for some very nasty feeding frenzies on pigeons, sparrows, mice and I’m guessing that they could do a mean attack on young children or dogs if they felt challenged.

So, for now, I’ll watch from a distance.  They are just beautiful!

Usually, one remains in a sparse deciduous tree or atop a power pole some distance from the nest, while the other stays tucked into the evergreen tree, a nest that was stolen from a mating magpie pair three seasons ago.

Recent photographs have helped me to make some distinctions in the small raptor, however, I’m still learning.  I got some good shots of the nesting adult yesterday.  I invite any feedback about these or other raptors as I expand my knowledge.

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Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear

I was down at Shelf Life books, listening to a wonderful double book launch by  German Rodrigues and J. Pablo Ortiz.  It was a very unique evening of spanish language literature, celebrating the launch of German Rodriguez’s The Time Between His Eyes (El tiempo entre sus ojos) and J. Pablo Ortiz’s Open Sea (De mar abierto). It was an excellent event and I was happy to reconnect with Pablo and to hang with his partner and my longtime friend, Brian. After the reading, I set about looking for the book, Birds Art Life because I had heard an interview about it and knew that it would affirm my experience of the pond, the discovery of birds and the resulting experience of art-making.

It was a bit of a search, but before I left, a copy of the book fell into my hands.

Very linear in my approach to books, I finished the McCullers title, before snapping up this beautiful object of my obsession.

I rushed through my earlier two reviews, books I’ve read in the past month, so that I could get to this recommendation, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear.  In this book, I found something kindred to everything I have become in retirement and in the past six years of loving a single ecosystem, a pond environment within the boundaries of the City of Calgary.

I kept putting the book down, and lifting off of the sofa or my bed or the bench out in the back yard, in order to pace and whoot and say, out loud, “YES!”  Since reading The Diviners so many years ago, I have not had such physical reactions to what I am reading.

Here is an extract from the book that speaks of my philosophy and experience, very clearly.

I discovered, through the book, that my ‘SPARK’ bird, was a sparrow, more precise, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, some eight years ago.  Hardly romantic or colourful, strange that my true attraction to birds was discovered looking out from my kitchen window, across at the open vent of my neighbour’s kitchen…several nesting seasons…widowing…lost youngsters…and determination through all sorts of weather conditions.  I began to watch. I took out the camera, for the first time, to take photographs of sparrows.

Kath's Canon Male Sparrow Emptying Nest July 7 2015 006

From that kitchen place, my exploring began at a pond environment that I call Frank’s Flats, named after a homeless man who most evenings, watched me gather up litter into a bag a day for several years.  He drank six beer in the time it took me to fill a bag with plastics, straws, newspaper flyers and other human garbage.  He chatted with me, thanked me and visited at the end of most evenings, as I put my collection into the bin, near his viewing spot.

I think that the first time I really noticed the birds, I was drawn to the red winged black birds because of their determined mating calls.

Facebook 40 Male Blackbird

My experience of the pond has, since discovering birds, coyotes and little field mice, become magical.  The lessons I have learned about compassion, care, art and writing, have been many and profound.  I am so grateful for the number of stories and discoveries that come my way because I am always looking for the little miracles.

Kath's Canon, September 22, 2015 early aft Frank's Flats Heron 038

Facebook 7 Black Capped Night Heron

Kath's Canon September 2, 2015 Osprey, Franks, Stinky Max 062Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 141

If you are looking for a way to deepen your experience of life and living, pick up this book.  It is a treasure and my new favourite!  It contains countless references to other writers, thinkers and artists…book titles…and the author’s connections with her own story.  I hope that my readers will discover urban nature and hold on to the power of that experience.

Today at the pond…

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