Three Days at the Bow

For days now,  smoke has hung on the air, seeming to press in on me.  It is a difficult thing to take pause and contemplate the horrendous impact so many wildfires are having on people and their homes as well as wildlife and its various ecosystems.  The yellow cast of grey over every landscape is a constant reminder.  An absence of the mountains on my horizon to the west is disorienting. The burning sensation behind my nose and throat brings on headaches and a heavy feeling.  It is a difficult time for so many people north and south of the border, east and west.  This is a strange and other-worldly experience.

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At the river, the mornings are quiet, with far less activity and chatter from the birds.  I don’t know if other birder friends have found this, but the Red Winged Blackbirds, usually first to arrive in early spring, seem to have taken their offspring and skipped town.  I miss their calls, especially at the pond.

The Bald Eagle couple have been diligently observing the Juvenile as he/she figures out what it means to be strong and determined.  Mr. and Mrs. did an amazing job providing for two kids at the nest.  I will never know what came of the first fledge.

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When I walk the river’s edge early in the morning, the earth is spongy and feels as though it has breathed in moisture somehow, magically, through the night.  I no longer look down as I walk because every day for days I observed a snake silently slip into the brush as my foot fell onto the path.  I’d rather not see that anymore.  Of all of the amazing creatures there are to enjoy, I have not yet learned an appreciation for snakes.

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Birds, in training, are practicing skills of flight.  For days, the Eastern Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings and Wrens had taken to the higher canopy.  But, since the smoke, they’ve been found in the lower branches, especially in the evenings.

Juvenile and Adult Cedar Waxwings.

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American White Pelicans.

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Eastern Kingbird.

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Osprey against smoke.

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Juvenile House Wrens actively chittering for food.

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Sometimes, when I get home and download my photographs…I see things I hadn’t noticed while snapping.  The following two unfocused photographs speak to those surprises.

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Yellow Warbler and Cedar Waxwing.

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Berries and berry pickers have been in evidence at the river’s edge.

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It has been a most amazing experience to watch the progression of life and death and life and death on the river, even through the brutal winter.  The wildfires remind us how tenuous life is for all.  The leaves, now turning gradually and the plants-gone-to-seed remind us of how quickly everything changes.

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Firsts

This morning, I enjoyed a first…first walk along the river shared with Max, my grandson and my daughter.  It was a beautiful experience for me, so have to quickly archive.

The day began with a coffee on the red couch. Max stared longingly outside…but I wasn’t up for a rush, given that I’m struggling with a really bad cold right now and feel quite the ache all over.

Maxman April 26, 2018

I took a look at the male House Sparrow who also seemed despairing, perched for two full days on my back fence, looking at the vent where he once made a home.

And yes!  That sign does read Be Aware of The Dog, as opposed to Beware of Dog…a gift from my dear friend, Pat.  It makes perfect sense if you one day meet Max.

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At the base of the vent, all of the wee items of bric-a-brac collected over the years have been emptied out.

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No sign of Northern Flicker this morning.

All this aside, once out of my pajamas and into my sloppy clothes, I did a little bit of texting with my buddy, Wendy and headed to the river.

Near the Magpie Tree and saying ‘hi’ to Max.

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Mother Bald Eagle across the river from us…we should have hatching this week.

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Stopping at the Chickadee Wood.

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Stopping quite a bit to watch the fast moving water…the river is different from lake water or the swimming pool water…it makes noise.  Steven was enthralled.

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And the male Bald Eagle gave us a real surprise!  He rarely perches on this side of the river and I noticed him just as we were stepping toward this tree.  I quickly grabbed a couple of photographs, but directed Erin to follow me, away from the location…so as not to crowd him.  Sadly, before I could set up to take a well-focused photograph, he lifted off right in front of us and flew across the river.

I told Erin that it was a real blessing for Steven that this gentleman was waiting for us…a very unusual and amazing experience.

When an eagle appears, you are on notice to be courageous and stretch your limits. Do not accept the status quo, but rather reach higher and become more than you believe you are capable of. Look at things from a new, higher perspective. Be patient with the present; know that the future holds possibilities that you may not yet be able to see. You are about to take flight.

History

The indigenous peoples saw the Eagle as a symbol for great strength, leadership and vision. As if to seemingly mirror this, the eagle has been used as a ‘banner’ by many of the great empires throughout history, from Babylon to Egypt, through to Rome and even the United States. In early Christianity the eagle was seen as a symbol of hope and strength, representing salvation. The eagle appears twice in the book of Revelation; both times in a context that suggests it is on the side of God. In Islam, the eagle represents warlike ferocity, nobility and dominion.

In ancient Aztec tradition, the chief god told people to settle at a place where they find an eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake. This place is now Mexico City. Zeus changed into the form of the sacred eagle to help himself control thunder and lightning. The eagle was a strong emblem in the Roman Empire. The Hittites drew upon a double-headed eagle so that they would never be surprised. The Pueblo Indians associated the eagle with the energies of the sun – physical and spiritual – as well as symbols of greater sight and perception.

It may not be coincidence that such different cultures across thousands of years have adopted the same symbol.

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It was a magical morning, being with these two!

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Home building and insect eating.

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After our walk and as we returned to the parking lot, I looked up from the edge of the river, and saw Mr. perched nearer the nest and directly across from me.  I stooped and found a river stone to give to my grandson…a moment of today’s first.   In the water, the stone was golden smooth.  I love this little boy with my whole heart and my heart sings that I had  this opportunity.

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For the Birds

I’m not editing anything here…just came home for dinner and decided to post a quick remembrance of the visit to the Bow River after teaching today.

I thought I was looking at another flock/murmuration? of European Starlings, but what I was looking at was a tree full of Bohemian Waxwings.  I was really pleased because apart from a couple of sightings at the pond, this one is uncommon for me to observe.  The grey of late afternoon made everything visually flat, a most difficult atmosphere for photography, but it certainly didn’t stop the drama of absolutely everything at the river.  It makes me so happy to see that there is a huge melt going on right now and there are some habitats beginning to reveal themselves.

I’ve seen so many stunningly unbelievable photographs published by birder/photographer friends of Bohemian Waxwings that I am a bit embarrassed to post my very best.  And of course this little guy had to show me his very best side, didn’t he?

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I’ve captured just a very few of the Waxwings that hung out with me…

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Once again, I enjoyed the sound of the male pheasants gobbling from above the ridge and saw them strutting about, their brilliant red and green, signature colour, on the otherwise grey-gold hill.

There were the Crows caw cawing…the Robins perching…the Northern Flickers dancing and calling…and the Common Golden Eye males doing their hilarious back bends to impress the females who looked both bored and disinterested.

But…the most amazing thing I saw today was first, to see all of the gulls lift off the snow pack in unison, at the river’s edge.  Gazing across the river, I surmised that one of the Bald Eagles was fishing and so I looked across…not above.  Oh my goodness!  There, flying directly above my head and only meters away, was one of the Juveniles, on a serious bird hunt!  I don’t know how to pan or how to focus on a moving target, so none of it came out as a well-told visual narrative.  I guess that’s why I’m writing.  I could cry right now, it was so bloody amazing!

First…a loud cacophony of gull sounds and whoosh…they lifted up.  This is all that my camera picked up…but, I will remember.

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The juvenile Bald Eagle hovered above me…struck downward…up again…down.  Moments later, he left me, crossed the river and perched in a tree.  This was such a distance away, by this point, that I can hardly do the experience any justice at all.  But…there is the telling…

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I decided to stand there and watch.  By this time, another bird watcher had joined me on the bridge.  I asked him if he had witnessed what I just did and he acknowledged the magic.  I thought that, for certain, this juvenile was looking to eat and that we should be prepared for the next spectacle…instead, something more amazing happened.

From seemingly nowhere, this guy arrived.

 

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He’s been protective of the nest and a very supportive partner.  Mrs. has been sitting on eggs through the past ten or so days, enduring horrible winter temperatures and lots of snow.  The two adult Bald Eagles have been working together beautifully and I’ve watched the delivery of several lovely big fish.

There was no way he was going to let an intruder close in on the nest or his territory!  (even if that intruder is his own)

He swooped out and over the river and aggressively bolted toward the juvenile, who then also lifted off, heading north on the river.  The adult, angry, bolted at its rear, wings on both, flailing this way and that…it was beyond exquisite!  Those of us who saw this all unfold were in awe and squealing in delight.

There is a very good chance that this two year old is the adults’ own progeny.  Once raised, I believe the adults do not accept their youngsters back.  It is brutal, but a fact of nature.  There are the next babes to protect and raise up.  This young fellow is on his own.

 

There was magic to be found at the river today.

The Power of Every Day: April 9, 2018