For the Birds: Early Spring 2019

I feel a bit of a cold coming on.  Max and I just returned from the river and I’ve had two pieces of toast slathered with peanut butter and raspberry jam and I’m presently sipping my third and last cup of coffee.

Before heading to the studio, I want to write a brief post to acknowledge just how beautiful it was to visit the river, in the rain.  Every day brings its shift in weather and atmosphere and every day brings to mind a different perspective, colour and life force.  I am just so grateful.

At the prompting of my friend, Nina Weaver, I read, with great attention, the first chapter of John’s gospel and I felt, as I read, that I am getting stronger over these difficult days.  Restorative yoga has been very beneficial to me, in the fact that daily, I am more conscious of breath…taking in healing and releasing suffering.  It’s a bit of a daily prayer for me now.  Life will always be different, without my brother’s booming voice being a part of it, but let’s face it, I carry him with me.  And so, today, I will bring him with me, into the studio to paint.

Watching the birds at the pond and now the river, is such a part of my mental, emotional and spiritual health.  I can not explain to my readers how entering into the watchfulness and presence of such vulnerable creatures is healing and even sustaining.  Focus moves away from self and ego and returns to the other…and to what is necessary to wholeness and health.  I am inspired every day.

Why did I decide to post today?  Well, I gain much through the act of writing, the practice of writing.  I don’t want to lose touch with that.  It was very hard to be caring for brother at the same time as my computer sunk like a stone.  Yes, I filled some journal pages and I wrote in the margins of my Bible, but writing didn’t feel as available through that period.  Writing allows my heartache to tumble out,  releasing a particular tension.  I don’t want to take the purchase of a laptop for granted, just as I never want to take the act of painting for granted again.

First to come in the spring, were the Magpies.  Then, the Canada Geese, the Mallards and the Common Goldeneyes.  At the same time, before snow left, the Robin’s song could be heard.  The House Sparrows gathered once again, in a flurry, at my back yard bird feeder.  European Starlings, Common Mergansers, Red Necked Grebes and more.  My friends at Frank Lake have photographed so many gorgeous birds.  At my river, I don’t see the American Avocets or the Stilts.  However, I have been amused and in love with interactions with these birds in the past.  I am very much about staying close to home these days; my energy is still quite low and  so, I certainly don’t look for places to go or things to do.  The next few photographs represent a few of the birds I’ve enjoyed this spring and ones that have built up the life force within me.

You may wish to click on the image to enlarge.  As well, here are two photographs of Mr. as he returned to the nest with a fish off of the Bow River.  For those of you know me, I don’t know how to pan, so the fact that I managed even two poorly focused images of Mr. in flight, is quite an accomplishment.  Have a beautiful day!

 

A Morning at the River: March 4, 2019

Life is both brutal and beautiful.  It is impossible to sift out the bits, and take only the ‘good’ bits..  And while some contend that you can choose happiness, I beg to differ.  Life is about the entire spectrum of what life brings.  Some days, you just step out in faith.  Some days there is a bitterness that the warmth can not permeate, but you step out anyway.  This morning, was one of those for me.  And, look!  Mr. was waiting with a striking bunch of Magpies, with a brilliant blue sky as their backdrop.  Never before have I heard a Bald Eagle making sounds with the breaking of bones, much like you might here from a dog chowing down on a soup bone.  It was an amazing experience.

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

 

The Wind Bites

I woke up this morning, intending to drive to Lethbridge to visit my Aunties, but there’s some snow and a great deal of blow!  So, I decided to cook a huge feast of a breakfast for two of my adult children and to hang out, cozy, with them.  Afterwards, Max needed to get his exercise, so he and I headed out in the car and steered our boat to the river. We just returned and are warming up.  It was a dramatically different scene from just yesterday when the sky was blue and the earth revealed the decay that is always so familiar in the autumn.  Indeed, apart from a skiff of snow on Christmas Day, everything was brown this year.

I have enjoyed the holiday because it has given me time to walk the river’s edge in daylight and observe the activities at the Bow.  I have been watching the male and female Bald Eagles build up the railings on their nest.  My photos are taken a great distance away and so I have no real concerns that posting these will tease out the weirdos who exist in the world to hurt and interfere with nature.

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Setting geese and ducks to flight while doing a reconnaissance.

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Keeping eye on a fly-fishing dude.

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I Saw a Heart in the Tree

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Male Bald Eagle, delivering new railing material.

Today was such a contrast to the past couple of weeks!  I pulled out my camera from under my coat in order to snap a quick photograph of a young raptor before he became aware of Max and I and took flight.  I had a chance to really get a good look and, according to information on line, with so much mottling, this is likely a sub-adult of maybe two or three years of age from the same parents that I’ve been watching for about four years.  I got a good look at him when he took flight.  Interestingly enough, he returned to a tree just a short distance from the nest, so I have a feeling he was, in all of this cold blustery wind, seeking out the warmth of home.  Thing is, if Mom and Dad return at some point this afternoon, they’ll be their usual ‘hard ass’ variety of parents and aggressively send him on his way.  That sort of makes me sad. I know he’s just wanting a taste of a nice fish or something.  Here are my photos…very out of focus, so I wish you had been there.

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I’m now seeking permission to include a photograph posted on A Guide To Aging Bald Eagles by a photographer named Ron Dudley who has a very clear photograph of a Bald Eagle, classified as an Intermediate Adult.  I think that this is what I saw today.  I’d like to begin using the proper vocabulary.  So, stay tuned, but in the meantime, my readers might want to go to this website for clarity.

With gratitude to photographer and amazing birder, Ron Dudley, I was given permission to publish this screen shot.  As I experienced this Intermediate Adult today, this is what I saw when he/she was closer to me.

 

 

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