When I arrived at the Bow River this morning, late, Dad was low in the nest bowl, obviously on duty. Mama had all of the ducks and gulls freaking out and from one place to the next, there arose a tremendous cacophony. At one point, unbeknownst to me, she flew directly over my head and then I lost sight of her. As I made my way along the river’s edge, I was able to witness the exchange of duties and Mama settled down to take over for Dad. She’s much younger and not as experienced as he is…and so it delights me to see her intuitively taking part in the work.
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.
Setting geese and ducks to flight while doing a reconnaissance.
Keeping eye on a fly-fishing dude.
I Saw a Heart in the Tree
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.
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.
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?
I’ve captured just a very few of the Waxwings that hung out with me…
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.
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…
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.
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.
I shouldn’t always apologize for my photographs. I’m not in the business of circling a single pond for the possibility of becoming a photographer, but I would like it if the images were focused. I am walking daily, however, in order to document what I feel, see, hear and experience. I am there to learn and to discover through all of my observations.
Well, today, I saw one single male Northern Pintail duck on the pond. While a very common bird, I have never seen one and I’m always excited to spot a new species. I find it funny that I’ve observed such a variety this autumn and usually solitary male birds. Please enjoy the link to the Northern Pintail that I have provided. It doesn’t get much better than Audubon!
Just after snapping these two photographs, a train thundered to the west of me. The Pintail took off, circled the pond and then headed south across the debacle that is the South West Ring Road, likely to the larger water body to the south. Grateful for this siting.
Of course! The Osprey are on my mind these days, so let’s see what Grade Three can pull off! I shared, with the students, a few of my own photographs of Osprey. We talked about the similarities and differences between Eagles, Hawks and Osprey because, even adults, get them confused with one another.
Earlier in the day, the students had discussed, with me, the aspects of a champion. I told them that I am a champion for nature and always will be. They told me stories about their champions and then went to their seats to write a couple of paragraphs about someone they consider to be a champion in their lives. During art, we would be champions for nature, by talking for a while about how Enmax has built platforms throughout our city in order to help the Osprey out and to protect them.
Then, the students would use their artistic practice to be champions, by making art that would teach others about the Osprey.
David Allen Sibley is an American ornithologist. What better person to demonstrate some real basics of the form involved with drawing a profile view of an Osprey? The students made three sketches in their visual journals. YES! Three! Practice practice practice! If my readers want to see how challenging it is to draw the beaks, the form of the body and the head shape, try to draw along with David Sibley, here. While I wanted to do a small composition with the students in chalk pastel, I also wanted to prepare them. The practice was invaluable and the compositions ended up fantastic!
I recommend that you put this video on silent as the music is very irritating…however, I wanted to give the students practice drawing the Osprey looking the other direction. Most chose to incorporate this posture for their composition and worked from their own drawings, as references.
Here’s some of what the students accomplished. Thank you for your class, Jenn. The students were absorbed and determined as they produced their compositions. Having the practice under their belts, the chalk drawings took a little over 30 minutes…no pencil was used in the compositions.
Pencil sketching from projected Youtube videos…
Students used white chalk to block in their simple contour lines to define where their Osprey would be placed in the composition.
With a foundation of Reflection and Depiction, the students then had opportunity to Compose and Express, using the media. They learned to leave bits of the ground (green paper surface) exposed…to turn their chalk pastels onto their sides and on the tip, for different mark making. A very absorbed activity.
When all was said and done, some of the students shared with me that when they were in Grade Two, I spent a class drawing Eagles with them. I showed them a Live Eagle Cam from Duke Farms. No eagles showed up to nest at Duke Farms this year.
I think that it’s a very cool thing that some of these students have studied the Eagle and now, the Osprey.
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.
Three days now, I’ve been deactivated on the most popular social media website since sliced bread. I document my father’s music in the hours I might have wasted on early mornings, while drinking my coffee. I listen to Chris de Burgh music on Youtube as background, while reading Al Purdy poetry. His words make me weep at times. I would have posted that on Facebook.
I imagine filling in that small space…I don’t even remember what the prompt was? Say something about yourself…or what you are doing…what came to be known as a status update.
I would probably post a link to this post. As a way of weening myself from the process, I thought to update my status here…what would I say?
July 5, 2016 A dark cloud fell upon me when, from no where, a friend invited me to go chase dark clouds. He parked his car across the street and magically appeared when I needed a friend.
July 6, 2016 My hair was dirty, so I didn’t join my girlfriends for a night of listening to live music. I didn’t paint at Rumble House, again. I read Al Purdy poetry and used a sock as a place-saver.
July 7, 2016 I feel sad that I’m seeing the changes in the pond, all on my own, and that no one else sees exactly what I see. Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow are trying to raise another family in the neighbour’s vent. I relent and put seed in the feeder that I had pulled out of service because of the growing population of voles. But, now, with the children’s incessant cry for sustenance, I give in.
July 10, 2016 What does it mean that I have 13 hits on my blog from Macau SAR China, today? Some times these connections, through writing, just surprise me.
Yesterday’s photographs…documentation of train graffiti, imagining that the artist would want to know where his art had traveled.
I like that the red-winged black bird made it into this shot…
It’s been wonderful to see the great Cormorants coming through. They are closer to the river…this, a lone female.
Mama Savannah Sparrow watching out for her young sprout…
Youngster…sitting a short distance from Mom…about half her size.
My partner in crime.
A herd of 20 geese, four adults and the rest, progeny, slip into the water as Max and I tippy toe through the goose poo.
I never imagined I would be so overcome by the mystery and magic of birds. My body, mind and imagination are being blessed by the standing-still of this…the breath and light and patience of entering into a seldom-noticed world. If I sit/stand still, it is as though a secret world unfolds to me…even comes to me. And I remain still, in awe and in gratitude.
The Cormorants are on a migration and have been stopping in to the pond of late. A Great Blue Heron is alternating between this location and over where the Osprey nest is located, just south of 22X. At one time I thought that there were two herons, but recently, have decided that there is just one. The Coots did very well this season and I’ve been watching the juveniles running on the water with their paddle feet, preparing for the next step, flight. I’ve seen, but not been able to archive, yellow finches.
I’ve recently watched adult Hawks sitting on light standards alongside their offspring, teaching them the ins and outs of stalking and hunting down field mice. I’ve been intrigued by the hunting techniques and feasting of these raptors. Compare the length of the tail feathers on the adult hawk with those of the juvenile.
Today I captured a photo of the youngsters, on its own. From what I can tell, this is likely a male Marsh Hawk, also known as a Northern Harrier. You can tell it’s a juvenile based on its size, length of tail feathers and the maturity of the feathers.
The three juvenile Osprey and one adult have been hunting together from the deadwood and the power poles that edge the pond for the past week and a half. The other adult is most often seen now, closer to the river. I have not seen any of them at the nest until today.
It’s Sunday and I think that as a special treat, a fish was again dropped at the nest because for the first time in quite a while, all three juveniles were in the vicinity of the nest and the adult hung out some distance away. I didn’t stay long because alarm calls were being given by the two birds that were feasting at the nest. A somewhat obtrusive photographer with a two foot long lens was laying down in the grass above the nest…so, I don’t know if I was the problem or if the other photographer was. My photos are taken from a long way off and as a habit, I never get out of the vehicle. Radio off. Engine off. Silent. Max seems to know the drill also…and even though he is sitting in the driver’s seat, he remains seated and perfectly still.
I like this little series of images of the one left standing on the pole…
Alarm calls coming from the nest.Today, Max was very co operative at the pond when I sited the Belted Kingfisher that I had noticed yesterday. I had no camera with me yesterday, so today, I made certain that my battery was charged. I heard the Kingfisher’s call today and grabbed a few photographs to celebrate my first siting of this species in nature. It was very thrilling. I sat down on the worn path and just watched for the longest time, Max on leash and tied to my waist so as not to disturb the moment.
The Great Blue Heron, while elusive, has been a constant companion at the pond for two weeks. Continually relocating as I travel the circumference of the pond, I have seen it fly and watched it feed at the shore. It’s been heavenly.
IX. As Patience
Then it picks up one stem leg. This takes time.
And sets it down just beyond the other,
no splash, breath of a ripple, goes on
slowly across the silt, mud, algae-
throttled surface, through sedge grass,
to stand to its knees in water turning
grayer now that afternoon is evening.
Now that afternoon is evening
the gray heron turns blue, bluer than sky,
bluer than the mercury blue-black still pond.
–from "The Blue" by David Baker
I was late and when I arrived, I was kind of jostling and trying to find a spot to sit. The proper etiquette at Rumble House is to arrive in time to set up and when the artists are painting, yes, interact, but don’t blow the beautiful flow of painting and creating that is happening at the time. I was ‘the bull’. Thanks to Jess and Rich for helping me get sorted.
I sat to paint, but had been filled with a bit of a melancholy all day. I never really know how it’s going to go. Do any of us?
Presently, I’m listening to Vance Joy’s music on Youtube. It’s beautiful. Thanks, Jess. Two mamas have a little teeny son, August, and Jess woke at 4:00 a.m. with the sweetheart and listened to this. Such a beautiful song…and it leads to others. There is so much amazing joy in being engaged with life…but, there is also huge struggle. Yesterday, my cousin Jaime’s words of sadness and loss hit me very hard as well. The experiences that we are offered and challenged to face with grace and gratitude are limitless. Cayley has told me that I’m a bit of an empathic, so again, I feel a lot of this in my bones.
I went out on my walk at Frank’s Flats yesterday early afternoon and the extreme variety of life experiences was exemplified in the glorious and the gut-wrenching pain to be found in nature. I stalked the great blue heron that had been perching for the past week or so at the pond’s edge…a very nervous bird who shifted its location at the sound of the train or a person walking the path some distance away…agitated…so powerful in flight…so truly amazing in its structure and appearance.
Eventually, I grabbed some shots, not technically astute, but a testament to what I experience daily at the flats.
Last night, I tackled a very small panel. I combined a feeling of the claustrophobic experience of grey skies blanketing the sun these last many days due to raging forest fires in Washington, Oregon…dangerously dry country, it seems, everywhere this summer and this bird raising up out of loss and injury and finding wings to fly. I made an effort to shift the consciousness and to honour the life energy of a single bird.
Congratulations to Jess Szabo on her exhibit of last night. I’m looking forward to Changing Face, featuring artists Daniel Audet, Amy Gaulin, Aaron Sidorenko, Rich Theroux, Nick Rooney, Brian Flynn, Doug Nhung, Ness Nelson and Shon Anderson.
I was glad to have connected with Andrea, who took this bird home after auction. She has such enthusiasm and such an ability to project hope in otherwise hopeless situations.
I love the energy of the people at Rumble House. Enriquito, my heart is for you on this journey. If I can give support, your Godmother-in-art is here for you.
One of my favourite people tonight…Kai, featured here with his painting of Smudge the Shark.
Feral cats roam free throughout the seasons on our circle. A few of them congregate on the ‘cat lady’s’ step because I think she gets them through the winter. One of the cats belongs to her, but he is definitely an outdoor cat. The other three come and go, but always sit, when she’s gone, on her smoking chair. The one that has managed through the most years is a tortoise shell long hair who often stalks my bird feeder and routinely catches and tortures mice. I watch, stunned, from the window. Yesterday, this very cat sat on the sidewalk directly across from my house…crouched and ready to bolt. Max, my dog, barked wildly from the living room window. I stepped outside to see what the commotion was all about. Looking carefully, I saw puffs of feather circling the cat’s mouth. It looked funny until I saw the fledgling robin on the yard below me.
Both mother and father were posturing anxiously in near proximity to the evidently scruffed up youngster. I shooed the cat away as it bolted and hid beneath one of the cars parked along the street. Bit by bit, I coaxed the young dude east along the street and up onto neighbour’s steps where he/she might be able to get some height on the next flight attempt. Prompted by its parents, it continued bob bob bobbing along, however exposed to the crows, the cats, the magpies and the great big world.
As I looked more closely at the young robin, I saw that it had been attacked on its chest and definitely on its tail feathers. I don’t know that it will at any point be able to fly, given this disastrous result. Once again, I contemplate the tough world of nature. I think about the challenges of adults, in this case, the hatching and feeding and raising up of young birds in precarious nests and then, teaching them to fly. In nature, there is so much fighting against birds, animals and plants. Sometimes I am amazed that species continue to populate this earth, where now, there are so many forces operating against them. Natural predators are one thing, but the forces that human beings exert upon species and the devastating development of natural environments is truly, staggering.
I managed, yesterday morning, to delay the violent ending of a young robin. The lesson, however, is that ‘out there’, it is the strong that survive. I guess it’s the same for us.