Today’s Birds: May 13, 2017

I should be out gardening.  I am typically well ahead of the neighbours, but with owwies in the elbow this year, I’m lagging.  That doesn’t stop me from feeling fired up, however, as I listen to the sound of the neighbouring trimmers, lawnmowers and the stchhhh stchhhh of their sprinklers.

It’s pretty nice getting outside for long hikes, without the lawn work, I’ve got to say.

Here are today’s birds…all at Frank’s Flats.  I continue to hope that the pond on the other side of the chain link fence isn’t drained until the fledge happens.  We’ve a lot of nesting water birds at the moment.  We have one widowed Goose (female, I think), as well as a widowed Mallard (male).  They were hanging out together for quite a bit today. However, as I snapped a photograph, the Mallard flew out of frame.

No smiling at the pond these days!  If I smiled, I would eat my weight in bugs.  Must be the reason for the excitement on the water.  The gulls, laughing in a wild frenzy, are annoying the other birds.  The Yellow-headed Blackbirds seem to be pecking away in the huge batch of blooming dandelions.

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Giving me the Stare Down!

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Female Blackbird

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Female Blackbird

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Black Headed Gull

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More than a few…and Noisy!

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One of the Male Grebes Having a Float

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Overseeing his possibilities.

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Female Blackbirds checking out the Men. So many visible, while for weeks, the men were out there doing the soft shoe on the cat tails on their own.

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Cranky Pants

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Widowed Two Weeks Ago

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This must be my O’ Canada Photograph

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Looking Up

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Chain Link Fence and Wigeon

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Gadwells and Gull

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Savannah Sparrow

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Male Red-Winged Blackbird Giving a Shout

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One Photograph was edited today. Guess which one? (Not this one)

Today’s Birds: May 4, 2017

Over the past two days, ‘they’ve’ been draining the water from one of the smaller wetlands that neighbours the pond at Frank’s Flats.  I’ve been holding a bit of a grudge, given that, of course, multiple families of geese and waterfowl have already done their romancing and settled in.  Changes will be even more dramatic when the 22X (Stoney Trail) expansion requires ‘them’ to interfere with the wetlands on the west side of Macleod Trail.  I know. I know.  This infringement upon wildlife and plant life is a constant struggle as human beings lay down more and more pavement, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t cause a person grief as they are witness to the process.  Where are the advocates for wild life and who is listening?  I sometimes wonder.

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I met ‘a guy’ in one of those bright orange vests.  Don’t ask me his position.  It was a complicated title.  I just nodded.  He seemed interested that I pick litter and that I know anything at all about the wetlands.  He participates in the annual river clean up.  hmmm

He was out on that fine day, checking that everything was staked out and assured me that the remaining large trees would be coming down, but that on the first rip down, because of a specific time line and government regulations, as well as the distance from wetlands, they were required to leave the big ones for the sake of the ecosystem and the nesting birds.  I explained that the magpies and crows….murders of them…were so distraught that for days they gathered in a single tree, yelling at the land.  And yes…I did cry over the crows.

Due to the construction of a heavy duty drainage system last season, Enmax has not been able to properly maintain/facilitate the Osprey Platform on the Sikome Lake side.  As a result Mother Goose has been there for almost five weeks.  I’m thinking the goslings will either starve or fall off the platform.  In the meantime two pair of Osprey have had to take up residence on top of sign platforms both directions on the loud and dangerous roadway.   I don’t know how they will all manage.

Follow Up to This: The Fish Creek Conservation Officer returned my call,  inquiring about this.  I was assured of a couple of things.  First, it is offence to mess with wildlife in any form, in its natural circumstance in a Provincial Park.  Second, if a bird is nesting ANYWHERE, then this is natural to that bird.  This gentleman had a very calm voice and was telling me the facts.  At this point, I need to grow in acceptance of some of these circumstances where I make observations of birds/animals.

Nature will have to take it’s course.

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I know that for the entire extent of the Stoney Trail’s development, wildlife, wetlands and trees/natural plants have been impacted.  I know that I need to accept ‘progress’ here and in our beautiful park lands, including the Bow Valley Parkway.  It’s just that I don’t think the general population receives all of the information as some of these projects go ahead at warp speed and gather a momentum that becomes destructive and insensitive to a wilderness/natural environment that we, as citizens of Alberta, generally, treasure.

Maybe this is a cliche, but our human population needs to slow down.  Not good for economic climate? Tourism? Well…things to think about.

Today’s pelican…a senior, just like me.  On its own, but it took flight, just after this photo was taken…something about Max, I think.

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My friend, Julie, let me in on the very public location where Mrs. Great Horned Owl and her offspring are hanging out these days.  These owlets will likely fledge within the next week.  In the meantime, Max and I took pause, some distance away and watched.  Of course, I cried.  I was in awe that edging on a bike path, a mama could tend to her babes…so vulnerable, so strong, so absolutely magical.  We need to realize that the species we share this planet with require our advocacy.  We need to stop…and watch, learn and cherish.  This is my plea as I write tonight.

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Species that I have observed in the path of Stoney Trail development, presently.  The mammals; coyotes and deer, have already vacated the paths I take.

  1. Canada Geese
  2. Mallards
  3. Osprey
  4. Black-capped Night-heron
  5. Goldeneye
  6. Redheads
  7. 5 nesting pair of Grebes
  8. Common Mergansers
  9. Common Raven
  10. Red Winged Blackbirds
  11. American Wigeons
  12. Buffleheads
  13. Frogs like no other year

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.

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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.  (Thank you, Miles…I’ve had a ‘real birder’ let me know that this is, in fact, a Gadwell.) 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 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.

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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.

It’s Been This Kind of Day

I have to thank my new birder-friend, Bob, for his share of the story of Mrs. Shoveler on the Bird’s Calgary site, today.

I began writing on-line in 2005. In writing to an ‘imagined’ public, I discovered a public voice.  I learned to write about events that took place in my rather simple life in a way that could be explored and shared with any reader. There was a line that I refused to cross, a line that delved into the realm of the very personal.  I’ve enjoyed learning to narrate my life, while reigning in my voice to a degree.  In my head, I always remarked, “Only write what you feel anyone could read.”  I suppose the closest I ever came to crossing that line was at the loss of my mother.

I was in my father’s office, at the computer desk, the summer of her passing.  It was so bloody humid.  Dad tried to keep me from opening the windows because we had to have air conditioning or we were going to melt!  Whenever I would sit to write at the computer, I would secretly slide the window open to the right of me…in the night time, there was such stillness…not a breeze.  I remember writing this.

A lot of bloggers get weary of the process of writing after a while, but for some reason, I find the flow of evening-writing,  a wonderfully relaxing practice.  My initial story of Mrs. Shoveler and my effort to retrieve her from a small piece of open water achieved over 400 hits in an hour after publication.  I know.  I know.  I don’t really have a swollen head over this.  It’s not what the on-line crowd would call ‘going viral’, but, I was deeply touched that so many readers care about wildlife enough and in this case, a hen Northern Shoveler, that they would peruse the events that took place in the bitterly cold days of last December.  The follow-up story, involving the re-appearance of this dear bird, sent the numbers soaring yet again.

Well, today, with gratitude to Birds Calgary, more readers have visited and I’ve really enjoyed comments and messages and reactions.  So, readers, thank you for all of that.

This was my day…while Max and I played in snow and I met Abir again, after so long, and I made and enjoyed such a beautiful stew…while every thing was happening in my life, this is what was going on in the hum of the background.

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Mrs. Shoveler

I discovered her, first, on December 14.  The temperatures, the week before, had been frigid, plummeting to -27 on some days.  I had, a couple of times, walked around the pond, breathing hot air into my wool scarf, tied tightly around my mouth and nose.  My eye lashes grew icicles.  Max, sometimes wound up with cold feet and I would stoop to clear snow from between his pads.  On the 14th, the weather seemed better.  At the bottom of the slope that edged the football field, I first saw her, recognizing her beak profile as being that of a Northern Shoveler.  “What the heck?” I thought to myself.

I had my first experience of closely observing Northern Shovelers on the far side of the fence, last summer, and never did get a good photograph of a Mr.  On the other hand, I had several very beautiful encounters, image-wise, with females.

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I am not one for making a big deal of things in nature, knowing that, for the most part, nature will find its way.  I watched her, thinking that perhaps she had been widowed during the extreme temperatures.  Mates will remain where they have suffered loss, for weeks, sometimes months.  I had made observations of a mating couple of geese last summer and when one had obviously lost its mate, the bonded partner remained at the same place on the pond for June and most of July.  Therefore, I didn’t make any calls for assistance right away.  Today, this is my only regret.

Finally, with the vacation approaching and having experienced two days of intensely bitter cold wind, on Frank’s Flats, I decided I should look for sanctuary for little Mrs.  What one discovers as one begins to seek support in this city is that sometimes it doesn’t come easy.  Without recounting my negative or non-productive experiences, I wish to merely express gratitude for those who did reach out with empathy and concern.  First, Bob of Birds Calgary, took the time to research, make inquiries and hook me with other organizations.  I’ve followed Birds Calgary for some years now and love the documentation of birds in our community and the narratives that some times surface on the website.

My second communication with Calgary Wilderness Rehabilitation Society, again, functioning mostly on volunteer-steam and funded by donation, seemed to be hopeful, but a New Year’s blast of winter, meant that services were taxed in other areas of need.  This was a non-emergency situation.  I’m sending on a link to their Wish List, in hopes that this experience of mine might lead to positive change and solicit support for organizations such as these.

In the end, I received the greatest and most professional treatment from the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) and I certainly hope that you might, if this is one of your interests, support this organization.  Please spend some time perusing their blog.  They were quick, responsive and had a nice flow to their communication; e mail response, phone and on-line website.  The City of Calgary 311 on-line request form needs some careful attention in order to become expedient and avoid glitches.

I documented my visits with little Mrs.  Sometimes the photos were lovely…sometimes not.  Do I regret being obsessive over an injured duck for the past few weeks?  No.  I learned so much.  I regret to report that sometime in the night or the wee hours of morning, a predator did carry and kill Mrs.  I followed the edge of the pond, the tracks and the narrative until I found her soft fan of feathers in the snow.

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I’m thankful to all my friends and my daughters, for their hearts, ears and suggestions.  I love you all for caring.  I think that we are all called to action.  I think it is easy to get comfortable in our own lives, sometimes.  I think that Mrs. is a mere metaphor for ‘the other’…for the marginalized who are living in our own city.  It is important that we not become so comfortable that we forget that there are others who are cold, without shelter, circling the small pond of their own lives because it feels as though there is no way out.

I am in gratitude that nature has taught me more.