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 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.

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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Reflecting

I’m sorting things out, in order to spend time with my father in the east.  The Christmas cards for 2015 are in the mail.  Doctors appointments, Max’s grooming, the vehicle checks and household chores are now being tackled.  The past week has meant a lot of beautiful indoor time with booming thunder storms every afternoon.  I feel like I’m on a retreat because the house is so quiet…just Max and me.  I can eat popcorn whenever I want.  In the evening, a glass of red wine.  Last night, I baked salmon in parchment paper…fresh lemon squeezed over the beautiful pink meat.  Every ritual seems lovely and intentional.

For the most part, it’s been productive and satisfying.

I’ve decided that my pond study will wrap up the morning of Mom’s birthday, July 27.  I’ve walked the circumference of the pond at Frank’s Flats every day since October 13,2015 with the intention of taking a single Instagram photograph of a single location, a bush that grows at the pond’s edge.  I have seen it through the seasons and watched how light changes everything.  I’ve developed rituals around these observations, recording, writing captions, creating mental sketches and noting the changes in the animals and vegetation as time passes.  I’ve much reference material now and in the autumn, I want to create a response to all of it.  I’ve had some faithful followers as, for most of the experiment up until July, I’ve documented on social media (Facebook) as well.

Bush October 9, 2015Bush February 16, 2016 1056 beauty, warmth, timeBush December 1 2015 1129 the water burps blue skies up above everyone's in loveBush Dec 25, 2015 Merry Christmas Beautiful light the hawk is perchd in the evergreen

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Yesterday, at the pond, I observed the only two Ruddy duck babes, alongside Mom.  The teen-aged Coots and Grebes are now taking diving lessons and doing so very successfully.  Mr. and Mrs. everything are swimming further and further from their youngsters, although the teens still cry out helplessly and give chase, not wanting to be separated from, at the very least, their source of food.  With the horrendous amount of rain recently, I fear that the Ruddy ducks’ nests have been drowned…the two babies that I observed, came to be only days before the first thunderstorms hit, so I’m guessing all of the other mothers were sitting at that time.  I’ll see.

I think that flying lessons are beginning…I notice that the adult Coots, while remaining on the water, are flapping hard and traveling on the surface.

While I stopped putting out seed at my feeders (as a way of settling down the vole and mouse populations), I got emotional when I realized that Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, in the vent across from my kitchen window, were trying one more time to nest.  The children are crying ravenously with each entrance to the vent from Mr. or Mrs.  I just need to see this family have a successful season, after two former attempts.

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The crows are big raiders in this neighbourhood these days, as those adults also struggle to feed their demanding young.

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As I reflect upon the last while, I continue to feel gratitude…especially for the lessons of nature and of solitude.  I like slowing things down.  I’ve been particularly inspired by a poem by Al Purdy, titled Detail and so I will post it here, along side a few photographs that I snapped yesterday.  In 1981, when doctoral work was typed on typewriters…Elizabeth Jane Douglas wrote a thesis titled the Mechanics of Being Alive: Major Themes in Poetry and Prose of Al Purdy.  This absolutely impacts my past year’s ‘work’ and ‘reflection’.

Al Purdy Abstract

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all winter long
… the apples clung
in spite of hurricane winds
sometimes with caps of snow
little golden bells
·         ·         ·
For some reason I must remember
and think of the leafless tree
and its fermented fruit
one week late in January
when the wind blew down the sun
and earth shook like a cold room
no one could live in
with zero weather
soundless golden bells
alone in the storm

(Beyond Remembering 135-36)
Al Purdy The Season of Man
Al Purdy the season of man 2
And then, there are those of us who believe that beyond this, there is so much more.  But for now, I leave this reflection.  I have a border collie, eager to run in the green wet grass.
Prayers for Billy and his family and for little Taliyah Marsman and her mother and their family.

Facebook Profile Updates

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…

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It’s been wonderful to see the great Cormorants coming through.  They are closer to the river…this, a lone female.

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Mama Savannah Sparrow watching out for her young sprout…IMG_9226

Youngster…sitting a short distance from Mom…about half her size.

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My partner in crime.IMG_9208

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.IMG_9204

May and June

This past winter was an unusual season, so mild that it was difficult to even classify it as winter.  The plows came around once.  We had two big dumps of snow.  And, that was it.  Spring came early, with many warm days in March.  As a result, everything is dry.

At my kitchen window, in the neighbour’s vent,  Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow have nested three times, all without success.  On the first go, we had babies and Mom and Dad did a marvelous job feeding and protecting their wee ones and then all at once, one morning, there was silence.  Given that the duct tape I had applied last season had fallen off (and I’m sort of glad it did because I always imagined my neighbour charging me for a repair), I believe that either a Crow or Magpie rampaged the nest.  The sparrows tried two more times, but with no successful hatch. The nest is now abandoned, apart from the occasional visit from an adult. This has made me pretty disappointed because I enjoyed my daily observations of Sparrow behaviour, while I worked at my kitchen sink.

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The Fort McMurray blaze happened and left the province in shock.  To not mention this would just be wrong. The media images of the devastation and mass exodus from the city were terrifying.  I think that this fire changed all of us in ways we could not imagine.  Our hearts are still reaching out to those impacted most.  In an economy that was already struggling with woes, this has contributed additional stress.  My prayers continue to be for those impacted and for the fire fighters who continue to make efforts to quell this blaze.  This image, from Jonathan Hayward, Canadian Press.

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A giant fireball is seen as a wild fire rips through the forest 16 km south of Fort McMurray, Alberta on highway 63 Saturday, May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

There just isn’t a transition from that!  As a result of the differing and dry climate, different insects are inhabiting our gardens.  My asparagus failed to come up this year and very few Oriental poppies.  My strawberry plants are weak, as are my lupines. I learned, one morning, while taking photographs that this is all due to the destruction of the Tarnished Plant Bug, last season and this.  I’ve spent these months trying to ethically rid my garden of the ‘damned’ things.  Sadly, this means I will likely be chasing them away to someone else’s garden.  I am thinking it will take me a couple of seasons to build up my garden again and I’m anticipating more damage next summer, given that the bugs likely produced eggs before I got on to this.  Gardening causes me to think about what it must mean to farm and to weigh my decisions around protecting beneficials such as bees and lady bugs.

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Tarnished Plant Bug presence Noted!

Different birds have settled into the pond area at Frank’s Flats.  It’s easy for me to notice because of my close relationship with this location the past five years.

Last year, at this time, I was watching the nesting practices of Osprey very closely.

Kath's Canon September 2, 2015 Osprey, Franks, Stinky Max 062

In late April, this year, two nesting platforms maintained by Enmax were pulled down as a result of future infrastructure development on the Stoney Trail ring road and so things have changed. I can only keep track of a single platform from a huge distance.  There is no access at this location on Sheriff King Road, for viewing.  I think that the relocation happened just in the nick of time, however, so I am grateful for the efforts of Enmax. Presently, Mr. and Mrs. are watching over a couple of eggs, if not chicks by this time.

Mr. or Mrs. showed up right on time this year, overlooking the pond south of 22X and exactly where the platforms were located last year.  I’m not certain if this is one of the siblings born last season or if it is one of the adults, but I am really happy that we have this presence.

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No place to go, the Osprey began building on the tops of the power poles.  This photo was taken once all nesting materials had been removed, demonstrating the adult Osprey’s determination to set up camp.  I quickly contacted Enmax via Twitter and from there, same-day action ensued and a new location was selected for the erection of the platform.  Disappointed, I knew that I wouldn’t, with my Canon Power Shot, be able to monitor the nest this season.

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From a distance, I saw that the very next day, male and female had established a home, with an abundance of nesting materials.  It was a thrill to see.

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I have visited a few times, just to make certain that the beautiful raptors have had a successful experience.  Only a week ago, I checked in.  Mr. is attentive as Mrs. sits patiently.  These two are slightly behind the other nest I watch, nearing the edge of the Bow River at Sikome Lake, but they look like they are managing.

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Birds have been plentiful at the pond and I’ve nudged up closer than in the past.  Sometimes I imagine the birds saying, “Oh, it’s just her again!”  I still haven’t made the capture of a male or female Shoveler and that disappoints, given that they attended the pond in large numbers this year.  Because they are so skittish, I also haven’t a focused photo of either variety of Grebe, although I’ve captured some great out-of-focus drama!  Below, see some of my collection of species this year.  I am thrilled with the closeness I have developed with nature and seeming, all because I am present for a walk each day, since October 13, in order to take a single photograph of a bush on Instagram.  I have been blessed!

 

The garden has not disappointed and continues to give me a quiet place to sip my coffee in the warm morning sun.  I’ve always received peace in flowers and green. This was a very early photograph…I can’t believe how things have changed and I’ll have to get out there again to snap a photograph or two.

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My Auntie Ruth turned 90, as did the Queen of England.  This meant a trip to Raymond and it meant a 200.00 speeding ticket!  It was a beautiful reunion of family!

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So much in the way of art and art exhibits!  I guess compared to usual, maybe a little less. The Ivor Strong Bridge has been dealing with some repairs and so I feel, every evening, as though I am on an island and don’t wish to struggle my way out of the community.  Not so much live music.  I think I’m going to have to remedy that!  I was definitely grateful for Allan Rosale’s invitation to the University of Calgary!

I’m very interested in learning the traditions and practice of Indigenous dance.  Jess has been so helpful in this regard and is a very inspiring teacher as well as practitioner.  I hope to continue with this study more consistently throughout this coming year.  I met Jess through Eileen since we were all in attendance to the Juno Awards event that featured Indigenous Nominees and included a power house performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Jess, Kath and Eileen

I hope that if you or your children are interested, you might contact me for information as the camps and study continue throughout the summer.  Such a positive and physical experience! Sîpihkopiwâyisîs Jess McMann-Sparvier is a powerful spokesperson for her cultural traditions and is inclusive, finding the narratives so important to share.  She is rooted in history and is constantly doing research.  She combines her delight for music, dance, tradition and teaching and is just one of those people you must meet and spend time with!

While I may not be athletic, I find this circle of beautiful people to have a very positive impact on me and the dance forms, a definite wake-up-call to my muscles!

Read Trail of Tears to Prokofiev HERE.

Find the link to Indigenous Dance Studio here.

Jess 2Jess

May and June have been full and richly lived…home repairs, teaching, paint, writing, family history.  I can’t ever imagine life not being beautiful.  I am filled up as I look at what has passed this last month and a half.

 

 

 

Show Grade Twos a Nest, And They’ll Draw It!

Teachers, when you have that short bit of time to observe a Live Eagle Cam with your class, log into one of these two spots and have your students make observations, write about the eagle behaviours, draw them, paint them…it’s so beautiful to watch!

Either today or tomorrow or the day after that, the eggs should hatch at Duke Farms.

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/eagle-cam

OR

Decorah…at…

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/eagle-cam

The weather today has been quite lovely at Duke Farms in Virginia.

Eagle March 23, 2016

Horrible weather…sleet…rain…slush and wind in Decorah.

Rain and Snow on Decorah

Grade twos made amazing observations of the eagles, rubbing off their chalk every time Mom changed her posture in the nest and began to sketch again.  After the sketching practice, the students added their colour with different media.

Thank you for your class, Elisa!