Belted Kingfisher

Autumn means chasing this guy around, trying to grab a focused photograph.  Some people play football.  This is my sport.  I could spend hours listening for him and then high-tailing it to his next location.  He plays catch-me-if-you-can and I can be heard in the woods, laughing out loud.  If anyone else was around they would wonder.  First, readers, take note of the Belted Kingfisher’s interesting sound.

Twice in the past two days, the Kingfisher has taken a place of importance, the high Y branch of the Bald Eagle family’s favourite tree.  First time, both Juveniles went at him.  I think that perhaps the Kingfisher was consuming a meal and the young eagles get pretty scrappy with the food of other river hunters.  Next time, the Sub Adult flew in, I suppose just to claim her dominance.

My visuals are all very unfocused, but I’m logging these here as a part of my birder journals.  This morning, in the fog, I also watched an Osprey dive, almost vertically, off of a tree and pounce upon a young Cormorant as he fished.  Life on the river is a bit of a dog-eat-dog world.  When I returned home, I saw that I got an unfocused capture of the Osprey leaving the tree.

The two juvenile Bald Eagles swooped into the scene, evicting the Kingfisher from prime territory.

He arrived at my side of the river, for only moments and I snapped this photograph, directly into the light.

Another visit to the river, and again, he chose prime branches.  Are you kidding?

In she swooped…and look, where the little guy ended up!

This morning, in the fog.

Life carries on, in all forms, at the river, but very different from only weeks ago.  The Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are in greater numbers, as are the White Breasted Nuthatches.  The Northern Flickers swoosh down and up onto the Elms.  This afternoon, the subdued landscape was broken by a huge frenzy of vocalizations of coyotes on the island and the howls were returned in unison by the coyotes on this side of the river.  It was absolutely magical!

Osprey taking a dive, not for a fish, but for the Cormorant catching the fish! (Horrible photo alert!)

Juvenile Cormorant.  Doug Newman pointed out one time that some Cormorant species have bright blue eyes in this stage.  This is the best that I’ve been able to capture that.

And, what exactly is this?  Has this wee babe been abandoned by Mom?  What is it?

The elegance of the young American Robins, at this time, fills my heart, whenever I see them.

This past week might have been impacted by bad-weather days, but nature continues to amaze me, regardless.

The female Mallard keeps her kids in line.

I will continue to attempt a good capture of the Belted Kingfisher during the coming week.

The Struggle is Real

Winter is oppressive this year.  I consider myself to be fond of all seasons, including winter, but as the snowbanks grow, I am in awe of the challenges this weather brings.  I have begun my journey of Lenten observances, but my Nativity display is still parked on the front yard, with no hope of being wedged out of the snow until some of it disappears.  I would guess that the accumulation is somewhere around the three foot mark at this point.

I came upstairs this morning, put on the coffee and then decided to sit and finish reading I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism by Lee Maracle.  Outside, the snow was coming down steadily and there was evidence that it had been piling up all night long.  Maxman was okay to chill out with me and we both eased into morning, without any attachment to screens at all.

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By 10:30, the book was finished and I felt completely depleted.  Interesting that in the very last section, titled, Last Words, Maracle stated that most readers would have stopped by that point.  I had hung in…decompressing at times, but certainly interested in the honest approach to dealing with the topics that other writers might easily skirt around.  It was a difficult book, heart-breaking in so many ways…only 140 pages, compact, intense but, most important for understanding.

I continue to be very moved by the journey and history of my indigenous brothers and sisters.  With this reading, I received new revelations to the struggles…for women, especially.

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This morning, the snow became a wall for me, insurmountable, while carrying the weight of the contents of this book.  I thought that getting down to the Bow River might create respite from my own thoughts.  Instead, I encountered the desperation of hungry animals.

My eyes seem to be wide open when I am at the river’s edge.  I feel blessed that way.

The first thing I noticed was the gobble gobble sound of a male pheasant as he valiantly took flight, gliding quite a distance from the hill across from me.  A scattering of snow and a coyote bounded from that same location, toward me and Max.  I hadn’t even left the parking lot, at this point, and already  spotted the female pheasant in a neighbouring shrub.  She was going no where!

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I was pretty certain that this coyote was one that I’ve been observing lately, easily identified by an evident limp and a mangy coat. As the weeks of bitter cold continue, a generous food source, in the way of mice, voles and such is becoming very challenging.  The predators are looking gaunt.

Stepping onto the trail, into the deep woods, and along the dark turquoise river, I noticed canine tracks in the fresh snow, unaccompanied by any human presence.  I looked down at Max and told him, “Let’s go another route today, Max.”  As I took pause and looked up, there, only a few meters away, stood one of the juvenile Bald Eagles about half way up a tree.  His back was hunched and covered in a transparent blanket of snow.  As Max and I moved to go around his territory, he took flight, his huge wings opening up directly above us.  Having taken the more traveled route, it wasn’t far and we met two of our friends, both intensely engaged in something else.

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It took Max a short while to respond.  I think he was curious, more than anything.  But, out of nowhere, he let out a wild and crazy barking-frenzy and in response, nine deer took flight and bounded across the landscape.  It all happened so fast that I didn’t have opportunity to react.  The coyotes followed the deer, without hesitation.

A moment’s pause and then, slowly and methodically, three other deer appeared.  I have a sense that these are the younger three and that the adults had reacted to Max’s barking.  Is that possible?  Dunno…  Tentatively, these guys carried on in the direction of the action.  Max and I headed north on the river.

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I wondered about there even being a possibility that coyotes might feed on deer during the winter.  I suppose if one were to fall ill or if the coyotes worked together, their clever approach to community-hunting might provide for a meal of venison.  I just know that in the cold and the snow, I felt compassion for all…the pheasant, the eagle, the deer and the coyotes.

For years, I’ve logged on to a Live Eagle Cam at Duke Farms.  I’ve just recently seen that a second egg has been laid at the nest.  Last year, surprisingly, no eagles nested in that location.  Tonight, the camera is capturing an adult sitting on the nest in a horrible snow storm…

The Struggle is Real.  Please take a moment and check in.

A Mostly Full Moon

The past week at Frank’s Flats,  Max and I have encountered winter…the biting cold of it, but also the slushy warmth of winter’s low sun on the horizon.  It’s difficult to hold on to just how beautiful it is and how different from the lazy late evenings of summer.

Long shadows cast over the sea of white, where even blades of dried grass become giants stretched out on blue violet snow.  Each evening, the colours of things are subject to the sorts of clouds that celebrate the last rays of day and then melt into a pool of cerulean, ultramarine and lavender.

I dawdled at the beginning of our hike last night, snapping photographs of animal prints mostly.  Max kept running ahead and then bounding back, trying to distract me from the wonder of the light on the expanse of the pond.

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DSC_1547We set out on our hike too late last night and I had left my coyote-stick back at the car.  Sure enough, Max became agitated and, picking up a scent, began his fast, snout-to-the-ground zzzzz back and forth and back and forth along the fence. Then, FREEZE!  He stood utterly still in his tracks.  I stayed utterly still in my tracks.  And there, nose to nose, but separated from us by the fence, a large male stared intensely at us.  And as if tagged, Max woke from his stillness and barked madly.  As the coyote loped away from the fence…two meters…then five…then ten, I couldn’t help but take note of its beauty.

Grateful that he had a healthy thick coat and bright intent eyes and carried lots of weight for the challenges that lie ahead, I shouted out to Max.  COME!  MAX, COME!  Like a bullet, he flew through the snow banks and followed me as I attempted to walk in a steady and calm manner.  (I’ve let these animals see my fear before, only to be stalked for long distances by several coyotes.)  When Max did his about-face to charge the fence once again, our buddy had already turned himself around to follow us…but with the appearance, once again, of this loud herding monster of mine, the coyote headed into the scrub and disappeared.

DSC_1553My experiences of Frank’s Flats often bring to mind Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, Prodigal Summer, where the reader encounters “three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives inhabiting the forested mountains and struggling small farms of southern Appalachia. At the heart of these intertwined narratives is a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. A reclusive wildlife biologist, watches the forest from her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin.”

Books like this one remind why I love Frank’s Flats so much and wish to be a steward of this small, but engaging ecosystem.

Tonight, the very same location was bathed in a soft blue light and until the sun set, the landscape flattened out.  Truly looking INTO the sky, it has been an every-evening- occurrence to see a hugely animated world of winged figures, flying in close formation, one formation after another and heading in the very same direction…ducks and geese…more and more ducks…making the journey that agitates everything within them. What a truly amazing sight!

Leaving Frank’s Flats, the sky to the west.

DSC_1567The moon on the eastern horizon, as I pulled off of the highway and steered home looked something like this…almost full…pink…and swimming behind blue cloud.

Veiled Moon Photograph by P-M Heden, TWAN

Veiled Moon: Photograph by P-M Heden, TWAN

Once pulled up to my front drive, she was a pure and bright golden ball in the darkening sky.  Tomorrow night sees the December full moon.  I wonder what beauty nature will hold for me as I greet another day.

Mothers, tonight, hold your children.  They are beautiful.  They are your own.  You are blessed.

 

 

 

 

Changing the Landscape: One Bag At a Time

Frank's FlatsIt’s official.  The City of Calgary has determined that Frank’s Flats, this year, is city parkland and I now have their support with the crud that mounts up at the location due to the user groups that are just a little irresponsible!  Yeah!  Justin Brown assured me that I would have help with the spring clean-up and he followed through, sending out a team that scoured the slopes, much quicker than I could possibly do ONE BAG AT A TIME.  So, now it is for me to maintain the park and hopefully solicit some support from other like-minded individuals in the area.

Nature is at its finest in this area, even when it is filthy.  The ground squirrels pull the plastics into their nests, not comprehending that this is human waste; but they adapt to the function of such plastics and paper.  Even on the nesting platform being used by Osprey, there is a huge piece of plastic that bats in the wind.  I am amused watching the activity on this platform and watched the grand predator try for over an hour to chase a Canadian goose off of the platform.  When I left the park that evening, the goose was continuing to fight for the nest in the sky, neck outstretched at each nose dive from the beautiful falcon.  This went well into the next day, but finally two days later, the goose had succumbed to the stubborn bird.  Please see fantastic images capturing this event on the Birds Calgary blog.  Now it is fun to watch the male bringing home the catch of the day routinely.

As sun was setting one evening, I watched six white swans fly overhead.  The muskrats are back and ducks of every variety are nesting.  A coyote who was guarding a spot under  the evergreens has finally disappeared, likely pressured out by all of the human presence and back onto the wilderness corridor on the other side of the fence.

Frank’s Flats is a beautiful spot for nature lovers to watch wildlife at its best.  I want this place to be safe and solicit the continued support of the City of Calgary, Bishop O’Byrne high school, South Fish Creek Recreational Center, Shawnessy Library and the various retail stores (Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Tim Hortons, Wendy’s, Jugo Juice) in the stewardship of this land.

I encourage my readers to take some responsibility for stewardship of your own surroundings.  Teach your children by being a living example of how to care for other species.

 

What I Do When I’m Not Searching For P. Mason OR Writing About Searching For Him

I came home from a day of teaching grade eight social studies (Yes…sometimes I am a guest teacher!  Yesterday I watched, four times over, a late 90s film on Latitude and Longitude.  I feel now that I’ve learned a lot that I hadn’t previously learned in my own schooling.  I often feel that way about teaching.  I’m going to have to remember to ask my brother who is in the Canadian Navy more about a sextant though.  In fact, I’d like to hold a sextant in my hands because then I truly think it will make more sense.  I’m amazed really, thinking about the early nautical travelers, setting out onto the ocean, not REALLY able to sort out where they were.  Huge risk, I say!  But…this has been a digression, yet again!) 

When I arrived home from teaching yesterday, my entire front yard was covered in a fresh blanket of snow.  Clearly, there was a footprint-story to be told in the crisp white surface.  There were no people-prints adjacent, so I excluded the possibility of these being those of a domesticated canine; however,  I am open to the possibility that they were left by a run-away dog. James R. Page does a far more professional job of taking photos of tracks in winter-snow!  I noticed that the footprints circled the place where my birdfeeder used to lose much seed to the ground. (The seed does not fall to the ground here anymore because I have attached a beautiful tray so as to not attract predators.  Now,  the birds do not even feed here anymore!  I jest…there are two neighbourhood chickadees and a couple of finches that are brave enough to tackle the new physical dynamic.   The sparrows line the branches of my front-yard tree and look down, longingly, at the mother-load.)

The footprints.  I have left the autumn vegetation in my gardens as protective structure for the jack rabbits that hang about all winter.  It may be that my visitor to the front yard was looking for sustenance (bunny) on the wintry day.  So, here are my suspicions.  I think that Wiley is still out there!  Yes, our neighbourhood has its own coyote, a male that comes up from the Fish Creek and hangs out in our neighbourhood park.  Recently, I believed that we had lost Wiley.  He has, at least three times, stalked Max and I back to my front doorstep.  In fact, one morning at about 4:00 a.m. Max made a huge commotion and charged up the stairs to the front window.  I followed, alarmed.  There, on my front doorstep, was Wiley, munching enthusiastically into some sort of flesh.  At Max’s reaction, the coyote, nonchalantly, made his way down the street, with ears and body of his prey dangling out of either side of his face.  The last time I made a visual siting though, Wiley was sporting some sort of facial wound.  He looked emaciated and generally, not well.  It’s been a couple of months and still, no Wiley.  Until yesterday?