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It has been a cool and wet few days in Calgary, even to the point where we received a skiff of snow in September!  I was cautioned that I had no room remaining on my cell phone, so yesterday I downloaded from my album onto my desktop hard drive.  The thing about downloaded photographs is that I was, once again, reminded that life has sped by, filled to the brim, even in the most simple or dark circumstances.  There is so much that I haven’t written about or recorded.

I’ve read several books since spring and would really like to update my reviews, even if they are sparse.  So, that will likely still happen.  But, for today, I feel my thoughts are incredibly influenced by the book I am presently reading, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  It is my new favourite book.  I am profoundly moved by it and I’m hanging on every word.

As a result of this reading, I want to post a few photographs from recent walks at the Bow River.  Yesterday, Max and I headed out in the rain.

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When the earth is wet, there is such a rich and beautiful aroma that surrounds me while passing through the woods and beside the river.  I am at a loss for words to describe this because any description would not do the experience justice.  Also, there is a hush, apart from the drops of rain coming down from the tree canopy…it is a mystical silence…peaceful, even though I know that the entire landscape is vibrating with life in hiding.

Yesterday, stepping about in tall overgrowth, Max and I took pause…listened.  I heard a hollow clomping sound on round river stone, just to our right.  Uncertain, we remained still.  I held my breath and listened.  Max was alert.  I was alert.  A few more steps.  Stop.  A few more. Stop.  When once we began again, with a great explosion, a young deer sprung out and wildly flew deep into the trees.  Max erupted into a fit of barking and it felt like everything around us woke up!

I watched the juvenile Bald Eagle, an Osprey, a Hawk, Cormorants and Pelicans all struggle to find sustenance.  It was so amazing to watch the dynamic and to appreciate the effort involved.  At a point, the Bald Eagle, displaying his remarkable wingspan, swooped down upon an American Pelican.  He is not yet adept at his hunting and is frequently cutting corners by having others do his work for him.  Similarly, he dove into a gathering of Cormorants, investigating the possibility that there might be food among the opportunists.

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The Osprey, tucked secretly in the dark shadows of trees, swooped out aggressively, in order to give chase to the Hawk…crying out desperately as he flew so fast that I couldn’t identify him.  He had shared the east side of the river with me for a while, tearing into the hedges and thick shrubs and sage, likely in pursuit of rabbits and other small animals.  There was never a chance to get a good photograph.

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The Bald Eagle juvenile was looking intently from his low perch,  at these Killdeer…there were scores of them across the river from me.  If you’ve heard a single Killdeer, you may understand why the Bald Eagle is drawn to a location where twenty…maybe thirty…are calling out.

Can you spot two in the photograph below?

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Can you spot the Osprey here?

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I have watched the eagles for a little over a year now…given Michael’s prompting to leave the pond during the rip and tear of the Southwest Ring Road development.  I am so grateful for the life I have been able to observe at this location and for the healing experience this daily walk has begun in me.  As I write this post, I am feeling very blessed for a whole lot of reasons.  I hope that if my readers feel sometimes that life, like a sweater, is unraveling, one source of divine life and love can be found in an intimate relationship with nature.  I know that it’s helped me.  Here are a few other moments with the raptors this year.

 

 

I have been blessed by my walks at the river this weekend…I keep saying to myself, through winter, I don’t want to forget the purple.  I don’t want to forget the gold and red.  I will carry it with me.

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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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For the Birds

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.

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©Kathleen Moors :Adult Marsh Hawk

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.

©Kathleen Moors

©Kathleen Moors

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…

Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 044Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 036 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 039 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 040 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 041 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 042 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 044 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 046 Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 047 Alarm calls coming from the nest.Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 048Today, 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.

Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 134Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 096The 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.

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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