Blue Heron in Autumn Pond

I taught grade four students in the afternoon.  I guided them through some free form water colour pieces, but first, encouraged them to complete four studies of the heron in order to understand proportions.

I shared some of my recent photographs of the heron that’s been hanging out, fishing, at Frank’s Flats.

Kath's Canon, September 22, 2015 early aft Frank's Flats Heron 030The students folded a piece of paper into four to use for their practice drawings.  This gave them the idea of how tall their herons needed to be…head touching the top, feet touching the bottom.  We used a very contrived series of steps, but step by step instructions are sometimes super helpful, especially when learning the basic structures of an animal or bird.  I used this one and projected it on the smart board.

Blue Heron Step by StepTo learn something of the water colour process, I did a demonstration and we used their favourite LARGE heron sketch and applied the water colour to the sketch.  I discovered that the most difficult two things about drawing a heron were, how to make it large enough and how to create that ‘S’ movement in the neck.  The final water colour painting was done on transparent paper that was placed on top of their coloured sketch and rendered with no use of pencil.

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We watched a couple of Youtube videos where WC techniques were explored in a minimalist approach.

And so…from there, this is what we used.  By the way, reuse those Lunchable snack trays for palettes.  I found those tucked in the storage room.  Also the students need pencil for their depictions, a variety of water colour brushes (soft bristle) a small squeeze of payne’s grey, blue, and later, yellow to be mixed with both for the bull rushes, a yogurt container with a small bit of water in it.  That should do.  Remember that if you don’t have a sink in your classroom, ask the caretaker to give you a wash bucket half filled with water.  Works great.

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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.

Kath's Canon August 24 and 25 Birds 044

Kath's Canon August 24 and 25 Birds 069

©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…

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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

Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area…Getting a Taste

Last evening, before my pond walk with Max, I headed west and south to the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area.  We will be taking our grade threes on a field trip to the location and in order to be fully prepared, a session is required for all instructors.  I attended with friends and colleagues, Jenn and Emily.  Lots of laughs and beautiful sunshine were shared.  Having a brand new camera meant that my head was sometimes out of range once we were outdoors.  But certainly I learned a lot about the conservation area from Maureen, the presenting educator, while we were inside.  (I have to say that the three yellow finches at the feeder located right outside the classroom were a little bit of a distraction.) From their website, this.

“Sandy Cross is the son of A.E. Cross (one of the Calgary Stampede’s “Big Four”) and Helen Rothney Macleod.  Sandy started purchasing land south of Calgary in 1945 for what would become Rothney Farm and eventually the Cross Conservation Area. In 1987, Sandy and his wife Ann donated nearly 2,000 acres of their land to the Province of Alberta. At the time, it was the largest private land donation in Canadian history and was operated by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.”

The land is spectacular and the approach that is taken in regards the sustaining the ecosystems is, by my standard, fabulous.  What a beautiful start to Thursday evening!

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From the Conservation Area, I swung home and picked up Max.  The sun was beginning to set and the birds seemed to be very active at Frank’s Flats.  I played a little with my camera and while they certainly aren’t perfectly focused, I will never forget my encounter with the male Black-crowned Night Heron and his mate.  Beautiful call…huge wing span…and a circle on the blue sky before alighting onto the brush below.  I also had a visit with the osprey…trying to capture the front of the male, but shooting into sunshine.

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This far away.  Mrs. Kept low in the nest at the neighbouring platform....but, as I drove passed on 22X coming home, I saw her tending her eggs and sorting things out.

This far away. Mrs. kept low in the nest at the neighbouring platform….but, as I drove past on 22X, I saw her tending her eggs and sorting things out.

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Mrs. eye-balling me.

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Max-man, my forever-friend…smelling like a post-winter pond….but, very very happy.

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