The Magestic Bald Eagle Takes a Bath!

I would typically do a little segment for the past week and title it ‘For the Birds’ featuring all of the birds I have observed for a week. But, after this evening’s observations at the Bow River,  I decided to make a post that does its best to capture a Bald Eagle taking a bath.  Again, I can’t promise crisp-edged images, but one thing is for certain, I have captured some pretty awesome facial expressions. Do Bald Eagles have faces? (likely heads…not faces…but, you’ll see what I mean)  Some little slide shows.  May 16, 2018

The mosquitoes were out and the electric blue wild violets were in bloom.

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The river is moving fast and the water level is moving up.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve been taking photographs at a single spot along the shore and will use those over the coming days for comparison.

Here’s our Eagle…

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A series of four…check out the fourth slide.  It makes me laugh so hard.

 

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I consider it an honour to be able to spend so much time observing unlikely magic at the river.  I don’t take any of it for granted.  I’ll find a piece of music to play while the slide show runs.

My father’s birthday, May 14, 2018

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Mr. & Mrs. 2018

These two have moved in…activities to watch from my kitchen window.  I’ve followed the activities of this nest for ten years now.

Mr. & Mrs. 2018

A few notable moments at this nest…

Mr. & Mrs. 2012

Mr. & Mrs. 2014

Mr. & Mrs. 2015

I find this particular vent a tad precarious…it’s a bit stressful to watch…Ma and Pa don’t know that the crows and magpies create a clamour at some point and the little guys will toddle out that door, sometimes, before they’re really cooked.  Here’s hoping that it’s a positive outcome this year.  The neighbours seem to be completely unaware of adventures in nature being a stone’s throw from their own kitchen window.

 

 

Passing Through: Frank’s Flats

…not to be confused with Frank Lake.

Observed today….a pair of Ring-necked Ducks, not to be confused with the Lesser Scaups that I’ve seen during nesting season. Another first time identification for me.

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Also, passing through, two very shy Hooded Mergansers (I may be incorrect on this identification)  The males are very spectacularly coloured…these two are the cinnamon colour of the females or possibly juveniles…hard to get anywhere near this couple, especially with Max on umbilical.  I would appreciate the help of others on this identification.

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The following photograph gave me the most reference material I could capture…

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There remains, a single Pied Billed Grebe…don’t know why this one hasn’t headed out.  Very elusive and likes to go under at the first sight of me…I’m determined to get close enough to see the light in his eyeballs at some point.

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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)

Christine Klassen Gallery

I’m learning something new about the Calgary art scene every week and I’m so excited about the seeming expansion of visual arts events the city-over.  Given that I’m living in the south, I like it that this includes the Manchester Industrial Park.  One such gem is the Christine Klassen Gallery.  This afternoon I was the beneficiary of fantastic light, scrumptious munchies, a glass of nicely chilled champagne and over-the-moon art works…today, featuring the works of artists Teresa Posyniak, Lisa Matthias and Carl White.

I found the work uplifting, predominantly textural in nature, with a dominance of pattern.  On a warm Calgary day, seeing such works could only lend itself to a sense of optimism.  I had a lovely chat with Lisa and was, given a body of work that I’m exploring, intrigued with her  interest in ecology, natural history and environmentalism.

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Since studying the Private Eye for an integrated educational program based on observations of natural and found objects with jeweler’s loupes, I’ve been collecting samples on my pond study and analysis of atmosphere around a single bush located at the site.  I was immediately drawn to Lisa’s works.  Described in part, on her website…

Her work frequently draws from her experiences as a biologist, and she often captures microscopic images and videos in her creative practice. The idea that everything is part of a larger assemblage, emphasized by the recognition of patterns and relatedness across species and scales of life, is a central theme in her work.

I’ve consistently enjoyed Carl White’s paintings as expressions of a very absorbing and melodic sensibility.  I was happy to reconnect with that feeling today.  It was a beautiful thing that as the huge doors were left open because of the warmth, Carl’s paintings seemed to mirror back to me the spring air, light and sound.  It was truly beautiful.

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Teresa’s work was fascinating for its layers of media and texture.  Surfaces were dripping with colour and intensity.  While reflecting upon ‘Eating the Sun’, I am salivating.  Some art just creates that response in me.    Again, I enjoy Teresa’s link with science.  The following, a summary from the CKG website.

My childhood fascination with “things microscopic” resurfaced about ten years ago when my friend and science journalist Alanna Mitchell shared her research and images of plankton with me while working on her international bestseller SEASICK: the Global Ocean in Crisis. I was struck by the fact that plankton produce more than half the earth’s oxygen through photosynthesis (the conversion of sunlight to carbon-based food) putting oxygen into the air as waste from the chemical reaction. Although these “sun-eaters” keep us breathing, their well-being is being threatened by human activity.

It wasn’t just the science that intrigued me. As an artist, I am fascinated by these beautiful creatures ranging from microscopic marine viruses and bacteria to single-celled plants with stunningly ornate shells, and plant-eating animals.

As I embarked on this ten year journey to create this series of paintings and sculpture, I thought about the myriad ways that pattern is enmeshed in our existence and how the tapestry-like qualities in these almost invisible creatures and plants are echoed in the macroscopic world – architecture, decoration, lace, flowers, trees, skin, clouds, stars – the comparisons are limitless.

Both artists and scientists are keen observers of life.  Science has inspired me to expand my artistic vision to another realm, a world that I yearned to see as a child.  

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This stop was a delightful way to begin my afternoon art walk here in Calgary.  I’ll continue by writing about my ‘second stop’ tomorrow morning, a tour led by Naomi Potter (Curator for Esker Foundation), Jim Hill (owner of Pason Systems and along with his wife, Sue Hill, an enthusiastic collector and visual arts advocate) and Dr. Shepherd Steiner ( Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba School of Art, who has recently completed a manuscript looking at Modernist painting, sculpture, and criticism from 1945–1968) of a portion of the extensive collection of works on view at Pason Systems.  What magic!

I’ll be seeing you again, Christine.

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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Fledglings

Alright, the neighbourhood is booming with fledglings of every sort and Mr. & Mrs. of every nest, freaking out about the flying faux pas!  Blackbirds…maybe grackles…whatever-they-are are not my favourites when it comes to their demeanor at the bird feeder.  However, they too, are struggling with their youngsters.  I couldn’t understand what all of the ruckus was about, but then found that Mrs. was yapping away at this youngster, sitting, paralyzed with fear on my backyard fence.  Enter Kath into the back yard and the loud Max-barking from inside the house, and this wee guy left the fence to light into one of May’s branches.  In taking a look at the fledgling’s tail feathers, I’d say that something is terribly wrong and that he isn’t doing well with flight, as a result.

The community of blackbirds is taking great interest in the poor guy’s foibles.  When I left them, he was sitting atop another neighbour’s garage roof, storm clouds gathering to the west.  I learned recently that it is a major accomplishment for a magpie to live beyond one year…there are so many natural and person-made challenges that await them.  I suppose it is a good thing for the parents to hatch as many eggs as possible to increase the chances of any survival at all.  I continue to be amazed by the happenings in nature.

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Observations At the Pond

Most days I record archives at the pond related to my ‘Changing the Landscape’ project and stewardship of Frank’s Flats.  For three years I’ve tried to keep the plastics out of this amazing ecosystem.  Along the way, I’ve learned much about pond life.  It’s become one of my favourite places to be.

This morning I really enjoyed the Cormorant couple and their obvious interactions with Max.  I had Max on umbilical leash, but that didn’t stop the male from creating a distraction from the female that was actively circling her nesting area.

I noticed that the CPR has cut down all of the brush on either side of the tracks and there were countless red winged blackbirds perching on the fence, instead of in their usual safe haven.  I’ve no idea how this dramatic change might have impacted their nesting behaviour recently.  In fact, the City of Calgary roads did something similar in the autumn at the end of my circle.  They trimmed down the honey suckle bushes down to nothing.  They are only beginning to come back.  These bushes provided protection for American goldfinches that I routinely spotted amongst the yellow blooms.  Look what we’ve done, in the name of aesthetics, with the Milkweed Plants and how it has impacted the Monarch Butterfly population.  We make irresponsible decisions sometimes.

A few observations today…

 

 

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In the cattails.

In the cattails.

Several duck eggs found along the walking path like this...predators or people?

Several duck eggs found along the walking path like this…predators or people?

All shrubs and wild growth cleared away completely along the railway tracks.

All shrubs and wild growth cleared away completely along the railway tracks.

It was a great day to be a crow!

Housebound for so long, it was a wonderful thing to get out on to the ridge today with Max.The world was our oyster and there was no one else out walking at that particular time of day.

Amazing stuff to be observed and enjoyed.  There were no fewer than twenty large crows, known here, as common ravens, dive bombing one another and hanging on the strong winds of today.  Every third crow seemed to be clutching a mouse in its claws or chomping down on a mouse dangling from its beak.  It was such evidence of the warp and weft of life’s experiences…such tragic sadness combined with utter jubilation.  They tag-teamed one another, twisting and contorting in the wind to wrestle the mice out of one another’s control.

At one point, one of the mice was dropped directly in front of us in the snow.  Its lifeless body confronted me with the concrete reality of the natural spin of nature…as long as it was swinging from the mouth of a raven, it was just a silhouette against the grey sky, a toy, a trifle.

Immediately, the powerful bird swung down to recover its prize.  Max took a brave and almost aggressive stance, barking and leaping at the big bird until it hovered just a couple of feet above Max’s head, determined to assert itself over the mad dog.  I stood motionless, watching, amazed, when all of a sudden Max cowered low to the ground, looking up at the aggressive chattering crow in tremendous fear.  I ran ahead with Max following, but the crow pursued us, continuing to manage its balance and distance above the center of Max’s body.  Max’s eyes flared, the whites of them twisted toward the sky, his neck churned around in exasperation.  Finally, after some time, the waiting bird, angled and made its return to the mouse.

As we continued on our walk, the numbers of crows continued to grow, a line of tumblers on the air…a single hawk joining them, but immediately stalked by three and four of the black birds at a time.  The wind pushed hard against my body!  Max ran, barking for no reason, the hair on his face pushed back against his head…a streamlined bullet running against the powerful wind.  Below, in the shelter of the hill, the same dance was happening, but instead of common ravens, the magpies were ditching out of the branches of shrubs again and again, celebrating the slightly warmer temperatures and the feast of field mice that had also come out of the state of frigid waiting into a lively world of stronger and weaker and unburied vegetation.

Gratitude to photographer, Christopher Martin for the use of his image of a Common Raven in the wintry months.  You can enjoy much more of his work here…I’ve admired his images of a home I know so well, for a long time!

Common Raven: Photo Credit Christopher Martin Jasper Fall Wildlife Workshop

Common Raven: Photo Credit Christopher Martin Jasper Fall Wildlife Workshop

Beauty

The word BEAUTY seems almost an understatement for how I feel about nature and the changing sights as a new season unfolds.  I just could not think of an adequate title for this post.  I would also guess, knowing my attachment to nature, that I have likely used this title before in order to write about the very same thing.  Being redundant about beauty or nature, however, does not seem to be a fault, but rather a wonderful celebration and so I’ll carry on.

The sparrows have returned to the feeder.  As they ready their nests, they seem to be building up their stores.  So, where seed has fallen, the other critters gather and this beautiful rabbit nibbled fearlessly for quite some time on Sunday afternoon.

I was captivated by the beauty and miracle of the changing of its colour…from the pure white of winter through this next transition of soft brown.  I never cease to be amazed by these daily observations.

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The Beauty of Things

By Robinson Jeffers

To feel and speak the astonishing beauty of things—earth, stone and water,
Beast, man and woman, sun, moon and stars—
The blood-shot beauty of human nature, its thoughts, frenzies and passions,
And unhuman nature its towering reality—
For man’s half dream; man, you might say, is nature dreaming, but rock
And water and sky are constant—to feel
Greatly, and understand greatly, and express greatly, the natural
Beauty, is the sole business of poetry.
The rest’s diversion: those holy or noble sentiments, the intricate ideas,
The love, lust, longing: reasons, but not the reason.