March 25, 2020 Gathering of Fresh Nesting Material

I just returned from the river and had five minutes alone with Mr…one other lady was walking into the park at that time and took out her phone to capture the magnificence.  She had just happened to turn into the park and off of her usual walk, so it was fun, at a distance, to explain to her what was happening when he leapt from the perch and made his way to the ridge.  It’s remarkable that this family of eagles follows the same course.  While, again, the photos are not exceptionally clear, I was excited to see the male return to the nest where the female was sitting and then to see an egg roll (based on movement) and a shift change.  What a stunningly beautiful time at the river.

Pounce!

Wouldn’t you love to live in one of those homes…or on a single floor…or in a single room of one of those homes and see nature every day all day long?

Mrs. heading for a well-deserved rest.

Mrs. in one of her favourite look out trees.

 

March 24, 2020 Shared Incubation Duties

When I arrived at the Bow River this morning, late, Dad was low in the nest bowl, obviously on duty.  Mama had all of the ducks and gulls freaking out and from one place to the next, there arose a tremendous cacophony.  At one point, unbeknownst to me, she flew directly over my head and then I lost sight of her.  As I made my way along the river’s edge, I was able to witness the exchange of duties and Mama settled down to take over for Dad.  She’s much younger and not as experienced as he is…and so it delights me to see her intuitively taking part in the work.

To learn more about Incubation and what happens through these 35 days….

To watch a different nest in real time, visit Decorah and they capture all of this wonder close up…the egg rolling, the exchange, the sharing of food.

And in the meantime, tales from the vent…guess who was keeping warm today.

March 23, 2020 4:00 at the River

Published four years after her death, Emily Dickenson’s poem This is My Letter to the World captures a sense of her chosen personal isolation and her connection with the intimacies of the natural world.  This is a time when we need to all explore the realm and the depth of ourselves…soul, body and mind.

Earlier in the day, at the edge of the river and before the weather changed, I was pretty certain, as I have been for days, that there is at least one egg at the nest.  Mom is clearly in the nest bowl, her tail raised and resting on her brood patch, while Dad is slightly out of view, but present.  None of my photos are crisp, given my inability to zoom extensively, but keep in mind that I make observations of nature and I’m not knowledgeable as a photographer.  These are archival in their publication.

Late afternoon…

I stood alone on an embankment, a shelf just above the dark river water and saw the female eagle at 4:00 last evening.  I believe that the incubation for, at least, the first egg has begun.  Mother was well down into the bowl and then suddenly lifted up and out and straight toward me, suddenly arching down and piercing a duck.  All others flew up wildly out of the water while the powerful raptor circled around.  She came around to the evening ice and scooped, out of the water, the limp body of the Common Golden Eye.  I was stunned at the enormous beauty and power of the experience.

Before returning to the nest, she flew a wide victory circle, clamping her talons around what remained of her trophy.

 

Two Ladies and a Little Boy Go to the River: July 25, 2019

Hours spent by the river are the best hours.  I hope and pray that my grandson will love and respect nature as much as I do.  I will do my very best to instill that in him by sharing my joy and delight in the textures, colours, sights, smells and sounds of natural environments.


Snake!  Gramma touch.

What a pleasure to make observations of the juveniles.  Dad is watching closely.

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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