Yesterday’s Birds: April 28, 2017

Calgary weather has been less than cooperative, this past week, for anyone trying to grab a photograph of birds.  Rain and snow and biting wind. What happens with grey skies and water and birds?  Everything becomes soft-edged.  New birds making their appearances:  Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Night Heron, Eared Grebe, several more pairs of Red-necked Grebes, many Red-Winged Blackbirds, Wigeons, many more Redheads, Lesser Scaups and Coots.  The pond is alive with activity.  The Common Mergansers feel the most regal and demanding of attention.

It amazes me that in a single pond ecosystem, over six years, I’ve learned and experienced so much!

Yesterday, after teaching grade twos for the day, Max and I enjoyed short breaks in the clouds and hope for a blue sky today.  At one point, a very cold wind and system blew in, but left just as quickly.  I was finally able to get close to a focused image of the Grebe.

But first, the reading of some Eric Carle.  We read the lovely book, A Very Tiny Seed…but, I spoke to the students about my memories of A Very Hungry Caterpillar.  (same story, really) A book about how one transforms, changes, grows…

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The birds…

I chose to photograph the female goose who has settled into a particularly public place because she was so different, from the back,  from the male and looks as though she’s ready to burst!  I continue to make efforts to get closer to the Buffleheads, Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers, but they are all camera shy.

Today’s Birds: April 14, 2017

Anyone watching me make my way around the pond today would say, “There’s a weary woman!”  Honestly, I’m so tired.  I’m not used to working every single day.  Most times I wonder how human beings carve out a life when they work so hard, raise families and try to stay healthy, all at the same time.  Are we enticed by the promise of something that, in the end, doesn’t really come to us?  Food for thought, this Good Friday.

I didn’t put in a whole lot of effort taking photographs today, but did quietly observe the birds, their comings and goings, and their efforts to also eek out a living on a pond that is obviously suffering the impact of a progressive-aggressive species, humanity.

While we all experience personal struggles, I also spent a bit of time meditating on the state of a world where weapons/bombs/chemical warfare are viewed as a solution to terrorism and unrest.  I just don’t understand how human beings continue to go forward, ignoring the mistakes of our history and believing, somehow, that ‘this time it will be different’.  So many layers of unrest in the human heart.  It is discouraging.

Today, I’ve made a choice to let go of fear and anger and frustration.  I’m choosing love.

Max and I stopped at our local park and watched the Merlins this morning.  Both female and male were in the vicinity.  Both came and went and hung nearer the nest.

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Nest taken over by Merlins three springtimes ago.

Only one male Bufflehead on the pond…shy guy…who hung around a pair of Goldeneyes…sort of forcing himself on them.  He spent a lot of time stretching out on his back.  And, of course, remained, as much as he could, out of range.

 

Today’s Birds: April 10, 2017

Frank’s Flats 10:00 a.m.

Multiple Male Canvasbacks and 2 Females
The documentation isn’t great because I was such a great distance away.

These are fast swimmers and in their mating rituals, they do a lot of diving and showing off.  Shy birds, they, like the Mergansers, crossed the pond each time I came around to their side.  This is very annoying for me, and when I lose patience, I just put the camera down and watch.  I feel more excited to be closely observing and learning from these spring romancers.

I have been very interested in the mating rituals of the Mallards…just ‘ordinary’ ducks…but, I have developed quite a respect for the tremendous resilience and determination of the female Mallard.  I’m watching her more closely this spring, in terms of her attempts to hold off the aggressive drakes.  I caught a really lovely photograph today of one of these ladies.

©Kathleen Moors

Only the past two days, the songs of the Red Winged Blackbirds have returned to the pond and while I haven’t sighted any females yet, the males are calling in a very determined, if not impatient way.

It seems that as large groups of birds are sighted, with the disruptive activities around the extension of Stoney Trail, the waterbirds, for the most part, are moving on.  The Goldeneyes were here in large numbers, as were the Common Mergansers, but today, they seemed to be replaced by the Lesser Scaups and the Canvasbacks.  The Geese look hunkered down for the long haul, although on the south side of the fence, I fear they are bound to lose their youngsters this year.  The Mallards are also nesting in the tall grass along the slopes to the pond…but they will also be in harm’s way, either through the marauding populations of displaced coyotes or the extensive and dismissive nature of human activity.

Magpies are watching on from the cheap seats.

I hope to get some good photographs of the Lesser Scaups this year, but they did manage to avoid my efforts last year.  We’ll see.  I love their powder blue beaks and the lovely patterning on their backs.  Their eyes are the most luminous gold colour.  They are just lovely to watch.  Also, shy.

Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear

I was down at Shelf Life books, listening to a wonderful double book launch by  German Rodrigues and J. Pablo Ortiz.  It was a very unique evening of spanish language literature, celebrating the launch of German Rodriguez’s The Time Between His Eyes (El tiempo entre sus ojos) and J. Pablo Ortiz’s Open Sea (De mar abierto). It was an excellent event and I was happy to reconnect with Pablo and to hang with his partner and my longtime friend, Brian. After the reading, I set about looking for the book, Birds Art Life because I had heard an interview about it and knew that it would affirm my experience of the pond, the discovery of birds and the resulting experience of art-making.

It was a bit of a search, but before I left, a copy of the book fell into my hands.

Very linear in my approach to books, I finished the McCullers title, before snapping up this beautiful object of my obsession.

I rushed through my earlier two reviews, books I’ve read in the past month, so that I could get to this recommendation, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear.  In this book, I found something kindred to everything I have become in retirement and in the past six years of loving a single ecosystem, a pond environment within the boundaries of the City of Calgary.

I kept putting the book down, and lifting off of the sofa or my bed or the bench out in the back yard, in order to pace and whoot and say, out loud, “YES!”  Since reading The Diviners so many years ago, I have not had such physical reactions to what I am reading.

Here is an extract from the book that speaks of my philosophy and experience, very clearly.

I discovered, through the book, that my ‘SPARK’ bird, was a sparrow, more precise, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, some eight years ago.  Hardly romantic or colourful, strange that my true attraction to birds was discovered looking out from my kitchen window, across at the open vent of my neighbour’s kitchen…several nesting seasons…widowing…lost youngsters…and determination through all sorts of weather conditions.  I began to watch. I took out the camera, for the first time, to take photographs of sparrows.

Kath's Canon Male Sparrow Emptying Nest July 7 2015 006

From that kitchen place, my exploring began at a pond environment that I call Frank’s Flats, named after a homeless man who most evenings, watched me gather up litter into a bag a day for several years.  He drank six beer in the time it took me to fill a bag with plastics, straws, newspaper flyers and other human garbage.  He chatted with me, thanked me and visited at the end of most evenings, as I put my collection into the bin, near his viewing spot.

I think that the first time I really noticed the birds, I was drawn to the red winged black birds because of their determined mating calls.

Facebook 40 Male Blackbird

My experience of the pond has, since discovering birds, coyotes and little field mice, become magical.  The lessons I have learned about compassion, care, art and writing, have been many and profound.  I am so grateful for the number of stories and discoveries that come my way because I am always looking for the little miracles.

Kath's Canon, September 22, 2015 early aft Frank's Flats Heron 038

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Kath's Canon September 2, 2015 Osprey, Franks, Stinky Max 062Kath's Canon August 29, 2015 Osprey, Hawk, Kingfisher 141

If you are looking for a way to deepen your experience of life and living, pick up this book.  It is a treasure and my new favourite!  It contains countless references to other writers, thinkers and artists…book titles…and the author’s connections with her own story.  I hope that my readers will discover urban nature and hold on to the power of that experience.

Today at the pond…

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What a Difference a Day Makes!

At the pond today, I wondered about the fragility in nature.  Only yesterday afternoon, I was admiring the reflections of the clouds in water.

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Today, the clouds were ominous and pounding rain drove down in the SE from eleven o’clock in the morning and on into late afternoon.  The two Ruddy ducklings are all that seemed to have hatched.  I have no idea what happens to the population of eggs as tended by all of the other Ruddy partners that edge the pond.  Are they all lost?

I captured a marvelous series of a red finch feasting on one of the plants…the red was very intense, given that the bird honestly seemed to be soaked through.  I’ve taken some photographs of the edge of the pond to show it’s evolution over the past week…if my readers look at the cat tails, they will get a good idea of how high the water is today.

IMG_9574IMG_9576Mr. is trying to find a place to hide.  There are no fewer than 15 male and 15 female Ruddy Ducks that edge the pond.  Only one female has been seen the past week, with two little guys and they are successfully diving and having a grand time, even through all of this unreasonable amount of rain.IMG_9578Mrs. with soccer ball.  It’s atrocious, now that the water level is so high, just how much human waste and plastic floats on the water.  It made me sad today.IMG_9579

This is the Grebe nest as it appeared today.  I’ve posted several photographs of this nest this past spring.  The other nest, on the opposite side of the pond, is completely submerged today.IMG_9582

Well…the rain brought these two around again today.  I’ve never had my camera with me when I’ve spotted them and while these aren’t great photographs because of the conditions, I’m glad I have them documented.

Black-necked Stilt (Recurvirostridae)
Himantopus mexicanus
L: 14″

This is a very distinctive black and white shorebird. It has a long, thin black bill and either pink or red legs and feet. This bird is common in the marsh environment.

IMG_9584IMG_9585IMG_9589IMG_9597Here is one female Ruddy Duck with her offspring.  These two youngsters are so much fun to watch because already, they make wonderful divers!IMG_9604IMG_9607

His feathers, plastered against his body, I could not help but document the process this male House Finch went through to pull apart segments of this plant.  Surprisingly, he wasn’t concerned about my presence and just worked feverishly.IMG_9616IMG_9621IMG_9627IMG_9629IMG_9638

Site occupied by another of the Coot families and the successfully hatched Ruddy Ducks.  Much plastic floating on this corner of the pond.IMG_9643

The cat tails are submerged, as is the rock shoulder of the pond.  The bush that I have documented since October 13 is partially submerged in water.IMG_9646IMG_9647

This wee one feels water logged and exhausted.  IMG_9649IMG_9661

Female Ruddy Duck on the north edge of the pond.IMG_9666

Reflecting

I’m sorting things out, in order to spend time with my father in the east.  The Christmas cards for 2015 are in the mail.  Doctors appointments, Max’s grooming, the vehicle checks and household chores are now being tackled.  The past week has meant a lot of beautiful indoor time with booming thunder storms every afternoon.  I feel like I’m on a retreat because the house is so quiet…just Max and me.  I can eat popcorn whenever I want.  In the evening, a glass of red wine.  Last night, I baked salmon in parchment paper…fresh lemon squeezed over the beautiful pink meat.  Every ritual seems lovely and intentional.

For the most part, it’s been productive and satisfying.

I’ve decided that my pond study will wrap up the morning of Mom’s birthday, July 27.  I’ve walked the circumference of the pond at Frank’s Flats every day since October 13,2015 with the intention of taking a single Instagram photograph of a single location, a bush that grows at the pond’s edge.  I have seen it through the seasons and watched how light changes everything.  I’ve developed rituals around these observations, recording, writing captions, creating mental sketches and noting the changes in the animals and vegetation as time passes.  I’ve much reference material now and in the autumn, I want to create a response to all of it.  I’ve had some faithful followers as, for most of the experiment up until July, I’ve documented on social media (Facebook) as well.

Bush October 9, 2015Bush February 16, 2016 1056 beauty, warmth, timeBush December 1 2015 1129 the water burps blue skies up above everyone's in loveBush Dec 25, 2015 Merry Christmas Beautiful light the hawk is perchd in the evergreen

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Yesterday, at the pond, I observed the only two Ruddy duck babes, alongside Mom.  The teen-aged Coots and Grebes are now taking diving lessons and doing so very successfully.  Mr. and Mrs. everything are swimming further and further from their youngsters, although the teens still cry out helplessly and give chase, not wanting to be separated from, at the very least, their source of food.  With the horrendous amount of rain recently, I fear that the Ruddy ducks’ nests have been drowned…the two babies that I observed, came to be only days before the first thunderstorms hit, so I’m guessing all of the other mothers were sitting at that time.  I’ll see.

I think that flying lessons are beginning…I notice that the adult Coots, while remaining on the water, are flapping hard and traveling on the surface.

While I stopped putting out seed at my feeders (as a way of settling down the vole and mouse populations), I got emotional when I realized that Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, in the vent across from my kitchen window, were trying one more time to nest.  The children are crying ravenously with each entrance to the vent from Mr. or Mrs.  I just need to see this family have a successful season, after two former attempts.

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The crows are big raiders in this neighbourhood these days, as those adults also struggle to feed their demanding young.

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As I reflect upon the last while, I continue to feel gratitude…especially for the lessons of nature and of solitude.  I like slowing things down.  I’ve been particularly inspired by a poem by Al Purdy, titled Detail and so I will post it here, along side a few photographs that I snapped yesterday.  In 1981, when doctoral work was typed on typewriters…Elizabeth Jane Douglas wrote a thesis titled the Mechanics of Being Alive: Major Themes in Poetry and Prose of Al Purdy.  This absolutely impacts my past year’s ‘work’ and ‘reflection’.

Al Purdy Abstract

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all winter long
… the apples clung
in spite of hurricane winds
sometimes with caps of snow
little golden bells
·         ·         ·
For some reason I must remember
and think of the leafless tree
and its fermented fruit
one week late in January
when the wind blew down the sun
and earth shook like a cold room
no one could live in
with zero weather
soundless golden bells
alone in the storm

(Beyond Remembering 135-36)
Al Purdy The Season of Man
Al Purdy the season of man 2
And then, there are those of us who believe that beyond this, there is so much more.  But for now, I leave this reflection.  I have a border collie, eager to run in the green wet grass.
Prayers for Billy and his family and for little Taliyah Marsman and her mother and their family.

Facebook Profile Updates

Three days now, I’ve been deactivated on the most popular social media website since sliced bread.  I document my father’s music in the hours I might have wasted on early mornings, while drinking my coffee.  I listen to Chris de Burgh music on Youtube as background, while reading Al Purdy poetry.  His words make me weep at times.  I would have posted that on Facebook.

I imagine filling in that small space…I don’t even remember what the prompt was?  Say something about yourself…or what you are doing…what came to be known as a status update.

I would probably post a link to this post.  As a way of weening myself from the process, I thought to update my status here…what would I say?

July 5, 2016  A dark cloud fell upon me when, from no where, a friend invited me to go chase dark clouds.  He parked his car across the street and magically appeared when I needed a friend.

July 6, 2016 My hair was dirty, so I didn’t join my girlfriends for a night of listening to live music.  I didn’t paint at Rumble House, again.  I read Al Purdy poetry and used a sock as a place-saver.

July 7, 2016 I feel sad that I’m seeing the changes in the pond, all on my own, and that no one else sees exactly what I see.  Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow are trying to raise another family in the neighbour’s vent.  I relent and put seed in the feeder that I had pulled out of service because of the growing population of voles.  But, now, with the children’s incessant cry for sustenance, I give in.

July 10, 2016 What does it mean that I have 13 hits on my blog from Macau SAR China, today?  Some times these connections, through writing, just surprise me.

Yesterday’s photographs…documentation of train graffiti, imagining that the artist would want to know where his art had traveled.

I like that the red-winged black bird made it into this shot…

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It’s been wonderful to see the great Cormorants coming through.  They are closer to the river…this, a lone female.

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Mama Savannah Sparrow watching out for her young sprout…IMG_9226

Youngster…sitting a short distance from Mom…about half her size.

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My partner in crime.IMG_9208

A herd of 20 geese, four adults and the rest, progeny, slip into the water as Max and I tippy toe through the goose poo.IMG_9204

Alvise Came to Town!

Dang!  I wanted to document each and every monthly angel, with its creator, Alvise Doglioni Majer.  This time I forgot.

We had lots of creativity to talk about, though, and the minute I saw her, I was smitten by July!  Thank you, Alvise.  She has now officially joined the other ladies in the Journey Around the Sun series.  The summer critter to be represented is the honey bee.  Alvise has two hives on his property now and will expand to four next year.  I particularly enjoy the face, halo and wings on this angel.  She has a bit of a summer tan.

I’m enjoying a bowl of beef barley soup on this rainy chill of an afternoon.  I’m glad I got out to the pond this morning…so sad, however, to find that pesticides were being sprayed in an area where young geese were feeding and the other birds were still busily harvesting worms surfaced after yesterday’s rain.  I just don’t understand why we are not more invested in caring for delicate ecosystems.  Why would the pristine turf of a sports field take priority?  The city of Calgary website explains that the presence of broadleaf weeds is a tripping and safely hazard.  But…I digress.  I’m praying for the conversion of the human heart, in so many ways.

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Former archives.

Alvise Doglioni Majer’s Studio

Sunday Driving on Friday

April’s Angel

Road Trip and Angels

 

 

May and June

This past winter was an unusual season, so mild that it was difficult to even classify it as winter.  The plows came around once.  We had two big dumps of snow.  And, that was it.  Spring came early, with many warm days in March.  As a result, everything is dry.

At my kitchen window, in the neighbour’s vent,  Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow have nested three times, all without success.  On the first go, we had babies and Mom and Dad did a marvelous job feeding and protecting their wee ones and then all at once, one morning, there was silence.  Given that the duct tape I had applied last season had fallen off (and I’m sort of glad it did because I always imagined my neighbour charging me for a repair), I believe that either a Crow or Magpie rampaged the nest.  The sparrows tried two more times, but with no successful hatch. The nest is now abandoned, apart from the occasional visit from an adult. This has made me pretty disappointed because I enjoyed my daily observations of Sparrow behaviour, while I worked at my kitchen sink.

IMG_4332Kath's Canon, February 8 2016 Franks and Sparrows 019

The Fort McMurray blaze happened and left the province in shock.  To not mention this would just be wrong. The media images of the devastation and mass exodus from the city were terrifying.  I think that this fire changed all of us in ways we could not imagine.  Our hearts are still reaching out to those impacted most.  In an economy that was already struggling with woes, this has contributed additional stress.  My prayers continue to be for those impacted and for the fire fighters who continue to make efforts to quell this blaze.  This image, from Jonathan Hayward, Canadian Press.

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A giant fireball is seen as a wild fire rips through the forest 16 km south of Fort McMurray, Alberta on highway 63 Saturday, May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

There just isn’t a transition from that!  As a result of the differing and dry climate, different insects are inhabiting our gardens.  My asparagus failed to come up this year and very few Oriental poppies.  My strawberry plants are weak, as are my lupines. I learned, one morning, while taking photographs that this is all due to the destruction of the Tarnished Plant Bug, last season and this.  I’ve spent these months trying to ethically rid my garden of the ‘damned’ things.  Sadly, this means I will likely be chasing them away to someone else’s garden.  I am thinking it will take me a couple of seasons to build up my garden again and I’m anticipating more damage next summer, given that the bugs likely produced eggs before I got on to this.  Gardening causes me to think about what it must mean to farm and to weigh my decisions around protecting beneficials such as bees and lady bugs.

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Tarnished Plant Bug presence Noted!

Different birds have settled into the pond area at Frank’s Flats.  It’s easy for me to notice because of my close relationship with this location the past five years.

Last year, at this time, I was watching the nesting practices of Osprey very closely.

Kath's Canon September 2, 2015 Osprey, Franks, Stinky Max 062

In late April, this year, two nesting platforms maintained by Enmax were pulled down as a result of future infrastructure development on the Stoney Trail ring road and so things have changed. I can only keep track of a single platform from a huge distance.  There is no access at this location on Sheriff King Road, for viewing.  I think that the relocation happened just in the nick of time, however, so I am grateful for the efforts of Enmax. Presently, Mr. and Mrs. are watching over a couple of eggs, if not chicks by this time.

Mr. or Mrs. showed up right on time this year, overlooking the pond south of 22X and exactly where the platforms were located last year.  I’m not certain if this is one of the siblings born last season or if it is one of the adults, but I am really happy that we have this presence.

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No place to go, the Osprey began building on the tops of the power poles.  This photo was taken once all nesting materials had been removed, demonstrating the adult Osprey’s determination to set up camp.  I quickly contacted Enmax via Twitter and from there, same-day action ensued and a new location was selected for the erection of the platform.  Disappointed, I knew that I wouldn’t, with my Canon Power Shot, be able to monitor the nest this season.

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From a distance, I saw that the very next day, male and female had established a home, with an abundance of nesting materials.  It was a thrill to see.

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I have visited a few times, just to make certain that the beautiful raptors have had a successful experience.  Only a week ago, I checked in.  Mr. is attentive as Mrs. sits patiently.  These two are slightly behind the other nest I watch, nearing the edge of the Bow River at Sikome Lake, but they look like they are managing.

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Birds have been plentiful at the pond and I’ve nudged up closer than in the past.  Sometimes I imagine the birds saying, “Oh, it’s just her again!”  I still haven’t made the capture of a male or female Shoveler and that disappoints, given that they attended the pond in large numbers this year.  Because they are so skittish, I also haven’t a focused photo of either variety of Grebe, although I’ve captured some great out-of-focus drama!  Below, see some of my collection of species this year.  I am thrilled with the closeness I have developed with nature and seeming, all because I am present for a walk each day, since October 13, in order to take a single photograph of a bush on Instagram.  I have been blessed!

 

The garden has not disappointed and continues to give me a quiet place to sip my coffee in the warm morning sun.  I’ve always received peace in flowers and green. This was a very early photograph…I can’t believe how things have changed and I’ll have to get out there again to snap a photograph or two.

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My Auntie Ruth turned 90, as did the Queen of England.  This meant a trip to Raymond and it meant a 200.00 speeding ticket!  It was a beautiful reunion of family!

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So much in the way of art and art exhibits!  I guess compared to usual, maybe a little less. The Ivor Strong Bridge has been dealing with some repairs and so I feel, every evening, as though I am on an island and don’t wish to struggle my way out of the community.  Not so much live music.  I think I’m going to have to remedy that!  I was definitely grateful for Allan Rosale’s invitation to the University of Calgary!

I’m very interested in learning the traditions and practice of Indigenous dance.  Jess has been so helpful in this regard and is a very inspiring teacher as well as practitioner.  I hope to continue with this study more consistently throughout this coming year.  I met Jess through Eileen since we were all in attendance to the Juno Awards event that featured Indigenous Nominees and included a power house performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Jess, Kath and Eileen

I hope that if you or your children are interested, you might contact me for information as the camps and study continue throughout the summer.  Such a positive and physical experience! Sîpihkopiwâyisîs Jess McMann-Sparvier is a powerful spokesperson for her cultural traditions and is inclusive, finding the narratives so important to share.  She is rooted in history and is constantly doing research.  She combines her delight for music, dance, tradition and teaching and is just one of those people you must meet and spend time with!

While I may not be athletic, I find this circle of beautiful people to have a very positive impact on me and the dance forms, a definite wake-up-call to my muscles!

Read Trail of Tears to Prokofiev HERE.

Find the link to Indigenous Dance Studio here.

Jess 2Jess

May and June have been full and richly lived…home repairs, teaching, paint, writing, family history.  I can’t ever imagine life not being beautiful.  I am filled up as I look at what has passed this last month and a half.

 

 

 

Killdeer Protective Behaviour

I am so amazed by what I learn on a daily basis because I show up at a single pond every day, no matter the weather.  Today I had opportunity to witness this little beauty being protective of her eggs.  I keep Max on leash on every walk these days because it is a very precarious time for all of the birds in this ecosystem.  Max is very co-operative and sits silently whenever I am observing or snapping photographs.  The only time he becomes super alert is when we are close to coyotes and deer.  His ears point and he stairs in the direction of the smell/movement.

He sat nicely as I watched this happening.  I am so in awe of nature and the strength of tiny creatures in the face of huge predators and insurmountable odds.

I’ll never be in that class of photographers where I am selling my images, but as a matter of respect, if you wish to use them for teaching and explaining, please credit me the documentation.  Thanks.

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