Days at the River

I started walking daily at the river, once prompted by a friend.  I remember this friend in the same ways that I remember the pond, where I had for six years, taken respite from the world, from work and from my worries.  I circled the same still water and watched its changes, daily…apart from a very few days when the roads were too icy on the hill to make it there OR when I drove to Ontario to visit my mother…or to be with my loved ones when they celebrated her life.

I became a new person at the pond.  I became a soldier for sustainability there.  I became an observer of what human beings have become, in the order of dismissing their responsibilities to the earth.  My sadness grew exponentially over those years as I communicated with management and staff in many big businesses that surrounded the area, scrolled through sustainability reports,  became an activist with the City of Calgary, and talked about nothing more than what was happening in this single ecosystem.  I picked litter…garbage…most days, filling and depositing bags and bags of human filth by the one bin that remained…”$13 dollars a bin to empty”, the city worker chimed in one day when I asked him, “What is going on with our city?”  He explained that it is a vision for the city that people will learn to take their litter out with them…”much cheaper”.  I sighed.  That was when I began to lose it.  I was crying during my walks, instead of taking in the bliss of the Mergansers, the Pintails, the Coots and Grebes. 

Arriving home to upload my photographs, I would notice for the first time, plastic bags lying on the slopes as Black Capped Night Herons fed.  I’d notice a 2L plastic bottle as a backdrop to the beautiful gesture of a Great Blue Heron.  The evidence of our thoughtlessness was in my face daily.

2015 Pond Study With Litter

I left the pond about a year ago and came to the edge of the Bow River.  I’m still questioned about why the redundant act of circling the same location.  To that, I can only say that by returning again and again to the same place, one really comes to know it…much like being with one person every single day.  I really come to know this place in all sorts of weather and in all sorts of moods.  I notice.  I observe change and transition and presence with a keen eye.  New is easy to see.  I never see the same thing.  And, while there are still signs of human carelessness, I do not directly see the road development, hear the machines or feel wholly responsible to clean up other people’s mess.

I feel as though I am walking in the middle of a Clea Roberts poem when I am at the river…and that is a beautiful place to be.

Mr. and Mrs. 2018 Bow River

Please, if you can, read Clea Robert’s poem, The Forest, from Auguries.  Perhaps then, my readers will understand why I come to this same place.  Blessings for a remarkable day.

First Snow 2018

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.

IMG_1224IMG_1214IMG_1213

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.

IMG_1197

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

IMG_1211

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.

IMG_1263

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…

IMG_5229IMG_5231IMG_5234

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.

IMG_4485

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

Facebook 7 Black Capped Night Heron

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…

embed-10embed-13embed-12

 

 

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.

IMG_9537

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

IMG_20160707_101936

 

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.

IMG_9671IMG_9672IMG_9673IMG_9675IMG_9677IMG_9681

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

IMG_4333

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

IMG_9537IMG_9543IMG_9554

 

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…

IMG_9280

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

IMG_9228

Mama Savannah Sparrow watching out for her young sprout…IMG_9226

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

IMG_9214

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.

IMG_9177IMG_9179IMG_9182IMG_9183IMG_9186

Former archives.

Alvise Doglioni Majer’s Studio

Sunday Driving on Friday

April’s Angel

Road Trip and Angels