Inspirational Zoom Presentation by Kate Davis

Steve posted an event on his Facebook page.  I attended high school with Steve from 1970 until 1973, when we graduated and I moved north, back to Canada, while most of my peers from Great Falls, Montana, ended up moving to Montana Universities.  This guest speaker event sponsored by Swan Valley Connections, appealed to me from the moment I saw it, probably because I’ve watched a Bald Eagle family nesting in a very special spot on the edge of the Bow River for going on eight years.  I have learned so much from these beautiful raptors over the years, but realize after last evening, that I have so much more to learn.

Kate Davis lives in the Bitterroot Valleyin Western Montana and is an acclaimed photographer, steward, educator, writer and presenter who has studied and educated the public about Raptors for years.   Kate’s biographical notes can be found here.

Steve lives in Condon, Montana in the Swan Valley, a wonderfully rich ecosystem and landscape teaming with multiple species of mammals, fish, birds, plants and trees and raptors.  I am really grateful to Steve for posting and hope to be included in future Swan Valley Connections events.

Kate has written several valuable books/resources and is truly, an expert in this field of study.  As a result of this presentation, I will be picking up some of the books as they will be helpful in my identification of a variety of raptors and to further my knowledge in the behaviours and abilities of these.  When I capture photos of hawks, while circling my place at the river, I always have to share them to the group, Alberta Birds, because I am unable to make a proper identification without the help of others.

The evening’s talk was riddled with rich narratives coming from Kate’s memories and research, but interspersed were the introductions to three raptors that live with Kate

First, we met the Sonora, an Apolomado Falcon.

From the Raptors of the Rockies website…

We are thrilled to have an Aplomado Falcon thanks to The Peregrine Fund in Boise, Idaho. We picked her up on July 2nd in 2013 at 17 days of age and fresh out of their breeding project. She rode home in a laundry basket and hung out in a baby play pen (and on the window sill in the office) as a growing girl. This Northern subspecies disappeared from the U.S. in the 1950’s and was listed as endangered in 1986. Habitat destruction and later on pesticides caused their demise, and a breeding and re-introduction program was started by the Santa Cruz Predatory Research Group, and continued by The Peregrine Fund. A small population has been established in Texas, and breeding project came to a close, this just about the last one.

I am always one to be concerned with the shrinking habitats of species along the Bow River and the horrendous impact the development of the Southwest Ring Road has had for our local populations of birds, mammals and other species.

Next, we met Sibley.  Sibley is one of 18 non-releasable and falconry birds that live in enclosures next to Davis’s house, and this evening, was present IN Kate’s house.  What a profoundly beautiful creature!  

And finally, we met Owen, the Sawet Owl.  Most entertaining was Kate’s ability to make the various calls of owls.  This was such an entertaining and informative presentation.  While Covid-19 keeps us from an authentic connection, we are blessed that technology brings us into space with one another in a different way.  I am so thankful to the Swan Valley Connections for making this happen.  Ramona, and some of my birder-friends from the Bow River would enjoy such as this and I’ll make certain that I invite them in enough time to connect for future presentations.

65% of Raptors do not live their first year.  They are hit by cars.  They go hungry, finding it difficult to locate and kill prey that ‘doesn’t want to get caught’.  Their struggle to breed and raise young in primarily hostile environments is extraordinary.  The fact that I am blessed enough to watch our Bald Eagle family so regularly is a true gift.  If eagles are not stressed, they will live for forty years.  That is just so absolutely amazing.

Kate’s primary message to the public is not necessarily to get the big work done in terms of the protection of these species (although that would be nice)….but, her message is to GO OUTSIDE and when you do, leave your cell phones behind.

Autumn Mash Up

I am a single woman, in the last decades of my life, and sometimes I lay my head down on my pillow at the end of a busy day and wonder about being solitary in the world.  My life plays through my mind like a thin thread of film, projected on the dark wall across from me.  I am both in awe and fearful.  My life, alone, is a peaceful one.  Perhaps this is what was always meant to be.  But that acceptance and peace does not necessarily keep me from looking at the connection that others have in their partnered lives.

Autumn often causes this rerun, the movie of over sixty autumns that I can remember.  In every other autumn I would not have written the previous paragraph down, especially not in this format, perhaps in a private journal.  But, now, how does it really matter?

I remember a moment in a single engine Cessna, somewhere over Wisconsin.  We were flying north into Duluth when we got into difficulty and with time, our cloud ceiling was at 200 and then 100 and our pilot was requesting permission to land on a highway, the only visual reference we had.  Knowing that there were towers in the area and knowing that our pilot only had visual rating was frightening.  I clung to my then-partner’s hands, both of them.  Averting the first option, the wings bowed deeply sideways into the white cloud as we banked to go south and out of the fog/cloud.  When we came around,  the tree tops were an arm’s length from the plane’s belly.  I remember them as though it was yesterday.  They were conifers.  I kept saying, “The trees.  The trees.”  Not yelling and not particularly panicked.  This was a nightmare.  I had time to think, “I wonder how Mom and Dad will find me.”  I let go of my partner’s hand.  Instinctively I knew, ‘in the end I face this all alone.’

And I do.

Winter is coming.  A family of bald eagles has taught me much these past months but for several weeks, the juveniles have been distant, sent out of this territory to hunt, fish and find their own way.  The female came to some demise and is now gone.  The male has sheltered and fed the young.  A new sub adult has made herself known and has done multiple demonstrations for the juveniles.  She is a beautiful strong huntress.  The male has been close to her, but it seems that they are always in some wild discussion, resistant and yet set on a path.  Who knows what spring will bring.  It was only in the first snowfall that the youngsters returned to their nesting territory, bleating to the cold wind, about their fears and their challenges.  It was the day before yesterday’s snow that both the male and female arrived and consoled me with their familiar roosts in their favourite tree branches.  These beautiful raptors act as a unit, but live deeply their singular lives…it is what they must do to survive and for the species to survive.

These photographs were taken over these few weeks of no particular order.  They capture the prayers and the beauty and the journey of a single woman in a very beautiful world.


An Unusual Book: A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

I realize that I wouldn’t be very good as a book reviewer…I read lots, but move on to the next book, without archive or recommendation.  But, I have to take pause with this one.

Mark Haddon, himself, warns his readers against using his popular novel, The Curious Incident With a Dog in the Night-time as a textbook about any particular state of being on the spectrum.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, for its innovative use of text and for its heart warming story.  Christopher John Francis Boone is an engaging character, the first of his sort that I’ve met in literature.  I read this book some time ago and over the past months encountered ‘A Spot of Bother’ by the same author in a second hand book store and so picked it up.

I am sitting here chuckling as I type.  The book has such a refreshing angle and similar to ‘The Curious Incident With a Dog in the Night-time’, much of the intrigue revolves around the development of a very unusual character, in this case, George Hall, the patriarch of a fabulously discordant family.  What is it about laughter at the expense of these fictional characters?  I gauge the success of a book these days, based on my reactions to the believable foibles of invented characters.  George is so unreasonable.  I find myself laughing at him until that inevitable moment when my relationship to him and the events of the narrative cause me to do a 180 and cry for the sad state of his situation.

I’d love to know what you think of this one.  I think that Mark Haddon is an especially gifted writer.

Impeccable description.  A connection of the most impossible-to-connect states of mind and experience.  Fabulous!

A Spot of Bother

Stepping into a Kurelek Painting

I think that the last time I feasted my eyes upon William Kurelek work was when I entered the St. Thomas More College chapel on campus in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  I was so overwhelmed by the exquisite detail and the content of the work that I could do nothing but stand still and take it all in.  Because of lighting, photography wasn’t an option…but, I will do my best to locate other writers/visitors who might have succeeded.  In the end, I located an image here.

Brigid More writes… William Kurelek was struck with inspiration by the chapel itself. “He walked in and said: ‘I’d like to paint that wall,’ ” says Sanche. The Basilian Fathers had raised funds to commission an artwork from the painter, but had not enough to pay for a mural of those proportions. Kurelek offered instead to paint as a donation, provided that the funds raised be sent to a mission in India. At that time, the Basilian Fathers lived at the college, and Kurelek, through the two weeks that he worked on the mural, stayed as their guest, fasting and attending mass every morning.

1976 Photograph of Mural in St. Thomas More/ Saskatoon

I retrieved a photograph of this Kurelek self-portrait from Archbishop Terry’s blog.  I am particularly fond of this one because of my own interest in ephemera.  Kurelek is surrounded by some of the bits that meant something to him in life. 


This past weekend I decided to drive up to Forestburg to spend time with my dear friend, Bill Webb.  Heading up, I wandered north and east for miles on various Range roads and enjoyed the serendipitous events that took place along those roads.  For example, I stopped the van and watched a rancher’s wife chase a skipping brown calf the entire length of a fence, in order to return it to its mother who was bawling on the other side of the fence.  A three hour drive easily transformed into five hours.  I had a plate of homemade liver and onions in the small hamlet of Trochu and explored an extensive collection in their historical museum.  What a tremendous resource.  Their archives are exquisite!  So, doddle, I DID!  And what fun! Arriving at the W.H.Webb studio, just outside of Forestburg, I then took in the beauty of air and light, friendship and conversation.  There is nothing better than sipping a glass of french wine…or a morning coffee…while gazing out at the horizon.  The only sounds; frogs in the creek…birds…and the seeders driving up and down their long rows for miles.  I felt as though I had stepped into a Kurelek painting.


I am so grateful for the time away from the city…reading, reflecting, sketching and playing with Max.  He definitely loved being on the farm!


The following image was collected from the Salt and Light blog.  The author explores connections between the scripture found in Matthew 14:13-21 and what life must have been like for the missionaries out on the open Canadian prairies.  It is definitely an interesting comparison.