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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Apr 30, 2012

An observation of spring

In the absence of bird sightings, I have been busy recording the changes to trees and bushes, as spring slowly, but surely creeps in. The diverse ways that trees come back from winter slumber is absolutely amazing. The following pictures show only a few of the gorgeous ways that trees begin to re-dress themselves in spring.

Whispy tassels
Tiny red blooms
Crowning leaves
Tiny fan
Delicate leaves
Red tassels
Soft and fluffy
Vibrant colors

The beauty of the new growth on the various trees and shrubbery in the forest, and around the neighborhood has only whetted my appetite however. I can hardly wait to start seeing the wildflowers and flowers as they begin to bloom.


Apr 26, 2012


Incoming Cranes

It has been raining on and off for the past couple of days and the temperature has dropped quite a bit.  When combined with a brisk wind, it's the kind of weather that leaves you wondering if you need to get back into the winter gear.  But I was much too restless to just stay in and headed out just after lunch.  However, I hadn't gone far when the skies began to sprinkle, so I just ducked into the little forest down the street.

A wave of Sandhill cranes
It was very quiet in there.  Aside from the wind and creaking trees, all I heard was a couple of near silent peeps from some chickadees.  It was like the forest was holding it's breath.  I realized quickly enough, that this might just be one of those days when I see nothing at all in the way of birds.  However, I was reluctant to go home, so I just wandered around for a while taking photos of some interesting new growth.  I was really hoping to find some wildflowers, but ended up with mushrooms and newly formed buds instead.  I quickly became quite engrossed, but it wasn't all that long before I heard an unusual sound in the distance.  At first I just wondered what the sound was, but didn't really pay all that much attention.

Bunching up

However, with the sound becoming increasingly louder, it finally hit me.  Cranes!!!  By that time, I had only a few seconds to focus my camera on the tree tops and to scurry into a position that would allow me an unobstructed view of the sky.  As a result I missed the first wave of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead.

The wind changed direction

That didn't matter much however, because I could hear that more were coming.  My only worry was whether or not I was in the right place to spot the next wave.  As it turns out, it was a worry I shouldn't have bothered with, because the first wave of Cranes was soon followed by another. 

More cranes follow

They were flying low enough that I got some great shots of their incredible numbers.  There were hundreds and hundreds of them.  It was both fantastic and amazing.  And I wasn't alone in watching the Cranes fly by over head.  By the time the second wave had passed over, some crows had arrived and settled on the tree tops to watch them pass by as well.
Can you count them?

The winds must have really favored the cranes this year.  Wave after wave passed over me, all of them in constant communicating with each other.  The wind would change, and they would change their direction along with it, riding it just like a boat rides the waves of the ocean.  Occasionally one or two would lose the air current and  fall behind, only to beat their wings frantically to catch hold of it again and catch up with their fellows.


I have seen migrating cranes before of course, usually in the fall, but I have never seen them migrating virtually all at once.  The first time I saw them, it was one very large group struggling hard to ride the rapidly shifting air currents.  They were followed an hour or so later by another group.  This time, ten or fifteen minutes passed as I watched wave after wave of  cranes pass by in rapid succession.   The word awesome, my favorite, comes to mind here, but it just doesn't do the trick. 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

When the Cranes finally stopped passing over me, I felt deflated, thinking I was done with bird sightings for the day.
Tennessee Warbler
I was, quite happily wrong.  The cranes were followed almost immediately by a wave of Yellow-rumped warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Tennessee Warblers.  

Showing his crown
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Whereas the forest was quiet when I entered,  it was suddenly alive with birdsong and activity.   Talk about being in the right place at the right time.  It was wondrous!  I'm not likely to forget this incredible experience, not in this lifetime anyway.


Apr 22, 2012

Earth day - A light show

Chickadee collecting nesting material

I started out early this morning with the intention of discovering what the winds had brought in the way of birds and taking in the signs of spring.  I also wanted to observe the nest building, that has already begun for the local species of birds, such as the Chickadee.

But apparently nature had something else in mind for me today.

The first thing I noticed was that there was very little bird song, or activity all around me.  I saw a squirrel or two, but that was about it.  Then I began to notice the play of light.  The early morning sun, the shadows and a slight breeze combined to illuminate and highlight things in the forest that I would never have noticed if, I were focused on birds.

Pink stars

It was almost magical, the way I was suddenly presented me with one piece of eye candy after another.  Color stood out. It was both fantastic and amazing.

Butterfly bud
Delicate tassels

Tiny pink stars at the tip of a bud, new buds, the peeling bark of a tree, and new growth on the forest floor, all combined to create a kaleidoscope of beauty, that I absolutely had to record and share.

New Flame
I literally spent a couple of hours taking hundreds of photos, although I will admit I was most fascinated by the little starry buds.
Double star
What a magnificent Earth Day gift.


Apr 13, 2012

Favorite bird of the week

Can you spot the Kinglet?

The Robins are back having descended on the city in hordes, they are joined by the White-throated sparrow.  I spotted a lone Turkey Vulture high in the sky, several falcons too distant to identify and watched as Crows began building their nests.

However, the highlight of the week is most definitely this tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Since he was all by himself  in this little forest, I am guessing that he is the forerunner for his species, and I had a fine time trying to keep up with him and get his photo.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet high in the tree
Just landed and already looking for the next perch
I didn't think there was any bird that could be more hyper-active than a Chickadee, but this little Kinglet has the Chickadee beat, hands down.  I heard his song first, and had to stand very still to get the direction of the song.  Then I literally had to move, if I wanted to get his photo, which indeed I did.

Getting set to zip down
He was zipping around like a rocket, ten feet to the left, then fifteen feet to the right, and gave me a merry chase.  It was both fun and frustrasting.  I didn't help that he seemed to prefer to occupy the densest part of the forest, nor that my cell phone kept beeping at me.  Note to self : leave cell phone at home! 

If you have visions of me chasing this birds on the run, let me reassure you.  It was a matter of slowly following his song, and actively spinning myself  like a top to try to spot him.  The last thing any birder wants to do is to scare the birds away.

Here he is in all his glory
Ruby-crowned Kinglet close - up
Finally though, this little Kinglet gave me the gift of a close-up, which includes a display of his ruby crown, quite unexpectely right there next to the footpath.  Needless to say I was delighted, especially since I thought that I had missed every single shot.


Apr 7, 2012

Juncos and Butterflies

New buds on a branch

I love spring, it's a time of year that I truly seem to come alive.  In spring I'm like a puppy, taking in the sights, sounds and smells.  This is when I really stretch my legs, as well as my spirit, and endulge my curiosity; here there and everywhere, exploring this and that, and thoroughly enjoying life. 

Spring migration has begun slowly here in Alberta with the Junco's arriving in force this past week.  The trees are beginning to bud and the butterflies that overwinter in slumber have begun to emerge to enjoy the sun. 
Dark-eyed Junco foraging under a tree
Dark-eyed Junco male
Juncos are notoriously difficult to spot most of the time, since they prefer to forage on the forest floor, mostly hidden from the eyes of the world and the predators.  Spring and fall however, makes viewing them somewhat easier, since the leaves either haven't come in yet or are dropping to the forest floor.  They are also quick and wary.  You won't see a Dark-eyed Junco out in the open or perched on a branch in a tree, unless the mating season is well under way.  I was having difficulties spotting them, so it was truly comical when I arrived home to discover that they were highly visible in my back yard.

Three Male Junco's in my neighbors tree
The butterflies that overwinter in slumber, have also begun to emerge.  They will be looking for mates to begin their amazing life cycles anew.

Mourning Cloak
Warming his wings
The Mourning Cloak above must have just emerged from slumber, as he sat on this branch for quite some time warming his wings and basking in the sunlight.  When I approached to take these photos, he remained virtually motionless, to my absolute delight.  The Admiral below was already busily flitting about.  I had a hard time getting this photo, as he didn't seem to want to settle anywhere for very long.

Admiral Butterfly
I'm looking forward to going out daily, in the hopes of spotting as many of the migrants as I possibly can, now that the days are somewhat longer again, and getting longer still.