Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some Perspective

This past Christmas weekend, the Canadian Prairies has had historically mild temperatures.

This is what it looks like around here, as of December 25, 2011.  The location is a few miles south of my town.

At Boundary Dam reservoir...only a thin skin of ice at Sunset Boat launch.  Normally, this would all be frozen solid and dotted with ice-fishing shacks.

This was what was going on outside the front door of my house on October 27, 2010

Oh dear, and at the top of this photo, I can see the huge trunks of my neighbour's big, beautiful spruce trees.  I miss them so much.   Their fate was also snow-related.  A very nasty late April blizzard brought them down.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Snowy Owls on Christmas Day

Three more Snowy Owls (Nictea scandiaca) yesterday.  I hope they are finding enough food.   We always have a few Snowys down here in the Winter.  Delightful to see always, but not uncommon.  This year, there are so many and many reports of Snowys far South of the normal range.  Unfortunately, many are likely verging on starvation.   

Too bad it isn't quite warm enough to bring the gophers (Richardson's Ground Squirrels, Urocitellus richardsonii) out of hibernation - we have a lot of them...

Nice day, for December 25th, with +4C air temperature, high thick cloud and a fairly stiff breeze.

All these photos are the same individual.  It fence-post hopped as I tagged along behind in my car, hoping to get a decent shot of two....everything is a little fuzzy.  2012 Resolution #2, work on my photography skills.

Now, then, is this a female or is it a 1st year male?  The males become whiter as they age, with the very whitest being older males.

It was quite a large bird.  I'm tending to think Adult Female.  The females are larger than the males - as is the case with other owl species.

Other birds found during my drive around yesterday include:
1 male Gadwall at the city sewer lagoons.  Also at the lagoons, a Northern Pintail drake and a Green-winged Teal (either a female or a juvenile).  

At Boundary reservoir, 5 Ring-necked Ducks, several American Coots, a pair of Hooded Mergansers (male displaying), thousands of Mallards and Canada Geese.  

I saw a few Cackling Geese mixed with the larger Canadas  when scanning flocks feeding. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011


Notice anything....anything unusual about this photo.....anything, er, missing?

No Snow!

Okay, personally, I absolutely love this because I no longer want to do anything in the order of outdoor Winter sports and activities.  Besides that, we cannot handle much
Spring runoff, so the less snow the better.  The sloughs and ponds are full (iced-over now, but full).  My area had historic flooding Spring 2010. 

Apparently, this Winter may be the warmest on record for Saskatchewan.  Yeah, Climate Change. 



Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's A Snowy (Owl) Christmas

This is a very common sight in my part of the world (Saskatchewan, Canada,  very near the US border) right now.  Snowy Owls everywhere.  We normally have these owls around in Winter but this year seems to be an irruption year. 

and closer (looks like a juvenile - most of the birds I saw this past week have been heavily barred).

Look this way, please & thanks

Some Owl Facts from somewhere in Oregon  http://home.pacifier.com/~neawanna/SNOW/SNOW_FAQ.html

Friday, December 9, 2011

Garrison Dam, North Dakota

Garrison Dam is the second (of six) and largest dam on the Missouri River.  Lake Sakakawea is the result.  This lake is the third largest man-made lake in the United States.   

The writing at the lower left corner of this map informs us that the lake is 178 miles long, is 14 miles wide at its widest point, contains 368,000 surface acres of water.   

The dam location is between points 3 and 5 on the map below.

So, this is the dam.  It is 2.5 miles long; 210 ft high; and, is the fifth largest earthen dam in the world.  It was built between 1946 and 1955 by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

There is a road going down below the dam where several things are going on

Namely, fishing.  The fishing area below the power generating station was a fairly popular place the day I visited.  I followed this nifty rig down

I might even be able to endure a day of fishing in a boat, if it were a rig like this.

This is the fishing lake from the over-flow parking - I suppose it stays somewhat ice-free all winter

An eagle's nest - several juvenile Bald Eagles were cruising the area.

A small channel which is likely a pretty spot in Spring and Summer with leafy green trees (yes, I'm missing them already)

The Garrison hydroelectric generating station.  I'll take a tour of the place next time.  There are five turbines. 

The fish hatchery below the dam.   Wikipedia says:  The Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery is the world's largest walleye and northern pike producing facility.  It also works to restore endangered species (Wiki link below)

A general view to the south from on top of the dam

Another look back at the generating station - those big tanks hold water; a sort of surge moderating affair to keep the flow of water through the turbines at a steady rate. 

The spillway - I didn't stop to take a photo of the concrete side.  A couple of fellows were out there doing repairs.  The spillway was opened for the first time this past June when the lake rose above its maximum volume.  Communities were flooded (it was a hard year for many who live along our northern prairie rivers).

My Inner Rock Hound dearly wants to know where all this pink quartzite came from!

Riverdale, the community at the East end of the dam.  A town formed around the housing built for the Engineers.

The building of the dam and creation of Lake Sakakwea has brought a good deal of recreation to this area of North Dakota.  Unfortunately, there's a down side.  Several communities in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation were flooded.  People were displaced and New Town built.  The promise of irrigation for the remaining farm land on the reservation (and elsewhere along the lake) never happened.  The 4 Bears Casino may be taking some revenge...

Note, anyone reading this and considering visiting the region, be aware there is a frenetic oil boom going on throughout the NW part of the state, generally north of Lake Sakakawea.  There will be zero drop-in hotel rooms available in Williston, so have the room reservations made in advance.

There are several campgrounds.  One is somewhere near the above photo'd fishing area.  Another is Lake Sakakawea State Park at the west end of the dam (oh yes, there is a dam bar, in fact the best dam bar, by a damsite - what dam site would be complete without one!)

Some info links - the first one is really good for fishing info

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lake Audubon, North Dakota

Last week I packed up my little cat Freddie and went across the border to North Dakota (just a few miles away).  Destination:  the state capitol, Bismarck.

We went down via ND #5 and I-83.  A bit south of Minot, I-83 crosses the eastern end of the great reservoir created by the Garrison Dam.  The west side of the bridge is Lake Sakakawea.  The east side is Lake Audubon and the Lake Audubon Wildlife Refuge.

There is a new visitor's center.  What a fantastic place.

This sign made me smile.  My Tribute is not terribly fuel efficient, although not bad for a small SUV, so I didn't park there.

This National Wildlife Refuge, like all the others, relies on a vast network of dedicated volunteers for building, maintaining, recreating destroyed habitats, etc and what a wonderful thing to be doing with one's time!

The displays are beautiful.

Any place that has a Rachel Carson quote in a prominent place automatically garners my highest respect. 

The Center is all about education. 

Really, one cannot walk around this place and not learn something.

I learned that Redhead ducks sometimes lay an egg in the nest of Canvasbacks, the little sneaks.  I didn't know this sort of thing happened in the world of waterfowl.  Redheads and Canvasbacks are similarly coloured (red head, grey-white-ish body). 

John James Audubon spent a summer in this area, about 1843 or so.

Remarkably creative displays

A prairie profile:  grasses and a purple coneflower (Echinacea sp.) etc at the surface, root system, earthworms, Richardson's ground squirrel tunnels...

Oh, and this place was built Green and Sustainable.   Geothermal heating/cooling

An array of solar panels

And one of my favourite quotes ever.

Visit the website:  http://www.fws.gov/audubon/

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reverting to Spring

We have winter now.  There is snow.  It is cold.  I haven't got used to seeing white when I look out my windows.

So...I dug around in my photo files and found some pix of my back yard.   June is a lovely month.