Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Meet Freddie

My life shifted a bit yesterday afternoon...a shift in the form of a tiny black & white kitten....

maybe three weeks old at best....

Cousin Larry came over to my place saying there was a little kitten in his back yard.

Its mother is a feral cat who has been living under Larry's deck. 

His dogs would kill this little thing once they spotted it. 

So, I picked it up and brought it home.

Meet Freddie!

I have a feeling there will be regular kitten updates in the future - possibly Fridays With Freddie.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Creekside Revisited

During my last recent ramble through some parts of Manitoba, I again camped overnight at Creekside.  Actually, I was surprised the place was open as it must have been flooded earlier in the Spring since 'creekside' means along the shore of the Assiniboine River. 

This sign looks like it has recently got some new legs but still needs a bit more of a wash-up. 

Anyway, this is a friendly, quiet bit of refuge for a weary RVer, tired of battling the big trucks and usually heavy traffic on the TransCanada.  It's 40 kms or so east of Portage la Prairie.

The birding is usually pretty good there too.  The park has good variety of big old trees.  Chestnut-sided Warblers, American Redstarts, and Red-eyed Vireos were among the feathered types near my site.

The resident Canada Goose pack were sunning on the lawn when I drove out the following morning.

Creekside is the place I camped two Springs ago when Western Painted Turtles  (Chrysemys picta bellii) were laying eggs. 

This is one of those female Painted Turtles.  They were everywhere. 

This one deposited her load a few meters from where I was parked.  She dug, and dug and dug a hole in the damp sand, as deep as her back legs would stretch. 

She would deposit an egg, cover with some sand, lay another....

On and on - 20-25 eggs

She covered the rest of the sand, and then laid on the 'nest', resting.  It was dark by then.  The whole process took about 3 hours.

When I awoke next morning, the turtle was gone, the only indication of some sort of activity was a wet spot the size of her body.  She must have emptied herself of a fair amount of fluid.

I didn't get a chance to ask the park owner about the turtles or flood damage when I checked in. 

Oh, and yes, I like turtles, too.

More info about Painted Turtles at Wikipedia

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Oh my goodness, an entire 365 days have passed since I set up this little effort and posted my first aimless little post.

I'm here; I have a blog

Oh yay. I have a blog. This is it. What to write?   

Pretty clever, huh? 

Yes, there has too been a bit of progress here at SLWB!  For example, I now know how to get more than one photo into the post, and I know how to link to stuff.

In anticipation of this first anniversary of my blog & me, I returned to Delta Marsh - or I tried to....

The place is still flooded - I mean, the cottage, the beach, the research facilities, the visitor's centre and boardwalk into a bit of the marsh is off-limits.  No Entry!  Nossir, no one gets past the guard shack unless one is a cottage owner. 

I reluctantly turned the JVD unit around and headed back to Portage la Prairie, but not before having a little discussion, with the private security guard, about not seeing any signs about the No-Entry thing anywhere along the route.  He agreed it was too bad no body thought signs might be a good idea, you know, especially since Delta Marsh is a bit of a well-known birding mecca. 

Oh well, it was still nice to be sort of at the marsh.  I saw some Am. White Pelicans, many duck species, Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, White-crowned Night-Herons and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trails at Cypress Hills

Early morning on the Woodland Trail.

Western Canada Violet  (Viola rugulosa Greene).  I see some Wild Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) in there too.  Like Wild Strawberries, these Wild Raspberries are tiny and sweet.  I ate a few....quite a few...

Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) and Goldenrod (Solidago spp)

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) or Kinnikinik, as the Plains Cree call it.  Not many berries on these yet.

The Cypress Hills, being significantly higher elevation than the short grass prairie below, has cooler summer temperatures and receives more precipitation.  The region was also not covered by any of the glaciation periods.  It's a habitat akin to that found farther south in Montana and unique in Saskatchewan.

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) completely fills the low spots in the forest.   House Wrens seem to like this stuff.  Every patch I walked by was busy with these cute little wrens foraging about for things to feed their chicks.

Yep, a very pretty place

Wildflower information from Wildflowers Across The Prairies, authors F.R. Vance, J.R. Jowsey, J.S. McLean

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cypress Hills - Centre Block

Cypress Hills is an Interprovincial park sprawled across the Sask/Alta border.  It's an upland area created during the initial Rocky Mountain uplift, I mean WAY back in the day!  The resort area on the AB side is Elk Water - I don't go there.  I go to the Centre Block in SK.  It's much less busy.

This is the main little lake, Loch Leven.  The cottages are tucked back in the trees. 

A wilderness area along a trail circling Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond - a tiny bit of water, lined with cattails and just a lovely place.

Dorothy & I were actually trying to find a mythical trail marked on a map we got at the Visitor Centre.  This place really lacks signs!  Well, we never did find the Ridge Run trailhead - apparently a tad more X-country ski trail than a hiking one.  Pfttt. 

However, we were delighted with the road we found that took us along the lochs. 

Nice place to visit - here's a tiny bit of history of the place.  Actually, a lot of stuff happened in the region in the 1880s.  Maybe next year I'll go over to Fort Walsh and wander through the site of the Cypress Hills Massacre (why do I always think of Arlo Guthrie & Alice's Restaurant when I see that word? Ha!)

From Wikipedia
The Cree name, in use at the same time, was Manâtakâw, (spelled in a variety of anglicized forms including "Mun-a-tuh-gow"), sometimes said to mean Beautiful Upland but more accurately referring to "an area to be respected, protected, taken care of and/or taken care with". (from wiki
Historically the Cypress Hills were a meeting and conflict area for various American Indian and First Nations peoples including the Cree, Assiniboine, Atsina, Blackfoot, Saulteaux, Sioux, Crow, and others. During the 19th century Metis settled in the hills, hunting and often wintering there. The Cypress Hills Massacre, a key event in Canadian history leading to the creation of the North-West Mounted Police occurred in the hills when a group of American wolvers from Montana massacred an Assiniboine encampment. Fort Walsh was established to bring law and order to the Canadian border region.

For info about the place, go here

This isn't Alice's Restaurant, of course, but let me tell you, someone here bakes some pretty darn good sticky cinnamon buns daily.

Update:  There is a ban on all fires out there at the moment.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Juvy Mourning Doves

I nearly stepped on two little juvenile Mourning Doves who were sitting on a pathway in my garden.  They really blend in with the wood chips and shadows, don't they?

Young birds like this are often very trusting.  One was quite determined to get a little shut-eye.

I quietly backed away, crept over to my where I had stashed my camera (yes, I take my binoculars and camera with me even when I'm working in the back yard!)

Ack!  Cramp!  Wing & leg stretch!

Friday, August 19, 2011


I love big puffy cumulus cloud formations - especially when I am not in the immediate vicinity they are building!

This one was near Russell, Manitoba, Canada yesterday afternoon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cypress Hills Winery

Saskatchewan's only winery (unless someone somewhere has started up one that I haven't heard about).  It is tucked into the rolling prairie hills about 30 kms/15 miles south of Maple Creek, SK.

When I meet my friends at Cypress Hills for a few days camping (almost yearly), one of the first discussions Dorothy & I have is "What day are we going to the winery for lunch?"  It's always a short discussion, really.  Answer:  "Tomorrow!"  Just love the place.

The winery opened in 2006.  We visited that summer, and almost every year since.  The landscaping has grown up beautifully.

Marie & Marty Bohnet were local cattle ranchers who grew grapes and made wine as hobby.  When the 'mad cow' thing closed the US border to Canadian beef, they were forced into making a decision.  They chose to get out of the cattle business, built the winery and haven't really looked back since. 

They also have a delightful bistro.  Best saskatoon pie with ice cream anywhere, bar none.  The roast beef sandwiches are yummy with a broccoli salad on the side, somewhat washed down with a glass of chilled rhubarb wine....can you tell what I usually order?  Dorothy always has a wrap of some kind with a fresh garden salad. 

After lunch we wander around the grounds and remark on the development of the landscape since we were last there.  

It is a very lovely place to spend a warm, sunny Saskatchewan afternoon.

Into the vineyard.  Most of the wines produced by this winery are made with local fruits such as saskatoon, chokecherry, and my favourite, rhubarb, blended with grape wine.

I'll let the signs tell the story.  (Click on pix to enlarge, if you want to)

Winter hardy varieties, some of which were created in Minnesota - possibly at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  Read Troutbirder's great blog post about that place.

It's a little different from the wineries in BC, Ontario and California.  

It must be rather back-breaking to harvest these!

Watering.  I thought grapes would need more water than this, but then, the best vineyards in BC and California are in dry, hot, semi-desert regions.

As mentioned above, some other types of fruit grown

 My favourite wine is the Rhubarb White wine blend (on the right).  It's a refreshing  medium dry white.  Excellent to sip on a hot summer afternoon.   I also like the Saskatchewan Sour Cherry - a medium dry red with a spicy aftertaste.  This one suits me nicely on a chilly Fall evening.  I brought home some of both.

Check out the winery website: