Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

Season's Greetings


Rose-breasted Nuthatches are busy feeding at the feeders around my house this Winter. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Snow Makes Everything Beautiful

I went out birding the other day.  It was the first clear sky, sunny day in a long time.  It was also very cold.  That is the trade-off around here in Winter.

First I went to this pretty place.  It is the city sewer lagoons.  Looks nice doesn't it.  Doesn't even smell too bad at this time of year.  There were no special ducks in the bit of open water - about 25 Mallards.

Then I went down RM5 35 to Fisherman's Road.  I stopped at my favourite little pretty place along the way.  What is that in the ice?

There must be a spring keeping that little hole open.  There were no human tracks around it or to it - ruling out an attempt at a bit of ice-fishing.  This isn't a place where anyone does ice fishing anyway.  I've been driving around here in the winter for 12 years, never saw a hole or anything else like this on this pond.  I expect aliens are below.  There's a sign over at the library that shouts ALIENS EXIST!  (If I were a really good blogger, I would zip over there to take a photo of the sign...but, alas...)

On down Fisherman's Road - there is Boundary Power Station in the distance, spewing and puffing

and on to the bays near the hot-water outflow at Boundary.

The mist was rising, but not too badly.  On really cold days, you can't see the banks.  Tens of thousands of Canada Geese spend the Winter here, feeding in the nearby stubble fields.  Also, many Cackling Geese & Mallards with American Coots, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwall, a few Lesser Scaups maybe, you name it....almost every species of waterfowl is apt to be found here.

Then over to the east side of the reservoir, to the boat launch at Woodlawn Boundary park. 

Quite often there are a couple of coots pecking at debris around the docks.  

All this open water makes Winter birding around Estevan very interesting.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Leonard Cohen Sunrise

This past Tuesday, I was on the road to Saskatoon very early in the morning.  The purpose of this five-hour winter drive was to see the great, the incomparable, the most wonderful Leonard Cohen in concert that night.

Here is that morning's sunrise.


 (Click on link below to see video of LC singing 'So Long Marianne' in Zagreb in 2010 - the entire audience is singing along - as did all of us in Saskatoon the other day)

"So Long Marianne"

Come over to the window, my little darling,
I'd like to try to read your palm.
I used to think I was some kind of Gypsy boy
before I let you take me home.
Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began
to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.

Well you know that I love to live with you,

but you make me forget so very much.
I forget to pray for the angels
and then the angels forget to pray for us.

Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

We met when we were almost young

deep in the green lilac park.
You held on to me like I was a crucifix,
as we went kneeling through the dark.

Oh so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

Your letters they all say that you're beside me now.

Then why do I feel alone?
I'm standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
is fastening my ankle to a stone.

Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

For now I need your hidden love.

I'm cold as a new razor blade.
You left when I told you I was curious,
I never said that I was brave.

Oh so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

Oh, you are really such a pretty one.

I see you've gone and changed your name again.
And just when I climbed this whole mountainside,
to wash my eyelids in the rain!

Oh so long, Marianne, it's time that we began ...

Go to Leonard's site for videos, including Hallelujah,

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hepatic Tanager in Saskatchewan

A week or so ago, a strange bird was noticed at a feeder in Wadena, SK.  The residents took a photo and emailed it to a more nature-oriented friend, who passed it along to some other people and so on and so on.

Yes, it was a tanager, but definitely not a Scarlet Tanager.  A Summer Tanager, quite late in leaving the Northern Prairies, where a few are seen each year?  Well, no, it looked more like, well, er, dare one say it...a Hepatic Tanager...

A couple of my birder friends from Saskatoon dashed off to Wadena to have a personal look.  And, after confirmation from expert birders.....

Hepatic Tanager  (Piranga flava)!  

And I was on the road to Wadena by 5:00 a.m. the next morning.  

This is a First for Saskatchewan and only the second one sighted in Canada.

You see, this bird simply should not be anywhere north of say, Northern Arizona, Northern New Mexico. (See the range map below). This young fellow is a long way from home territory.  

Cool Facts from All About Birds
  • Although the Hepatic Tanager has the most restricted range of the four tanagers in the United States, in fact it is the most widespread member of its genus. It breeds from the southwestern United States southward all the way to Argentina.  
  • The Hepatic Tanager may include three different species: the Hepatic Tanager, found from the United States southward to Nicaragua; the Tooth-billed Tanager, found from Costa Rica to northern South America; and the Red Tanager of          eastern and southeastern South America. The two southern forms lack the       dusky ear coverts of the  northern form.                                                                      
  • The Hepatic Tanager has been little studied. As of 2002, only 106 had been banded in the United States, and only one banded bird had ever been recovered.

 Range Map (from All About Birds

Hepatic Tanager Range Map

Unfortunately, a snowy, cold winter storm system is passing through the area.  I haven't heard today whether the bird has survived.  Bottom line is that there is no way this little fellow will stay alive throughout our winter, which has only begun. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Yesterday's Drive-About

I had cabin-fever pretty badly yesterday, so in spite of the intermittent freezing rain and slushy, slippery roads, I went out to do some birding.  It is time to resume my frequent patrol of my 'usual route' which takes me out to Rafferty Dam/lake, and to the lake at Boundary Dam.

The sky was the same grey-white as the snow on the ground.  Difficult for photography (at least, for me it is).  

But here are a couple of shots from the day.

A young Eared Grebe

A large (probably female) Great Horned Owl

There are still huge flocks of Snow Geese around.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

More Snow Geese

There are hundreds of thousands of Snow Geese around here ... or there was as of this past Friday.  We've since got some snow, and Snow Geese really don't care for snow.

That same day, huge flocks of Snows were heading south-east all day long.  I've mentioned before that our vehicle license plates say "Land of Living Skies".  It was one of those days.

Spectacular sight.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fiery Sunrise

The Autumn is absolutely the best time for beautiful, colourful sunrises and sunsets.

Last night I was too lazy (and too late) to walk down to the valley to catch the sunset.  This morning, however, the sunrise was just as splendid....as seen from my house.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Whooping Cranes

This past Sunday, I met my birding buddy & friend, Guy Wapple at Muskiki Lake for some Whooping Crane (Grus americana) viewing.

We were fortunate in that 4 of the reported 16-17 Whoopers were relatively close to the road into the area.  This is all private land; the farmers are indulgent of birders coming to look.  We stay on the road and try not to bother these fantastically beautiful and very endangered birds.

In total, we counted 16 adults and 1 juvenile.  The rest of the flock were farther away grazing around a small slough - good viewing with scope or bins, but too far for my camera lens.  Sad that there was only one young bird in this group.

These Whoopers are part of the only wild, self-sustaining flock that summers & breeds in Wood Buffalo National Park, which spans the Northern Alberta and North West Territories border.  Muskiki Lake is in South-Central Saskatchewan, about an hour's drive east of Saskatoon.  Depending on the weather, these birds might stay around the area for another week or so.  They will winter at Aransas NWR in Texas.

This day we were thrilled to watch the big white birds walk and graze; a few hopped and danced a little bit.  We also heard the 'whoops' and watched them in flight.  

Saskatchewan Birding at its Finest.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sandhill Cranes at Last Mountain Lake

About a week ago I went to Last Mountain Lake in South-Central Saskatchewan.  

The land surrounding the shallow north end of this long, glacial lake is a bird/wildlife sanctuary.  In fact, it is Canada's first federal wildlife reserve, created in 1887. 

Thousands and thousands of Sandhill Cranes congregate here in the Fall (sometimes Whooping Cranes as well).


Friday, September 21, 2012

Cattle Egrets Today

This morning I went out to check on the egrets northeast & northwest of Estevan.  The nights are quite cold now, the days getting shorter, and I am really curious to know about when all these Cattle Egrets will suddenly decide it is time to move on.

Not yet...

There are approx. 150 birds in this group - a few stragglers on either side, plus 8 across the road. 

Oh, and THIS is also going on across the road.

It's the Bakken Field - there are no quiet, secluded places around here anymore.


M51 or the  'Whirlpool Galaxy'

The image is by Martin Pugh who won the Royal Observatory Greenwich's Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2012.

From the Royal Observatory link above:
M51 or the Whirlpool is the archetypal spiral galaxy and for centuries astronomers have studied it in order to understand how galaxies form and evolve. Here the photographer has made use of exceptionally stable atmospheric conditions, minimising the twinkling or ‘seeing’ caused by air turbulence to produce a sharp, clear image in which every detail of the galaxy is visible.
M51 has been drawn and photographed many times, from the sketches of astronomer Lord Rosse in the 19th century to modern studies by the Hubble Space Telescope. This photograph is a worthy addition to that catalogue. It combines fine detail in the spiral arms with the faint tails of light that show how M51’s small companion galaxy is being torn apart by the gravity of its giant neighbour.

What the judges say:

Melanie Grant says: The depth and clarity of this photograph makes me want to go into deep space myself!  A breath-taking look at the Whirlpool Galaxy.
Will Gater says: This is arguably one of the finest images of M51 ever taken by an amateur astronomer. It’s not just the detail in the spiral arms of the galaxy that’s remarkable – look closely and you’ll see many, very distant, galaxies in the background too.

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's Fall

The days are getting shorter.  The sun isn't up until after 7:00 a.m. and sets all too early in the evening.  We had the first frost last night.

I love the glory of autumn colours that we get to enjoy for a little while before the long, cold white.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cattle + Egrets

Some cattle and some Cattle Egrets

I'll post more about Cattle Egrets shortly

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Canadian Geese, eh?

Let me just say that the plural of Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is 'Canada Geese', not  'Canadian Geese'....of course, if I happen to be wrong on this, I will apologize. 

Canadian Geese, eh?

And while it is true that many of us, perhaps, act like geese, we don't ALL say "eh?" or "aboot".  Nearly all of us do say "Sorry" a lot - and I personally think that is a good thing.   Nothing wrong with being nice, eh?


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Activity at some Prairie Sloughs

The on-set of Fall is always bittersweet for me.  It is my favourite season yet it is also a very lonely one watching the flocks of migratory birds gathering here in southern Canada, soon en route for their warmer Winter locations.  

What a perilous journey they are gearing up for!  The older birds know what to expect; many of those have already left.  It is the flocks of youngsters, not quite grown yet, obeying their natural instincts.  I wonder if they feel a kind of excitement?

Mostly Blue-winged Teals
How strange it must be for these young ones, born in the north, having only known a single slough for all of their lives - the taste of that water, the taste and texture of the food available at that one place.  Of course, they fly around the area, stretching wings, gaining flight muscles; bit by bit experiencing a little more of the world.  

100+ American Avocets
But soon, should they survive the barrage of hunters, guns and dogs...they will find themselves in a completely new environment.  Maybe salty water, certainly different tasting and feeling water; strange kinds of food, and warm, humid weather so foreign from what they have known. 

A Cattle Egret, photo taken through a dirty windshield - why are birds always on the wrong side of the road???
So, in these next 2-3 months, I shall be visiting my favourite locations, watching the birds gather, making notes of departures, wishing them well, hoping to see them return in the Spring - and I'll be making plans for my own trips to warmer climates, to break up the long, dark Winter.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Halo of the Cat's Eye

I haven't done an APOD for a long, long time.  Today's picture of the day from NASA 

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
  Halo of the Cat's Eye
Image Credit & Copyright: Don Goldman
 Explanation: The Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is one of the best known planetary nebulae in the sky. Its haunting symmetries are seen in the very central region of this tantalizing image, processed to reveal the enormous but extremely faint halo of gaseous material, about 6 light-years across, which surrounds the brighter, familiar planetary nebula. Made with narrow and broadband data the composite picture shows the remarkably strong extended emission from twice ionized oxygen atoms in blue-green hues and ionized hydrogen and nitrogen in red. Planetary nebulae have long been appreciated as a final phase in the life of a sun-like star. But recently many planetaries have been found to have halos like this one, likely formed of material shrugged off during earlier active episodes in the star's evolution. While the planetary nebula phase is thought to last for around 10,000 years, astronomers estimate the age of the outer filamentary portions of this halo to be 50,000 to 90,000 years. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Blogversary #2

Goodness, I'm still here after two years.  Quite amazing, since I'm rather prone to not continuing my hobbies and interests for terribly long.  That said, I've been a little lax in the posts this year.  My original intent was to post something daily.  Err....that vow fell a bit short and...

This was part of that 'problem'

Freddie arrived in my life all of a sudden on August 29th last year.  She was only a few weeks old; a feral kitten scooped up from my cousin's backyard.  There wasn't much time for anything other than kitten care, along with almost immediately starting a blog all about her!

Freddie, All The Time

I wanted to train this cat to be travel-friendly, so we went on a few RV trips in the Fall to prep for a long road-trip to Tucson, AZ in March.  

My big adventure this past year was to go on a birding trip around SW and Central Manitoba and then up to Churchill.  I have long wanted to go to Churchill.  I plan to return.  Great trip; beautiful scenery; fantastic birding; excellent birding companions.

This summer has provided very good birding here in my local area, with the appearance of extensive wetlands (revived from long drought and due to the flooding we experienced a year ago) so I haven't been out on any trips at all.  Perhaps the wanderlust will hit again now that Fall is arriving.  We'll see. 

To all of you who read my blog, thanks so much.