A Long Farewell to Winter

It got up to 27C (80F) today, almost a record high. Looks like we’ve skipped spring and bounced right to summer.

In a previous post, I mentioned I missed snow for some reasons. Seeing the remnants of winter fade away gave me a sense of loss. Many of you responded with disbelief. Why would I miss snow? I couldn’t say why either. But just two days ago, I went birding at our local lake (reservoir) and saw these sights. Again, my sentiment was confirmed.

Ice melting in the water. Birds congregated. Open nature welcoming a change in the season, or, was it lingering a bit more in the passing moment? Part of this photo has now become my new Header picture on Ripple Effects:

Melting Ice on Glenmore Reservoir

Seems like these Mallards wanted to hang out a bit longer among the shimmering ice. When the ice all disappear, the water will lose a bit of glitz and glamour:

Shimmering ice

The distant Rocky Mountains are evidence of the glory of snow… a beauty that is appreciated more from afar.

The Snowy Rockies

However, what made my day was another first. Since I started birding last September, there had been many ‘firsts’.  Yes, the Pheasant was a pleasant surprise for a life-long city dweller, but it was seeing my first Loon up close that made it personal for me:

Loon

And hearing its call… simply mesmerizing. Couldn’t capture it here in the photo, except the serene, solitary existence:

Loon 1

Loon 3

With the sighting of the first Loon in spring water, I’ll say farewell to snow and ice, willingly. If I want to see snow, I know where to go… my photo files.

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All photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2013. Do not copy or reblog without permission.

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Why Did the Pheasant Cross the Road?

Why did the Pheasant cross the road?

  • To test Arti’s reaction time.

How did the Pheasant cross the road?

  • Ignoring traffic, thought he had the right of way. (Although I must mention there was just one car on that quiet road.)

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So, I passed the test, parked the car quickly, then started stalking him. Just like in the movies…

From a distance, he knew someone was following him, so he quickened his step. And the stalker, with no lightpost to hide behind, picked up the pace but ever so quietly, camera in hand.

From a distance, these photos were taken, just in time for Saturday Snapshot:

Running Pheasant

Running Pheasant 1Male PhaesantI decided to spare him after a few minutes. He was almost in a panic of being followed, albeit from a distance. I’d never seen a bird so colourful and with so long a tail.

After I got home and did some researching and asking, I learned that I had sighted a male Ring-necked Pheasant, the blue-backed variety, which was supposed to be quite rare, at least, rare in my neck of the woods.

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.

Sign of Spring: Nesting

Here are my photos for Saturday Snapshot April 20.

Spring is always a slow emergence for us. There’s still snow on some trails, and no green leaves or flowers for another month. But a sure sign of spring is birds nesting.

Canada Geese scouting for nesting spots and guarding them closely:

Guarding the nest

And here’s one well nestled inside a tree:

Canada Goose inside tree

This one just wants to show off as spring spirit unfurls.

Showing off

Remember the Papa Great Horned Owl I spotted a month ago? Just last week I saw Mama Owl nesting in the cavity of a dead tree, poking out just enough for me to take her picture. Other birdwatchers told me there were several young ones. Hopefully soon I’ll get to see them come out.

Owl nesting

But nothing compares to the utter joy of seeing the Great Blue Herons yesterday. I had never thought I would see them right here in Alberta. But I found them following some directions to their nests, had to watch them from afar though as we were separated by The Bow River:

Great Blue Heron nests from afar

About a dozen nests high up on the trees:

Great Blue Heron Nests

My patience paid off as I waited and finally saw the Herons come out of their nests. Just to stretch their legs:

Great Blue Heron Flying

Just stretching

Just stretching the legs

Again, from afar, they were black against the pale blue sky, too far for me to see clearly. Not until after I uploaded onto my computer and cropped them could I see a bit of their details. They look magical, albeit still blurry.

And yes, they are blue:

Pale blue

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. Click Here to see what others have posted.

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Saturday Snapshot April 13: Bohemian Waxwings in Flight, Defying Grey

I had the chance to see the elusive Bohemian Waxwings converge in the past weeks. Now they are gone. From afar, they may evoke images from a Hitchcock movie:

Flocks of Bohemian Waxwings

But just a closer look would change your view… Avian Cirque du Soleil, acrobats of the sky:

Avian Cirque du soleil

Or… flight aesthetics, mesmerizing to behold:

Avian Aesthetics

I would have wanted a clear blue sky. But the grey offers a deeper fascination. These energetic Waxwings seem to defy the overcast dreariness, exuding a spirit and an aesthetics that colour cannot bring.

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.

All photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, 2013. All Rights Reserved.
I regret the obtrusive watermarks. I could well have positioned them down in a corner to enhance aesthetics. But practicality took over… hopefully they are deterrents of copying.

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Saturday Snapshot March 23: Bohemian Waxwings

I came looking for them… Bohemian Waxwings, nomadic passerines, and I wasn’t disappointed. From a distance, I could hear their calls even before seeing them, buzzing, chirping, echoing, convivial. Flocks of them, maybe even a couple hundreds.

From a distance, I could see them congregate on tree tops, the sight could not match the sound. If not with intention, one could well dismiss them from afar, those ‘blackbirds’ on the trees, common sight, right?

Flocks of birds

But no. A closer look could tell they’re not ordinary at all. Their pose is elegant. And they’re not blackbirds. Here’s just a small corner of a tree, reminiscence of images on quilts and tapestry:

Image for quilts and tapestry

And a little more up close, one could sense their gregarious and convivial nature:

Convivial

Not until I went home, uploaded and cropped the photos could I see their silky plumage, fine and translucent, their pointed crest, the colourful markings on the wings, the yellow-tipped tails:

Bohemian Waxwings

Waxwing

Because of their nomadic nature, they can be here today, gone tomorrow. No wonder… they’re one of the birds included in the bucket list book: 100 Birds to See Before You Die. 

1 down, 99 to go…

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.

Saturday Snapshot March 9: Great Horned Owl

Since I started birding last September, yesterday was the first time I saw an owl. Thanks to two ladies walking in the area pointing me to this Great Horned Owl.

Look how well he camouflaged himself on the tree. I wouldn’t have sighted him by myself. Can you see an owl on the tree?

See an owl

I must have walked 180° around him to shoot from all sides just to get a clear view. Here’s the back, see how well he blended with the tree?

Backview

A closer front view, eyes wide shut in the late afternoon. Of course, it was sleeping time for him:

Eyes Wide Shut

Half an hour later I went back there, hoping to catch him open his eyes for me. But no, he teased me with just a slit:

Eyes half-openedNo matter. It was a great sighting for me. And I know where to find them now. Apparently, this is father owl and his family is famous in the birding community. They even have their own WEBPAGE.

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See Mama Owl nesting in this post.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. Do click on the link to see what others have posted.

Birders: The Central Park Effect (2012)

This is a must-see for all bird watchers, nature lovers, or anyone who lives in an urban jungle, thinking how one can stay there and escape at the same time. And, one would soon find this one-hour documentary just too short.

Beautifully shot, this exquisite gem of a film features its main characters the birds in Central Park. No make-up, no staging, no studio set-ups, all natural surrounding. Appearing also are the humans who dedicate their time, and some, their life in pursuing the sightings of these avian celebrities. The interviews of the birders show they are a species all their own.

Baltimore Oriole

Central Park is another major character in the film. I didn’t know this before, that it is completely man-made. The trees were planted there, the landscaping and ponds designed and built by human hands. But it is also nature. More than 200 species of birds pass through Central Park each year. During migration periods in the spring and fall, it is the hot spot of traffic thoroughfare, the hub of north-south continental flight routes.

Jeffrey Kimball is the film’s producer, director, cinematographer and narrator. I was so eager to see him in person for the Q & A after the film at the Vancouver International Film Festival on Oct. 8. Unfortunately, he had to rush back to his wife due to a medical emergency. I wish her well of course.

Common Yellowthroat

The 60 mins. documentary starts off right away by bringing us up-close to the avian paradise that is New York City’s Central Park, and with interviews of their inhabitants’ human admirers. What’s more interesting to hear than the exhilarating tone of the humans are the cheerful chirping of bird calls and songs throughout the film.

As a newly converted birder, I don’t need Jonathan Franzen to tell me the joy of birding, but it’s good to hear him share his view just the same: it’s ‘addictive’, that he would ‘miss work’ to go out to Central Park to have his fix of birdwatching. Oh, it’s also ’embarrassing’ too.

Jonathan Franzen

Yes, that’s the view of another birder, adult male. He shares that it’s been noted that birdwatching is not manly. There are guys who would carry their fishing rod and tell their wives they are heading out fishing, too embarrassed to admit actually it’s a birding they will go. It’s just… not cool.

Anya Auerbach, 15, echoes that sentiment. Not cool, geeky even. But does she care? The answer is obvious. She is not into fashion like her peers, but she is into something deeply gratifying.

Anya Auerbach

As any birder would readily admit, binoculars hanging on their neck, and maybe a camera with a long lens on the side, they look like walking geeks, to be spotted and laughed at. But as they weigh the joy of actually seeing that rare thrush, to be labelled and misunderstood is a small price to pay.

Starr Saphir is the matriarch of birding in Central Park. She has been leading birding groups in the spring and fall, four times a week for over 30 years. She could well be a walking specimen of the psychosomatic benefits of birding. Diagnosed with terminal breast cancer for a decade, Saphir testifies to how watching birds keeps her going. “Looking at birds really takes away sadness…” When one considers the fleeting nature of life, the joy is even more precious.

Starr Saphir

Chris Cooper disappears from his human social circle every year between April to Memorial Day. His friends know from experience that he has gone birding in Central Park. They understand his obsession. In the film, we can see his contagious enthusiasm.

Chris Cooper

Birdwatching is like collecting. The numbers count, how many species you’ve seen, which ones, the rarer the higher valued. It’s like seeing a unicorn… or, a bit more down-to-earth, it’s like you’ve seen pictures of a movie star, but when you actually see her/him in person, it’s a totally different feeling and experience.

“It’s mystical,” another birder articulated.

And to correct a misguided notion, birding is not a hobby, as one dedicated birder explains. Like raising children, it is a “deeply human activity.”

The Annual Central Park Christmas Bird Count is the longest running citizen science survey in the world. It is disheartening to note that the bird counts are dropping significantly in recent years.

Birds are nature’s celebrities, seeing them gives a birder deep pleasure and exhilaration. What’s most precious though, they are oblivious to their fame. They don’t flaunt their beauty, they don’t pose for pictures. They are as natural as can be.

As the credits roll at the end of the film, we see all those deserved to be named: species of birds that have appeared in the film.

~ ~ ~ 1/2 Ripples

CLICK HERE to the official site of the documentary Birders: The Central Park Effect.

Photo Source: BirdwatchingDaily.com

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