The Colours of Fall

About this time last year, I had a post entitled “Golden Fall”. Yes, the title says it all. We don’t have much reds in our fall, no maples, but we have foliage like gold.

Here are some photos I took after returning from Toronto a few days ago, just in time to witness the changing of the seasons and catch the last remaining songbirds before they fly south. This is ‘my Pond’, home at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

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An Orange-crowned Warbler in the golden foliage. It’s goodbye until next Spring, my avian friend:

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Here’s another one. Olive against red.

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A ‘Where’s Waldo’ puzzle for you:

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The White-breasted Nuthatch against a watercolour backdrop:

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Two-frame capture of a shy subject. See it in both?

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Home is where you know every path and turn, where to shoot with the sun at your back for the best light, and where to look for your friends whatever the season, to wave goodbye as they leave, and then welcome them back for another new lease.

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Summertime… and the feeding is easy

No matter where you stand in the food chain, in the summer woods, everywhere you turn is a ready picnic, nature’s smorgasbord. Just look at all these flies:

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Yummy appetizers for the Yellow Warbler:

The Hungry Warbler

Or this succulent fruit. I’m sure the bee knows he’s an item on the smorgasbord too.

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But for the moment, indulge:

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Not so lucky for this dragonfly, securely locked in the beaks of a Song Sparrow:

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Robins are clean eaters, they swallow berries whole:

Robin

But not the Goldfinch:

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Eat to your heart’s content, no need for etiquette here:

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This baby Oriole in its high chair waiting for lunch. Be patient, junior, mommy’s coming:

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Feeding 2

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Take it easy, my Deer friend. I wouldn’t want to do the Heimlich Maneuver on you:

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What’s your summer smorgasbord like?

The Colour of Summer

To be technically accurate, here are some photos I took after June 21. Not that I’m partial to the colour yellow, but that’s mostly the colour of our summer woods, greenish yellow.

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Sometimes you can see dots of pink, the Alberta wild rose:

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or tiny red fruits:

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Golden cattails by the water before they ripen into brown candlesticks:

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The Pond in summer is quiet. In contrast, the woods host a cacophony of songs and calls, like the tuning of strings and woodwinds before a symphony concert, albeit finding the actual sources is difficult, let alone taking photographs of them. The blurry pics just show how hard it is to find them staying still in the clearing for more than 2 seconds.

Migratory songbirds too are mostly yellow here, like this Wilson’s Warbler with his black cap. You might be surprised, but we don’t have any red birds like the Cardinals:

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The Baltimore Oriole:

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The American Goldfinch:

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In the tree, there’s a tiny spot of silvery blue… the Tree Swallow waiting for lunchtime:

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Some can’t wait, like this hungry Robin:

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or this Yellow Warbler. Whatever’s in your mouth, mosquito or fly, I’ve to say, ‘Thank you for eating!’

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What colour is your Summer?

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Spring Baby

They’ve come back, the Great Horned Owl couple.  Their perennial arrival to nest is as predictable as the grass turning green and the leaves bursting out from the bare branches. They even check into the same abode.

After a long wait since April, I finally got to see the new addition last week. This time, an only child.

Here’s baby peeking out to feast on the sights and sounds of spring:

Baby in nest

A close-up of this spring baby:

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Mom or Dad is always watching close by, here basking in the evening sun:

At dusk

Yesterday, it’s baby’s day out. Where’s Waldo?

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Look up, there he is, at the top of the tree trunk:

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Trying out wings:

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and showing off a downy coat:

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As always, Mom is nearby, ever watchful:

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Posing for all the nature paparazzi below, here it is, the feat of turning your head 180º:

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Enjoy while you can, soon you’ll be an empty nester, too soon.

 

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First Spring Visitors to the Pond

They brought me out of hibernation.

It’s been a long winter, not record temperatures, but record snow, all the way into March and April. The Pond started to melt just last week. Then they all came, so fast. I’m amazed at the varieties, some I haven’t seen before.

One evening last week:

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American White Pelicans in the evening light, welcome back!

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And then from a distance, some I wasn’t familiar with:

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A white hood, not a Bufflehead. The sun was setting quickly, and I must say goodbye, not for long though.

Went back next morning and saw them. I wouldn’t have known if not for another photographer who told me they were Hooded Mergansers, rare visitors to the Pond. Only the male is white-hooded. The female looks like the Common Merganser female which always reminds me of Lucille Ball for some reasons:

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The Great Blue Heron, frequent visitor to the Pond, a bit shy as I approached:

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The Lesser Scaup:

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Northern Shovelers playing catch:

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Just as I was leaving, I was stunned to see these beautiful creatures flying above. I wasn’t ready but still able to snap a couple of photos. Not until I went back home and did some search did I realize I’d just seen a ballet of Trumpeter Swans in the sky:

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Don’t fly away, stop by the Pond next time!

 

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How Many Weeks Till Spring?

Who’s counting?

We’re having fun and really, enjoying ourselves.

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Indeed, considering the flooding problems some of you face south of the 49th, I’ve come to appreciate our snow, and the never-ending winter.

Here, makes me think of a Bruegel painting of winter scene, except replace the people with ducks and geese:

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Until then, we persevere.

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August at the Pond

Our summer is short. After a few weeks of record high temperatures, as August arrives, I can feel the cooler air creeping in.

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At the Pond, August brings a harvest of berries and edible delights for the birds:

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Here are some of the guests relishing Nature’s feast.

Forget about worms, these succulent fruits are tastier. The young Robin learns fast:

The Robin

The American Goldfinch, bending over forward:

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The Cedar Waxwing knows her etiquettes, always graceful and poised:

 

Wax Wing

 

Among them all, I must say my favourite is the Yellow Warbler. They are not fond of berries, but there are lots to eat around here. I’m most grateful for their taste. Here’s why: Mosquitoes eat me; warblers eat mosquitoes. Simple as that.

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What more, it’s no simple feat to sing with a mosquito in your mouth:

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In a few weeks, the Warblers will be gone, and I’ll be capturing scenes of Autumn. Yes, that soon. But for now, I’ll feast on summer sights. So, eat to your heart’s content, my Warbler friend.

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10 Years

WordPress tells me I’ve been blogging for 10 years now. It’s been a life-changing decade. From a film lover writing reviews just for personal journalling, I’ve developed into writing to share. Hundreds of movies later, I’m now an Arts and Film Writer for Asian American Press. In recent years, I started covering Film Festivals; my appreciation for cinema art and independent films from all over the world had grown deeper.

Books, I’ve read a few, but then again, too few to mention. My TBR piles is expanding much faster than I can tackle. To manage them, I use the simplest method: deleting them from my memory. Many I’ve bought from the annual Book Sale (several posts), but I’ve since donated them back. There’s one on my Goodreads ‘currently reading’ shelf for years now which I don’t want to give up just yet, and that’s Proust’s In Search of Lost Time Vol. 3, The Guermantes Way.  Some day.

Other than books, movies, and my special interest in the transposition of one into the other, I’ve also become an avid birder. Arti of Ripple Effects has turned into a nature paparazzo. I’d thought of starting another blog just for nature photography but thought, hey, everyone needs a respite even from books and films. The Pond is open to all to throw in their two pebbles, make some ripples while enjoying a piece of natural beauty.

WordPress tells me in the side bar that I have 6,843 followers. Simply amazing, considering the number of comments I receive in each post. No matter, commenting isn’t a requirement when you visit the Pond. I’m just glad to know you’ve enjoyed your stay, even if it’s a short minute or two. And to all visitors and followers, a hearty thank-you. You’ve made my presence in the blogosphere meaningful.

To celebrate 10 years, to say goodbye to Spring (already) and welcome Summer, I’ll leave you with a few photos I’ve taken in the past few days.

The forest by the Pond:

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They may be the most common bird, but every Robin is a welcome sight against the blue sky:

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The well-groomed and handsome Cedar Waxwing, always camera ready:

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True to their name, the Yellow-headed Blackbird on a cattail:

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The female Red-Winged Blackbird. Nature endows with different features:

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Up in the sky, an Osprey is busy transporting his building materials:

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And a touring group of Pelicans, looking for my Air BnB?

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More to come.

 

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Owl Babies’ Day Out

It has been three weeks since I last posted about a first sign of spring: Grizzly bear coming out of hibernation. Now, spring is in full force. Another sure sign in my neck of the woods is Great Horned Owlets out to enjoy the sunshine.

First, let me play a little ‘Where’s Waldo’ with you. Can you find the owls in this photo? How many do you see?

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The obvious ones are on the top branch, mom on the right with her baby, and in the lower, closer to the trunk, another owlet.

Some are just born to be more independent. Take a closer look at this cool, furry owl baby perching on her own branch. Seeing me eagerly snapping her photo, she sits still for me, giving me a big smile even:

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She reminds me of those Ukrainian dolls.

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But don’t think she’s all innocent and vulnerable, look at her claws:

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And to the mother and the other baby in the upper branch, again, they know how to please us nature paparazzi, just by being themselves:

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And here, a little action for us, Mom preening her baby. The term of endearment is instinct:

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I can hear the baby say: “Thanks Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!”

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Saturday Snapshot Dec. 3: Late Autumn

After I came back from London in mid October, the Pond already looked deserted. Suddenly in the last few days my Air (Avian) B&B was buzzing with activities again. The Pond had become the meeting place of waterfowls making their last stop before heading south.

Here are some of them on a sunny, cheery afternoon. So glad to see signs of life before the big chill. Forecast for next week’s lowest temperature: -24C (-11F).

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Pardon me for not showing my regulars the Mallards, but it’s the infrequent guests that I treasure more; although still ‘common’, there are just less of them than Mallards. Here are the Buffleheads. Like they’re right out of a Monet painting. No colour alteration here:

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My favourite has to be Mrs. Merganser. No matter what time of day, she looks like Lucille Ball just out of bed. Her uncombed, red hair stands out particularly:

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Up in the sky, more Canada Geese getting ready to land on the Pond, joining the late Autumn sendoff party:

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Less convivial on land, I’m afraid. Why, it’s all brown and barren. The white-tailed deer filling up in the evening sun. Yes, it looks desolate. Dry shrubs are all that’s left for food.

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And -20’s C. next week? Good time to tackle the piles of books on my bedside table.

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.

Saturday Snapshot September 24: Cootes Paradise Marsh

So this is what a film buff and birder did at TIFF… she took a day off from films and headed out to Nature.

The Cootes Paradise Marsh Nature Sanctuary in Burlington’s Royal Botanical Gardens is about a 45-minute drive southwest of Toronto. Hiking the trails there was total relief from pounding the pavement between TIFF venues. I immersed in the silence of the Nature Sanctuary, with bird calls and sounds of crickets replacing the hustle and bustle of downtown traffic.

First off, there were many birds, but mostly Chickadees. The Bluejay I see often in Alberta, but not among maple leaves:

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Indeed, the leaves are so different from what I’m used to seeing. Like these here. Never seen leaves wearing sunglasses before:

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Seldom see frogs on my path either. Nearly stepped on this little guy:

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Or a mushroom this fancy:

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I just love how well planned these trails are, so considerate in their design:

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See the upper left corner of the above picture… A colony of cormorants:

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As I came close to the edge of the water, I felt like I’d gone inside a corn maze:

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The observation tower at the end offered a panoramic view of the marsh, but not my camera though. So here they are in different frames:

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It’s here that I had my first sighting of the Great Egret:

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And a Mute Swan with her young, which were brownish but almost as large as the adult:

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As I made my way back I walked through fields of goldenrods, that was quite a sight:

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.

Establishing Shot

What is a film buff, avid birder, and nature lover going to do in Toronto during TIFF, torn between so many attractions?

Well, one has to stay grounded first. So here’s the establishing shot. Indeed, it’s Toronto. And a memorable date it was when I took this photo of the early morning cityscape. My computer told me it was Sept. 11, 2016, at 6:38 am:

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I was fortunate to be able to shoot these pics from a high-rise building with magnificent views. Here let me call this one Urban Canadian Sunrise. Yes, see the flag in the foreground? Can’t say it’s just another city:

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And from the balcony above looking down, my birding instinct was gratified as I made my first sighting of a Mute Swan taking in the early morning air:

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A stone-throw away was a park where I made this other first-time encounter. I had no clue what it was until I looked it up in a bird book after I’d come back home:

Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron

Know what it is? A Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.

Several other first time sightings awaited me as I went on the ‘Marshwalk’ at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, 57 km (35 mi) southwest of Toronto a few days later. The Great Egret and some juvenile (brownish colour) mute swans:

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Yes, TIFF16 was a cinephile fantasy. And the people there were overflowing with enthusiasm to make your visit memorable:

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More posts coming up on that main event.