Birds, Buds, and Social Distancing

Haven’t been to the Pond for weeks. For one thing, March and even April we were still having snow, too early for spring birding. Another reason is the provincial park where the Pond is had been closed due to Covid-19.

It reopens this week and I take the first opportunity to head over there with my camera. The woods are lovely, teeming with life, cacophony of bird songs and goose calls. The deciduous trees are still bare, but buds are bursting out.

What a joy to meet my avian friends. May is a busy time for migratory birds to come back and nest. Social distancing is no problem. They make sure I stay away at least 30 ft. Hence, these blurry photos even with my 300mm tele lens.

First arrival is usually the American Robin. Here’s one relaxing among the buds:


Delighted to find the Yellow-rumped Warbler:

Yellow Rump Warbler


Here’s another one. But when I get home and upload the photos, I see this one has a yellow throat, different from the one above with the white throat:


Upon some digging, I learn that the white-throated one is called the Myrtle Warbler of the East and far north, and the yellow-throated one the Audubon’s Warbler from the West. Two different species of Yellow-rumped Warblers that meet at a small locale here in Western Canada. Right here at the Pond is where I’m fortunate to see both of them. Here’s a map showing their distribution.

A “Where’s Waldo the Warbler” puzzle for you: Where's Waldo the WarblerAnswer: Right in the centre of the photo.

By the water, a Northern Flicker:Northern Flicker
In another locale, the House Finch:House Finch 1

And from a much farther distance, another life staying close to its home. It has to be much bigger than a bird for me to see it among this environs from so far away:DSC_0714
And that’s my neighbour keeping the social distance, yet so amazingly close. An excited “hello,” my heart shouted, for this is the first time we meet:DSC_0716

No, it’s not a deer.




Spring Birding at the Pond

Here at the Pond, that is, the real, literal Pond, Spring is a busy time. I know, for some of you, Spring is so far behind as you’re deep into Summer already. I caught the following pics early this week while it was warm and sunny; yesterday was a downer, a chilly 5C (42F). But then the high came last night with the NBA game. We The North, Arti watches movies, birds, and basketball.

Now is a wonderful time to greet migrating friends coming back to nest.  Even if you’re just strolling in the woods near the Pond without intention to spot birds, you’re bound to see some beautiful creatures amidst the cacophony of chirps and songs. 

If you spot a furry ball like this up on a tree branch, don’t pass by without pausing:

Furry Ball 2.jpg

Wait a bit, and you’ll see what it really is. A baby owl preening:

Owlet waking up

A big yawn… nice, no teeth to brush:

No teeth to brush.jpg

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Looking at you kid.jpg

A ‘Where’s Waldo’ exercise: All in the family. Well, not all, some. How many owls can you see here:

Spot the owls.jpg

Alright, enough spotlight. Somewhere else, a Yellow Warbler is singing his heart out in the bright sunshine:

Singing Yellow Warbler.jpg

And further away, silently perching on another tree, a Great Blue Heron. I seldom see one high up on a tree and not in the water. A bit blurry pic cause it’s so far away:

Great Blue Heron.jpg

With song birds, it’s ‘hear before you see’. By their calls, I know they’re around. Finding them is another matter. Taking a photo of them is a challenge. I can hear two Baltimore Orioles calling and responding to each other from two trees some distance apart, airmailing each other.


Closer to the water, a Yellow-headed blackbird is posing for me:

Yellow-headed Blackbird.jpg

Enjoying a swim is Mr. Merganser:

Mr. Merganser

I always think of Lucille Ball whenever I see a female Merganser:

Lucille Ball.jpg

How’s your Spring exploration so far? Birds, wildlife, Nature finds?


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:


American White Pelicans in the evening light, welcome back!

American White Pelicans.jpg

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

New visitors.jpg

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:

Rare Visitors.jpg

Hooded male.jpg

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

Great Blue Heron.jpg

Takes off.jpg

The Lesser Scaup:

Lesser Scaup.jpg

Northern Shovelers playing catch:


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:

Trumpeter Swans.jpg

Swans 1

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




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?


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:



She reminds me of those Ukrainian dolls.


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


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:


Babe & Mom.jpg

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

Mom preening baby

Preening babe.jpg

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



Out of Hibernation

You may have roses in your garden but we still have the remnant of winter. And in Lake Louise, about 58 km (36 mi) from Banff National Park, it is still winter in full swing. This photo was taken just a few days ago:

Lake Louise

People were walking out into the frozen lake, with the glacier in the backdrop.

A snowy but cheery welcome:

Snow Hat

40 mins. drive south to Banff, it’s much warmer, and spring has arrived. The best sign is when you see a grizzly bear coming out of hibernation. See her?

Out of Hibernation

When I first spotted the bear, I was going to quietly walk away until I was told a group of people were already there, well protected and with a park ranger interpreting her every move. So I gladly joined them:

Well Protected

The ranger told us that was a five year-old she bear, officially known as Bear #148, just out of hibernation a week ago. Later I found she had been in the news for trailing a woman walking her dog a bit too close for comfort.

Here she is, still in good shape after a long hibernation:

She Bear 1




I slipped away quietly when she got just a bit too close. What’s the first thing you’d wish for after a long, deep sleep? A hearty breakfast of course.

What an exciting herald of spring.


Saturday Snapshot May 28: New Kids on the Block

A month ago I saw two newborns in the Owlington abode. Here’s one of them out and about; the other must be still sleeping:

Owlington baby

A curious fella:

Owlington 1

Scratching and preening:

Owlington baby scratching

Mrs. Owlington is always close by watching:

Mrs. Owlington

I’ve always thought the Owlington is the only owl family by the pond until I came across these new kids in another part of the hood. Three of them snuggled up against one another on that windy afternoon:

New Kid 3.jpg

No mama or papa around. Wait, not just three, there’s one more on another branch. This bro is all cool and aloof:

New Kid 4

The next day I went back there and saw li’l bro again. This time his style really shown through. Why wait for papa to bring back dinner? Fast food right here:

Can't wait

These are some of the pictures I’d taken in the past weeks. As spring slowly arrives and is here to stay, so are myriads of new lives, bursting out in the hood, some are new encounters for me. Stay tuned for more Nature Photography here on Ripple Effects.


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Spring Time at the Pond

Still no sign of the Blue Heron, and Warblers aren’t here yet. But we have other attractions. I’m happy with just seeing a Robin looking smart and handsome:


Or this Red-winged Blackbird, calling across the pond to a hopeful prospect:

Redwinged Blackbird


Signs too of someone working hard. Soon we’ll have no more trees:

Beaver's work

Beaver's work 1

The usual suspects? Leave it to the Beavers. It runs in the family. The little one learns the trade early. Here he is. Look at that face, can you blame him?

Beaver babe

Beaver babe 1

Wait… I need to check my eyes.


Is that Paddington Bear swimming in the pond?

The main attraction by the pond is definitely the Owlington Family. There are always nature paparazzi gathering outside their home about 40 ft. up in a hollow tree trunk, huge lens and tripods set up below waiting for the tiniest movement. The babies are showing their faces a bit more now, although still snuggling up in their nest all day:


The eyes

Interesting that there’s always one that’s more alert and nosy while the other rather sleeps in:

Owlet 1

Looks like he’s got his Mama’s eyes:


More photos to come as spring warms up more… and as the owlets fledge.



Saturday Snapshot May 23: Birds Among Buds

While some of you are enjoying roses and rhododendrons, or harvesting your first tomatoes and zucchini, we’re finally seeing buds on our tree branches that were still bare just a few weeks ago.

Here are some photos of what you can see within our budding grove. Probably the most common and easiest to photograph are the Robins. They like to pose and they are not too camera shy:

the RobinFor a few days I was trying hard to shoot the elusive Ruby-crowned Kinglet, for their calls are clear and distinct. Lured by their songs, I walked into a thicket of bushes and trees and lost my direction for a while in the forest. Love’s labour’s not lost. Here are some of the fruits of my venture off the beaten track. You can see two tiny dots of red on the crown of this one:

Ruby-crowned KingletBut trust me, I saw one flash out in red at the crown flapping his wings frantically from a short distance, but only for just a second. I didn’t even have time to lift my camera and it flew away.

Here’s another Ruby-crowned Kinglet. I must say the budding leaves are more appealing here.

Ruby-crowned KingletWhere do you see the Canada Goose nesting? Inside tree trunk cavities. Here’s one:

Canada Goose nestingOn a nearby trunk, the Northern Flicker tapping away, with calls you can hear from a distance:

Northern FlickerHave you heard of the Happy Wren? Here he is, probably the happiest bird around at 8 a.m. He was on that branch for half an hour chirping away, loud and clear:

The Happy WrenRemember the Great Horned Owlet? He’s grown quite a bit. Here’s a recent photo:

Furry ballDon’t recognize him? Here’s looking at you kid:

Owlet growing upWithin the budding grove, birds come and go. Another spring, another generation. This owlet will soon fly away when spring comes to an end. But those eyes I won’t soon forget.


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




Saturday Snapshot May 9: Spring’s New Babies

Spring ushers in buds and blooms, and in my neck of the woods, Spring brings new babies. For the past few years, Mama and Papa welcome two new owlets into their Great Horned Owl family every Spring.

The next time you wander into the woods, if you see two furry balls high on a tree, don’t pass them by.

two furry balls

Those furry balls could turn into two pairs of big eyes, inviting you to stay awhile. Fine, take some pictures. We love to pose.

2 Paris of Big Eyes

They look cuddly as a teddy bear.

Fluffy down

I can only imagine how those fluffy down feel to the touch. They’re nature’s babies; I can only admire from afar.

Cuddly as a teddy bear

And what are they thinking, looking at us humans gathering under the tree?

Oh, humans? That’s what they are? Strange, with such huge and long noses. No? Telephoto lenses? They sure are curious and interesting creatures. Alright, let me give them a high five. That’ll make their day.

Hi Five

Ok… let me show off a little: here’s a wing:


and two:

2 Wings

Don’t think I’m just a cute li’l baby. I’m learning to be formidable:


Mama knows. She’s always watching nearby. She may have her eyes closed, but she’s alert and watching alright:


Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!


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




Saturday Snapshot April 18: A Whiter Shade of Spring

We don’t have green grass yet. Flowers, another two months. A hidden stream I saw a few days ago was still in ice. This is our spring. And I’m fine with it, for on a clear day, I can see for miles all the way to the snow-capped Rockies.

These photos were taken earlier this week. On that day, I had to stop my car and capture these sights. The sun was out in full force and the sky was magnificently blue, all clear for me to use just my point-and-shoot camera (mind you, one with a pretty good zoom I admit).

A whiter shade of Spring than most of you are used to:

The Rockies

Ah… the benefit of living right at the foothills of the Rockies:

Living at the Foothills of the Rockies

The wide open space can cast away all claustrophobic wintry blues, and set your imagination free. Have you seen the pyramids of Giza covered in snow? Here they are:

The Pyramids in SnowOr flashback to the days when the sky, mountains and grasslands fuse with your homestead. Breathe in the scene; the firewood can wait:

Rockies 2

By the next few weeks, these mountains will still be covered with snow (actually they are snow-capped all year). The icy stream will long have melted, colours will return. I’ll show you our birds and other living creatures. But right now, I look beyond the dry, brown grass up to the mountains, and soak in this whiter shade of Spring.


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Saturday Snapshot March 21: Welcome Back

We don’t have to wait for the official date. We’ve been enjoying unusually warm weather in the past few weeks. Creatures great and small come out to greet the early Spring; actually, many of them are here throughout the winter. The warm temperatures bring one creature out in particular, the birder.

Good to hear the Cedar Waxwings among the budding branches. Yes, I always hear their convivial buzz before seeing them:

cedar waxwings


The White-tailed deer, here all year round, but seldom do I see such a large party:


The curious red squirrel loves company:

Red Squirrel

I think I saw both the pinkish Common and the white Hoary Redpoll, sent here by Spring and instinct:


Redpoll Hoary?

I’m always amazed to see our Great Horned Owl Mama and Papa coming back to the same spot to nest every Spring for the past few years. Every time, Mama will give birth to two Owlets in exactly the same hollow tree trunk.

Owl's Nest

Once they are fledged, the family will move on. Homing instinct will bring Mama and Papa back the next Spring. Where do the young ones go? Nobody knows.

Can you see Papa Owl in the trees?

Where's Papa Owl

Right in the middle. Here he is, eyes wide shut:

Papa Great Horned Owl


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The Rite of Spring: Goldeneyes Courting

From afar, I could only see their amusing act through my camera lens. The male Common Goldeneye would let out a sharp call, stretch his neck straight up, drawing attention, then quickly bend his head far backwards, touching his rump, then snap right back, overcompensating by kicking his orange feet out of the water.

Pardon the inadequate description above. Actually looking at them is hilarious, like watching a bunch of class clowns trying desperately to impress. Here’s the sequence.

A sharp call to draw attention:

Sharp call

Stretch neck straight up:

Neck straight up

Bend over backwards:

Bend over backwards

Snap out of it:

Kick orange feet up

Male synchronized swimming – courting en masse:

Everybody together now

As for the females, looks like they are not easily moved, or maybe just feigning indifference:

Females paying no attention

No matter. Spring is at hand.


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