Saturday Snapshot May 17: Franklin’s Gulls

I discovered a flock of Franklin’s Gulls a few weeks ago. Seeing the limited breeding area shown on the map, I consider myself privileged to be living right in this zone to welcome them.

Franklin's Gulls Map 1
Source: South Dakota Birds and Birding


I heard the calls of gulls from afar, even before i saw them. I admit I wasn’t too excited. My initial thought was, ‘just another bunch of ordinary seagulls’. When I got closer, I saw a huge flock, close to a hundred of them.

Flocks of Franklin's Gulls

Only after I’d uploaded my photos to my laptop did I realize these were not ‘ordinary gulls’ (for us I suppose are the more common Ring-billed Gulls). At first, I could not tell what they were. I had to look up the detailed descriptions to identify them.

They were Franklin’s Gulls, breeding adults. Their black head and white crescent eyes make them look like they’re hooded. They look almost cartoonish, comical, everyone full of character.


Franklin's Gulls
Below their dark hood is a white neck, their wings dark gray. The trailing edge of the wing is white, wing tip black with white spots. Slender and handsome:





Franklin's GullSee the beak of the gull on the upper left. In the light, it’s translucent orangey-red:

Orange Translucent Beak

Beautiful wings looking from the top:

Beautiful Wings

completely snow-white from underneath:

Snow white underneath


See Jonathan Livingston Seagull soar above the crowd, gliding in solitude:

Jonathan Livingston Seagull


After learning about the Franklin’s Gulls, I found I didn’t know much about the ‘ordinary gulls’ either… maybe nothing is ordinary in Nature.


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




Saturday Snapshot May 10: The Owl Family… Moonrise Haven

Here they are, all come out to enjoy the evening sun. In just a few weeks, the Owlets have grown so much they are about the size of their parents. How I tell them apart is by their still fluffy down. Here’s Owlie 1:


Owlet 1


He likes to try out his new wings:

Trying out new wings


Oops, caught in the branches. Flapping and struggling to get untangled:

Caught in the branches


And Mama’s reaction to all the fluttering? Totally unruffled. She’s too busy posing for me:

Mom stays put


Here’s the more quiet Owlie 2:

Owlet 2


And where’s Papa? As always, watching from a distance on another tree, calm and cool. Here he is, hooting away. That’s the first time I actually hear an Owl hoot, rhythmic calls, music for Mama and kids, and me:



Papa Hooting

Who teaches their young to fly and land safely? Don’t look at Mama or Papa, they don’t lift a finger:

Learning to fly and land


Who teaches them to play nice, and hug each other? That too, is instinct.

Who taught them to hug and play nice


Ok, for Mothers Day, let’s have a photo. I’ll entitle this one “Moonrise Haven”, with thanks to Wes Anderson:

Moonrise Haven

Ah… Natural parenting, so simple, almost effortless.


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




Previous Posts on the Owl Family (In Chronological Order):

The Great Horned Owl (March 2013)

Sign of Spring: Nesting (April 2013)

Spring Babies and Parenting Styles (May 2013)

The Hustle and Bustle of Spring (April 2014)

Within the Budding Grove (April 2014)


Saturday Snapshot April 26: Within a Budding Grove

I just can’t resist. Having seen life bursting out in the spring forest, I’ve an urge to borrow Proust’s title here. But unlike Proust’s magnificent work, within the budding grove where I go birding, everything is stark literal, direct and visceral. No need for metaphors. Alive, chirping, calling, even confronting…

Robins stay here in the winter, but they keep quiet and hidden. Good to see energy recharged:


Or simply posturing. Here’s one Angry Bird:

Angry Bird

In contrast, the Cedar Waxwings are more elegant, embracing the sun with poise and panache:


Cedar Waxwing 2

And there are other beautiful creatures with wings, in much simpler form but no less elegant:


The woods are lovely, but the main draw is the Owl Family. Again, another sighting of Papa amidst the budding grove, silently keeping watch…

Papa keeps watch

over this trunk from a short distance, so not to draw attention to the nest I suppose:

Owlets in nest inside trunk

Can you see them?

Here they are … a closer look. Two Owlets born shortly before Easter. Mom is in there, probably taking a much needed nap. This is a different pose from the one I posted on Easter Sunday:


What does this make you think of? For me… Mt Rushmore.

Within a budding grove, surprises abound.


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





When Easter is the Spring


Dead trees draw life
when the days expand and the sun
fulfills its promise, oft delayed
by the clutch of ice.

Clotted, gnarled, knotted twigs
on the trees sense sap and the death
of death. They stretch, begin
to puff green on the end.

We sing new songs
of a Life laid down for rebirth
when Easter is the Spring
and the branch is Christ.

— Mark A. Noll


Every new birth is a miracle. I saw two yesterday:

2 Owlets


And To All, A Happy Easter!


Saturday Snapshot April 12: The Hustle and Bustle of Spring

After a long and silent winter, I’m pleasantly surprised by the sounds and activities of spring in the woods. Here I’m just showing you the photos, so you can’t actually hear any sound. But from the images, you can imagine the cacophony there.

The sky is busy, and the woods, actually noisy. Birds beating one another to nesting sites, usually in old tree trunks. All of them are vigilant guarding their own. Avian and human traffic collide. And it looks like the biggest in size makes the loudest calls. No, not me. Canada Geese own the woods.

They’re ubiquitous, their calls dominating the air. And of course, they have the right of way. I nearly got hit by this one:


Right of way

Another standing tall, scouting for nesting site, or maybe guarding one:

Canada Goose scouting for a nesting site


They are all vigilant when it comes to protecting their nests:


I know how much it means to them… Here, a couple gazing out into the late afternoon sun from their front porch:


Canada Geese nesting 1

More are still flapping their wings to better trunks, or maybe just enjoying an evening dip in the setting sun:

Canada Geese flying in woods

In the meantime, there are others making lesser but more melodious calls, like the Robins, happy that winter’s finally over:

The Robinsor the Northern Flicker, charging with renewed energy:

Northern Flicker

Some quietly sharing:

Woodpeckers & Chickadee

or enjoying the (relatively) warm(er) breeze like this Nuthatch:Nuthatch

The European Starling is not just another black bird. A closer look you’ll see the shiny plumage, and their calls are much more pleasing than those of the Geese:

ES Not just a black bird


But the major attraction in the woods is, again, the Owl Family. I’m amazed how they would come back to the same trunk for nesting, and that Papa Owl always stands on guard from a distance, his sharp eyes watching over his own.

Papa Owl watching from afar


I’m mesmerized by his calmness and cool attention. If he needs to, Papa can fight off a Canada Goose with his talons. But he knows when to use force, and when to just placidly stand guard.

This is the old tree trunk he is watching quietly from afar:

Old tree trunk

A closer look you’ll see Mama Owl nesting in there. I’m told by fellow birders that two Owlets have been seen poking their downy heads out partially. But after a long while waiting, craning my neck up, I can only see Mama:

Mama Owl nursing young babes

I’ll have a better chance of taking a family photo once the Owlets fledge.

Canada Geese begin to converge near the Owl’s nest, trying to draw our attention with their jealous squawks.

As the evening sun sinks below the horizon, I can see this Goose making its nest not far from the Owl Family. And I know too, Papa will be keeping watch throughout the night, feeding and protecting his very own.

Canada Goose silhouettes against the setting sun


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





Finally, Spring!

The last few days have been the warmest, welcome sign that our waiting is finally over. Just a few degrees above zero, but enough for me to venture out to the woods and go on my first birding walk. I had to tread squeaky, slushy paths of melting snow and ice.

Here are some views. These photos were taken just last Friday April 4. Melting icicles dripping into the icy creek. Yes, this is spring for us. No flowers yet, not even green grass. But this is promise enough:

Melting Icicles


Last fall they dominated the sky, but I’d missed the Canada Geese through the long, silent winter. Surprised to find these two here enjoying the cool spot, weren’t bothered a bit by my intrusion:

Canada Geese

Up close and personal… Welcome back!

Up Close and Personal


The Chickadee never flew away. But I’m sure she’s glad with the warming up:



The Bohemian Waxwings stay in the winter and moves north after the cold. But the Cedar Waxwings’s arrival from the south heralds spring:


Cedar Waxwings

Silky fine spring look worthy of any fashion magazine cover:


Cedar Waxwing

More spring birding photos coming up on Saturday Snapshot.


All Photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, April, 2014.
Do Not Copy or Reblog


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:


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.


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


Sign of Spring: Melting Snow

These are photos for Saturday Snapshot April 27.

Snow has mostly melted now, but there are still remnants of winter. Strangely, I feel a sense of loss. That’s why I treasure these photos, chronicling the fading of another season.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary in our City a couple of weeks ago…

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary 1

It was a pleasure to watch this pair of Mergansers enjoy themselves in the icy water. For me, I was in full winter gear… down jacket, toque and gloves:

Male & Female Common Mergansers

They were beautiful to look at. Seems like you can tell right away which is male and female:

Female and Male Mergansers

A few days later, in another part of the City I captured the last scenes of winter:

Melting snow

Finally this one, I just can’t resist naming it: “Doolittle Reflection”. It reminds me of Bev Doolittle’s paintings, Click Here and see what you think.

Doolittle Reflection

Snow… why am I missing it?


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

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


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


Saturday Snapshot — June 2

Saturday Snapshot hosted by At Home With Books.

At long last, Spring has finally sprung. For those of you in a much warmer climate, you can’t imagine we’re just beginning to see greens and buds.

Here are some of the photos I took while taking an evening walk in my neck of the woods a couple of days ago.

Wildflowers emerge:

The evening sun turning the green trees into golden fall colours.

And this morning I find all these buds on a pine tree, haven’t seen them so red like berries before:

Yes, Spring is finally here for us.


This is My Spring…

… and I’m fine with it.

I’ve seen lush green meadows, full bloom flowers, and fresh plump berries from many of your spring posts. I must share with you what I’m getting…

It’s a long process before green appears, but we’re used to that. Spring for us is a gestation of life, a long process. There can be false starts too, teasing us with more snow. It tests our patience.

First we wait for all the snow to melt:

The melting Bow River
Another view, another colour

A closer look only fascinates me more, the sight and sound of spring… a rythmic ploink… ploink.

Dripping ice water
Icy frame of a kaleidoscope

The slowness of spring allows me to cherish a while longer the sights of a season past:

Snow bank along the Bow
Remnants of a colourful fall

Meanwhile… the buds silently appear. No greens yet, but still a sure sign of spring. Brown tips burgeoning out everywhere, keen and strong:

Sure sign of spring

Before the greens, many colours have to parade by, nature’s processional. As a spectator, I can only applaud.

Spring will burst forth in all its glory…  in its time.