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:

Robin

Delighted to find the Yellow-rumped Warbler:

Yellow Rump Warbler

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:

DSC_0740

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.

 

 

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Dano’s ‘Wildlife’ elicits showcase performance from Carey Mulligan

Wildlife is a detailed capture of the dissolution of a marriage, from the point of view of the couple’s only child. It is also a coming-of-age story as 14 year-old Joe comes to realize the elusiveness of permanence in his parents Jerry and Jeanette’s once loving relationship. If all these names sound too common, that just might be one implication of the film – a specific look into a general human condition.

Wildlife
Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeanette and Jerry in ‘Wildlife’. Photo courtesy of TIFF.

The film adaptation of Richard Ford’s novel is a selection in the Special Presentations program at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, screened as a Canadian premiere. It is the directorial debut of actor Paul Dano, co-writing the screenplay with Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick, 2017).

To those unfamiliar with Dano, maybe these titles will help you locate where he’s coming from and appreciate the variety of works he’s been in. Remember Little Miss Sunshine (2006)? He’s Olive’s older brother Dwayne who reluctantly gets into the yellow VW Beetle van and takes a vow of silence, or the dubious preacher confronting Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (2007)as the harsh slave driver in 12 Years a Slave (2013), or in the 2016 TV mini-series War & Peace as Pierre. Not the handsome leading man but always the character actor.

The small family in Wildlife consists of Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal), a golf pro who has just moved into the town of Great Falls, Montana, with his wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and son Joe (Ed Oxenbould). Just as they thought they’re settling in Jerry is fired from his job as a golf instructor in a country club. After waiting for a while for her husband to absorb the loss of job and pride but with no solution in sight to the household finance, Jeannette decides to come out of the home to look for work, ultimately finding a position as a swimming instructor at the Y.

That just may not be the cause of the conflict. What begins the total meltdown is when Jerry, out of the blue, packs up and follows a group of men heading to the forests to fight a wild fire fiercely raging near Great Falls, not knowing when he will return or if he can get out of it unscathed. Feeling utterly alone and abandoned, Jeanette begins to react to her precarious situation by venting with some out-of-character behavior. The successful businessman Warren Miller (Bill Camp), Jeannette’s swim student at the Y, just happens to be a convenient escape route. All these familial changes and development are observed uncensored by their sensitive teenaged son Joe.

From this his first attempt at directing, viewers would be gratified to find Dano to be an actor’s director; especially with the excellent cast he has under his helm, this is doubly rewarding. Dano lets the camera rest on the close-up faces of his characters to elicit superb performance, taking his time to capture the nuances in restraints, outburst, or just about any sort of inner feelings to surface.

Carey Mulligan.jpg
Carey Mulligan in ‘Wildlife’. Photo courtesy of TIFF.

This is one of the best, if not the best, performance I’ve seen Carey Mulligan in, changing from the loving wife and devoted mother to the angry and desperate single mom with a son to raise, to totally losing it, testing the boundaries of norms and behavior, and finally to the determined woman striking out on her own yet still bound by unseverable, familial ties. Mulligan deserves an Oscar nom for her role as Jeannette.

Watching his mother get close to Miller, Joe is torn between devotion and incredulity.  Although a successful businessman, Miller is a limping, older man. Joe is utterly perturbed by his mother’s capricious turn. Dano creates some poignant scenes depicting the interactions between mother and son during dad’s absence from home. Often the passive observer, Joe is restrained with countless questions he cannot express in words.

Mulligan gets all the juicy lines. After Jerry is gone to fight the wild fire, Jeanette brings Joe along to Miller’s house for dinner, putting on heavy make-up and dressing in a seductive night gown. She dances with the man intimately in front of her son. In another occasion, she dons cowgirl attire and admires herself in front of the mirror, reminiscing her younger days. Jeanette answers her son’s dazed expression with this line:

“It’s good to know your parents were once not your parents.”

There is a former life in every parent that even the closest child would not have known or understood. There are many thought-provoking lines in the film, but this one is particularly poignant.

Dano takes the liberty to follow the spirit of the text and creates a cinematic ending. His visual wrapping up is clear and spot-on, especially the scene at the studio where Joe works part-time. The final frame of the three sitting down together for a studio shot with Joe between his parents speaks volumes. A wild fire may have been put out, but the smouldering lingers; and the one keeping it under control may well have been a teenaged firefighter.

 

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Update Nov. 16:

3 Nominations for “Wildlife” at the Film Independent Spirit Awards – Best First Feature, Best Female Lead, and Best Cinematography.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Snapshot June 27: The Busy Beaver

It is on the face of our 5-cent coin, an emblem of Canada. And thanks to conservation and the lack of demand in the pelt hat, the Beaver – at one time endangered – is now safe in numbers.

the nickel

However, we seldom see one, definitely not an everyday sighting. As for me, I’ve never seen one on land like the image on the coin, busy with its chore. But they are around; surely we can see the aftermath they leave behind. Here are evidences of their presence:

Work of a Beaver's

Beaver's aftermath

That’s why we have these:

Wired protections

I’ve had the chance of seeing a beaver recently at a pond, taking a break from its busy schedule:

The Pond

 

Beaver in the pond

Sure looks like a bear is swimming towards you:

Beaver 3

Beaver 1

A closer look and you can see its long and robust body:

Beaver

yet agile, diving in and speeds away underwater:

Diving

But what I find interesting are the ripples it makes. Look back at the above photos and below:

The Beaver Close-up

 

More Ripples

 

Ripples 3

 

Ripples

Or is it just me, watching out for ripples everywhere?

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

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Saturday Snapshot Dec 6: Porky and Wess

I met them just this week.

Porky the baby porcupine was a serendipitous sighting. He (I assume) was going in circle in the snow, apparently lost or disoriented. Poor guy, I wanted to go up there and give him a big hug but restrained myself. Instead, got these sequences of shots.

Porky from afar. See the circling tracks? They are all Porky’s:

Porky going in circle

A bit closer in:

Porky disoriented

So cute and cuddly:

Porky close-up

Don’t you want to give him a big hug too?

Porky close-up 1

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As for Wess the weasel, we’ve been waiting for her appearance for days like paparazzi. Some set up their huge telephoto lens on tripod and stood in the cold for hours. Our perseverance were rewarded with a quick dash of a photo shoot:

Wess the weasel poking out of her hole:

Wess poking out

Donning her designer fur coat. See her long, black-tipped tail? No wonder she’s officially called the Long-tailed Weasel.

Porky

Dashing through the snow:

Wess dashing

And here are the shots that make us weasel waiters feel all worthwhile. Wess posing for us in her professional style on the white carpet:

Wess posing 2

Wess posing

There they are, Porky and Wess, warming every heart in the cold of day.

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

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From a Country Garden

Finding Internet access has not been easy.  But I have to post these pictures.  The log home has been vacant for almost 10 months.  So when I found what were in the garden, I was pleasantly surprised.  With the temperature reaching 30C here in southern Alberta, and the amount of rain we’ve been getting in the last month, the garden has started to grow, albeit with all the unwanted weeds as well.

I can tell from the design and the variety, this country garden wrapping around the log home was once cultivated with much TLC.  Even among the thorns and thistles now, and without human maintenance, I can see beautiful flora, ferns, and bushes blooming in resilience.  Here are a few samples from this once glorious garden.  I also must admit my ignorance in naming some of them…although the Alberta wild rose I can readily recognize…No, that wasn’t the Alberta wild rose as one commenter corrected me. These must be some kind of cultivated garden roses.

All you green thumbs, nature lovers, bird watchers, and naturalists, please help me out here.  I’d appreciate if you’d identify these other beautiful flowers and creatures:

another view here:

These look like lilacs, but I’ve always seen purple, not white:

And these lovely ones with blue petals:

Forgot its name:

And this creature…with it’s black stripes on a brown body, and the buzzing sound it gave out, I thought I was photographing a wasp of some kind.  So after a few quick shots, I stepped out of its way.  But when I saw it on my computer, I was amazed it had such beautiful wings…is it just a moth?

And this bird that gets so attached to the feeder on the fence…first the front view:

and the back:

Looking at the exuberance and beauty of life here in this derelict patch, I’m reminded of a precious quote:

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.  And how much more valuable you are than birds!

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Consider how the lilies grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

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