Swans in February

Previously on Ripple, I posted pictures of song birds that stay here in the winter. The House Finches surprised me, still chirping away in -24C (-10F) wintry air. But today, as I walk along the river, basking in the balmy weather (just at freezing point), I behold an even rarer sight. Trumpeter Swans!

Normally, they fly to the south and the Pacific Northwest beginning October, but ‘normal’ is no longer a term with relevance these days. Maybe the birds already knew that. With Texas bombarded with arctic storm and sub-zero F. temperatures this week, the Trumpeter Swans must have decided not to bother months before. Staying close by the river here above the 49th at least there’s food. And, as they say, if you don’t like the weather, just wait––normally five minutes––I’ll give it a few days.

An adult Trumpeter Swan with two juveniles on the river close by the shore, unafraid of the few of us birding paparazzi shooting away.

Interestingly, two Mallards cling to the Swans closely, reminds me of the term ‘imprinting’. Parent Swan keeps an eye on them fondly. Neighbourhood watch.

Half a mile up the river, there’s another juvenile all on its own. I gather it must be a teenager, as the plumage is more white than grey as the younger ones, also for its personality. This one just wants some alone time, seeking independence. Note the black foot out:

A fruitful day of birding and workout chasing after swans.

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Which birds still sing in the deep, cold Winter?

First caught my eyes when I looked out the window were the movements of flight. It was -23C (-9F), which birds were still active in these temperatures? I could hear them chirping cheerfully out on the trees in my backyard.

House Finches are not supposed to be hanging out in this latitude, according to Audubon. But here they are, right in my own backyard, saving me a birding trip which I’d never take in this weather.

House Finches eating the remaining fruits on trees. Apparently not just for the food, but the drink. Never thought how birds in winter get their water from, since everything’s frozen. The snow, of course! Here they are taking in the snow. Not very clear picture, but you can see the snow on their beaks if you enlarge the pic. Trust me, they were feasting on the snow.

The other day, I took these photos as I saw a group of birds perched high on some tall trees in a distance. I heard their electrifying trills. Yes, Waxwings! But in the winter, the Cedar Waxwings have all flown away. What we have here are the Bohemian Waxwings, the vagabonds of birds, kind of rare for some birders located in the eastern and southern parts of North America:

They are more plump in the body than the Cedar Waxwings, but with the same spiky crest and yellow-tipped tail. Don’t have anything closer than these photos as they were so far away.

These birds still sing in -20’sC weather, plus the chickadees and the nuthatches, the downy woodpeckers too. Not to mention the ducks.

Life goes on.

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A Winter Walk

What do you do when almost everything attractive is closed except the essentials which you’ve already stocked up for the next week or two? To the woods I go, to find relief for cabin fever and a breath of fresh air despite the crisp -12C (10F) weather on this winter day.

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

–– Robert Frost

Frost is right. A dust of snow can dispel a stuffy mood. Also birds, mosaic of dried leaves on the ground, wavy patterns of the icy river, chickadees and downies on branches are some other natural remedies.

Or this bluejay in the tree which occupied me for half an hour or so. Why, such a common bird, you might say. But for me, not so, not on a cold, winter day.


Or, this swirling pattern of frost on water, where I spotted a goldeneye swimming by, oblivious to the cold. Don’t see her? Right by the rock:


But it’s this scene that mesmerized me most, entry to an imaginary place, where the escapist in me can flee:

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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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Wintry but not bleak

Extreme cold warnings greeted the New Year in Toronto. A record low temperature was recorded on January 5, a frigid -23C (that’s -9.4F). I’m happy to say that I was there to experience such a newsworthy occasion during my stay over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Here are photos I took on that very day, January 5, 2018, witnessing an awesome sunrise over Lake Ontario. Wintry but not bleak:

Sunrise

Sunrise over Lk Ontario Jan 5.jpg

 

Inside it’s always warm. And on a cold day, looking out the window can be a meditative respite:

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Artist and writer William Kurelek (1927-1977) knew how to find pleasure in the cold. Why of course, he was born in Alberta, and spent his childhood years on the prairies:

Kurelek

 

As well, Shelley’s positivism is always a boost for me. No need to wait for the groundhog. “O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

No matter what the weather, it can still be it a worthwhile year.

 

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If Winter Comes, Can Spring be Far Behind?

The English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley holds one view common with Balzac Billy, our Alberta Groundhog: an early spring is on its way.

Not to rub it in, but we’ve been enjoying a relatively mild winter, even a record high on Jan. 25, when the temperature reached 17C (63F).

These photos were not taken right on that day, but they all show how our ducks and geese shrugged off the icy river, spread their wings and echoed Balzac Billy’s prediction.

Here they are mass sunbathing:

Mass Sunbathing

The Mallards show their true colours:

Mallards show their colours

Compared to the Mallards, the Buffleheads are smaller in size, and are distinctly more playful. Why wait for spring to make a splash?

Playful Buffleheads

or try walking on water:

Bufflehead walking on water

The Common Merganser stands out among the crowd with their long, red beaks and eggshell white lower body with a yellow glow:

Male Merganser stands out

But my fave is the female Merganser. I like her roll-out-of-bed hairdo and natural mascara. For some reasons, she makes me think of Lucillle Ball:

Lucille Ball Merganser

Nature’s hourglass, every drip brings us closer to Spring:

Nature's Hourglass

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads

All Photos in this post taken by Arti of Ripple Effects

Do Not Copy or Reblog

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Saturday Snapshot Feb. 7: Who’s Afraid of A Little Cold?

Dawn broke cold and misty. At -17C (0F) one would not expect too much activity in the early morning hour. So you can see I was surprised by this large gathering of Canada Geese. There must be a couple hundreds of them.

Dawn broke cold

Nothing has been added to these photos. I quite like the natural sepia look as the sun slowly broke through the mist and heavy clouds.

Can Geese

As I approached nearer, the more insecure ones started to fly away. But there were those who sat tight. Come what may, they enjoyed their hub in the frigid water.

Can Geese 2

Can Geese 4My fingers were frozen stiff and I could feel the intense pain, but I stayed still, seizing the moment. Glad too that they didn’t treat me as an intruder, just another creature more vulnerable to the cold, couldn’t fly or wouldn’t get into the water, totally harmless.

Canada Geese

Thanks pals, for the photo op.

Can Geese 3

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

Photos taken by Arti of Ripple Effects.

DO NOT COPY OR REBLOG

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Saturday Snapshot Dec. 21: Life in the Snow

I don’t have to dream of a white Christmas. I’m living it. Today is the first day of winter, but we already have a few blizzards, and record snowfall.

In June we had our hundred-year flood. And now we have our hundred-year snowfall. According to records, the last time we had this much snow in just 16 days was in 1901, 112 years ago.

You might think life is arduous up here, but I tell you, it can be idyllic. Except for the traffic jams in and out of shopping malls at this time of the year, we’re a relatively happy lot. What more, being so close to Nature, I’m always delighted to see how contented our neighbours in the wild are, oblivious to the hustle and bustle of the Season.

Here are some photos I took in the last few weeks.

Snow-covered river banks:

Snowcovered river bankProof of life (and I don’t think they’re all human footprints):

Proof of LifeDid they ever show you how to identify a Mallard’s track in scouting? No? Here it is:

Mallard's Footprints

Galore of duck activities:

Duck Activities

… or inactivity:

Penguins look-alikes

Icy landing:

Landing in the Icy Water

I was elated to see something else other than the common Mallard. At first I thought it was a Sandpiper, but when I checked in my bird book later at home, I learned that it was a Killdeer. Amazing, for they are supposed to be in the American south by now. Guess somebody wants to linger a while longer in the snow and ice:

Killdeer On Ice

Traffic jam in the sky. Not quite a perfect V? You have to cut them some slack, they are Mallards, not Canada Geese.

Traffic Jam in the Sky

A solitary walk for this buck crossing the icy river. No jam here:

Buck at the RiverAnd deep in the snow, a few good folks had left some bird seeds. For the Woodpecker, it’s always tempting to go for fast food rather than to peck wood, especially when there’s no line-up:

Fast Food for Woodpecker

What’s Christmas without a little snow?

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

All photos in this post are taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, December, 2013. DO NOT COPY OR REBLOG.

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Saturday Snapshot Jan. 26: Winter Birding

The sun and the birds are the main reasons for going into the woods in January. These are common birds for us, but catching a good photo of them is always a challenge. That’s when the common becomes a joy.

The Northern Flicker, I know where they hang out. And they’re not too hard to photo when perching or pecking.

Northern Flicker pecking

But what I’ve been aiming for is when they fly, I can shoot from below, for the orange underwing is beautiful. I’ve spent frustrating hours wading and standing in deep snow just to wait for such a moment. Here’s a semi-successful one.

Northern FlickerThis is my first photo of a Common Redpoll. Look at her demure pose.

Redpoll

This Red-Breasted Nuthatch is easy. She comes near me as if to greet a friend:

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

And for all ye squirrel lovers, here’s another one, too oblivious to be bothered by me taking pictures of her (him?) having breakfast. Look at the open mouth:

Squirrel at breakfast

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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 January 19

Winter in snow country. Here are some photos I took while trying out my new camera, a Nikon D5100. No editing has been done here, not even cropping.

I admit these are the more successful ones. There are lots that I’m not satisfied, with capturing light and focusing. Still figuring out how to use it, especially for birds. If you’re familiar with this camera, do let me know what’s the best settings for flying objects, identified or not.

Fences

Sunset at 4

Black-capped Chickadee

Squirrel

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: Life in the Snow

Some of you may still have roses in your garden and lush green lawn, but here in my neck of the woods, this is what we’re having… Exactly, with the snow falling.

Fish Creek ParkBut what did I find while birding recently? The woods teeming with life as in the summer sun. Take this buck, our curiosity is mutual:

Buck

Or this Blue Jay flying overhead:

Blue Jay flying overhead

This Pileated Woodpecker busy at work:

Pileated Woodpecker

Or this Black-capped Chickadee having fun:

Black-capped Chickadee

Or this Red-breasted Nuthatch lounging on two branches:

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Robins, Blue Jays, Finches… They don’t migrate, but stay put and enjoy life where they are, even in deep winter when temperatures can easily dip below -20C.  This is their hood.

It’s me who want to fly away to somewhere warm.

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. Do click on the link to explore snapshots from other bloggers.

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Winter Wonderland

I caught this lone cross-country skier on a frozen creek in snow country.  Let this be my Christmas card to all:

May your Christmas be as serene and exhilarating as this magical moment.



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And, thanks to a reader’s suggestion, may the following carol warm the winter chills and quiet the holiday frenzy.

‘In The Bleak Midwinter’

 

 

A Merry Christmas To All!

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Photo taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, December 2010, All Rights Reserved.