Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Hiker

A hiker's shadow displayed against a granite outcropping
near a lake in the Halifax, Nova Scotia area.

(Photo courtesy r.wms)

Click for more shadow shots! 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Late Winter Action


Yesterday was a beautiful late winter, almost spring, day in Cape Breton.  The temperatures hovered around the 32 degree mark, but the skies were clear and windless. Checking out the windows all day has become an obsession, looking for FOY birds to arrive.  My binoculars live beside my sewing machine as I stitch and watch the feeders out back in the rock garden through the sliding glass door.

Here's a shot of one of my birdfeeders that hangs from the front porch, with the small island in view across the harbor.  This winter, American Goldfinch were the only permanent visitors to the feeders.  They are always a delight, and are now beginning to change back to their lemon yellow color.  It appears as though they are wearing yellow scarves around their neck, the first place to show the change. I love to step out the door to hear them chattering away, every once in awhile I hear, "j'eet?  no, j'u?"  At any given time, there are 20 or 30 flitting around the property and their delicate little vocalizations fill the air.

American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) are late nesters, not even beginning to nest
until midsummer.  They plan it just right so the thistle and weeds are ready to go to
seed when it's time to feed those babies! 

Too far away to photograph, the pair of resident adult eagles were perched in one of those trees straight ahead on the island.  I was drawn to the scope and checked over and over again as they sat there for hours, until someone onn an ATV accessed the island at low tide and scared them off.

There were 8 male red-breasted mergansers and 3 black guillimots 
feeding in the harbor this morning,
 which I did attempt to take photos of, but they were just too far away!
I wandered down to the shore and sat for a long time, 
drinking in the calm and tranquil early morning.
This morning dawned calm and clear as well, the surface of the water 
in the harbor as smooth as glass.
A quick scan with the scope revealed 5 red-breasted mergansers,  
4 males, 1 female.
The males were "strutting their stuff"!
According to Kenn Kaufman's Lives of North American Birds, 
during courtship the "male stretches his neck forward and upward, 
then suddenly dips his neck and the forepart of his body underwater, 
with head angled up out of the water and bill wide open."  

And that's exactly what they were doing!!!  
Skimming the surface, darting and chasing each other away,
circling the female while trying so hard to make an impression,
  THE impression - "Pick me!  Pick me!",
 back and forth in the middle of the harbor.
This display is called a "salute curtsy".  
It was so comical and truly amazing to watch.

Any attempt to walk closer only causes them to swim away.
I wish I had a big, fancy camera!

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Whale's Tale

Last summer, my longtime friend and mentor brought me a gift.  He has been a Rangerii canadensis (I call him The Ranger) for several years and has a plethora of natural history artifacts that he has collected during his reign while roaming the prairies, forests, and shorelines.  Sometimes he gets an inkling that I might delight in possessing some of his treasures, and he is always right!

This particular day, he showed up with the vertebrae of a whale,
 which makes quite the conversation piece in my livingroom.  
What woman could turn THAT down?  
There is little to show for scale in this picture, 
but it reaches the windowsill, 
which is 33.5" from the floor, and it spans 36" in width.  
Not too shabby.  
It is pockmarked with age 
and has a bit of a common yellow lichen growing on it, as you can see.  
What stories could it tell,
I wonder?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Twice Blessed

Upon rising, I was greeted with a perfectly stunning day, the first since my return to the island 2 1/2 weeks ago.  With a steaming, hot cup of coffee in hand, I bounded out the back door to find that although the temperature was only in the 20's (F), it was a day made to order.  The sky was a promising blue, the air saturated with the aroma of the sea, four male red-breasted mergansers trolled the harbor looking for tasty treats (too far in the distance for photographs), and the cacophony of bird chatter was almost deafening in the silence of the early morning.  Does it get any better than this?

Well, when I next did a quick check of my e-mail, I found that my blog had been awarded the Sunshine Award by Inverness Daily Photo!  I was being twice blessed! A huge, heartfelt thanks is certainly in order here!! 

Now, here are the rules for accepting this award:
  • Put the logo on your blog or within your post
  • Pass the award onto 12 bloggers
  • Link the nominees within your post
  • Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog
  • Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.
One reason I feel receiving an award such as this is important is that it gives me the opportunity to share blogs that I covet with others.  The difficulty lies in selecting only 12.  Yes, that's right, I follow many more blogs than 12!  From birds to bugs, to other wildlife, to quilts, to history, to art, to photography - any opportunity to learn more about the things that interest me!

Be sure to visit:

 3.  SusanBethStudio
 4.  JRandSue
 5.  Desert Colors
 6.  The Early Birder
 7.  Hasty Brook
 8.  Count Your Chicken! We're Taking Over!
 9.  Traveling with Eileen
10.  My Life as a Crafting, Searching, Saving StepMonster (Fabulous 'give-away" opportunity!)
11.  West Country Birding and Wildlife Diary
12.  Nature of  a Man

Well, there you have it!  It has taken me the better part of the day to get this far, now I have to share with these 12! It was a difficult choice.

Thanks again to Inverness Daily Photo.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

I have made my return journey to my island retreat in Cape Breton, a little early this year, and the weather has been uninspiring.  It's too cold and windy to venture out of doors, camera in hand, just yet.  So, today I am posting one of the photos I took from my front deck during last summer.

There is a small fisherman's wharf, as you can see, which has since been reconstructed and no longer has open sides!  This handsome devil found refuge while hunting a tasty treat in the shallows!

Here he is a little closer up.

Across this small harbor sits a small island, 2 km long by 500 m wide, 
which is thickly forested in spruce and fir.  
The far end of the island hosts a heron rookery, and they are daily visitors to the shores nearby.
I imagine there is more than one rookery around.  
It's nothing to see 20 or 30 heron at one time
 hunting in the shallows and mudflats during low tide.

I think the funniest moment was while gazing out across the harbor, reveling in my good fortune at being here, a small flock of herons flew in and landed in the trees.  I thought, no way can those tree branches support such a large bird as that!  They range from 42" - 52" tall!

It amazes me, too, that at night when I am sitting on my front porch admiring the stars and enjoying the calm, I'll hear a deep, harsh croak and realize there is a heron hunting in the dark right in front of me!  They  hunt day or night!  I wonder if they take turns?

I'm glad to know that the numbers of Great Blue Herons are stable
and they'll be around for us to observe and enjoy for a long time.  

I look forward to the warmer summer months when my neighbors return!

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