Focusing on the Muskrat
I posted one photo of the muskrat and someone commented that it looked like a beaver-i thought so too when I first saw it because it was big.It is not actually a rat but is a rodent in the same family as lemmings and voles. People have traditionally trapped the muskrat for its fur. They can grow to be two feet long including their rat-like tail. There were a pair of them at the pond and they were swimming back and forth. At one point this one came out of the water to munch on fresh shoots, keeping some distance but obviously enjoying its snack to be too concerned with me.
I realise this does not belong to the rat family and a good thing.Did you know that the province of Alberta has zero tolerance for rats and people actually shoot them at the border, although once in a while there is an outbreak, such as last year when someone let a few loose.in southern Alberta and quick action was taken to get rid of them.
Urge to Merge
The splashing in the last post did not stop there. While i was distracted by the reflections and geese drinking at the edge of the puddle, I heard a big splash and saw that two were copulating. I was focused on keeping them in the frame and did a good job, in my opinion. Just when you are not looking, they are at it.This is the same gander that was splashing earlier.
If explicit content bothers you, don’t look.
Spring Flowers and More
Ii had to share some photos from our camera club’s last outing. We visited a greenhouse which was such a joy when all we have been getting is snow the last few weeks but it is melting and today it is actually raining! Amazing variety of things at the greenhouse both plants and gift ware. Another reason to celebrate:it is my 300th blog!
I watched as a pair of geese on the pond walked together toward some others on the boardwalk. When they got about ten feet away the hissing started and the chase would begin, sometimes scaring a goose and gander off sometimes resulting in an all- out fight. During these little battles there is a lot of wing flapping and honking and it gets very noisy and sometimes quite aggressive as I will show here in some poor but descriptive shots. I even got hissed at as the fighting spread out and got closer but I was a safe distance staying directly out of their business.
These two have come off the pond and are heading for the others which is causing some fuss with the raised wings and honking.
At this point other confrontations are going on between geese out of the picture frame, about four to six pair, hard to tell when you are almost in the middle of it.
One has left and rushing forward with head down and bodies are scattering.
Then it looks like the one has backed off and is hissing at another goose , or pair of geese, on the left.
I am not sure who is whom but the two by the bench are intertwining their necks and one has hold of the other’s shoulder.
Of the two who were seriously engaged in aggressive behaviour, one is flying out of reach and the females are hissing at each other, or at least I think it is the females..
Now, are these two fighting, or are they mating?
The two must be stressed and feeling tense as they walk away hissing at other geese.
Now it is my turn to get hissed at. I did take a step back.
Still weary but settling down as they sculk away..
If you have any comments on their behaviour, please do so. I find their behaviour fascinating.I wonder if they will try this again because there are woods just off the path and may be a good spot to nest – but this time , the others weren’t having any of it. Next post i am going back in time to just before the entry from the pond when this couple were displaying what I believe is a courtship ritual.
The Canada Geese are trickling back and I was observing some arrivals in Central Alberta. They are often paired off and sometimes fly in perfect synchronicity. Here are some of the arrivals:
It is fun to see them fly in, sometimes in groups, sometimes in pairs, usually honking back and forth to one another.even in flight. Some of these photos look like one is giving the other directions.There is lots of snow but also open water and I am looking forward to getting lots of practise panning their flight as well as recording their behaviour on the ground.
Shapes as Part of a Design
I am talking about organic shapes here but the theory works with man-made shapes as well. Repetition of shapes can unify a composition, for example, series of clouds, a group of buildings, bushes, rocks. Repetition would be boring if it was all the same but repetition with variety makes a picture interesting.
Here is a photo of a tree. Just one tree in the foreground but the upward turn of the branches, which are repeated in themselves, are also repeated in the clouds. The bushes in the distance give balance to the overall picture.
The repetition of round shapes of the snow helps to pull this shot of bushes together.The snow amongst the busy lines gives the viewer’s eye a place to rest while travelling throughout the picture plane.
The next photo demonstrates a strong figure/ground relationship or the positive/negative space in your photo. The positive space would be the object. The negative space is what shape or shapes are around it. Both are important and help balance each other.
And a photo of repeated shapes again. There is repetition of the shapes yet variety so it does not become boring. There are a lot of triangles in the water, sky and mountain combined with the round shapes in the clouds and the little island.
Next time you go out just sit and look at a scene and look at the shapes. Look at whether they are singular, or repeated, large or small. See how the shapes work with other shapes and other elements of design, such as lines. Look at the big picture and look at the small intimate places as well.You might see things a bit differently.Now pick up your camera.
More Birds from Last Week
While I take a break from shovelling the snow from around the car -at least one foot of it – I would like to share some photos of the birds that I saw near the feeders at Hawrelak Park in the last week.
The first few were shot using Aperture Priority, the woodpecker in Shutter priority and the squirrel in Manual mode. I have been experimenting with modes, departing from using my usual manual mode because sometimes the birds move so fast or the light changes so quickly that one less button to adjust might come in handy. It is nice to have a narrow depth of field but more likely that parts of the bird will be out of focus when it is moving so much so better to shut down the aperture somewhat from f/6 to f/8. I find too, that being zoomed- in totally gives me a better chance of losing parts of the planned composition.When I need the fast shutter speed I turn up the ISO. Live and learn.What mode do you shoot birds in?
Mostly I like to get a shot of a bird when it lands on a branch before or after going to the feeder but in the case of the Red-breasted Nuthatch, it was too well-hidden in the branches and very evasive.
There was a White-breasted Nuthatch.
as well as a Red-breasted Nuthatch. I once had one of these land in my hand while I was feeding the chickadees.
Some Common Redpolls:
and a few Black-Capped Chickadees. Although I can not see this one’s face, I like seeing how it holds the seed between its feet so it can break the husk off.
Here is a different view of a Hairy Woodpecker feeding at the suet feeder:
and one with a Chickadee flying away that has no still, in-focus parts, but I like the action:
And of course, though it is not always welcome, I had to include a Red Squirrel. Took this shot using manual mode and do admit is is somewhat over-exposed in spots:
I am looking forward to going back to the park but first need to dig myself out. Usually there is lots of activity at the feeders after a big snowfall.
Come for a Walk with Me
I said yesterday that we were getting a storm last night. Oh yes, we sure did and it is still falling steadily. I took one shot this morning through the basement window, using Shaun’s ( a friend) settings that he had for snow plus some others.
I get a bread bag, put my camera inside and cut a hole for the lens to poke through. I don’t want anything else getting wet and possibly damaging the camera. I put on my big boots, the ones that are higher and I can tuck my pants into. I think it is a perfect day to shoot the falling snow and I can see what everything looks like.Why don’t you join me?
My car looks like the photos from the other day, sleeping under a blanket of the white stuff. We greet my neighbour and ask if I can take his photo. He actually stops shovelling and smiles for me and we agreed that we could use the snow for a hopefully raised water table. We also agree that we will need to shovel two or three times to keep up with what is still coming down.
Then I took a photo of the street. Visibility is poor and you can’t see into the valley.
I find the signs on the bike lanes a bit ironic, although I am sure I could find a die-hard cyclist somewhere in this city with studded tires and persistent will in the midst of all this.
I take another shot looking the other way. I find this so exciting – it is not often that I get out with the camera when the snow is falling so hard!
Around another corner I see a man with a snowblower. I pass him and turn around and “Snap”.
Although the driving is treacherous, there are a lot of people in their cars.I help one fellow who is stuck. I am about to help push, then he asks if I can drive standard and I can, so I get in his car. He is yelling ” Drive fast” but I drive gently and steady because there is ice underneath and that is probably what caused him the problem in the first place. We get the car moving forward to a level spot with the two fellows pushing from behind. Were you one of them? It feels good to be helpful.
I take a few more photos just because it is so pretty.
If you were with me in person I would say ” why don’t you come in, kick the snow off your boots and stay for a coffee.”
Maybe you are having a coffee. I am going to take a break before I go out again. Next time I will leave the camera indoors and take the shovel with me. I do want to thank you for coming for a walk around the neighbourhood. I know that I enjoyed it!
It’s Spring! Ya-hooo!
I have to change my tag from winter to spring and do not mind at all. I admit I forgot that it is the first day of Spring today but I was thinking how nice and warm and sunny it is, despite the snow. On the streets it is melting, however another snowstorm is expected tonight. I went skiing in the park and x-country conditions are excellent! The squirrels, which were hiding a few days ago, are very busy running about and chasing each other and I saw my first Canada Goose but couldn’t capture a shot. Life is good!
Pileated Woodpecker – the Prize for Me
I like to photograph birds and the Downy and the Hairy are great finds as are the yellow-shafted flicker and the sapsucker (more of a rarity) but I always get excited when I spot the Pileated Woodpecker and even more happy when I can get a good shot of one. They are the largest woodpecker in North America and are about sixteen inches from head to tail. Two days ago I was near the feeders when a black shape flew by and I could hear a deep loud sound of wings.I looked in the direction it flew and sure enough, it was the pileated woodpecker. This time it was a male, with the extra red stripe under its bill and a larger top knot than the female. it was making a late afternoon visit to the feeders to dine on suet.
It stayed to feed on suet then took off to a higher perch where I heard it pounding away at the trunk of a mostly dead tree. I followed it and even got a couple of photos before it flew it’s undulating flight pattern to a stand of trees further away. It only takes a few minutes for them to make these deep holes in the tree and when you are in the woods and see trees full of these squared-off holes, it is a good sign the pileateds are around. Often Owls will nest in these holes.
It is often too high up or far away to get a good shot, or obscured by many branches. I sometimes see the pair of them together on the same tree. Maybe there will be young ones to come. Regardless, this day was a good one for this photographer.
Everyone is Talking About Spring
As I write this, I hear the snow blower outside my window and I see a fresh blanket of beautiful white so I will hold off on celebrating spring but hope for the day when it does arrive. I feel excited to read posts by my southern neighbours who are spotting new birds or even a flash of green and I tell myself to be patient.
We have a bit of snow from the last two days when at first I holed up in my home, not wanting to go out. Then I took some photos of my car with the flakes draped over my car in an artistic way, created by the wind. I shovelled a lot to make more space for my car and the one beside me. What the heck I actually enjoyed the exercise.That is good because there is more shovelling to be done, it is still snowing.
After digging around the car, I drove to Hawrelak Park where I do a lot of birding. I spotted a brown creeper and took some shots and found the chickadees puffed up to keep warm. I even took some extra seed with me because they need to feed constantly to keep warm.
This one seems to be a regular at this spot. I had a slow shutter speed and it isn’t as sharp as I would like.
But there is a bit o’ green in the midst of all this – Happy St Patrick’s Day! Wish you all well.
It pays to look through your camera. I was so caught up with this squirrel’s behaviour that I forgot to take a photo in the earlier seconds.They would have been priceless photos.
What happened: I saw a squirrel on top of the bird feeder, nothing new, except this one ‘s head was drooped and was starting to lean forward as if he was “nodding off.” I walked closer and saw that he was doing just that , then spoke to him and he jerked and sat up straight, then he stretched his front feet downward in a big stretch while giving a big yawn, pink tongue showing.
Those were the photos I missed but I like to affirm, or rationalize that I was living in “the moment”. I did click a few more which I will share here:
Nodding off again…
aware that I am present…
succumbing to sleep…
wide-eyed and awake. Now leave me alone!
Today I Took the Time
Today I took the time to sleep in a few more minutes, just enough to finish a pleasant dream, I stopped to pray and breathe in the breath of God, to sit in the stillness and ponder the wonder of being one with all of creation and to give thanks. I prayed for a friend who is having difficulty and saw them in a higher light and let go of a resentment. I enjoyed my cup of coffee and had one more.I ate good food and squeezed in a little cheesecake delicacy. I read a chapter of “The Tiger” a book by John Vaillant from the reading club. I read my email and Facebook and WordPress blogs, inspired by people’s skills, stories and visions. I checked job notices sent to my inbox and sorted the wheat from the chaff, or should I say, the ridiculous. I sent requests for jobs from home in order to save energy that could be burned up by attending classes. I picked up the phone and talked to friends. I am going outdoors now to breathe fresh air and exercise unused muscles . But first I leave a parting shot. Even I do not know what it is going to be yet.
Enjoying the Temperatures
We have been blessed with warmer than usual weather this fall and I am still wearing shorts most days. The colours are great and starting to see the red of the bushes as well as the yellow aspens.Maybe I will find a red maple somewhere, must admit that I miss the glorious display of colours from the east, particularly Ontario where I grew up. I am lucky because I can appreciate the beauty wherever I am. The following was taken on my walk last weekend then added paint strokes in Corel Paintshop Photo Pro x3 . Thinking of all of you and wish you a joyful, nature-immersed weekend.
From Birds to Butterflies
I have been reading a lot of blogs that have mentioned, and seen for myself, the scarcity of sightings of our fine feathered friends. They are laying low, bringing up their young and perhaps molting. The festivals in the city with the noise and crowds seem to make the birds disappear, as least temporarily. I can’t blame them but I did notice as soon as the last festival ended and people were doing tear-down, the gulls arrived in hoards to take advantage of the pickings.
When the bird sighting numbers lower in July, I see a lot of my birding friends change their sights to the butterflies and flowers. I tend to focus on the butterflies more because they are so beautiful. It seems they perch on the flowers a little longer towards the latter part of the day. This one at Elk Island National Park was sighted about a week ago and stopped on the bench of a picnic table. I do not know the identity as I have not bought a bug book yet or borrowed one from the library-that will more than likely occur at some point in the future. Your expertise is welcome; if you know what it is, feel free to comment.
Hand-held at 300mm, 1/40 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200
Another Photo from Horseshoe Lake
I loved this spot. It was a reminder of the rocks that I knew in Ontario in cottage country. They were rough precambian shield, that would toast your body from the heat that reflected off them. I took the time in the present to sit and absorb the heat because it was a hot day, or at least felt like it after sleeping in a tent for the night. I looked at the aqua water and smelled the pine and spruce and listened to the warblings of the birds. People were actually jumping off the cliffs into the water-glacier-fed lakes in the mountains in May. Br-r-r-! I chuckled as I heard the screams as they hit the water. Oh yes, I remember.
Older and more sensible now. Ha! Maybe.
I may come back here in the future at a different time of day and in different light when the reflections and the rocks are hard to distinguish one from the other.But for now I will post another shot of this stunning location. Enjoy!
Horseshoe Lake Jasper NP
I decided to rendezvous with the other members of the Edson Photography Club at the Snaring River campground in Jasper National Park this past weekend. There is a lot of talent in this club that I initially joined when I lived in Edson but rejoined when I attended a workshop with Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou hosted by the club last fall. I slept in my tent and must admit it was chilly at zero and even moved to a friend’s trailer the first night but stayed in my tent the second night just to prove that I could do it. I have never camped this early in the year nor in bear country until now. Just a few showed up but we had a good time at the scenic spots and even met a traveller who spotted us with our cameras and joined us at the campground and on outings… It was very warm on Saturday which got the kinks out from the cold evening before and we visited roadside reflecting pools, Horseshoe Lake and Athabasca Falls before returning to the campground for steaks provided by the club and potluck-delicious! Will post my photos from Sunday’s stops on the slow way home via Maligne Lake and roadside stops in future blogs.
I saw a white-breasted Nuthatch recently while chasing the warblers and it was not in a tree where I usually see them but was feeding on the ground.These creatures are smart; observed one take a peanut, wedge it in between the ridges of the bark of a tree trunk and once secured, broke the shell open.This photo is getting posted because it appears to be the best. We had a couple of days of rain which mostly kept me indoors and am looking forward to getting out birding again but need to take my car to the garage . If I get it in early it may allow me time to go to the park. No more procrastination.
Pelicans and Swallows and Ducks, Oh My!
I drove to the Red Deer area in the middle of the province of Alberta and headed to the sloughs and ponds in the conservation areas with a friend. Sometimes we came up with nothing and other times we found a rich supply of nature’s best. Shot everything with my Sigma 70-300 mm zoom lens with a macro feature between 200 and 300 mm but it was very windy so there was a lot of camera shake even using my cable shutter release.Tried a lot of modes just to brush up on my skills: TV,AV,Manual, Sports…yes cheated on that last one. Following are photos of the American White Pelican, Tree Swallow, Cinnamon Teal and Blue-Winged Teal.
Skimming across the Waters
I heard the sound of rushing water first, in a sporadic burst, then quiet, then the rush repeated.I looked up and out in the lake were a group of ducks. One would fall behind a bit then almost “run” across the water and catch up to the group. Then one or another would fall back and the catch-up was repeated. I believe one female was in the group, maybe it was to gain her attention. fascinating to watch and had its comical aspects. I have witnessed this a couple of times now. Though it is a distant shot, the photo speaks for itself. After getting home I looked it up in the field guide and realised they are Red-breasted Mergansers, not the Common as I had first thought. Enjoy!
It is not really called Pelican Bay but this is where you find them in Elk Island National Park. Took these at Astotin Lake. Couldn’t get very close but enjoyed their graceful flight and watching as the group stirred the waters and the others fed.
Red – Winged Blackbird
I drove outside of the city to Big Lake in St. Albert in the golden glow of early evening. A highway was built through this sanctuary a couple of years ago(somebody’s bright idea) and I had to cross it to get to the lake but at least it was accessible and did find out from one couple that there is another route that goes under the highway bridge so I will try when I go back . After crossing the highway and before the lake there is a boardwalk that meanders over a wetland area. This place is teaming with life,especially red-winged blackbirds, a couple of dozen at least. They are resplendant in their breeding plumage and displaying their colours as well as singing their hearts out. Did not see one female, nor did I see any yellow-headed blackbirds (thought I heard one) but did see some Common Grackles, Crows, nesting Canada Geese, one American Coot and a couple of beaver. Did not get many shots, the tripod was more of a nuisance at times with the wind and though there were dozens of birds, they kept their distance and few to another perch after displaying. This was fun to watch but a little frustrating after getting so close to the tamer ones in the city park. I wondered why there weren’t more ducks but oh yes, it is still only April not mid-May, but I will keep checking.Maybe I will return today-it is beautifully sunny and I can use a fast shutter speed and forgo the tripod, although it is a good chance to use the tripod and my new cable shutter release. But for now, I will publish these shots that I did get ,and some are cropped.