They are Back!
I was out and about doing errands and took off to a nearby park since it was close to the mall where I had been shopping. Enough errands, it was a gorgeous day outside and the temperature was in the teens. My rubber boots were not in the car which prohibited me from going closer to the water. A man with a camera passed me and asked what I ‘d seen. I replied ” just Chickadees and Blue Jays”. He told me he’d seen about 60 Canada Geese in Hawrelak Park. Off I went.
They congregate in these large puddles where the snow has melted and there was a Pair of Mallards there which is exciting when it is the first sighting this year. I arrived in time to see a male fly in from the area of the pond which happens to be iced over, and a vicious fight ensued. When all was calm everyone went back to their eating and I sat down, watched and took photos.Now that’s a good day. I will show you what other species I saw in the next posts.
This is why I had to shovel the snow from my car, so I could get to work and to my favourite places and see this Winter Wonderland.
Back to the World Final Triathlon in Edmonton that took place last weekend. It is over but I have been editing my photos.They love to be cheered on and the energy is infectious. In the mixed relay, each athlete swims 300 metres, runs to the transition area while taking off their wetsuits which is a feat in itself, mounts their bicycle for a 6.6 km bike course then runs for 1.6 km before returning to the water where they tag the next team member.
At the beginning of the relay race all the athletes start at the water together.
Here they have left the water and are on their way to the bikes.
Now they are getting on their bikes in the transition area.
After riding 6.6 km they return the bikes and start their run.
Then they return to the water area where they will tag their team mate.
Scenes from Summer
From a walk in nature the other day:
A Big Swallow
No, I am not talking about a large size of bird species, I am referring to the large chunks of bread that was thrown to the birds at the park. The people were happily feeding their feathered friends but I wonder if they would have shown some restraint if they saw this one struggling with its bounty.This young Ring-billed gull got the prize but I am curious what it was thinking as it seemed uncomfortable with the morsel it caught.Bread is not good for birds, but tell that to the birds, or to the people who feed them.
Some Close-ups of Babies at he Pond
First are the grown-up babies. I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Click to see enlargements.
A Trip back to the Old Park
Hawrelak Park has been getting excavations in readiness for the World Triathlon Event in August of this year.. For a long time the lake was drained so the bulldozers could deepen the depth and you may remember that I was somewhat distressed over what would happen to the ducks and geese as there was no place for them to swim or nest.
I went there for a visit in the early evening and was happy to see less poop so I could lie on the ground, also that a few geese thrived and raised their offspring. I have seen hundreds less of the fowl this summer, so was happy to see them again. It was funny, as I lay on the ground and said to the geese before me that it was nice to be able to lie down, when one let it fly out its butt. Oh well.
I walked around the lake and found quite a few Canada Geese, some Mallards,Wigeons, Cedar Waxwings and murders of Crows.The geese are mostly grown up but there were a couple of young duck families and the cuteness factor was in full force.
I have been getting physio for an old back pull and been getting extreme cramps in my legs (too much sitting) but the walk on Mother Earth did me good. My Heartsong was in full melody but I did start to feel pangs of frustration and resentment at seeing the old habits displayed,, that is, of the people with their loaves of bread feeding at the side of the water, so I left while I was still feeling happy. 😉
Here is a photo of a gaggle of geese walking across the lawn, with one running to catch up. Wait for me! Wait for me!
And a mother Mallard and her ducklings:
I was delighted to see this mother Wigeon and her brood:
There is more to come, from a crow chattering and cawing to its mates, observations of molt and young ones so cute it will make you laugh, smile or even say, “Aw-w-w-w…”
Yes, they have arrived. There they are in the puddles left from the melting snow amidst the heaps of earth dug up by graders and bulldozers. Behind fences. I stood on a picnic table to shoot over the fence to capture their images. I hear them as they fly over, honking in tandem and as they warn others to stay out of their territory on the water. With the digging and the the development of the pond for the games this summer I fear for the geese. They are resilient.
Early Signs of Spring
After hearing reports from south of the border and knowing better, I set out to Hawrelak Park regardless to see if there were any new birds arriving.The ponds have been fenced-in since last fall, drained and bull-dozed to make the depth of the water deeper for the Triathlon finals in August. I am sure some geese and ducks will return but whether they will stay, who knows. There will be the songbirds coming back too.It will be interesting to record in pictures but may have to set my sights further afield for good birding.
There is still snow to come and still lots in this park although there are definite signs of melt.
A couple of years ago the city allowed dogs in the park if they were kept on leash and stuck to the trails.Do not know that that is working very well there are a few people not observing the rules and I hope they don’t ruin it for everyone else. I had a photo but will spare you the graphic proof.
Heard the magpies, ravens, chickadees, nuthatches, waxwings and a real howl-fest from the coyotes across the river but none of the usual spring birds. I will keep on checking.
There are other early signs of spring that I took photos of, a reminder that some things never change.
Enjoy the Day!
Moments in the Season
There are so many wonderful colours this year due to heavy frosts, warm days and lack of wind so the leaves are brighter and staying longer. I have been playing with alternate ways of viewing and having fun.
Hanging Out with the Geese
The Canada Geese, like many other birds are getting ready for their long journey south. I have seen many flocks in their v-formations but this bunch seem to be enjoying the weather and relaxing by a city pond, now that the festivals and triathlons are at a lull.
I sat near a few without bothering them and after a while a couple of them came closer to where I was sitting to check me out.
Welcome Mallard Family!
Oh, they are so (yes, I will say it) cute! It gave me such joy to know that they escaped the duck police , as David referred to it. I enjoyed observing how the mother duck went over the barrier and when some were having difficulty she came back, herded them closer to the foam then pushed them up with her body until they could grab hold and scramble over. The male Mallard although not in the photo stays close by and guards the area, and if I am not mistaken, creates distraction when other s come too close.There are nine ducklings.
Get Rid of the Birds RANT
Something stinks in this city and it isn’t just bird poop.The City of Edmonton wants to get rid of the birds from its parks. Too much poop and it interferes with the public events and if we get a swimming pool or beach or restaurant (let’s develop the beautiful river valley and make it more people-friendly).
The skyline is going UP.
I agree, the poop is a large problem. The people are a large problem. We haven’t got the money to enforce the “no feeding” laws so the solution is to get rid of the birds.
A lot of people like to feed the geese and ducks and this in part has created huge over-population and bacteria problems. So the city and the University of Alberta have joined forces to deal with the problem. Not the problem of the people. The problem of the geese. And ducks Oh, and that pair of red-necked grebes that are nesting in Hawrelak park? Well that is a shame, isn’t it? Tsk. Tsk.
We all have to listen to the annoying recordings of stressed chicks, cries of raptors, etc. – that doesn’t fool any of us, bird or human.The university is bringing a black lab to chase the geese after sunset and shining green lazers on the islands and shores.Now THAT must be working. I have not seen one offspring this year.
Unnatural behaviour of the birds crowding the edge to feed. The blue is a wake board that has been discarded.On the notice that was posted recently, it says that it is humane. I don’t buy that. I phoned the city to complain about the lack of enforcement. I encounter dog poop on the trails and wildlife harassment from these pets that are running loose. A couple of years ago the laws allowed dogs in the park, on lese and on-trail only. Well, that’s a joke.Though there is lots of poop from the geese, now there is poop from the dogs on the trail and I see so much garbage left behind from the humans.it is hard to take a photo without garbage in it.
There is over population-people are not supposed to feed the birds. But as you see in these photos there is total disregard for the signs. they sit in front of the signs and feed the birds little knowing that this behaviour is the cause of the over-population and the poop and of the movement to chase the birds away.
After reading the sign I approached people like a mad middle-aged woman that I am, yelling about how the city hates the ducks and geese.They laughed at me and said “oh ya, we hate the geese”. as they threw bread to them. (I was acting crazy, I was crazy with grief over the loss of green space in this city and the wildlife within its boundaries) Last year when I kindly told a man that bread is bad for them. he replied that I was a know-it-all, that these geese are his “friends” and he fed them whole grain bread because it was better for them. He also told me to f-off.
Some of the people that come to the park say they like the geese. You are killing them with your kindness. Yes there are lots, they will never be extinct this year.. One generation lost at this park won’t make a big dint. One person feeding isn’t a big deal . But when you multiply that by hundreds it is a big deal.
I phoned the city number for animal control that was listed on the U of A sheet and the person that i spoke to didn’t realize the city number for animal control is on the sheet and said that she did not realize the full extent of the actions that the university was taking.When I talked to someone at the university they said the goal of the city is to chase the fowlaway from the parks.
I asked why there was no enforcement by the by-law officers. There are, but there are only two for all the parks in the city and more are being trained for the summer months. I am not sure what I believe.I have had an inkling that the city wanted to chase the birds away since I saw the fake coyotes last year before the big triathelon and heard talk of beaches and swimming pools.
Gosh, just think, if the city enforced the park by-laws, this may be a good way to keep some of the geese and ducks, hire staff to educate families about nature and gee, it might even be a good way to raise money for the new hockey arena that is costing billions.
First Blush of Spring
It is refreshing to see the grass turning green and the leaves unfurling from the buds. The temperature is warm and hearts are light.It seems like spring is late but photos from a couple of years ago tell me that the ice was on the pond until the end of April. Perhaps it seemed like such a long winter because it always is here in Central Alberta with six months of snow.
Today is a celebration of spring. The birds are mating, including a pair of red-necked Grebes and during an early morning walk at the pond I heard my first warbler and saw it too, although way high up in the trees.My heart sang to hear the call of the Yellow-Rumped Warbler, though this was a “Myrtle rather than the usual Audobon’s variety.
Spring-When It Changes, the Changes are Big
My winter boots are still on the carpet by the door. I used my winter coat just a week ago. I wrote about the ice on my most frequented pond last week.It looked dismal then but now it looks absolutely fabulous! I got away with jeans and a t-shirt yesterday and it was HOT-definitely shorts weather. It is as if we have moved right into summer but after a delay Spring has arrived in Alberta, with the wooden stems on the bushes turning bright red and yellow and the buds are just starting to open. I can smell the earth and the woods and the smoke from the barbeques.
The pond is alive and well with the sight and sound of Canada geese, Lesser Scaups, Common Goldeneyes, Mallards, a Muskrat, Red-necked Grebe, American Wigeons and a couple of young women in bikinis.
Sorry, no bikinis here, just the birds. Oh, I am so in my element! I found ducks and geese right at the waters edge nesting, with the male a short distance away guarding the female.I was impressed with the camouflage, was very close before I saw them until the gander or drake appoached me and quacked or hissed and I backed off , respectfully. The geese were staking out their territory and all were displaying breeding behaviour, a few nesting on the two islands but a couple right beside the walking path.
Here are some shots that I got. Sometimes the light was harsh and I tried to get partially in the shade or with the sun behind me.First the Lesser male and female Scaups. Local naturalists John Acorn and Chris Fisher, in the field guide “Birds of Alberta” describe the male scaup as looking” like an oreo cookie, black at both ends with white in the middle.”
Male Lesser Scaup
Female Lesser Scaup
Nicely -camouflaged Female Mallard Duck
Resting but attentive male Mallard
Male Common Goldeneye Rising in the water
Female Goldeneye Take-Off
Talking Female Mallard
A Canadian Goose Chase
American Crows are Back
Male American Wigeon (did not see any females)
So nice to have Spring come back. I am curious to see when the babies will hatch this year and when I will see the first warblers.Happy shooting, everyone!
A Way to Go Yet
I had my first bicycle ride yesterday-it was sunny and somewhat warm but got cooler and very overcast. That is when I decided to go to Hawrelak Park to see how the ice was melting. After being at Hermitage (where the ponds are clear) I was shocked to see the pond mostly frozen.I feel sorry for the ducks and geese-they look somewhat forlorn but those may be my projections. See for yourself.
Though I did get to see a couple of “firsts” for the year, including this pair of “Common Goldeneye ducks.
and this male American Widgeon.
I enjoyed watching these two Mallards come to a puddle beside my car and took these photos out the side window.They didn’t fly away and I stayed in the car to give them space and take photos then slowly opened the door and quietly got out. They walked around the car and back onto the lawn without panic. To give you an idea of how overcast it was my settings were: 1/20 sec; f/6.3,ISO 400 exposure comp .7 stepFinally, here is a shot of a goose that expresses the mood of the pond.
Yes, this too, shall pass.
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.
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.
Seasons of a Tree at Hawrelak Park
I love this park just southwest of the downtown area. I can come here and get my nature fix and let go of stress of schedules and rush. While I have taken literally thousands of photos of birds here, I also spend time photographing the scenery, usually at hours that are not overrun by people and the garbage that they leave lying around.
This is my favourite tree in the park at least one that I almost always see and look at, and photograph often. Here are are photos of the tree in the four seasons.I don’t even know what kind of tree it is, I think cherry. It is a favourite of many birds, especially the chickadees and waxwings.
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.
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.