Saturday, May 28, 2016

Through the Mountains

We are on the move again.  Left Saskatoon yesterday morning, camped at Fernie last night. Drove through a brief but crazy hail storm near Lethbridge and through clouds and rain most of today. Grabbed a couple of photos out the car window at a stop for road construction.

cloud covered mountains

And had to pull over to take a few more photos of the snow covered trees. It might be summer down low, but up high it still looked like winter.

road through snowy trees

Had to stop again for the reflections in a small lake.

trees reflected in lake

trees reflected in lake

There were lots more interesting visuals with the clouds swirling around the mountains, but if I stopped every time I saw something interesting we'd never get anywhere!

For more of these, see all 7 photos as a slideshow or overview

Thursday, May 26, 2016


I was walking along the river, heading for the keynote of the Nature City Festival. The baby gophers (ground squirrels) are newly emerged and they are always so cute - curious and less afraid than the adults. So I was upset to shortly after see signs warning that the city had once again been out poisoning the ground squirrels. Of course, they don't talk about poisoning and killing. They spin it as "control", which sound much more positive. And of course, we love to think nature is something we can "control" and "manage". 

If it was a ball diamond or playing field they'd at least have some justification. But this is a narrow strip of grass half way down the river bank. It's not a groomed lawn. It's not in front of a fancy building, it's not even in front of a house. Regardless of the gophers it's rough ground.  (This is just north of the Broadway Bridge, on the East side of the river.)

This is poison that kills small animals. So it's going to kill mice and voles and shrews as well as gophers. And then it'll end up on the systems of the foxes and coyotes and hawks and crows. And the rest will wash into the river and from there who knows where. 

I'm sure the manufacturer will tell you it's safe. Given the history of pesticides I wouldn't put too much faith in that. For example, check out this article from High Country News. Rozol doesn't sound like a pleasant chemical, nor does it even sound like the best option.

If I had kids, I don't think I'd want this stuff around. And I've seen numerous people walking their (often small) dogs along here. I can't imagine the poison is too healthy for them either.

So given all the downsides and risks there must be a highly important reason to be doing this. Surely the city isn't doing it just because ... it's what they do? Our roots may be in agriculture, and farmers might be in the habit of killing gophers (and coyotes and beavers and whatever else they might imagine gets in their way). But this isn't a farm, it's the city riverbank. And we don't have any horses or cattle to worry about breaking their legs in a gopher hole. 

So much for "nature city".

Monday, May 23, 2016

Pelicans at the Weir

Saturday morning, when I took the Blossoms and Bugs photos, I also took my long lens in hopes of getting a few shots of the pelicans, since there have been lots of them around, as there were that morning. There was a group on a sandbar out in the middle of the river busy preening.

White pelicans

White pelicans

Pelicans are one of the biggest North American birds, depending on how you measure. They have the second longest wingspans, next to the California condors, which gives them great soaring abilities.

They come to the weir to feed, but often only a few will be actually feeding. The rest will just be hanging out, often on the end of the big sandbar above the weir, or on the smaller sandbar below. They seem to tolerate people fairly well, even the people fishing right beside the weir (where they're not supposed to). Sadly, I have seen a couple of pelicans entangled in fishing line as a result.

There weren't enough of them feeding to get in a circle like they sometimes do.

White pelicans

White pelicans

I think it looks like this next one got a fish.


White pelicans

Most of them had the "horns" that they develop in breeding season. The ones without I'm guessing are juveniles?

These were taken with the Nikon D7200, Sigma 150-600 Contemporary, and Jobu Designs gimbal head and monopod. It was a nice sunny morning so most of these are at 1/1000 sec.

With this post I'm finally caught up on processing and posting photos, thankfully!

For more of these, see all 11 photos as a slideshow or overview

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Blossoms and Bugs

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
- Henry David Thoreau

flowering trees

Saturday mornings we go to the farmers market, but I left the house early and walked down to the weir with my camera to get in a bit of photography beforehand. I had a limited amount of time, but that was just as well because I've been taking a lot of photos lately and it's hard to keep up with the processing.

The peak of the flowering trees has passed (the photo above is a week old), but the Caragana bushes are still colorful. They're not native but they're still pretty.


There were a surprising number of spiders around. This guy seemed a little gangly with his long legs pointing every which way.


This next one was a fluke. I saw the bee and went to photograph it, but when I realized it was dead I stopped after taking a single shot. But viewing it on the computer I understood why it was dead. Even in this closeup the crab spider is well camouflaged. (see The Spider and the Fly for some previous crab spider photos) I was lucky that the single shot turned out reasonably well.

crab spider with meal

What I'd actually come to photograph was the flowering wolf willow (the background for the last few shots). It was a hard to get good photos since most of the bushes were covered with spider webs (or tent caterpillar web?). And it was quite windy so the bushes were waving around.

Wolf Willow flowers

Wolf willow (or silverberry) isn't actually a willow at all. It's related to olive trees. The fruits and seeds are edible and quite nutritious, and a food source for birds and deer, elk, and moose.

Wolf Willow flowers

I took a few more dandelion photos. At first glance I was ready to discard this one as out of focus, but I decided I quite liked the effect.

dandelion seeds

For more of these photos see all 15 as a slideshow or overview

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Birds on the River

We got out on the river in our kayaks last weekend. I had already taken lots of photos over the previous few days and was still behind in processing them so I didn't grab my camera. But Shelley immediately said, "Where's your camera? You'll be sorry if you don't bring it." She was right, so I ran and got it and the big lens (since birds were the most likely subject). She probably regretted it shortly afterwards since she ended up having to wait around while I took photos! We spotted a pair of Canada geese with goslings as we were paddling upstream, so it meant paddling past them, drifting back taking photos, and then paddling back up stream to where Shelley was patiently waiting.

Canada geese and goslings

The goslings are always such cute little yellow puff balls.

Canada geese goslings

I didn't identify these American Wigeons until I got home and looked them up. (The mallards, of course, were familiar.)

American Wigeon pair

The male didn't have as much green on his head as most of the bird guide photos.

American Wigeon male

The mallard male, on the other hand, had plenty of green on his head!

Mallard male

We spotted another family of Canada geese, this time on the water, going downstream with us and easier to photograph.

Canada geese and goslings

Canada geese and goslings

These were shot with the 7200 and the 150-600 (225-900 equivalent). It's a little challenging to hand hold, especially in a rocking kayak, but do-able with a high shutter speed and the stabilized lens. The thought of dropping that expensive setup in the water makes me a little nervous, but there's no point having it if you don't use it. And I love the eye level shots you get from the kayak. (Photo of me thanks to Shelley)

me taking bird photos

For more of these photos, see all 19 as a slideshow or overview

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Flowers of the Day

These yellow ones are the first of the irises to bloom around the Innovation Place pond. The sprinklers run early in the morning so the flowers are shining with water droplets when I arrive. Hard to resist taking a few photos :-)


The flowers are beautiful as a whole, but I also love some of the details.



And from unusual angles, like straight above.


The normal way to take macro (closeup) photos with a small cameras like the ZS100 is at wide angle and very close. But the wide angle takes in a lot of background. Sometimes that's good, but sometimes it's distracting. The ZS100 will actually focus reasonably close with the lens zoomed to the maximum telephoto. With the narrower angle of view, you can often get a less distracting background. That's what I did for the first shot above. (The rest were wide angle closeups.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Birds in the Yard

Saturday morning I looked out and there were 10 or 12 white-winged crossbills on the ground under the bird feeder. Since they've been hanging around I figured I'd take the time to put the long telephoto lens on the camera and set it up on the tripod. Sure enough they were still there when I was ready. But as soon as I came around the side of the house they all took off and disappeared. Figures! I sat for a while hoping they'd come back but eventually I gave up. I left the camera on the tripod though in case I saw them later.

A bit later I saw they had returned. I moved very slowly around the corner of the house and this time I didn't spook them. Here's one of the females:

White-winged crossbill

Previously the male I had been seeing was more orange than red. That confused me when I was trying to identify it. But most of the males this day were the standard red. I'm not sure why the orange. A juvenile? Or a different diet? Here's one of the red males:

White-winged crossbill

And one of the orange ones for comparison:

White-winged crossbill

Again, some of them were feeding up in the tree.

White-winged crossbill

While I was at it I also took some shots of robins and chipping sparrows:

American robin

Chipping sparrow

These were all taken with my Nikon D7200, Sigma 150-600 Contemporary lens, Really Right Stuff tripod, and Jobu Designs gimbal head

For more of these photos, see all 13 as a slideshow or overview

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fishing Spiders

The fishing spiders are back at the pond at Innovation Place. You have to approach the water slowly, without any sudden movements or else the most you'll see is one diving underwater to hide. Although that in itself is pretty cool. They tend to stick to where there are plants for cover.

Fishing spider

This next one is looking quite fat, I'd guess getting ready to lay eggs.

Fishing spider

These ones are relatively small, with bodies about 3/4 of an inch long, but it's still early in the season.

While I was looking for the fishing spiders I saw a struggling fly caught in a spider web. As I was watching, a spider ran out, grabbed the fly, and disappeared again. It was smaller, not a fishing spider. I didn't get a good enough look (or know my spiders well enough) to identify it. The fishing spiders are hunters, not web makers, although they do make a protective web for their offspring.

These photos were taken with the ZS100.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Friday Photos

After a rainy week, Friday was finally clear. I decided to carry the big camera (Nikon 7200 with 18-300) for a change. As usual, I didn't make it half a block before I had to start taking photos of yet another sign of spring - lilac blossoms. We had a big lilac bush at the house where I grew up and the smell of the flowers always reminds me of it.


The sun was glinting off the river brightly.

sun on the river

The new leaves are still such a bright green, especially after the rain.

bright green new leaves

The Canada geese have their baby goslings out and about on the river. This family passed right underneath me on the railway bridge.

geese and goslings

I'm always amazed at how prolific some of the seeds are. Although when they cover our car and get in all the vents I'm not so impressed!

prolific seeds

I usually go for sharp, clear images but occasionally, as with these flowers, a soft treatment seems to match how I saw them.

flowers, soft treatment

The native crocuses are pretty much gone by now. The ones in the gardens last a bit longer but even they are going to seed.

crocus seeds

The dandelions have also passed their initial peek and are going to seed. This was a pair of handheld shots focus stacked with Photoshop. For one I focused on the outside edge, and for the other on the (nearer) center.

dandelion seeds

There are lots of spider webs around and I liked the dew drops on this one.

dew drops on spider web

The fruit trees are still in flower, although the petals are dropping and littering the ground below.

flowering trees

I can't remember what these plants are. They keep their large leaves over the winter and are one of the earliest to flower. Both the leaves and flowers tend to be somewhat ragged, but I caught these flowers while they were still in good shape.


And I couldn't pass up a few more lilacs on the way home.


For more of these photos, see all 28 as a slideshow or overview