Monday, November 28, 2016

Seasonal Disorder

Guess when this photo was taken?

You'd think it was around the same time of year as this one:

But the first one was taken in November, whereas the second one was taken in April.

Obviously our warm autumn confused this plant and it "thought" it was spring and time to flower. Of course, now it's below freezing all day and those flowers aren't going to go much further.

On the positive side, I assume that missing flowering next spring won't kill the plant, whereas if its leaves had started to come out, it would have been a more serious problem since it might not have survived a summer without leaves.

Luckily most trees and bushes don't seem to have been "fooled". I'm not sure what was different with this one.

As the climate continues to change we will no doubt see more effects like this.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Jackrabbit on the Run


Almost abstract, and yet recognizable. Completely blurred, but I kind of like it.

Taken with my iPhone, although that's not really relevant. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Vienna, Austria

Despite the title, few of my photos are recognizably Vienna, other than the ones of the ornate St. Stephens cathedral. As you can tell by my photos, I'm much more interested in nature than the works of man people.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen's Cathedral

Most natural history museums are rather dreary collections of dusty stuffed animals. The Vienna Naturhistorisches Museum has its share of that, but it is redeemed by being in a magnificent huge old building and having a lot of other exhibits besides stuffed animals. (Vienna seems to have the most magnificent huge old buildings of any city I've seen.)

On the way to the NHM we stumbled on the Schmetterlinghaus butterfly house. We always enjoy these so we were happy to discover it. But we were quite disappointed. It's not very big, and there weren't many butterflies. The paths were narrow, which meant there was little room for the crowds of people and rampaging children, especially when everyone tried to congregate around the few butterflies and get close enough to take photos with their wide angle phone cameras. On top of that, my camera was cold from being outside and so it immediately fogged up and didn't really clear until just as we were leaving. The one half decent photo I got shows another thing I didn't like - most of the flowers were fake.


I was happier taking pictures of the fall colors in the park next door. Three guys on a park bench thought I was crazy taking so many photographs of trees and leaves, and that Shelley was an amazingly patient tolerant spouse. Both are true :-)

fallen leaves

Gingko leaves

I thought these leaves looked familiar with their triangular shape. When I got home and did some research I found they were Gingko (also known as Maidenhair) trees. It is the only species left in its division with fossils dating back 270 million years. It's native to China but is now widely cultivated. One of the reasons they are planted is for their bright yellow fall colors. (They're also quite hardy.) They were familiar since Innovation Place has the only outdoor Gingko tree in Saskatoon.

We also visited the Aqua Terra House of the Sea Zoo, in a unique old building that was originally a World War II anti-flak tower. It had several walk through areas where the animals and birds were in the open with you. Although these larger areas sometimes make it harder to spot the inhabitants (especially the birds) I like the more natural environment and the chance to take photos without glass or bars. The entire zoo is indoors, which we appreciated since it was cold outside but that meant the usual struggle with taking photographs in dim light. Some of these are quite grainy although that doesn't show up as much in these small versions.

These San Francisco garter snakes had quite different coloring than the ones we get here.

San Francisco garter snake

Always tricky to catch the birds as they flit about. And often they are above you and silhouetted against the bright sky.


This shot combined two of my favorites - turtles and reflections :-)

turtle & reflections

I like the pattern and texture of this next one. Can you guess what it is?

back of crocodile

People watching.

Cotton-top tamarin

For some reason I didn't manage many good ones of the aquarium exhibits. This one looks like a Northern Pike. (Despite its appearance, it was alive and under water.)


Chameleons are another favorite. I love their swiveling eyes and the slow measured way they move with their unique grasping feet.


Shelley wanted to visit the big outdoor Christmas market in front of city hall. Personally, I had no desire to hang out in the market - it was full of mass produced junk and unhealthy fast food and wall to wall crowds. The only good part was that they sold various hot punches, mulled wines, and ciders. The price includes a deposit for the reusable ceramic mug which is refunded when you return it. (Or you can keep the mug as a souvenir like Shelley did.) While Shelley toured the market I wandered in the nearby park and took more photos of the fall colors.

autumn leaves

sculpture through leaves

We also visited the main outdoor Tiergarten Sch├Ânbrunn Zoo, which claims to be the oldest zoo in the world. We enjoyed our visit, although like any outdoor zoo, it would be better in the summer. Quite a few of the enclosures allowed photographing without glass or bars which I always appreciate.

Palm house

I think of flamingos as a warm climate bird, but these didn't seem to mind the cold weather. (I see from the distribution map that they some live in cooler climates.) If you zoom in on this photo you can see the sieve-like edge of its bill that is used to filter feed. Curiously, I see flamingos are related to grebes.


The red panda was familiar from "Phoenix" at the Saskatoon Zoo. It was fun to watch them out wandering around. Quite the claws!

Red panda

The cheetah was also a cooperative subject. I'm not sure what it spotted that made him crouch and raise the fur on the back of its neck.


Hooded crows were common in Corsica but I never managed to get any decent photos of them. Finally these ones bathing stuck around long enough for me to photograph. This one was still wet from its bath.

wet Hooded crow

The spectacled bears were out and about as well.

Spectacled bear

Interesting painting in the monkey house.

painting in the monkey house

And that was the end of our trip, from Vienna we flew home.

See all 57 photos as a slideshow or overview

Monday, November 14, 2016

Calvi, Corsica

After Ajaccio we headed to our last stop in Corsica - Calvi - on the north-west coast. It was a lot smaller than Ajaccio, and our Hotel L'Abbaye, in a restored Franciscan monastery, was a lot nicer. One of Calvi's claims to fame is that it was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. There's not much evidence of that but supposedly he may have hidden where he was born because Corsica had a subversive reputation. Calvi is also the base for the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment of the French Foreign Legion. And, of course, there is a citadel.

Hotel L'Abbaye

For a change we took the inland route from Ajaccio to Calvi so we got to see more of the (cloudy) mountains.

cloudy mountains

This fort was apparently used by some of the holdouts when France took over Corsica.

old fort

Fall was further along higher up in the mountains.

autumn leaves

A more abstract interpretation of the fall colors:

autum colors

A typical mountain village. Every village, even tiny ones, had a church, and often more than one. (rivals?)

Corsican town

Closer to Calvi we got back to the coast. The ocean was beautiful shades of blue.

shallow water


More flowers near the coast as well.


I loved all the vines growing on the old buildings and rocks.

vines on rock

I don't usually find churches too exciting, but they can be amazing buildings and have interesting artwork, like this stained glass window:

stained glass window

We had lunch at a lovely small town terrace restaurant with a view of the coast.

table with view

We saw a lot of what I think are Red Kites flying around. Despite seeing them a lot, I didn't get very good photos. This is the best I managed. Birds here seemed very skittish - too many centuries of being hunted perhaps?

Red kite

From Calvi we took a taxi to the nearby village of Calenzana where we started our 10 day Mare E Monti hike. (Some day I'll get to those photos!) By the time we returned after our hike the tourists had gone and Calvi had pretty much shut down for the winter.

See all 33 photos as a slideshow or overview

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Nice, France part 2

We had left ourselves a few extra days for our hike which we didn't need, so we spent the time back in Nice. Our first day we went to Monaco, the second we went to Le Parc Phoenix. It was a cool, rainy day so we spent most of our time in the greenhouse / conservatory. I imagine the park and conservatory would be lovely on a sunny summer day, but even on a gray fall / winter day it was still interesting.


I barely made it through the door before I spotted these leaves backlit against the sky.

backlit leaves

I always enjoy Hibiscus flowers. These were some of the largest I've ever seen!

huge Hibiscus!

Other plants were less familiar, I have no idea what these are:

unusual plant

I really liked the pattern of leaves of this plant. I can't decide whether I like closer or further, or color or black and white. What do you think?



Here are a few random shots from around town. This light fixture was on the ceiling of a restaurant where we had lunch.

light fixture


enjoying the sun

We walked through a park and by a fountain and the sun shining through the falling water caught my eye. (Which meant Shelley waited patiently while I tried to capture it!) I played with the shutter speed to either freeze the water drops or turn them into streaks.

backlit fountain

backlit fountain

backlit fountain

We don't usually visit too many museums, but we were running out of things to do, so we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. I don't mind abstract art (like the photos above), but I have a hard time with this modern art. Other than the famous artist, what exactly makes a piece of pipe or a crushed car a "work of art"? Personally I enjoyed the photos I took outside the museum more than the contents!

art museum reflected

backlit leaf

I managed a few shots from our flight from Nice to Vienna. Here's Monaco with the Oceanographic Museum in the center.


I accidentally focused on the wing instead of the clouds for this one, but I quite like the result.


It was pretty cloudy most of the way, but near Vienna the sun broke through in the distance.


See all 45 photos as a slideshow or overview