Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Catch 22

Why did they cut down the trees on the riverbank?

To build a retaining wall.

Why did they need a retaining wall?

Because they cut down the trees. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tulips

We got tulips from the farmers market for Easter. I thought about taking photos of them, but didn't get inspired. But about the time Shelley wanted to throw them out, I decided they were looking quite interesting. I shot them backlit by the early morning sun coming through my home office window. I have a white cloth blind that made a good backdrop.

over the hill tulips

over the hill tulips

over the hill tulips

over the hill tulips

Since it was my birthday, and I'm getting past my own Best Before date, it seemed a fitting subject. Just goes to show things can still be interesting even when they're not shiny and new.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Here Comes the Rhubarb

It may still be trying to snow, but when I see these I can almost taste the rhubarb crisp.

rhubarb

These were growing behind someone's fence beside the back alley. I'm sure my neighbors were wondering what the heck that person was doing squatting back there!

rhubarb

Interesting how the leaves grow inside the shoot all folded up. So that's how you fit a giant leaf inside a tiny shoot!

rhubarb

And while I was at it, a few more of the trees flowering.

trees flowering

These are from the same tree, the second one is a little more advanced.

trees flowering

These were handheld with the Nikon 7200 and 85mm macro lens. For both of them, I picked the two best shots (out of many) and focus stacked them. Still didn't get everything in focus, but better than any one shot.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

New Leaves

The grass is starting to turn green and soon the trees will too. These are some of the first leaves I've noticed. It's interesting how some trees and bushes get flowers before leaves (those ones are usually more noticeable since they're otherwise bare), while others get leaves first, and yet others produce both together (like these).

new leaves

new leaves

new leaves

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Larch Flowers

There aren't a lot of larches around Saskatoon, but I've become a fan after watching the ones at Innovation Place. The tiny flowers in the spring are my favorite and I eagerly watch the trees for their appearance. (Check out the earlier stage) So far they are quite sparse, only a few per tree. Maybe more will come later.

larch flower

These are still quite tiny, maybe 1/4 inch. They'll get a bit bigger as they open up. I took these shots with my iPhone 7 plus with the Kamerar macro lens using the Lightroom app to shoot Raw. It does a great job, but between the high magnification and the very shallow depth of focus it's tricky to get a good shot. I just kept clicking as I tried to hold steady and move slightly closer or farther to get in focus. Most of the shots were no good (too fuzzy) but a few came out pretty well. (I'm not sure where the "rays" in the background of this one came from.)

larch flower

I'm sure most people walk right by these trees without noticing the exquisite flowers. The pink color stands out, but they're so small, and the trees are otherwise so bare, that they're not very noticeable.

larch flower

I like how the needles emerge around the flowers. Other buds produce groups of needles, but no flowers. Eventually, the flowers turn into cones.

larch flower

These aren't anything to do with larches, but I took them on the same walk home. They don't look like much yet, but they're another flower that I look forward to - lilacs. The house I grew up in (in Saskatoon) had a big lilac bush near the front door. I didn't pay much attention to it at the time, but the smell still reminds me of summer and home.

lilac buds

See all 12 photos

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Walking to Work

More photos from walking to work. The crocuses continue to bloom gorgeously. This morning there was still some frost on them when I first got there, but it melted rapidly in the sun.

Prairie Crocus

Prairie Crocus

Prairie Crocus

There was almost no wind that day and the dugout was like a mirror.

reflections

reflections

Some of the old cattails end up quite bizarre looking.

cattail

I continue to monitor the buds on the trees as they slowly open. It's amazing how they can survive nights well below freezing (-10c).

tree buds

tree buds

The pond at Innovation Place has been freezing over at night, making some interesting patterns.

ice

ice

The little (artificial) stream splashes the grass and freezes into weird and wonderful shapes.

ice

ice

While I was crouched down by the water several birds came to visit.

American Robin

This house finch was too shy for a good photograph.

shy house finch

See all 37 photos

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Deadfall

chipmunk

One of the excuses the city has been giving for butchering the trees and bulldozing the riverbank is that there was a lot of "deadfall". They say this in horrified tones as if it was some terrible disease.

Gimme a break, deadfall is perfectly normal. A healthy forest will have deadfall. It provides shelter and homes to birds and insects and other animals.  Lichen and moss and mushrooms and other fungi grow on it. It decomposes and provides nutrients to the soil.

moss & lichen

Maybe you've seen them clearing deadfall from forests. The reason we do that is because we've suppressed the natural cycle of fires. And so we pile mistake on top of mistake.

Humans have a seemingly insatiable desire to manage nature. We can't have a natural area without supervising it, which means roads and trails and all kinds of interference. We turn Grasslands National Park into a giant cattle pasture, supposedly to make up for wiping out the buffalo. Of course, you can't have cattle without fences and roads and dugouts. How about we just bring the buffalo back. Of course, we can't do that without treating them like cattle and rounding them up and herding them around. We can't have wolves or bears or cougars without radio collaring them. Perhaps it's some deep seated fear of the wild. After all, who knows what horrible beast (without a radio collar!) might be lurking under that deadfall. Perhaps something fearsome like a salamander.

Tiger Salamander

Come on people, nature did perfectly well for billions of years without us to "manage" it. The only reason we need to manage it is because we're in the process of destroying it. If our management did anything to slow down this destruction it might be worth it. But it doesn't. If anything it just hastens the process.

I think another part of the problem is that humans don't have much patience and they seldom take the long view. It takes decades or even centuries to grow trees. It's so much quicker to cut them down and plant grass and asphalt.

I'm ok with making a path so people can enjoy nature. Perhaps they won't destroy it quite so quickly if they appreciate it. But if you destroy the very nature that they're coming to see, in the process of creating the path so they can see it, all you end up with is yet another stretch of sterile pavement. If that's what people wanted they'd be spending their time in parking lots. Oh yeah, I forgot, that is the great outdoors for most people.

We're in the middle of the worst extinction event in the billions of years of our planets existence. Since 1900 the rate of extinctions has been approximately 1000 times faster than normal. If the current rate of human disruption of the biosphere continues, one-half of Earth's higher lifeforms will be extinct by 2100. All as a result of "progress" and "management".

Saturday, April 15, 2017

More Spring

Mallard

Ducks and geese often check out the pond at Innovation Place. This Mallard duck didn't have much open water around the ice.

I haven't seen any beavers yet this spring, but there are lots of signs of them. Unfortunately, they are cutting down quite a few older trees along the east side of the river. The city and Meewasin are quiet about it but sadly they've been know to try to get rid of the beavers. Which doesn't even work - it's far too easy for beavers to move along the river. I'd prefer that the city put their efforts into wrapping the big trees with chicken wire and letting the beavers have the smaller stuff. Of course it's different when the city butchers the trees along Spadina to build a bigger path for humans. Decades to grow those beautiful old trees, and five minutes with a chain saw to get rid of them. "Progress" :-(

Beavers are destructive but at least their destruction is quickly self limiting - after they cut down all the trees in an area they are forced to move on. Unfortunately the feedback is much slower with human caused destruction of the ecosystem. And we don't have any other planets to move on to.

beavers at work

I had my macro lens on for the crocuses so I took the opportunity to photograph some of the lichen on the rocks. It's nice to see healthy lichen since it's a sign of good air quality.

You can either try to stay within the shallow depth of focus,

lichen

or let it be part of the image.

lichen

One of the first things to turn green at Innovation Place is a small patch of moss (or at least that's what it looks like). I always try to photograph it, but I find it a difficult subject. I like the colors in this shot.

moss

I always enjoy monitoring the progress of the trees flowering. This isn't the obvious flowering trees like the cherries and crabapples (which are later in the spring), this is the regular trees that most people probably don't even notice are flowering. It's interesting how some trees in a group will flower sooner than others. And sometimes just one branch of a tree.

trees flowering

trees flowering

trees flowering

The larches have interesting flowers. These buds are just starting to develop.

larch buds

Other trees have less flashy, but still interesting buds:

tree buds

tree buds

It's always a good sign of spring when the robins return and join the chorus. It took me a minute to locate the source of the birdsong in the top of this tree (with a healthy crop of pine cones!)

robin in a tree

The pair of jackrabbits around Innovation Place are fairly tolerant of people but if you get too close or move too suddenly they will still run away. Everything I've read says white-tailed jackrabbits are nocturnal and hide during the day. But these two missed that memo. From my office window I see them running throughout the middle of the day. Of course, they are easier to spot this time of the year when they are still quite light colored.

Jackrabbit

See all 27 photos

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Crocuses

Prairie crocuses

Prairie crocuses or Pasque flowers are one of the sure signs of spring in Saskatchewan. They're definitely the first flowers we see, often poking through the snow and frost.

Technically, they aren't crocuses, which are in the lily family, they are actually anemones, in the buttercup family. What's more, the petals aren't actually petals, they're modified sepals. Of course, we also have gophers which aren't gophers (they're ground squirrels), rabbits that aren't rabbits (they're hares), and daddy longlegs spiders that aren't spiders (although they are arachnids).

I first went to look for the crocuses on Monday. If I take an alternate, slightly longer, walk to work I go right by one of the places where they grow. Although they're not uncommon, they're somewhat picky about where they grow. I didn't find any flowers, but I did find the plants starting to grow and the flowers developing. There was dew on the ground that morning which made for interesting photographs.

Prairie crocuses

I love how the crocuses emerge from the dead grass and vegetation.

Prairie crocuses

Prairie crocuses

I went again on Wednesday to see how they were coming and there were a few flowers open. I was visiting early in the morning, and the flowers close up at night, so it's likely there were more flowers open midday. By Friday most of the flowers were out.  It seems like a good crop this year.

Prairie crocuses

I'm a sucker for back light, and the low early morning sun was perfect for highlighting the flowers and their furry covering. (Some of the back lit shots I used the flash so I didn't just get silhouettes.)

Prairie crocuses

Prairie crocuses

I've taken so many crocus photos over the years that it's hard to come up with a new angle. I used my macro lens this year and was playing with closeups and depth of focus and even a little focus stacking.

Prairie crocuses

Prairie crocuses

Apparently, individual plants may live for 50 years or more. However, they depend on unplowed prairie so as that dwindles, so may the wild crocuses.

See all 36 photos