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Monday, March 31, 2008

Clear Vision of an Eagle

March 29, 2008

"The time will soon be here when my grandchild will long for the cry of a loon, the flash of a salmon, the whisper of spruce needles, or the screech of an eagle. But he will not make friends with any of these creatures and when his heart aches with longing he will curse me. Have I done all to keep the air fresh? Have I cared enough about the water? Have I left the eagle to soar in freedom? Have I done everything I could to earn my grandchild's fondness?"
~Chief Dan George (1899-1981)

Acclaimed actor, author and Chief of Tsleil-Waututh First Nation (Burrard Band, North Vancouver, B.C.) 1951 - 1963.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Weathered Wood

The decaying wood, once green and part of the living forest, weathers over time and changes into
something beautiful and vital to the forest again.
(click on pictures to see detail)

Beautiful silvery sheen, wavy flourishes and grey-green lichen add to the design.

Decaying material that will nourish the forest,
this piece set in the forest floor.

Whorls and shades of grey,
nature's art.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Awakening Time

It's wonderful to see some of the woodland plants being revealed as the snow continues to shrink. I made these early spring discoveries a few days ago in areas where the sun's rays have quickly melted the snow around.

Oregon Grape
Mahonia aquifolium
Family: Berberidaceae

Location: east side of driveway, near road -This evergreen shrub is low growing here and gets the full afternoon sun which gives some of its leaves a reddish coloration. Another name for this plant is holly leaved barberry.

The Oregon Grape was one of the 178 new plant species documented by explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. It was first seen as they journeyed down the Columbia River in 1805 in present-day Washington State.

Wild Strawberry
Fragaria virginiana
Family: Rosaceae

Location: woods, adjacent to the forest trail close to a decaying tree stump surrounded by moss.

straw - Old English streaw
The "straw" in strawberry has its origin in the verb "to strew" and refers to the vines with which the strawberry covers the ground.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Observing a Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker - Dryocopus pileatus
Dryocopus - Greek origin
drys for tree and kopis for dagger
pileatus means capped or crowned
42 cm (16 1/2 in.)
Habitat: mature forests, old growth, where there are fallen rotting trees and dead trees for roosting and nesting.

I've seen this large woodpecker again, this time in a muddy spot near the road. I last saw the Pileated at the beginning of March, when he clung to a hydro pole and drummed on it to inform the world of his presence. How much territory does one woodpecker need? I wonder if this is the same bird.

On this particular day, I surprised him* as I started out for a walk. I hadn't expected to see the Pileated again so soon, certainly not on the ground, and we were both startled. He gave a short squawk and flew low to another patch of earth further away.

I turned back to the house to get my camera, and proceeded down the road, hoping to catch sight of him again. Then I noticed the woodpecker's bright red cap. He was digging furiously in the soft earth at the edge of the property. They are such shy birds, and usually fly off at the slightest approach, but I was able to creep a little closer without scaring or disturbing him.

I stood perfectly still and watched in fascination his excavation efforts. At times I couldn't see his head as he probed deep into the hole he had made. Always cautious of danger, the Pileated lifted his head frequently to have a look around. He was working very hard with bits of dirt being flung into the air.

A short while later, the Pileated flew to some standing dead wood. I think I must have scared him off when I moved to take the picture of him on the dead wood, and he flew deeper into the forest.

By then, I knew what he had been doing and went to check. He had dug into a large ant colony and had been foraging for ants with his long, sticky tongue. The woodpecker definitely woke up the ants - billions of them on the move! Trying to repair the damage - an anthill in distress!

*Note - I can't positively say if this Pileated Woodpecker was a male or female. They have similar plumage, but the male has a red forehead and red feathers in his moustache under the eye. I could see the red forehead clearly, but not the moustache.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Little Bird

Taken March 13/08 
I like this sunny picture because the rosy redpoll reminds me of the one I heard singing this morning and because of the gray groovy eye of a poplar tree.

Monday, March 10, 2008

In Celebration of

the coming of Spring.

These are my first sightings of the Trumpeter Swans. They will spend a few weeks here before they migrate further north to their breeding ranges. The swans come back every year at about the same time, to this very spot, a small river system that widens into a small lake near my home. This morning I tried to be as quiet as possible so that I could get close to them, but they soon detected me and started moving away.

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
their graceful necks reflected in the water.

paddling webbed feet creating ripples on the surface

Both female and male have identical plumage, but one and two year olds can retain some of their juvenile gray-brown plumage on their heads and necks.

nine swans feeding

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Moment in Time

Yesterday morning my husband and I decided to drive to the bridge and go for a walk. It's been great walking weather lately, and we couldn't pass up the chance. The east is being battered by winter storms, but here in the interior of British Columbia, the weather is holding, and it has been very spring like, with above average temperatures. It doesn't mean our winter is over; we know from experience that it can change overnight. In the meantime, we are thoroughly enjoying this fresh warm hint of a new season.

"Expect the unexpected." I wasn't thinking of that as we drove along the half mile road we live on, but there it was, the "unexpected", a solitary Mule Deer standing in what we refer to as "the clear cut" close to the road. We stopped, my husband backed up, rolled down the window, and I started taking pictures. The deer stood motionless and stared at us all the while.

We haven't seen the deer too much this winter, although we've come across their tracks on the road and forest trail. They are around, but staying out of sight.

The Mule Deer finally turned and headed towards the trees (they have a stiff-legged, bouncing gait that is amazing to watch). I saw this lovely animal stop and look in our direction as we drove by, instinctively checking. I'm happy that this deer seemed healthy, as winters can be hard on them. Aren't those the most gorgeous ears you've ever seen?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Early Morning Light

I am up early these days. The sky was just beginning to lighten when I went outside with my camera. I was soon greeted by a panorama of sensational colours that changed moment by moment, muted at first and then radiant, the sky awash with the dawning of the day.

North - 7:05 a.m.

East 7:08 a.m.

South - 7:09 a.m.

West - 7:11 a.m.
Poplar trees catching the sun's radiance

Monday, March 3, 2008

Nature Notes

Saturday, March 1, 2008
Today is a blustery start to what is supposed to be a promising new month, considering that it is the month of the spring equinox. The wind is whooshing through the tall trees, causing them to sway. At the present, it's bright and sunny, but it could change if the clouds continue to roll in.

After lunch I went out and did my very first "gardening" chore of the year. It was only +6C, but it felt warmer in the sun, and I was in a sheltered spot out of the wind. With a shovel I lifted the softened snow out of the compost bin and separated the clumps of compost material that had accumulated over the winter months. I think perhaps I am getting spoiled. In the thirty years I've lived here, I've never been able to do anything about the compost until much later. It's just in the last few years that the weather patterns seem to have changed, and the winters haven't been quite so cold as they used to be.

Sunday, March 2, 2008
7:20 a.m.

This morning I was up early enough to witness a beautiful sunrise. I hurriedly put on my boots and coat and went out into the frosty air. The little redpolls were grouped together in a patch of gravel on the road, and it was quiet and still except for the sound of a few chirping birds.

Just as I was going to take one more picture of the sun's stunning display, I heard another bird loudly calling behind me. It flew over the driveway and straight to a hydro pole. It was a Pileated Woodpecker!! He clung to the hydro pole near the top (not a safe place to be) and commenced hammering away, powerful beak on dead wood - a resonating sound that ruined the early morning silence. W----- and I were both worried about the danger this large woodpecker was in, and we wished he would get off that pole pronto. Thankfully, he didn't dally long, and, to our great relief, flew to another spot.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunrise for a new month beginning

At Sunrise

Now the stars have faded
In the purple chill,
Lo, the sun is kindling
On the eastern hill.

Tree by tree the forest
Takes the golden tinge,
As the shafts of glory
Pierce the summit's fringe.

Rock by rock the ledges
Take the rosy sheen,
As the tide of splendor
Floods the dark ravine.

Like a shining angel
At my cabin door,
Shod with hope and silence,
Day is come once more.

Then, as if in sorrow
That you are not here,
All his magic beauties
Gray and disappear.

~ Bliss Carman (1861-1929)*

*Well-known Canadian poet who was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Many of his beautiful poems have a nature theme, and I remember being first introduced to his poetry in elementary school.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Carbon-neutral Bird Count

This is my list for February:

Bald Eagle - 2 (a pair)
Black-billed Magpie - 1
Black-capped Chickadee (male and female) - many
Common Redpoll (male and female) - many
Crow - several
Hairy Woodpecker (male) - 1+
Junco - 1
Pine Grosbeak (male and female) - many
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Ruffed Grouse - 1

"I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn."
~ from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

I, too, would like to pay tribute to all the hardy birds which inhabit the surrounding forest, keep me company and give me so much joy during the cold winter months.

February 16/08 - Pine Grosbeak, male and female in poplar tree

February 26/08 - Redpolls in saskatoon bush