Welcome to Birds & Musings!

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Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
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My purpose is to share photos and stories of wildlife, particularly birds, in the Okanagan Region. You’ll also find “bonus information” from other places I’ve travelled to.  Secondly, when the muses dictate, I’ll offer some rambling about politics and other topics of general interest. Look under Politics~

Recommended posts: (changes occasionally). Click a blue underlined link.

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Spring Wood Ducks of Belmont Ponds, 2018

If you’ve visited this blog before, you probably know I’m a huge fan of Wood Ducks,  by far the most colourful waterfowl we see here. As this shot from last fall shows, each adult in a pair has quite distinctive and different colouring as shown below
(Click any image to enlarge it in a new tab):

Wood Duck pair (Aix sponsa) -07.jpeg
This pair, surprisingly were photographed on November 26 in Teal Pond, Thomson Marsh, Kelowna, BC.

Relatively rarely, however, have I seen or photographed them in the Marsh. More often I see them in one or both of the Belmont Ponds that are only a couple of hundred metres from home. And every Spring and Fall they are a highlight of the season for me and many others who may not really be” birders” in the usual sense. Here are some highlights of the small band that visited us from March into May 2018. Most of the shots that follow are from the end of March and early April. At the end of this post, however, there’s something special — a first for my observations in this location….

My first glimpse of the WODUs’ return happened in Thomson Marsh, on the Ides of March, before all the ice was gone there or on Belmont Ponds: Unexpected — and exciting:

Wood Duck pair (Aix sponsa) -03.jpg
So great to see them here again at the beginning of Spring. They would stick around long enough (at least she would) to raise a brood into the summer of 2018.
Wood Duck drake (Aix sponsa)  FOY Belmont Pond.jpg
On March 15, I photographed this fella and wrote on my Flickr page, “Large Belmont Pond, Kelowna, BC. Record shot only.  
This fella was following his mate, more hunched up than usual for a drake…. Looks a little dazed, or is that dazzled…?
Here we are in mid-March. The snow is 85% gone, and Thomson Marsh again is ice free. Michaelbrook is only 50% thawed, but will come along quickly now.
The larger Belmont Pond is 80% ice free (it thawed suddenly over two days, and will be all gone the day after tomorrow). Today, we had two pairs of WODUs, one pair of COGOs, a couple of pairs of Mallards, and, of course, Ralph, the GBHE….
It really feels as if Spring has arrived at last — the first Violet Green Swallows over the marshes, and even a couple checking out the foundation wall of our condo despite the new townhouses crowded onto the old vacant lot over which they used to cruise after filling up on insects over Belmont Ponds. Should know in a few days if they’re prepared to adapt to the changed environment or not.
Also saw a flock of waxwings, possibly CEWAs flying in and around the TM Raptor tree. The BOWAs are still hanging around Mission Creek, and should be checking out soon….

Better images followed:

Wood Duck pair (Aix sponsa)  -0.jpg
For several days, this pair seemed content to spend an inordinate amount of time doing just this!

The lady of this species is often overshadowed by her more colourful mate.
Here’s a set from March 20 to address that oversight…
Click any of the images below to view it fully & enlarged in a separate window….

 

 

 

 

Wood Duck drake (Aix sponsa) -01.jpg
March 25: Of course, the drake also demands his due….
Wood Duck drake (Aix sponsa) -06.jpg
There were a couple of pairs around, but only one stayed. The drakes’ duck-tail ‘dos were slightly different…. Not sure that’s an important detail, however….
Wood Duck drake (Aix sponsa) -04.jpg
March 28: “Cross this line & enter a whole new dimension of time and space!”

Click either image below to view it fully & enlarged in a separate window….
(from March 28 also)

 

 

But there was a little trouble brewing in Pond City. A single female was attempting to turn one pair into a threesome. Ironically(?), it was the drake that put an end to it. In the process, our “unloved duck” lost a few head feathers….

Wood Duck pair (Aix sponsa) -03.jpg
The duck on the left in the photo attempted to ingratiate herself into the family…
Wood Duck pair (Aix sponsa) -04.jpg
But the drake was having none of it….
Unloved Wood Duck hen (Aix sponsa) -02.jpg
Hester has a haircut….
Wood Duck drake (Aix sponsa) - special.jpg
While I probably don’t need any more Wood Duck shots, couldn’t resist trying to create something more artistic. 
Will leave viewers to decide if I succeeded….
Wood Duck drake (Aix sponsa) -08.jpg
I was still trying as with this natural vignetted shot through the Cattails on the south end of the larger Belmont pond….

And, now we’ll end this saga from Spring 2018 with this set all from April 20 dealing with a recurring theme in my Belmont photos — Wood Ducks minding turtles — starring William Wodu and a trio of Western Painted turtles,
Melbert on the left end, Malcomb in the middle and Mini-Mickey…..
Click images to enlarge in a new tab.

 

Wood Duck drake (Aix sponsa) -03.jpg
“Well, thank goodness that’s over! Now for a nice sitz bath.
You might say this is like having your lake and logging in, too!”

Early Spring Highlites, 2018

A few images taken around home and in the Okanagan region in April prior to our departure for Texas on the 24th. Click any image to open it, enlarged, in a new tab.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) -02a.jpg
Killdeer returning to Thomson Marsh marks the official beginning of Spring….
American Wigeon drake (Anas americana)-04.jpg
American Wigeons show up in Spring and add some new colours and patterns to the Marsh.
American Wigeon drake (Anas americana)-01.jpg
Every so often they move out of the Marsh and into the Rec Fields where they strut around like royalty….
American Wigeon (Anas americana) takes off!.jpg
Here for a couple of weeks, it seems, and then they’re off to breed elsewhere….
Northern Pintail drake (Anas acuta) -08.jpg
Northern Pintails rarely come close enough to the Marsh to be photographed. In 2018, I learned that I could get shots in fields north of Munson Lake….
Ring-necked Duck pair (Aythya collaris)  with Bufflehead hen (Bucephala albeola).jpg
Sexually dimorphic Ring-necked Ducks and a female Bufflehead spent a couple of days in Thomson Marsh in mid March, giving me this closeup opportunity….
Gadwall drake (Anas strepera) -01.jpg
Gadwall Drake on Golden Pond, Thomson Marsh, Kelowna, BC. Year-round residents, really, we see them in breeding plumage this time of year and they feel like visitors.
American Coot (Fulica americana) -06.jpg
American Coots are seen on my beat frequently in Spring, less commonly in other seasons….
Mooch, the Gadwall drake (Anas strepera), & Meek, the Coot -04.jpg
A behaviour I noticed for the first time this Spring involves an odd relationship between Coots and Gadwalls where the latter waits for the Coot to dive down and retrieve succulents that the Gadwall craves. Because the Coot usually brings up more than it can devour, the Gadwall moves in and appropriates a share. I watched a pair of GADWs do this for several days with a pair of Coots, with no serious complaints from the AMCOs….
American Green-winged Teal drake (Anas crecca carolinensis).jpg
Thomson Marsh, Kelowna, BC.
For all my Coastal friends who can walk right up to these gorgeous little ducks at, say, Piper Spit in Burnaby, let me tell you that getting this shot required 20 minutes of hard work! 
The brook here is very narrow, so the teals, especially, cling to the shadowed side with its tangle of underbrush. Occasionally, if they flush, they’ll land in a slightly more accessible part like this. 
On my camera tolerance scale where 1 is “here this second; gone the next,” and 10 is “I’ve got all day; knock yourself out!” they’re a 3…. 
Getting the shot, in the end, is very satisfying….
Hooded Merganser hen bathing (Lophodytes cucullatus) -01.jpg
Hooded Merganser female who showed up alone in Belmont Pond, just behind our condo, and spent several days grooming herself as if waiting for a mate to join her. The same situation occurred last year.

Click any image in the group below to enlarge the whole group and view one by one.

Hooded Merganser hen logged on (Lophodytes cucullatus).jpg
Now it’s time for Hilda to sit back and wait for His Nibs to show up….
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) -02.jpg
Belmont Pond, Kelowna, BC.
Well, Hilda clearly knew he was coming, and now that’s he’s logged on, she’s really trying to impress!
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) -01.jpg
Belmont Pond, Kelowna, BC.
“Okay! I’m here! What now?”
They stayed for a few days and then they were gone,
not to be seen again until Autumn….
Common Merganser drake (Mergus merganser).jpg
While 2017 was a better year for Common Mergansers here and in several other ponds I monitor,  we were graced in early April by this fella’s a visit. Unfortunately, this year he didn’t bring a mate…. Did see a pair and a singleton in Thomson Marsh, but here in Belmont Pond, we have a much better chance to get close enough for a good look….

 

Noogye -05b.jpeg
Belmont Pond, where Noogye, a young Great Blue Heron 
now fully promoted to adulthood, exchanged pleasantries with 
Como the Common Merganser:
Como: “You fish your way…”
Noogye: “…and I’ll fish mine!”
Como: “Er, that’s just what I said…. (Sheesh! Herons!)”

In the next post, I’ll take a look at Spring Wood Ducks of Belmont Ponds…..

Summer brings me back to blogging….

calvin-and-hobbes-writers-block.jpgJust as on Winter’s most miserable days, Summer’s afternoon imitations of Hell send me back to this place to do some writing.

Haven’t posted anything since March! Certainly not because there’s nothing to write about. More because the past three months have been busy enough for Nana and me that writing here was pushed to the bottom of the priorities list.

Texas Birding Trip 2018 "Galveston to South Padre Island".png
Click image to open enlarged in a new tab.

In early April when we weren’t planning our trip to Texas, I was out enjoying the return of our first Spring migrants, and Nana was beginning to plan her first garden in Kelowna.

From April 24 to May 8 we were in Texas on the most fabulous birding experience of our lives. The next three weeks I spent sorting and posting (to Flickr) images from our trip. More on this later….

In June we prepared for and enjoyed two weeks with grandchildren from Japan, including our youngest, only seven, in Canada for the very first time. It’s the third time our grandchildren have made the trip over without an accompanying parent. They’re an amazing bunch, for sure!

My three girls.jpg
My three girls…. Click image to open enlarged in a new tab.

After a rather cool and mixed-weather Spring, we’re anticipating another hot, dry summer, and hoping that, as we were spared serious flooding this year, the wildfire season will far less difficult and dangerous than 2017. Last year’s big fires began right around this time….

Flood-and-Fire.jpg

http://armedwithvisions.com/2012/02/09/sasha-paris-flood-and-fire/
(Used without permission)

Iron-gray clouds hang heavy across the sky
Cold rain pours, patters, pours again
Creeks become raging brown torrents
Cascading in white falls of roaring mist
The swollen lake is beige for days

Elsewhere…
Relentless drought withers plants and people alike
Fires race insatiable, unstoppable, turning all to lifeless ruin
Rivers trickle, streams and ponds are but cracked earth
Water is priceless yet pricey, a treasure to kill for
This rain cannot quench that fire
Flood here won’t water crops across mountain or sea.

Here too much
There too little
Balance is gone

Sasha Paris
Beltane 2010 Earth First!

Rebel the RWBL*

*The official American Birding Association four letter abbreviation for Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoneceus). For more examples and exceptions to the basic rule, click here.

Thomson Marsh, where I do most of my weekly birding, is replete with RWBLs this time of year. It’s a great location for trying to get that perfect RWBL shot — something I’ll never accomplish with my current equipment. I’m not complaining. Just the opposite, in fact! I’m enjoying the existential challenge of knowing that any small incremental improvement represents major progress.

This post features Rebel, a bird who loves to perform, who’s easy to locate among the dozens who populate the Marsh, and whose “camera tolerance” is about as good as it gets!

Rebel the RWBL-04
Sitting calmly on a cattail, surveying the world, with blank eye.
Rebel the RWBL-03
Preparing to perform….
Rebel the RWBL-01
Opening salvo….
Rebel the RWBL-02
Full blast!
Rebel the RWBL-07
Repeat and repeat again!
Rebel the RWBL-08
Tail in for maximum power!
Rebel the RWBL-10
Smug satisfaction….
Rebel the RWBL-11
King o’ the World!

The last image has some nice sharpness in spots, but the cattail’s colour is blown out!

Back to the drawing board!

More otters!

Otters 2 - 05
Otters of January 2015

For the 2015 adventure, click here.

Also see Postscript at the end of this post….

March 16, 2018: I was just mumbling to myself the other day, that since our first winter here (2014-15), the Marsh had become somewhat less exciting, what with no harrier, fewer hawks, fewer finches, and no, repeat no otters!

Then I did a little rethinking (I recommend this custom) and acknowledged that this year I’ve enjoyed exceptional opportunities with a Northern Shrike and great luck with a number of ducks that I didn’t see that first winter.

And, today, 2018 wrangled a whole new lease on my affections with the reappearance in Thomson Marsh, West Pond, this time, of four North American Rivers Otter (Lontra canadensis). I had headed out earlier than I’d been going recently, and that turned out to be a blessing. I’d seen an otter’s wake a few days ago, but not the beast. Yet I had no premonitions, as happens occasionally, for this day.

I always check out West Pond these days as it’s not unusual to see a migrant drop in for a day or two, a Barrow’s Goldeneye, say, or some Scaups, or even a Redhead (the duck, you ninny!). As I scanned the surface today, there was no doubt about the wake again, and this time the critter revealed itself — along with three other family members.

So, without further ado, here are today’s highlights: To enlarge it in a new tab, click image.

North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -01
First look: a profile view….
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -02
It didn’t take long for the otters to spot me!
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -03
Unlike some wildlife, the otters’ curiosity is stronger than their wariness —
at least when they’re in the water and their chronicler is on land….
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -04
Powerful swimmers, they appear very much in command of the situation….
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -07
This one entered the very narrow channel and pulled up onto some snow-crushed cattails.
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -08
S/he was almost as interested in her/his own reflection as my existence….
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -10
Difficult light at this time of day, but we did the best we could….
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -11
Back in the water, this one tried his darnedest to levitate!
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -12
There’s something almost snakelike about otters when they stretch out like this in the water….
North American River Otters(Lontra canadensis) -12
And, like the first time I photographed them in January 2015, they liked to have group photos, too.

Don’t know if they’ll be back tomorrow, but I know I will….

Postscript (as we used to say….) And I did return the next day (Saturday, March 17).
Found them again, this time in the Raptor Tree Pond. Still just four. This time they were enjoying a feed of carp — at least one was — no leftovers for juniors!

North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -01.jpg
I’m indebted to my Flickr friend Heather for this caption: Carp diem!

Although I took more photos, they weren’t as interesting as the ones I got the next day, (Sunday). I went a little earlier each day, and this time caught them returning from West Pond en route to Raptor Tree Pond, which means that I had a couple of chances to view them at close range in the narrow channel that leads into the big pond. They were too smart for me, however, and chose to cover that section either under water or very close to the far shore!

Still, once back where I believe they have a temporary den (used periodically over the years), they did give me a few more shots that I’d like to share:

Sunday North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -02
Sneaking past, close to the cattails….

Click either image below to enlarge both in a new tab:

Sunday North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -07
“Are you the Candid Camera guy? I’m smilin!'”
Sunday North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) -09
Denoising the image makes him look like Slick Willie!

Not sure about more photos, but the past three mornings have been a dream come true!

For the 2015 adventure, click here.

 

What a Glorious Day for PIWOs!

 

Pileated Woodpecker male (Drycopus pileatus) -04
Mission Creek, Kelowna, BC. near Gordon Bridge. 
Fearless Foz:
Click photo to enlarge in new tab.

March 2018: For the uninitiated, a PIWO is a PIleated WOodpecker, the largest of the seven species of woodpeckers we see up here most frequently. They’re colourful and industrious and often very willing to be observed and photographed — especially if they’re committed to an excavation!

On Friday, March 9, I was heading home after a walk around my beat. I’d enjoyed a lovely variety of birds, and thanks to a tip from a neighbour, had been able to check out a Bald Eagle that may be returning an old nest above Mission Creek. Although I was unable to get decent photos of it due to the thick branches in the way, I was glad to see him again.

As I approached Gordon Bridge where I would normally head south along the Road back to our condo, I ran into a fellow birder who asked if I had seen the PIWO on the other side of the bridge. It was working down low, she told me.
We parted, and I took a look, but made my search more difficult than it needed to be and would have missed the bird had I not run into to my colleague again not the bridge after I had given up. She just pointed down to the bird at work, and I was on my way….

What follows describes the process of trying to get the shot that you see above — especially when, at first, it seems nearly impossible. Let me give you a hint: success requires effort on the fotog’s part and considerable cooperation from the bird!

One never knows for sure whether a bird will stay put or immediately flee. The second option is the more likely to occur most of the time. Fortunately, this particular PIWO is accustomed to people poking into his private affairs; my task was actually pretty easy. But one only knows this when the encounter is over!

Pileated Woodpecker male (Drycopus pileatus) -01
First lookout Fearless Foz: not terrible, but those branches are really annoying!

The name, Fearless Foz came to me from a remark my birder friend made about our bird of the day: “He likes people,” she said. “He’s fearless!” And so Fearless he became.
Fearless Fosdick came to mind — a flashback from my days reading comics as a kid. You may remember Al Capp’s syndicated cartoon strip, Li’l Abner, which had as a cartoon within the cartoon, a Dick Tracy parody cop called Fearless Fosdick. More on him at the end of this post….

Pileated Woodpecker male (Drycopus pileatus) -02
A look one seldom sees. He knows I’m here, yet soldiers on….
Pileated Woodpecker male (Drycopus pileatus) -04
Reprise: So how to get this shot from the branchy one above?

Well the trick was simply to get closer than he was comfortable with in the moment, see if he would withdraw to a more favourable location, take a shot, then back off and let him get back to work. All of this assumed, of course, that he wouldn’t simply back off and fly away! Having worked with him 14+ months ago, I bet on his staying focused….
Click any of the images below to enlarge the whole cluster.

In the sequence above, you can see, how after retreating at first to the other side of the tree, he peeks back around again, and slowly finds his way back to the excavation….

Pileated Woodpecker male (Drycopus pileatus) -08
He’s almost there. I’m happy to have a good shot of his grasp and his full body. The plumage details worked out well, too.

At this point, I decided I to allow him to get back to his cavity work as I attempted to photograph him at work. This required my moving down the slope, around one large tree, through some saplings, and then resting against another tree, which, had it not been there, would have meant my tumbling all the way down into the creek!

Of course, all my movement meant we had a little more negotiation to complete
before we were both where we wanted to be. I took advantage, continuing
to shoot even as I edged myself into place. He backed off briefly, then, once I was settled, resumed his business, which he continued to work at until I left. Elapsed time for the entire encounter: 12 minutes.

Click any image in the cluster below to open them all in a new tab.

As you can see above, I was able to persuade him to move a bit from time to time
so we could inspect his work. He was most obliging!

And so we concluded with one parting profile shot on the trunk of the tree.

Pileated Woodpecker male (Drycopus pileatus) -21
Click the image to enlarge it in a new tab.

Then it back to work for him and homeward bound for me.

Oh yeah! Almost forgot my promise to show you Fearless Fosdick the first!

Fearless Fosdick
Click to enlarge in a new tab
Fearless Fosdick & Wildroot Cream-oil
The Good Ol’ Days!

Ospreys fishing —Part 1….

Although these older photos are not signed, I assure you that they’re all mine….
Each image can be enlarged in a new tab just by clicking on it.

Iona Osprey fishing - 24
Osprey hovering above Thomson March, preparing to drop and catch….

My first recollection of Ospreys fishing go back to my days at 108 Mile Ranch/Resort where I lived for 15 years in the 70s and 80s. The golf course, where I spent a lot of my summer vacation days, overlooks 108 Lake and a small pond that separated the second and third holes back in those days. Nothing could distract me more that picking up on a Osprey hovering and then plunging almost vertically into the lake before lifting off with a big fat Rainbow!

Osprey with catch - 2
Adult Osprey takes a large trout from Kentucky Lake, Kentucky-Alleyne Prov. Park….

But I never studied these magnificent birds. I took the fishing spectacle for granted.
Nana and I thrilled to spectacle of Ospreys hunting on the Teshio River in Northwestern Hokkaido. When we settled in New Westminster, I used to travel 25 km either to Iona in Richmond or Grant’s Narrows in Pitt Meadows to enjoy the fish hawks in action, usually at considerable distance — perhaps a couple of times a year….

When planning our move to Kelowna, we were delighted, in late September 2014 (unusually late, but we didn’t know that then), on one of our first hikes along Mission Creek, not far from our current home, to discover this youngster atop a hydro pole feasting on a spawning Kokanee.

Osprey w/Kokanee - 3
“You shoulda seen the one that got away! It was at least this big!!”

Soon, we were surprised to find several Osprey nests in locations that we often visited. Best of all, from 2014 through 2016, a pair of Ospreys nested in the largest Rec Field light, which we can see from my home office. At last, I was ready, willing, and able to do a little more serious study of the habits and talents of these awesome predators.

Osprey - "Mom said to ask you! Can I fly?"
Poppa and twins atop the Lightship Nest….
“Mom said to ask you, are we cleared to fly yet?”

The story of the raising of the twins (above) in the Spring and Summer of 2016 is told in another post. Today’s episode is dedicated to observations of Osprey in action, especially the father above (Poppa) in Belmont Pond which is only five or six stones throws from our condo and of the twins, once they learned to fly, learning how to do what Poppa does….

A brief word about Belmont Pond. It’s not very big, but it’s full of fish that feed mergansers and our Ospreys. But perhaps not quite what you think. Apparently, it’s an old quarry, not terribly deep, however. And the fish are distinctly non-native. More on this in a bit…. Here’s Poppa Osprey preparing for to catch lunch….

 

 

 

On two separate occasions from this very location, I’ve been privileged to watch both Poppa and Momma go about their predation. It usually takes them a couple or more tries, because, as you’ll see, their target is not very big, but it is very visible from up here!

Hover and drop is not the preferred technique, here.
Rather, the birds use a shallow dive, eagle-like, to grasp their prey in this pond….
The young ones, when they’re read, will learn this method first, too….

Poppa OSPR fishing - 1
Just after capture — what’s he got?
Poppa OSPR fishing - 2
Yes, indeedy, it’s a Goldfish!
Poppa OSPR fishing - 3
Securing his grasp…
Poppa OSPR fishing - 4
…turning…
Poppa OSPR fishing - 5
…”Look what I got!” …
Poppa OSPR fishing - 7
…across the pond…
Poppa OSPR fishing - 8
…up, dammit, up…
Poppa OSPR fishing - 9
…a quick peek into the houses, then up, up, and away!!

This capture went quite smoothly.
But on another day, there was considerably more excitement,
which is covered in this post….

Riding the Elefunk….

February 17, 2018: As I stare out the window at an all-day blizzard, and daydream of Spring around the corner, my mind drifts to new life and ducklings, and trips over this memory of a humorous encounter from two days before Mother’s Day, 2015.

My Beat north labelled.png
Click image to enlarge in a new tab.

There’s a spot on the southwest side of Michaelbrook Marsh, where, if we leave the open playing field and sneak through the long grass, and carefully make our way around the wild roses, we can observe a log that often hosts a Great Blue Heron using it as hunting platform. More likely, though, it’s occupied by bale of Western Painted Turtles.

Rush hour traffic.jpg

On this day in May, however, approaching very cautiously, I was delighted to find a mother Hooded Merganser and her chicks sitting between a pair of turtles. Fascinated, I recorded the scene. When I got home, my imagination took over, and this fantasy played out. And, while admitting that I speak neither Merganserese or Turtleian, I’m confident that this is what was happening….

So the turtles were acting as guards, lookouts, really. Mom was busy just watching over her babies. Boyfriend Pete is, as is the Hoodies’ custom, nowhere to be found at this time.

Among the chicks, most, as is normal, were simply sunning and being good.

But Georgetta and Herman (on the right) were restive, the brother, in particular.
Click any image below to enlarge it in a new tab.

Latest releases on the shelf.jpg
Mom and chicks between the lookouts. Herman and Georgetta are on the right. 
Click images to enlarge in a new tab.
Guard on the left“Jeeze, I wish Frank didn’t have his butt right in my face.”
Mom: “Such a lovely day. And such a lovely family. I’m so lucky!”
Georgetta: “Wanna go swimmin, brother?”
Herman: “Stop crowdin’ me, Georgetta. I don’t wanna go swimmin’ again!”
Guard on the right: “Man, I hate Merg Duty, especially when there’s so many of these little brats!”
Hoodie babies - 1.jpg
Herman: “Oh wow! Mom got me a pony!” 
Georgetta: “That’s not a ponee; it’s a elefunk!” 
Mom: “Oh dear!” 
Guard: “Must keep a stiff upper lip!” 
Hoodie babies - 2.jpg
Herman: “I don’t care what you say, girl! I’m goin’ for a ride!”” 
Georgetta: “I bet you can’t stay on for five seconds….” 
Mom: “Oh dear!” 
Guard: “That tickles! Must keep a stiff upper lip!” 
Hoodie babies - 4.jpg
Herman: “This has to be the most boring pony EVER!!” 
Georgetta: “I told you—it ain’t a ponee; it’s a elefunk!” 
Mom: “Oh dear!” 
Guard: “What do they think I am, a pony?” 
Hoodie babies - 5.jpg
Georgetta: “Maybe you need a push!” 
Herman: “Maybe this IS a elefunk! It sure is slow!” 
Mom: “Oh dear!” 
Guard: “One-a-these-days, I’m gonna….!”
Hoodie babies - 6.jpg
Herman: “How do I make this guy go?”
Georgetta: “MO-OM! Herman’s not sharing the elefunk!”
Mom: “Oh for Pete’s sake! Speaking of Pete, he’s gonna get an earful if he ever comes back. 
Nobody told me there’d be days like this!”
Guard: “My lips are numb!”
Hoodie babies - 7a.jpg
Well, Herman managed to fall off and had to climb back up onto the log,
Georgetta quit pestering to ride, and
Mom put her hair up to warn the other chicks not to do anything foolish!
As for the guard, he never let on another thing!

A couple of days later, this incident apparently forgotten, I observed the chicks having a ball in their bathtub, making as many bubbles as they possibly could….

HOME chicks making bubbles.jpg
Bubbling with enthusiasm!

~~ The end…. ~~

 

 

Sir Ralph plays scenes from Richard III

Photos originally posted on my Flickr site:

Who knew that Sir Ralph, the most outstanding Great Blue Heron on my beat, is also a part time thespian? Here are a few scenes from his recent performance on the smaller stage at Belmont Pond:

Click on any image to enlarge it in a new tab….

Sir Ralph as Richard III -04
“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of” —er—Belmont….
Sir Ralph as Richard III -08
“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.
But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”
Sir Ralph as Richard III -11
“Shine out fair sun, till I have bought a glass,
that I may see my shadow as I pass.”
Sir Ralph as Richard III -12
“Tis better, sir, to be brief than tedious.”
Sir Ralph as Richard III -14
“Bad is the world, and all will come to naught
when such ill-dealing must be seen in thought.”
Sir Ralph as Richard III -15
“The world is grown so bad that wrens make pray
where eagles dare not perch….”

Sir Ralph, the GBHeron, stars in Thomson Marsh

I recently published a piece on the Great Blue Herons I encounter on my beat. This is an update with photos from the mid January into the beginning of February 2018.

We’ve had a mild winter (so far) compared with last year’s.

Kelowna weather 1801 vs 1701 simple.png
January 2018 much warmer than January 2017, esp. first half! Great news for herons!

A quick note about Sir Ralph, the subject of this piece, originally written for a response to a post on my Flickr site by a Texas colleague who expressed admiration for this bird struggling with our harsh Canadian climate:

On Sir Ralph of Thomson & Michaelbrook Marshes and Belmont Ponds

“Like many of us Northerners (aka Canadians, esp. the BC variety), he finds ways to enjoy every season, and here, in Kelowna, considers winter less “rigorous” than “stimulating.” Since this winter has been much milder than 2017, he has no trouble feeding himself as there has been some open water somewhere in the Marsh throughout.

And now, still in the first week of February, with the RWBlackbirds already back, staking out their territories, there is continuous open water — I estimate the Marsh to be 95% ice free. Although it may snow overnight and melt during the day, Ralph prefers this climate to Coastal rain. His prodigious plumage protects him and promotes his claim to regal status….

As you can see in a later post, he even engages in thespian pursuits when the muse seizes him…. Recently, he performed scenes from Richard III, not because he’s in any way like Shakespeare’s arch-villain, but because he’s versatile enough to play roles from villainy to virtuousness, a virtuoso in fact!

Next to Kessie, the resident American Kestrel, Ralph is one of the most likeable denizens of the fen, even if he rarely smiles (see photo below). He’s got the same dry sense of humour that my dad passed on to me….”

December 2017 ended with a promise of a repeat of January’s frosty days. Turned out to be hollow. Here’s Ralph on December 30:

Sir Ralph surveys surfaces -07.jpg
At least it’s sunny….

By January 20, the Marsh had changed radically:

Sir Ralph likes this weather! -05.jpg
Click image above to open enlargement in a new tab….

At the end of January, we caught up with Sir Ralph in the smaller of the two Belmont Ponds that he also frequents (as well as Michaelbrook which is still quite frozen at this time). While there was only a little open water under the bridge over the very short connecting creek, he was surveying his options very carefully.

Sir Ralph checks out Belmont Pond -07.jpg
Sir Ralph sees his shadow and concludes that Woodchucks are poor prognosticators!

He was smiling as if he had inside info about an early Spring…. Time will tell.

Sir Ralph checks out Belmont Pond -15.jpg
…smiling as if he had inside info about an early Spring….
Sir Ralph checks out Belmont Pond -25.jpg
On his way to check out the “creek” and the larger pond…. Click to enlarge.
Sir Ralph checks out Belmont Pond -35.jpg
It’s a different world on this side….
Sir Ralph checks out Belmont Pond -45.jpg
Sir Ralph tries to blend in with the Cattails along the shoreline….

He can make himself look tall and slim, but sometimes, methinks, he over estimates his “invisibility”….

Sir Ralph checks out Belmont Pond -47.jpg
Ralph tries to hide behind a Cattail, with dubious success….

Two days later, I visited Belmont again, where I found Sir Ralph indulging his passion for the theatre in a marvellous presentation of scenes from Shakespeare’s Richard III….

Click here to see shots from his performance….