Monday, April 14, 2014

First American Robins of the Year — Near Regina, SK

On a drive through the Qu'Appelle Valley north of Regina, Saskatchewan, I saw my first American Robins of the year.

Five robins, in fact, checking out the damp ground beside a spring-flooded field, bold inquisitive birds asking that eternal question: "Are you looking at me?"

American Robin in the Qu'Appelle Valley © SB

What is this? American Robin.
Location: Qu'Appelle Valley near Craven, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo date: April 11, 2014.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Ring-Billed Gulls Arrive Back to Spring Regina Ice

Ice still crusts most of Wascana Lake in Regina, SK., but the Ring-billed Gulls are squawking back after their winter migration south.

Ring-billed Gull on decaying Wascana Lake ice (with, yes, bread) © SB 

When I walked around the lake yesterday, a few dozen clustered around open aeration spots near the centre of the frozen water, while several prowled the shore looking for treats... Like the gull above, feeding on scraps of bread some well meaning but misguided lake visitor had thrown. (Bread is not nutritious for birds, even if gulls want you to think it's good for them...)

Apparently there are California Gulls on the lake, as well, but if so, they were far beyond my range of view.


What is this? Ring-billed Gulls
Location: Wascana Lake, Regina, SK
Photo date:
April 6, 2014. 

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Prairie Coyote with Prey - and Watching Deer - near Regina, SK

Its gray-brown, winter-furred body low to the ground, the coyote digs in snow and emerges with...

Coyote with lunch in a snow-covered field near Lumsden, SK  © SB

Lunch?

Whatever that straw-covered, maroon blob in its mouth may be, it looks bloodied and, well, edible.

If you were a coyote, that is. A hungry coyote, prowling a field surrounded by trees, where deer stood in the shadows and watched you.

Two deer watch as the coyote passes by.   © SB
Deer. Danger Passed. Relax. Oops - there's still that photographer...  © SB

What are these? A Coyote, and two White-tailed Deer 
Location: Near Lumsden, north of Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo dates: April 1, 2014. 

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

YQR Glory: Atmospheric Optics Picture of the Day

In January, I flew from Regina to Vancouver and back, and was awed in both directions by the strange circles of light traced across the clouds beneath the plane. 

These were glories — rainbow rings that travellers by plane may see, if their plane and seat position is directly opposite that of the sun. 

Even more magical: Seeing a rare sunset glory as our plane descending through the cloud bank to the Regina International Airport at the end of the trip. 

That's my photo of a glory above YQR - Regina International Airport! (Thanks, Les Cowley!) 

And today! My photos of glories are featured on Les Cowley's Atmospheric Optics Photo of the Day. Which is fantastic, because you can not only see the photos, but also explanations of what a glory is. 

The permanent link for my pix of lovely sky sighting, the YQR glory, is at www.atoptics.co.uk/fz993.htm. And, for more on the story behind seeing this glory, visit my blog at shelleybanks.ca!


What is this? My photo of a rare sunset glory, on Atmospheric Optics (atoptics.co.uk/)
Location: Landing at the Regina International Airport, Saskatchewan
Photo dates: January 25, 2014. 

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mountain Bluebirds in the Qu'Appelle Valley

Yeah! Mountain Bluebirds have arrived in the valley north of Regina, Saskatchewan! 

We went for a drive this afternoon to look for Mountain Bluebirds and saw a flock of a dozen or more flitting around a group of trees. The males are oh-so-bright and easy to see, but there were many females, too — although most were more brown than blue. 


My first Mountain Bluebird picture of the year!  
And what a lovely bright male!  © SB


None of the Bluebirds we saw were on fences or near the nest boxes that are scattered along the route we took through the Qu'Appelle Valley. Instead, they flew and settled on the trees.

These Mountain Bluebirds, then, are likely passing through on their way to parts norths. Those few who are staying to nest along Rte 99 (from Craven to Highway 6) or near the old church on the other side of the valley have perhaps not yet settled in.

Yeah, for Mountain Bluebirds!!!


What are these? Mountain Bluebirds 
Location: Along Rte 99, between Craven and Highway 6, north of Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo dates: March 24, 2014. 

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Bohemian Waxwings at the Abbey

Bohemian Waxwing in full flight.   © SB
In the hour before sunset, Bohemian Waxwings streamed through winter skies to Abbey trees, to land in golden light and eat buds from upper branches.

Despite the cold — minus 30 C and below, with the wind sharp against my face and camera-clutching fingers — the birds reminded me of spring, feeding on growth that soon will burst into new leaves.

These Bohemians (so-called because of their nomadic winter habits) migrate from their winter homes in south-eastern Canada and the northern U.S. up to their winter homes in Alaska and north-western Canada.

I've seen them pass by the Abbey in other years, but this was a first for seeing them in this rich light.

Bohemian Waxwing checking out the buds  © SB


Bohemian Waxwing feeding on winter branches  © SB

What are these? Bohemian Waxwings.  
Location: St. Peter's Abbey, Saskatchewan
Photo dates: February 20 and 22, 2014. 

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

House Sparrow: Hanging on Between Landing and Flight

Some days, you know you can fly

and you try

but you cling to the branch

while your friends turn away.

Wait.

Remember.

This is just one moment

caught

between the grace of the trees

and the sky.

This is what you were born for.

Fly.






What are these? Female House Sparrows.  
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo dates: March 23, 2014. 

~~~~~
  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Arrival: A Junco Flies into my Yard

Bird of the day — a Dark-eyed Junco, the first one I've seen in our yard since last October.

They must be flying north again, for summer!

I love the gray tones of this male Junco - gray on gray, with pink beak.  © SB

This one was alone, a very cautious male with no visible mate or companions.

Female Dark-eyed Junco, taken in October, 2013. © SB

But, for the record, here's a female Dark-eyed Junco that came through our yard with a small group of Juncos in October, just before the snow came.


What are these? Dark-eyed Slate-coloured Juncos.   
Location: My backyard, Regina,Saskatchewan.  
Photo dates: March 22, 2014; October 19, 2013. 

~~~~~

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Pair of Wintery Gray Partridges Drop By

Male Gray Partridge on the snow bank
in my front yard. (Taken through the front door...) 
© SB
All winter, small flocks of Gray Partridges have visited our front yard.

Six, eight, fourteen...

We see their footprints crisp in the snow, their bodies blurred in the pale blue light that rises before dawn here in Regina, SK.

These birds startle easily, and any movements by our door — like standing beside it or opening it  — send them cackling into dimly lit flight.

Finally, a pair dropped by in the warm cloud-haze of noon.

Finally, a pair sauntered down the sidewalk for me, instead of immediately taking to wing.

Finally, I have Partridge shots that make me happy just to see their orange heads, gray necks and streaked brown feathers.

And yes, for anyone doing sex-sorting, the male is the one with the much redder head; the female is overall more brown. A pair! It must be spring!


Just a closer walk along the sidewalk... Really, it's safe? This one was taken after they walked 
behind the van and I crept outside to stalk them with a long lens.  © SB

What are these? Gray Partridges.  
Location: On a snow bank in my front yard and along the sidewalk in front of my neighbour's house, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo dates: March 14, 2014. 
~~~~~

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Black-capped Chickadee of the Day

Because every good day deserves a chickadee.

Soft feathered weightlessness, rasp of air on your hands.

Black-capped Chickadee waiting patiently
(or perhaps not) for nuts and seeds. © SB

What is this? A Black-capped Chickadee  
Location: St. Peter's Abbey, Muenster, Saskatchewan
Photo dates: February 11, 2014. 

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