Monday, June 20, 2016

Double Rainbows at Grasslands National Park

One recent evening, we were camping in Grasslands National Park when rain clouds swept in from the southwest. After they passed, two rainbows formed. The sun was setting as the clouds moved on to the northeast, and the sunset tipped the clouds with pink and lit the distant rain curtain beyond the second rainbow with a golden glow.

Double Rainbow. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
But wait - the secondary rainbow has the typical order of colours reversed, with red on the inside.
As for the sunset, it was behind me when I took this picture. 

Also... Note how dark it is between the rainbows...
Sometimes the most interesting sunset effects are on the other side of the sky.  © SB

I've seen double rainbows before, but never focused closely. I thought they were similar, just one fainter than the other, I don't remember noticing that the second, outer rainbow reflects the order of colours in the opposite way. A mirror image. Backwards, with red inside the arc, not along the outside edge.

There is a great explanation of this at one of my favourite sites, Atmospheric Optics, but essentially, the second rainbow is not only reversed, but fainter and with its colours more widely spread out. And that's because of the way light is reflected within raindrops. Seriously. It's interesting. Check out the science of secondary bow formation.

As for the space between the rainbows — yes, it's darker than on the other sides of either bow. AtOptics explains that this phenomenon was first identified in 200 CE, and is called Alexander's Dark Band. I do not make this up. As I understand it, light from the inner rainbow brightens the sky inside it, while light from the outer rainbow bounces further out, brightening the outer sky, leaving that dark part in between.... It's all explained here.


What is this? A double rainbow
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: June 13, 2016

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Willet landing on gravel road near Regina

Another evening, another bird landing in gravel beside us — this time, a Willet, a large, grayish-brown shorebird that nests on the prairies. The Willet walked in front of our car for several minutes, and then lifted its bold-striped wings and flew.

Willet. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Willet near sunset, on a gravel road beside a Saskatchewan slough. © SB

What is this? A Western Willet in breeding plumage Chevalier semipalmé
Location: Beside a slough, near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: May 24, 2016.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Killdeer Calling at Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina

One thing I don't understand about Killdeers: Why do they think that calling so loudly — and calling so much attention to themselves — will keep predators from finding their nests? Isn't there a chance that a supposedly threatening creature (me, for example) might not even know the Killdeer is there until they start their kill-deer, kildir call?

Killdeer. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
A Killdeer, at Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina, SK

This Killdeer at the Condie Nature Refuge near Regina, SK, started calling as soon as I drove in. I ignored it. Then, when I drove out, it stopped in front of my car and continued to call. Kill-deer, kildir, kill-deer.

Enough, I thought. You want attention. I can't drive over you, so we both have time to kill. Time for a Killdeer photo session. (And what bright red eyes this Prairie plover has! The shorebird we can see without going to the sea.)


What is this? A Killdeer - Pluvier kildir
Location: Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: May 29, 2016

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Monday, June 13, 2016

American Three-toed Woodpecker - Boreal Bird in Banff

American Three-toed Woodpeckers breed in the boreal forests of northern Saskatchewan — and also in the Rocky Mountains, where I saw one near Banff this spring. We were walking through trees when I heard that characteristic tapping sound, and stopped, expecting to see a more common bird. 

American Three-toed Woodpecker. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Close-up, American Three-toed Woodpecker. © SB
American Three-toed Woodpecker. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Full body through the trees, American Three-toed Woodpecker. © SB


When I realized this woodpecker had a bright yellow head, I looked closer, hoping for a better shot. But what's above is the best that was meant to be with this very wary American Three-toed Woodpecker.

What is this? American Three-toed Woodpecker — Pic à dos rayé
Location: Cave and Basin, Banff, Alberta, Canada.
Photo dates: April 13, 2016.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Golden-crowned Kinglet - blog visitor from Banff

Several weeks ago, when we were visiting Banff, I saw a Golden-crowned Kinglet flitting through the tops of several nearby trees. Perhaps this Kinglet doesn't belong on this blog, as my subject is distant, as I was from the Prairies...

Golden-crowned Kinglet. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Male Golden-crowned Kinglet
with crown feathers raised. © SB

Golden-crowned Kinglet. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Golden-crowned Kinglet © SB

But Golden-crowned Kinglets migrate through southern Saskatchewan on their way to breeding grounds in our province's boreal forests, and so, to remind myself of this tiny (extremely tiny) songbird, and in hopes of seeing another at a closer range, here are two shots of my first Golden-crowned Kinglet.


What is this? A Golden-crowned Kinglet — Roitelet à couronne dorée
Location: Cave and Basin, Banff, Alberta, Canada.
Photo dates: April 13, 2016.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Muskrat Swimming at Sunset in an SK Slough

When we drove out at sunset to see the water birds in a nearby slough, we saw as well a small animal slicing through the water — a muskrat, its whiskers reflected in the glassy blue surface with the sky.

Prairie Muskrat. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Swimming Muskrat, with face and whiskers reflected in blue.  © SB

When we drove back past the water, the sun was sinking and in the darkness, we saw a movement along the shore. This time, the muskrat's tail was above the water as it glided out of sight.

Prairie Muskrat. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Muskrat swimming along the shore of a slough.  © SB

What is this? A Muskrat
Location: Slough, near Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: May 24, 2016.


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Friday, June 3, 2016

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel at Wascana Park, Regina

Perhaps I'm the only one who thinks that Thirteen-Lined Grounds Squirrels are amazingly cute creatures. What could be better than stripes and spots, and a name that's almost longer than their own tiny bodies?

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel, so named
for the alternating dark and light bands on their backs. © SB

I've seen them standing at the sides of our roads, and even watched them carry babies across. (Now those must be teeny!) But watching Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrels eat is always intriguing. And no, I have no idea what this fellow is holding. I know only that he was shoving it into his mouth when he first noticed me — or I first noticed him — and then he removed it. But these creatures are said to be omnivores, so who knows?

I noticed this Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel in the Habitat Conservation area at Wascana Park during the May 2016 Wings Over Wascana Day. He was very close to my path, and stood very still while I took a few pictures — until a guy explaining a nearby water hose to his kid scared this little rodent away.

I wonder: Would the kid have liked to see him? I doubt they even realized he was there.

Slow down. Be quiet. Watch and listen.


What is this? A Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel
Location: Wascana Habitat Conservation Area, Wascana Marsh/Park/Bird Sanctuary, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: May 28, 2016
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Franklin's Gull in Flight Over Wascana Lake, Regina

Because it makes me happy when my camera captures detailed shots of flying birds, here are three images of a Franklin's Gull in flight over Wascana Lake, on the bird sanctuary side. 

Franklin's Gull. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Franklin's Gull, wings high over Wascana Lake, Regina, SK  © SB 
Franklin's Gull. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Franklin's Gull crying over the lake.  © SB
Franklin's Gull. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Franklin's Gull, black-tipped gray and white wings flapping.  © SB

What are these? Franklin's Gull — Mouette de Franklin.
Location: Wascana Lake, Saskatchewan
Photo date: April 26, 2016.

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Yellow Warblers in the Wascana Habitat Conservation Area

The Wings over Wascana nature festival was held in Regina, SK, this weekend, and as I walked around the Habitat Conservation Area. I was surprised by how many Yellow Warblers were enjoying the marsh.

Yellow Warbler. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Male Yellow Warbler, singing beside Wascana Lake,
in the Habitat Conservation Area.  © SB

I'm getting to know the Yellow Warblers' sweet, chipping calls after hearing them in other parts of Wascana Park — and I love seeing their flashes of gold in the trees. (We even had one late evening in our backyard a couple of weeks ago.) And in the marsh, I was lucky to be able to watch a female Yellow Warbler build her nest!

Volunteers were banding birds, so it was very cool to later see a Yellow Warbler with a band on his leg. (You can see the band on the bird's right leg, close to the foot, visible just behind the branch...)

Yellow Warbler. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
A banded male Yellow Warbler, in Wascana Park, Regina, SK   ©SB

What are these? Yellow Warblers - Paruline jaune
Location: Wascana Habitat Conservation Area, Wascana Marsh/Park/Bird Sanctuary, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: May 28, 2016

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

White-breasted Nuthatch at Wascana Park Regina SK

White-breasted Nuthatch. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
White-breasted Nuthatch,
with gray and black and white chest. © SB
I'd seen White-breasted Nuthatches before, but so briefly that my camera couldn't catch them, and I wasn't sure whether they were real or imagined.

Finally, this month, I was able to watch one long enough to know that yes, it was indeed a White-breasted Nuthatch — a bird I gather is fairly common in many parts of North America, but not so common (in my experience, at least) here.

To my eyes, the White-breasted Nuthatch is quite a bit larger than the Red-breasted ones I'm more familiar with. Still a small bird, though. And one that still sports the typical nuthatch pose.

White-breasted Nuthatch. Copyright © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
White-breasted Nuthatch, in upturned Nuthatch pose. © SB 

What is this? A White-breasted Nuthatch
Location: Near the swimming pool in Wascana Park, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: May 19, 2016

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