Thursday, November 17, 2011

Purplish Copper Butterfly on Canada Goldenrod

A summer image to banish the cold: Purplish Copper Butterfly on Canada Goldenrod.

And all those colours in the insect's name? That's its full name, not just its description. I searched for this butterfly by colour, patterns, wing shape, spots and location, and from that, identified the Purplish Copper (aka Lycaena helloides). 

This butterfly is found in Saskatchewan — and from the Great Lakes area across the Prairies/Plains to B.C. and California.

Purplish Copper on Canada Goldenrod 
Oddly, one of my best sources of information, with a clear confirming image, was based somewhere this butterfly is, in fact, endangered: In Ohio. (The Toledo Zoo houses the last population in the state.)

Do we always value what we;re losing — or don't have — more than what flutters frequently around us?

What is this? Purplish Copper Butterfly, aka Lycaena helloides, on Canada Goldenrod
Location: Last Mountain Lake Wildlife Area,Saskatchewan. 
Photo dates: September 17, 2011. 

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

American Avocets: elegant bluestocking birds

Going back through my photo files, I found an old picture of an American Avocet  — an image that shows me two things:
  • How striking this bird is in its bright spring colouration — rust, white and black, with long blue legs; and
  • How much better my pictures are now, with a better camera. 
The more recent, slightly larger, and much sharper picture of an Avocet, below, shows the bird's fall colours, a calm palette of black, white, blue and gray. 

Spring, at Wascana Lake
Fall, at Last Mountain Lake 

What are these? American Avocets, in bright spring and dull fall plumage. 
Location: Spring: Wascana Lake, Regina, Saskatchewan; Fall, Last Mountain Lake Wildlife Area,Saskatchewan. 
Photo dates: Spring: April 27, 2009; Fall: September 17, 2011. 

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Double-Crested Cormorants: Last Mountain Lake

In mid-September, we drove past a small flock of double-crested cormorants swimming in a pond near the Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area.

Although I was hoping the birds inside the wildlife area would put on even more dramatic displays, we stopped to take a few photos — and I'm glad we did.  The park itself appeared to be neglected, and on that end-of-season weekend, most roads were still closed from spring flooding. Without the car as a blind, we quickly frightened these huge black birds, and they flew off in clatters of wings and croaks.

I love the up-tipped tilt of their heads, and what looks like a smirk. 

Drying wings for flight

Flying over the Wildlife Area 

What are these? Double-Crested Cormorants. 
Location: Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area, Saskatchewan. 
Photo dates: September 17, 2011. 

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Birds and Basement Windows

Sometimes we don't see what's before us until we move on — or, in my case, don't see the picture until it's on the screen, as if my brain goes on auto-pilot when I focus the camera, and the photographic record become both magical and more real by capturing what I never knew I saw. 

All of which is to say that when I went out to take pictures of the partridges in my neighbour's yard on the weekend, I didn't know I would end up so delighted by the image, below, of my neighbour's basement window. 

I don't know what's reflected in that rippled glass, or what attracted the birds to it — the heat? the exposed grass? — but I liked the result enough to double-mat it.  

Gray Partridges - photo by Shelley Banks
Gray Partridges 

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Covey of Partridges on my Street

Every winter, we see — and startle — Gray (Hungarian) Partridges in our neighbourhood. Yesterday, a covey of partridges was back, perhaps encouraged by the recent snow to fly in from the fields to forage here, at the edge of the city.

Winter visitors to the city:  
Gray Partridges on our neighbour's lawn  © SB

These chicken-like birds are very sensitive to human movement — no surprise, as some people consider the Gray Partridge a game bird, and shoot them.

The dozen or so partridges that appeared on a lawn across the street ignored a bus and several cars that rumbled past, and calmy marched through the snow and up to the exposed grass beside a basement window. Nothing disturbed them — until I decided to tiptoe down our front steps to get a better angle for a picture. That movement — or the long lens of my camera, aimed for that shot — drove them squawking into the air.

What are these?  Gray Partridges, also called Hungarian Partridges. 
Location: Regina, Saskatchewan.
Photo Date: November 12, 2011.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Coyote at Condie Nature Refuge

Late fall, a coyote.

A golden day when the light falls soft and yellow on dry reeds, and the wind rustles stalks and seeds as it draws across the prairie.

Ahead, a movement counter to the fingers of the wind.

A small creature weaves its own path over the field, sees us, stops, ears perked, body still. Watching. Ten minutes pass before it slinks away into tall grass.

Half hidden, watch and wait.   
The stream through the refuge
These conifers, above, are not native here. They were planted long ago, when landscape designers believed the introduction of artist foreign elements would enhance natural beauty. Or so explains an old interpretive sign on the hill behind.


What is this? Prairie coyote. 
Location: Condie Nature Refuge, near Regina, Saskatchewan.
Photo Date: October 10, 2011.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

House Finches: Scarlet, Rose and Yellow

With the first snow, house finches flock to feeders, their rose, scarlet and yellow feathers a bright flash of colour against the dull winter sky.

These sparrow-sized birds are fairly common here, and all of these photos were taken through our dining room window, looking out onto the lilac bushes in the backyard. It was snowing lightly, and the white blurs, streaks and spots in the images are snowflakes — and the birds have their feathers fluffed up because of the cold.









What are these? House Finches. The first two are red/rose, the next three a bright scarlet/orange, and the last one, a golden yellow. 
Location: Regina, Saskatchewan. 
Photo dates: November 6, 2011. 

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