Monday, February 25, 2013

Fox Squirrel in Regina, Saskatchewan

Face-to-face with a squirrel in downtown Regina, Saskatchewan.

When I took this photo, and posted it, I'd thought it was a Red Squirrel — but a commenter below suggests it's more likely a Fox Squirrel. After checking pictures online, I think Anon. is indeed correct.

I hadn't heard of Fox Squirrels before, which isn't surprising, as Natural Neighbours: Selected Mammals of Saskatchewan says they are relatively new here, and thus "unknown to many people."

Apparently they entered Saskatchewan in the 1970s, and they now inhabit areas along the Qu'Appelle River and other places. They are the largest tree squirrel in the province, and are fast, agile and generally inconspicuous, with a tail that can act as a parachute if they fall.

So... Fox not Red... I still like this squirrel's bright black eyes — but I confess to not being nearly as enamoured by its very red chisel-like teeth!

Fox Squirrel in Regina, SK: photo © Shelley Banks
What big teeth you have, squirrel! © SB

What is this? Fox Squirrel  
Location: Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo date: May 3, 2012 


Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter Prairie Sunset: glowing red skies on retreat

Today, the wind dropped and the temperature rose to close to zero. And at sunset, a celebration of pinks and golds in the sky.

Light vanishes quickly from the sky here on the Prairies — at least, in winter darkness falls fast... (Summer? Another story.)

These pictures were taken from my room at St. Peter's Abbey, where I am on a writing retreat.

Sunset. 6:48 p.m., Feb 22 2013 Muenster, SK Canada; photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Sunset. 6:48 p.m.  © SB
Sunset. 6:57 p.m., Feb 22 2013 Muenster, SK Canada; photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Sunset. 6:57 p.m.   © SB

What is this? Sunset 
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo dates:  February 22, 2013


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Prairie Windbreak in Snow-Drifted Winter Field

The weather was changing, a cold front rushing in, temperatures dropping by 20 degrees and wind howling in over the fields. It seemed like a good idea to go for a walk... Why not? Fresh air is always good, with or without frostbitten cheeks, frozen sinuses and fingertips that can no longer feel.

A Prairie windbreak, across the blue-shadowed snow of an open field   © SB
What is this? A windbreak, rows of coniferous and deciduous trees, planted to break the wind, keep the soil, and reduce drifts. (And in certain light, snow is blue, not white, and shadows, deep violet or periwinkle.)
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo dates:  February 18, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Deer in the Qu'Appelle Valley, late winter afternoon

Late on a winter afternoon, a herd of White-tailed deer grazed in the Qu'Appelle Valley, near Lumsden, Saskatchewan. Their main culinary attraction appeared to be hay, from snow-topped round bales arrayed around the field.

A cluster of seven (?) deer, at the hay bale; photo © Shelley Banks; all rights reserved
A cluster of seven (?) deer, at the hay bale   © SB

At first, the cluster of deer around each bale stopped and stared at me as I sat in my car, way off on the shoulder of the road, snapping pictures. Then, the White-tailed Deer began to ignore me and went back to eating, clambering onto the bales, running — and greeting each other.

White-tailed deer, watching the photographer  © SB
Deer running towards the shelter of trees around a farmyard  (snowmobiles were approaching); photo © Shelley Banks; all rights reserved
Deer running towards the shelter of trees. © SB  
Deer, clambering onto the hay bale for a different view of food. photo © Shelley Banks; all rights reserved.
Deer, clambering onto the hay bale for a different view of food.© SB
The young deer, at left, ran across the field to greet  the older right, centre, which stood still and watched,  then rubbed noses when the young one © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
The young deer, at left, ran across the field to greet
the older deer, centre, which stood still and watched,
then rubbed noses with the young one, once it arrived.
© SB

What are these? White-tailed deer
Location: Near Lumsden, Saskatchewan. 
Photo dates:  February 12, 2013


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sunset in Blowing Snow: Saskatchewan

Winter. Winds howl, close to blizzard, though no fresh snow. Ground shifts, swirls in patterns, writhing snakes. Roads disappear in white scales, slither into fields. Over buried stubble, the sun sets. And the world burns, violet and orange.

Winter Sunset.  Photo © Shelley Banks, All Rights Reserved
Winter Sunset.  © Shelley Banks

What is this? Sunset over drifting snow
Location: Near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: January 6, 2013  


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Downy Woodpecker: Flash of red and hollow knocking

Walking past a stand of trees this morning, I heard the characteristic woodpecker knock-knock-knock. I paused, walked back, and saw a Downy Woodpecker enthusiastically working his way up and down and around the low branches.

Male Downy Woodpecker with red flash; photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved
Male Downy Woodpecker with red flash  © Shelley Banks

Did he see me? I'd like to think so, because he certainly managed to find a continuous supply of twigs and stumps to hide behind — each time, just when I thought I had succeeded in framing the classic, full-length-with-checkered-feathers woodpecker shot with my camera.

And when not in hiding, this Downy moved at feather-blurring speed, rapidly bobbing his head as he rapped his beak into tasty spots on the bark. (There's even an after-image red halo behind his head, above.)

What is this bird? A male Downy Woodpecker (males are the ones with the red heads) 
Location: Near Muenster, Saskatchewan. 
Photo dates:  February 16, 2013


Monday, February 11, 2013

House Finches: scarlet and brown feeder birds

House Finches frequently visit our backyard bird feeder in Regina, Saskatchewan — and when they perch nearby in the sun, the males' feathers are amazingly bright!  

The male House Finch has a brown crown and bright markings on his head, chest and back — the latter is often visible as a flash of red between his wings. The female, as below, is a more subdued brown and white bird. 

Male House Finch; backyard: photo Shelley Banks
Male House Finch; backyard   © SB
Female House Finch; backyard: photo Shelley Banks
Female House Finch; backyard   © SB

What are these? House Finches.  
Location: Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. 
Photo dates: February 8, 2013. 


Friday, February 8, 2013

White-tailed Deer in the Qu'Appelle Valley

As I drove around a bend in the Seven Bridges Road towards Lumsden, Saskatchewan, three White-tailed deer bounded out from among the hay bales in a nearby field. I slowed down. The deer ran a short distance along the road ahead of me, their white tails high and feathery. And then, one by one, the deer stopped to watch me.

White-tailed deer, watching.   © SB 

What is this? White-tailed deer.
Location: Near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (on Seven Bridges Road/Lumsden). 
Photo date: February 4, 2013. 


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Snowy Owl near Regina, Saskatchewan

Two Snowy Owls so far this winter near Regina, Saskatchewan. At least, that's all I've seen in the area northwest of the city, and I believe they are the same Arctic birds, as each is always in the same place on the prairie, making me suspect they've chosen their winter-in-the-south territory.

I saw this Snowy Owl, below, first on New Year's Day, and then again in early February — on what I swear is the exact same power pole! (At the same small bend in the same rural road, anyway.)

Snowy Owl, on the road to Pense, Saskatchewan  © SB

Based on its extensive dark markings (and what All About Birds has to say about that), I would guess it's an immature female. From what I can see, young female Snowy Owls are the most heavily barred with black.

I love these birds! They make me happy when I just drive by them!

And while so far, I haven't seen any signs of an irruption of the scale we saw here during winter 2011/12 — during which I saw them within 15 minutes on every road I took outside of Regina! — I am just so happy any time I leave the city and receive the gift of seeing a Snowy Owl in a field or on a power pole. (They seem to love power poles — height, hunting viewpoints, and few entanglements for their six-foot wingspan.)

This owl, for those wondering, was about half an hour west of Regina; my other owl (who likes hanging out in heavy, unphotographable glare or shadow) is just a few minutes away.

For pictures of Snowy Owls from last year, you might be interested in these from this blog and Latitude Drifts, one of my other blogs:

What is this? Snowy Owl.
Location: Near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (on the road to the Town of Pense). 
Photo date: February 4, 2013. 


Monday, February 4, 2013

Winter Scene: Blinded by snow and sunshine, Saskatchewan

White fields, white sky. Even the memory of blue sky fades before this landscape.

If on a prairie winter afternoon, you dropped into this vast expanse of light, could you find the horizon? Find your way home through white air, glare?

Snow blind: White field, white sky in Saskatchewan winter prairie scene - photo by Shelley Banks

If on a winter's afternoon, a traveler... © SB 

What is this? Winter field against a cloudy sky (with, yes, the horizon, about 2/3 of the way down...)  
Location: Near Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo date: February 4, 2012. 


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