Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rock Wren on a grasslands rock, southwest Saskatchewan


A Rock Wren — a small Western songbird  —  on southwestern Saskatchewan prairie grasslands, high above the Frenchman River.

Rock Wren. Photo copyright © Shelley Banks, All Rights Reserved.
Pale grey-brown songbird, the Rock Wren.   © SB

We listened to bison expert Wes Olson, counted wild flower species (new to me: Indian Breadroot and Clustered Broomrape), and enjoyed the dry prairie wind and sunshine.

And then birder extraordinaire Trevor Herriot spotted this Rock Wren.

On a rock, of course, with prairie grasses at the base and buttes beyond the river in the distant background.

Rock Wren. Photo copyright © Shelley Banks, All Rights Reserved.
The wind blows through the grasses above the valley,
below the rock of the Rock Wren. 
© SB
Seen on the Prairie Passages tour of PFRA and other publicly owned grasslands, with conservationists, authors, and photographers, including Margaret Atwood, Graeme Gibson, Alberto Yanosky (Executive Director of BirdLife affiliate Guyra Paraguay), and  Ian Davidson (Exec. Dir., Nature Canada). Organized by Public Pastures - Public Interest. For more on the tour, see Pasture Posts and Trevor Herriot's Grass Notes.

What is this?  A Rock Wren

Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan.
Photo date: June 25, 2013.  

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Late June Aurora Borealis over Regina, Saskatchewan

Ribbons of pale green Northern Lights shimmered across the Regina, Saskatchewan, sky late last night. As I watched, the main band circled from east to west, with other flickers of Auroras along the northern horizon, aka, the roofline of my garage.

Northern Lights. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
The power of Northern Lights: a heart, spade, solar explosion. Kapow! © SB
Northern Lights. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
What do you see in the Aurora Borealis?
I see a woman, nude and dancing, long arms and legs extending... 
© SB
Northern Lights. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Shimmer, shimmer - a river of Northern Lights. © SB
Northern Lights and the Big Dipper. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Northern Lights, the fire to put the Big Dipper on the boil. © SB

I wish I'd braved the night and driven out into the country, where the lights must have been pure magic!

But I'm a bit spooked by, well, the thought of coyotes and the dark. When I'm alone, at least. And it's long after midnight and everyone else here is asleep. Except the dog, who stayed out with me for a while, then whined to go back to bed.


What are these?  Northern Lights
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan.
Photo date: About 1:00 a.m., June 29, 2013.  

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Super Moon - the year's biggest full moon.

Tonight, the Super Moon rose over Regina — and over everywhere else over which it rose, but I was in Saskatchewan, so that's the place over which I saw it.

Super Moon rising over Regina, Saskatchewan.  © SB

The Moon is now at its closest point to Earth on its rotation — at its perigee — and looks about 12 per cent larger than it will next January, when it's at its apogee, the farthest turn from Earth.

Watch for high tides to follow if you live by the shore, not high here in the dry lands, where only rivers rise... (And rise with sudden vengeance.)


What is this?  The closest - and biggest - full moon of the year. 
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan.
Photo date: June 23, 2013. 



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Friday, June 21, 2013

Blue-winged Teal: White mask, blue wings

Blue-winged Teals. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
A pair of Blue-winged Teals   © SB
Long after I learned to identify Blue-winged Teals by the white half-mask across the male's face, I finally saw blue wing flashes on these prairie ducks.

The blue is visible when they fly — as long as you're at the right angle to see it...

It's also visible at times (but not, to me, often) when Blue-winged Teals float and feed in their preferred shallow, marshy ponds.

The first photograph above shows a clear sideview of a male's blue and green wing markings; the one below also shows the blue on a female's wing.

Blue-winged Teals. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
A pair of Blue-winged Teals, with blue wing flashes showing. © SB

What are these?  Blue-winged Teals
Location: Along Rte 99, near Craven, Saskatchewan, and near Yellowgrass, Saskatchewan.
Photo date: May 25, 2013, and June 16, 2012. 

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Yellow-headed Blackbirds in Slough near Regina SK

Yellow-headed Blackbird. Photo ©Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Yellow-headed Blackbird, on reeds near Regina, SK  ©SB
Yellow-headed Blackbirds creak and dart among the reeds at a slough not far from my house in Regina, Saskatchewan.

On a recent drive, I listened to their rasping screeches and croaks, and realized that far more Yellow-headed Blackbirds were singing than I could see.

But those I could see were beautiful, their vibrant yellow, gold and amber feathers shining in the sun, their black suits, stark and sombre.

The males, that is.

The females are more subdued in colour, a blurry yellow with brown, the better to blend in the reeds and mud in the nest.

(I've only seen females in early spring — perhaps before their actual nest sitting?)

And as for a slough, that's a natural water-filled area, more shallow and reed-filled than a lake.
Yellow-headed Blackbird. Photo ©Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Female Yellow-headed Blackbird, in the slough  ©SB
Yellow-headed Blackbird. Photo ©Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Yellow-headed Blackbird ©SB

What are these?  Yellow-headed Blackbirds
Location: Slough north of Regina, Saskatchewan.
Photo date: May 25, 2012. 

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Western Willet: Shorebird with grey legs and long grey beak

This Western Willet, a mottled grey, buff, white shorebird, was feeding in one of our insta-spring-lakes near Regina, Saskatchewan.

It dipped and bobbed its way across the flooded area beside the grid road, swallowed morsels of something it plucked from the water, then ambled on.

Western Willet. Photo © Shelley Banks, all rights reserved.
Western Willet, near Regina, Saskatchewan.   © SB

What is this?  Western Willet

Location: Temporary slough, south east of Regina, Saskatchewan.
Photo date: May 26, 2013. 

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