Sunday, May 31, 2009

Early Morning Bird Walk May 31

    Well, last walk, best birding and least birders.

    This week we went to Heritage Ranch and concentrated on a strip beside the river which is buck brush stunted shrubbery and aspen . So, we saw boreal species and water species. To get to the area we had to walk through a kilometer of spruce forest .

    The skies were partly overcast and half way through a high wind picked up. We started at 7 AM and finished by 8;30AM.

    Altogether we spotted or heard 25 species . We saw Tennessee warblers, yellow rumped warblers and yellow warblers . They are hard to spot but easy to listen to. On the river there were Canada geese , mallards , mergansers, red winged black birds,and bank swallows. Tree Swallows were in full flight in the treed area . Chipping sparrows , clay colored sparrows and white throated sparrows were in abundance . Of course , crows , ravens and magpies put in their appearance . We also spotted golden crowned kinglets and pine siskins.Ring billed and Franklin gulls floated by. A couple of brown cow birds left their cover of brush.

     This area is very productive habitat and is well worth the effort to get to it . In winter many little nests are found attached to little pieces of brush .

      So the season for Saturday morning bird walks is over . We made many interesting sightings . of course birders find every sighting interesting . We all learned much from each other about birds and how to identify birds.Possibly more sessions could be run as the breeding season is now well underway . Next year? Of course , it will be bigger and better . How about coming out and joining us ?

Friday, May 29, 2009

My Jack Rabbit Start

       I was running the other morning at 7AM. Now don't get ahead of me on this story .

     I run through part of a neighborhood which has mature cottoneaster hedges which come down to the side walk. As I came up to one of the hedges, two Jack rabbits popped out from behind the hedge less than two meters from me. They caught my attention! I was startled and stopped . They took a couple of little bunny hops and sat on the road looking at me as if to say, "Sir, just what do you think you're doing ?" I stared back and admired their beauty at this close range.

     They became bored or maybe wanted to continue with their breakfast and they took several big bunny hops and crossed the street where one of them hopped up into a brick planter with new bedding plants and resumed eating breakfast . I said to them, "I don't think you guys are supposed to be eating that stuff." They totally ignored me .

      At that point I continued my run none the worse for my start(ling ) experience which made me jump.So a jack rabbit start at 7AM perks you up for the rest of the day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bird Walk May 23

     Another great morning for a bird walk! Too bad you weren't with us! It was warm, plus 4, clear and calm . Just a great morning to be outdoors .

Today we walked through an area in the River Bend Recreation area . This area is part river escarpment and part upland grass. Of course , there's the river bank itself . The major tree is old spruce with a few poplar and the odd birch . The grass is old pasture so at this time of year it is heavy old last year's grass. The area has cross country ski trails so at this time of year they are grass covered and very easy and pleasant to walk on.

      At the river we saw mallards and lesser yellow legs. There were yellow rumped warblers, robins and a Lincoln's sparrow . Of course, we can't forget the ever present crows and magpies.After that we saw pine siskins, golden crowned kinglets, white throated sparrows, chipping sparrows, white and red breasted nuthatches ,clay colored sparrows, chickadees, yellow rumped warblers , house wren, and phoebes.

     We had eight birders this morning . It's always interesting to see a rookie birder being excited to see a bird they had never seen before . Now look at the experienced birder and they are just as excited . Most birders are excited about any sighting no matter how common.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


     Last weekend May 16-18 was a long weekend. So my neighbor took his five year old son Alf camping . Now I've written about Alf before and he puts on quite a show.

     They went tenting . On Sunday evening it began to snow and on Monday it snowed very heavily. Needless to say, Alf and his Dad returned home by Monday noon . Did Alf run into the house to get warm ? Of course not! Alf was running through the deep snow in his yard having all kinds of fun making trails in the snow .

     So I guess it's all from your own perspective as to what you enjoy . Obviously Alf was oblivious to the cold and enjoyed playing in the snow while I was being a wimp staying in the house and missing all the fun.


     The other day I was looking out my window to the backyard when a magpie landed and pulled up a big fat dew worm . Now I thought what a good fellow . I don't like dew worms and would like to get rid of them . The magpie took two bites out of the dew worm and then a crow landed and scared the magpie away . The crow took a few bites of the dew worm and left . Now, crows and magpies are quite often called thieves and robbers and I had just witnessed a crime .

     Later on I was walking by the school yard and heard a tremendous squawk and noticed a seagull in distress . The disruption was caused by a crow hanging on to a feather in the sea gull's wing. The seagull went round and round trying to get loose and the crow hung on tightly . The crow finally let go and the seagull left . I suppose the seagull had found a tasty morsel and the crow noticed and moved in .

     Another robbery!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Old Guys Should Have a Paper Route

     Well, what in the world is he talking about now ? Paper routes are for kids!

    Well, not so fast . Work with me for a few minutes . After being retired for 12 years I decided I would like to do something different . Now I'm busy with many activities ...volunteering, reading , cycling , skiing , gardening , birding, listening to music . I didn't need something else to do . I just wanted to do something that I hadn't done before .

     So, I looked around for something which wouldn't interfere too much with my other activities . About the same time I thought needed something to get me out of the house in all kinds of weather because I was becoming too soft. So why not a paper route?

     I waited until a route became open beside my house . I started on Jan.2, 2009 . The day was minus 30 C with some wind . What luck! I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was very comfortable in these conditions. I have never been cold . I am always too warm by the mid point of the route. I found other pleasant surprises . I look forward each day to doing the route . I get exercise . I meet and visit with my neighbors . I get tips for good service! Wow! I'd never had a tip in my life . The routine was new so I had to learn to watch for instructions about changes in the route . The pay slip was a real riddle to figure out.

     Saturday and Sunday mornings I can deliver early ...before 7AM. I am a morning person so this is enjoyable .

      Some things give you a good laugh . I was on a step one day and heard a little kid inside saying ,"Paper man! Paper man! Paper man!" That little kid will be mixed up for life .

     Sure there are a few downers . Flyers are a pain . The weight was much more than I expected so on heavy days I do the route in two sections. Sometimes it interferes with other activities .

      Over all, the experience has been well worthwhile . Now, to say all old guys should do paper routes is a bit much . However, there is a positive aspect which is well worth while.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


     Another habitat and another bird discovery . Today we went to a small lake with natural habitat around it . There is a ridge to the west of the lake which is covered with poplar and has a private 7 hole golf course which provides grass and lots of brushy edges . The lake is about 80 acres and the trees and grass probably cover a 100 acres.

     Although there was a brisk wind , the sun warmed us as the temperature varied from 5 to 8 C.

     15 birders attended today and were treated by the hostess after the walk to a pancake breakfast . This number gave us a good mix of experience and learners . All benefit and learn as some describe identities to new learners . Questions from new birders make experienced birders think and consult their guide books.

     The house and yard are set up with various feeders and waterers and bird baths so there are many birds taking advantage of the facilities. From the deck of the house there is a constant stream of chickadees , white crowned sparrows and red winged blackbirds.

     The lake was a disappointment as the bright sun shining in our eyes prevented us from detecting any color . However many geese were easy to spot by their size and shape .

     For further effort we walked the seven golf fairways and were treated to robins , brewers blackbird , tree swallows , crows , red tailed hawk, yellow rumped warbler , downy woodpecker and white throated sparrow. Many of these birds are in full song so the sounds were pleasant and aided in finding and identifying the birds.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


    Well, I admit I just wanted to get your attention so I could tell you about my cycling ! But that will come later . First , my heading begs for some explanation . I'm not going to leave out the female side . Second , I play fast and loose with the term "old." Let me keep age to retirees .

      I like cycling for a number of reasons . I'm sure other people would benefit from some of the same things .

     Cycling gets me out of the house . There are many good reasons to stay out of the house . Staying in the house leaves you vulnerable to being conscripted for many tasks such as dish washing , vacuuming or listening to an unwanted rant .

     Cycling gives me the opportunity to practise my falling techniques. As a senior one must be up on the tumbling abilities so that you don't get injured in a fall !

     Cycling leaves you open to many interesting opportunities . Quite often one will meet others on the trail who are more than willing to visit. Sometimes your mileage is greatly curbed by this visiting. Many interesting sightings are encountered out on the trails such as moose, deer , coyotes , foxes , ducks . geese ,beavers ....

     On a more serious note cycling gives us lots of fresh air and exercise .These good things benefit our health both mental and physical.

     I try to ride a minimum of 1000 kilometers per summer . Most of the time I exceed this goal and have at times reached 2000 km in a summer. All this is done on bicycle trails within our city which has about 100 km of paved bike trails. The mileage might seem large but it's not hard to do . If you average 20 km/hr it only takes 5 hours to do 100 km so 1000 km only takes 50 hours of riding . Now the visiting and scenery viewing will greatly add to that time .

     I tend to ride by myself. It's easier and safer to ride as an individual . You can also ride when you have the opportunity instead of waiting for someone else to get ready .

     As much as I like riding with my daughter , it meant that there were times I would not get away as I was waiting for her to get ready , My only serious accident occurred when I was riding with her although it was not in any way her fault .

      I highly recommend a good electronic odometer . You can get yourself hooked into cycling when you keep track of distance and times . The new electronic odometers have a high degree of accuracy.

       I ride a middle quality mountain bike but there are many excellent bikes to choose from . Make sure that you distribute your weight on hands feet and butt. This makes for less bodily discomforts . I have worn out two bikes . I don't like to rely on too many repairs as safety is a very important issue . So when things start to fall apart I buy a new bike . They last about 10 000 kilometers . A set of tires lasts about 3000 to 4000 kilometers .You want to ride a very reliable safe bike .

    I really think that seniors especially can benefit from cycling . Exercise and fresh air does us good, and we also enhance our balance.

     So I receive much pleasure and satisfaction from a lot of summer cycling. I hope you will enjoy some of the pleasures of cycling as well.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bird Walk May 2

      You never know what might happen on a little old bird walk . Sometimes it can be just jumping with sightings and other times somewhat disappointing . Today's walk was one of the productive ones. We went to a 110 acre area which is a ravine which is mostly heavily forested with old spruce . A creek plants flows through the area . The area was previously used for agriculture by being pastured . The farmer took out the aspen for fire wood . The area is usually referred to as Bower Woods .

     Usually heavily wooded areas are hard to bird in as the birds tend to dwell in the tree tops . You can hear the birds and identify who's there by sounds . It's sometimes a challenge to actually see the birds . The usual suspects were flying by ...crows , magpies and mallards . After that we had to work for everything we saw . So what was there ? Black capped chickadees , boreal chickadees , pine siskins , juncoes , golden crowned kinglets , house finches , phoebes , robins, both red and white breasted nuthatches , downy woodpeckers , chipping sparrow ,Franklin's gulls and a number of gulls which were too far away to identify . 

     So, we did spot quite a few suspects in the area .