Scavenging

Last Friday turned into a pretty good Good Friday. Sunshine was promised and eventually made an appearance in the early afternoon. It seemed like a beach day, so that is where we went.

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This is where we went

We hadn’t been to Wick Beach in quite a while, and it was a very pleasant stroll we were having when we saw quite a crowd of ravens hopping about a clump of something in the distance. As we approached, the ravens flapped off, and we could see the sizeable remains of – I think – a sea lion. We skirted past swiftly, not wanting to enjoy the aroma any longer than necessary, and to give space back to the ravens.

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“Ooh, just a quick peck…”

A little way beyond the body we saw a juvenile eagle sitting on a stump, no doubt waiting for us to move on, and perhaps hoping the ravens would leave a little something.DSCF8062

As we wandered by, two adult bald eagles flew past us towards the remains. We thought it was starting to get rather crowded. If it hadn’t been dead, the sea lion could have become quite irritated with all the attention…DSCF8073

We kept going up the beach, and eventually hunkered down in front of the dunes, slightly elevated on a log and amongst the long grasses. From there, the cadaver commotion was almost out of sight, and we switched our attention to the ocean, looking out for and spotting many spouting whales.DSCF8064

Once we’d finished our coffee, after Scout had demolished a fair chunk of washed up log, and given up digging a deep hole in the sand for me to fall into as I stood, we set off back down the beach. As we drew closer to the corpse, we could see quite a crowd. Three adult bald eagles, two juveniles, and a smattering of ravens were figuring out how the goodies were going to be shared.

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“Save some for me – I’m still growing…”

We stuck to the dune side of the beach, not wanting to get involved, and anyway, after coffee and chocolate, we weren’t feeling the need to scavenge. I couldn’t believe Scout wasn’t more interested in the proceedings, but she wasn’t.

The photographs I took were at the outer limits of what my camera and shaky hands could handle, and really none too sharp, but I’ve used them here anyway, in case you’re a fan of partially consumed corpses…

When we got home, I got caught up on the blogs I enjoy, and one of them was a perfect piece to read after our earlier adventure. It made me stop and think about how vulnerable many species are. Living out here, one could (but I’m not) become a bit complacent about the numerous bald eagle sightings we are blessed with. If you have the time, I heartily recommend you head over to read Jet Eliot – you won’t be sorry!DSCF8083

If the weather holds – and it has turned warm and sunny this week – then perhaps we’ll head up Wick once again over the coming weekend, check out the state of the scavenged. I doubt there’ll be much left, maybe not much more than a few picked over and pecked clean bones. That’s life, and death.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Weathered

We’ve heard that parts of North America and Europe have been unseasonably cold in the last little while. I’ve also read that Australia has been unseasonably hot, even by their warm summer standards. I’d love to write about how the west coast here has been mild, with a weekend ahead of gentle sunshine, but that wouldn’t be true. If the forecast is correct, we’re due a relatively chilly snap, with a suggestion of snow. I’m rather looking forward to it…1318da27-5d14-46b6-a7d4-f10f602f3981

We get out and about whatever the weather, unless it is dangerous to do so, and this almost brave and rugged outdoor approach is, understandably, reflected in my appearance. Why, not so long ago, a delightful young chap I’ve been working with heard it was my birthday, and he asked if I minded looking so old? In fairness, I believe he meant to say rugged, but it isn’t a word in his vocabulary. He then asked if hair loss hurt, and could anything be done about it? After putting my toque back on, I replied, with a quaver that gave the lie away, that I didn’t mind going bald. After all, aren’t bald eagles majestic? He agreed, they are quite something, but they aren’t actually bald.

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Majestic

Last weekend ended up being far more overcast than had been predicted, but young dogs need to take rugged humans and run them ragged on long walks. Off we went in search of adventure and a bald eagle or two. As promised in my previous post, I remembered to bring along a camera with a better zoom than the phone, and I’m glad I did. We nimbly leapt down from the trail into a rocky area, and with an easy and let’s say spry spring in our step, moved to a sheltered area to enjoy our coffee and admire a bald eagle perched slightly away and above. Once again, the eagle remained in place for our entire visit, and at one point it tipped it’s head back and sang out when another eagle flew past. What a thrill!

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Rugged

The following day was also grey, and the wind had a bit of bite to it. Undeterred, we set off to stretch our legs along a beach to a distant set of rocks where we’d spotted oystercatchers on a previous trip. No oystercatchers this time, but when we clambered (I mean skipped) up the rocks, we were treated to a fine collection of weathered and storm tossed logs. The greyish glow of the light seemed to bring out the shape and texture, and I messed around with taking some monochrome and silver shots.

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Silvery

I’m almost tired now, so I’ll leave it here for this week. Perhaps a quick nap, then I’m off out to enjoy our forthcoming little chill, hoping to see some local snow, and also hoping my toque keeps the bald spot warm…

Thanks for reading, have a wonderful weekend, and whatever the weather throws at you, I hope you get to be outdoors!

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“This is easy!”

Ocean Rebel

Yes, Ocean Rebel! A wonderful name, and I had to use it for this post heading. It is such a good one, could be a story title, and it’s great for a boat – which is where I saw it. If I ever write the untold and untrue account of my exploits as a paddler, I now know what the title will be…

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Prepared, as always – can you see the eagle there?

Never one to be caught up in daydreams about writing, I’m attentive and eagle-eyed, almost always aware of my surroundings. For example, I saw the boat docked at Whiskey Landing (hard to miss) but have to confess it was a few minutes before I noticed the real Ocean Rebel perched up high. Prepared, as always, I didn’t have my camera, so had to snap a few distant shots with my phone. The eagle looked great up there. Patient, watchful, and occasionally ruffled by a gust of wind.

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Perched and patient, a Saturday morning spent sitting on the calm side

A photographer armed with an impressive looking camera stopped by and took a number of shots, and the eagle seemed happy enough about this. A family trundled down to the lower dock to take in the view, and from where I was sitting, it seemed to me they didn’t spot the eagle above them. Either that or they were too cool to show they’d seen it. I still get excited every time I see one…

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The stormy side, Saturday afternoon

On Sunday morning, we were on Long Beach, a sunny day after a stormy one. Gulls were out in force, and we saw and heard quite a commotion down the beach. As we got closer, we could see a bald eagle being harried by a handful of gulls. Or was it a handful of gulls protecting themselves from a rampant eagle? Turf wars and lines in the sand? Ocean rebels? Right and wrong? I’m probably supposed to take a side and stick to it in these partisan and alleged fake news times…

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Calm down, there’s enough space…

Yes, prepared, as always, I didn’t have my camera, so once again the photograph above was taken on my phone. By the time this was taken, the gulls and eagle appeared to have reached an accommodation – smart move, and no need to start a beach shutdown, all was well. It’s a big beach, with plenty of room to roam.

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Can I be an ocean rebel?!

We will be on the beach and on the trails this weekend, as the forecast is for a couple of dry days with some sunshine. This time, instead of wishing I had my camera, I’ll bring it with me, and be thoroughly prepared to capture some ocean rebels, if they don’t move off before I find the right button. (That’s captured photographically speaking – I wouldn’t want to imprison the wild and free!)

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Wild

Hmm. Wild and Free? I believe we have a sequel to Ocean Rebel! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful, wild, and free weekend!

Fierce Patience

An odd title for a post, but stay with me and it might make sense. Or not.

Fierce! The way I plunged my paddle blade into the water when we were kayaking earlier this week? Nope. What a bright and sparkling morning it was. A very light breeze, warm sunshine, and a calm surface, with barely a ripple – until I started paddling…

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Sparkling and serene

Patience? That was Mrs PC waiting for me to get moving. Once I’d figured out my legs hadn’t shrunk, and readjusted the foot pegs – my brother had been using the kayak – all was well. We glided along serenely, spotting several bald eagles, many gulls, a belted kingfisher, and a paddle boarder making great progress across the channel.

I noticed another bald eagle perched in a tree, his gaze looking out over the water. He didn’t seem too bothered by our approach, so I fished out my camera and took a shot of his feet. Then the top of his head. A part of a branch. Some sky. My knees. For a calm day, I appeared to be having a bit of a problem taking a steady picture.DSCF7358

The eagle hadn’t moved, so I paddled back to give myself another chance. Similar results. Mrs PC had paddled on, so she didn’t have to witness me backing up one more time, for another drift past. The photographs included here were the best I could do. The conditions for taking pictures, as I think I mentioned above, were really terrible. Huge waves, gusting winds, super cold.

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Impossible conditions?

A masterclass in photography. The fierce patience? I think that was the look on the eagle’s face. This eagle appeared fierce, but was laughing on the inside. I believe he was maintaining an imperious , yet slightly sympathetic air as I splashed about underneath, blundering and rudely taking photos without even asking.

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Fierce patience

I’m not usually pro-monarchy, but after recent events… What a majestic bird, regal, and with seemingly infinite fierce patience.

Thanks for reading, please leave a message or comment if you’d like any photography tips from me, and have a wonderful weekend!

Bridging the gap…

…between winter and spring, as the ongoing thaw-freeze-thaw continues here in Calgary.

Recent days have been mostly pleasant – the blue skies and sunshine are welcome, although the afternoon slush pools are less so. Those murky pools are growing, and can’t be trusted – they have hidden depths, according to my soggy socks. We’ve been pavement skating in the chill mornings, and puddle-jumping in the squelchy afternoons, wandering the banks of the Bow between two bridges.

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Looking upstream at the Peace Bridge
The banks of snow along cleared pathways have been melting away, the fluffy pillows slightly less deep each day, much to Scout’s surprise. What looks an inviting pile of snow to wallow in, turns out to be ice-crusted and treacherous, quick to collapse under an unsuspecting canine. I try not to laugh…IMG_20180301_135741

All the melting snow is quite pretty to look at. Craters and hollows have appeared, and where the sun has really hit the snow, there is a glassy layer along the edges. Some of the ice crystals look feathery, and some look like scales, flashing in the brilliant sunshine. Tufts and clumps of brown grass are appearing here and there, and there was even a hint of green on a particularly sunny patch.fullsizeoutput_569

It’s been magpies, chickadees and scurrying squirrels along the river banks, adding to a sense of spring, and adding an extra slippery challenge as an excited Scout leaps at each one. One such leap and lurch took us down to a pile of river rocks, nicely warmed by the sun, a spot to rest, look up and downstream, and try to work out who is leading the walk. Calm down, or we’ll walk over the wobbly bridge again…

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Looking downstream at the wobbly bridge
All too quickly, we seem to be leaving winter and welcoming spring here in the city. That being said, it’ll be many weeks before any real greenery emerges, and in fact heavy snow is forecast for the next day or so, but the hints for warmer days are getting stronger. Here’s hoping for a short mud season!

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“Not the wobbly bridge again! I’m calm, I’m calm…”
A brief post this week – I must go and find a dry pair of socks and some sensible footwear, before heading out to negotiate those untrustworthy slush pools once more.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Whiskey Landing

An old man and a young dog were out exploring on a fine sunny morning. In search of whiskey, they landed at an old wooden dock, stopping to rest for a few moments, when they were attacked from above by a mighty bald eagle…

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Early morning, looking east from Whiskey Landing
Stop, stop, stop! You can’t say that, that’s not what happened – you’ve got some of the words right, but c’mon, please be honest, and tell the truth. What is this nonsense you started with? Are you muddying the waters? Playing Chinese whispers? Creating fake news? Uh oh, don’t say that, don’t get me started – aargh, too late!

How I love to hear “leaders” cry “fake news!” I’m not listening, fingers in my ears and eyes screwed shut, la-la-la, fake news, fake news. Yeah, that seems a pretty adult leadership style, doesn’t it? (That’s adult as in grown up, not adult as in Stormy you-know-who…)

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Early morning, looking west, from Whiskey Landing. Calm, not stormy…
Why is it suddenly so hard for some to hear the truth these days? Why pretend to be so sensitive, finding it easier to take (fake) umbrage about what we hear, instead of listening? It’s spoiling my fun in being a human expecting other humans to show some decency and compassion. Let me guess? I’m a snowflake? That’s ok – this time of year, we’re knee deep in snow, so yes, I’m surrounded by snowflakes, and I love it.

And while I’m having this gentle rant, here’s something else. I feel so sorry for the trolls. There, I’ve said it. Once upon a time they lived under bridges, getting into trouble every now and then for wanting to snack on passing goats, but today being a troll is just the worst – blamed for so much of the comment on the web, and it isn’t even real trolls doing the trolling! (There’s no way – have you seen a troll’s hands? Far too big and clumsy to keyboard properly, so it can’t possibly be the real trolls. I hope this gets exposed, like an internet dark net deep state conspiracy thingy…#therealtrolls #trollrhymeswithknoll)

What a complicated world we’ve fabricated. Clearly, I’m getting old, possibly past it, when I’m wishing that trolls can just be trolls, and snowflakes simply fall prettily from the sky. All the partisan vitriol and name-calling. It’s enough to turn a person to drink. Ah, drink! Whiskey! Back to the story, and back to Whiskey Landing. Are you still here? Thank you, and apologies – the aside is longer than the story – oops, not story, I meant to say truthful and factual account. Let’s try again:

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RCMP pa-troll boat. Sorry.
A few weeks ago, I was out walking Scout, and we decided to stroll onto Whiskey Landing, trip-trapping over the bridge and onto the dock, and choosing to sit awhile. She likes to chew on any loose wooden boards, I like to pretend she isn’t doing that, and get my breath back, admiring the view and getting ready for wherever Scout wants to drag me next.

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Lovely spot to sit for a while
On a sunny day, and it was, it’s a fine place to watch the fishing boats heading up and down Barkley Sound. There are large commercial fishing boats, trawler size, and plenty of smaller boats too. Depending on the time of day, you can see quite the flotilla, setting off or returning. Very often, large numbers of squawking gulls follow the inbound boats up the channel, hopeful for a fishy morsel or two. We’ve seen harbour seals pop up and then dive down, wonderfully smooth and sleek. When they disappear, I watch the water carefully – I like to try and guess where they’ll reappear.

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There was a seal, honest! That’s part of the processing plant back there.
There is a fish-processing plant up channel from Whiskey Landing, and that attracts the gulls, crows, ravens and others. We’ve often seen bald eagles swooping over the plant; they fly across from the far side of the sound, singly, and in pairs. There’s hardly a visit to the dock where we haven’t seen at least one eagle, either circling, or perched in a tree, or up on the roof of the building overlooking the landing. Such beautiful big birds!

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“This is a good place to sit, but can we go now? I’ve eaten that plank…”
How big? Big! On the day in question, I’d spotted several bald eagles flying low over the processing plant, out of sight behind large buildings and then up into view, zooming back across the channel, presumably after snagging something to eat. Other eagles were much further away, small specks against the distant low mountains. I was quite content, watching and hearing all the bird activity, and enjoying the warm January(!) sun on my face.

Suddenly, several gulls appeared from beneath the yellow wooden raised edge, screaming and flapping just over my head. Yikes! They were being chased by a bald eagle! He shot up from below the parapet and whooshed over our heads. Scout jumped up and into me, almost knocking me off and into the water. Yikes again! The eagle gained height and landed up on a nearby roof. Wow!

What a thrill to have been so unintentionally close to a magnificent bald eagle. Scout could see the eagle was on the roof, and poor dog, she was trembling and whimpering. I wasn’t, but only because I needed to show Scout it was all ok. My heart rate might have gone up, just a little bit. Not enough to send me to the whiskey bottle though. (After all, it was still morning!) When we had both calmed down, we set off for home, trip-trapping back off the dock, past the eagle and over the bridge, being very careful not to disturb the water trolls under our feet.

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This is the bird! Taken on my phone, with shaky hands and a dog pulling on the leash as we walked away.
There you go, a true story. What with the opening aside (should you even open with an aside?) and the fact I’m evidently easily distracted, it’s amazing the story got told at all. I suppose I could have kept it a bit shorter? We went for a walk and a bird startled us.

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Taken a week earlier, a different eagle in a different location, and beautiful!
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share a story – have you ever been startled by a bird? Do trolls live under bridges? Have a wonderful weekend!

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“Psst! Are trolls real?” “Seriously? You haven’t heard about #therealtrolls?”

Snow city!

A week ago, a record was set for a warm late October day here in Calgary. A normal Chinook-related event, or global warming? There’s quite enough hot air and waffle out there on this, but I will say that even if you are inclined to deny climate change, don’t you think it is wise to take measures? Just in case? Climate change aside, any steps taken are still going to be beneficial, don’t you think? We like to breathe clean air, drink clean water, enjoy hugging trees, think nature documentaries on TV are cool, and admire the beauty to be found in many of our backyards and local areas around the planet. These are worth protecting, aren’t they? Go ahead and deny the science – that needn’t be incompatible with recycling, developing alternate energy, and reducing your pollution footprint. Just saying, even if you are a denier…

Anyway, back to last week. Seems a long time ago, because Calgary is now Snow City, and I couldn’t be happier. If you’re living in a snowy environment right now, I hope you’re enjoying it. Me? I love it (ask me again in six months – I might offer a different opinion!) Getting out in snowscapes, taking brisk walks in crisp air, then back to warm up, and a Scandinavian noir to read while wearing one of those woollen sweaters that Norwegian detectives all seem to have… (huh?)DSCF6342

I enjoy the first real snowfall because once the leaves have dropped, Calgary doesn’t look so great in the fall. Imagine the following scene without the snow: (to be fair, you might not like it with the snow…)

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I can see our house from up here (it’s the one with snow on the roof)

We woke up to snow yesterday morning, and it has been falling gently ever since, covering the grey and brown with a fresh coat of white. The plunge from above 20C to minus 10C was a bit of a shock, but I say face it head on and be quick, rather than endure a slow wet descent towards the inevitable. I think we’re still talking about winter here.DSCF6381

There I was yesterday, excitedly rooting around for winter boots, gloves and a toque, eager to get outside and experience the first chill and thrill of the new winter. I kept to the bluff behind our building and the wooded path leading down to the river. I like to see the light white giving everything else a bit of definition. There’s still colour out there to enjoy, and the snow helps it to stand out.DSCF6374

A magpie flew between trees and branches straight at me, quite a sight, turning away at the very last and landing a few metres up the slope. He scratched about in the snow, foraging and coming up with a morsel or two. When I was atop the bluff I could hear, but couldn’t see, geese. I wonder if they’re stopping here for the winter? Some do, near to the downtown. Later, should the winter provide lots of snow, the grasses and logs will be covered, and the ponds and river will freeze over. I guess it will be tougher for any birds sticking around.

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Bleak, this one, like in a Scandinavian noir. The Bridge?  Oh, yeah, they did that already…
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Colour

I recently finished watching the first season of Fargo. Highly recommended if you are a fan of darkly comic winter noir. Well written, great acting, and beautifully shot, with Alberta standing in for northern Minnesota. Why would I mention this? Well, I was reminded of Fargo when that earlier rummaging for a hat I mentioned above resulted in this:

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Fargoesque?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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The Bridge 2 (was also very good)