All Images Are Copyright Protected

Please respect that any posted images are copyright protected. Please feel free to contact me directly for possible permission to use images from my blog.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Sharing Our Enjoyment of Getting Out to View Nature

Having come to Ajax, in the Durham Region, about 1991, it is amazing that I really had No idea how lucky this region is to be home to an abundance of wetlands, marshes, conservation areas, wilderness settings, forests, and more. Granted, I was used to TO and I missed the TTC desperately when we moved here, and at that point, my ex and I were kidless too, till '94. Once I had kids and was home for a while then also working only  part time during the week, I got slightly familiar with some of the parks, like Rotary, which is near the lake front and also part of the waterfront path, as well as Lynde Shores, but had no idea that those areas were just the tip of the iceburg out here. Part of the reason was most likely because my inlaws lived up north and we were there often, so of course, outdoors there often, ATVing, walking, building bonfires, or what have you. We also did some camping as the kids got older, with friends as well as for my daughter's soccer tournaments in some cases.

I did one stint at Lynde Shores with a friend, taking pictures with our manual SLRs back in the late 90s, for a photography course through Durham College. But, frankly, I was Never an outdoor person generally - reading, drawing, etc. and didn't prefer being forced to play outside as a kid in the 70s. Go outside in winter? Uh....No lol! I still didn't really enjoy it as an adult either, though for my kids I did partake lol! 

However, since having moved to Whitby in the last 2 years, and through a new partner and I guess through beginning to explore the pier and lakefront which was a walking opportunity that first summer, we began to expand our jaunts to what became 3-5 hr hikes in various areas like Heber Downs, Greenwood, Second Marsh, Halls Rd. and all along the lakefront into Thickson Woods, and even a trip or 2 into Bowmanville and exploring that waterfront and provincial park area. 

Different reasons have brought us to neighbouring towns and cities in the Collingwood area, Niagara region, Brampton area, Beaverton area, Huntsville area again, etc. and we always make a point of looking up what conservation area we could do a hike in while there, if time grants.

I've touched on it before here but our draw is the excitement of possibly seeing some thing or creature new to us and also the exercise it provides. Photos are my way of hanging onto some sort of creative outlet as well as creating a secondary fun once home of having our coffee and breakfast and viewing our slideshow together, reliving the experience of things we saw. This found and now very much integral part of our leisure life has lead us to learn about the various birds and animals, the area, as well as allowed us to meet some really neat people who we run into off and on on these local jaunts. 

We love the excitement of the blue jays landing to eat out of our hands, the snake we saw one time, various bones and creepy sights we've run across, seeing king fishers, getting to enjoy the baby birds, seeing various birds of prey up close, and lots of amazing atmosphere of fog and light both morning and evening skies, and so much more. I always expect to get bored of it but I have not as of yet and suspect I won't :-)

The most amazing and unbelievable experience lately has been discovering the local Barred Owl which was so very content and oblivious to all the people who eventually came to watch her. I tried on 2 occasions to spontaneously see if my kids wanted to come see the owl. Once, the owl took off before I could go get them, and once they were busy. Last weekend, my Dad came to visit from Toronto and I asked my daughter if she wanted to join us. My son was working. My boyfriend and I took them to see the owl and I was so happy to see that it was extremely active, to the point where it flew past my daughter's head even and landed  in another branch quite near us all. I let her take some photos with my camera and she got some neat ones. She took the first 2 and I shot the 3rd one, of the owl focusing on prey. However, it ended up never going for that prey it thought it had spotted.

When you get to experience something amazing and exciting, it is such a strong impulse to want to share it with kids and family - people you love.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A Couple Early Mornings

One thing you think you won't want to do on a weekend is set the alarm for as early as is needed to get up and make it to work all week. However, the sunrise is usually one of the most exciting sky and atmosphere to get to see. Photos generally don't come 100% close to what it looked like but I still try to grab a few to be able to recall it all.

Probably because it is lower lying land, marshy land, there is often fog first thing in the mornings at Halls Rd. It can produce breathtaking landscapes which disappear real fast after about 7:30am. This weekend we set our alarm for 6:45 (not as early as I do for work anyway lol!) and we went down to Halls Rd. The sunrise didn't disappoint. We looked for the owl but didn't see her that morning. We heard later that she showed up after 9am and we had left to go home just 20 mins before that. We did see juncos and the white throated sparrows. I didn't get great shots this time though.  We walked down to the shoreline and saw a merganser as well as what we figured out later were a couple bufflehead ducks fighting in the water some distance out. Half their altercation took place below the surface of the water but they came up near the end then took off - quite funny! One thing that did occur is almost hitting a deer that jumped out and across the road about 7 ft from my car as we left. Scary lol!

Later in the day, we ventured back down to Halls Rd. before dinner and we knew right away that the owl was there because there were almost 2 dozen people there taking photos again. The more we see it the more crazy it seems. The owl lands right in front of people's feet, flies through and over people, hunts and eats right where everyone is and seems totally oblivious to the crowd. It sounds like some movie star emerging from the entrance of a store or restaurant or something, all the shutters firing simultaneously and people frantically running every time the owl takes flight to change branches. It's like the bloody paparazzi lol!

I relish that we were able to view the owl a few weeks ago, pretty much by ourselves at the beginning as it must have been when it first was spotted and only ourselves and 1 or so others were there one morning, when it had first been spotted. It was enjoyable to be able to be there on our own a couple times, without the rushing and shutters and occasional mild altercations that have occurred between people. It still is exciting to see it and we enjoy some of the people we meet but it isn't the same as peacefully enjoying the owl and sharing that experience together.

Sunday morning, we decided to go over to Thickson Woods. Not as early as Saturday though. The sky was not as dramatic as Saturday but still really beautiful. We did spot the Great Horned owl but so very hidden high up in a pine. No sign of the barred owls from Thickson, last weekend nor this one so we think perhaps the great horned made a meal out of them. Someone apparently mentioned a friend of theirs spotted their feathers on the ground last time they went there to look for them.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Wet Damp Day but Enjoyable - Lots of Sightings

Saturday Nov 10th was a wet and grey dull day but we were going out for sure anyway. We were lucky enough at the very beginning to see a glimpse of sun which created that silvery foggy morning experience again. This is So my favourite landscape photo taking atmosphere. We went to 2 of our favourite areas. Though we aren't getting the exercise we were used to in the spring and summer due to the fact that the sightings we are coming upon are keeping us standing. Lately it seems to be owl haven in many of the areas we traverse. Barred Owls only so far but there's been others seen in the areas.

Thickson is my favourite for inanimate object shots. When there isn't much living breathing creatures to attempt to capture with the camera, there are lots of really cool leaves, thistles, silvery milk weed seeds, curling and dried plants with earthy fall tones, and more - you just have to look :-)

Over the course of this weekend, we were lucky enough to get to see the owl hunting as well, on Sunday the 11th. She was hunting leopard frogs, oblivious to all the people watching her. After she ate her frog, I went to the spot to see if any frog guts were on the grounds - icky I know - and didn't I spot the cutest little snail in the sunlight, climbing over colourful, textured and curled fall leaves. So cool!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Fall Textures - Owls

Not expecting to be lucky enough to spot owls a second weekend in a row, but did. It was supposed to be sunny today but no such luck. There was not a lot out this morning but we did see a Brown Creeper, Nuthatches, a what was probably a Sharp Shinned Hawk hovering in the sky above us, and amazingly enough, we came upon what appeared to be a fairly large and mature Barred Owl. It took off as we came upon it. We crossed the path into the other side of the woods and spotted it on the way out again. The owl flew to a couple more spots ahead as we got closer. Then, as we rounded a corner back over across the path again, we saw it lift off and land in the forest where the trees provided more dense cover, with its prey in its beak. I was being fussy and I hesitated taking the shot as I saw the owl in silhouette with the rodent hanging down, back lit from the light behind - I wanted a better chance but it turned out that was the only chance. It turned and took off then, low over the ground, with its meal. As we walked along, down in a valley area, we turned and there was what appeared to be a 2nd, smaller owl. This one was less timid and it sat and stared at us. It looked hungry :-(

A couple weekends before, we had ventured into this same wooded area in Whitby, and I took a few neat Fall texture shots. We also spotted some pretty odd fungus on a dead tree, one looking like fox fur or some such thing with hair lol! The other looked like some sort of nut. New fungi to us lol!

It has been pretty cold and not so great light wise, so not many great shots the last little while.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Pier Last Night - Halls Rd. This Morn

Sitting on the Go Train, I kept peeking out the window at the gorgeous sky and clouds. I'd be doubtin'er that I would make it home in time to get down to the pier and get some shots as skies can change in seconds but I texted John, "can we go to the pier?" so he brought my camera with him when he picked me up from the station. Of course, some of the sky's drama had gone but yet again, the tail end of some drama was unfolding at the pier. There was a fire truck with its lights on flashing, parked by the entrance to the parking lot, and a cop car. Cops and firefighters were down half way on the pier, walking back up. A woman cop and about 4 firefighters. There was a guy out on a water craft, the pontoon and sail kind, and a small motor boat near him. There was a couple on a large sail boat that had its motor on and who came fast from open water and in near the pier and spoke to the emergency people. What in hell would possess some guy to go out on what is essentially a manual and wind powered craft, on his own, in cold and windy weather with darkness setting, is beyond me but maybe that wasn't the situation - I was guessing. He appeared to be struggling trying to come off open water and back into the harbour area and to the marina. The boat kept along near him. The emergency workers did not seem concerned by the time we came upon all this, and they were walking back to their vehicles so I guess all was under control. Someone must have seen the guy out in open water, appearing like he was struggling, and called 911 - my guess anyway.

This morning, we decided we were going to get up and go down to Halls Rd., whatever time we happened to wake up, and see if we got lucky and spotted the owl again. No such luck but we did get to see a Fox Sparrow. I've wanted to see this gorgeous reddy brown and white striking bird since I learned of them. I figured we'd never get lucky enough to see one. But, someone mentioned "did you see the Fox Sparrow?" and I was like "Whoa, then that is what I was taking photos of!". I've seen Swamp Sparrows down there so assumed it maybe was that. Boy though, the little bugger blends with the leaves. The shots that have him contrasted against the greens did not work well due to a branch across his face in most of them.

I also got some Juncos, a girl one, all sitting puffed up so cute in a tree. The White Breasted Nuthatch came and tried to crack the peanuts in John's hand and the Blue Jays were as usual, eager to eat from our hands.

But the best had to be the guy, all decked out in camouflage, lens and all, and his Mr. Bean teddy in his backpack.