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Tuesday, 29 January 2013

A Couple Colder Walks - A.K.A. "Killer Squirrel"

Had probably what was probably one of my most hectic work weeks in a while, which crazily enough, was exhilarating in many ways, and also did something positive for me - it kick started me into a much needed drive to really crack down on my eating habits during the day. My boyfriend is extremely healthy and although I have tended to follow in his footsteps somewhat, I refuse to give up a few little things I love but that maybe are not so great for one (we bloody well live once). So, I was Sooo looking forward to this past weekend and getting out for a walk or 2. Walking in our local conservation areas and being excited and awestruck by the creatures and plant life we share this world with, at the same time Definitely respecting our surroundings and its inhabitants, is our leisure time together and we love it and look forward to it. We also sometimes run into some interesting and enjoyable people. Summer is better because not only do we get weekend walks, we get evening walks if we so choose too :-) This is our "vacation", our "getaway" and it all is so very close. The Durham Region is lucky to be privileged with containing some of Ontario's most important wonderful wetlands, marshland, and conservation areas.

The last little while, it has been closer to -7 to -17 and I'm not a big fan of winter to begin with, even as a kid, and often had to be forced to go out in it. But, the walks are so enjoyable that cold weather and wearing tons of crap to stay warm doesn't deter me anymore.

We visited Halls rd. a couple times and we also did the Thickson Woods walk this past weekend, going the whole long path to the east of the woods, all the way to the lake shore.  Just at the end of this long walk, before we got back to Thickson Woods, we heard the unmistakable prehistoric sounding call of a raven, then saw 2 of them fly right over our heads. I was too slow to take a photo though lol! I regret I didn't as the light coming through their wings was gorgeous.

On our recent treks, we saw the usual chickadees, tree sparrows, blue jays, downies, juncos, and geese, swans (both Mute and Trumpeters) and ducks. However, we did see Lesser Scaups - a new duck to us. We also were lucky to see American Kestrels and Red Tailed Hawks on our most recent outing. The Kestrels were sitting in a tree, a boy and girl one. We stood very still and watched them, from fairly far back. One went for something on the ground then onto a nearby roof of an industrial building where it sat on a corner of the roof. The other shortly followed, and sat on the adjacent corner. Later on walking back to our car, we spotted the girl one, eating a mouse on the hydro lines that run parallel to the sidewalk. We watched her for a while, not wanting to walk past her and scare her off her prey. Once done she left. I got a couple memories of her to take home.

On our long walk starting from Thickson Woods, we saw a coyote as we neared the lake, which was a bit scary. We also had seen clumps of fur stuck in low bushes, in Thickson Woods on the pasture side. It had to have been coyote fur that had caught as one walked among the low bushes. It felt like steel wool. There were zillions of rabbit tracks everywhere and every once in a while you'd see evidence of a scuffle in the snow, with skid marks and churned up grass and dirt - maybe an owl or hawk going after a rabbit - the tracks would abruptly end at this scuffle.

The squirrels were acting quite crazy, particularly the red squirrel we tend to see on the bird feeding path we often walk along, usually feeding the chickadees and nut hatch. On this particular past Saturday, one person was putting out piles of bird seed on the path. The sparrows and chickadees and juncos were eating in groups, only to be scared off by mourning doves. The red squirrel would come out of the edge of the path, check out the doves at the food then sprint along the snow and jump at the doves, attacking them off the food. It happened 2-3 times and I decided the next time it happens, I'll try to get a shot. Luckily there was only one dove which made it easier, plus just dumb luck at getting the right moment captured. I tend to usually be faster than my shutter and am often disappointed that although I pushed the shutter release as things occur, my resulting image ends up being a second After the actual action or moment I was trying for. But this time, I was thrilled to see I had captured the incident pretty well lol!

When we got home, I fed the 5 stray cats that hang next door - which were all fixed by a kind soul who resides on the same street.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


I don't often just write and don't include images, especially since I am a visually inspired person first and foremost. However, I just have this urge to write this post.

To be accurate, this was one evening in early January; while listening to music on my headphones on the Go Train, the individual instruments that seem to come in much more clear and clean on the headphones right over the ears, got my mind wandering about how certain sounds evoke emotional reaction, comfort, nostalgia, images in the mind and more.

There are certain sounds that appeal, smells that are comforting, and tactile experiences that one personally likes. For me, being a visual person, these other senses sometimes seem secondary but can be just as reaction causing :-) Music, despite the fact that I don't have a musically talented bone in my body, is probably the second most important sensory experience I love and need daily - at work, while reading, while cleaning, definitely while driving -  time of day. The louder the better. Smell and touch come after those other 2.

My Comforting Sounds

waking in the early am - windows open - to the sounds of the birds beginning
the comforting sound of the dishwasher at night while snuggled on the couch watching a movie
the rumble and roar of the Go Train as it enters the station and passes near enough almost to touch
wind chimes tinkling outdoors lightly in the breeze
the clop of horses' hooves on stone or cement
pool balls clacking off each other and the sounds of a pool hall
the ping of a titanium golf club hitting a ball off the tee
the roaring of the bass in a car playing their music ultra loud
the scratch of fingers on guitar strings
the keys of a loved one turning in the lock of the front door
the crackle of fire

My Comforting Smells

the fresh scent of laundry detergent on clothes (no wonder candle makers offer this scent)
the gasoline and damp cement smell of an apartment building's underground garage
breathing in the clean almost undetectable fur coat smell of a cat hugged lovingly right up to one's nose
fish and chips
the smell of a leather saddle on a horse
the scent of just blown out candles
the smell of oil paint and linseed oil
the scent of brewing coffee
bacon cooking :-)

Fav Tactile Experiences

petting the velvet nose of a horse
holding a rabbit's fever warm feeling ears
digging out the cold slimy guts of a Halloween pumpkin with bare hands
the squeak and creak of the saddle when riding a horse
the muffled sounds, lapping waves against ears calm solitary feel lying perfectly flat on my back in a pool

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Second Marsh and Halls Rd. - Crazy Extreme Mild Temperatures January 12th

To Skip the Boring Text and Jump to the Pics - Scroll :-)

Saturday ended up not only being warmish but also brought surprise sunshine! It was like Spring, such a positive and uplifting day :-) Probably not a good sign, though I am not a big going on about global warming person since I myself contribute to it as does pretty much every single soul on this planet. I will admit I don't mind this kind of unseasonable mild spring weather in January :-)

In the morning, the night before sort of foreshadowed that there could be my favourite morning sunrise in the fog conditions so we got up early and headed out for a bit to Halls Rd. and mainly down to the shore of Lake Ontario. The fog wasn't real thick but it still had a neat misty glow with the partial sun and remnants of fog.

One thing that stood out and was sort of odd were all these thick strung spider webs across all the branches. The warm weather over the last day or so must have woke up the little buggers and they had a heyday. There were webs everywhere, covered in droplets of water. Water droplets are the cliche macro photographer's dream lol! Though I do not have a macro lens I am still able to capture some close up shots of various found and growing things covered in water drops from the past night's rain, glistening in the morning light :-) It is exciting finding interesting tiny visual occurrences on our jaunts. Of interest this time out, we saw an amber piece of quartz that looked like a raw egg when the water washed up over it and a bone that looked like a delicate flower.

The lake was quite wavy and the water had a liquid metal look - one of my favourite lighting conditions on it. There were swans out, not too far from shore, and a huge cloud of ducks kept flying in, circling, landing then sweeping by again. All they were doing was seemingly changing their location slightly 3 or 4 times. Gawd knows why. From what I could tell, they looked like Canvas Back Ducks. I ended up with a shot I really love, of the ducks swooping over the water, with a cool to warm metallic sunlit lake in the background. The horizon needs straightening to really make this image perfect but to do so would mean cutting off the ducks on the left, which I like there. To avoid slicing off those ducks after straightening entails adding to the photo so it can be straightened then trimmed. Something that I'd spend the time to do if planning to print and frame.

Later in the day, after fitting in a quick food shop, we decided to take advantage of this 14 degree day and get out somewhere else for a walk. We chose Second Marsh as we hadn't been there in a while. It is possible to walk down to the lake shore there too and it is a decent length walk.

On Lake Ontario at the end of the Second Marsh path, we spotted 2 Trumpeter swans that were not tagged. Never have we run into ones with no yellow wing tags. However, we learned they could have leg bands which we never would be able to see while they swam in the water.

There were like tons of people fishing all along the river part that runs down to the lake shore, though it is posted that there is to be no fishing in that area at all. Not sure what they catch or if they keep it or not.

All in all, a fun day, really spirit lifting and positive!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Mysterious Black Swan

My boyfriend's daughter mentioned to us that a black swan had been spotted not too far from us. Holy crap, they are totally Not anywhere near here originally. We managed to figure out the general vicinity where it had been seen. We certainly did Not expect to find it so easily. It was a dismal day too, grey and rainy when we headed out. I had wanted to get out for a bit so we decided to try the area where it was sighted. We get down there, park, and we see all kinds of activity out on the ice. Ice fishing most likely. I look out and see hundreds of geese and some ducks. There were some guys across on the other side of the water, doing some sort of training exercise. I look through my lens and there the thing is, swimming right near the shore and right near where one guy was standing.

Not all the water was frozen though and the guys we passed on the road down to the shoreline, where I figured we weren't allowed to go anyway, said to watch the edge of the water as it was soft in spots. We apparently were fine to be walking down there to the water edge. It was actually a pretty nice looking sandy beach out into the water even, albeit snow and ice covered much of the ground now. The black swan was swimming not too far out, among a couple mute swans.

There were also lots of different ducks. I like the cool little what was once called Old Squaw and is now called Long Tailed Duck - cute little ducks.

That black swan must have belonged to someone somewhere, but who knows where it came from or how it got there. I hope it will survive the cold winter.

We, out of curiousity, looked on and an Ornithology site and there is no acknowledgement of this species of swan. Wikipedia has information but no bird species documentary sites seem to. This makes us think maybe this is only a domestic, ornamental bird? Kind of puzzling.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Awwww the Wittle Wigeons

Today, we got up at about 7am, hoping for the type of sunrise I saw Friday morning on the lake while riding the Go. No such luck but it was neat to see Whitby Pier again as we've kind of been traipsing around other areas and not so much there since summer of 2011. We didn't have too long as I was meeting my son to help get him settled into residence for school later so we basically walked to the end of the pier then back. Saw a few Mergansers but it was fairly quiet down there.

Had a nice time helping my son get into his room at residence, had a lunch at the school which was provided by the school for the new residents and their helpers. Fun day, I really enjoyed it. The school is in the area I grew up in and went to high school in and it was fun showing my son what was around there, the apartment building I lived in, my old school, Fairview Mall, etc.

We decided, when we got back, to do a walk somewhere because the sun was out as we left and since that's been rare lately, doing grocery shopping took a back seat lol!

Of course, doesn't cloud cover hit as soon as we head out, this time to the walk along the bluffs from Thickson Rd. We heard there was an array of cool duck spottings, and we haven't done that walk since May or June. I like walking along the shore in winter because there is always some sort of really neat light through ice find along the way. The sun peeked out here and there so there was some gorgeous sparkly images to be seen. A silver strip of white sunlight sparkle hit the horizon of the water briefly, which was beautiful to see from atop the bluffs.

We ran into a birding couple who were there to see the Pintail Duck, which they never did spot. They also had hoped to see a Pipit, which they as well as us were lucky to get to see in a tree on the path back, then see it fly away into a further tree. Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to grab a shot of it.

My fav ducks were there, the Gadwalls, and among them floated a couple American Wigeons as well as a Eurasian Wigeon which as far as we know from researching, is pretty far off its migratory path. They were hanging with the Gadwalls which they seem to resemble. There were also Canvas Backs and Buffleheads. Very difficult to get shots of them as they tend to be quite chicken compared to the Mallards. 4 swans floated around with the ducks as well - 3 Mutes and one tagged Trumpeter.

The odds of running into something gross and creepy are generally better than the odds of winning the lotto. We've run into bones of all kinds, animal skulls with bullet holes in them, huge rotting fish, dead duck carcasses, animal skeletons hanging from tree branches, and all kinds of things. Today, we discovered parts of what was probably some sort of large bird of prey, perhaps a Barred Owl, we weren't sure, strewn here and there, along with blood stains and pieces of insides scattered. Something obviously caught and killed something else fairly recently.