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Sunday, 25 May 2014

Dunlins at Second Marsh!!!

Never have I ever seen this bird, a Dunlin. I believe from what I read on the Wiki link, that we were lucky to see one as most likely, this migratory bird was on a stop over during its trip from the arctic to far south of here. It was such a delicate, cute little thing! Also, not shy, paid no notice to us as we stood and marveled at them, walking within a couple feet of us along the shoreline, hunting for bugs I guess.

There were about 30 - 40 of them and they would take off in a group in flight once in a while, over the water, landing as a group a few feet further along the shore. I took about 50 pictures of them as I doubt I'll be seeing any more any time soon.

Note: discovered they are No big deal to spot lol! Oh well, it was still exciting to us :-)

Friday, 23 May 2014


Had an awesome time in the Niagara Region May 24th weekend! Stayed at an older motel with heart shaped jacuzzis in the room (yes we soaked the stairs and floor around them getting in and out to reset the timer but we cleaned it up responsibly and amazingly though it used all our towels but not a speck of dirt appeared on the towels so we were happy to see how clean the place is lol!). Visited the Botanical Gardens, hiked down to the river at a rest stop before the gardens, ate at Johnny Roccos (our fav!), and went to the Bird Kingdom. Bought a snowy owl stuff toy at their wonderful gift shop.

This was a combination mini vaycay and a trip to visit my aunt and my step dad who live in Welland. 2 years ago we had driven down for a specific reason to the Port Colborne and Welland area several times, not a real good reason. My mother's family having grown up in Port Colborne, I've loved Niagara since a little kid, have good family memories from there. We passed the fruit blossom trees in a couple orchards on one trip but failed to stop (passed it 3 times but did we stop? no! lol! doh!) and take a photo of them back lit, so gorgeous, and had hoped to this time. Well, we weren't really going down that same road, which lead to Ball's Falls, so we didn't really get an opportunity to revisit that exact scene and lighting condition, but I did get a few nice shots at the Botanical Gardens. As usual, Johnny Roccos did not disappoint. The food and atmosphere are awesome there, and funny as it sounds, they make the Best vegetables that are sides to many of the meals. I believe if I recall, they get what is local and available depending on when you go. Bird Kingdom was fun! I have been there once before, with my kids when they were little. There are 3 floors and many exotic birds flying around free. They even can be seen nesting! We walked along the walkway by the Falls briefly, it was chill chill and there were huge ice rocks still below them. Got some pics of probably what is a familiar local guy sitting in a mass of peanut shells feeding the birds and squirrels (sneaked a shot), saw a black squirrel with a white tip on the tail, photographed some flowers, and saw some outdoor birds.

Since we've sort of developed an interest in birds, we planned to go to Bird Kingdom. It's not an expensive place to go to, great for families! There are 3 floors, parrots, reptiles, nocturnal birds and creatures, and a whole open area with free birds everywhere :-) Last time I spotted a nesting bird and this time as well, a silly bird with her nest right on the emergency box lol! The plants and waterfall in the main area are also wonderful, with the daylight streaming in from above through glass.

One thing we planned was to visit the Botanical Gardens though I guess this time of year they aren't quite as exciting as when I saw them one late summer/fall trip about 8 years ago. At that time, the botanical students, who come from all over the world to study there, had their examination gardens up. They were interesting and stunning in many cases! We will go back again later this year as I'd love to see that again :-) But, we saw quite a few stunning blossom tree examples, lots of gold finches and we even witnessed a wedding party in a sun shower, trying to keep dry as they walked way ahead of us (sneaked another shot lol!).

My aunt's home is in Welland and she has an area set up where she does hair. It's a really cool environment and my aunt is and has been since age 18, a talented hair stylist and taught hair as well in a school in Toronto years ago. I always enjoy visiting her <3

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Birdie Smorgasbord at Bluffers Park!

Well, we were treated to quite the variety of birds this morning at Bluffers Park in Scarborough. Having gotten up at 5:45am to venture out somewhere, we hit Rosetta McLean Gardens first, hoping to see the Red Fox that others have seen there often. No such luck, but we did see lots of warblers, squirrels, cardinals and pretty flowers, mainly Daffodils. The Cat Birds were plentiful there, and loud, crazy lol!

We then headed to Bluffers to see what was out and about there. It was around 7:45 by the time we parked and were walking. Not much at first but as we headed to the west, near the high bluff cliffs, just before entering the marsh area and metal bridges, we spotted 3 Bobolinks, closer than we'd ever seen, Baltimore Orioles eating, chasing each other and gathering nest materials, as well as an Orchard Oriole. In the small trees around the marsh area, there were Yellow Warblers, Warbling Vireos, American Gold Finch, and different Sparrows.

Driving over to the east area, near the beach, along the path that heads west, we saw tons of Cliff Swallows and although far, the images I took show that there were hundreds and there holes were plentiful and way out of harms way in the sand and clay of the bluff walls.

Just a gorgeous Saturday morning out there!

Horned Grebes at Bluffers

A couple of nights ago we went down quickly after I got home from work to see if we could spot the Wood Ducks that have shown up there. We didn't get to see them but we did see Horned Grebes! A first for us. The cutest little things! It was getting fairly dark and the sun was long behind the bluffs so the light was not so great. Three images of them turned out not too bad to see their plumage which we learned is their breeding plumage.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Crazy Fun Walk at Tommy Thompson Park

This is now the third year we've headed to Tommy Thompson Park at the bottom of Leslie in Toronto. This place is worth seeing. It is a man made conservation area, created from decades of dropped clean fill from old demolished buildings, etc. It is only open to the public on weekends as during the week, there is still fill being taken there. It has been said to rival Pelee Island for migratory birds, bird populations and bird sighting. We love to go in the Spring but this year, we are planning a second summer trip. One thing about going there is you Have to make sure you have water, food and are willing to use a porta potty as there are no washrooms, no places to get water and No garbage cans so it is the public's responsibility to take their garbage Home (please!). No dogs are allowed either which is another good thing.

This time around we went 1 week earlier than usual. We didn't see a lot but what we did see was exciting and fun! It was very windy and it actually was quite chilly. We didn't make the mistakes we made the first and second year. The first year we went on a whim right after I got my 70-300 mm lens, We had No water and it was like an 80 degree day. We thought we saw a stand that was handing out waters (knowing Nothing about the park) but it was just a group packing up an info booth. An elderly couple offered us their own water after we asked if we could purchase some from them. It was so kind and we were So grateful! The second year, last year, I didn't apply sunscreen well enough during the day and I received a terrible blistered infected burn on my lower lip that lasted almost 3 weeks :-( This year's visit, we planned smarter :-)

Though migratory birds were scarcer this time, we spotted several Yellow Rumped Warblers. The usual White Chested Sparrows were around and plentiful.

The highlight of the walk happened fast, came from my right side, and I am shocked of the 3 shots I took real fast, one turned out ok. I had to sharpen the animals and use a mask to leave the background as shot, less sharp, so the 2 animals showed up in the environment a bit better. As we walked along a path near the Toronto skyline and harbour side of the park, out of my peripheral vision flew a snake, seemingly across the tops of the grass blades and ahead of the snake by about 6 or 7 inches a leopard frog leaped for its life. Holy crap, wtf! was my reaction. I whipped my camera up, had no time to check the settings though I tend to always make sure it's set at a sort of happy medium while walking, chosen by the general lighting conditions, etc. As they crossed in front of me I took 3 shots. One was semi half decent and I have it here above. We must have sort of startled them as they came upon us and us them as eventually they stopped and both went in opposite directions through the ground cover. The frog, to live another day (or few hours only since there were many snakes under foot that day lol), and the garter snake still hungry.

Every year we go into the little bay area even though there is a no trespassing fence up. I'm always reluctant but we've seen the best things there both times! All the seagulls hang out there and the terns too. We walk straight through along the shore and rejoin the main path. Last year we saw the terns hunting fish and this year we saw Caspian Terns standing on the beach. So cool!

Almost back at the entrance, after a 5 hr walk, as I walked past a brick, I did a double take. The words replayed in my brain that I had just read on an old brick sitting off to the side of the path. lol! Say what?! Had to take a pic lol! What it Really means is Cubic Meters - Price.

The last 2 sights worth noting, were also near the end of our hike. John spotted a red Necked Grebe way out on the water of Lake Ontario and I came upon a little Garter Snake who was curled up, I guess kind of cornered, in between a bunch of large rocks. He checked me out as I looked down on him. I'm sure he could easily sneak through a crevice but I took a couple pictures then backed up and left him alone. He was so cute! We also saw a lot of swallows of various kinds flying, most were Tree Swallows but we did see a Rough Winged and Barn Swallows. There were also Canvas Backed Ducks, Mergansers, and Killdeer around, as well as my favourite little duck, the suck I can mimic well, the Long Tailed Duck, AKA in the past as the Old Squaw Duck. Love them :-) Soooo gorgeous and cute and they make the weirdest sound!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Bohemian Coolness :-)

When we first viewed our condo, an idea came to us when we saw the bar. The previous owners had altered what was the builders' bar in the unit, extending it into the living area by a foot or so, adding an aluminum pole and a thick dark brown stained wood bull nose edge.

We have lots of little eclectic things we've picked up here and there on walks. They range from little fossil stones, to tiny delicate bones, gorgeous pebbles and stones, tiny unique pieces of wood, sea glass, quartz, etc. They were in 2 piles all over our apartment floor before lol! We thought, wouldn't it be cool and personal to create a 3D bar surface with all these little natural items.

Decorative cream colored sand, which can be bought anywhere from IKEA to the Dollar Stores, would layer the shallow depth, a piece of beveled glass could be cut to sit on little silicon beads over top of the raised edge, and all the collected pieces from our many hikes and walks could be displayed below. Cliche and tacky perhaps, but for us it would be a personal and beautiful statement about our leisure times, enjoyable memories, and something we share an interest in - nature.

I also wanted to do something with the front of the bar, which is basically just laminate flooring but on the front and side surfaces. We saw ceiling and back splash tiles by Fasade which can be bought at Home Depot. There are so many stunning patterns, textures and tones. I love the Edwardian look ones, the industrial chic style :-)

I mocked up the bar front in Photoshop, using one of the tiles, to see how it would sort of look. Of course, it would not repeat the light condition on each tile as seen in the mock up, but would be an over all lighting condition, which I just have to mentally visualize beyond the mock up image I created. Along with this, John wants to paint that aluminum pole as well, in a dark brown metal paint since he hates it lol! I don't mind it but the silver won't work with the warm metallic tones in the facing we chose.

Of course, we cannot litter the surface of the glass with objects like it is now, or no one would see anything below :-) Once the walls are no longer drab light pink white (if I never see a light coloured wall again in my life it'll be too soon but to each is own) the whole effect will be warm bohemian richness :-) In the kitchen, we are tossing around the idea of a blue with a terra cota combed paint effect over the blue. The living area we want a warm terra cota tone.

A relatively inexpensive project that I can do much of myself :-) and it'll say something about who lives in our space.

from Walmart

extra seaglass from Walmart