I have been waiting 256 days (posts) in anticipation to be able to name a post “Pileated Woodpecker”. Up to now these charismatic woodpeckers have been eluding me. I have seen them numerous times in the distance, in flight and one can hear their calls on almost every walk in the Whitemud Ravine. To add to the frustration; on several occasions before I started my Project 366 (and before I had my Nikon P1000 camera) I got amazingly close to these magnificent birds. They certainly are not shy. Its almost as if they were aware that they are the coolest woodpecker around and they like to rub it in your face. As soon as I got my camera, however, I ran out of Pileated Woodpecker luck. Last weekend, however, luck was on my side as there was a bit of an woodpeckerpalooza going on in the Whitemud Ravine, with Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers and two adult Pileated Woodpecker busy looking for their next meal. Due to the dense understory I did not manage to get as close to the Pileated Woodpeckers as I would have liked to, but I did get pictures that, while not perfect, are the best to this date. There is always another day, so I will be back for more Pileated Woodpecker action in the near future.
The other day, as I was crossing the bridge going into the Whitemud Ravine, I noticed that the snow along the banks of the creek seem to have broken off and collapsed. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the snow cover along the middle of the creek also had fractured. A snow free section of the ice revealed that the ice also had fractured right down the middle of the creek. I thought this was peculiar and it got me thinking about what could have cause this. The most plausible explanation I could come up with was that most likely the water level under the ice had dropped. If the ice was not thick enough to support its own weight when it was not longer floating on water it would have collapsed under its own weight. This must have been quite a spectacle and by the looks of it, it probably was a suddenly and fast event. Considering that people walk, ski and bike on the ice covered creek this could have ended badly if someone had been on the ice at the time. I think I will hold off any excursion on the ice for another month or two until one can be certain that it is thick enough to be safe.
I had returned home from my nature walk and was unpacking the car when I spotted a Black-billed Magpie perched on top of a tall fir tree. Against the blue cloudless sky the bird was impossible to miss. There it was without a worry in the world just keeping an eye on its surrounding. It is easy to dismiss magpies as they are one of those urbanized birds that like to hang out around people. This is my first picture of a magpie, not because I have not seen them, but because I just have not been paying much attention to them.
When I took this picture I was going for a back lit effect in the withered leaves. The result was this image of leaves frozen in the winters embrace with the sun illuminating their edges revealing the intricate network of veins running through the leaves. When I looked at the picture at home I did not see any of this. Instead, the first thing I noticed where the round bokeh balls in the background. It’s the first time I have noticed that my Nikon P1000 gives bokeh balls. Bokeh is traditionally known as the aesthetically pleasing quality of the out-of-focus blurred highlight in the background of an image. Traditionally lenses have hexagonal aperture blades producing hexagonal bokeh. I have always had a particular fondness for hexagonal bokeh, perhaps due to my background in black and white photography with film cameras many years ago. When I first noticed the bokeh balls in this image I was taken back. I had never seen/noticed bokeh balls previously. As it turns out, lenses with rounded aperture blades yield bokeh balls. I think it will take some time for me to come to terms with the lack of hexagonal bokeh.
Since we were on the topic of oil pipelines in yesterday’s post. Today’s picture is of the Suncor Refinery in north eastern Edmonton, wedged right in between Edmonton and Sherwood Park. This location is significant for several reason. First of all, this is where the pipeline cutting through the Whitemud Ravine originates, and second, I pasa but this industrial behemoth every time I head out towards Sherwood Park on my way to Heritage Wetland Park, Emerald Lake and Centennial Park to go birding.
Anybody that has been to the Whitemud Ravine between Fox Drive and Snow Valley has seen the odd looking orange bridge crossing the ravine. Although it clearly has a catwalk on top, it is not a bridge for mere mortals as it is fenced off at both ends. Below the catwalk there is a thick pipe. I have never been able to put my finger at what this bridge is for. Some people have suggested that it is a sewer pipe. That does not make sense as it would freeze in the winter…, and we all know what happens when water/beer/sewage freezes in a enclosed space. The only other thing I can think of that would be impervious to freezing winter temperatures would be an oil flowing through the pipe. Up to today I have not had any evidence suggesting that this is an oil pipeline, other than it would make more logical sense than a water/sewer pipe and the fact that we have a lot of oil pipelines crisscrossing Alberta. That was until I came across a map of pipelines running through Edmonton. The map reveals that there indeed is an oil pipeline crossing the Whitemud Ravine at exactly this location. On the map the pipeline is labelled as “TRANSMOUNTAIN-610mm-OIL” and it originates at the Kinder Morgan Terminal at the outskirts of Edmonton. This terminal is a transit and storage facility for crude oil. So while this provides some answers it also raises many new questions. Is this “The Trans Mountain” pipeline that carries crude and refined oil from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia and that there has been so much debate around in regards to its expansion? It seems a bit puny for being The Trans Mountain pipeline? Is the pipeline still active? Perhaps it is an old route and as been decommissioned? What is the history of this section of the pipeline and why is it running right through (above) the the Whitemud Ravine and through residential areas?
The temperatures are going up and down and the creek cannot make up its mind if it should stay frozen or not. Most of the Whitemud Creek is now frozen over except for a few spots, mainly under bridges, that are still teetering on the cusp between freezing over completely and staying open. I like this picture, where the crystalline white snow is gradually replaced by paper thin transparent ice where the blackness of the water shines through. The water itself is flowing. Cold and black, disappearing under the ice.