Like silent feathery gargoyles the pigeons were snoozing on the duct work of the grain terminal. As I was scanning the thousands of pigeons covering the facade of the hundred year old brick building I was thinking to myself “why are there so many ducts?”. Is it ventilation or heating? Who knows what it takes to store and transport gain. The pigeons did not seem to ponder such trivial and technical details. The merely seemed to enjoy the duct work as a place of resting and pooping.
Like a sentinel of a long lost time the urban grain terminal in north Edmonton is still very much in business. The terminal has been in operation since 1924 and last year 400000 tonnes of grain passed through the terminal. Seed crops arrive at the terminal from Alberta farms and are sorted, cleaned and graded before being loaded onto a train bound for Vancouver and the ocean journey to overseas customers in countries like Japan. This bounty of grain has not gone unnoticed to the local pigeons that flock to the south side of the structure in the thousands. I assume that there must be spillage as the grain is loaded and unloaded from train cars. While the location is a birding hotspot, not so much because of the pigeons bur rather due to the birds of prey that are attracted by the pigeons it makes you wonder if rodents also are attracted to the location by the abundant food source. Officially Alberta is rat free (there is an oxymoron for you), but this location seems perfect for an Alberta-grown rat colony (if there is such a thing).
Windthrow refers to trees that have been uprooted by wind. In the Whitemud Ravine there is a large number of windthrown trees with large exposed root plates. When I grew up I was told that windthrown trees with exposed root plates could be dangerous as the tree could spring back up. For a long time I thought that this only was a myth but when I decided to do a bit of research for this post it turns out that it actually does occasionally happen. When severe weather conditions cause trees to fail from their root plates the tree root’s may still be connected on one side. As a result this can cause the tree to be under a spring-like compression tension. All it may take is a minor disturbance, like a wind gust or a person standing on the tree to release the tension and spring the tree back to an upright position.
Black-capped Chickadees are small and charismatic and it is difficult to sneak up on one without it noticing. This little fella was busy trying to open a sunflower seed and was completely oblivious to the large creature sneaking up on it from behind. I managed to get a picture of the lesser-seen side of chickadees and, guess what, it is just as feathery as the front side.
The White-breasted Nuthatch was too busy looking for something to eat to notice me. Although these birds are common in the Whitemud Ravine they can be tricky to photograph as they always seem to be on the move and rarely sit still for any amount of time. As I quickly and quietly drew my camera and focused in on the nuthatch it suddenly stopped and looked up at me. I thought that it all was lost and that it would just take off. Well, it did, but it took several seconds during which he was staring at me and this was just enough to allow me to get a picture of it. I managed to capture it in the iconic upside down nuthatch pose. Nuthatches ability of climbing down a tree upside down is a very unique ability among birds and I cannot think of any other species of bird that makes its living by finding food on tree trunks, e.g. woodpeckers, that does it upside down.
I came across this Black-capped Chickadee enjoying a snack on an afternoon. It was all fluffed up and seemed quite content as it was sitting on a branch basking in the sunshine with a small seed in its beak. In one respect chickadees are like human teenagers – always hungry and looking for food. In other respects they are unlike unman teenagers. For one, they are much more energetic early in the morning than the average human teenager.
This scruffy-looking female Downy Woodpecker was particularly fond of the contents of this bird feeder. She spend a long time at the feeder munching on, what looked like, some kind of nut. It was a very cold morning and this food source would have given her access to a high energy food source. The perfect fuel to keep her metabolism going and keep her warm on a winter day like this.