Tag Archives: Edmonton

Project 366 – Post No. 278 – The Year of the Chickadee

What is Project 366? Read more here.

Birders always look forward to the first bird of the year. In his Birding Without Border book Noah Strycker describes the first bird of the year as:

On New Year’s Day, superstitious birder-watchers like to say, the very first bird you see is an omen for the future. This is a twist on the traditional Chinese zodiac – which assign each year to an animal, like the Year of the Dragon, or Rat – and it’s amazingly reliable. One year I woke up on January 1, glanced outside, and saw a Black-capped Chickadee, a nice, friendly creature everybody likes. That was a fantastic year. The next New Year, my first bird was a European Starling, a despised North American invader that poops on parked cars and habitually kills bluebirds just because it can. Compared to the Year of the Chickadee, The Year of the Starling was pretty much a write-off.

Fortunately in these neck of the woods we do not get many European Starlings. Ironically the only place where I have seen starlings in Alberta was where I was least expecting to find them, at Elk Island National Park. We do, however, have a lot of Black-capped Chickadees and as it turns out my first bird of 2020 was indeed a Black-capped Chickadee. So while this did not come as a surprise, I am quite content with this well-deserving bird getting the honor of being the first bird of the year and of the decade. I did not take a picture of the chickadees (sorry chickadees)…, after all I see them everyday and everywhere, specially in the winter. Things get better, however. The second bird I saw this year was a flock of Common Ravens. The name “common” really does not make justice to these intelligent and magnificent birds. This was the first picture of a bird of 2020. I would say that a Black-capped Chickadee followed by ravens is a very good omen indeed, if you believe in such things. Things get even more better(er). The third bird of the year was…, drum roll please…, a Bald Eagle! Yes you read that right. I spotted the mythical Whitemud Creek Bald Eagle on my morning walk today. As I came out of the forest, there it was soaring over the tree tops like it was no big deal. Well, it is a big deal. Everyone who has spend some time with the birds down at the Whitemud Creek has hear about The Bald Eagle, but few people has seen it. This was the second time that I spotted it. The first time was a fraction of a second glance of it as it flashed between the tree tops, majestic and serene, yet elusive and mythical. On this windy cold winter day I came across it again. It was soaring high above the creek and was unmistakable. This was the third species of the year and the second species I photographed. A Black-capped Chickadee, followed by a Common Raven and then a Bald Eagle undoubtedly must be a very very good omen indeed, if you believe in such things. It was an exciting morning and my only conundrum is what to call the year. Technically it should be The Year of the Chickadee, but one could also make a case for calling it The Year of the Raven or even The Year of the Bald Eagle (at least photographically speaking). I will, however, to be fair to the chickadees, call it The Year of the Chickadee, which I think holds promise of great things to come in the next 12 months. Long live the chickadee, and the raven and the Bald Eagle!

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 277 – Landslide

What is Project 366? Read more here.

A walk along the Whitemud Ravine and the North Saskatchewan River is a walk through time. The creek and the river are like time machines revealing past history by carving themselves slowly through earth revealing. The ancestral North Saskatchewan River flowed across the prairies for millions of years within a broad shallow-sloped valley named the Beverly Valley. Parts of that ancestral valley underlie the central part of Edmonton. About 27000 years ago a major glacier from the Canadian Shield advanced over the Edmonton region and ended up depositing thick sediment, completely burying Beverly Valley. The part of the river valley that is presently exposed in the City of Edmonton is only about 12000 years old. It was formed by the re-establishment of the regional drainage following the retreat and melting of the glaciers. This time, however, along a different path that the original Beverly Valley. Over the past 12000 years the North Saskatchewan River has carved down through the sediments deposited by the glacier creating today’s river valley. These days more than 60 million years of time are exposed in the geological records along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, spanning the age of the dinosaurs to the arrival of man in North America. The signs of the ongoing erosion are everywhere along the Whitemud Ravine and while it may appear to be a slow process there are also signs that occasionally changes can happen in a matter of seconds. Several of the steepest banks along the creek show clear signs of landslides. Judging by the lack of vegetation on the slopes these landslides must have happened recently. Living along the upper edge of the ravine can be perilous as a 1999 landslides took several houses with it down.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 275 – Red squirrel

What is Project 366? Read more here.

The Red Squirrels are rarely far away from the trail in the Whitemud Ravine. Sunflower seeds litter the logs and stumps along the trail, much to the delight of the squirrels, chickadees and nuthatches. Clearly these animals do not consider humans threatening, on the contrary, they associate humans with food. I am not sure if this is good or bad. While feeding wildlife is typically discourage this often refers to large animals that are potentially dangerous like bears and elk in the mountain parks and geese and coyotes in city parks. What could the possible harm be in feeding squirrels and birds sunflower seeds? Edmonton has a bylaw specifically prohibiting feeding wildlife and people have been known to be ticketed in the Whitemud Ravine for feeding the wildlife (presumable for providing sunflower seeds).

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 274 – Frozen ox bow

What is Project 366? Read more here.

The Larch Sanctuary is a 59 acre part of the Whitmud Ravine located on the south side of 23rd Avenue. The combination of coniferous, deciduous, and mixed woods forests provide habitat for dozens of species of mammals and birds, including our largest woodpecker, the pileated woodpecker. Moose, deer, coyote, fox and other small mammals find a home here. Snags provide nest sites for cavity nesting species, shoreline vegetation lines the creek forming sensitive riparian areas, and Edmonton’s only ox bow lake provides important habitat for aquatic species, amphibians, and waterfowl. An oxbow lake is a U-shaped lake that forms when a wide meander of a river is cut off, creating a free-standing body of water. This land form is so named for its distinctive curved shape, which resembles the bow pin of an oxbow. Last time I visited the ox bow lake in the Larch Sanctuary was in the summer and at that point the muskrats were having a ball swimming back and forth across the lake. At this time of the year the lake is considerable quieter, yet still very beautiful in its frozen state.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 272 – A walk on the creek

What is Project 366? Read more here.

So finally I was able to take a walk on the creek. The temperature has been consistently well below the freezing point for over a month now and the Whitemud Creek is covered by a thick layer of ice. Well-traveled trails on the ice provided enough reassurance that it would be safe now to walk on the ice. Going for a walk on the creek is a different experience. First of all, since it is flat it is an easy way of travelling through the forest. No ups and downs and as a result the risk of tripping or slipping is virtually eliminated, which is a bit of an oxymoron as you are walking on ice. The trick is obviously that the ice is snow covered so one does have quite a bit of traction. Secondly, the view of the ravine is quite different from the creek than from the trails above the creek and one is able to access parts of the ravine that are difficult to access by land.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 271 – Rivulet of water

What is Project 366? Read more here.

Although the winter officially begun less than a week ago (on winter Solstice on December 21) we have been in the grips of subzero temperatures for several months by now with both the Whitemud Creek and the North Saskatchewan River solidly frozen for quite some time now. On Christmas Day we took the kids sledding at the hill at the north end of the ravine. It was a beautiful sunny day with a balmy -10 °C. I decided to go up a small icy trail off the main trail. It looked like the trail had been flooded at some point in time as it now was covered in a thick expansive sheet of ice. At the end of the icy section it became apparent where the water came from…, well sort of. There was a black rivulet of water flowing down the slope our of the forest and as it made its way down the slope it dovetailed with sheet of ice covering the trail. It was a very peculiar sight to see water flowing when all other bodies of water have been frozen solid for months. The snow had melted where the rivulet came down and judging from the thickness and extent of the ice sheet the rivulet must have been there for quite some time. For the water to remain in a liquid state while it was coming down the slope can only mean that it must be quite warm at the source. The obvious question is, however, where is the water coming from? Is it discharge from a human-made source higher up in the forest? Is it a warm spring? Unlikely, but possible. I did not have time to follow the rivulet upstream this time around. Perhaps next time.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.

Project 366 – Post No. 270 – Holiday Downy Woodpecker

What is Project 366? Read more here.

What would be more fitting on Christmas Day than a cute little Downy Woodpecker that was enjoying the sunshine today down in Whitemud Ravine. Downy woodpeckers are the smallest of North America’s woodpeckers and other than being smaller are virtually identical to the Hairy Woodpecker. Despite their similarities the two species are actually not very closely related and belong to two different genus. While the reasons for their nearly identical plumage is not fully understood, studies have shown that their similar appearance is an example of convergent evolution.

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.