From a distance The North Saskatchewan river looks like a quaint meandering water serpent. Once you get next to it, however, you quickly realize that the flow is fast and unrelenting. As a result, the river only freezes over completely when the temperature drops extremely low for long periods of time. As I went for walk along the river edge today I came across patches of thin ice along the shore. This first ice of the year is a sure sign of things to come.
I ook this picture along the Whitemud Ravine trail a few weeks back but it did not post it as identifying this organisms was a real head scratched. I erroneously assumed that it was a form of fungi as it had quite fleshly lobe-like leafs, not unlike some oyster mushrooms. This assumption is what made me hit a dead end when it came to identification. I stumbled across the picture by chance tonight and decided to take another stab at it. By now I had run out of “mushroom options” so I decided to broaden the set of possibilities. The only possibility, other than a fungus, would be a lichen. Loo and behold, it turned out to be a dog lichen. There are about 91 species of dog lichens world wide, all belonging to the genus Peltigera. These lichen are able to fix nitrogen directly from the atmosphere due to their coexistence with cyanobacteria. The fleshly leaf-like appendages are called foliose thalli. I have not been able to find out why they are referred to as dog lichens.
As I was walking down the trail with eyes fixed on the trees there was a splashing sound. At first I though it came from the river, which was just a short distance away on the other side of some shrubbery. The sound seemed closer than the river and more subtle. Not a large splashing sound, but more of a small splashy sound. It did not take long to identify the culprit. In a large puddle along the trail a robin was having its morning bath. It was a very energetic and vigorous bath as it was ruffling up the feathers and shaking around in the brown puddle. My presence did not seem to bother the robin as it continued its bathing routine. It was not until a runner came steaming down the trail that the robin all of a sudden took off and vanished into the shrubbery.
Today was the last day of the Global Week for Future, a series of international strikes and protests demanding that action be taken to address climate change. As today was the last day, the week was wrapped up with a global Earth Strike across the world. An estimated 2 million 7 million (updated) people worldwide participated in today’s strike. Here in Edmonton the strike was scheduled at noon, starting at Churchill square and making its way to the legislature. I was not sure what to expect in terms of number of people – after all this is Alberta, where oil is king and climate change denialism is widespread. The media estimated that there were 4000 participants. The crowd consisted mainly of young adults and teenagers, exactly the demographics that has been the driving force behind this movement. It was a loud and cold event and afterwards we went for some hot chocolate to warm up. I think today’s events show that despite the lackluster efforts from governments and corporations in dealing with climate change there is hope. As the tide is rising (metaphorically and figuratively) it will be increasingly difficult for leaders and decision makers to ignore the growing chorus demanding action. Alberta? Well, we might have a bit more work cut out for us than other places, but I think change is inevitable and the day will come when being tone deaf will no longer be socially acceptable. History tends to repeats itself. One only has to go back a few decades to see many social issues that were debate and resisted and that today have transformed our societies and where opposing views have become socially unacceptable, e.g. women’s suffrage, residential schools, LGBTQ etc.
Perched high up in the leafless trees there was a band of American Crows. They seemed wary and worried, looking around like in all directions, carefully watching every movement around them. It did not take long to figure out what had them on the edge. A Merlin was perched in a nearby tree. Suddenly the Merlin took off on what looked like a patrol – sort of just checking things out. But the crows did not take any chances. The whole flock took off simultaneously and started flying back and forth over the tree grove making a lot of noise. Once the Merlin landed in a tree again, the crows settled down and landed as well. One would think that the cows would find safety in their numbers or that they would figure out that they far too large for a Merlin to catch, after all they are about equal in size. But, nope. These fellas were real chickens.
The Purple Martins are long gone and their summer accommodation has been closed for the season. It is reminiscent of a resort that is shut down after a busy summer season with guests flying in from far flung destinations to party it up, find a date, have fun in the hay, have young, raised them, and see them move out – all in the span of about four months. Talk about living life in the fast lane. By now they are on their way or already back at their overwintering rounds around the Gulf of Mexico, in the Caribbean and throughout Central America.
Its name must have been Danger. Meadow “Danger” Hawk. How else could one explain it deciding to land and chill out on the wooden boardwalk that goes around the Heritage Wetland Park. It seemed to be a rather inopportune location for a rest. With kids and dogs running along the boardwalk, cyclists zooming by and the odd birder not paying attention where they step as they scan the skies for exciting finds. This birder did spot the Meadow Hawk, however. I quietly suck up to it to see how close I could get before it got spooked. I was only about a meter right above it snapping pictures when it decided that it had had enough and took off.