Its seems surreal that I actually have reached post 366, that it has been a whole year and that this project has now been completed. So much has happened during this year, I am one year older, my teen is different person altogether and the world has changed profoundly. I was anticipating and expecting some of these changes, others I could not have imagined in even my wildest dreams. All of this in a blink of eye. This post comes in an age of upheaval and pain with an uncertain future where the world is changing at an unprecedented rate and in unpredictable directions. The last year’s development shows the limitations of foresight we humans are capable of. So much for trying to be well-informed and staying ahead of the curve.
I will be scaling back my blogging and quite likely the nature of the posts will change as well. Stay tuned for my reappearance here or somewhere else on the interwebs. I have plans that are forming, but not yet ready to see the light of day. Rest assure, however, that my focus will be creating something beautiful and timeless like a sliver of light dispelling the darkness, even if only momentarily, that has enveloped the world.
Along a long straight stretch of the trail I noticed a squirrel run across the trail in the distance. Of course a squirrel crossing the trail is not anything particularly remarkable in these neck of the woods, so I did not pay much attention to it. I kept on walking. A few minutes later, the squirrel crossed the trail in the opposite direction (I assumed it was the same squirrel). I kept on walking getting closer to the spot where it had crossed,… when it ran across the trail again. I was almost upon it when it,… crossed again. Once I arrived at the location along the trail where the squirrel had been crossing it the reason for its behavior became abundantly clear. I a bush, right of the trail there was a single bird feeder that had had its roof knocked off, leaving it wide open for anyone to help themselves to the sunflower seeds. As I was watching the odd chickadee and nuthatch swoop in for a seed the squirrel came back. It quickly climbed the bush and without hesitating dove right into the feeder to grab a mouthful of sunflowers. Like a smooth and stealthy burglar it was gone it a flash, crossing the trail and disappearing into the forest, presumably to its secret lair to stay its loot. Two minutes later it came back, scampering through the forest, crossing the trail, climbing up to the bird feeder and back in it went.Its industriousness was quite impressive. It had clearly found the mother lode of the day and was hellbent on hoarding as much as possible before any competitor would discover the gold mine.
The female Downy Woodpecker had made a pencil sized hole through the bark and was intent on thoroughly investigating what lied inside. I wonder how she decided to make the hole where she did it. Experience? Can she sense that there is something hiding under the bark? Or perhaps it’s was a random spot.
Today’s picture captures the iconic pose of the Red-breasted Nuthatch – clinging to a tree trunk, upside down and with its head cocked checking out its surrounding. Nuthatches are curious yet cautious. Yesterday, as we were walking along the Whitemud Ravine south of the Snow valley trail head looking for a reported Black-backed Woodpecker, all of a sudden a scrawny-looking Red-breasted Nuthatch landed on a branch right in front of my face, no more than two feet away. It was almost as if it was demanding an offering before it would let me pass b. A nuthatch hold up. Except I did not have any food with me. I hesitantly reaches out towards it, fully expecting it to take off. Instead it eagerly jumped onto my hand and started hopping around looking for something to eat. It started to energetically pecking at my thumb. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, another Red-breasted Nuthatch swooped it, tackles the scrawny nuthatch on my hand and took its place. Once it had determined that I did not have anything edible, it took off. I was quite perplexed by the behaviour of these nuthatches. I have had plenty of chickadees eagerly landing and pecking on my hand hoping for a hand out, but this was the first time nuthatches had shown this behaviour. I am not sure if these two individuals were just more habituated to humans and from getting handouts, or if they were just more desperate to find food. The first nuthatch did look quick scrawny and skinny. In the end we never found the Black-backed Woodpecker, but thanks to these two nuthatches we nevertheless were left with an unforgettable experience.
There is a spot in the Grey Nuns Spruce Woodlot, an opening in the forest where the trail takes a turn, where there is a bird feeder. Someone has scrawled “Feed Us” on the side of the feeder…, and fed they get. The other day when we visited someone had hanged several colourful bird houses in the surrounding trees. All freshly painted this prime real estate is just waiting for someone to move in.
At the Grey Nuns Spruce Woodlot we came across this paper birch tree that the Black-capped Chickadees seemed to take a particular fondness to. A handful of chickadees were busy clinging to the bark and working away with their beaks on the bark. It looked like they were looking for something on the bark and in the cervices. Occasionally a chickadee would tap at the bark like a woodpecker. I assume they were looking for food. Chickadees are known to store, or “cache,” food such as seeds. Perhaps this tree was their cache location. Either way, it was an entertaining sight.
In the Whitemud Ravine one often comes across ravens around the orange pipeline that crosses the creek close to the Snow Valley end. Last spring the several raven couples even tried to build stick nests on the pipeline. None of them seemed to be successful, however. The other day I caught a raven sitting on the catwalk railing above the pipeline. Is it staking a territory? Is its choice of vantage point just a matter of a good view? Who knows why the ravens enjoy the pipeline.
What is black and white and red all over? Both Hairy an Downy Woodpeckers unfortunately. I like this picture because it nicely shows the feature that distinguished the Hairy Woodpecker from the almost identical Downy Woodpecker. The bill in the Hairy Woodpecker is chisel-like and nearly the same length as the head. In contrast the bill in the Downy Woodpecker is dainty and noticeably shorter relative to the width of the head. Its not, however, always easy to see the bill as it usually is facing the tree trunk, that is why I like this picture.
On our walk along the Whitemud Creek we came across a Red Squirrel that seemed to be just resting on a tree branch. Our presence did not bother it. Even when I slowly walked up to only about 5 feet away it did not budge. It did not seem to be afraid or worried, it just sort of was in a restful position and was eyeing us with equanimity. Squirrels along the trail are used to people so many of them are completely desensitize to human presence.
The forest was filled with excited buzzing trills. It was a familiar sound, yet I could not put my finger on who was making it. Fleeting fast shadows passed between the tree tops overhead. I was still stumped. I had it on the tip of my tongue…, until my teenager triumphantly declared “Look, Bohemian Waxwings”. Indeed, there must have been a few dozen Bohemian Waxwings gorging themselves in on berries in a tree on the bank of the creek. One can never grow tired of waxwings, Bohemian nor Cedar Waxwings. Just as stunningly beautiful they are charismatic and gregarious chatter boxes that love to eat berries and the occasional good intoxication. In these times of “social distancing”, Bohemian Waxwings represent the complete opposite behavior. You will never find a waxwing on its own and typically you will hear them long before you see them. Nothing a like beautiful bird to brighten up ones day in these gloomy and anxious times.