One does not have to go far along the Whitemud Creek to see striking evidence of ongoing erosion. In many of the creek’s meanders one the creek is craving out overhangs that result in vegetation clinging to increasingly unstable overhangs of dirt. It appear that the soil is quite loose throughout the ravine and as a result these overhangs collapse on a regular basis. In many of the meanders there are large amounts of trees that have fallen during one of these collapses. Clearly the meandering course of the creek, the loose soil and the never ending industrious work of the local beavers all contribute to the changing landscape. This stands in stark contrast to the various structures humans put in place to mitigate and control the erosion, such as planting fast growing plants, using carpets to hold the soil in place and building large fields of boulders along the outside curves of the creek.
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.
This is not someone’s Christmas tree. Someone has been decorating random trees in the Whitemud Ravine with holiday ornaments. I guess one could call this free-range Christmas trees. I assume the same person will collect the decorations after the holiday season.
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.
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.