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.
Bokeh balls is the aesthetic quality of blur produced in the out-of-focus points of light of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh balls are particularly common when one is doing back-lit photography. Bokeh balls are fun and I only discover them after having taken the picture and when I am in post-processing, making their presence in photographs unpredictable and serendipitous. In this picture of ice covered leaves of grass shot in back-lit conditions I ended up with multicolored bokeh balls (to the left of the grass).
The Red Squirrels are everywhere. These fellas do not hibernate during the winter, but rather stay active throughout the season. They spend the fall collecting and storing food for future consumption in large. Using tree cavities, underbrush piles, or dens as their own pantries, red squirrels can ensure that the food they’ve gathered for the winter will be kept safely and out of the way of trespassers. Because their food stashes are critical for their survival they tend to be very territorial towards intruders. Confrontation between two red squirrels often entails a lot of tail flicking, chattering, and foot stomping. Even when I walk through the forest and come across a Red Squirrel it often shows its displeasure at my presence with loud chattering, aha sing its ground even when I am very close to it.
There are always ravens down at the Whitemud Ravine. Sometimes you only hear them, but they are typically not difficult to spot as they soar high above the ravine. I do not like the name “Common Raven” as I find it demeaning. Yes they are common as in abundant and easy to find, but they are not common as in an “ordinary” bird. They are undoubtedly one of the smartest bird around in these neck of the woods. They are also capable of an extraordinary repertoire of vocalizations. On a few occasions I have heard sounds in the forest that sounded like whistles or dripping water only to find, to my great surprise, that it was a raven vocalizing.
As soon as I got to the trail head I heard the buzzing trills in the tree tops. It was different, yet familiar. I knew I that I knew who it was, yet could no put my finger on it. As I stood there searching my brain the answer became self-evident. Over the tree tops emerged two dozen Bohemian Waxwings. They flow over-head and landed in the top of a nearby spruce tree. The Bohemian Waxwings are back. True to their name, the Bohemian Waxwings are, well, bohemian. They travel in groups, chattering all the time and enjoy gorging themselves on berries. Occasionally they get drunk on fermented berries. In short, a very bohemian lifestyle fitting this magnificent bird.
It was the first hunt of the year for the Snowy Owls of the Ray Gibbon Drive in St. Albert. It was a beautiful winter’s day with the sun beaming down from a clear blue sky and the temperature in the single digits below freezing point. As we were scanning the fields and wood lots at the outskirts of St. Albert I noticed that the stubble fields and the branches of trees and shrubs seemed whiter than usual and were glistening and sparkling as the rays of the sun hit them. A closer inspection revealed that they were covered in a delicate layer of ice crystals, ever so fragile and ephemeral. Only later did I learn that when ice crystals are formed on exposed objects, such as wires, branches or leaves it is called hoarfrost. The conditions under which hoarfrost is formed are rather specific. Hoarfrost ice crystals are formed on exposed objects by condensation of water vapor to ice at temperatures below freezing and occurs when air is brought to its frost point by cooling. Hoarfrost is formed by a process analogous to that by which dew is formed on similar objects, except that, in the case of dew, the saturation point of the air mass is above freezing. The occurrence of temperatures below 0° C is not enough to guarantee the formation of hoarfrost. Additionally, the air must be initially damp enough so that when cooled it reaches saturation, and any additional cooling will cause condensation to occur. In the end, we never found any Snowy Owls today, but the beautiful weather and the unique hoarfrost created a winter wonderland fitting for the coming holiday season.
Today is the first day of winter and it is also Winter Solstice with the shortest amount of day light hours and longest night of the year. Tomorrow the tables will have turned and we would have gained a whopping whole second of day light, from today’s 7:27:42 hours between sunrise and sunset to 7:27:43. It is interesting to realize, however, that the the time of the sunrise will continue to happen later until the end of the month. The reason the days are getting longer is because the sunset is happening later every day starting tomorrow. Today is also post 266 in my Project 366 which means that I have 100 posts left and tomorrow the two digit countdown starts towards the finishing line. One could say that today represents a turning point in terms of seasons and in terms of my blog postings. It is also a time to start thinking about what will come after I complete this project. I am exploring several ideas for possible future projects. More will be said and written about this in the next hundred days.