I thought it was only two weeks since I last posted, but when I checked, I realized it’s been over a month!! That was totally unintentional!
Let’s get right to it! I want to talk about Swallows! I had never seen a Swallow before this spring. They are absolutely mesmerizing birds. They are compact, agile, acrobatic and beautiful!
I’ve been doing a lot of research on the different birds I see and there is a LOT of information about Swallows that just fascinates me! At my local park, we have seen three types of Swallows.
The first to be seen were Tree Swallows:
With metallic blue feathers and white bellies these air acrobats swoop, flutter and soar through the skies above their nest boxes. They seem like social birds, and have the sweetest little chirps and gurgles. They work hard to protect their nest boxes against the House Sparrows that obnoxiously swoop in and steal their homes! They don’t mind you getting closer, but watch out because they will swoop at you if they feel threatened!
The next type of Swallow is the Barn Swallow.
Barn Swallows have that distinct fork the their tail feathers. Unlike the Tree Swallows who nest in boxes, Tree Swallows nest under the bridge. So it was difficult to observe them not flying. But recently I have seen them in different areas, resting on nearby rocks or rails. I really cherish the moments I can see them taking a moment to rest. Although, I really love watching them fly too.
Very recently, I noticed that some Barn Swallows built their nests just outside the bridge, which gave us an opportunity to observe them more.
The third type of Swallow is the Northern Rough-Winged Swallow.
This one is more elusive, as it doesn’t have bright colours and usually blends in with the other Swallow species. They fly around with the others and hang out in the same areas, but I haven’t had an opportunity to really observe these ones more.
Swallows are so beautiful to watch. They really look like they enjoy living life! Although, it’s not all fun and games for these little birds; they are hard workers! Some Swallows will travel as far north as Alaska from as far south as Nicaragua during migration! Some will have two batches of babies during breeding season – not easy to raise two batches in one season! They work together to ward off their predators – one of which is a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Observing the Swallows has taught me a lot of interesting things, too many to write about here.
What bird have you had a chance to observe over the Spring months? What has it taught you?
There is a swampy area in the park I go to for my daily walks. The spring migration has brought in many beautiful and interesting species. This post will show case some of the bird life I have seen in this habitat so far!
We will start with the Heron family.
I had a ravine behind my house when I was growing up, and we saw the Great Blue Heron every year, but I never had the opportunity to be so close to it as I was when I captured these images.
The Black-capped Night Heron fishes for food in the night. So far I’ve only seen them perched in this large tree, sometimes I see up to 7 or 9 of them scattered through the branches. It would be interesting to see them do something more then sleep and fix their feathers!
Now I’ll show you a smaller bird that has been around, the Belted Kingfisher.
I often see him perched quite far away. It’s exciting to watch him fly around the swamp and dive to catch some fish. He’s really quick, I don’t have action shots to share with you…yet!
Next is a little duck that I never saw before! It’s called a Green-winged Teal.
Iridescent feathers are quite amazing. At one angle the streak down his face looks green, then the sun shines at another angle, and those feathers change to a purple colour! Incredible! This small duck makes the cutest little chirp sound. He displayed his mating dance, which was very entertaining to watch.
Get that green wing flash! He is quite incredible!
So much intricacy and beauty packed into one small duck! I was so grateful to have encountered this Green-winged Teal!
Next is a duck I have featured before, the Gadwells, they really are beautiful too!
I wonder if they are a bit shy because they always swim away from humans! (I would too though!) The last bird for this post is a Double-crested Cormorant. I see this bird in other areas of the park, but I was able to get a closer view of the one in this swampy area.
Anyway, I look forward to seeing more beauty in this swampy area…if that’s what it is? I call it a swamp, it probably isn’t though. I’ll look into it.
I know, the title is cheesy, but I couldn’t help it!
In March a lot of Swans came to the Lake. I love watching them graciously floating across the gentle water, like a soft fluffy cloud against a blue sky. March was also the beginning of breeding season in the bird kingdom. It has been exciting to see various birds make new calls and show their breeding feathers/dances/colours.
Have you ever seen a Swan couple dance? It’s really beautiful! They actually do make hearts with their necks! Anyway, I had a few opportunities to see some of these beautiful birds do their special dances and shows. Here are a few snaps…
The male swans open up their wings and make themselves look bigger. There were a few immature male Swans (the ones with some brown feathers) also getting themselves ready to show off.
The black knob at the base of the male Mute Swan’s bill swells during the breeding season and becomes noticeably larger than the female’s. The rest of the year the difference between the sexes is not obvious.
Did you know, that the Mute Swan (featured in this post) is not native to North America. They were brought over from Europe in the 1800-1900’s. The Trumpeter Swan (opening image), however, is Native to North America.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were wondering through the forest, when he suddenly whispered my name “Jasmin!” I turned around and he quietly and slowly told me there was an owl in the tree. My initial response, “are you joking?” He was not joking. It was actually a very frightening experience! This Long-eared Owl was scared of us, which made it look even more scary! We had never seen an Owl (apart from the Snowy) in it’s natural habitat. This is what we saw:
I had walked right by this female Long-eared Owl not even realizing it! When I turned around and went back two steps, this was what I saw. Those piercing eyes staring directly into mine. My heart was pounding as I slowly lifted my camera to take some pictures.
She settled down and we really tried to not disturb her. She did keep an eye on us though…
Two weeks or so after this encounter, we saw a Long-eared Owl a few times again. Here are some images from those sightings…
This male was pretty frightened by us being in his proximity and he took off quickly after this picture. He went into some trees nearby and slept without disturbance.
I walked right by this one too! It’s special every time I see these beautiful creatures. They leave me with a feeling of awe and fear. Sometimes it can be a “Where’s Waldo” feeling trying to find them, so when we just happen to stumble upon an Owl, it really is a moment to take in and appreciate.
Like other owls, the Long-eared has a body adapted for silent flight and precision hunting. Flight feathers with fringed edges and downy surfaces mute the sound of the owl’s passage through air. The owls gain incredible hearing from their asymmetrically placed ear openings and large, sound-catching facial disks.
The seasons are changing and the spring migration has been quite exciting to see! But I have images from February that I want to share before getting into Spring! This post will be more pictures than text, so please enjoy viewing!
Red-breasted Merganser’s do an entertaining dance with cute little calls to accompany.
The little song birds are challenging to get photos of. The smaller the bird, the faster they move!
One afternoon this Long-tailed duck was swimming along the shore. He allowed me to get pretty close to him and gave me a little show too…
This Grebe was also swimming along the shore line – he didn’t put on a show though. I did get a closer look at him and his little head feathers!
That’s all for now! I look forward to sharing photos from the spring migration in the coming weeks!
Winter is hard. Winter in Canada is hard. Winter in Canada during a global pandemic is hard! What helped you through the cold months? I know they aren’t over yet – March is untrustworthy!
In my previous post I talked about my obsession with the Snowy Owl that was perched at the docks near my apartment. That was motivation for me to visit the lake regularly and try to go at different times.
One morning, I discovered the sunrise! It was INCREDIBLE! After the Snowy Owl departed, watching the sun rise became my motivation to get outside early!
I know what you’re thinking. Waking up early is one thing, going outside in the winter is another. But, waking up early and going outside in the winter when there is no need to…? Even I can’t believe I do it.
Going for a walk early morning has so many benefits for me. The first and foremost – there are not many people around, so it’s quiet! And the people who are around are nice! Another reason to try to get outside early: it’s an amazing way to start your day! Be immersed in nature and ground yourself at the beginning of your day. I saw things I wouldn’t see at any other time. Ducks and Geese waking up from their night slumber. Swans taking a bath in the Lake. Long-tailed Ducks flying onto the water making their calls. Red breasted Mergansers doing their dances in the sunrise. It’s a special time of day that I truly began to treasure.
I began to really appreciate things that I missed out on before, like watching the Sun illuminate the sky. On cold days, the steam across the Lake would show itself as the sun rose and it’s breath taking!
I know, not everyone has circumstances that allows them to do this. But even just once a week – make the sacrifice to get up early and watch the sun rise – even if it’s from your bedroom window. Taking in nature and appreciating it is so amazing for reducing anxiety and being present in the moment, remembering there are bigger things in life than your personal problems. Everything feels more manageable after I made this a regular habit.
Another thing that has helped me survive the winter months so far, is a little Black-capped Chickadee that befriended us.
Chickadee’s are friendly little birds. This one in particular is extra friendly! He comes to our hands to feed off the sunflower seeds we offer him. I visit with him almost daily – if I can find him!
Black-capped Chickadees seldom remain at feeders except to grab a seed to eat elsewhere. They are acrobatic and associate in flocks—the sudden activity when a flock arrives is distinctive. They often fly across roads and open areas one at a time with a bouncy flight.
We call him Pip. We know it’s the same Chickadee that feeds from our hands because he has this little black line on one side of his body. The others don’t have that.
Pip is fearless! Sometimes he brings a friend or two with him, but they are usually quite shy. Pip on the other hand is bold and comes to the food without reserve! He takes a seed and flies to a nearby branch to shell it. He then hides the seed and comes back to repeat the process. He will do this until he has had enough, or until we walk away. In some cases, he follows us!
Every fall, black-capped chickadees will cover an enormous territory gathering seeds and storing them in hundreds of hiding places in preparation for winter. Thanks to an incredible spatial memory, these birds will make their way back to each of their caches throughout the winter to feed…The bird’s hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for organization and memory, actually expands in volume by 30% by adding new nerve cells. Once spring arrives an memory is needed less, the hippocampus reverts back to its normal size.
Joel Sartore – Photo Ark
Pip unknowingly has added so much joy to my life! I love observing him! I know this little chickadee doesn’t rely on me as a food source but it’s so calming and fulfilling to spend a little time everyday searching for him and feeding this little bird from my hand!
Nature has helped me survive the Winter months. I know it will continue to help me find joy during these weird times, and beyond that!
I recently watched a program about being Happy – something we can never get enough of! Happiness is a bi-product of gratitude. Gratitude has the power to heal, radiate hope and nullify negativity. Connecting with nature can promote gratitude. Nature helps to discharge negative anxiety; it shifts our attention to something safe, enduring and outside ourselves. Gratitude helps us to feel good, and inspires us to do good. These were the points I took away from that program and I have really been trying to make an effort to be more mindful of how grateful I am for what I have.
I know this post is a bit off from what I usually post about, but the whole reason I started blogging was to help me with these times right now. So this one is a bit of a “check in.” I hope you have enjoyed looking at some images of the sunrises I see, and meeting my new friend, Pip!
Stay safe and if possible, immerse yourself in some nature!
The snowy owl has been a regular feature on my blog- when I post about birds.
Since December, this female owl was regularly seen perched in the middle of the docks, where she was safe. I wanted to see her do more than sitting on the docks, and this meant I had to go at dawn or dusk, when I might have a chance to see her flying into or out of the docks. I couldn’t seem to get there early enough before she did, so one evening I headed to the docks to observe her in hopes that I could see her take flight.
In early February the water at the docks had frozen over. This particular evening, while I was waiting, a group of fishermen went onto the ice. They had tools and equipment to bore holes into the ice. It was quite thick and they were determined to bore holes all over the area to fish. As you can imagine, this not only caught my attention, (and the group of about 10 other photographers waiting around me) but it also caught the attention of the Owl.
Humans were not just observing her from a distance, but now they were getting in her safe space. So, she did take off, but not because of her natural routine, but because she felt threatened.
She moved to another dock further from the fishermen. I left the docks that evening feeling worried that it would be the last time I would observe her.
The next morning I headed out early to see if she came back. I walked up and sighed in relief, she was there again! I took my usual walk around the park and on my way back I took another look at her. As we were watching, she opened her wings and glided down to the ice! We ran over to the shore to get a closer look. This time it was just my husband, myself and the snowy owl, no one else was around so it made for a very special experience.
This was the first time in the three months of observing her, that I saw the Snowy Owl do something more than resting or gliding just a short distance! I kept snapping as she drank water from the lake and stopped to gaze at me in between sips.
Not long after, she opened up her huge beautiful wings and took off.
That was the last time I saw the Snowy Owl, she didn’t return. She put on quite the show for her departure though!
Welcome to Thailand! We first landed in Bangkok and had a connecting flight to Chiang Mai. Thailand has so much diverse terrain to offer! Beaches in the south, jungles in the north and a big bustling city in the middle (sort of).
This was our first “real” holiday after three years of saving up and planning. There were two specific things we wanted to do while in Thailand. 1) Visit an elephant sanctuary. 2) Take a Thai cooking class. We left Thailand feeling fulfilled and content. Here’s a few phone pictures we captured along the way:
The swing was originally built in 1784, under the direction of King Rama I. Since then weather damage has required several restorations, including a recent renovation completed in 2007. For this project, workers used six massive teak tree trunks (each more than 20 meters tall and approximately 200 years old) to construct a new swing. For centuries, the Giant Swing played a central role in annual swing ceremonies that symbolically reenacted elements of Hindu origin stories. The ceremony was discontinued in 1935 after several participants fell to their deaths. In 2005 the Giant Swing and Wat Suthat were nominated as a future UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Netflix has a series called ‘Street Food’ and this 74 year old street food chef is featured. Her restaurant is booked for months in advance and walk-ins can wait for hours! We didn’t get to taste, but the smell was mouth watering! And she puts on a good show, cooking everything herself over the open flames!
Our experience in Thailand was awesome. We enjoyed the slower pace (compared to India) the incredibly delicious food and the beautifully diverse scenes. Our time there was what we needed to rest a bit from our hectic adventure in India.
Our adventure was not over though. We had one last stop before heading back home. Japan!
We had a 2 night stop over in Japan. We had it all planned out, but a global pandemic was chasing us and altered all of our plans! When life gives you lemons…you know the rest.
One of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world, Shibuya crossing is perhaps the most iconic symbol of the city of Tokyo around the world. Shibuya Crossing has become synonymous with the bittersweet story of an Akita dog, Hachikō, who lived in the area in the 1920s.
The story of this loyal dog is too heartbreaking for me to write about, so, if you don’t already know the story, go look it up and have a box of tissues ready!
We had a very short time in Japan and all our original plans were altered. But we loved being on this tech filled historical island. With all its quirks and interesting sights, we were not finished exploring!
So, this brings us to the end of our trip. We started in Toronto, Canada and kept traveling east until we came right back around! We flew around the world and saw a fraction of it’s diversity.
Going through a few of these images has been perfect for reflecting on my adventures from a year ago, and for being grateful for the opportunity!
Thank you for allowing me to share my images and experiences with you! I must admit though, I’ve missed posting about my local bird life! I’ve got some really exciting images to share with you in the next blog post!
If architecture, history, palaces and textiles appeal to you, then you’ll enjoy Jaipur! Jaipur, also known as the pink city, is definitely a place for tourists. Our short time in this city was spent doing the main touristy things. We booked some tours through airbnb experience. The first tour we did took us around the city to all the main sites. Enjoy…
Hawa Mahal means the ‘Palace of Winds’ or the ‘Wind Palace’. It has 953 small windows (Jharokas), they were built to keep the wind blowing inside the palace. Hawa Mahal was constructed as a separate complex for the royal ladies. The idea was that, royal women could watch the daily life of the city through the windows. The palace is constructed with the red and pink sandstone, has a blend of Mughal and Rajasthani style of architecture. The artistic carvings and the structure of Hawal Mahal stands in the middle of the Jaipur in its elegance.
Patrika Gate is the ninth gate in Jaipur and it’s quite special. Decked out with an intricately designed walkway, it really is a photographers paradise. We went back here after our tour to spend more time looking at all the artwork. I was missing my camera at this point for sure, but the phone snaps were fine!
The Jantar Mantar is a collection of 19 astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, the founder of Jaipur, Rajasthan. The monument was completed in 1734. It features the world’s largest stone sundial, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site
The City Palace, Jaipur was established at the same time as the city of Jaipur, by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who moved his court to Jaipur from Amber, in 1727. Jaipur is the present-day capital of the state of Rajasthan, and until 1949 the City Palace was the ceremonial and administrative seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. It now houses the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, and continues to be the home of the Jaipur royal family.
The Royal Gaitor Tumbas is a Royal Crematorium. The tombs are intricately designed by stone. It was one of the more peaceful experiences we had in this bustling tourist city!
Panna Meena Ka Kund is an ancient stepwell and rainwater catchment. It is believed that it was a place were people in the nearby area could go to get water. It is not in use now, but it is maintained and is a hot spot for tourists. You actually cannot go on the steps now, there are guards watching you!
Amber Palace gave me some jungle book feels! It is also the location that some scenes from the bollywood movie Jodha Akbar was filmed – which is based on true events!
Mughal architecture greatly influenced the architectural style of several buildings of the fort. Constructed of red sandstone and marble, the attractive, opulent palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. It consists of the Diwan-e-Aam, or “Hall of Public Audience”, the Diwan-e-Khas, or “Hall of Private Audience”, the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace. Hence, the Amer Fort is also popularly known as the Amer Palace. The palace was the residence of the Rajput Marahajas and their families.
Jal Mahal (meaning “Water Palace”) is a palace in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake in Jaipur city. The palace, built in red sandstone, is a five-storied building, of which four floors remain underwater when the lake is full and the top floor is exposed
After all this site seeing we were exhausted. Jaipur has so much history! Jaipur is also known for it’s block printing textiles. We did a tour to get an inside look on how this incredible textile is created by hand!
Jaipur was a cool experience. I was happy to travel without a large DSLR camera because of how touristy it was. The least I could stand out the better – but that was hard to do, locals can spot a foreigner miles away, no matter how hard you try to blend in!
I really enjoyed the block printing experience. The architecture blew my mind, it was so intricate and detailed. The history contained in this Pink City is incredible.
I can’t really summarize my experience in this country. Even just going through the images to upload here has taken me back through a whirlwind, reliving the adventure. With all it’s challenges and uncomfortable situations, I think fondly about my time in this country. India is a special place to me and I am really looking forward to being able to go back again. It was insightful.
The journey continues! Our short stop in Mumbai ended and we were off to Gujarat. This was our main reason for planning this entire trip! We were going to visit our friends in Baroda, Gujarat.
Vadodara also known as Baroda, is the 3rd largest city in the Indian state of Gujarat. As of 2019 it had a population of 2.175 million. The part we were visiting really didn’t have any tourist attractions, so for our three weeks in this city, we would be living like locals and recovering from culture shock!
We walked a lot and had many opportunities to take rickshaw’s to get around. We saw many interesting sights, smelt many interesting smells, and heard many interesting sounds. I won’t say it was all pleasant, because honestly, it wasn’t. I definitely experienced sensory overload on many occasions, but it’s all part of the experience I guess. Before I get too off track, let me share with you some more images I captured using my phone camera.
The image above was taken while walking to a friend’s house. I took this picture because I saw these two boys playing with a kite. In Canada, you don’t often see children playing with kites, enjoying the simple, uncomplicated things in life. I appreciated their joy, I wanted to capture that. But when I look at this image now, all I see is the dog laying in the garbage and dust on the side of the road. The strong smell comes back and my nose starts twitching. It’s amazing how the human body can adapt to it’s surroundings after being exposed to something for some time. The dust and garbage on the streets was just another thing we saw outside, not unusual.
Sights like this were unfortunately, also not uncommon. The gap between the rich and the poor is extremely wide and so unfair. As difficult as it is to look at an image like this and imagine what this woman’s life is like (one full of sadness and loss, by the way) it was way more difficult for us to see this in real life. In Canada, we don’t have prevalent poverty. Of course, it is worldwide, but this was really the first time that it was in my face and the unfair issue was screaming at me.
Photography has many different purposes. In this situation though, I am using this tool as a means to bring attention to issues such as poverty, unfair treatment, and pollution. When you live in a country that doesn’t have these issues slapping you in the face every day, you begin to live in a dream world. Being aware of other people’s reality is important for perspective.
Ok, it’s not all doom and gloom. Let me show you some more positive sightings. Starting with the fresh veg night market:
This was definitely the freshest and tastiest food I have eaten. The variety was mind blowing too.
Can you smell the fresh chili peppers and cilantro? Now these were some of the good smells!
These little girls were so talkative and curious. My friend was talking to their parents who were at the front of the truck, as I was standing with my back to these girls, they were touching my curly frizzy hair. (Probably wondering what was going on with it!) I turned around and they were so outgoing and chatty. They were as cute as their smiles! This is definitely one of the good sights!
The three weeks we spent in Baroda was not enough time to really soak in everything we were experiencing. We definitely want to go back to visit our friends there and we would go with way more time. I could go on and on about my experience in this city, but this blog post would be way too long (it already is). For now, I’ll leave you with this final image from Gujarat.