Exactly one year ago today, February 4th 2020, my husband and I began an adventure that we never thought would become a reality; and we did that, without taking a camera! Wait, what?! Let me explain…
My husband, Andrew, and I planned a trip to visit friends in India. The more research and planning we did, we realized we could hop to some nearby countries while we were on that side of the world. (It’s cheaper to do it that way!)
We were going to be traveling through 11 airports and with all the “lost luggage” horror stories I came across, we decided to try as much as possible to keep our belongings with us! This meant, only traveling with hand luggage. Hand luggage isn’t only a matter of a specific size, but also a specific weight, each airline has their own guidelines and we were going to be using 6 different airlines. Challenge accepted!
By the time you get your clothes for 5.5 weeks, toiletries, electronics, extra pair of shoes…you’re pretty close to your weight limit! So I had to make a very very difficult decision. I had to leave my camera gear behind. Well, I didn’t HAVE to, but I chose to after a lot of thought. DSLR’s are not exactly compact. I had recently purchased a mobile phone that had great camera specs and we could bring our little GoPro along too.
Two thirds of our trip would be visiting friends and locals. We really didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves while traveling around, and I knew that having a big ol’ DSLR camera hanging around my neck would just scream TOURIST!
So, this month, I am going to feature my cell phone pictures from this EPIC trip we took around the world! This kind of goes against everything I believe in when it comes to REAL photography…but you can decide if it’s the tool or the workman that makes the product. 🙂
First stop: Mumbai, India.
We were only in Mumbai for a short two night stopover. Our new but amazing friends showed hospitality to us in an overwhelming way, whizzing us around the local area, making sure we ate some staple Bombay foods, and taking care of us in practical ways.
Short but sweet, our time in Mumbai came to an end! I’ll show you where we went next, in the following blog post! Stay tuned!
Another post with more of my snaps from the past week or so. I saw some new species and a few incredible scenes. Enjoy viewing!
The Snowy Owl has been at the docks every day over the past week. She is usually resting when I see her, or trying to find an escape from the sun.
These Ducks are usually way out in the open waters, hard for me to get a close picture of. My goal was to get at least one close up image of them and I am content with these images!
I love seeing the curiosity in animals. Having eyes on the side of your head means you have to tilt to look up or down, which looks kinda cute!
Every time I walk closer to a group of Scaup’s they paddle in the opposite direction. So, I also had a goal to get a closer view and picture of these birds without disturbing them. I was hidden in the bushes as you may be able to tell from the foreground!
Lately there have been a lot of Scaup’s in the Lake. I see them in large groups of maybe 50 to 100. They also dive for their food so they will disappear into the Lake and pop back up after a few seconds.
I think we can all agree that Swans are quite majestic and beautiful. They seem to be poised and have a sense of calm about them. I thought all those things until I saw the following…
This big tree is right across from my window. I saw a large bird swoop into the tree and when I went to investigate, I saw this Cooper’s Hawk. He just came for a little rest and then off he went!
Canada Goose? Think again! This is called a Cackling Goose. A smaller version of the Canada Goose. There are four sub-species of the Cackling Goose and they all usually breed in Alaska or the Arctic.
The huge collar tag around this one’s neck gave me a clue that these were not ordinary Canadian Geese. I was feeling sad for how large this neck tag was on this Goose, but I did some research and found some comforting information from the Government of Canada. You can read it here if you’re interested!
The past few days have been colder and I’ve been venturing out into the cold in the mornings. It sounds extreme, but it’s been really essential for my health during this time. The mornings are quite special actually and I’ve come to really enjoy my morning walks. Some birds are still sleeping or just waking up. Other birds are taking their morning baths in the lake. It’s really special, and there are a lot less people walking at that time!
This will be my last nature/bird post for a month or so. Next week I have a special post to blog about!
A new post? Already?! I know, two in one week is just crazy! I just wanted to share these images I took from the past two days with you. (Thanks for viewing!) We had a friendly encounter with a curious Cardinal couple.
We always walk with sunflower seeds in our pockets. We threw a few on the ground and the female went for it – cautiously! The male however, he was not as brave.
Have you ever noticed how big a Swan’s feet are? Also, the neck feathers look super fluffy!
A regular feature on this photo blog. I hope to capture closer pictures of this beauty some day. She always perches right in the center of the docks, inaccessible to all. She turns her head, surrounded by eager spectators.
The Lesser Scaup and Greater Scaup are almost identical! I’m not totally sure which one the above pictures are of, but I think it’s the Lesser. Confusing!
We caught these Red-breasted Mergansers at the end of their bath time! After, they went diving for some food! So awesome to see them up so close. I was pretty happy for this unexpected encounter! Do they look like they need a hair cut? That one stare down made me a little uncomfortable…
A new species! The Common Goldeneye. Here is some information about this bird I never saw before…
These are diving ducks that often forage in flocks and dive simultaneously. They tend to forage in fairly shallow waters (up to 20 feet deep). They are fast fliers; their wings make a distinctive whistling sound in flight. When females are nearby, males frequently display by stretching the head backward against their back and then popping their head forward.
We’ll finish off this post with the very common, but beautiful Mallard duck. Look at how perfectly each of her feathers sit to create that pattern on her back. She almost looks like she’s smiling…she probably knows she’s beautiful.
Thanks for viewing, hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some birds up close! -Jasmin
Another blog post with pictures of birds. It’s the most interesting thing I see these days! The variety of birds I encounter each week blows my mind!
So, I saw a Bald Eagle! It flew right over me. I didn’t realize what it was, I just knew it was something huge flying away from me and I needed to snap!
Not an Eagle, but a Seagull – did you know there are actually a large variety of gulls?
I saw a lot of birds in flight this week. I’d like to practice getting action shots. It’s tricky, but it’s something to work on!
I used to hear people say “If you see a Robin, you know spring is coming.” I don’t know how accurate that is – but it’s far from spring here in Canada!
Cardinal’s seem to be cautious birds. This one was out in the open. When he saw me he flew into this bush. He watched me edge closer and closer to him. He let me take a few snaps and then went further into the bush. The smaller birds are faster and can hide easily – extra challenging!
A Gadwall is the same size as a Mallard, but it’s bill is thinner. They come to this area to migrate. It’s been fun seeing different types of ducks, they tend to hand out together too!
Scaups seem to just stick together though – they’re an exclusive group.
Someone left bird seed and this Mallard was looking to get some lunch!
I’m dedicating this post to this little guy above. Weird seeing a racoon wandering around in the middle of the day, right? That’s what we thought too. He was sick. He had something called distemper.
Distemper is a virus that infects the respiratory tract, the gastrointestinal tract, the spinal cord and the brain. It is generally always present in the raccoon population although at low levels. It is the second leading cause of death in raccoons. … Distemper is highly contagious and is transferred through inhalation.
Once a raccoon is infected, there is little to no chance of survival for the animal. It can take several weeks for the disease to run its course in the raccoon. Young raccoons are most susceptible to this virus. The best way to help an infected animal is to contact the…Humane Society who will ensure the most humane decision will be made for the animal and that it does not continue to suffer or spread the infection
So, this is what we did. We contacted Animal Control for the city we live in and someone came and took the little pup away. It’s really sad seeing a sick animal, but I know that we did the right thing as it would suffer a painful death if it was left alone, and possibly spread the disease to other raccoons in the area.
Sorry for the sad ending to this post. Here’s another Robin pic to end on a better note!
Some of the birds I’ve posted pictures of already had been swimming a lot closer to the shore then I previously saw. So, enjoy some closer pictures of these little birds, and some new discoveries!
Mallard Ducks were not meant to dive, but this one still tried!
Sometimes the water on the Lake seems as clear as glass. On those days I eagerly look for any diving birds. I just find it incredible that not only can they fly high in the air, but they can also dive into the water where they find their food! Oh, to be a diving bird!
The American Black Duck hides in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They often flock with the ubiquitous Mallard, where they look quite similar to female Mallards. But take a second look through a group of brown ducks to notice the dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale grayish face, and olive-yellow bill of an American Black Duck. Numbers of this shy but common duck declined sharply in the mid-twentieth century. Hunting restrictions have helped to stabilize their numbers, although habitat loss remains a problem.
In the world of ducks, females abide by the saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Female Canvasbacks sometimes lay eggs in another Canvasback’s nest; and Redheads and Ruddy Ducks sometimes lay their eggs in a Canvasback’s nest.
Red-necked Grebes are boldly plumaged waterbirds with pale cheeks and a daggerlike yellow bill that contrasts with a sharp black crown often likened to a toreador’s cap (sometimes raised into a short crest). In breeding plumage, the neck is a rich brick red. The species breeds on northerly lakes and winters mainly along ocean coastlines, usually singly but sometimes in small groups. During spring migration, flocks may form on large lakes, and pairs begin their boisterous courtship displays well before reaching breeding lakes farther north.
At a distance, breeding male Greater Scaup are black and white, but closer views reveal an iridescent green sheen on the head, super thin black barring on the back, a bluish bill, and a yellow eye. Females are brown overall with a darker brown head and a white patch next to the bill, but the size of the white patch varies. Nonbreeding males look like a cross between a female and a breeding male: a mottled brown-and-gray body and a blackish head.
Perhaps the most outwardly distinctive of the dabbling ducks thanks to its large spoon-shaped bill, the Northern Shoveler busily forages head down in shallow wetlands. Its uniquely shaped bill has comblike projections along its edges, which filter out tiny crustaceans and seeds from the water. If the bill doesn’t catch your eye, the male’s blocky color palette sure will, with its bright white chest, rusty sides, and green head. The female is no less interesting with a giant orange bill and mottled brown plumage.
The Northern Shoveler was a new discovery for us this week! A lady we met in the park gave us a tip that there was a lone Shoveler in the nearby pond. It was a fun adventure to get a glimpse at this uncommon duck! We arrived at a murky pond where many Mallards were busily foraging. Then we saw this slightly smaller Duck. There he was, with his head down, intently looking for food! Most of the time his head was in the water and his bottom up in the air! Click on the pictures below to get a closer view!
The Red-breasted Merganser is a shaggy-headed diving duck also known as the “sawbill”; named for its thin bill with tiny serrations on it that it uses to keep hold of slippery fish. It breeds in the boreal forest on freshwater and saltwater wetlands. Males are decked out with a dark green shaggy head, a red bill and eye, and a rusty chest. Females lack the male’s bright colors but also don the same messy do. It parades around coastal waters and large inland lakes in the United States and Mexico in the winter.
I was very happy to see the Red-breasted Merganser a little closer then previously. (The first time I spotted him, he was just a tiny spec in the vast lake!) I was excited to watch him dive into the lake.
Trumpeter Swans demand superlatives: they’re our biggest native waterfowl, stretching to 6 feet in length and weighing more than 25 pounds – almost twice as massive as a Tundra Swan. Getting airborne requires a lumbering takeoff along a 100-yard runway. Despite their size, this once-endangered, now recovering species is as elegant as any swan, with a graceful neck and snowy-white plumage. They breed on wetlands in remote Alaska, Canada, and the northwestern U.S., and winter on ice-free coastal and inland waters.
I was not expecting to come across this rare Swan, but I’m so happy that we did! Trumpeter Swans were once close to extinction, but thanks to conservation, they made their comeback in the early 2000s. They are usually tagged, which you cannot miss…view the following gallery to see why!
A few times now, I’ve looked out onto the open Great Lake, and seen a swarm of dots floating above the surface. The dots are too far for our binoculars to show what they are, and as I’ve complained about before in a previous post, my camera lens would not help either! I wonder if these are Redhead’s – look it up!
Among the bird world’s most skillful fliers, Cooper’s Hawks are common woodland hawks that tear through cluttered tree canopies in high speed pursuit of other birds. You’re most likely to see one prowling above a forest edge or field using just a few stiff wingbeats followed by a glide. With their smaller lookalike, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawks make for famously tricky identifications. Both species are sometimes unwanted guests at bird feeders, looking for an easy meal (but not one of sunflower seeds).
A buoyant, large-headed duck that abruptly vanishes and resurfaces as it feeds, the tiny Bufflehead spends winters bobbing in bays, estuaries, reservoirs, and lakes. Males are striking black-and white from a distance. A closer look at the head shows glossy green and purple setting off the striking white patch. Females are a subdued gray-brown with a neat white patch on the cheek. Bufflehead nest in old woodpecker holes, particularly those made by Northern Flickers, in the forests of northern North America.
I had never seen this water bird before a few weeks ago. My experience observing them has been so enjoyable. In my previous post I said that I would share pictures of them diving. It’s pretty incredible watching these birds mimic fish; the best of both: air and water!
When I first saw them dive into the water, I was surprised. They stay below the surface for a few seconds. They reminded me of little dolphins the way they dove into the water to forage for some food.
They are a common sight during the winter months in this area. Most of the time they are further out in the water, perhaps that’s where all their food is. I was only able to really capture them from a distance.
Until today. They were quite close to the shore, and with my 100mm lens, I was able to get closer shots of these cute little aquatic birds. I was able to capture the details I’ve been wanting to get. I could see the iridescence on the male’s head too! They were so close that I was actually able to see them as they swam under the water and come back to the surface! It was really exciting to have this close up look!
The title of this blog is “Buffleheads and Friends” – so I’m going to share some more images of birds I never knew existed, or never saw until a few weeks ago! First up, the Long-tailed Duck. They’re pretty impressive.
The attractive Long-tailed Duck breeds in the high Arctic and spends winters mostly along ocean coasts. The stunning males have two mirror-image plumages: in summer mostly black with a white face patch; in winter mostly white with rich brown, black, and gray on the face. In all plumages they have extravagantly long, slender tail feathers. Females and immatures are smudgy brown and white, without the long tail. These prodigious divers can feed as deep as 200 feet, swimming with their wings, catching invertebrates and small fish.
These ducks are usually out in the open waters. I would love to upgrade my equipment so I could capture close up shots to share with you. But, for now, this distanced view will have to do. Feel free to click on the images and zoom in a little!
Okay the next “Friend” is very special. It’s been a real treat to see this bird. Again, it’s from quite a distance that I see this one and my furthest zoom lens is only 100mm, not ideal for nature photography! But, we make do with what we have!
The regal Snowy Owl is one of the few birds that can get even non-birders to come out for a look. This largest (by weight) North American owl shows up irregularly in winter to hunt in windswept fields or dunes, a pale shape with catlike yellow eyes. They spend summers far north of the Arctic Circle hunting lemmings, ptarmigan, and other prey in 24-hour daylight. In years of lemming population booms they can raise double or triple the usual number of young.
In my research I read that females are usually spotty and males are all white, but young males are also spotty. So, I’m not really sure if this is a male or female. It’s beautiful! I wish my pictures did it justice! Today we saw it on the docks again, just perched there. It was quiet and no one was really around. While observing it through the binoculars, we heard it making a call. It was ‘magestical’.
The next few pictures are of a few other “friends” I’ve observed over the past two weeks.
Like other grebes, the Red-necked Grebe ingests large quantities of its own feathers. The stomach retains two distinct masses (balls) of feathers, and their function is unknown. One hypothesis suggests that the feathers help protect the lower digestive tract from bones and other hard, indigestible material. The Red-necked Grebe also feeds its feathers to its young.
Hooded Mergansers find their prey underwater by sight. They can actually change the refractive properties of their eyes to improve their underwater vision. In addition, they have an extra eyelid, called a “nictitating membrane,” which is transparent and helps protect the eye during swimming, like a pair of goggles.
I’ve been discovering a lot of local wildlife, specifically birds! I live in an area where many birds pass through while migrating, I’ve seen some species I never even knew existed! It’s been pretty amazing! I haven’t taken my camera with me on all of my excursions, but the times I have, I’ve always seen something picture worthy! I’m super excited to share some images of new and familiar wildlife with you!
On a few days, there was this eerie misty fog in the air. It seemed almost surreal, but made everything look extra beautiful! Perhaps it was a result of the warm sun and the cool air mixing together? It’s the first time I really noticed and appreciated this phenomenon!
I said I saw some birds, right? Ok, here are a few birds that are new to me:
The Bufflehead’s are a small diving duck. They are so comical and amazing to watch. I believe they will be around all winter, since they come to this area for Migration and Breeding. I will feature pictures of them diving in another post – it’s pretty cool!
Now for some more familiar birds…
The next few images belong in a series and tell the story of a Mallard Duck taking a bath. Enjoy…
It is very common to see the scene above. I call it “bottoms up”. The geese, swans and ducks do this to reach under the water for food. It’s comical!
I often come here to explore wildlife. I always discover something new or am shown something I never noticed before. It’s been extremely rewarding and good for reducing pandemic anxiety!
Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, a North Indian state in the Himalayan foothills.
Shimla is one of the most famous Hill Stations in Northern India. It was a very popular holiday retreat for the British, and today it is a popular honeymoon spot.
We rode a toy train into the hill station, and it was absolutely scenic. From the name: “Toy Train” you can imagine, it was a slow paced journey that allowed us to enjoy all the scenery that comes with traveling through mountains. The train traveled along one of the highest railway bridges in India, offering some stunning views. Enjoy the journey through the following images:
Traveling in the same carriage as us were two couples that were on their honeymoon. I don’t often take pictures of people, but when I do I prefer to capture raw emotion. I wish I could find this couple and give them this image…
After our breathtaking journey on the Toy Train, we arrived in Shimla. Right away I noticed the difference between Shimla and Delhi. First, the climate, it was cooler up there. The people seemed to have more time, but also worked very hard. I also quickly discovered that the monkey’s in Shimla were always watching us from the tops of trees, roofs and sides of the street.
Another thing Shimla is known for is it’s shopping strip. The Mall road has whatever you want, from food, to clothing, to trinkets.
While in Shimla, we took a taxi ride up an extremely steep, winding mountain road to see a famous monument. Monkey’s surrounded this monument and are very mischievous. People worship the monkey’s so nothing is done to control their bad behavior. We were warned to keep our belongings close to us, and to not show any food – that’s just asking to be attacked by a monkey mob!
The following are images that I can’t put words to. You know, “a picture speaks a thousand words.” Well, some of the words these images speak, are painful, but eye opening.
When I look at the pictures from this trip I took over eight years ago, I think about how much I learnt from getting a tiny glimpse into other people’s lives. I think about how much beauty and diversity our planet has. I also think about how much I don’t know. Traveling is humbling. Visiting a country that is the opposite from anything you’ve ever known is also humbling and it’s hard to put into words what it is really like. You just have to try it for yourself…
Have you ever visited a country or place that was the absolute opposite of anything you ever experienced? The language, climate, culture…everything is foreign and you feel like you’re an alien, visiting a new planet for the first time.
April 2012, I visited India, a country that is very different from the Western part of the world I grew up in. I was nervous, but so excited and ready to visit this country and discover a part of my cultural heritage.
We landed in Delhi. I remember the commute from the airport to our hotel very vividly. It was night time, yet the streets were lit up, so bright and full of life. As I looked out of the car window I saw the streets lined with vendors selling street food. I saw people walking, sitting and sleeping on the side of the dusty roads. I felt like I was watching a travel documentary – except, I was filming it.
My time in Delhi was mostly site seeing. I was definitely in a Photographers paradise.
We took a private tour from Delhi to Agra, to see the famous Taj Mahal. Our tour guide picked us up in his van and another tourist joined us. I had the honor of sitting at the front with the driver! Best seat for hearing the classic Bollywood songs blasting from the sound system as we weaved our way through the roadways.
We finally arrived at the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world.
After visiting Delhi, we headed up north to Shimla. This place was just, captivating. Imagine a quaint city in the mountains. You’ll have to see my next blog for that story!
Have you ever visited a Butterfly Conservatory? If you have, then you know how surreal it can feel to be surrounded by fluttering butterflies. If you haven’t then you should add that to your list of things to do post COVID-19!
I know, you don’t have to go to a conservatory to see butterflies, but it’s so much easier to take pictures of them, because there are SO MANY!
If there are any butterfly experts out there – I would love to know the types that I have captured (through these pictures).
First we go to the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory – my first experience.
Next we visit the Cambridge ON Butterfly Conservatory (which also had beautiful little birds and some reptiles – but that’s for a different post!)
Did you know that butterflies don’t chew food like some other insects? They get all the nutrients they need by sipping nectar, water, fruit, and even tree sap through a long, tube-like appendage called a “Proboscis“…That’s not all: when not in use, the proboscis stays tightly coiled against the butterfly’s head
By the end of this visit, my camera battery had died. It was at that exact moment that a Blue Morpho Butterfly landed on my husband’s face! One of the staff had just told us that these butterflies rarely open their wings. Thanks to phone camera’s, here is what I captured:
Of course, I was kicking myself for not charging my camera battery before leaving for this excursion, but sometimes just being present in the moment is best.
Now for a natural habitat butterfly capture:
I hope viewing these images made you gain a small appreciation for these beautiful creatures and made you feel a little less stressed out for a few minutes!