Monday, December 28, 2009

Santa Was Good To Us

Another great Christmas behind us - nice pressies, wonderful family gatherings (they get better every year!), a couple of nice photographs of a gorgeous, beautiful young lady with fabulous hair.

Meet Madison.

Can't wait 'till she's a little older and a lot less shy!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy New Year!

To those folks living in the Northern Hemisphere, I offer my very best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year.

If you find a tiny little bit of new energy in your spirit and a fresh spring in your step, it's because tommorow will mark the winter solstice.

The sun begins its return! The new year begins!

Monday, December 14, 2009

G#@***#!!! Life is not fair. (#1)

I've used Gillette products - razors, shaving cream - for many years. Gillette promised me comfort and a close, smooth shave.

Not to mention lots of pretty girls who'd lovingly caress my smooth skin day and night.

I have to admit the promise was kept. The girls are nice. 'specially the full-time one now in my life. And she really appreciates when I take time to shave.

Gillette always seemd to work for me, even when, 20 years ago at age 58, I bought a shiny new English sports car. It didn't seem to make much change to my social life. (It's under cover now for the winter, just waiting for spring.)

But Gillette was keeping its promise.

So Tiger went with the Gillette promise. Certainly seemed to work for him. He got lots of pretty girls. Gillette must have been pleased. Until everyone found out.

Now they don't want anything to do with him. Seems to me they should be really proud their products work so well.

Ah well. Who ever said life was fair?

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Recently friends of mine found the carcass of a large, healthy, fresh-killed female white-tailed deer that had been pulled down by wolves/coyotes on their property, just before the first heavy snowfall of the winter.

This is never a pretty sight.

Anthropomorphists live in some fairyland of "noble beasts" without terror and savagery.

The reality is that cowardly canine predators run the terrified deer to the point of exhaustion, drag it down from behind and begin eating the deer alive.

One wonders how long it takes for a deer to die from blood loss?

We wanted to see if we could get a photographic record of the killer(s), so we set up my automatic, infra-red camera over the scene and left it for a couple of days.

That was more than a week ago. The only visitors to the carcass over that time have been a Bald Eagle, a Red-tailed Hawk and a bunch of Ravens and Crows. (BTWay, did you know that a flock of Crows is called a "murder"?)

Which brings us to the point of this story. How did those scavengers find that fresh carcass, deep in a hemlock/pine forest? I doubt they could have seen it from the air.

Which leaves scent as the only other possibility. And leaves us with a new understanding of how our natural world really works.

I knew that Turkey Vultures locate decaying food by scent from an earlier experience.

I'd once collected a couple of road-killed raccoons from just down the road, and carried them out of sight into the woods well down the trail behind my home. I hid them well, deep under the dense early-summer foliage of some mature beech and oak trees. They were completely hidden from overhead view.

Couple of days later I was enjoying an early evening stroll and was more than a little surprised to startle three vultures feeding on the raccoon carcasses.

By that time the coons were pretty "ripe" and probably could have been scented from high in the sky.

But the deer carcass was fresh, not more than two or three days old, and the weather was cool, freezing at night and close to freezing during the day.

There couldn't have been much scent for the birds to pick up.

So, one assumes, the scenting power of scavenging birds must be quite acute.

The camera is still in position and we'll be monitoring activites as long as we can. That may not be as long as we'd like, however, because the weatherman is predicing -15 to -20 overnight in a day or so and the camera may not like those conditions.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

White-tail Reasoning

Hunters of white-tail deer often tell tales of the "intelligence" of these animals, and of the many calculated, effective, reasoning ways they have of outsmarting hunters.

In a long lifetime of careful observance of wild birds and animals, I have seen many examples of white-tail trickery.

But nothing, by white-tail or other animal, that began to compare with the actions of one wily doe a couple of years back.

It was a glorious early November day. Bright, sunny, crisp, hardly a breath of wind.

I was working my way quietly along a large granite hogback ridge high in the Wolf Grove of Lanark County, Ontario. The Grove is a very large, rough area blanketed by mixed forest and networked with beaver ponds on the edge of the Canadian Shield.

Below the ridge a narrow, deep beaver pond stretched a mile or more.

To the west across the pond I could hear several hounds. They were on a trail, no doubt that of a white-tail. As I listened the sound alternately faded and swelled. The hounds were coming my way.

On a large, comfortable log with excellent open view of the pond and surrounding area I settled, my back to a birch tree, ready to observe whatever might happen.

Slowly the hounds drew closer. White-tails may be hunted with hounds in this part of Ontario, and good deer hounds move slowly with lots of noise.

These were good hounds.

After some time I was beginning to chill when a slight motion well up the pond to my right caught my attention. A white-tail doe had stepped quietly to the water's edge and paused to look behind her.

The dogs were still far away. Surely too far for her to be moving ahead of them.

For a few moments she stood, still as the granite ridge itself. Then she stepped carefully into the water and began swimming quietly down the pond toward me. She had no suspicion of my presence.

Looking back occasionally, she swam ever so slowly down the centre of the pond. Just below me near the far bank was a small island, a few willow shrubs and a few strands of sedge grass poking above a foot of water.

To this submerged islet the doe swam. Once there, she settled down quickly, lying in the water, shoulders and only a little of her back showing.

For a while she was motionless, both ears sharply cocked to hear the dogs. They were closer now, their voices quite loud.

The doe didn't move, all attention focused on the sounds of those dogs.

Within perhaps 100 yards of the pond's edge the dogs turned to the north, angling away from us. Parallel to the water they went, then across the beaver dam far up the pond, then back behind me to the east.

It was obvious by now the dogs were on the trail of a different deer. This was confirmed by the trail having gone along the pond and over the dam; a favourite escape route of the white-tails in this area.

Before long the sounds of the hound pack faded in the distance. Again the November quiet settled in. But the doe made no move to leave.

Instead, she confidently groomed herself, licking the hair over shoulders and back as would a large dog, then nibbling disinterestedly at the willows.

I was well chilled by now, and badly in need of a stretch. But my experience with wild things reminded me of the patience of wild things. She might be there for some time. But that water was cold, barely above freezing.

She had to be becoming cool herself, in spite of the heavy winter-ready coat. Surely she would make a move soon.

I determined to wait her out. This was much too interesting an experience to spoil with a casual move.

After what seemed an eternity, the doe did move.

Slowly rising to her feet, she stepped from the shallows into deeper water. Swimming back to the far shore from whence she had come, she stepped out onto dry land and, shaking herself for all the world like a big Labrador Retriever, disappeared in a great cloud of spray. Then she slowly walked out of sight back into the hemlocks, still without any awareness of my watching.

Back, no doubt, to the comfortable bed she had vacated earlier with an ounce of prevention.

I'm now ready to believe almost any story of whitetail reasoning.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Buy a new parka and fur hat. You'll need them soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Global Warming Scam is Exposed

Most of my working (and retired) life, I've worked with scientists. In the early days I had the highest respect for these folks - honest, dedicated, responsible.

For a while now, however, I've been much disappointed, because of what I knew in my heart was a great scam - global warming.

It just is not true.

Now, at last, it has been exposed for what it is - the greatest scandal in modern science. The lies, deceit, conspiracy and collusion are nicely exposed by a couple of hackers who broke into the University of East Englia Climate Research Unit records. The foul mess they turned up is well summed up by journalist James Delingpole:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Now there are three regularly

A very large, brilliant male Pileated Woodpecker showed up at the feeder the other day. He's a beauty!

The resident male is some put out. Really fun to see the territorial dance - I wonder why such big woodpeckers choose to do the important display work on the ground?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

On this 11th day of the 11th month, I'm reminded that I never knew my paternal grandfather. He died in France in 1918. When I was going through the formative teen-age years I didn't have a father around to help me figure out the world. He was busy in Belgium and Germany. Now he rests in a military grave at Ste-Anne de Bellevue.

That's why, at today's 11th hour, I'll pause to remember those things - and of the cousins I have at the bottom of the sea near Murmansk or invalided here at home. And I'll be grateful for people like Churchill and Bush along with the Canadian, British and American fighting men who had the courage to stand up to the evil in this world and protect our way of life for the cowards and apologists who leave others to do their dirty work for them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When The Wood Is In

This is called sweat equity.

A woodpile is a thing of beauty and security and should be stacked loosely enough for a mouse to enter but not a cat.

Prints of this image are available for sale.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Nature Conservancy of Canada Shows Large Aquisition In The Wolf Grove

Yesterday the NCC showed off its latest property, the 255-acre (91-hectare) Martha Webber conservation area, introduced itself to a meeting of neighbours, outlined plans for the property and explained the NCC's conservation planning process.

The property is the largest single landholding within the provincially significant Wolf Grove Wetlands Complex. The area will now be protected in perpetuity as part of the 4,188 acres (1,695 hectares) of land the NCC has protected in Eastern Ontario.

The NCC website will be found here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Attack Of The Killer Fungus

Its growing! Growing!! GROWING!!!

The puffball is larger every day. Bigger than your head already and still growing.

It's the attack of the killer mushroom!

Close the windows! Lock the doors! Get the shotgun!

Run! Run! Run!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

She Brought Him For Breakfast!

The female Pileated Woodpecker brought the young male to the suet feeder this morning - the second time, but this time I got a pretty good picture.

He's already figured out how to get food from the feeder, but he'd rather mom do it.

They are impressive birds, for sure.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Autumn's Coming


The first puffball mushroom of the season is up in the back yard!

That means the end of summer is in sight. And today (August 13) is only the SECOND day of our summer. 32C and sunny.

What a dreadful July it was - and almost half of August.

The Times They Are A_Changin

I'm surprised how early the "summer birds" leave for the south. All the summer Grosbeaks left over the weeked. Not a sign of any left.

The "winter birds" have started to return. The Chicadees pulled out early in May - obviously to move into the depths of the Grove to nest. This morning there are at least two of them back at the feeders. No Purple Finches or Goldfinches yet.

ALSO - a Black-And-White Warbler is hanging around. I doubt he'll go to a feeder, even the suet feeder, but he does seem to like company.

We're learning lots of new things by keeping that suet feeder filled all summer.

And, BTWay, the female Pileated Woodpecker also showed up yesterday. There's been no sign of either of them for a good many weeks - obviously off into the Grove for nesting. There was a report in the local papers a while back about an adult Pileated coming to a feeder with a young offspring. No such luck here. But hope springs eternal.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Holes and Skunks and Many Wasps

Yesterday our English Setter was very interested in a patch of bare ground in the centre of the lawn. Looked like the fresh den of some animal - about 6" in diameter.

It turned out to be a hole a foor or so deep that had obviously been dug by a skunk. It was full of wasps (as yet unidentified, but likely yellowjackets). The excavated soil still had a few wasp larvae laying around and the wasp colony seemed intent on protecting the few larvae that were left.

We've always had skunks digging up the lawn in summer and I've been reluctant to trap them. Wheeew!!

But rabies is always a concern, of course - as well as the dog. She loves to chase rabbits. And skunks don't chase very well.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How Quickly They Grow!

The young Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks are already in a moult and showing adult colours.

I think they first came to our feeders about three weeks ago. If they were, say, two weeks in the nest, that'd make them now not more than five or six weeks of age. But today there was a young male at the suet feeder that was easily 50% moulted to adult colours.

White underbelly, half the red bib in, most of the brown dorsal feathers now in sharp black-and-white. Hard to believe they mature that quickly.

I'll be too busy to shoot until next week, but I'll try to get some new photos then.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Like a trip on the African Queen

Our back yard, just out the kitchen window, is noisier than the sound effects from that wonderful 1951 movie. There’s a buncha newly-fledged Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks whose screaming and begging would rival the SFX and Bogie for the Oscar.

We had no idea such raucus racket could come from such tiny creatures.

We figure there’s 15 or 20 of them, cause we have at least five families nesting here with an average production of probably 3.5 per. That’s 'cause we decided to leave the suet feeder up this summer rather than bring it in as we usually do - as a result the colourful birds have stayed with us rather than move off into the Grove to raise their young.

These guys scream from dawn to dark. To wake the dead. Usually a male feeds them, probably when he can’t stand the racket any longer. Mom, like moms everywhere, can ignore. Likely figure it’s time the young started earning their own living. Which ain’t too difficult, considering we’re spending twenty bucks a week on Walmart suet to help.

We wonder if they may have some difficulty when it’s time to leave for the south and they truly hafta have better survival skills than needed around here. At least they’ll have good fat reserves.

Combine grosbeak screams with shrieking jays, moaning doves, rattle-chattering Wood Frogs, the hyena laugh of three adult Pileated Woodpeckers (they come several times daily to the feeder) and the haunting songs of the Hermit Thrush, Virio, Oriole, Crested Flycatcher - you’d have a sound track to embellish the scariest jungle movie.

Not to mention the Sapsucker pounding on the eaves of our steel roof. Or the Barred Owl that, from time to time, does his "who, who, who-whoooo are you?" about 2 am just yards from the bedroom window.

Friends like to come by for sundowners on our screened porch because it’s so peaceful and quiet.

Yeah, right.

We love that peace and quiet!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Can Animals Count?

River Otter

Can Animals Count?

Most naturalists and outdoors people will tell you that animals and birds can't count past one.

That may be true, when the animals are counting people. Nature photographers well know that, if two people enter a blind and one leaves shortly after, most birds and animals relax in the belief that the people have departed.

BUT - when it comes to keeping tabs on offspring, at least some animals can count to at least five. A recent experience with otters proved that very dramatically.

I live in the Wolf Grove of Lanark County in eastern Ontario. It's a very large, wild area of rolling granite and limestone ridges, heavily wooded in mixed forest and interlaced with beaver dams of all sizes.

The Wolf Grove Stream flows through this forest a few hundred yards behind my house. On a pleasant summer or autumn evening I find great pleasure in a quiet walk up the stream valley to enjoy the sunset and whatever adventure usually awaits.

One such evening a year or so ago I stepped quietly to the top of the bank below the largest beaver dam on the stream. In the small pool there a family of six otters were busy fishing.

They spotted me instantly.

With a sharp bark, mother otter led her brood in a sharp dash up over the beaver dam and out of sight in the depths of the headpond.

Unfortunately, one of the young otters was left behind. He had probably been foraging along the bottom and missed mom's warning.

Panic city! Where the heck did everybody go?

The young otter searched in growing desperation, high and low throughout the pool, stopping frequently to eye me carefully and snap out a suspicious "woof!"

Meantime, well up the headpond, mom and her brood surfaced, and continued their hurried escape. Some 150 yards later, everyone stopped swimming, to mill about in obvious confusion as to what to do next.

I was fascinated. What would happen next?

All my life as an outdoorsman and nature observer I had been told that animals can't count.

Would the otter band return for the sibling? Did they even realize he was missing? (I had already assumed a male gender for the little guy, and was even beginning to think of him in terms of the name "Oscar.")

Suddenly, mother otter began swimming back toward me. My binoculars showed that four other small heads stayed behind, quiet as could be, almost motionless in the glass-calm surface of the beaver pond.

Close to the dam now, mom slowed her swimming. She watched me carefully, and I stood as quietly and still as possible.

I expected her to submerge, and approach under water.

But no. Slowly, ever so cautiously, she drew closer until she was almost at the edge of the dam. Then a short dash and she was out of the water, poised at the top edge.

Oscar hadn't noticed her. Yet.

He was busy, still searching for the others, keeping one watchful eye in my direction.

I don't speak otter.

But I'm sure I know what mom had to say, in a couple of well-chosen words.

So did Oscar.

In a flash he was up over the face of the dam, in the water above and gone.

Mom paused for an instant to contemplate me before leading Oscar up the pond to where the others still waited. Perhaps she was trying to communicate something, maybe about the challenge of safely raising inattentive youngsters to adulthood?

Maybe about arithmetic?

- 30 -

Collections of stock pictures of wild animals, birds, insects, Canadian scenes and people will be found here.