Thursday, December 22, 2011

Male Ruffed Grouse in courtship display.

Grouse Breast Piquante
(From the book 40+ recipes to make food taste as you think it shoud.  ISBN 0-9686559-0-4

There are many ways to cook game birds but this recipe certainly produces the most elegant meal and possibly the tastiest as well.  The combination of flavours here makes this far and away the finest possible way to present ruffed grouse - with these fine birds the recipe truly sings!
    Wild shaggy mane and field mushrooms grow in profusion in our area during the early part of the grouse hunting season, and make an excellent accompaniment to this recipe.
   If you can't get grouse, another game bird will do; second best would be guinea fowl and after that, pheasant, pigeon, wild duck or chicken, but this is a pungent recipe that does best with more strongly flavoured game.
   Remove the breast meat in fillets and pound the thicker pieces gently with a wooden mallet or cleaver until all pieces are the same thickness.
   The skillet to be used for this recipe should be heavy enameled iron or heavy stainless steel; an ordinary iron or steel pan will discolour the white breast meat of grouse or pheasant.
   Dredge the fillets lightly with seasoned flour and sauté slowly in a little butter until done.  Do not allow surface of fillets to crisp.  Arrange in a single layer on a platter and reserve, covered, in 200 degree oven.
   In the skillet (with a little more butter if necessary), sauté  the  onion until  soft and translucent.  (Our #1 son obtained some of his early working experience as a pearl diver in a Japanese restaurant.  Cooks there told him always to slice onions lengthwise.  To cut across the grain "offends" the onion.  We don't know if they were putting him on, but onions certainly seem sweeter and tastier when slivered this way.)
   When the onion is ready, add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and one packet of powdered beef stock dissolved in 3/4 cup of hot stock or water.  Deglaze pan and reduce sauce by half to thicken (thickening can be hastened with a little more cold butter).  Just before serving add one tablespoon of chopped parsley and tarragon and one tablespoon of chopped sour pickles (optional).
   Pour sauce over cooked fillets and garnish with fresh parsley.  Serve with brown/red rice combo  and any of lightly steamed carrot and zucchini slices, snow peas, sautéed mushrooms or squash.
   Serves two

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy New Year!

At 05:30 EST on Thursday the solstice will arrive.  The sun will begin its fresh journey home.  Every day will be a little bit longer.

Good news for photographers and old natural pagans.

Happy New Year everyone.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mea culpa? No bloody way!

I’m becoming very fed up with the accusation that I and my other humans on this earth are responsible for global warming as a result of increased CO2 emissions that we are responsible for.

 It’s a lot of bullpucker.

There is incontrovertible evidence that the theory of global warming by CO2 is wrong and has no scienticic merit.

 The eco-terrorists try to frighten us with warnings that melting ice will flood the world and drown us all. 

More bullpucker.

But records assure us that sea level from 1790 to 2010 has remained within a 20cm range.  Recent evidence indicates that sea level is dropping at a rate of 5mm per year.

They try to frighten us with threats of the disappearance of Arctic ice, the opening of the Northwest Passage and the demise of all our polar bears.

But they conveniently ignore the fact that an RCMP Schooner, The St. Roch, traveled eastbound through the passage in 1940 and westbound a few years later.

So what’s new?

Recent work by scientists overwhelmingly indicates that CO2 plays little or no role in supposed “man-made warming”.

Mea culpa?    Not bloody likely.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Don't Eat Me, I Don’t Taste Good

I recently attended a meeting of our local field naturalist society where the speaker lectured on the strategies some animals (mostly insects) adopt to avoid being eaten by predators.
Research indicates that effective strategies can involve unpalatability, toxicity, the use of warning colours, markings and startling movement. While not a lot of research has yet been done, some of our long-held beliefs are already being exposed as myths.

Adult Monarch Butterfly

One defense is thought to be “mimicry”, where a palatable insect “mimics” the appearance of an unpalatable one. Likely the best known example is of the Viceroy and Monarch butterflies.
Monarch larvae feed on milkweed plants which are toxic and the larvae are said to become distasteful to predatory birds and small animals.
Viceroy butterflies very closely mimic Monarchs and for a long time have been thought to be avoided by predators because of that similarity, even if Viceroy larvae don’t eat milkweed.

It’s a great theory. Trouble is, it quite possibly isn’t correct.

Adult Viceroy Butterfly. Note diagnostic dark bar on hind wing.

Recent research indicates that Viceroys may be unappetizing in their own right and their similarity to Monarchs may be no more than coincidence.

So another myth bites the dust.

The bight colouration of Monarch Butterfly larvae is thought to be a warning - "don't eat me, I don't taste good". But this Stink Bug finds Monarch larvae tasty enough. (A Stink Bug's defence against predators may be the foul odour these guys exude when disturbed.)

More interesting to me is how the predators come to know they should avoid certain insects.
Most lepidopterists and many scientists believe it is a learned behavior - a bird grabs a Monarch butterfly and is repelled by the taste. Ever after, that bird avoids both Monarchs and Viceroy butterflies.
But does it really happen that way? Or is this just another fanciful theory without foundation.

Could the explanation be much deeper and more mysterious? Something like inherent fear?

Why not?

Any farmer will tell you how chickens, hatched in an incubator and raised without other adult birds, will demonstrate abject fear at the sight of a predatory bird on the distant horizon. How do the chickens know that bird is a threat?

What about the innate fear of snakes common to many horses?

Toss a length of garden hose into an enclosure with horses and watch the hose be chopped into small pieces in short order.

From where do the chickens and horses get that inherent fear?

There is so much of the natural world we simply don’t understand.

Another protective phenomenon can be deceptive appearance. The following two images of Viceroy larvae resemble nothing more than bird droppings and would likely be ignored by most hungry birds.

My on line stock photo catalogue now has more than 11,000 images like the ones in this newsletter available for use in advertising, publication and on the internet.

Just drop me a line.

Links to some of my butterfly and insect pages:

Link to Monarch Butterfly photos.

Link to Viceroy Butterfly photos.

Link to Monarch Butterfly life cycle photos.

Link to photos of extinct and extirpated butterflies.

Link to selection of butterfly photo galleries.

Link to 32 other selected insect groups.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ottawa Duck Club 2011 Statistics

Had a look at the late summer edition of The Nest Box, newsletter of the Ottawa Duck Club. Main activity of the club is the installation of nest boxes for ducks (Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers mostly). They keep stats on 61 boxes (about one-third of the boxes they have in place).

This year the boxes held an average of 10.4 eggs, close to the nine-year average of 10.8. 377 Wood Duck eggs were laid and 265 hatched (71%). 299 Merganser eggs were laid and 191 hatched (64%). If the other boxes did as well, that would be almost 2,000 eggs per year.

There has been a steady increase in the number of Merganser eggs laid each year. It is not known if this is at the expense of the Wood Ducks.

The volunteer club operates in the wildlife sanctuary on the military training ground and rifle range just west of Ottawa. Website is at

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Mennonite Church on Sunday Morning.

A new series of photos from Waterloo Co., Ontario.  (link)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011

What’s A Freetard?

A freetard is someone who wants to use your photos without paying for the right to do so. Usually for some commercial reason.

Often it’s a business or publication that “has no budget for photography”. (Bet the business owner or editor gets paid!) Even more often it’s a “contest” where you’re promised “exposure”. That’s exposure almost as illegal and worth about as much to you as the other kind.

We have those photo contests in our own community all the time. One is underway now - if you win you get to see your photo in a commercial calendar for next year. That’s advertising, used to promote a business - where the use of photos should be paid for at handsome rates, because the firm/store/organization is using your photo to produce revenue.

Then there’re the columns in our local papers who have a policy - “we don’t pay for pictures”. They’re stuffed end to end with costly advertisements.

Another culprit is the good cause. Many of us like to support causes close to our hearts. But one must wonder why such causes demand “all reproduction rights, in perpetuity, in any and all media now known or to be developed in future”.

Wonder they don’t want your first-born as well.

When you encounter them, know these scams and thefts for what they are. Decline to participate. Your reward for doing that? How much is your self-respect worth to you?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Melancholy lady

Pretty girls should always be happy . . .

More pictures.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Birds Are Vicious!

Folks (especially many “birders”, as distinct from bird watchers) often have a warm, glowing, anthropomorphic view of birds. Much of it is just plain silliness, based on what people would like to think the natural world is.

Truth is, birds are vicious. Beautiful, yes. “Cute” sometimes. Aggressive. Often selfish. Always territorial. Fight to the death.

Like one of the male robins who has taken over much of our rural property in the Wolf Grove.

He’s discovered a rival who lives in one of our living room windows. For days now, he’s spent most of the daylight hours fighting that rival. Trying to drive him off, or worse.

The rival, of course, is his own reflection. (No one ever said male robins with surging hormones were smart.)

Out of concern for his well being, I’ve taped a white kitchen towel over the inside of the particular window frame where his enemy lives. That seems to have reduced the reflectance factor enough so the bird has decided he’s won the battle.

He came back a few times after I put up the towel. Fluttered about a bit - “where are you now, you so-and-so?”

He seems now to have gone about his other duties of driving competitors away.

There are many other bird images in my online stock photo catalogue. Image researchers searching for images can be assured of prompt, accurate service at any time.

There are some 10,000 other images there, keyword searchable and organized into 29 gallery collections for ready reference.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


There are more named species of beetles in this world than any other group - described beetles make up about a quarter of all described animal groups.

In the book Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity, ISBN-13:978-1-55297-900-6,  prof Stephen Marshall tells us beetles are found almost everywhere in the world and range in size from 0.25 mm up to 20 cm, a range equal to that between the tiniest shrew and the largest whale.

Beetles can be mightily destructive (Emerald Ash Borer), great cleaner-uppers (Carrion Beetles) or just simply beautiful as they go about the business of living, growing and reproducing.

My keyword searchable website inclues includes 33 galleries of beetle photos, all available in high resolution for educational, editorial, corporate and advertising uses.

When you need images of beetles, please have a look.  If you are a photo researcher and wouild like to be able to download 600 pixel files for review and comping, without charge, just let me know by email.  I'll be pleased provide that access.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I saw the first butterfly in the Ottawa district!

An Eastern Comma at about 11 am on April 8.  (About a month later than usual.)  There'll be more.  Soon.

Prothonotary Warbler feeding on mosquito larvae

Photo © John T. Fowler and may not be downloaded or reproduced without permission.  Photo prints available for sale.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

This little lady is moving out.


Leave home for a weekend to watch some baseball, you never know who'll move in while you're away.

(Just wait 'til Bonnie gets home and sees this.)

The wrong side of the zoo fence

If you ever wanted to know what it's like to be on the wrong side of the fence in a zoo, just go to a Blue Jay opener and sit in the nosebleed section. My buddy Bob said you gotta do it once - the atmosphere is to "experience". He was right on both counts (especially the "once"). We were three rows down from the very top at the Skydome or whatever they call it now. Great view, 'specially of the drunks and fights. Even of the two jerks who decided to hurl full cans of beer down on the heads of the folks below. Security was conspicuous by it's absence, as the saying has it. I don't think any kids got hit.  Anyway, we won the blowout 13-3 and I've now done it. Twice. First time and last time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another sign of spring

Beautiful big Red-tailed Hawk down the road yesterday.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How photographers (and other creatives) get ripped off.

Offir Gutelzon wrote:


Help us at picscout to invite as many possible, creativepro, communication workers, bloggers, graphic designers and other people who interact with images on a daily basis,

invite them to register to a free webinar "how to Avoid the Confusion! Learn When and How To Safely Use Online Images"

they can register here



Avoid the Confusion! Learn When and How To Safely Use Online Images...

on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:00 AM Hear from a photographer who saw his likeness used thousands of times around the world, without attribution or compensation, after posting a set of self-portraits on Flickr, and learn about other recent examples.

Sugar Snow

When I was a boy living in Quebec's Eastern Townships I used to work nights boiling maple sap for a local farmer.  In late March and early April we'd get some pretty heavy falls of snow - large, wet, sticky flakes about the size of a half-dollar, which were in common use back then.

We called it "sugar snow".  The maples seemed to like it, the sap seemed to run faster and sweeter.

It's coming down now, with a vengeance.  We're gonna get 10 cm they say.  Yuck!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Keeping the ol' chrome dome warm

Few days ago my slumbercap arrived.  It's great!  Getting a better night's sleep (with lots of fresh air) than for a long time.

Got it from a nice lady who makes these things as a home business:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Summer WILL come . . .

I have faith

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Dinner in the raw.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Check your furnace for wood ducks

Where I live spring doesn't arrive until May. But some of nature's creatures are as anxious for it's arrival as I.

1. That includes Wood Ducks.

Woodies are hole-nesters. They'll use nest boxes, but prefer hollow trees. Sometimes they'll confuse other structures for hollow trees.

You may be surprised to learn that one such place can be your furnace. It is important that you do watch there, 'cause it's a very dry, dusty place, unhealthy for a duck.

A prospective mother wood duck can be quite creative when searching for a new home. She wants a deep, dark hole, where she and her nest can be protected from marauding crows, blackbirds, raccoons and other predators looking for an easy lunch.

Chimneys can be quite attractive. At least, mine seems to be. On two occasions I've had to retrieve these ducks from my furnace and release them back to the wilds.

I live in the Wolf Grove of Lanark County in eastern Ontario. It's a large, rough area of limestone ridges, dense mixed forest, streams and many beaver ponds on the very southern fringe of the Canadian Shield.

Lots of dead trees. Great wood duck nesting country.

I found the first wood duck in my furnace quite by accident. In my passive-solar efficient house I no longer need to use the wood furnace for heat by early spring. But on a couple of occasions a couple of days apart I heard metallic noises from the furnace room. I put it down to my two cats, who liked to clamber around on the air ducts in search of adventure.

Then, a day or so later, I was passing the furnace door and heard the sound again. I knew both cats were outside and couldn't imagine what the sound might be. Soon I heard it again, coming from inside the firebox.

On opening the door I found one very dry and dusty mother wood duck. How long she had been there I have no idea, but I had no difficulty catching her and releasing her outside. She seemed strong enough, able to fly well, and headed directly down my long driveway and into the woods.

I passed the experience off as unusual and thought no more about it. For a couple of years.

Then, one late March morning, I heard that metallic noise again. I knew it wasn't cats, because my allergist had some time earlier directed me to find other good homes for them.

"Surely not another wood duck," I thought and headed for the firebox door.

Wrong again.

There was a second would-be-mother-wood-duck, equally dusty and disoriented, but certainly not as dry as the first one.

This one was able to get out of the firebox, and we had an energetic game of tag through a large cloud of wood ashes before I finally pinned her in a corner of the wood pile with the aid of my butterfly net.

She also flew strongly down the driveway and out of sight into the woods.

I've often wondered if it was the same bird. I even thought of applying for a federal bird-banding licence, just in case she came back again. In the end, I decided a screen over the chimney was simpler, and I haven't had any wood ducks in my furnace since.

But if you use a wood furnace and don't have your chimney screened, I suggest you watch your furnace for wood ducks as spring approaches.

The maternal instinct leads us all into some strange adventures - even for wood ducks.

- 30 -

Images and stock pictures of waterfowl and other wildlife are available at the on-line catalogue


Keeping your head down uh, warm

  We like to sleep with a window open - the fresh air is nice.  But when you're as old as I am, there isn't a lot of hair on top and the ol' bean can get pretty cool before morning when the temperature hits 20 below.

So - I'm buying a nightcap  (actually, it's called a slumbercap, made by a lady who, like I, is a cancer survivor).

Can't wait to get it.

Here's a link to her website (her name is Ruth Klampert, btway.)  The slumbercap is her only product.

I did a good bit of research to find this person and her product.  Would you believe I couldn't find anything like it in Canada!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When it's cold as this . . .

 it's nice to look at orchid photos from last summer.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Another couple of signs

Haven't seen a black squirrel for weeks.  This morning there are three out back, trying to decide who's going to do what to whom.  Yesterday I heard a Chicadee singing a love song.  First one this year.  Can't wait.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Time to think warm thoughts

Horrible, bitter cold day here with a vicious strong north wind blowing  trees down and roofs away.  Think about the woodcock - they'll be back soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring Is In The Air Today

It won't be long before the boiling begins in Lanark Co., Maple Syrup Capital Of Ontario.  The pipelines are washed and connected, the pumps are tested, the reverse osmosis is ready and the separators are cleaned and ready for sap.

To see the story of making maple syrup, click here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spring soon?

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz. I wonder where the boidies is?

Actually, not a lotta grass rizzed yet. But great flocks of ugly starlings feeding along the roadside. And the Blue Jays are singing love songs in the back yard. Not the Chicadees or Cardinal so far, but 'twon't be long.

Whoo! Hoo!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

View from the office window - He's a beauty

Very nice young male grouse under the feeder outside the kitchen window this morning. How does one expect to get any work done with visitors like this?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is ESP Real?

Professor Emeritus of Psychology Daryl Bem of Cornell University has released results of a study that indicates Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) may exist. The results have met with a little support and a whole lot of denial.

As have many others, I, in my lifetime, have experienced events that cannot be explained in ordinary terms. One experience was so dramatic that, after many years, the back of my neck still tingles when I tell the story.

Baz (the name I'll use for this story) was a neighbour and close friend. We shared hobbies and interests, and I was almost part of his family. He always had a natural, effective power of communication - he often seemed able to anticipate my actions and even my very thoughts.

Like most people in our working class district of west-end Montreal, we lived in rented one-level "flats", stacked one above the other in piles of three or four. Typically, Baz's flat was long and narrow with a single hallway.

At one end of the hallway was the kitchen and rear entrance. Along the rest of the hallway were bedrooms, with a living room at the far end and a small bedroom adjacent. In a bunk set in that small bedroom slept two of Baz's young boys.

Baz's wife Marie had a younger sister, Anne. She suffered from rheumatic fever; usually fatal in those days. Anne lived in east-end Montreal and was frequently in hospital for treatment.

One evening during one of Anne's stays in hospital I was keeping Baz company while Marie visited with her sister - a visit that meant more than an hour's travel each way on Montreal's ancient street car transit system (none of us could afford automobiles at that time).

Anne was very sick, so we didn't expect Marie home before at least midnight or one a.m.

The house was silent. The kids were long asleep; this was before the introduction of television.

Baz and I were drinking tea and working quietly on the kitchen table with a set of plans for a new racing boat he hoped to build in the spring.

Near midnight we were startled by the loud noise of something falling and glass breaking at the front of the house.

Baz looked up, a question in his eyes. Without speaking he rose from his chair and went directly to the boys' bedroom at the end of the hallway. A careful search showed nothing out of place. Both children slept soundly. Nothing had fallen.

Baz backed from the door, stood quietly for a moment looking at me without speaking. I watched carefully.

He started back toward the kitchen, then stopped and turned his head to glance into the darkened, empty living room.

Reaching only his hand around the door frame into the room, he flipped on the overhead light. Then stood there, motionless, for the longest time.

He didn't look back at me. But in a quiet voice commanded "come here and look at this."

I did, stopped beside him, and looked into the room.

Across the room Anne's photograph lay on the floor. It had fallen from the wall. The frame was twisted, the glass shattered.

Anne's face looked quietly up at us, the gentle, warm face we knew so well.

Baz made no move to pick up the photograph. I said nothing.

Then in the kitchen, the telephone rang. Baz looked at me.

"I'll get it?" It was a question.

He nodded.

I went to the phone, lifted the receiver. It was Marie.



"It's Marie."

A pause.

"Please put Baz on. Anne is gone. She died just a few minutes ago."

Another Mysterious Story

Professor Bem's Report