♫♪♫ Take me home, country road…♪♫♪

You can see so much, if you slow down and look:) Not just the dazzling array of colours, those yellows, oranges, rusts and reds, but the lingering greens, trees that are hanging on, not willing to give up their leaf cloaks just yet! Just look up! The colours against the blue sky today were mesmorizing!

The reds are slowing receding to burgundies and the rusts and yellows have started to take over the colour canopy. It is as if all the colours of an artists palette have come to life blowing in the breeze:)

I wasn’t prepared for all the flowers blooming! At the edges of the road the bright purple Asters are still in full swing. Bright yellow Clouded Sulphur butterflies were flitting about, had you not heard? Winter is coming! A few Mulleins were making a brave stand next to their shriveled and dead neighbours and a beautiful Queen Anne’s Lace bloom was thriving, with other flower buds about to open. The majority of them are now dried up brown seed heads so these glorious blooms were a welcome surprise! Some red berries I’ve yet to discover their name were also is different states of being, some had leaves on the plants, others were bare. Fascinating how Mother Nature works;)

Most of the mushrooms turned to goo after the frosts but we came across these beautiful little golden brown mushrooms growing on a dying hardwood tree, Flamelina Velutipes/Ennokitake Mushroom-Velvet Foot Mushroom, I think! There are ones that resemble this that are quite poisonous so we won’t eat these little guys, just watch them grow! They are only about 4″ tall in total!

I thought the frogs and bugs had gone into hiding as well but not quite! “She turned me into a Newt!…but I got better!” Mike said as he pointed out a tiny just over an inch long bright red-spotted newt, which did in fact turn out to be just that! ha! Don’t you love it when something resembles it’s name! Mike’s great astronomer eyes picked him out on a rock. We rescued a Woolly Bear caterpillar sauntering down the road, I didn’t want to see him squished like a small snake a few paces before so we moved it to the side:) A few Tussocks caterpillars have been seen wandering about the woods as well. So much life:)

I spent one sunny morning just watching our locals. The Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are quite cheeky! No fear! The Blue Jays hide and wait for me to leave to come in for the peanuts;) I hide in the shade to get them! The turkeys are safe, Thanksgiving is gone now, here in Canada anyway! I do love to photograph birds while it is sunny, the colours, especially with the leaves now creates such a beautiful backdrop. I keep trying to prepare myself for the gray days of November. One year I don’t think the sun shone the entire month…I can still shoot these glorious little birds, just higher ISO and shutter speeds! The Chickadees and Nuthatches always bring a smile to my face. The Goldfinches are back to their olive drab uniform of Winter, hardly recognizable from their bright yellow Summer feathers! I’m not sure if the Purple Finches stay or migrate, we’ll wait and see!

The traveling Mewberries have been having a blast in the leaves. Tearing about, chasing one another. Groot and Rocket stick close to us, crying if they can’t see us, Ms. Gamora on the other hand has a wild independent streak and we have discovered best to keep her leashed unless we want to go bush wacking after her! They enjoy their morning walks, especially if it’s windy, they are like a stable of thoroughbreds! 0_0…thoroughbred owners know what happens when it is windy and cool! ha!

We’ve had one quiet afternoon when the wind died down and we decided to go for a quick paddle before sunset. We didn’t get far, ran into our neighbour across from us, on the small island and introduced ourselves and chatted for quite a awhile. He knew many of the same people Mike had grown up with so it was an interesting conversation. He was closing up his cottage, taking the water in and said we might see him in the Winter. He’d walk down our road and cross over the lake once it froze! Hoping that is a ways off yet!

For now, I just want to soak in all this astounding colour and warmth on the days the sun is shining! A walk out to check the mail at the end of the Long Lake road is a real treasure of natures beauty. It keeps me grounded when the news of chaos and division is so great, all this works in some kind of harmony, why can’t we?

You may see me wandering down the road, humming a John Denver or James Taylor tune, wondering how beautiful this will look with snow, or ice, because in all reality, it is simply stunning no matter what the season, it’s just how we choose to look at it! Saludos amigos, stay safe, be kind and don’t forget to find that little bit of beauty in something, everyday!

Now where are those sunglasses? Those colours are blinding!

Where did September go? Suddenly we went from green to red and gold and yellows spattered about the forest. The mushrooms have mostly slunk back into the ground after a light frost early one morning grazed the grass tips. We have been busy in the basement layering rockwool boards against the cement and block walls. Stuffing batting into the rim joists and generally trying to make the house as airtight, draft less and warm as possible!

Why does Fall always seem to take me by surprise? In a normal year we’d be plotting our course South to Baja, wondering when the first snowflakes would fly, but today…we get the opportunity to sit and watch the season change to a golden hue. No thoughts of travel, or routes, State or Provincial parks or campgrounds. It has been nice in a way, not having that mad scramble South, ha! Ask me in February how I feel;)

Moving into a solid house that doesn’t have 4 wheels and wiggles when you walk has been a lovely change. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be itching to explore come Spring but having a place, to unpack all your childhood memories, photo books, treasures from a life lived all over has been very rewarding. Having a washing machine, and OMG, a dryer, hah, either I’ve turned simple or the ability to have these luxuries doesn’t escape me. They are luxuries many people simply take for granted. Having this amazing thing called a well and running water, clean running water, drinkable running water. Putting up the insulation I must have hit the power switch for the well in the basement on the beam above and that moment of terror when I turned on the faucet and nothing came out of the tap…weird, for a moment a second of panic before trying to rationalize why there was no water. Yet I have a billion gallons I’m sure in the lake in front of us! After living off grid, and being responsible for our own power, food at times and water brings a different set of priorities to your life that don’t change I think. As troubled times stretch across our world, and we watch families lose everything in a fire, or flood, or lose their loved ones to the virus rapidly moving across this earth it is necessary to take the time to savour every little thing. Smell, movement, bugs, the flash of a coloured feather on a new bird, the wonder of the sun rising through smoke that has traveled thousands of miles, and a moon that lights the lake, this beauty needs to be celebrated in a time of such ugliness and uncomfortable battles being fought between humans…

Smoke from the West coast fires drifts over Ontario

I don’t watch a lot of news, I take pictures, I explore, I try to focus on the goodness in our lives, the people, animals, and living things surrounding us. For everything else there is wine;) Ha! So much is out of our control, so much isn’t, we need to remember that and do what we can, perhaps not worry about what we can’t…maybe we should adopt another kitten:) Ha! Can barely keep up to the three wild cats!

We can hear the geese as they start to fly South. A few have landed in the bay, what great webbed feet they have to brake their splash landing! An occasional cry of a Loon breaks the quiet lake, and even the Whip-poor-wills have started South. The Barred owls call from here, to others across the lake. I’ll see one eventually! A Bald Eagle has been doing flybys, occasionally swooping and splashing down for a fish. We’ll have the company of the Woodpeckers, small and large and in between, the Bluejays and Finches, and hopefully others will show up at the feeders! Our baby racoons come to clean up the seeds but have turned quite nocturnal now, not venturing out in the light.

The colours I have been told this year are exceptionally bright. Temperatures, light, and water supply have an influence on the degree and the duration of fall color. Low temperatures above freezing will favor “anthocyanin” formation producing bright reds in maples. Autumn leaves turn fiery-red in an attempt to store up as much goodness as possible from leaves and soil before the winter. The poorer the quality of soil, the more effort a tree will put in to recovering nutrients from its leaves, and the redder they get. Isn’t mother nature astounding!

Are we at the peak? of colours, I’m not sure, many leaves have fallen in the last few days with rain and wind, a few, still green, are hanging on. It is early this year, but then, maybe Spring will come earlier as well;) ha! That will be wishful thinking in April:) For now, I simply am enjoying the progress into Fall. Cooler nights, not many bugs, lots of frogs! Beautiful green frogs! One jumped onto my hand as I was coiling the hose to put away. The gray treefrog can have green, brown or grey skin with large darker blotches on the back. We have a gray one around the corner by the BBQ:) They overwinter under leaf litter and snow cover. They are freeze tolerant, that is, they freeze solid over the winter and appear completely lifeless, but when they thaw out in spring they become active once again. Wow!!! That is pretty cool! Cryogenic frogs!

Fall means we are also at the last of the outdoor markets. In Crosby on Saturdays, last chance until Thanksgiving to get delicious potatoes, tomatoes and honey and those candles! Too pretty to burn! Support a local farmer!

I’m back off to outside now, the sun has come out, some experimenting with long exposures is needed and wow, that is just too pretty not to go take pictures of! Saludos amigos, stay safe, be kind, if not drink wine;) Actually, just go ahead and drink wine, kind or not! Ha! Support your local winery!

Where ARE my sunglasses! That is bright! Long Lake

There are fungus amongus;)

What springs from the ground never ceases to amaze me! With the rains the forest floor has come alive with the fruits of the mycelium. A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus. There are many amongus;) ha! I always liked that! Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus or fungus-like bacterial colony. They can spread for kilometres underground and usually tell you that it is a healthy forest.

I try and get some id’s from iNaturalist. I upload photos and they provide possible id’s and whether others have found the same nearby. It is certainly not foolproof but it gives you a start where you can read from there! The ONTARIO MUSHROOM HUNTERS AND FORAGERS on facebook also is a great guide to what can be, or not eaten! We’ve harvested our fair share of Morels over the years but now are curious about the many other edible ones. We are looking into inoculating several tree trunks that are down to grow chantrelles! Very exciting!

We have a whole new set of families down at the dock as well. They are facing eviction, sorry guys, but I want to use the canoe, but for a few days they can stay and scatter hopefully, arachnophobs avert your eyes! These ladies are quite large, about 3″ across and with all those kids…I sense a few Aragog nightmares coming on;) Maybe Hagrid could come by and collect them;)

I usually think of Fall as things winding down but life seems to be springing up wherever we look. The mosses are putting out new shoots of glorious green, brand new baby frogs leap out of the way of the cats and we are still keeping an eye on our snapping turtle nest, finger crossed, they will hatch and nothing has already feasted on them!

The last of the hummingbirds have headed South, the feeders are still up in case a straggler happens by but it has become quiet after the raucous roar of tiny wings protecting the feeders has ceased. I’m sure I’ll get used to this, I feel I should be preparing to head South, but instead, I will have to prepare for Winter. Wood has been cut, split ( thank goodness for rental splitters!) and the shed is filling for next year as well. The Loons are still chatting and yesterday, the first call of Canadian Geese heading South echoed across the still lake. Winter is coming, but not yet. I plan to thoroughly enjoy Fall, from the most tiny minuscule thing to that which is larger than life!

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.
~Henry Miller~

Well hellooo there!!!

Hello baby newborn snake! I was expecting turtles!

Keep reading unless you suffer from Ophidiophobia-The word comes from the Greek words “ophis” (ὄφις), snake, and “phobia” (φοβία) meaning fear:) Other wise, read on! Who knew what inhabits your compost bin! Ours is constructed of 4 old pallets, filled with leaves last year/or this Spring from the previous owners. Mike was loading the compost into the wheelbarrow when this fellow, and three of his litter mates popped up in the wheel barrow along with their eggs attached, they were just hatching out! Oh MY! What a beauty! This is an Ontario Gray Rat snake, Pantherophis spiloides. We had a large specimen this Spring in the driveway, mama maybe? They can reach over 2.5 meters long, they get big, but look at this little guy! One of his litter mates was shaking his tail like a rattler and rearing up:) muy bravo, very brave/angry. I guess when you are this small you have to look out for yourself!

These are non-venomous snakes I might add:) It seems they favour hardwood forests near water…bingo! Right here!

The Gray Rat snake is a constrictor and feeds mostly on small mammals and birds. Since it spends some of its time in trees, it is an efficient predator of bird nests….no….look out little hummingbirds next year! During the breeding season, females will mate with multiple males and produce a clutch of eggs sired by different fathers. Females reach sexual maturity at 7–9 years of age and females typically only reproduce every two or three years and they can live for 25–30 years. Gray rat snakes breed in spring, the females laying their eggs, as many as 12 to 16, in rotting logs, under rocks and warm compost bins are a favourite! Multiple females will use the same nest sight as well. The hatchlings, which are 30 to 40 centimetres long ( 11-12 inches), emerge in late summer or early fall. Juveniles prefer a diet of frogs and lizards. In eastern Ontario, they can hibernate communally in rocky outcrops called hibernacula! We could have colonies here!

The species has also been designated as a Specially Protected Reptile under the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

The size of an average mature Gray Rat snake home rang is approximately 18.5 ha, or 45 acres. Predators include Red-Tailed Hawks as well as Fishers and Raccoons. Juveniles fall prey to Crows and even Turkeys. Glad these eggs didn’t fall into the hands of our Raccoon family! Three more hatched today, we’d unearthed them yesterday and then put them back, covering them carefully, this morning all that was left were the egg shells!

Isn’t Mother Nature amazing! Still waiting for the turtle babies!

Saludos amigos!

Gone fishin’…..

Groot is the spotter!

♫♪♫ Gone fishin’ ♪♫♪ Nobody sings that better than Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby:) Yeah, I’m not that old but I ended with my grandparents 45’s! It’s been awhile since Groot has had the chance to catch his favourite meal. “Fish! Don’t cook it, master ruin it when he cooks it!” I swear he is half Gollum;) He had to wear his gifted lifejacket, thanks Joanne, on his first trip out into the lake for awhile. He wasn’t too sure about it but when he heard the fishing reel whirl, he was happy enough! He is a wonderful cat! He only goes out when it is calm, no waves he says, no splashing with the paddle…keep up the good work human and get me some dinner!

Great bass fishing, both small and large mouth here. We see the small fishing boats slowly putting around the edges of the lake, stopping, fishing, and moving on, you can hear the laughter and glee when one gets reeled in:) They are very tasty fried in butter:)

The bay out front has a beautiful sandy bottom on the far side. It is full of very small fish as well, minnows, rock bass and yellow perch. The Loon family has been busy stuffing baby Loon with fish. As MANY as he/she can eat! Constant movement of diving, delivering, eating and starting again. Baby is getting BIG!

The eagles seems to have moved on to new fishing, baby loon hunting grounds. They still perch on the big white pine across the lake, watching, but not every day all day. It was a stressful time for Ma and Pa Loon. Lot’s of wailing and carrying on anytime the Eagle did a flyby. Glad that has calmed down! The Osprey is back now fishing as well, I imagine the eagle was protective about it’s territory!

Baby Loon is doing a lot of wing stretching, practice dives and following his/her parents around:) Papa Loon gets protective, I can hear him wailing if a boat or kayak approaches too closely. I always keep my distance, great to have the telephoto, shooting from an unstable watercraft/canoe is a whole new experience! Señor Loon only got excited when Mike reeled in a big bass! “Mine!” I’m sure he was thinking! ha!

Just to sit dead still in the water and watch these birds behavior is such a treat. They are such stunning creatures! The colours in their feathers and the patterns are spectacular. The way the water droplets bead on their feathers after a dive…gorgeous!

I’m not sure when the youngster will attempt to fly. I haven’t seen anything like that yet. It still amazes me how much of a water runway they need to take flight. They always takeoff upwind, just like airplanes try to, at times needing up anywhere form 30 meters to a quarter of a mile to get airborne! That is a lot of flapping and paddling! We’ll see how long it takes and when Ma and Pa go, do they take junior? or is he on his own…we’ll see!

In the meantime, we’ll keep watching the sunrise, taking pictures and do a lot of “Gone fishin” like our Loon family! Be kind, wear a mask and stay safe! Saludos amigos! Hoping for baby snapping turtles this coming week according to my calendar!

Did I just BLINK and Summer is gone?

Ha! Mother Nature has thrown all kinds of wicked weather our way this week, torrential rain, thunder that had me, and Rocket jumping and lightning I was using as a night light it was so constant, but who turned off the heat? Hello??? hahahaha!

Inquiring minds want to know;) Ha! At least we got to try out the new fireplace insert last night…very nice, that warm tile to sit a cold bottom on is lovely, the cats concur…it will be a very popular place this winter I think, and yes, I am a total whimp, cold being 10­° celcius, or 50° flintstone scale…I am really going to be whiney this Winter!!!

With the cooler morning temperatures mists have been rising off the warmer water creating an otherworldly effects with the dance of light. Where the sun rises is steadily moving South, a reminder that the days are getting shorter…

August seems to me to be the month of weird extremes. A week or so ago it was sweltering, over 30° Celsius ( 86°F) with an oppressive humidity. I woke up sweating before even exerting myself;) Mind you, the cats seemed to enjoy that heat a bit;) Makes it hard to get motivated but we do:)

The thunder storms have dropped a significant amount of rain, no watering needed on the new perennials that have started to bloom like crazy. Mushrooms have been sprouting from every possible crevice, all over the lawn and poking up through piles of leaves and out of tree trunks. Stunning variety and colours!

The baby hummingbirds are now all fierce juveniles…lots of buzzing and fighting over the three feeders:) The crocosmia lucifer flowers are in full bloom and very popular! The Purple Finches are molting and look very sad, our equivalent to the gawky spotty teenager stage of life;) There are dozens here. Not sure if they stay or move South for the Winter?

At least the deer flies have decided to wander away to the back woods, or have been eaten. The dragonflies are slowly disappearing as well, only a few skim the lake and in the gardens compared to the hundreds in the early Summer, but now we have grasshoppers and crickets, much to the cats delight. Seems they think they are quite tasty but they belong in the “scarf and barf” (thanks for that eloquent wording Jennifer, I love it!) category of foods and generally come back up still wriggling at times. ARGHHHH, hahahahaha!

Ah, August….it’s a sign when the horses are shedding out their Summer coats and the donkeys are looking sleek and sassy, and round, everyone is very round, Fall is just around the bend. All that amazing grass must be eaten now! Maya is on stall rest after misbehaving with a sore foot, Dusty is rubbing his large belly on the ground, ah, that feels good he says. Phoenix and Quizzie are very round as well:) We had to say goodbye to the beautiful Celestial Bay. Man, it just never ever gets any easier watching our old friends go. She was 28. Such a beauty. May she run with her friend Boots in fields of clover.

Time slips away so quickly, you end up scratching your head wondering where it went. Makes you realize Carpe Diem, the Latin phrase, which literally means “pluck the day,” was used by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that we should enjoy life while we can, are words to live by:)

“Can we have more sugar cubes please?”

Saludos amigos, stay safe, turn off the damn TV and news, go outside, watch some birds or bees or butterflies;) and go smell, the hollyhocks;) or roses, or popcorn;) ha! Stay tuned for Groot’s canoe fishing trip and an update on our Loon family!

Slowing down…finally

Mrs. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

I’m glad I’m not beating my wings this quickly:) it did feel like I was for awhile….well, maybe not, don’t think I could manage 1260 beats a minute or 21 beats a secound. So, whew…things are coming together, it seemed slowly, now all seems to be falling into place.

Importing and registering the truck and trailer here in Canada…that was a big thing. The dirty looks we get with the South Dakota license plates were real, in parking lots and elsewhere. We wrote “We are Canadian” on the dirty tailgate hoping to avoid any damage to the truck, we’d heard of vehicles that were keyed, people yelled at, told to “Go home”…crazy…those polite Canadians have turned vicious in protecting their border recently! 8 out of 10 want to keep the border closed at least until 2021.

At the border initially when we drove across the Customs agent just looked at us after I said I was a returning Canadian citizen and said “You’re going to have to figure that out later! Our offices are closed and we don’t know when they will reopen!”…okiedokie….After many calls to the CBSA, Canada Border Services Agency and Customs and ridiculous calls to US Customs Brokers we managed with the help of several incredibly nice Canadian Customs agents to deduce we needed to take the truck into Customs at the Ottawa airport. They even called the Ottawa airport and confirmed this for us:) Then we went in with the truck and all the paperwork. Bills of sale, titles, insurance, recall clearances, copies of what other trailers like ours sold for (for a price point as we bought them 4 years ago), red book value of the truck, etc etc etc…lots of paper. The gentleman behind the counter was very nice and apologized profusely but said, that yes, all those papers were exactly what they wanted but they needed to see the trailer as well to verify the V.I.N…OK, we can do that. “Just not Monday or Friday he warned! We are crazy busy those days.”:)

Next trip in, we hauled Myrtle, our 5th wheel home for the last 3 years, the back way into Ottawa to Canada Customs at the airport and I sat and waited my turn. I am always nervous in these places. A decade of worrying what my mother was smuggling, or trying to hide, firearms, pot, ammunition, endangered species, you name it, had us all pretty well conditioned to look down, only offer what was asked and pray to get the hell out without any problems…thanks Mom, you probably smuggled something into the afterlife;) I start to cough when I get anxious so cough drops to the rescue. It couldn’t have been a more pleasant experience, damn, these Canadians are just too nice:) I gave him all my paperwork, he looked out the window at the truck and trailer, typed in the information he needed, set a price for the truck and trailer, then told me what I owed in GST (General Sales Tax) taxes…I thought perhaps he’d made a mistake, was that a duty I asked? No, those are the taxes you owe…it was about a tenth of what I read I should be paying, what I was prepared to pay, and “Hang onto that receipt” he said smiling” You’ll need that as proof of tax payment when you go to get your licence plates so they don’t try to charge you again!” I smiled and paid, and thanked him profusely in Spanish and English and walked back to the truck wide eyed. “Nail it Mike, let’s get out of here before they change their mind!”

First hoop lept through nicely! We took the trailer and parked it back at Mike’s friend Wilson and Jane’s farm. Myrtle has a grand view of the Tay River and lovely black and white milking cows in lush green fields.

Secound hoop…We had to go to Canadian Tire Automotive Service to inquire about the R.I.V inspection. Registrar of Imported Vehicles. We spoke to a lovely lady, Daphne, yup that was her job she said. We’ll make an appointment and you can bring them in for inspection. So we did. Parked the two beside the building on a Sunday and Daphne came out with her pen and paperwork and checked the V.I.N. and weight and stickers, and tires and safety yadda,yadda,yadda…ticked off the boxes. Went upstairs, faxed it off, gave us confirmation, placed her stamps in the appropriate boxes and off we went, thinking, yeah, that is all we need….there is no manual for all of this…yet;)

Third hoop…off we went to Service Ontario ( the Canadian DMV) paperwork in hand, ready to get our Ontario plates, change our address, but…seems we needed a “safety” (wasn’t this covered in our RIV inspection? nope…another $99 for another piece of paper…) for the truck, and they both had to be weighed…sigh…Good thing we never took the hitch out of the truck;) Back to Canadian Tire after setting up an appointment, Safety in hand we headed to Arnott Sand and Gravel, and weighed the truck, the next weekday, we brought back the trailer, and just minused out the truck weight to get that figure…were we done? Finally?

Yes! Sort of, there was one glitch, I didn’t have an Ontario Drivers Licence…”But I used to have one” I told the lovely lady. “Well, that’s fine, that’s all I need!” she proclaimed, looked up my old number and off we went! 10 minutes later I walked out with Ontario plates for Hagrid and Myrtle. I was a bit confused again. I gave her the receipt the Customs man had said to hold onto as proof of taxes paid. She looked at it, wrinkled her brow, “Oh dear” I thought “I’m going to have to pay 8% provincial tax”..big long sad face from me….”You live here?” she asked…”Yes, of course” I answered, “Great” she said” no provincial tax then…” Did I mention I hurried out of there as well with my new found paperwork? hahahaha! So, our wonderful made in mexico truck that became American, now has become Canadian, I congratulated Hagrid on his new found citizenship, and Myrtle, poor dear, made in Indiana, now can claim she is Canadian as well!

So, odd but wonderful feeling to actually be Canadian again:) Saludos amigos, stay safe, be kind…except when you are driving Mike quipped, they can’t see you so you can swear at them…”In three different languages?” I asked..yup, he said…Reminds me of a meme I recently saw ” I don’t curse. I speak fluent trucker with a sailor dialect and a construction accent..” F*@king brilliant!

“Did she just swear in three languages? Awesome!”

Baby is back! Hummingbird that is:)

Well I’m pretty sure, the molting one, as she and the adult female seem to be co-existing, must be family for these to get along…but wait!

Adult Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Archilochus colubris, are sexually dimorphic, in other words, the adult male and adult female are different in external appearance. However, young males “masquerade” as females until their first winter, at which time they attain adult male plumage. This can make ageing and sexing difficult during summer and fall after young of the year have fledged!

Esmeralda could still be Elmo! I did not know that!

I have had a passion for hummingbirds for a very long time. When we moved to Baja California, Mexico 13 years ago I was astounded by the variety and quantity of birds that came to our ranch in the Sierra de San Pedro Martir. I spent hours trying to photograph them, document the varieties and the migration time. We ended up changing the footnotes in a few books, we had varieties otherwise undocumented there. It was a wonderful experience. It started me on my path of photography. Coming back to Canada has been fabulous, to revisit the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has been a joy, and to have a nest and watch a baby grow up has been such a treat. I will miss them when they go South, and I will be looking for them again in the Spring.

I shoot with a 6 year old Canon 6D on an old and now battered gifted Manfrotto tripod (Thanks Juanito!) with a Tamron 150-600 G2 lens. What it lacks at 150, it more than makes up for at 600mm. I have no flash so have to wait for good lighting, and be patient. I shoot a lot of frames, I also delete a lot of frames:) I use spot focus to get at least the head/beak nice and sharp. I used RAW 3200-4000 sec F10 ISO 5000 today with Topaz denoise. I set my feeder on the BBQ so I can look straight at it-today we had Mom, and baby Esmeralda/Elmo I think, the molting one. They seemed to co-exist together so figured they are family:) I had a lot of friendly help over the years figuring out hummingbird photography and one day hope to learn more with flashes, maybe this winter! As we won’t be doing any traveling for a bit! In the meantime, hoping Mr. Ruby-Throated shows up tomorrow morning!

Saludos amigos, stay safe, stay tuned and have fun shooting!

Wear a mask! If these guys can, so can you;)

The Province has announced that we can move into Stage 3 of re-opening as of Friday, July 17, 2020. This means that many more Lanark county businesses (things like indoor dining, fitness facilities and libraries) are allowed to re-open or further open while keeping physical distancing, face coverings and other COVID-19 prevention measures in place…this isn’t hard…why all the whinging and whining? This isn’t the US;) ha! It was distressing to see on our last trip to the “big city” of Ottawa that people seemed to think that now everyone is wearing a mask that we need’t keep our distance…WRONG! I need a blow up bubble (images of a rolling bubble person come to mind…hahahaha) around me for future visits, or you know what, we just won’t go to the stores we found to be truly atrocious about it.

We are so privileged in so many ways. I’ve read about the teenage and 20-30 something angst, (I know a few 50-60 somethings having trouble coping, no audience?ha!) yes I get it, you can’t party and meet up with your friends… Are you a Syrian family escaping with nothing but the clothes on your back from a war torn country? That would be angst…Have you, along with another 2.3 million people in India been displaced by floods that have wiped out your home, pets, livestock and in some cases family? That would be angst…think about it. I’m not downplaying your depression but really, you have internet, you have a phone, you can talk and Skype and Facetime and whatever…we need to be thankful we are living in an area that provides us with all those freedoms. One day, life may get back to normal, but I’m not counting on it. We’re not being bombed, invaded, enslaved by an alien race (OK, that IS a bit of a stretch..ha!) Find the joys you can in living….the little things…you are the architect of your own happiness.

You have food, a place to live, your health, family….Hopefully…You have so much:) Remember that…enough preaching…I watched a tiny baby raccoon with his/her sibling and was wondering why it was so much smaller than it’s brother/sister..as I sat and watched carefully, I realized it only had one front leg…wow…and yet here it was, climbing a tree, picking through the bird seed. It was a lot more careful than it’s older, larger sibling though. I hope it makes it through the Winter. Mama Raccoon comes to the compost with the children in tow. I’ll be looking for my little friend each night now. Last night he/she finally decided I was not a threat and if I sat quietly, he went about his business of digging through the fallen bird seed. It brought a smile to my face to be accepted. I wasn’t raised with dozens of friends, and schools, and graduations, and sports, unless swimming in the ocean is one, with sharks! ha! No TV or phone. I wrote my friends, people I had met. I think I turned out OK (I’ve been told so, nyeah, nyeah, nyeah…by real adults hahahaha!)

Saludos amigos, stay safe, stay connected however you can. Feeling fortunate like my new little friend, we both can walk, however wobbly and unbalanced…and I am thankful for everything we have that gives us the ability to communicate, freely, in a free country…Now there is something to ponder…We take too much for granted:)

♫♪♫ Summertime…♪♫♪

and the living is easy…easier? Are we getting used to Covid isolation, or are many losing their minds? I’m not sure. Things in Perth are moving slowly, stores are still limiting the number of people allowed in, restaurants have tables set up outside, the grocery store is full of food, maybe not everything one was used to pre-pandemic but there is food. How lucky are we? We need to ponder that much more. The anti-maskers continue to astound me, wow, such an easy thing to do to protect others, and yourself, yet so much backlash. Makes me wonder how humanity really expects to survive, not just this pandemic, but for generations to come. There is good, so much good, but the press is so full of the sad, bad and downright evil. The Karens (no offense to the lovely Karens we know!), the Qanon, the rude, self entitled asshat presidents worldwide and their proclaimed followers, wow…I have to say the whole social distancing isn’t an issue, being a bit of a misanthrope, I like some people, just not all people, well, maybe not that many actually..ha! I would have made a good astronomer maybe…ha! Lot’s of time outside, no lights, few people, staring at the sky:)

Well, I’ll have to settle for getting up at midnight on a flat calm evening, walking down to the lake and staring at the wonders of nature and our universe…wow…bedazzling what Mother Nature produces. Now, carrying the camera and tripod down the steps with the red headlight and vertigo is a bit challenging, just go slow:) Once set up, wow…a firefly flew past my lens, I always say “Hi Beezil, nice to see you” when I see one…:)

The Milky Way filled the entire sky. It took 6 shots to capture what I could from top to bottom, think it is time I invest in a wide angle lens! I waited for the Comet Neowise to rise but clouds moved in, and so passed the time, two hours under the stars felt like 20 minutes…never ceases to take my breath away…Now to work on that obnoxious green light;) ha!

The Monarchs are fluttering about as well as an evasive Eastern Swallowtail! I’ll get him/her one day! The dragonflies are welcome to eat all the other biting bugs that descend upon you as you approach the woods. Our hummingbird baby has fledged and flown the coop-I saw a youngster poking at the unripe blackberries, must be her/him:) They have to learn what they can, and can’t eat. The Bald Eagle has kept vigil all week distressing the Loon pair, with their one remaining chick…quite the alarm every time the eagle flies in, I know when to go get the camera by the screams. There the eagle sits in the tall white pine…

I check every morning for the baby…still there today:) for now….New babies emerged from the forest a few nights ago…my bird feeder culprit. A mother Raccoon and her two small ones. Oh my they are cute. I explained my bird feeder was not on the menu but she could help herself to the compost any evening:)

The heat wave came, then went, and now it’s back again….Summertime…we need to cherish theses warm nights, softly fading clouds at sunset and calls of the whippoorwills from the forest nearby…no need to be socially distant from these things…no masks required….saludos amigos…stay safe…find your peace in this world in the little things that surround us, astonish us, they are everywhere if we just look a little:)

We have a BABY!!!!

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) mother to be is indeed! A mother! We thought the nest had been abandoned after a series of torrential thunderstorms but a few days ago I thought I saw what was a wee beak, or a twig, so set up the camera the next day and lo and behold! The females build their nests on a slender, often descending branch, usually of deciduous trees like oak, poplar, birch, or sometimes pine, ours is in a maple right in front of the house!

Mother to be

Information is from:Cornell Lab-all about birds

“The nest is the size of large thimble, built directly on top of the branch rather than in a fork. It’s made of thistle or dandelion down held together with strands of spider silk and sometimes pine resin. The female stamps on the base of the nest to stiffen it, but the walls remain pliable. She shapes the rim of the nest by pressing and smoothing it between her neck and chest. The exterior of the nest is decorated (probably camouflaged) with bits of lichen and moss. The nest takes 6-10 days to finish and measures about 2 inches across and 1 inch deep.”

NESTING FACTS

Clutch Size:1-3 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.5-0.6 in (1.2-1.4 cm)
Egg Width:0.3-0.3 in (0.8-0.9 cm)
Incubation Period:12-14 days
Nestling Period:18-22 days
Egg Description:Tiny, white, weighting about half a gram, or less than one-fiftieth of an ounce.
Condition at Hatching:Naked apart from two tracts of gray down along the back, eyes closed, clumsy.

The duties of creating the nest, incubation and feeding the chicks are entirely up to the female Ruby-throated Hummingbird…single mother indeed!

So excited to see this baby grow up! Every few days it seems to double in size! He/she flops about in the nest, preening it’s feathers, stretching it’s wings, sometimes looking like it might fall out and sits and waits for regurgitated gnats…yum…not;)

Sorry for the overload of cuteness. This little fuzz ball is quite the unit!

Mother feeds her chick/chicks with small, protein-rich insects and nectar throughout the day, seems to be about every 20-25 minutes so far! As the chick grows, the nest expands, it is quite pliable/elastic (from the cobweb construction) from watching the kid bouncing around up there! From what I’ve read little missy/mister will be here about three weeks until it can fly on it’s own! We’ll keep you posted on the progress!

Isn’t nature grand!

For those interested-shot with a well weathered Canon 6D-Tamron 150-600 G2 using live view to focus, mirror lockup and a remote as to not wobble everything, much, anyway. I may be in the market for a new tripod!

Saludos amigos-stay tuned!

♪♫♪ The heat is on ♫♪♫

It has been a scorching week, temperature records have been broken. It has been a time to move slowly, and look for shade. A Common Loon father was feeling the heat as well, but not from temperatures but from a pair of Bald Eagles. It was the screeching from the father Loon that got me running outside with the camera and down to the water. Holy smokes he can yell! This wasn’t the normal hoot, or the haunting wail Loons are so famous for to find each other and announce their presence, this was a screaming yodel/yell!

I have read Loons have four main calls which they use to communicate with their families and other loons. Each call they said has a distinct meaning and serves a unique function. The wail, a haunting call you often hear at night. The hoot, which serves as communication between paired adults and chicks. The “Yodel” which only the males do when they feel threatened, and the tremolo, which is also a response to threats. Our Father Loon was yodel/temolo-ing! https://loon.org/the-call-of-the-loon/

Father Loon had junior under his wing at one point hiding him. Only after the eagle had flown away he let the youngster off his back to practice a few dives! What a spectacle to watch, we canoed out to look at the eagle and later circled around, keeping a good distance from the father and chick to see if they were alright. 150-600 mm in a moving canoe with vertigo is hell, but I wouldn’t have missed this for the world:) Babies on Loon backs:) Thanks to Mike for roaring me around!

The two eagles had also been calling to each other. I wondered if they were a pair. The head wasn’t completely white on the one in the pine so maybe one was a juvenile. I had no idea they snacked on Loon chicks…:( Thus Father Loons wild response. We paddled over to the white Pine where the Bald Eagle was perched, near the top. He/she preened and did some stretching before flying off in the direction where the other eagle had gone.

It was our first paddle about the shallow lagoon across from the house. The vertigo has kept me a bit wary of the rocking canoe and to admit I wasn’t very comfortable out there but it was so lovely! Not too windy and all those water lillies, sandy bottom, no wonder the fishing guys are always over there! And the Loon!

I could have watched for hours but we wanted to give father some space to see if Mama Loon was going to reappear. The sun came out and it was gorgeous! The day before I had seen a commotion of flapping and bathing so had grabbed the camera and hot footed it down to the dock. The entire family swam by, fishing, preening, keeping an eye on the two kids…magical!

I sat on the edge of the dock, with my friend the dock spider, Mike and his friend Dave (who is NOT a spider fan) and we stared until they had swum off too far for my lens. These are such spectacular birds. They are neither duck, nor geese but their own species. Gavia immer ORDER: Gaviiformes FAMILY: Gaviidae. They are awkward on land. I’ve seen a juvenile try to walk from one spot in the Estero lagoon in Baja to another and it looked like a series of belly flops across the sand. They are also need quite the landing/take off strip like a plane! Over 30 meters to a quarter of a mile to get airborne so they don’t often land on small lakes or ponds, if they do, they can get stranded. The amazing creatures we share this planet with!

I have read that loons have successfully warded off eagles, one even killed one by piercing it with it’s dagger like beak. The rapier vs the broad sword. That would be quite a fight. I’m just hoping in the next few days we see Mother, with the other baby:) Fingers crossed for a happy ending. These birds are long lived and return to the same territories to breed. One female was tagged, and re-caught, she was 29 years old. Most of the juveniles don’t return North until they are three, and don’t start breeding until they are 6. Such a long life span for this world traveler:) For now, I’ll sit my friend the dock spider and keep watch:)

Saludos amigos-be smart-be careful-stay safe:)

Morning has broken…#Cometneowise

Pretty exciting seeing this comet! For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it is named Neowise ((short for Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) for the spacecraft that discovered it in March. The ball of ice and space rock started showing up in the northern sky with it’s tail flared upwards this week after surviving a lap around the sun! Our amazing universe! Note to self, copious quantities of coffee are necessary before attempting to do this early morning;) Rusty at doing night time photography to say the least. Turn off auto focus, check….oops, lens cap, check…yup, make coffee please! 😉 Best view was from the deck, but it wiggled, will look for a spot earlier. 4:15 by the time I was set up and focused 4:30, getting too light, but I stuck around for the sunrise:)

It was well worth it, even without coffee;) Ha! The comet was amazing-with the bifurcated tail (new word for me…Mike is such a smarty pants. Definition of bifurcated: divided into two branches or parts) i.e forked;) hahahaha! I’m thinking devil’s tail 🤪 We don’t get these kind of chances often to witness the astounding beauty and marvels our universe has to show, and right from our doorstep, no need to travel to anywhere except a view to the ENE horizon:)

Do it-you won’t regret getting up to see it!

♫♪♫ Morning has broken ♪♫♪

Clear those clouds!

We want to see that comet Neowise! Last two mornings we have been greeted by spectacular sunrises…but low clouds near the horizon!!! NOOOOO!!!! For those of you who haven’t heard of it, is named Neowise ((short for Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) for the spacecraft that discovered it in March. The ball of ice and space rock started showing up in the northern sky with it’s tail flared upwards this week after surviving a lap around the sun! Our amazing universe!

Did I mention it was hot as well? We passed several Osprey nests on the Port Elmsley Road going down to muck stalls for Jennifer, boy were they warm. Poor little things! Mom was trying to shade them with her wing but everyone was panting up a storm!

Including me. Cooler temperatures would be welcome but I don’t see a break until the end of the week! The cats get to go out early in the morning, the youngster, Rocket, is having a hard time with the heat. Chase a chipmunk…stop and pant…like a little lion cub:) Rocket goes up one side of the tree, the chipmunk comes down the other side:) Fools him almost every time;)

The furred ones are getting used to their new digs. Groot hangs out in the shade under the truck, smarter older cat and stalks his chipmunks from afar. Rocket flies about after everything that moves, Gamora sits on the cool grass and watches, waiting….one of those chipmunks will get careless eventually;)

It is hard to believe we have been here a month. I do miss the smaller space of Myrtle the trailer occasionally, especially at night, doing the check ups on the fur kids, so many places to hide and sleep now.

Outside the explosion of butterflies, dragonflies and bugs is astounding. At night the minuscule firefly’s are lighting up the night. The first fireflies lit up where Beezil was buried, just started to cry…maybe that is his amazing energy:)

I joined a group on Facebook, The Insects and Arachnids of Ontario, wow, I had no idea the amazing variety of creeping, flying and crawling creatures out there, not a good group for anyone with arachnophobia, but fascinating and I’m learning what so many are! Bugs fascinate me! Think we may need to petition for a macro lens! I may learn the names of a few of the locals as well;) We have a huge variety of spiders, after I get through trying to ID the dragonflies I’ll start with them!

On a sad note, after the intense thunderstorms Friday, Mrs. Ruby Throated Hummingbird has left her nest. We’ve seen her back once, just briefly and she is still around, maybe the eggs were washed out in the heavy rain and wind, I hope she sits and lays again! We’ll keep watch! On a positive note, as we sat in the shade late in the day a Bald Eagle flew right by and on down the lake! Time to get that canoe in and do some exploring! Maybe early in the morning after comet hunting!!! 🙂

Stay tuned amigos:)

Mothers to be….

This little lady was a surprise. I heard the whir of hummingbird wings and looked up to see her landing on her nest! I was ecstatic! In our front yard, right under our noses in the beautiful old maple. I can hardly wait! So far she has been sitting for 12 days, I’ve read gestation is between 16-18 days so looking forward to wee ones soon! Beautiful Ruby Throated Hummingbird.

Not the only mother to visit recently, but these eggs won’t be hatching until the first week of September, so much for moving this garden, it will have to wait, figured snowplowing would wipe the rock wall and flowers out with our first big snow;)

Hatching takes approximately 60 to 90 days, but the hatch date can vary depending on temperature and other environmental conditions. Generally, hatch-lings emerge from their leathery egg in August through October by using a small egg tooth to break open the shell. According to the Ontario Turtle Conservation center, when the female turtle makes it to her nesting site and successfully deposits her eggs, her offspring only have a 1% chance of surviving to breeding age. Odds are that each turtle must nest for several years (or even decades!) before it replaces itself. Wow! We are going to help protect these little guys once they emerge! I guess Raccoons are bad at digging up the nests and eating the eggs! We have not one, but two nests close to each other in the soft soil! Must be a popular spot with all this glacial rock about! We’ll keep an eye on them, and our resident trash, er, compost panda;)

The chipmunks have been stuffing their cheeks from the bird feeders leaving room for a gaggle of Purple Finches and some Goldfinches as well. The Mrs. Downy Woodpecker is quite bold and cracks the seeds on the tree beside the feeder, we’ll wait to see if she eventually brings any offspring by to feed them. A pair, or possibly father/daughter, Pileated Woodpeckers stopped at the maples to feed and poke about in several cavities. Such beautiful birds and so distinctive and loud! The female was really chatting up a storm, or begging for food, wasn’t sure which, the male was ignoring her mostly…really? hahahahaha! Maybe she was scolding him;)

With the rain a few days ago has come an incredible crop of mushrooms. Some in the gardens, others at the base of the old maple, home to so much. They started as little cones and have progressed to what look like little dancers with their skirts twirling in the winds:) Also with the rain have come the deer and horse flies…yikes! Run Lola Run!!!

Hoping the Dragonflies can take care of some of the nasty biting bugs! There have been hundreds of them flitting about! They are most welcome here:) There are so many varieties, hope to try to document them all!

I had no idea that the males and females are completely different in many of the species! Making guessing what they are even harder! The Butterflies are descending as well. The first Monarch appeared yesterday on the Sumac blooms and an evasive Eastern Swallowtail has been teasing me as it flits by, I’ll get the shot, eventually;) In the meantime we are dodging the thunderstorms, watching them grow in front of our eyes, then pass us by and dissipate later in the day…”espectacular”, as we say:)

We are living in a natural wonderland so full of beauty, and we are so thankful…stay tuned, fingers crossed, for hummingbird babies!!!

The grand show is eternal

It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.

John Muir

What is the good of your stars and trees, your sunrise and the wind, if they do not enter into our daily lives?

E. M. Forster

Change is inevitable…

♫♪♫♪ A change would do you good,
A change would do you good,
I think a change would do you good
A change…♫♪♫ Thanks Sheryl Crow:) It would…
it has…what a month.

The Earth is being turned upside down by a pandemic and protests for what is much needed freedom from tyranny. We are in a state of great flux. The band of full time RVers we know is going through change as well. First everything closed and left many without places to go. With State, National and Provincial parks closed as well as many BLM lands many were feeling lost, and for us, given the rise of the pandemic in the US, a desire to stay put in Canada for awhile until the dust settles, if it ever will, is paramount. The last four Summers we’ve spent at Otty Lake here in Ontario have taught us much. One, we treasure our privacy, it’s not that we don’t like humans, no, that’s a lie, ha! Some people have earned our ire. We love nature more than seadoos, let’s leave it at that. C’est la vie:) Adelante!

We stumbled across this spot by accident. Taking looking for a property into our own hands we started driving about, this day to go see a cottage on a lake to the North of Perth and we took the short cut along the Long Lake Road to get there and a man was pounding in a “Coming Soon” realty sign…we stopped, and called the number of the realtor…the rest is now history. It was a bittersweet closing though, a chapter closed as a new one opened. Our old cat man, Beezil, almost 21, said it was time to go to greet his already gone brothers. I wasn’t sure I could even write this yet, my eyes tear up, 21 years with this amazing, strong, unbreakable little creature that used up every one of his seven lives, then borrowed a few more…there is a giant hole in our hearts, not sure it will ever go away, it will simply become what we are…he came home with us…

There were too many coincidences with this spot and there continue to be. The realtor rode at our barn as a kid, he even remembered the name of the evil white pony, Bilbo. The people who built the cottage, their son rode at the horse barn as well. The land was originally owned by the same couple Mike’s parents bought their farm from in 1961…many ties:) and it is, out of this world beautiful…we gasped as we walked around the log house and looked all the way down Long Lake. The new log house was open, and light, so many windows. Every room has an amazing view, and it is private. We are still pinching ourselves on a regular basis.

The rest of the traveling Mewberries are pretty pleased as well. There is a great deal of tearing and skidding about on the wooden floors, a lot more room for gallivanting kittens. There are chipmunks to chase and wildlife looking in at them, for a change;) We are in paradise I think…

So for now, we will be renaming them, the sedentary Mewberries as we sit and watch what happens in the world around us. We have some work to do here before Fall and Winter comes so there won’t be too much time to “Soak up the sun” (does Sheryl Crow have a song for everything in my life today?) but we’ll fit in a few breaks, after all, everyday is a winding road😉

We have, incredibly, taken the long way home…not an end to the Astrogypsies, but a pause…we’re working on getting Myrtle in here too, not quite yet, a kilometer of old cottage road with some twists and turns and hills will need some work, poco a poco. Stay tuned my friends, we have been welcomed by so much life here…hearts broken, hearts mending ♥

I’m seeing RED! Wait! and orange!

Not only are the Rose Breasted Grosbeak males and females back but a pair of Orioles with last years kids in tow, a juvenile male and female:) arrived as well! At least I think it is their kids, everyone seemed very amiable with one another, ha! Maybe they are NOT related;)

These are such delightful birds with such a glorious song and repertoire of calls. The young male was belting out a song or two happily, looking for a girlfriend no doubt!

As for the red, well, there were five male Grosbeaks all sharing the feeder late yesterday-that incredible red/pink breast is so beautiful! The Mrs. seems a bit drab after them but she is equally beautiful with her stripes and spots!

As the leaves are finally filling in the canopy the colours are changing to warmer tones in the shade. The dragonflies are out, itty bitty ones no longer than an inch, great cat snacks Groot says as he smacks his lips with delight…and as for more red, the male Pileated Woodpecker put in a visit to the tree beside us, and worked his way around it gathering food. They have been quiet, nesting I would think, but now are out in search of food!

Their size is always astounding when you get to see them up close! Dinosaurs indeed! Early Spring has turned into Summer suddenly, the memories of snow flurries seem distant but in reality, they were not long ago! Now it is 80° in Flintstone scale, 27° Celsius…whew…I can hear the steady hum of mosquitoes coming for me…sigh…

Stay tuned amigos-big changes coming on the horizon, will keep you posted!

The squirrel prayer