An rare daytime owl sighting
We have been hearing screeching at night and I did a little internet research as to who might be making this sound. In our area it is likely the Great Horned Owl.
One very early morning in early summer, my husband popped outside the cabin and suddenly realized that there were three large owls. Two on the roof of our cabin and one on the garage roof. As he realized they were there they all flew away. Each in a different direction and each with a huge wingspan.
Since that day we have had a few owl spottings – mostly down by the pond. Just as you realize what you are seeing it has swooped eloquently overhead and through the trees out of sight. The illusive owl is a wonderful prize. It is interesting to note that we have very few, if any, hawks around this summer. They too are well aware of the appearance of the owls this year.
I captured this photo today down by the pond. I patiently waited until the owl became irritated enough by my presence to fly out from his tree overhead.
Canada Day #150
I am old enough to have been alive when Canada celebrated its 100th birthday so when the 150th came along I wanted to make sure we recognized it with a memory that would stay with my son for the rest of his life. Everywhere in Canada there were increased efforts underway to celebrate the day. The large centres were increasing their fireworks budgets and bringing in music acts to thrill and entertain the large crowds that were expected. We decided to have a low-key country experience. We spent the afternoon reflecting on Canada in our own way.
In the late evening we drove into a local town for the fireworks. On our way there we noticed that fog was forming in the valleys we drove through. We saw two deer along the highway including one that darted across the highway in front of us. We had to be vigilant – watching for wildlife. We sure didn’t want our Canada Day memory to include hitting a deer.
The fireworks were held in a high school football field. There was the usual excitement as people from the town drove and walked toward the field. We found a spot on the grass and settled in for the show. There were no crowds at all. Children gathered in the field and you could see them as silhouettes lit up by the fireworks show. Their laughter and squeals filled the space between the streaming rocket sounds of the fireworks. All the sounds were echoing against the high school which added to the magic of the whole moment. Our Canada Day experience carried us back in time to our childhood.
Our own magical kingdom
After the fireworks we drove back to the cabin through significant fog banks which again required vigilance. It was spooky and magical driving down the country roads. For us, our choice to celebrate in the country delivered. Our son will be an older man when Canada turns 200 and we hope he tells his children about his wonderful memories from #150.
Late Afternoon in the country
Late afternoon when driving back to the cabin after a long emotional day of cleaning out my late father’s house – we came upon three young male deer in this field. This one in the photo was the last one to try to get over to the security of the long grass. They were all so beautiful to watch. They bounced effortlessly across the grass. The clear blue sky with the light fluffy white clouds above the vibrant green countryside was breathtaking. Everything that is good about life was there in that moment in stark contrast to the earlier part of the day spent sorting out the humble possessions that stay behind after a life is over.
Everything that is good in the world was in the endless blue sky, the pastoral fields, the vibrancy of the young bucks, the classic structure of the fencing, the whisper of the breeze in the grass, the patterns of the crops in the distance and the quiet in the moment.
My brother and I paused for a time by the side of the country road. I took this photo but we didn’t speak. We didn’t need to speak. The wonder was unspoken. All that is good in the world was present in us in that moment.
This past weekend after a hike down along the creek my friends and family found some interesting animal scats. What could it be? They were small smooth bullet sized pellets. After a few google searches of animal scats the hypothesis was that it was porcupine scat. Hmmmm…. we have not seen a porcupine yet. So back down to the creek they went and this time returned to the cabin with some actual quills that they had found near what used to be a beaver home. The hypothesis seemed to be correct. They set up the camera for the night and lo and behold…the mystery was solved – it is at least one porcupine living by our pond!
It never ceases to amaze me how the land here keeps delivering mysteries to us that result in more appreciation for nature. This past weekend we discovered our porcupine, saw a new bird species that we haven’t seen here before, and had two neighbour horses come running through our field in front of our cabin. Fantastic.
Even when the thermostat reads – 30 celsius the birds continue to amaze me. They look so fragile and vulnerable but they are designed to withstand such a harsh winter. While other birds head south for the winter, these little birds stay and flourish in the northern winter season.
I have noticed that at the bird feeder the rules change when the temperature drops. My suet feeders that usually only have one bird on them at a time suddenly have two or three. Different species of bird who would normally not come to the feeder at the same time now share the feeder dangling in the frosty air. Downy woodpeckers and chickadees, nuthatches and flicker woodpeckers – all doing what they need to do to survive.
As the temperature climbs back up on a Chinook day, the usual rules of engagement return into play. The birds take turns at the feeder and they only eat with their own kind. It is so interesting how in the face of adversity the drive for survival leads to a demonstration of increased communal behaviours.
The first lesson that we had to learn was to NOT put out birdfeeders with bird seed too close to the house. Beyond the mess that the birds made – the problem was actually that we were attracting mice. We would come to the cabin on the weekend to find small piles of birdseed inside. Once even in one of our beds! That was when we switched to suet style feeders which have been a big hit with the birds.
Our suet feeders attract woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy and Flickers), chickadees, nuthatches, magpies and the occasional other species. They provide endless entertainment to us and our cat who watches from the inside of the cabin. We use these feeders all year round.
This week I decided to try making my own suet. I found various recipes online but primarily relied on a no melt recipe. (see: Foods.com which reference Birds and Blooms Extra, contributed by Virginia Barnard).
I made a dozen suet blocks using this recipe:
Lard: 2 blocks (2 lbs or about approximately 900 grams)
Peanut Butter (Crunchy): Most of a 1kg jar
Flour: 2 cups
Oatmeal (one minute): 4 cups
Cornmeal: 4 cups
Sugar: I cup (I note that many folks choose to skip the sugar but I added it to make sure that my first attempt would attract birds!)
Bird Seed: 4 cups
I melted the lard and mixed in the peanut butter until they were liquified. I added the dry ingredients while the mixture was still warm.
I had saved old molds from purchased suet blocks. I took 12 empty molds and lined them each with a piece of plastic wrap.
I filled each mold with the suet mixture (approximately two soup ladles full) and then wrapped the excess plastic wrap around the edges.
I placed them in the freezer placing wax paper between the layers of molds.
Once frozen I removed them and placed them out for the birds. They have been enjoying the fresh suet all day! The plastic wrap that I used was very effective to make them easy to remove from the molds.
Filed under Birds, Recipes
We love Halloween. All things spooky. We love the fog machines and the costumes that you can buy in the big box stores. We love the plastic bats and fabric ghosts billowing in the wind that people use to decorate their houses in an attempt to provide a spooky thrill to little children. We love the eeriness of Halloween. We love the spine chilling thrills of Halloween. We love the whole idea of Halloween.
We were pleasantly surprised how the country has its own Halloween. It comes with the first chilly winds blowing in from the north. It comes as the last leaves fall from the trees. It comes in the night and stays through the early hours of the morning. It comes without the need for any big box stores. It is a spooky treat provided by nature if you are brave enough to be open to its delights.
Nature’s Halloween is in the fog that greets you in the early morning… providing an eerie landscape with distant ghost like trees.
It is in the pure black darkness of the night where the light of a flashlight only serves to emphasize the absolute absence of light. Only the brave will wander about in this spooky place!
Halloween is in the transformational frost on the grasses and flowers creating a mystical world that vanishes in the morning light.
It is in the moon reflecting on the dark pond creating a spooky tableau… with owls hooting and screeching in the distance.
Halloween is also in the frost lighting up the spider webs that had sat secretly out of sight overhead during the daylight. Who dare walk amongst the spider webs??
It is in the dark night creatures who roam the world of darkness. The only thing that gives them away to unsuspecting mice are the bright green eyes that glint in the moonlight.
And nature’s Halloween is in the bat caught by the morning light before hiding away from sight – like a vampire who didn’t make it back to the coffin before daybreak.
Halloween comes to the country whether you want it or not!!!
Only thee who is brave enough to walk in the world of Halloween shall survive!
Filed under Cabin, Wildlife