Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Three Images

This time between winter and spring seems to be bringing its own challenges to photo taking. We seem to have to look harder and harder to find new images. The results from today are three. First there is a photo of small snow crystals that I found on a tree branch early in the morning.

It seems to me that the snow crystals are much more three dimensional that I thought from looking at Bentley's famous photos. It seems odd to me that I had not noticed or remembered noticing that fact before.

Églantine took this photo of a Mourning Dove not far from our bird feeder in the morning.

At the end of the day yesterday I caught this skeleton of a Sunflower in the light of the setting sun.

Monday, February 27, 2006


I should not be amazed at where living things grow given the fact that researchers are finding that plants and animals seem to grow in more impossible places everyday. The life in deep ocean volcanic vents come to mind where it is both too hot and too dark for life as we know it to survive and yet there is life there. Anyway, my find yesterday was on an old metal tank that was abandoned in a ravine behind our house.

You can see both a moss of some sort and the beginnings of a lichen in this macro photo of the top of the tank.

And a closer look is here. The rust is a beautiful colour too in my opinion.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunset Colours

The low light of the setting sun caught these raspberry canes in an interesting light just before the sun went below the horizon.

When I turned to the west, I found great colours around a few dark clouds on the western horizon. I saw no sign of Mercury even though it is supposed to be above the western horizon just at sunset right now. I'll keep looking.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Bird Songs and Art

As Églantine and I go out to walk our dog these days, there is an increasing amount of bird songs to be heard. The Blue Jays are calling constantly, the Black-capped Chickadees are singing their spring mating song and so are the Cardinals. Yesterday morning I took photos of a beautiful male Cardinal until my fingers were numb from the cold and then brought them in to process on the computer and lost them. (I saw a batch process that I had not used before and wondered what it did. Now I know. It makes great photos look lousy and it works on lots of photos at the same time. Sigh!)

Today I did my last long training run for a half marathon race next weekend. The temperatures were not bad but the wind was high and made the temperatures feel much colder. When I got back home I was too tired to use the camera on the lunch time walk so I have no new nature photos to post. Instead I offer two views of an art work in progress. This term at the local art school class in which I am enrolled, I have chosen to work on a mask theme. Below are two photos of a nightmare mask that I am working on to both produce a scary mask and to reproduce an image from a nightmare that I had years ago, several times. I hope it does not give you nightmares.

The second photo of the mask gives a feel for how large the mask is. It is about three feet by four feet or 1 metre by 1.3 metres.

(Photos © Églantine)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Spring Flowers

I found my first spring wild flower yesterday, February 23.

On this Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) the flowers are on the knob-like projection, called a spadix, inside the hood-like modified leaf, called a spathe. The flowers are under all of that yellow pollen that you can see. This plant has been damaged. You can see the spadix to the left has had it's spathe ripped, or eaten, off of it. I suspect that it was the fact that it was damaged that caused it to bloom early as I have often noticed that damaged or stressed plants will bloom early. This is definitely an early bloom as the earliest that I have ever found Skunk Cabbage in bloom is March 4th in 2000 and 2004. Average blooming time is closer to late March or early April in our area.

The second bloom that I have to show is on a forced willow twig. I collected this twig, along with several other species of twigs, on a bright, snowy, cold January 25th. By February 1, I had a Silver Maple bloom. This is the second twig species to bloom and it just started this week. It is a willow of some sort. I don't know the exact species.

P.S. I had a better write up with a bit more information and larger photos on a previous blog but it disappeared. I hope this one gets through.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Frost and Ice

Yesterday morning I found the frost on the Queen Anne's Lace attractive.

This morning the patterns in the ice on our pond looked a bit like trees and a bit like a watershed view.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sunset and Ottawa Art

Here is yesterday's sunset from Églantine.

This spider is in front of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. It is a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois called Maman that stands more than nine metres tall and weighs over six tonnes.

This muskox sculpture is by an Inuit artist whose name I forgot to write down. It is about 20 cm tall and carved from soapstone. It is in the Museum of Civilization across the Ottawa River in Hull, Quebec.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Back Again

Well, my computer is back from the shop and appears to be working fairly well. Meanwhile, Églantine and I took part in a "ski" weekend in Ottawa, Ontario while the computer was out. Little did we know that the weekend weather would conspire against us. We arrived in Ottawa in the wee hours of Friday morning in pouring rain and temperatures near + 5°C (41°F). The rain had changed to ice and snow by later in the morning and by Friday evening the temperatures had dropped to -15°C and then kept dropping until they hit -23°C (-7.6°F) with wind chill of -30°C (-22°F). Églantine and I chose to NOT go skiing. (About half the bus group did ski and found some snow on top of the ice but conditions were very poor and dangerous for the most part.) Églantine and I went to museums, art galleries, and bookstores and looked at some of the ice and snow sculptures that had been done for the winter carnival. The sculptures were not as good as other years as it had rained the first weekend and the competition was cancelled and then the deep freeze kept others away. Following are three sculptures that did get finished. The first was by Mother Nature, the second has a name attached and I missed the name on the third but I think all three speak for themselves. What is with this strange winter anyway?

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Thanks to all the commenters that solved my mystery post of yesterday!

What a great community this is!!!

FYI: My computer is going into the shop for some R&R. Back as soon as I can.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mystery Object

I need help. I found this object on the ground under an old, large elm tree during the lunch hour dog walk. It is sitting on graph paper that has 1 cm squares. It is less than 10 grams in weight, I'd say about 5 grams from what it looked like on my scales. It feels fairly solid but is not rock hard by any means. I suspect that it is a winter shelter for some sort of insect/butterfly/moth but I don't know. Any one have any ideas?

For now I am putting it in a large jar in the unheated barn with cheese cloth on top to keep whatever inside if it chances to come out.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Evening Photos

We had a wonderful sunset last evening. I thought that I had missed the best part but I don't think this photo is too bad.

Here is the same sunset from a rabbit's eye view.

Then, looking the other way, I saw the "snow" moon was coming up.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Saturday - Ski Day

I missed the sunrise this morning but did capture this photo from the bus window as we sped along the highway up to ski country.

As you can see from this photo, all the skiers were stopping often to look at the amazing snow on the trees and shrubs.

Conditions have to be just right for snow to land and stay in trees like this. There can not be a hint of wind and the snow has to be light but a little sticky. The name for this kind of snow is "Qali." For other names for snow look here and here.

Here is another trail photo. You can see that the trails we were on for this Saturday ski were often narrow, single tracked, and with trees close by on either side. (For those in the Whorled Leaves reading group, Susan Cooper in her May 3rd entry writes about the Beech trees keeping their leaves all winter. The orangy-brown leaves showing up in this photo are beech. The bright yellow-green needles are on White Cedar trees.)

For those of us who went to school on buses, we were told, time and time again, to stay in our seats while the bus is in motion. Adults sometimes think the rules don't apply to them. This was the result of a fall that an adult, who should have known better, had on our ski bus on the way home yesterday.

The bus had to brake suddenly, not unexpectedly on a six lane highway with lots of traffic, and the man who was standing to put something into an overhead bin lost his balance and fell against the front window of the bus. It could have been much worse! Imagine if his hard head would have hit the bus driver! Actually, I don't want to think too much about that. As far as I know, the only damage done was the cracked front windscreen on the right side of the bus and a bump on the head. As I said, it could have been much, much worse.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Snowy Friday

We woke up to snow.

And it snowed, off and on, all day.

But there is still not much on the ground. I will have to go north to cross-country ski on Saturday.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Frost & Cobwebs + Sun

Our sunset, yesterday, was wonderful. I was about two minutes too late for the best but I thought this was still worth posting.

Our sunrise this morning was interesting with the small slit of bright colour between horizon and cloud, behind trees, and a bit of colour above.

This bit of frost gathering around a grass stem that was poking through some ice caught my attention as I headed for the barn this morning.

Inside the barn, Églantine created an interesting photo of cobwebs from above the dog's night quarters.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Frosty February 8

The wind has calmed down this morning so our -6 temperature was quite pleasant. It helped that the sun came out too.

From inside the barn I found this tree-like frost image to be quite beautiful.

On the outside of the barn, there were lots of icicles. I turned this one on its side as the shape reminded me of two individuals getting ready to descend a bobsled run. Perhaps I have winter olympics on the brain?

I almost forgot to mention that I just updated my Wild Flower web site. There were eight (8) flowers found last week in our area.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Wind Chill

We had lots of wind all day yesterday. It ranged between 35 to 45 km/hr most of the day with gusts to 65. It continued all night and is still in the 35 to 50 km/hr range this morning so wind chill has been a constant factor when going outside. If it had been a normal winter, it would not feel so cold but since we have been above freezing for most of January, the winds of February are digging down to the bone.

Jupiter is still high in the southeast in the early hours of morning. According to
the Space Weather web site, Venus should be showing up brightly in the east also. Since we have trees on our eastern horizon, and clouds too this morning, I did not see it yet.

There were lots of fox, deer, and rodent tracks in the fresh snow this morning but by the time I got Calla on the lead and was out where I could see them, my fingers were too numb to take photos. I did stop at the door and take a photo of some small drifts and the snow in the back yard but when I looked at the photo, I decided to crop out the tiny drifts and just show my developing sculpture and the back shed where the dog and cats stay out of the cold winds. The sculpture still has various parts to be added but so far there are two circles of stone, an old truck motor, a circular rim and some bits of metal that have come together. That, plus the old shed with bones and antlers on it looked more interesting to me than the tiny snow drifts. I'll look for other drifts on the road when I get out.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Snow Again

We are finally getting some snow again and the birds are busy in and around the feeder.

The snow on the raspberry canes caught my attention this morning.

And this moose is for my daughter who likes moose. It seems to have escaped from a kitchen up north somewhere, or so the story goes....

Friday, February 03, 2006

Fungus & Flowers

It's still warm out today. Below is a photo of some mushrooms that Calla and I found on our lunch hour walk.

A bit further along the trail, we found this fungus growing on a tree branch.

Below is a photo of Ruby Glow Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia). It was one of the flowers that I found blooming yesterday in the Woodland Garden section of Hamilton's Royal Botanical Gardens.

Spring Flowers in February?

Yesterday I saw 7 plant species in bloom and had another one reported that was growing north of where we live.

There were three cultivated plants and five wild flowers. Actually, all of the wild flowers are those that bloom off and on all winter, if the snow is not covering them, but the three cultivated plants are all spring varieties that are blooming early. Following is a list of the flowers that I found or had reported blooming:

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium)
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)
Ruby Glow Witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia)
Brevipetala Witchhazel (Hamamelis mollis)

I checked the Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and found some pushed up out of the mud and water fairly far but none had blooms yet. Under normal circumstances it should not bloom until early March when it can produce enough heat to melt the snow around it. I wonder what will happen this year.