Monday, December 31, 2012

birds of winter...

bevy of swans

little buddy

winter visitors





wee friend

I couldn't get warm yesterday. A deep chill set into my bones from the moment I got up and wouldn't leave. Even after a hot shower. Ever after I layered myself in a hodgepodge of woolens. My feet warmed up when I put on my new Sorel boots (I think AK was tired of hearing me complain about cold feet), but the rest of me kept shivering. Still, I headed out into the chilly air just the same.

Now is the time for birds. Sure, many of these winged things are here year round, but with the bushes bare and food supplies short, many of them seem more visible. There are the little birds that flit around my house, eagerly snapping up the seed and chattering hello. I lose track of time watching the suet disappear beneath a flock of bushtits, or seeing how close the chickadees will let me get as I climb the stairs outside. And then there are the big migrators, the largest of the bunch the trumpeter swans that infiltrate our valley each winter. The empty farm fields I drive past on my way to work are dotted with their fat white bodies plucking at the last seeds and kernels left after harvest. The skyline is dotted too with their v-shaped journeys, honking as they pass overhead. And there are all manner of in-betweens. The plump Canada geese that suddenly look tiny against the swans. Mallards and mergansers foraging and fishing in the estuary. The massive grey bodies of herons resting on stilt-legs as they do the same. I even spotted the tiny green shape of an Anna's hummingbird, feathers fluffed up to double his size as he sticks out the winter.

And now too, is the time for bald eagles. As we head into the first couple months of the year, their see-all eyes watch from every tree and elevated perch. Conserving energy in this time of little food, they gather in large numbers out along the shores and sometimes do little but sit in a tree all day with 10 of their friends. Yesterday on my beach walk I watched the dark shapes far up each nearby tree. I focused on the nearest bird, halfway up a slope in a ragged, stunted fir, and made my way across the rocks. Suddenly, not 10 feet in front of me, a massive dark shape flew up from the driftwood at the base of the hill and soared off in an arcing circle over my head. A juvenile eagle, blending in to the shore in its mottled brown and white plumage. Still, I shook my head at not noticing this big bird of prey right under my nose. Nearly under foot, too, was the reason for his beach foray - a dead harbour seal, belly already ripped open by those hungry birds. I've witnessed this before, and cursed myself for walking with blinders on and missing another opportunity to watch these majestic birds in action. I found myself a rock a bit down the beach to give them lots of room to return, and hunkered down to wait. The glamourous life of a wannabe wildlife photographer. The clunk of shells hitting the rocks kept me company, seagulls wheeling up to drop oysters and clams and then returning to claim their broke-open meal below. But the eagles sat patiently up in their trees, the deep chill of the rock wasn't helping my already cold bones, and after a good half hour watching a brave gull perch atop the seal I let them be. Maybe another day.

The year is wrapping up tonight, and what a tumultuous one its been. I could use a little quiet in the new year - how 'bout you? I'm not much for resolutions, but I'm attempting to start the year off fresh and clean, eating vegan for the month of January. I don't have any particular beliefs about the whole thing, but think my body could use a reset right now. I did a trial meal last night, a hearty lentil, mushroom & kale shepherd's pie to fight the cold and it was delicious. If you're interested I may share more of my recipes or thoughts on this plan as it goes. But we'll see how I do after a month with no cheese or eggs. Tonight though, there are no rules, and we're heading out for a year end special meal. It'll be a quiet night; dinner, movie, ball drop. And tomorrow I'm sure there will be some fresh air to embrace the new year. Wishing you and yours a happy new year filled with joy and cheer.


Netta said...

I can just see you nestled on the beach waiting for eagles, while hoping a nasty clam shell doesn't bean you in the head:)
Nice finish to the year. Stick around, I always look forward to reading your writing/perspective.

Kate said...

The son and I lucked out upon a gathering of eagles on Shelter Bay on Christmas Eve day. They were feasting on a carcass, and one stuck around when we got a little closer. So cool. I love all the eagles in the trees and on the beach at this time of year.

Stellar Jays are some of my favourites to watch at this time of year, as well as the black-capped chickadees playing in my clematis vines.

All the best to you in 2013.

Dawn Suzette said...

Happy New Year K.
Wishing you all the best to come in 2013.
Oh... and those are some beautiful bird shots too!

Rachel said...

Some nice images K! Did you get a new lens lately? I go for a walk almost every morning and it depends on the day whether I notice anything around me at all. I think we could all use a little quiet to settle our minds enough to just know and experience what is going on around us. I wish you an amazing 2013!

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

Your images are just stunning, k. And your words match them. I think you are wildly talented and I feel privileged watching the story of you unfold.

Hope you manage to warm up, and hope the month of veganism gives you the jump start you need. (meat I could live without but cheese? Not likely.)

Wishing you all the best this year.

Mona said...

Amazing bird photos! I don't have any beliefs considering the right way to live or eat, but I'm sure it's very good to make changes and find out how that effects body and mind. When it comes to milk and cheese, though, I'm pretty sure a lot of people could benefit from cutting down or quitting it all together. Hope you got warm again - and happy new year!

Margie Oomen said...

you are my very favorite nature photographer k. I can't wait to buy a book filled with your images one day. xo

smallgirl said...

Your winter bird photos and blog in general are so inspiring! Best of luck with your vegan meal plan too-if your having trouble, think of how your smaller ecological footprint might benefit the birds and other wild animals :)

prairiegirl said...

Oh, the aviary like world you live in! I too can sit and watch the suet disappear. Your writing transcends me to another place, unlike mine. When you take off on one of your walks, photographing all the wildlife, trees and water in your backyard, I know there will be a good story to go along with the images.
I'm eating kale and lentils these days. I'm complaining of cold hands and feet. I live in fleece and then wool over that. Bundling up is not one of my favorite things!
I look forward to when you return with pictures and stories to delight us with!