Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Fire Rainbow

On June 10, 2018 near South Lancaster, Ontario in a conservation area called Cooper Marsh, my cousin Blain and I were treated to a rare and very beautiful atmospheric phenomenon called a fire rainbow.

After researching it on the Internet we learned that certain conditions need to be met for the formation of fire rainbows. 

These conditions are as follows:  the sun must be more than 58° above the horizon; cirrus clouds need to be present; and the hexagonal ice crystals in those clouds must be shaped like thick plates with their faces parallel to the ground.

Here is a picture that Blain took of me photographing the amazing sight!

The following shots are a selection of many that I took that day.  
(Note: colours have not been adjusted but the images have been slightly darkened to compensate for over-exposure).

I have made two other blog postings of atmospheric phenomena (iridescent clouds and ice halos).  They can be found by clicking on the following links:

Friday, June 1, 2018

To Everything, Tern, Tern, Tern ...

The Common Tern

Rather than write about these amazing, sleek birds,
 I will simply show you their aerobatics in the following images:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Leucism in Animals

I've come across some interesting creatures while out with my camera!  

In the process I have learned of a term called "leucism".  Wikipedia describes it as follows: "Leucism is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes.  Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in multiple types of pigment, not just melanin."

More about leucistic birds can be learned at this site:


Here are my photos of birds (with a couple of mammals thrown in at the end).

American Robin

Canada Goose

Slate-coloured Junco

Gray Squirrel


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Some interesting photographs!

I was looking over many of my photos recently and came across some that I thought I would share here.  They illustrate interesting phenomena and are not photo-shopped!

A few years back I was visiting Toronto for a four day stay and went to a particular park each day to see what I could find to photograph.  The weather turned extremely hot and humid. I was struck by the beautiful evergreens in the park and photographed a tree on my first and last days there.  I was astonished to see the change in the needles that the humidity created!

Another interesting shot was of a Focolvert Duck which is remarkable in that it constructs a very large conical shaped nest (as seen below) and, as an evolutionary co-development, the eggs of this duck are "square" shaped to prevent them from rolling down the sides of the nest and into the pond.

Now this next one was very disturbing!  I found a Red Squirrel the other day that was very excited about the sap dripping down a branch.  It got so excited in fact that it LOST ITS HEAD!

Well ... you may have guessed by now that this is an April Fools' Day posting!

To end on a sweet note, check out the following:

I call this picture

" Two little birds sitting in a tree, k--i--s--s--i--n--g!"

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Leonard Cohen - one year later

Leonard Cohen died one year ago today. 

On Saturday I visited his grave site to place a small metal plaque reading "love" and was glad to see that a tombstone has now been erected for him (separate from the family one which I photographed for an earlier post).

A plaque was also laid at the foot of his grave.

Last night a tribute concert took place here in Montreal at the Bell Centre - the same venue where I saw him in 2012.  It has received excellent reviews and was organized by Cohen's son Adam.  

It was a star-studded event and will be broadcast on CBC radio 2 at 8 p.m. tonight and a televised version will be broadcast on CBC TV on January 3, 2018 at 8 p.m. (click here for details and more information).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A cautionary tale about gardens and baby voles

Last week I decided to go to the Botanical Gardens here in Montreal to hopefully photograph the last remaining butterflies of the summer.

I had just arrived and was noticing that many of the flower beds had been turned over and the annuals had been uprooted and removed.  My hopes of finding butterflies started to fade and I thought I might find a few caterpillars instead.  

I was glancing over the cool, wet earth (it had rained considerably the day before) and suddenly noticed something very small that was moving.  It was the size of a fat caterpillar but it was pink and I thought it might be some rare species.  Then I saw to my horror that it was a newborn vole.  It was completely hairless and was wriggling and squirming.  I looked around the flower bed for others and found another one that was a few feet away and saw, on closer examination, that it was bleeding. 

Now I searched frantically for more but never found any.  I took some tissues from my pocket and scooped them up to try to warm them and dry them off.  Then I called the SPCA.  The staff member at first thought that I should leave them there for the mother to find them but the whole area was denuded of cover (vegetation) and I imagined she had fled when the first spading of the earth began.  I had no way of knowing whether she would or could return (she could also have been injured) and the little ones would have died slowly of starvation and/or exposure.

The only action I felt I could take was to transport them in a tissue lined box (which I always carry in my backpack) to the SPCA for humane euthanasia.  These tiny creatures clung to each other throughout the trip and I was so saddened that I couldn't offer them anything better.

Here is a photograph from the Internet (royalty free) of a newborn vole which looks exactly like those I found.

I urge all gardeners to consider that voles can have a litter this late in the year and to take great care when removing plants.  Unfortunately voles make above-ground nests so they are very vulnerable.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Painted Ladies of Montreal

As those of you who live in or around Montreal know, there has been a huge influx of migrating Painted Lady butterflies this summer / fall.  

The last time this happened was in 2012 but I think the thousands of butterflies this year out-number that previous irruption (definition: a sudden sharp increase in the relative numbers of a natural population usually associated with favorable alteration of the environment)!

The Montreal Gazette published the following article:

SEPTEMBER 18, 2017

The thousands of orange butterflies being spotted all over Montreal are simply on a rest stop as they make their way down south.
And 99 per cent of them are painted ladies and not the monarch butterfly, said Maxim Larrivée of the Montreal Insectarium.
There has been some confusion over what type of butterflies were being spotted because of the colour patterns, but there are clear differences between painted ladies and monarchs, said Stephanie Boucher, curator at McGill University’s Lyman Entomological Museum.
“The painted lady butterfly is not as well known as the monarch, so that is probably why most people identify it as what they know best,” Boucher said.
“What’s really unusual is how many there are, which is really unprecedented,” Larrivée said, adding that this is the second time it happened in five years.
He said he believes they got pushed to the ground by wind during their migration to the warmer Southern U.S. climates from the Boreal Shield area. But they generally don’t stick around this long.
“But we have had this spell of amazing weather for us, that is not great migration weather for them. In the meantime, they are fuelling up on flowers, this is why we are seeing them (drinking nectar) everywhere,” Larrivée said.
Larrivée and Boucher both said the painted ladies benefit from the fact they can feed on a wide variety of plants — up to 100 according to Boucher — compared with the monarch, which feeds on milkweed.
“They can adapt to many different type of plants, so that is a great advantage,” she said.
Larrivée said the butterflies enjoyed a great winter in terms of reproduction in areas like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico. They then migrated north earlier than usual, arriving in mid-April and he thinks that gave them the time to have an extra generation, reproducing twice instead of once during the summer.
“The population was probably already big when they started coming north,” Boucher said. “The year here was also a good one for them for breeding and reproducing with all the rain we got.”
Now with everyone being outside thanks to the great weather, they are being spotted everywhere.
“It’s pretty hard to be in a bad mood when you are surrounded by butterflies. It’s fantastic. It’s different,” Larrivée said.
Now they are waiting for “winds that they are going to be able to surf back to the south,” Larrivée said, ideally blowing from the northeast to the southwest.

By Kevin Mio, Montreal Gazette.

Here is a selection of photographs that I have taken in various areas on the island of Montreal in the last few weeks: