Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ice halo

If you recall, back in November I had a post about supernumerary rainbows and iridescent clouds. Well, on Christmas day I witnessed another interesting atmospheric phenomenon - the ice halo!

Thanks to the keen eyes of my friend Jean, it was brought to my attention that there was a "rainbow" around the sun. I only had my pocket camera with me but managed to take these shots. You can read about ice halos here.

I find the wispy clouds add to the "other worldly" aspect of the scene.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Young rabbit eating a dandelion

I am taking advantage of the holidays to try new things and one is to insert a video in my blog post. This is a 30 second clip I took a few years ago of a young rabbit at the Montreal Botanical Gardens eating a dandelion.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I thought I would share some photos of a couple of my cats here.

The first is of "Sweet Young". Each cat in a feral colony (in which she belonged) was named by some unique characteristic; hence there was a "Flat Ears", a "Long Legs", etc.). Sweet Young was just that - a sweet, young cat who tended to protect the kittens in the colony even though she had never had a litter herself. As many of the cats as possible were sterilized and either placed in homes (those who were socializable) or relocated to a farm in the Eastern Townships (those who were too wild to socialize). This operation occurred back in 1997 and Sweet Young has been with me all this time.

Willow is another homeless cat that I took in two years ago. She is full of life and likes to fling toys all over the room. She is also a cuddler and gets more and more cuddly as time goes by. The second shot shows her staring intently at a toy on the floor. The predatory nature of the feline showing clearly!

Lastly, here is a link to a YouTube video of two cats playing "Pat-a-cake". I find the voice-over hilarious. Click here.
I hope you like it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Foxes return to Mount Royal

I was very pleased to find three (!!) foxes on Mount Royal yesterday. Two were together (and had been sighted by another fox enthusiast last week-end) so I am thinking that they are probably a mated pair.

Fox sightings have been very scarce for over a year now so these were a welcome sight.

One was kind enough to settle down for a snooze and allowed me to get these photos. I like the way his fur matches the fallen leaves. In the second shot you can see he still has one eye on me!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Moving On

Some catch phrases tend to make one chafe and for me it is this notion of “moving on”. It strikes me that “moving on” is no longer what one does when a grieving period is over but what one feels obliged to do to make others feel better. People are told they should move on. People are made to feel selfish for not doing so.

I have heard a young widow say how friends and family were supportive for a short time but then lost patience with her.

I recall an extreme case of this when John F. Kennedy Junior’s plane was still missing. All things pointed to a tragedy and family members were gathering in Massachusetts. Caroline Kennedy had arrived and was seen riding a bicycle on the grounds of the Kennedy compound and this spurred one reporter to declare that this was Caroline’s way of sending the message that we must all move on. Remember – his plane had not even been found yet!

I am appalled by people’s impatience with the grieving process and the added toll that takes on those who find that they need more time to deal with a tragic loss and then feel guilty because of it.

This type of attitude was exhibited recently at the lunch table at my workplace. For the third time my lunch mates brought up the issue of another co-worker’s sister who is mourning the death of her son (a young man) from a sudden illness several months ago. This mother has been in an almost catatonic state ever since and is lost in her grief. She barely eats or functions in any way.

This is severely frowned upon by my lunch mates because, you see, there is another living son. The fact that the mother is not “looking after” this son (also a young man) is seen as outrageous and some even suggested that if she is trying to slowly commit suicide, they would gladly bring her a gun. This would be “better for the family”. One suggested she is being unfair to the remaining son and shouldn’t be “wallowing in self-pity”.

Having heard this too many times I said, “You can think of “fate” as being unfair to the other son and to the whole family, but we should not judge this woman. If she were lying in a coma due to a physical illness, no one would say that she was neglecting her son.” People still think of mental illness (including depression) as something you can snap out of it you weren’t so selfish!

My suggestion to not judge the grieving mother was met by an aggressive attack by one co-worker with rather extreme language and an accusation of being judgemental (ironic really, considering the point I was making).

When discussing this with a long-time friend whose son was killed in a plane crash many years ago, she recalled how she couldn’t talk about him for TEN years. Things take time.

Not everyone can comply with others’ timetables so we should accept the mourning period however long it takes. Sure, urge people to get help in the form of therapy or drugs and do whatever YOU can to help them but remember that there are processes that the mind and the soul need to handle in their own time frame.

Instead of criticizing those who are suffering, maybe we should all try to be more compassionate and also remember to be grateful that we are not in such a position.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Blue-spotted Salamander

I can't resist one more post on the Blue-spotted Salamander. This little creature is not only a wonder to see, but is a very interesting species.

Here is what an acquaintance wrote to me about the Salamander:

The Blue-spotted Salamander occurs in your part of the world, west into the area of the Great Lakes.
South of you, there's another species called the Jefferson Salamander, mostly to the west of here.
Where the two salamanders overlap, they can interbreed. When they do, they create yet two other species of salamanders, both hybrid ALL-FEMALE species: the Trembley's Salamander and the Silvery Salamander.
And there's even more to the story:
The male Blue-spotted Salamander breeds with the female Trembley's Salamander. The male only stimulating the female's egg development. The male's genetic material is not contributed.
I hope you are as impressed by this Salamander as I am!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A wildlife week-end

It’s interesting how things happen. On Saturday I went with a friend to the nature park in Ile Bizard and being November I figured there wouldn’t be a lot of wildlife to see but maybe a Muskrat or Beaver and possibly the Owl that is often sighted in the woods.

Well, I strolled the boardwalk for any sightings and my friend went off on another trail for a power-walk. At one point she came hurrying back to tell me that a Woodpecker was in full view and would make a good photo opportunity. I followed her but unfortunately only saw it as it flew further into the woods. I recognized it as a Pileated Woodpecker – quite the handsome bird! Well, no Owl and no Woodpecker photos for me but … just as I paused to photograph a mossy log on my way back to the boardwalk, I saw something I have never, ever seen in my life – a Salamander!!

I knew they existed and I also knew that one had to search carefully in wet areas under rocks and leaf litter to find them so I relegated that to a “probably won’t ever happen” category of life events. But this little guy was right out in the open and very nearly under my foot! Luckily I saw him in time and I think I stood for several seconds unable to believe my eyes. (I am sure you have noticed by now that these types of sightings get me very excited : -)).

So, to reiterate: no Owl, no Woodpecker but a Salamander on Saturday. By the way, this is a Blue-spotted Salamander.

Well, on Sunday I went to Mount Royal and while passing a large evergreen tree I noticed that a Crow flew around it once with a loud “caw” and then left. It made me wonder if something was in that tree. So I walked up to the tree’s trunk and looked straight up. I didn’t see anything until suddenly I noticed movement and there was a Long-eared Owl staring down at me! Yay! – an Owl – and a new species to add to my list to boot!!

A little while later I heard a “knock – knock” on a tree and there to my astonishment was a Pileated Woodpecker!

It’s almost as though the Owl and the Woodpecker were deferred to the next day so that the Salamander could have my full attention on the Saturday.

Then just to add icing to the cake, I spied this lovely and unusually marked Squirrel. Its coat was a soft blend of white and gray and he posed quite nicely against the fall foliage.

Not at all bad for a week-end in November - a time when one feels Nature is entering its dormant stage.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Supernumerary rainbows and iridescent clouds

It's interesting how one thing leads to another and before you know it, a mystery is solved. Last night on the way home from work I saw a spectacular rainbow and as I studied it I noticed narrow bands on the inside of the arc. I checked the Internet and found out that this was a supernumerary rainbow!

Then, as I was perusing the website I clicked on iridescent clouds and this solved a mystery regarding a picture I took in March of 2006 in the Montreal Botanical Gardens.

On that day I had the camera pointed up towards a Goldfinch in a tree when I noticed the strange colouring of some clouds. It was unlike anything I had seen and so I photographed it but never researched it any further. Here is the photograph with reduced brightness to show the colours better. The colours themselves have not been enhanced.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

First snow

First snowfalls always come as a bit of a shock (especially in October) but if they are as beautiful as this, well ...

This fellow isn't sure he likes the idea.

And this one seems to be wondering what has happened to his tree!

So much beauty ...

Rather Christmassy for Hallowe'en ...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Amethyst enchantment

A fellow blogger posted Robert Frost's poem "October" and I found it inspiring. (Thank you "Daffy"). I especially loved the lines "Retard the sun with gentle mist; Enchant the land with amethyst."

I submit this photograph to accompany the poem as I feel it also expresses an amethyst enchantment.

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A little whiskey makes for a good day!

Today I decided to visit a park on Gouin Boulevard which I really only go to each fall because of the colourful maple trees and the little inlet from the Rivière des Prairies which attracts ducks.

Most week-ends I go to Mount Royal or sometimes Angrignon Park so this is another case of being in the right place at the right time. I say this because on my way back from the park and while waiting at the bus stop I suddenly saw a brown and white dog standing (alone!) at an intersection. He ran across the street to another nearby park and raced around. I watched to see if he ran up to someone but it was pretty far now and I couldn’t quite see. I told myself that he had probably just gotten away from his owner in the park but there was another tiny voice saying “hmmm ... I don’t know about that”.

But the bus came and I was cold and tired so I got on along with my nagging misgivings. The bus turned the corner and continued along the perimeter of the park. Oh no, there was the little dog all alone! OK, forget this – I got off the bus and ran towards him as he continued to race around to a playground now. A young man thought he was my dog and scolded me for not having him on a leash. Finally I caught up with him as he lay on his back in front of two small children asking for a “tummy rub”. After ascertaining that he wasn’t theirs, I scooped him up (not an easy task since he was a beagle mix and not exactly light).

Now what to do? As he squirmed, I carried him to the entrance of an apartment building and got inside. At least if he broke free from me he was still somewhat confined. Next I saw that he had a tag (yay!) and that it had a phone number (yay again!). Luckily I had my cell phone in my pocket but it was no small feat to read the number and try to dial the phone while holding onto the collar of a squirming, twisting, jumping dog!! Finally I put the phone on the floor and dialled. A man answered. In very broken French I managed to explain that I had his dog and where I was. He said his sister would be there in five minutes. Now I had to go out to the side of the road so she could spot me and I was afraid this friendly but rambunctious dog would get away from me. So, I fashioned a makeshift leash from my camera strap and we stood together waiting for her – or rather he pulled me and I pulled back and we went around in circles and thankfully very soon there she was running to him with a proper leash. She thanked me profusely and said "Whiskey" had slipped out the door and just when she realized he was missing, her brother called out to her and said there was a woman on the phone who had him!

So now reunited, she trotted off with little “Whiskey” on the end of the leash. This was a very good day!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More Sutton photos

Several more pictures from Sutton. I was particularly excited by the Monarch caterpillar and the Monarch chrysalis!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sisters in Sutton

A couple of weeks ago my sister Diane and I went to Sutton in the Eastern Townships for five days. She had stayed at Auberge Schweizer there in July for a watercolour painting course and raved about the place. So she suggested a short stay for us where she would sketch and paint and I would do my photography. We timed it to coincide with the lovely fall colours.

On the Sunday afternoon when we arrived it was showering but the forecast predicted a sunny Monday so we held on to that thought. The rest of the week looked "iffy" but we wouldn't let that get us down.

We proceeded to get the news that the accommodation that was expected (a two bedroom suite over the "painting room" would not be available due to a mouse that had to be "taken care of"). The Auberge owners were stunned when we both said in unison "that's OK - we like mice". They insisted in upgrading our accommodation but I was more concerned that they not kill the mouse/mice. Well, interestingly enough considering my previous post, they had a live trap and later in the week they announced success and that the captured mouse would be released "up by the dam". We even offered to do the release which elicited more stunned looks.

In the meantime we had quite taken to our substituted living quarters. It was a very comfortable chalet with a fireplace, full kitchen and two bedrooms - each one with a bathroom attached. We ate lunches in the chalet and had our breakfasts and suppers in the dining room. The food was vegan / vegetarian (as requested) and was absolutely delicious. Most of the food came straight from their organic garden.

While everything was wonderful, the weather was not very cooperative. Each day our mantra became "I think the sky is clearing" or " there seems to be a break in the clouds". Most of this was wishful thinking and actually things got worse as tropical storm Nicole sent torrential rains and gale force winds later in the week. However, we never let it get us down and I still managed to get some interesting photos (mainly of insects). On the worst day we simply headed off to wine country and toured the local wineries and stocked up!

Here are some of the photos of the trip. You can also find many of my Sutton insect pictures here.

"Our" chalet on the hill

Some of the fall colours

Here I am doing one of my favorite things - petting "Lucky", one of the resident dogs.

Diane doing one of HER favorite things!

Some early sketches

A Viceroy butterfly (mimic of the Monarch)

This pumpkin was grown in the Schweizer's garden and is estimated to weigh 100 pounds!

My next post will show more photos of this enjoyable stay in Sutton.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Yesterday I wrote about a little mouse named Guy but tonight I'd like to write on a more serious note.

This is the time of year when wild mice seek out warm shelter and food supplies to help them through the winter to come. In the process some will enter our houses if given the opportunity (improperly sealed external walls, etc.). This occasionally happens at my work place and the company puts down glue traps or spring traps. Glue traps are notoriously cruel causing the mouse to lie stuck and in terror until it starves to death and the spring traps are little better when they don't kill outright but only strike and maim the mouse where it is also left to die slowly. To counter this, I started searching for humane alternatives and lo and behold they are readily available, cheap and effective! One needs only go to Zeller's or a similar store or hardware store and buy a live trap.

Check out humane traps here and here. A friend of mine actually constructed one herself and caught several mice one season which were taken outdoors to a suitable location (there should be plenty of cover like bushes or tall grasses) and released. Her large dog became fascinated by this process and insisted on accompanying her to the release site where it would put its face close to the trap and watch the mouse's exit. He never attempted to hurt the mouse and just excitedly watch the event.

So the more we can deal with the little lost animals on subway platforms to the little hungry ones seeking warmth in buildings in humane and life-affirming ways, the better off we all are. Here's to the tiny creatures that need some empathy!