Monday, April 22, 2013

Muskoka Wildlife Centre

Puma concolor
Gail & I joined a photo-shoot at Muskoka Wildlife Centre yesterday,
led by Guelph photographer Shelley Myke

Canis lupus

These are rescued animals who are well-kept ambassadors for their species, and quite comfortable on movie sets or posing for photographers.

Lynx canadensis
The lynx was the only animal who seemed to constantly complain about the imposition of having to pose for photographers.
Aegolius acadicus
The tiny saw-whet owl was quite content as I approached with a macro lens.
Vulpes vulpes
The silver fox, really a colour morph of the familiar red fox, was the most restless creature; his orange eyes darting around constantly, looking for the next morsel of food.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Very Large Array

 Remember those movies like Contact and Independence Day when humans made contact with aliens? Well the visually impressive scientific instrument featured in those movies that is searching deep space for radio signals is the Very Large Array. The VLA consists of 27 radio antenna on railway tracks in a high valley in New Mexico and it's very impressive to see.
The VLA in 3D
In constant use by astronomers since 1980, it's a marvel of engineering and computer technology. This radio telescope is used to unravel the mysteries of the universe, including black holes, quasars, pulsars, and gamma ray bursts, but not to my knowledge extra terrestrials!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

White Sands

White Sands National Monument is a playground for the imagination. 

The landscape is reduced to simple forms and only the angle of light makes the difference between something stunning and nothing much at all.

 So it's best to visit at sunrise and at sunset when shadows are long and colours more intense.

And it helps to have a someone along - in this case the lovely Gail - to add a point of reference to the endless sea of gypsum sand.

From the ridge tops of the dunes it feels like you can see forever!

An endless sea of sand but not a drop of water in sight.

 Under-exposure brings out the glitter of the gypsum crystals.

The gypsum washes down from the mountains dissolved in water. The water has no outlet except through evaporation and a bed of dried gypum remains, which eventually forms the dunes.

Only the hardiest of plants like this yucca can survive the shifting sands.

A group of Amish visitors arrived from Pennsylvania to play on the sands while I was there.

The White Sands, at 275 square miles and visible from space, is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.

Doulble click the photos to enlarge.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bosque del Apache

American Avocets

It was not the best time of the year to visit Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, a wetland habitat for migrating waterfowl on the Rio Grande. That would be in the winter months when Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese gather here by the thousands on their way north.
A pair of American White Pelicans
Gambel's Quail
A female Pyrrhuloxia, related to Cardinals
Green-tailed Towhee

But even now it's a spectacular place to visit for a novice birder like me.

I saw over 40 different species of birds in a couple of hours, including ten that were firsts for me!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


The guidebooks say artists are attracted to Taos for the landscapes and the light. After half a day here, I can understand. At 7000 feet, the air is thin and the light intense. It had snowed all morning and when the sky cleared I experienced a sublime mix of colour and form, the likes of which I've rarely witnessed. Here are a few of my images today.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Santa Fe, New Mexico

 Set high in the Rio Grande valley, Santa Fe is surrounded by rugged mountains and mesas.
 Established as a provincial capital by the Spanish in 1610, Santa Fe is one of the oldest towns in North America.
 Its unique architecture reflects the adobe style of native pueblos.
 Azure skies and the high desert climate attract artists and visitors from around the world.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bald Eagles Return

Cootes Paradise Marsh

mother bad eagle on the first successful nest
Since DDT was banned in Canada in 1989, birds of prey such as bald eagles have begun to recover. Today, Gail and I went to Cootes Paradise Marsh to see the first successful nesting bald eagles on the Canadian shore of Lake Ontario since the 1950s!

Bald Eagle from my Eye-to-Eye Birds of Prey Book

The nest with chicks was high in a white pine tree and the mother could be seen on the nest with a spotting scope provided by the Royal Botanical Gardens staff. But the real thrill was hearing the pair call each other and then seeing them fly together low over the trees. Quite the birthday thrill for me!

with RBG staffer Lindsay and spotting scope