Sunday, March 21, 2010


I've only walked in the forest at night once or twice before, but it is a surreal experience. You hear things crackling and creaking off the path, creatures vocalizing in the distance, and sometimes if you're lucky you'll see eyeshine among the trees. Once, soon after we met, Davis and I went walking through a nearby forest at night and found fluorescent arrows painted on the woodchip path that we'd never seen a clue of during the day.

Last night we went on an owl prowl put on by our university's arboretum. Unfortunately we didn't see any owls, but I was able to experiment a little with night photography, which I've never done before. I found it very challenging - it was so dark I couldn't even see well enough through the viewfinder to focus properly, and I forgot to white balance so all my photos came out apocalypse red (I recoloured them in photoshop because they were a little too eerie for me). We also learned how to make various owl calls - from the standard barred and great-horned "who cooks for you" to the horse-like screech owls and the saw-whet owls, which actually do sound like a saw being drawn through a stump. We also learned the difference between coyote calls and wolf howls, which even when done by a bunch of silly humans can raise the hair on your arms.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

first day of spring

I don't care what the calendar or planetary axes tell me - the first day of spring is the first day I see a red-winged blackbird. And that day was today.

Further support for my arguments came in the form of geese and American robins.... or the business end of an American robin, anyway.

The blue jays have stuck around all winter, but they seemed to be enjoying the spring sunshine as well.

A dark-eyed junco takes stock of what the melting snow has revealed.

The white-breasted nuthatches also persevered throughout the winter, but are much more active now that there are more bugs to catch under the tree bark.

I'm looking forward to my first real birding trip of the year next weekend, rather than tromping though my backyard with my zoom lens like a weirdo.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

All quiet on the home front.

It's been a week since I posted anything, which is not very usual for me. I have a list of possible blog post topics but I just haven't been inspired to write about any of them. I haven't cooked anything lately. I haven't heard anything from vet school. I haven't taken any interesting photos (though with the plus weather I am itching to go birding). My cow hasn't given birth.

But I don't like neglecting my blog, so, in the meantime...

The ingenuity of crows.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday morning necessities


Coffee grinder.

Coffee press.


If you will allow me to step up on my soapbox, I would like to draw your attention to this awesome coffee. It's called Kicking Horse Coffee, and according to legend (or the back of the bag) James Hector discovered the Kicking Horse Valley in southern British Columbia in 1858. While crossing a river, a pack horse kicked Hector so hard his partners thought he died. As they began to bury him, Hector's eye suddenly twitched, and this miracle was attributed to the strong cup of Kicking Horse coffee they made him drink.

I don't know about all that, but this company has a lot of ideas that I admire. The coffee is roasted in Invermere, BC, so it's a bit of a nostalgic thing for me. But most of all, the coffee is fair trade, 100% organic, shade grown, sustainably harvested, and the company in involved in all sorts of local community initiative as well as ones in developing countries.

I first learned about the importance of shade grown coffee in an ornithology class I took last year. Most coffee plantations are a monoculture, meaning that the local vegetation is removed and only coffee plants are grown. This is because coffee trees are really short shrubs, and by removing tall trees the coffee bushes get more sunlight and grow faster. But cutting down those trees also means taking away a lot of habitat for birds and other animals. Shade grown coffee is produced in a natural forest setting, with a complex canopy that is friendly to wildlife. Of course, like organic products, there is a range of what shade-grown coffee really implies... from really wild plantations to someone sticking a palm tree in the middle of their coffee monoculture, so of course it is important to do some checking to see if you're happy with what your coffee roaster is telling you.

You can find out more about shade grown coffee at the Coffee and Conservation site - both things I really love!

Soapbox off.