Saturday, May 28, 2016

Nature Watch: Meadowlark and Robin

When Nelson handed me his camera on April 18th, I was hoping for one or two great shots to pick from. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw his meadowlark shot.

I love this image because of the Western Meadowlark's pose, the clarity of the image, and also its overall 3D effect.

Western Meadowlark, Southeastern Saskatchewan, April 18, 2016.
Photo Credit: Nelson Draper

One of the things we've noticed, however, is that our cell phones, messenger apps, Facebook timeline, etc seems to be tailored for square images. The horizontal or vertical ones don't fit right and look too small, or your device is locked so that it doesn't rotate and then you have to unlock it to see one photo, etc. Or you'll be skimming down your Facebook timeline and see half an image, or half a word, etc. Yes, you can click on it to see the larger version, but many people don't. To alleviate that, I'm playing around with using square images only like the ones below.

Western Meadowlark, Southeastern Saskatchewan, April 18, 2016.
Photo Credit: Nelson Draper

My contender for the best photo for April 18th is this robin sitting on an old hand pump. Although you can't see much detail in the robin, I like this photo because it reminds me of my earliest memories of when we lived with a hand pump in the kitchen. And then as a twelve year old, I wished we had one in the kitchen when we lived on a rented farm without any plumbing facilities at all. The pump sits on a huge boulder decorated with orange lichen. Whenever I see it I'm reminded of what used to be and how I am blessed with so much today.

American Robin on Hand Pump, Montmartre, Saskatchewan, 
April 18, 2016. Photo Credit: Anita Mae Draper

I'd like to point out that both of the above images can be used as Facebook birthday cards because they're square and there's lots of room for the sentiment.

Also, all of the images credited to me or Nelson are free to copy. Let us know if you'd like the location/date label deleted and we'll send you one without the extra info.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nature Watch: Crane and Mallard

The wind on April 17th played havoc with our photography competition. Not only did it buffet our cameras, but it stirred up the air currents between our cameras and our subjects so that neither Nelson, nor myself got a detailed shot. We had a discussion about whether we should even show these, but in the end decided we have been blessed with some great shots, and there are going to be days when one, the other, or both of us don't do well.

On this day Nelson's shots were much better than mine, and he's chosen this Sandhill Crane as the one he thinks is the best of his lot. I'd like to point out the effect the wind had on a portion of the stubble field where it appears smeared.

Sandhill Crane, Southeast Saskatchewan, Apr 17, 2016. Photo credit: Nelson Draper

Meanwhile, I was out and about on the 17th as well and yes, all my shots were also blurred by the wind. The only decent one I have is this Mallard pair which, for whatever reason, decided to swim in the yuckiest part of the slough. I suspect that most of the stuff floating about had been dislodged by wave action--something that doesn't happen often out here unless the wind is fierce.

Mallard pair, Montmartre, SK, Apr 17, 2016. Photo credit: Anita Mae Draper

So there you have our windy images. For all you budding photographers... don't beat yourself up if you can't get great shots on a windy day. Minimize the wind damage by standing where the wind can't buffet your or tripod or arms while you hold the camera, but in the end, there's not much you can do - at least not with our level of equipment. (P500 and P520 Nikon CooPix cameras)

I believe Nelson has a great video clip of Sandhill Cranes practicing their mating dance. We'll get that set up soon. Until next time...

Monday, May 2, 2016

Wildlife Watch: Duck and Heron

Some days it's easy to pick the best image of the day from those taken by Nelson and myself, but April 16th was not one of those days.

Nelson had a neat duck shot and a great one of a prairie chicken, but his Great Blue Heron photo was really outstanding.

Great Blue Heron, Southeast Saskatchewan, Apr 16, 2016. Photo by Nelson Draper

My contribution to our little competition is this photo of a Northern Shoveler pair gaining altitude on take off.

Northern Shoveler, pair. Southeast Saskatchewan. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

Both water shots, both action shots, but it's hard to see my little ducks after looking at the large heron.

I wonder what we'll find in the next batch...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Wildlife Watch - Nuthatch & Crocus

This edition of Battle of the Birds and other Wildlife shows images taken on April 15, 2016.

Or perhaps I should start calling it the Battle of Flora and Fauna? 

April 15th was Nelson's birthday but that didn't stop him from getting out and about. He said that while he was aiming his camera at a running hare he spotted something purple. Zooming in, he saw the Prairie Crocus, a member of the buttercup family which grows very low to the ground and only appears in the spring. Sometimes as I walk through a field soon after the snow leaves, I'll look down and realize I'm standing in the midst of prairie crocus patch. Such an inspiring sight of color after all the whiteness.

Prairie Crocus, Southeast Saskatchewan, Apr 15, 2016. Photo by Nelson Draper

I had to two surprise visitors on April 15th. The first was an Eastern Gray Squirrel with a gorgeous rufous belly but I have a whole video of that one which I'll be showing at another time. 

So for my best shot of the day, I picked a new visitor to our farm - a White-breasted Nuthatch. According to my iBirdCanada app, this bird is a year round resident of these parts, however, it only stayed for a day and a half and then was gone. Since it likes the woody areas, I don't think our shelterbelt held enough trees for its liking. 

White-breasted Nuthatch, Montmartre, SK April 15, 2016. Photo by Anita Mae Draper

I hope you enjoyed these images of Saskatchewan flora and fauna. More coming soon...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wildlife Watching - Meadowlark and Butterfly

This edition of Battle of the Birds and other Wildlife shows images taken by Nelson and me on April 14, 2016.

My best photo of the day was this Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly who rested on our front patio for awhile.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell Butterfly, Montmartre, SK, April 14, 2016.
Photo credit Anita Mae Draper

Next up is Nelson's Western Meadowlark in its most classic pose.

Western Meadowlark, Southeastern Saskatchewan, April 14, 2016. 
Photo Credit Nelson Draper

Nelson did such a good job with that photo, didn't he?

The Western Meadowlark is one of my favorite birds and since it has the reputation of being a storyteller, I've adopted it as the icon for my writing. You'll see the following header throughout my website, as well as displayed on the 5th of every month when I appear on the Heroes, Heroines, and History blog: header

I also used a photo of a Western Meadowlark on my Facebook header last year when I announced that one of my stories was a finalist for the 2015 Word Awards. However, as you can see, my photo doesn't compare in quality to the one Nelson took above.

2015 Facebook header for Anita Mae Draper

I hope you enjoyed these photos of Saskatchewan wildlife. More coming soon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Battle of the Birds and Other Wildlife

After an almost snow-free winter where the only wildlife seemed to be common house sparrows, also called English Sparrows, it's wonderful to see all the birds and animals return.

I spend time every day taking photos of anything that catches my eye and so when Nelson Draper wanted a good camera to use on his daily travels, I gave him my Nikon P500 to see if he liked it. I had upgraded to a Nikon P520 and really like the hybrid camera with it's long zoom, but without the need to carry around extra lenses.

And now we're getting into a nightly ritual of comparing the photos we've taken throughout the day.

Here's the best of our shots for April 13th:

Common Snipe, Southeast Saskatchewan, Apr 13, 2016. Photo by Nelson Draper

My best shot was actually a video of a Long-tailed weasel who had come poking around our yard. Here's the screenshot of it followed by the actual video:

Long-tailed Weasel, Montmartre, SK, Apr 13, 2016.
Photo by Anita Mae Draper

The video is silent because I was shooting through the picture-window of my living room. Yes... it came right into our yard.

I'll be posting more photos and video as soon as I can. Please enjoy this brief glimpse into Saskatchewan wildlife.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Canada Geese Slow Motion Flying

This slow motion video is the result of leaving my Nikon P500 Coolpix camera on High-speed (HS) instead of my normal High-definition (HD) movie mode.

Just don't ask me why High-speed mode would give me such a slow video.

But I'm very glad it did.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Evening Walk Photos: April 8, 2015

Red-Winged Blackbird, South of Montmartre, SK, April 8, 2015

Now that winter is over and the warmer weather has returned, Nelson and I have started taking a walk in the evenings. Not far, but down our country road where we stop and listen to the migrating birds and I try to capture them to share with those who may not get to experience the prairie as we do. 

The top photo is a red-winged blackbird who sat atop the wolf willows at the end of our driveway. It seems he's claimed his territory since he sat there alone singing in an attempt to attract the attention of any nearby females. He paused his singing as we passed, but continued as we turned onto the main road. 

Canada Geese Pair in Flight, South of Montmartre, SK, April 8, 2015

Our attention was drawn to a pair of low-flying Canada geese who were preparing to land in the nearby slough. I tried to film their landing because I love the way their feet come out as if they're stepping on the brakes, but it happened so fast, I missed it.

Snow Geese in Flight, South of Montmartre, SK, April 8, 2015

The air was filled with honking snow geese, except as soon as they spotted us on that empty road, they quieted and silently arced around us before continuing on their path. Incredible.

Canada Geese Pair, South of Montmartre, SK, April 8, 2015

While passing our dugout, I heard a Canada goose loudly honking its presence, but couldn't see it so I waited. Seconds later, a pair swam into the middle reminding me of the swan photos I took last summer. I don't know if this Canada Geese pair are in migration or will nest for the summer, but they're welcome to stay.

Country Road, South of Montmartre, SK, April 8, 2015

We headed home, noting that the spring runoff had lowered considerably. In a few weeks this quiet stretch of road will be filled with sounds of grain trucks and tractors pulling augers and seeders as the farmers return to plant their crops.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

2014 Trip to Monterey, California

I spent the last week of October in Monterey, California, on a business trip and absolutely loved it! But I'm getting ahead of myself...

My Air Canada flight to Calgary for the first leg of the trip was a prop job which was a bit disconcerting as the propeller was in line with the seat in front of me so it was right there every time I looked out my window. I noticed the guy in front of me covered his window after several minutes of flight. What I found fascinating was that the propeller blades seemed to curve and separate in the photos when I couldn't even see them moving in the air.

I took this photo with my iPhone shortly after take-off. At the time, I didn't know what was below until I spent some time on Google Earth later at home, and matched it up with their version:

Buffalo Pound Lake from the air, Oct 2014

Google Earth view of Buffalo Pound Lake, captured 5/6/2014

After changing flights in Calgary, I continued on to San Francisco. The clouds cleared and the day brightened, yet I was unprepared to see other aircraft in the skies above Nevada. The first one shot behind us and I noticed it in the 4 o'clock position heading northwest. And although the next one was at 3 o'clock by the time we passed over its vapor trail, it had me looking out for more of them. It must have been a regular occurrence for no one else seemed to notice, but it sure got me excited.

Aircraft and vapor trail over Nevada passing too close for my comfort,
taken Oct 26, 2014 with an iPhone

We landed at San Franciscso Airport (SFO) where my author friend, Sarah Sundin, picked me up and then along with another friend, we headed out for the 2 hr drive to Monterey. I was there for the Books & Such Literary Management Retreat which was being hosted at the Monterey Plaza Hotel, right on the infamous Cannery Row.

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa spanning Cannery Row, Monterey, CA, Oct 2014

As you can see in the above photo, the hotel spans both sides of Cannery Row and the rooms are cheaper here facing inland, but I didn't travel all that way to look at an urban setting, and had paid a bit more for a room with an ocean view, and am so glad I did because it was worth it!

My Monterey Plaza Hotel room facing Northeast, Oct 2014

The most incredible thing I found while in Monterey is that they leave their doors open all day and into the night, and their windows have no screens, and they don't have any flies! I was blessed to have a room 2 floors above the small hotel beach where the kayaks were kept and my roomie and I left the window open all night so we could hear the sound of the surf pounding the sand as well as the sea otters, sea lions, and bird. And not a single insect entered the room.

And this is where my room was located - so close to the bird population roosting on the old cannery, and where I was staring down at the surf and kayakers and not the plaza where all the people were sitting...

Monterey Plaza Hotel facing east, Oct 2014

Monterey Plaza Hotel w/my room marked

Sunrise, Monterey, CA, Oct 27, 2014

Monterey Plaza Hotel Coffee Shop's outdoor seating, Oct 28, 2014

Sunset, Monterey, CA, Oct 29, 2014

Sea Lions sunning on Coast Guard Pier, Monterey, CA

Surfer practicing near Kayak Launch with big wave coming

Sunrise as I packed for home, Oct 30, 2014

Sunset at Denver Airport, Oct 30, 2014

On takeoff somewhere over the Denver area.

Nelson was waiting for me in Regina where the temperature was just a few degrees above freezing. It was nice to be home, but I can't wait to visit Monterey once more.

Thanks for coming along on this virtual trip. Did any of these pics strike a chord with you?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Big Changes for Nick

After a mere 8 months since first dislocating his shoulder, Nick did it again in mid-August. We're still waiting to see if surgery will be required, but as the doctor says, it will depend on how it heals. The injury put a crimp in his plans, however, as he had been accepted for an internship with a year-round youth camp in Ontario starting the beginning of Sept. Due to the physicality of the work involved, he had to withdraw his application.

Without a drivers license, and with his injury hampering his ability to find a job, he was at loose ends until he decided to go back to school. Then came a hectic week of applyig and being accepted at a Bible College and finding quarters when the school year had already started. But when God has a plan, He makes a way.

On Sept 10, Nick and I headed up to formally apply at Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatoon, SK. Nick had already done the groundwork via the internet and emailed his Montmartre High School and Eston College transcripts to Horizon. But as the dorm was full, we needed to find him accomodation.

A visit to the college for the necessary paperwork proved Nick to be enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts degree program with a major in Youth Ministries.

Next, we checked out a condo owned by the family of a UofS student who was looking for a roommate. Nick liked it, the rent was great, and his new roomie looked easy to get along with. They shook hands, and that was that. And then we headed back home where Nick used his time to check in with his doctor and see about having his driver's license re-instated which he'd lost after his Dec 2013 seizure - the one where he fractured his arm on Christmas Eve.

Three days later on Sat, Sep 13, we loaded up the van with Nick's bed and stuff and JJ and I drove Nick up to Saskatoon.

Nick taking photo of his bed and stuff before heading to Saskatoon, Sep 2014

When we got to Nick's new place, JJ helped him set up his bed which happens to be the bottom bunk of a set they've shared since 1999 when we moved here to Draper's Acres.

Nick and JJ setting up Nick's bed in Saskatoon, Sep 2014

Nick's bed in Saskatoon with the quilt across the foot that was given to him as
his 2012 graduation gift from Church on the Hill in Glenavon, SK.

After a quick trip downtown to get him a student bus pass and groceries, JJ and I left Nick at his new home which was across Circle Drive from the University and College. Without a vehicle or bike, he'd be going to college via public transportation, which was fine by him.

Nick Draper, Saskatoon, SK, Sep 13, 2014

After a week of riding the buses, I received this text from Nick: Buses in Saskatoon shut down, I'll be walking or long-boarding to school pray for the buses to start again

So much for depending on public transportation. Nick and I had talked of getting him a bike, but as he wasn't used to riding one, never mind in the city, and it would be frosty streets soon, we had decided against it. Now I wished I had.

Later that day after a 2 hr walk/long-boaring trek to school where he walked in late, he texted, I think I'm going to go purchase a bike

So, he bought a bike with saddle bags, reflectors, a light, etc and started the hour long daily ride to college. He said he liked it in Sept, but by the time cold October rolled around and Saskatoon Transit still wasn't back on the road, Nick was starting to worry. One painful spill landing on his 'bad' shoulder didn't help.

On Oct 9th, Nick took a bus operated by the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) to Regina for the Thanksgiving weekend. It was such a blessing to have him home.

Nick catching sight of JJ at the STC terminal, Regina, SK,
 Oct 9th, 2014

We gave him his driver's license which had come in the mail and asked if he wanted to take our Uplander back with him since the bus strike was still on. On Thanksgiving Monday, Nick headed back to Saskatoon with his new wheels...

Brothers, JJ (foreground) and Nick, good-bye hug, Oct 14, 2014

Nick heading back to Horizon College, Oct 14, 2014

Thank you to those remembering Nick in prayer as he handles these big life changes.

Friday, September 12, 2014

John and Betty 2014 Visit

This summer we were blessed by the visit of Nelson's brother, John, and his wife, Betty, from Ottawa, Ontario. It had been ages since we saw them and so it was a special time of catching up. The plan was for them to spend a few days in Regina, then here at Draper's Acres while Nelson was on his days off, then back to Regina before heading home. 

Alice Draper with her kids from L to R - John, Teresa, and Nelson.
Photo taken Aug 2014 in Regina, courtesy of Teresa and Francis Untereiner

Unfortunately, the weather on Nelson's days off were wet and chilly for mid August which kept the farmers out of their field. Most of the time we stayed in the house where JJ hooked my laptop up to our big screen TV via an HDMI cord so everyone could view the genealogy records and old photographs at the same time. This was fantastic because it allowed everyone to contribute to the conversation, sharing memories and correcting misinformation. 

The spattering of rain played havoc with our photo taking sessions though, as you can see by the blotchy photographs.

Both Nick and JJ were working at Circle Square Ranch (CSR) Wolf Creek, and we had to get them back to the ranch right after lunch. In fact, the rest of the staff were inside preparing for a meeting when we were taking these pics, which shows on Jeremiah's face as he's the most logistical one and didn't want to walk in late. 

L to R - Jeremiah, Nelson, John holding Scout behind Grandma Alice, Betty
with Peanut, Nick. Taken at CSR Wolf Creek, Aug 2014

But as you can see in the above photo, a raindrop is hiding Betty's face, so we went for another one. 

L to R back row - Jeremiah, Nelson, John holding Scout, and Nick.
Front row - Grandma Alice, and Betty holding Peanut.
Taken at CSR Wolf Creek, Aug 2014

Hmm, nice shot, but Grandma's face is obliterated and others are hazy. So we tried one more. 

L to R - Jeremiah, Nelson, Scout, John hiding behind Grandma Alice, Betty
with Peanut, and Nick. Taken at CSR Wolf Creek, Aug 2014

And that's a good shot of everyone including the dogs...except John is hiding again, Nelson has lost his smile, and both Nick and Scout are looking to the left where someone has just come out the door to find out what's holding the boys up. *sigh

Since Montmartre is the Paris of the Prairies due to its French history with Montmartre, France on the outsirts of Paris, we stopped at the 1/38 scale model iron Eiffel Tower to give John and Betty some fun pics to take back.

This first one is Nelson telling John and Betty to look wa-a-a-a-a-a-y up so it appears the tower is taller than its actual 30 ft height. 

Nelson taking photo of Betty and John at Eiffel Tower,
Montmartre, SK.

Unfortunately, Nelson never showed me the result of this angle. My version was for John and Betty to move closer to me thus putting space behind them to make the Eiffel Tower look bigger. 

Betty and John at Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, SK, Aug 2014

Montmartre is building a real nice park beside the Eiffel Tower and while there, I mentioned that it would be nice to take a photo near the gazebo with the CN Montmartre sign in the background, but after being cooped up while we were in church, and then while we had a big family lunch in Wolseley, Scout and Peanut wanted to go exploring, so the best photo of that excursion is this one of John taking a pic of ME. 

John taking photo of me with Betty and CN Montmartre sign in background.
Taken at the Eiffel Tower Park, Montmartre, SK, Aug 2014

This last one is cropped from one of Teresa's photos and is kind of grainy so I can't enlarge further, but I thought I'd end this post with these 2 precious members of John and Betty's family, Peanut and Scout. 

Peanut and Scout in Regina, SK, August 2014

It was such a nice visit. I hope you come back soon... and bring the kids and grandkids next time. :)