Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Nature Watch: Great Horned Owl

A few days ago, I walked into my office and was halfway to my desk when I spotted a Great Horned Owl looking in my window. I deked to the right to hide behind the drapes. A few seconds later, I leaned to the left and peered out to see if it was still was leaning to the right peering back at me.

I snapped back from view and reached for my camera...but I'd left it in the living room!

Since I didn't want to yell, I whipped out my phone and texted Nelson who was also in the house…

Moments later I heard him padding down the hall. I motioned him to stop before he reached the door and jabbed my finger in the owl's direction. Nelson peered around the corner and his eyes widened. I stepped into view, took the camera, and clicked away at the owl. Behind me, I heard Nelson retreat, and then he returned and I heard him taking pics, too. 

Great Horned Owl, Front View. Source: Nelson Draper

Great Horned Owl, Looking to side. Source: Anita Mae Draper

The owl looked around and at us for a minute or so, and then turned and hopped away to another branch. The last photo of the owl looking back reminds me of a 1950s chenille bedspread due to the unique feather placement.

Great Horned Owl, Looking Back. Source: Nelson Draper

The owl checked out the place for a minute or so, and then turned and hopped away to another branch. This last photo of the owl looking back at us reminds me of a 1950's chenille bedspread due to the unique feather placement. However, when I look at its extended back and down to its feathered legs and sharp talons, I'm reminded more of a wary cat than a comfy bed. As usual, I'm amazed at God's creativity when I see something as special as a Great Horned Owl. By the way, the use of the word, horned, refers to its ear tufts.

Here's a short clip of the owl before and after it had hopped to another branch. If the video doesn't work, you can find it at: 

Of course, this owl encounter has given me ideas about including the scene in a story, similar to how I included the cranes in my novella, Sweet Love Grows. I enjoy adding wildlife to my stories and hope the readers can see that.

Do you have a favorite owl, whether real, virtual, or fiction? Have you had an encounter with one? Care to share? 

Note: Since it's my blogging day, this post is also published on Aug 16, 2017 at

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nature Watch March 2017

We're playing post catch-up at Draper's Acres with some photos we took in March of this year. I'll start off with this photo of a Sharp-Tailed Grouse taken by Nelson while out-and-about on March 5.

Sharp-tailed Grouse, Southeastern Saskatchewan, March 5, 2017

On March 8th, Nelson was greeted by a special sunrise called a sun dog, a rarity this year. It was also a milder winter and although we received a good amount of snow, it wasn't all at once. With the mild weather, what snow did fall melted and blew away so there wasn't a huge buildup like other years.

Sun Dog, Southeastern Saskatchewan, March 8, 2017 at 7:37 am

A week later, Nelson saw a herd of White-tailed deer trotting across the prairie, but it was this shot of three of them with the breath-taking sunrise in the background that caught my eye.

White-tailed Deer, Southeastern Saskatchewan, March 15, 2017 at 7:04 am

Meanwhile, back at Draper's Acres, I took dozens of shots of this Black-capped Chickadee this winter but he moved so fast while searching for food among the evergreens that I only managed a couple decent photographs. With that speed, I figure he deserves his chance to shine on our blog.

Black-Capped Chickadee, Mar 19, 2017, Montmartre, SK

On March 24th I saw a coyote running across the southern part of the field where it rises out of our small valley. The light was horrid at noon on that dreary day, but here's what I saw . . . from our living room, looking through the longest zoom on my P520 Nikon, the coyote had an ethereal quality as it crossed the stubble near the top of the rise with nothing but sky behind it.

Coyote, March 24, 2017, Montmartre, SK

The wind was playing havoc with the air currents between the coyote and the trees on the southwest corner of our land when the coyote crossed that portion. By that time I was standing on my porch and it stopped to get a look at me before continuing his trot to points west.

Coyote, March 24, 2017, Montmartre, SK

While washing dishes the next day, I looked out the window and saw a mouse darting out of a snow tunnel near the feeder stand. He latched onto a food particle, spent a couple minutes devouring it, then darted back into the tunnel. A small flock of migrating juncos landed and then hopped about feeding on dropped seeds. During one of the rodent's forays, I snapped this shot to use as a size comparison between the two amicable species.

Dark-eyed Junco and Mouse, March 25, 2017, Montmartre, SK

March 26 was a Sunday which gave us the chance to check out migrating waterfowl in the sloughs along the way. We saw Canada Geese and Mallards, and a special treat in the form of a regal pair of Northern Pintails.

Canada Goose and Northern Pintails, March 26, 2017, Mutrie, SK

A few hours later, I saw a Downy Woodpecker on the power pole beside this feeder full of Niger seeds. She spent some time on the side of the pole, and up near the top, and then finally flew down and latched onto the feeder. She hung there and ate for a long time while the feeder swung in the wind like a pendulum.

Downy Woodpecker, March 26, 2017, Montmartre, SK

After supper of the same Sunday, we saw the first American Robin of the season. I played with the settings to mute the branches in the photograph so that the robin as well as the caption were more visible, and then I explained how I did it on my photo blog.

American Robin, March 26, 2017, Montmartre, SK

European starlings usually come through this time of year in a mixed flock with Robins, Red-wing Blackbirds, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, but this year a small flock of about half a dozen starlings were by themselves. They came on the worst weather days and so I didn't get a photo of them, but because they are so unusual, I'm providing a photo I took of one two years ago:

European Starling, April 2, 2015, Montmartre, SK

Flocks of snow geese also came through, flying high above our heads, including this fabulous formation taken by Nelson.

Snow Geese, Southeastern Saskatchewan, March 29, 2017

During March we also saw:

  • A Hawk in a blizzard on Mar 3
  • Another Coyote on Mar 20
  • Tree Sparrow on Mar 26 
  • Mallards on Mar 26
  • Moose on Mar 28
  • Horned Lark on Mar 29
  • Red-winged Blackbirds on Mar 30
  • *Black-billed Magpies
  • *House Sparrows

* Year-round residents at Draper's Acres

From our photo files, it appears that the migrating birds arrived one week earlier than last year, but it was a weird month as you'll see when the next Nature Watch post goes up here at Draper's Acres. We hope you'll check it out.

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?