Sunday, April 22, 2012

Farewell to the ptarmigan

To all things there is a season, and one of the sad parts of the spring season in Yellowknife is bidding farewell to the ptarmigan.

It's been a great winter for ptarmis in these parts - thirty or forty have been making the rounds of the neighbourhood, going from bird feeder to bird feeder. In our backyard they've been grazing cheek by jowl with the LBBs (little brown birds), who are a fraction of their size. Sometimes they swoop in on the wing (a rare occurrence, given their preference for walking); more often they scurry across the street for a quick nosh at our place (see photo below of ptarmi in mid-scurry) before scuttling up the hill in our backyard, heading for their next port of call. They can really pound down the snow - it's like there's a ptarmigan superhighway along the side of our house.

I've spent hours watching them in the backyard, listening to their honks and squawks, tsk-tsking when the mean ones chase their compatriots away from patches of prime bird seed. I've hit the brakes while whipping around the corner in the vehicle, to find a flock of them nonchalantly gravelling in the middle of the road. Last Tuesday I walked out of the house for my morning hike to the office, and there was a row of them on the little hill across the street. One of them honked at me. I smiled and continued on my way. It was the last I saw of them.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Official photographer to the northern lights?

After years of believing I needed a high-end camera to capture the northern lights, it turns out that my little Panasonic will do the job with some patience and (preferably) a tripod.

We were out at Blachford Lake Lodge a few days ago, and it was not until the last night that the Director of Photography (Pierre) showed me the essential settings. I got the photo above by propping my camera on one of the deck railings at the lodge. Next time I'll be porting along a tripod. The quintessential aurora photo will be my next photographic Holy Grail - I'm still working on the perfect dog sled photo.

During daylight hours, I went on some of my favourite tromps - hiked the four-kilometre trail, and climbed the hill on the island across from the lodge. Here's a shot of the trail up to the top of the hill. A bit of a slog: some serious trail-breaking was required and the final push to the summit just about finished me. The reward was a great view of the lake and the lodge across the way.