Author: jd

Where Half the World is Made of Sky

Cross Canada Chronicles – III An ancient land June 9: This isn’t the Saskatchewan you know. This isn’t the Saskatchewan of endless wheat fields and grain elevators and long freight trains. This is the original Saskatchewan. This is the ancient prairie before settlers and machines moved in and transformed the land. This is Grasslands National Park. Where bison roam. And prairie dogs play. The way they used to. It’s one of the few remaining places on the planet where the original prairie habitat still exists. The untrained eye misses, at first, the extraordinary diversity here. But walk this land...

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Manitoba Marshland Birds

Cross Canada Chronicles – II The Delta Marshes June 6: If you thought the prairies were nothing but, well, prairie, think again. Manitoba has a couple of large lakes, one of which, Lake Manitoba, has extensive marshlands on the south end, a magnet for birds of all kinds. On this hot, sunny June day, I spent the afternoon at the Delta marshes. I was a little late for the spring migrations—the delta is a major staging area— but there was still plenty of action. Common Terns: Aerial Acrobats Dozens of these striking birds were out on their daily hunt...

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Up and over Gicheegoomee

(Drive-by impressions of Canada during a cross-continent trip on this, her 150th birthday.)  The Astrolabe June 2: I’ve passed it dozens of times. Never gave it the slightest notice. But today, barely an hour out of Ottawa, barely with the first of many Tim Hortons under the belt, barely 0.1 % into my trip to the west coast, my eye catches the old stone marker at roadside. I stop to take a closer look. A thin coating of moss gives it an olden,  neglected look. But it does have an inscription. And the inscription tells of one one of...

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Birds of the Shore

Down in Puerto Vallarta earlier this year: These Western Sandpipers spend most of the day scurrying up and down the shore in search of food . . . . . . for no apparent reason whatsoever, the sandpipers will suddenly take to the air, all at the same time, twisting and turning in unison with a precision and timing that would suggest a single organism. One of many willets along the beach. I believe this to be a juvenile. A short walk down the beach delivers an amazing variety of shore birds. This is a whimbrel. And this is...

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The Fisherman

Down in Puerto Vallarta earlier this year, I happened on a fisherman out early on his rounds. He had positioned himself just off a sandbank, taking full advantage of the ocean swells to deliver the catch to him. The scene, on that bright sunny morning, was one of timelessness. For how many thousands—tens of thousands—of years, have humans engaged in this simple activity? Anthropologists say 40,000 years at least, perhaps more. The scene was also one of simplicity. Not for this fisherman the factory trawlers, ravaging the ocean bottom and every living thing in their wake. So the scene...

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