SNOW seen in Ottawa

On my way back to Ottawa, I learned there was a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) seen in Peterborough near where I used to live, so I was quite disappointed that I did not hear about this news sooner during my time in Peterborough.  Once I got back to Ottawa, I started searching for information on owl sightings here.  I know Snowy Owls visit Ottawa because I saw them here last winter.

Information about owl sightings is usually very secretive among naturalist groups because of the human disturbances to wildlife and private property (which I totally agree).  Observing wildlife in their habitat is a great way for people to learn about nature, but it is importance to treat wildlife as other human beings and keep a respectful, non-disruptive distance because I doubt most people would like it when others start to invade their personal space.  The Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club has listed code of conduct and ethics here

Nonetheless, there are usually some clues left on internet (e.g., eBird, Flickr, general news media) that give people an idea of where to look for them.  Then the rest is just being at the right place at the right time.  I followed this news article, and looked for owls south of the airport today.  It took me some searching, but I eventually saw this Snowy Owl about 200-m away from where I stood.

This was as far as I could get with my 70-300 lens (i.e., 140-600 lens).

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus)
Sitting and watching around.

Three crows briefly mobbed it while they flew by but the owl stayed still.  It flew to a hay bale shortly after I walked to another spot.

Such a beautiful creature!


Final holiday update - Mudppy Night in Oxford Mills

One of the several reasons I came back to Peterborough this holiday season was to go to Mudpuppy Night (happening every Friday at 8 PM starting with the first Friday after Thanksgiving) with friends from Peterborough.  I don't remember exactly how I come across information about this event (probably from reading someone's blog post, such as this), but it is something I want to do for a while now. 

On Friday afternoon, we started our journey from Peterborough, and we couldn't had asked for a better weather with just a few degrees below zero.

Rural lifestyle
View from the farm where we dropped Bronte off for the night.

We arrived at Kemptville Creek (near the intersection of Water and Bridge Streets) just around 8 PM and was greeted by the starry sky.  If you Google" mudpuppy" and "Oxford Mills", you'd be certain to come across a lot of information about Mudpuppies (Necturus maculosus), so I won't really go into it here (e.g., this and this).  But if I have describe this place in one word, I'd say it is special (or two words - very special).  There are a lot of places with similar conditions (shallow, rocky, clean, and relatively slow-flowing water), but to have tens of wild salamanders right in front of you, I doubt there is another place like it in Canada (or perhaps even North America).  Plus, Dr. Fred Scheuler is a very knowledge expert on Mudpuppies, so coming here, seeing the Mudpuppies in-person, and talking with Fred is the only reasonable way to learn about Mudpuppies.

[Photo series] Black dog in a white landscape

As mentioned before, I took care of my friend's pets during my time in Peterborough.  Since I took the dog (Bronte) out walking everyday and couldn't see anything (exciting) to photograph, I ended up taking a lot of photos of Bronte playing and just being a dog in the snow.  There were a lot of photos, so I compiled them all into this one post.

Sticks.  Bronte just love sticks.

Holiday update #3

I just returned back to Ottawa around midnight today, after spending a couple of hours driving from Peterborough and "mudpuppying".  I will post about it shortly, but here are three of the photos I took on Christmas and Boxing Day.

Morning snowy shadows

Silence of the wintery forest
Snowy walk to school

Found another dead honey bee on the snow.  Rest in peace.  [Note: I just found this YouTube video and blog explaining that living bees perform cleansing flights in the winter to remove dead bees (from both natural and unnatural causes) from the hive.  All part of the nature's ingenious design to keep everything in balance.]


Holiday season update #2 from Peterborough

Hope everyone had a spectacular Christmas day.  This is another photographic update from the past few days.  I was busy cooking a turkey (for the first time) yesterday so I didn't get any chance to sort through yesterday's photos.

December 22nd (Sunday) - I shoveled snow in the driveway and was exhausted in the end to walk to school just for using internet.  I took the dog out for few short walks and that was about it.

Kami the cat
Kami the cat.


Happy holidays & Update from Peterborough

Happy holidays to everyone!  I returned to Peterborough last Wednesday to stay at a friend's house to take care of her pets while she's away for Christmas break.  The wifi access is limited at her place, so I walked to school almost everyday (with the dog) to use internet.  I am still taking photos everyday, but uploading them won't happen immediately, hence there are a lot of photos in this (and upcoming) posts spanning several days.

Merry Christmas
A festive photo from Ottawa two Sundays ago.


Pileated Woodpecker in McCarthy Woods

I went out for a walk this afternoon after working in my room all day, and wow, was it cold when I stepped outside (-35 degrees Celsius and frostbite warning, apparently)!  I went to a forest near by called McCarthy Woods, and saw a large murder of crows, one nuthatch, some chickadees, a few squirrels, and caught a glimpse of a woodpecker flying away.  It was so cold that I had no motivation to take out my camera from my backpack and take pictures.

It wasn't until near the end of my walk when I heard something knocking on a tree near me.  I looked around until I realized there was a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) on the tree right next to me.  I was very excited because this will be my first time properly seeing and photographing a Pileated Woodpcker (if I don't scare it away first).  My previous attempts at photographing this species are pretty pathetic, if I must say so, for example this and this.  So I slowly and stiffly (from the cold) took out my camera and snapped away.

Right on top of me.


Holiday season in downtown Ottawa

People who have followed my blog for a while will know that I like to photograph Christmas decorations and lights during this time of the year.  In previous years, I usually fly back to BC at this time of the year, but this year, I will be spending my time here in Ontario and getting ready for my Ph.D and working on my manuscripts.

Nonetheless, I still keep an eye out for place with interesting Christmas decorations and lights, and this particular blog provides excellent information and images for such a thing.  I left my office this afternoon and headed towards Parliament Hill to take some photos.

Hint of Christmas in downtown Ottawa
I was a bit early so it was not dark yet.


Mud Lake, Ottawa

Last night, my landlord hosted a Christmas party at her/my place, so I didn't go out until this afternoon.  I searched online to see where popular bird-watching spots are and decided to go out to where I went almost two years ago (and saw waxwings).  The spot is called Mud Lake, near the Britannia Yacht Club.

Mud Lake, Britannia
Since the lake was frozen, the Mallards had limited choices of where to go.


Frog-eating Mallard at Brewer Park

I took care of some business at the bank this morning at Billings Bridge Shopping Centre, and then I went to Brewer Park nearby (across from Carleton University) because the weather was nice.

Icy river
Ice forming on the Rideau River.


Strathcona Park, Ottawa

I had a productive meeting with my supervisor this morning.  During lunchtime, I went out for a walk to Strathcona Park.  There are a lot of embassies in the area, and because late Nelson Mandela passed away yesterday there were many flags outside embassies flying half-mast.

Not an embassy, but an interesting-looking apartment building.


Being a tourist in Ottawa

One thing I enjoy about being in Ottawa is that there are so many interesting things to see and photograph.  I bused to downtown today to get next month's bus pass and then I wandered around and took photos.

Parliament and Rideau Canal
Parliament Hill and Rideau Canal


Bird-watching before Ottawa's first 2013 winterstorm

Before heavy snow started to fall yesterday afternoon, I went out to Mooney's Bay Park, a 45-minute walk from where I now live, to do some bird-watching.


With the city in the background, this scenery reminds me of being in Vancouver.


Moving from Peterborough to Ottawa

I officially moved to Ottawa on Friday, thanks to my parents who flew from BC to Ontario to help me move.

Here are some photos from the past few days.

On Wednesday (Nov 20), while bored from packing, I looked at the wasp nest next to the house and found that all of the wasps were dead (probably from the cold) and so I took the nest out of the crevice.

Close-up on the nest.


Next steps in life

32 months after receiving my admission into Trent University as a M.Sc student, I (finally) received an e-mail yesterday admitting me into the Ph.D. program at the University of Ottawa.  Just two days before me moving to Ottawa, no less.  Better late than never, I suppose.

It's always exciting to start a new path in life, despite how much I dislike packing, moving, and unpacking.

On a very sad note, one of my friends lost her father about this time last month, and today I got an e-mail saying that another friend lost her mother yesterday.  I try to maintain a biological perspective about life and death, but it is very difficult, especially knowing that members in my own family are not getting any younger or stronger. 

There is always one more step after the next, but no one knows which direction it will take you...


Hasta la vista, Peterborough

This weekend will be my last official weekend here in Peterborough.  This time next week, I will be trying to get settled in Ottawa.  This past two and half years in Peterborough have definitely brought me memorable experiences - mostly good but also some sad memories.  I have traveled enough and met enough people since my undergraduate years to know that partings are eventual and inevitable, whether they are family, friends, or just acquaintances; therefore, the best thing to do is to look forward to the future and treasure the past (as I have tried to do with this blog).

Yesterday, I hanged out with friends for one last field outing and (potluck) dinner together.

Haven't photographed sunset in a while.


Trip to Ottawa

I just returned from a five-day trip in Ottawa where I looked for a place to move into next week, visited the professor whom I will be working for, and took care of some administrative stuff for my admission to the University of Ottawa.

I arrived on Friday evening and I spent the entire Saturday looking at (three) different places and decided on one later that day.  Then I headed over to the chosen place on Sunday morning to hand in a deposit for the place.  Afterwards, I bused to downtown to take a break and took some photos.

National Gallery of Canada.  As you can probably tell, the weather was kind of crappy that day.  Definitely visiting this place at least a few times for the next few years.


Oil Beetle and Heron

Walked to school today and came across these wildlife.

First was an Oil Beetle (Meloe sp.), the second straight day of finding an insect that can potentially harm humans.  When disturbed, they will emit an oily substance from their leg joints and cause skin blister and painful swelling.



Woodpecker and Water Bug

While walking along the path next to the Athletic Centre at Trent this morning, I saw a Hairy Woodpecker pecking away.  I only had my point and shoot with me, so I took a video.

Went out for a walk around the school building in the afternoon and I saw a giant water bug (Family Belostomatidae) crossing the parking lot.  I picked it up (while avoiding its proboscis) and decided to bring it home to get a photo of it.


While in my room, it started flying towards the light.  Feeling bad for it (and being kind of nervous of a large-sized insect with a nasty bite flying around in my room), I let it go right after.  Very cool encounter though.


Life in Peterborough winding down

As my work here at Trent winds down, I have a very very very busy month ahead of me as I have to pack, find housing in Ottawa, and then move there, all the while arrange for my parents to travel from BC and Ontario (because they want to help me move).  I'm up to my ears in searching for housings, car rentals, travel and accommodations for my parents; therefore, I may disappear for a week or a month.

The poor weather this past week did not help with my stress, until today when the sun came out.  I decided to bike to school and visited the Trent's Wildlife Sanctuary (probably one last time).  Sigh.

Foams on the Otonabee River.


NSWO banding (Year 3)

Here are some photos from last night's Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) banding.  It was my fourth time doing it (first, second, and third time), but I still feel excited to find owls on the mist nets whenever we go out and check the nets.

The progress so far this year, not as productive as last year.


Guelph University & The Arboretum - Part 2

It was rainy and cold on Monday, so I attended the conference throughout the day.

My presentation took place on Tuesday, and in the afternoon I went the Arboretum again to get some fresh air.

A peaceful place to settle one's mind.

Guelph University & The Arboretum - Part 1

When I arrived at Guelph on Sunday afternoon, I first checked into the hotel, then headed to the university to get my registration kit.  Since the weather was not too bad, I decided to take some photos and tried to find the Arboretum.

Guelph University
This scenery reminded me of New Orleans, such as this image.


Random photos from walking to school

Walked to Trent today.

Parkway Trail
Walking along Parkway Trail.  Autumn is almost gone.


ESC-ESO 2013 Conference, Guelph (Oct 20 to 23)

I just returned from a four-day ESC-ESO conference at Guelph, and it was a great conference with excellent presentations and posters.  This conference also attracted a large number of CANPOLIN students showcasing their research on pollination, and it was great to see fellow peers whom I had met the past two years, but it was also bittersweet because this was the last official meeting for CANPOLIN members as the initiative comes to an end.

The conference also promoted the use of social media: Twitter: (#ESCJAM2013), YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIn22KYNkQI), and blogs (e.g., The Bug Geek, Ibycter, and The Boreal Beetle).  The conference also invited the well known insect photographer, Alex Wild, to teach a photography workshop and to speak to everyone at the banquet dinner about insect photography techniques - keep image simple (i.e., avoid messy background), light (know where your light sources are), tell a story, avoid centering the subject (i.e., follow rule of thirds), and patience.

My trip began with a six-hour Greyhound trip from Peterborough to Guelph (via Toronto) on Sunday morning.  I was unable to make the proper connection at Toronto so I ended up waiting in Toronto for two hours (which I used the time to check out cameras at BestBuy and had lunch at McDonald's).


Busy life...

One of the reasons I am extremely busy these days is that I am temporarily employed by my supervisor to analyze the data from my deceased labmate's project.  In the end, we will publish the results on her behalf with her being the first author.  I will also be presenting her research at the ESC-ESO conference next week at Guelph.

I walked to school yesterday to get feedback from my supervisors on the presentation slides.  I took some photos on the way there.

Maples leaves on the ground.


Apple cider making

This afternoon I was at a friend's house making apple cider and having Thanksgiving turkey dinner.  This was our first time making apple cider so it was quite interesting.  Here was how we made it.

Picked apples from tree.  It was raining out so I didn't take photos of us apple-picking.


(Long) walks around Peterborough and Trent

I have been very busy lately because I am working on my funding applications for my potential Ph.D. position due next week.  I took a little break on Thursday morning when I had to drive the lab vehicle to get serviced.  After dropping the truck off, I walked to Jackson Park to photograph the fall colours.

Autumn colours at Jackson Park
The colours were mostly here, although there were still some green leaves.


Sparrow, warbler, and a snake = good day

Came to school for a meeting today, and then I went behind the building to take some photos while eat my lunch.

Red leaves.


Windy day and cardinals behind the house

The weather has been pretty crappy since Saturday - windy, overcast and/or rainy.

The wind had blown down most of the leaves from this tree at the back of the house.  Too bad I don't have a "before" photo.


Aquatic plants in Pigeon Lake

This afternoon I had the fortunate opportunity to learn about identification of aquatic plants in Pigeon Lake from one of Trent's graduate students and a contributor of the guide "Aquatic Plants Guide: Aquatic plants in the Kawartha Lakes - their growth, importance and management".

An overcast day.


Wolf Lake, Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

A couple of friends and I went for a nice canoe paddle at Wolf Lake in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park today.  Our original destination was to portage to the adjacent Crab Lake, but we couldn't find the route so we ended up just paddling around the lake.

Entrance to Wolf Lake
We launched our canoe at this spot.


Check up on the fall colours at Jackson Park... not yet

While I was working from home today, I could hear the winds blowing quite fiercely.  Worried that the wind might blow down all the leaves from Jackson Park, I biked to the park after work.  When I got there, it appeared that most of the leaves still had not turned their colours yet (even though most of the trees on the streets are red by now).  I did a quick walk around the lake and headed back home for dinner right after.

Still green.


Beautiful Fall Colours in Algonquin

We left for Algonquin Park early this morning hoping to be there before most of the visitors arrive, but due to construction and like-minded people, the park was packed when we arrived.  As we slowly drove north from Peterborough, the fall colours did not change very much (even outside the park), but as we entered the park itself, the changes became evident and there were some leaves falling already.

We started off with hiking along the Peck Lake Trail.

Assortment of vibrant colours (pretty much the theme of today) - green conifer trees, yellow/orange/red deciduous trees, and blue sky/lake.


Cat and walk around neighbourhood

I am currently reading the blog posts by a Flickr photographer Crusade., who produces some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen.  This just makes me want to pick up my own camera and go outside and take photographs.  All the photos below were taken today with the OM 50 f1.4 lens.

Cat's nose
My landlord's cat, or his nose to be more specific.


No fall colours yet in Peterborough

I spent all morning and most of the afternoon yesterday at home working on data analyses.  Afterwards, I biked to Jackson Park to see if the fall colours have arrived or not, and then got some groceries on the way home.

Not yet, I'd say, compare to 2011 and 2012.


Critters behind DNA building

Just some photos I took behind the DNA building this afternoon when I came outside to eat my lunch.

First woolly bear I saw this season crossing the parking lot.  I saw a (squished) one while I was biking home later in the day.


Walked around the neighbourhood

The weather wasn't too great this weekend, so I mostly stayed at home and tried to get some work done.  I took a bit of a break this afternoon and walked around the part of my neighbourhood that is currently being build.

The pond from the other side.


Harvest Moon & Baby Snapping Turtle

I was at school last night trying to print off five copies of my thesis so that I can submit them this morning to the graduate office.

Harvest Moon
I had been watching the moon for the past few nights, and it was finally full!  It is also this year's Harvest Moon because it is closest to the autumnal equinox (September 22).  It is called the Harvest Moon because fruits and vegetables ripen near this time of the month (in the Northern Hemisphere), and back when there was no electricity, farmers would use the moonlight to harvest their crops.

Today, after photocopying a few more pages at school to have everything complete and ready, I saw this baby Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) on the path next to the river.  I quickly dropped everything and snapped many photos of it.


Canoeing along Otonabee in the evening

I sort of invited myself to a canoe ride along the Otonabee River this late afternoon.



Northern Walkingstick (Diapheromera femorata)

While opening the porch door this morning to get some fresh air, I noticed an insect on the screen door (aside from the usual jumping spiders).  It was some kind of a stick insect, so the first thing I did after getting out of bed was grabbing my camera and snapping some photos!  Stick insects are one of those groups of animals that most people (i.e., me) rarely seen because they are so well-camouflaged.  According to my blog tags, I only saw stick insects (in the wild) four times since I started this blog.  So today is lucky number 5!

After taking the photos and a quick Google search, I believe this is a Northern Walkingstick (Diapheromera femorata), the most common walkingsticks (Order Phasmida) in North America.  This species feeds on oaks, cherries, and black locust trees, which can be found in the little woodland behind my house.  Ms. Leckie posted about these insects before too (in greater detail).

This individual is 63 mm long (I just measured it because it is currently in my room) and missing one leg.


Lady Eaton Drumlin in late Summer

I had been busy this past week working on my thesis revisions, so I didn't really take any photos during the week.  It had also been relatively uneventful this week, aside from the fact that another graduate student in my lab successfully defended his Master research and we went out for lunch at a popular BBQ place in Keene, and then last night we had a post-defense party at my supervisor's place.  Weather-wise, it definitely feels that autumn is approaching (although it was really hot on Wednesday) with the evenings getting colder now.

On a somewhat unimportant note (to most people), Olympus announced the release of a new camera called E-M1 on Tuesday (news here).  As my Olympus E-620 DSLR is getting older, I am thinking about upgrading the equipment to improve my photography skills.  However, this new camera is very very expensive and I need to buy an addition adapter for my current lenses (which kind of defeats the purpose of using a small and lightweight system like Olympus).  So eventually I will be in a dilemma of continuing with the Olympus brand or switching to a new system (e.g., Nikon) that is more well-supported by the company and its customers. 

In the mean time, I will continue to enjoy my E-620 and the photos that I can get with it.  Today, I hiked around the Lady Eaton Drumlin before going to school to do some work, because I seriously needed to be outside and enjoyed nature a bit.

First wildlife I saw was a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens).


Prairie Day at Aldverille Black Oak Savannah

Prairie Day took place this morning at Alderville Black Oak Savannah, and I was asked to take photos of the event.  It was an entertaining event although the poor weather (overcast with some rainy periods) seemed to deter people from coming.

Volunteers in front of the building welcoming guests.
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