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Waterspout over the Caribbean Sea, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Waterspout over the Caribbean Sea, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

At 2:00 p.m. on February the 11th as I stood in the sunshine on the island of Cayman Brac, looking out over the Caribbean Sea, towards the island of Little Cayman I saw my first Tornado ever. What a cool sight to see. This type of tornado is actually called a waterspout. Waterspouts typically are very short lived with many lasting only 20 seconds or so and they are somewhat tame in comparison to tornadic waterspouts. By the time I grabbed my camera from the backpack this waterspout was already dissipating, but a few seconds earlier it was touching down on the ocean’s surface. Note the torrential rain on the right side of the composition. Either way, it was a good day to be on dry land :)

 

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As readers of this blog will remember, about a year and half ago I had the pleasure of photographing an unusually colored heron in Cuba’s Jardines del rey archipelago, an UNESCO World Biosphere, on the island of Cayo Santa Maria. My photos of this odd looking heron eventually made their way to Dr. James Kushlan of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Heron Specialist Group. It is believed that this heron  is either a melanistic or genetic variant of the Green Heron and is most likely the first record for such plumage in this species.

Below you will see the JPEG version from the latest issue of Conservator, a beautiful magazine that is published by Ducks Unlimited Canada  and sent out to those that hold a membership with Ducks Unlimited Canada. The most recent issue of the magazine began hitting the doorsteps of DUC members this week and features an InfoGraphic on my Melanistic Green Heron that I photographed in Cuba. The inset image shows a normally plumaged Green Heron that was also photogaphed in Cuba.

Please take a moment to check out the Ducks Unlimited Canada website particularly the page that celebrates their 75 Years of Conservation Excellence.  DUC has conserved 6.3 million acres and has completed 9,000 projects all aimed at conservation. That folks is an amazing track record don’t you think!

To see a larger version of this excerpt from the magazine do remember to click on the image.

 

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Green Frog (male)

The two images of the male Green Frog (Rana clamitans) may very well be the last frogs I will photograph in the vernal ponds behind my home. As followers of this blog know my home backs onto an abandoned cattle pasture which has several low lying areas that fill with rain water and snow melt, thus creating vernal ponds. These ponds are temporary and dry out by the end of summer, but they do hold water long enough for numerous species of frogs and toads to reproduce. According to my dear, elderly neighbors that arrived in Canada, from Germany many, many years ago after the war, the field has been laying fallow since about 1975. This 40 acre plot of abandoned agricultural land is used by many ground nesting songbirds such as Bobolink, Meadowlark, Horned Lark and Upland Sandpipers. Deep in the ground Chimney Crayfish await the rains to emerge and breed in the vernal ponds. Hawks, Owls, Fox , and Coyote hunt the Meadow Voles that inhabit the field also. During the winter months I take my daughter skating on the frozen pond. Most importantly though are the vast numbers of frogs and toads that arrive at the vernal ponds each spring to reproduce – a sight and sound to behold. Having sat in the ponds among the frogs and toads during peak chorus, I can honestly state that they are louder than any RAMONES concert I ever attended :) A truly remarkable experience, but…

Green Frog and Water Scorpion

It is with great sorrow that today I report on October the 18th this has been wiped out. The field was recently sold to a farmer that has cut down every tree that lined the field to open up more fields and has since tilled the soil for the planting of crops. This of course will mean more fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. I have always believed that this little corner of nature, located in Simcoe County, would one day be wiped out for either agriculture (it has always been zoned for agriculture) or housing developments, but I do wish I did not have to witness its destruction.With amphibian populations in serious decline around the globe, largely due to human impact, such loss of habitat, even on this small 40 acre plot of land, can yield a deadly blow to the local populations of frogs and toads.

I do hope that I am wrong, but I believe that in the fields behind my home, the Spring of 2013 will be the season without song. A sad, but all too familiar occurrence in the world that struck home on October 18, 2012. Below you will see the photos of how the field looks today.

In the photo above you are looking out over the field where each spring the largest vernal pond is to be found.

In the above photograph you are looking back toward my home, and again, across the field where additional ponds are found each spring. My home can be found immediately behind the trees on the right side of the image.

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Western Willet on Liebeck Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario

During my last trip up to the Parry Sound Region I decided it was time to take my 5 year old daughter on an excursion to Liebeck Lake. This is a small, cottageless lake found deep in the forest near the family cottage on Horseshoe Lake. A trail extends through the woods for roughly 3 kilometres before arriving at the lake and then the trail continues for about another kilometre as it follows the shoreline of the lake before it comes to an end at the Seguin Trail. Despite what you will read below we did have a wonderful time and my daughter was given the piggy-back ride all the way back to the cottage, which I promised her if she would walk all the way out to the lake with me.

Liebeck Lake is a beautiful lake and the water level of the lake is somewhat controlled by beaver dams. Once, about 10-15 years ago one of the dams sprung a leak and the water level dropped quite a bit. History repeated itself this year. During my visit to the lake with my daughter we were able to explore the newly exposed shoreline which is essentially a large mudflat now. While there I noticed a lone western willet feeding on the mudflat and shallows and I was able to get a few decent photos despite the relatively harsh lighting. When the lake level drops like this it exposes part of the areas history with the logging days of the late 1800s and early 1900s evident in the many dead-heads that are usually submerged when the lake levels are normal. These dead-heads tend to make interesting photo subjects themselves.

Please do remember to click on each of the photos to see a much larger, sharper version.

Dead-head on newly exposed shoreline of Liebeck Lake

Dead-heads on newly exposed shoreline of Liebeck Lake

A lovely trail leading us through the woods to a beautiful, quiet lake; the newly exposed shoreline covered with a multitude of Moose and Black Bear tracks and sandpipers arriving at the newly exposed mudflats to feast before continuing their migration south. Not so my friends! When I swing my camera to the left all you can see is a mudflat chewed up by thoughtless folks who have taken their ATVs out for a joy ride in the mud. The lovely quiet trail now looks more like a hideous logging road. Don’t get me wrong now…I have nothing against ATVs, they do serve a purpose but when the folks that drive them off through the woodland trails and wreck havoc on them or destroy shoreline habitat like you see in the photos below I get pissed off. Their are designated trails for ATVs and there are folks who abide them and respect nature and then there are the others…..

ATV damage on Liebeck Lake

What was once the lovely woodland trail to Liebeck Lake

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As I drove home from the Abitibi Canyon region of Ontario I headed south on Highway 144. A little bit north of Sudbury, near Halfway Lake Provincial Park, I came upon a large area of burnt forest. I had driven by it before, but never stopped to photograph it. This time I stopped to take a few shots and when I returned home I googled this area for forest fires. Several years ago, in May of  2007, a poorly extinguished camp fire would become known as “Sudbury Forest Fire #46″. An astonishing 590 hectares burned. What I found most intriguing here was all the White Pine trees seemed to have survived while the rest of the forest was destroyed by the fire. Upon researching this, I discovered that white pines can survive most surface fires due to their thick bark, mostly branch-free trunks, moderately deep root systems and needles with a relatively low resin content, making them less flammable.

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Here is another photograph of the Abitibi River. This image was shot just above the Abitibi Canyon Dam at dusk. In hindsight, I would have preferred to shoot this scene as a panoramic image, I think the river’s shoreline lends itself to a panorama composition. Next time I make the 14 hour drive to this location I will make a note to shoot a panoramic here. I enjoyed traveling to this remote location in Ontario’s boreal forest, however, signs of human activity were also abundant. As I drove along the Otter Rapids Road I past many clear-cut logging sites, that have scarred the boreal forest with left-over brush piles and cut trees discarded on the ground. To learn more about boreal forests and their significant importance click here and here.

Below is one such example of the abandoned clear-cut logging sites I encountered along the way.

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A couple of weeks ago when I turned on to our cottage’s driveway, in Ontario’s Muskoka Region, I was greeted by this sign placed by the local hydro utility. I was immediately irritated by what I consider to be not only a colossal waste of time and money, but a complete disregard for the environment in a time when we are suppose to be vigilant about saving our natural world from our destructive habits. The local hydro utility has also marked several trees to be removed at a later date. Many of these trees are large mature sugar maples, that are frequently used for nesting by rose-breasted grosbeaks, and also some large dead trees. Dead trees are an essential part of the forest’s ecosystem. Some of the trees that have been marked for removal are no threat to any of the hydro lines, but nonetheless they will be removed. I am certain, in some way, shape or form the the removal of these trees and the pesticides used to kill plant life (and who knows what else) around the hydro corridor will be reflected on our hydro bills. My hydro bill actually has a “debt retirement charge” on it. In a nut-shell, this means that I have to pay for their poor management and excessive severance packages. Not to mention the hydro workers I encountered at a small restaurant asking a waitress for some empty tubs so they could pick blackberries during working hours. I guess that must be written into their job description. I won’t be picking blackberries on our cottage property this year as this pesticide was also sprayed on our blackberry patch.

Can we please try a little harder to save our natural world!

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