Autumn Skies Colour Palette
from Whitehorse, Yukon to the Rocky Mountains to northern Quebec
Autumn skies lure venturesome folks to the forests and streams and mountains and roadways this time of year. It is annual pilgrimage time and everyone is in search of colour. Nature dresses up the landscape for another showstopper season. Colours that pop with the post summer cool down when the autumn skies are bluest. Red, orange and yellow against azul skies. Even mother nature knows that complementary colours, opposite positions on the colour wheel, catch the human interest. Every day the blends evolve, meld, and transition into a new canvas.
Depending on where you live the experience may differ in palette but always thrills. Within a mere hours drive north of Montreal, Quebec lies a haven of lakes and streams with a multicoloured Appalachian mountain backdrop. In the east you can find the much sought after crimson reds. On the western prairies nature sticks to an analogous palette, primarily tones of yellow and orange with different values. On the west coast the big leaf maples wield the largest brushes. If you want to venture north where autumn takes on the coloured dress earlier look for brighter bluer skies to show off the colours. Even for those who prefer or can’t get off the beaten path most are accessible from the roadside. Midweek, you are in deserted territory. So what are you waiting for?
For more on autumnal musings, see also:
Joshua Trees Weather California Desert Storms
If you like trees, you will like Joshua Tree National Park.
Trees are the main act at this place. And they put on a unique performance from a surreal stage.
Joshua Tree is the place to be for unique trees. They are stalwarts of stability in a world of change. These trees only grow in one part of the world, abundant as they are in the park and surrounds. Craggy and prickly to ward off the unsuspecting, but are they weak and spindly? Not at all. Standing, sitting, leaning, reaching, bending, living, dying, all are represented in a unique California desertscape. Biblical and solitary they exude an otherworldly aura.
They stand out on their own against the weather gods. Withstanding the elements, snuggled into destitute rock niches and narrow slats. Not only in appearance but also in their ability to thrive in this harsh and formidable physical landscape. Where few others can barely perform, these nature specimens dance. The American southwest can punch up formidable temperatures in the summer and the winters can edge into freezing. This intimate corner has trees adapted for the elements though. When a desert bluster moves in, the sands swirl, and the Joshua Tree digs in. After all, they have been here for thousands of years.
Freshly jumped out of a Dr Seuss text? Maybe. But these are no childhood fantasies. They are the real thing.
For more on Joshua Tree National Park and trees, see also:
All Creatures Great and Small
at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
We know who the great creatures are at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. Bucks accompanied by does and even fawns, the occasional coyote. And, flying by, the big birds, hawks, owls and osprey. But what about the far more secretive yet abundant small ones? A diverse group of songbirds make their home at the park in the summer. They migrate up from southern climes to breed and feed off insects and other northern hemisphere delicacies.
In Alberta, Clay-coloured Sparrows’ most common occurrence is in the prairies and parklands, not treed areas. A walk along a park trail can have them flitting out of the grasses every hundred feet. Listen for the insect-like buzzy calls of the male Clay-colored Sparrows from May through July. They can be distinguished from some other sparrows commonly found at Glenbow, the Vesper and Savannah, by their relatively unstriped buff breast. They search out insects in the shrubbery and seeds in the grass. Nesting habitat is typically a shrubby area with wild grass, situating the nest on the ground or in a low shrub above ground. They build open cup nests out of grass, weeds and twigs, lining it with rootlets, fine grass, and hair. This is another reason to keep dogs on leash in the park to avoid disturbing these or any wildlife shelter.
Spring after spring, Mountain Bluebirds return to nest boxes placed at strategic locations in the park. They can arrive in Alberta as early as March while fall migration for many migratory birds is an extended affair from mid-August to late October. Bluebirds can’t resist the open country with occasional trees for shelter offered at the park.
As members of the Thrush Family (such as American Robins) they feed mainly on insects, spiders or other invertebrates, which they glean from short ground vegetation. Nest boxes are paired, with Tree Swallows often taking one box, and the bluebird occupying the other. The former seeks out insects flying high and the Bluebird will not compete with its ground watch. Unlike other Bluebirds, they often hunt by hovering, obviously inspecting the ground below for any potential food item. The striking turquoise blue is unmatched against the prairie setting.
The next time you see an insect at the park think of the food source and protection it is offering our beloved small avian creatures.
For these and other nature sightings at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, see also:
Canadian National Animal
Canada’s national mammal, the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) is prepared for the job.
Dressed up in a slick fur coat, this furry creature is amply armed for a night out after a day of damming up the local slough or felling wetland poplars. Anywhere in Canada that has water from sea to sea to sea and all of the wetlands in between are beaver chomping grounds. With a lot of territory to cover under diverse conditions it needs more than a thick skin to represent nationally.
You may not know our soft coated mascot beyond the destructive nature of the North American Beaver:
They have Eurasian relatives and introduced South American ones.
Their kids, called “kits” hang around for two years picking up survival tips from their sage parents. They mate for life. Everyone likes a steady soul.
They can be destructive with tree kills but they supplement with cattails and other water vegetation necessary for wetlands.
Dams are predator protection. Who are they trying to keep away from? Wolves, bears and coyotes primarily.
What self respecting national mammal doesn’t like the publicity of world fame. The world’s largest beaver dam is in Wood Buffalo National Park. It is twice the width of Hoover Dam.
They were nearly extirpated during the fur trade era. It seems it was not just the beaver who liked their cozy fur to cuddle up in. Before that they lived form the arctic to Mexico.
They are smart architects. Dam building requires planning and unique adaptations such as paddles.
Beaver trade is intricately woven into the history and colonization of North America. So as this Canada 150 anniversary rolls along, be sure to salute our national mammal, busying itself in the wetlands and streams and the occasionally park, steadfast and progressive, forging into the future together. We are a better nation because of it.
Occasionally beaver flex their power (see wedding article below).
For more on Canadian wildlife and the North American Beaver, see also: