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:
Peddling Food In Old Hanoi Streets
The streets of Old Hanoi have everything for the commodity browser, and, for shopping ease, many products are mobile. At least the edible ones are. For your convenience, these goods can come to you or float past you for the taking. All you need to do is connect with the ladies. Holding a glance works best.
Lithe women, who would make most workout fiends jealous, balance limber poles and march around this old town flogging perishable goods in low open baskets. Everything from fruit to fried mysteries can be bargained for, once eye contact is made with one of these street mistresses. With shoulder muscles primed, the vendors are always keeping an eye out for a possible sale, chatting with their competitors, ever watchful for a stray motorcycle and, less likely these days, a manual cycle that could cause havoc to their schedule. These capable peddlers ferry their goods around the streets of Old Hanoi most waking hours. Unable to walk the cluttered sidewalks where spare space is usually taken up by parked motorbikes, a few suspect dark sedans and the patchwork that is left for local people to carry on important daily tasks like eating noodles anytime and all day long, the food convoys manipulate what is left of the street after cars and a myriad of motor bipeds take their share.
They are a variety of food trucking unto their own.
Madrid, Spain-Cover Your Drinks
The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb, tapar or “to cover”. According to “The Joy of Cooking” ( and who is going to argue with those fine foodie folks?) some time in the past, in Andalucia, southern Spain, small strips of meat or bread were used to cover sweet sherry drinks to prevent fruit flies from over whelming (or over swarming) the liquor. When other variations on this practise were added, the little drinking snacks we know of today became regionally popular in Spain.
Whatever the derivative of these tasty bits, the idea of encouraging conversation by removing the focus from a gargantuan meal, especially in an era where folks are submerged in an electronic device whenever they start or finish or are in the middle of consumption of anything, may save the fine art of convivial conversation. When you are experiencing these tasty tidbits in a cozy authentic Madrid eatery, bar, cerveseria, restaurante or whatever lured you from the street or onto the street, small chatting predominates. Do you get the picture? These snacking and drinking places are everywhere, they follow a very generic description and although the electronic glow still shines, the fine art of sharing an upfront, personal moment prevails.
Tea, Tea, Wonderful Tea – Munnar, Kerala, southern India
Tea. Not only is it a delight to drink, the blanket of cultivated tea makes an intense landscape. Even if you don’t imbibe in the drink you might want to gander at this locale in Kerala state of southern India; Emerald City has nothing on it.
The trip up follows the valleys and steep slopes of the Western Ghats gradually leaving the congested lowlands behind, making way for mist shrouded slopes. Flailing between the sides of your four-wheel drive as you climb and wind up the incline to 1600 m above the sea, try to keep your bouncing eye on the unfolding landscape where misty slopes caress the high altitude plantations kissed by bright blue skies.
No wonder the British sought out these metallic green hill stations as summer resorts. Not only was the vista invigorating and a respite from the heat below, the habit of a refreshing tea break can’t be all that bad. Let’s drink to that.
For more on southern India see http://heathersimondsphotography.com/2013/02/18/on-the-way-to-the-tea-plantations-kerala-india/