Yellow Lady Slipper, Prairie Wildflower
Earth laughs in flowers
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Meet Our Lady Dressed In Yellow! The Canadian prairie Foothills is showing off yellow lady slippers in all of their finery, Cypripedium parviflorum, a wildflower extraordinaire from the Orchid Family.
When fully dressed they expose a display of yellow with red interior accents. Like other orchids, each flower has three petals and sepals. The name ” slipper” comes from the bulbous shape, common among orchids. These perennials hang out in a variety of North American habitats, but stalk softly, so as not to disturb, if you are trying to track them down. These hardy specimens can withstand deep freeze temperatures of minus twenty and then show up in spring while there is plenty of moisture and cool temperatures. This is a perfect habitat for the brief appearance of this exotic wildflower, withering by late spring, they make way for other hardy species that thrive in the blistering heat and relentless prairie afternoon winds of mid-summer.
For more on prairie floral display see:
Foxy Photography – The Wily Ways of the Red Fox
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) is one of the most widely distributed mammals throughout the world, occurring naturally in four continents. In North America they range from northern Mexico to the high arctic.
Northern red fox populations lead primarily nocturnal lives, using dens made by other animals in open fields or brush for shelter during severe weather and rearing young. They breed from February to April. Monogamous males supply food to females up to and after birthing, otherwise leaving the female alone with the young (also called “kits” or “pups”) in a “maternity den”. Foxes are omnivorous, opportunistic predators and can be found foraging in fields, brush, ditches and forest, eating whatever is available from insects and berries to small mammals, eggs and game birds, sometimes carrion. An average litter size is five kits, but may be as large as 13 so do not be surprised when young foxes continue to appear. In the early spring and summer red foxes of all ages will be more visible than at any other time of year.
After five weeks the young are weaned and moved to a larger den at least once and maybe several times. This den switching can sometimes stump the fox chaser as to their current location. There is increasing activity in the vicinity of the “foxhole” as the kits advance on their first exploratory steps, by ten weeks they are fully weaned and, after a brief “training period”, they disperse around 15 weeks of age reaching maturity at 6 months. Busy parents are out and about scrambling for food full time for the group well into the summer while inquisitive kits are learning the ways of the natural world. Kits will spend their early days very close to the entrance inspecting their immediate surrounds, pouncing on insects, scratching at vegetation, biting feathers from last night’s mallard meal, sniffing dandelions and climbing all over each other when they aren’t catching a snooze. Kit interaction can be some of the most rewarding study in animal behaviour with a front row ticket. The animals can become so comfortable that “life rolls along” – jumping, scratching, chasing, pouncing, biting, fighting, licking and sometimes peacefully sitting or lying together. It will be all one can do to stop smiling at their antics.
Young kits don’t usually emerge from the hole until later in the morning after which time the patient observer may be treated to an array of activities. Older kits may be out earlier and for longer periods of time learning hunting routines while the runt is still unwilling to leave the den. Young foxes will often look off in the same direction from the den site, a clue as to the direction of a watchful parent. The emergence stage can be the most predictable as to the whereabouts of the entire group until independent kits venture away. Soon the most daring will venture away from the den, which will continue to be active until the last kit gains enough confidence to leave. They may continue to linger around the site but not as predictably as when they first ventured out.
Their versatility, wide availability and charming qualities have Red Foxes, young and old, on most nature watcher’s “wish list”. Their preference for a wide range of habitats has them homesteading in parks, residential neighbourhoods and urban natural spaces, as well as uninhabited environments. Their wily, foxy ways and being habituated to human routines, leaves most nature seekers with only the evidence of their presence. When your daily routine crosses a Red Foxes routine, adult or kit, the only result is charm and delight, unless of course you own a chicken coop!
For more on North American wild, see also:
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park Spring 2014
To some, the prairie spring vista can be uninspiring. To others it is just plain tiring as the rest of the world experiences daffodils that aren’t deluded by a spring snowfall, green grass that isn’t denuded by frosty temperatures and a big sky that threatens snowfall (again!). Spring is a long journey of frozen precipitation playing checkerboard with “here today-gone in an hour” sunshine, often in the same day. Hope and expectation fizzled.
As winter’s monochromatic palette lingers into the season that conjures up emergent botanicals, drab foliage and empty branches continue in their state of wanting. The world’s universal natural vitamin D source is as lacking as the corresponding intensity of heat. The clutch of winter drags on into April and May; temperatures remain low and dribbles of slushy snow dampen, yet again, the dead landscape and the spirits of winter survivors longing for the next season with all of its promise. Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is approximately 3500 acres of prairie grassland preserved just west of Calgary, Alberta. A walk through the all-season park in the late spring afternoon (that is, late May) offers up the warmth of the solar strength just before it lowers below the still seemingly frozen horizon. And then, without notice, summer descends. Hope and expectation rekindled.
It was a long prairie winter but spring is here. The park is a working ranch complete with cattle and fence lines and cowpies along with trees and trails and deer. Keep your eyes open and watch your step when roaming on this unique landscape.
For more on Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, see:
Glenbow Ranch, A Kaleidoscope of Summer Colour, Part II
Kodacolor, come hither, to big sky country west of Calgary with its unfailing blue by day, wispy cloud cover by afternoon and lingering sweet hour sunsets. Emerald green meadows aren’t the typical western Canadian prairie fare but this summer they are on the menu sprinkled with wild flora faces. There is no doubt, pounding spring rains can leave destruction in their wake, but, by contrast, a summer trickle settles the dust on a warm prairie evening refreshing the land with welcome reassurance that all is well with the grand old dame, Mother Nature.