Goodbye Canon, Hello Sony

You’re taking pics. You’re lining  up great shots. You’re in the zone then … zzziiittt. Huh? What the heck is happening?

Turns out that what-the-heck is a camera lens that won’t retract. How the #$@% did that happen?

I tried everything to get it working again. Then finally realized that like my old pal, Olympus, my Canon was beyond repair. At least by me. I was in shock. Me? Without a camera? Not a good thing. Not good at all.

Then Serendipity stepped in. (I must say she arrived at the most opportune time.) My friend, Jeff, offered to send me his mirrorless Sony A6000, with lenses. Wow.

Having vowed, repeatedly, that I did not want to get caught up in lenses and camera bags and toting “stuff” again, I began to weaken.

I fell in love with that Sony. (Okay, I may as well admit it: I caved and bought myself one. With a telephoto lens. And when the purse strings weaken I’ll get a macro lens too. Oh, woman, thou art so easily swayed.)

I’ll get in touch with Canon and see what, if anything, can be done for my long-time lens-plagued companion. In the meantime, Sony & I will be outside getting acquainted.

Cows & Conifers

Puts cows and spruce trees together for any length of time and this is what you get — trunks pruned of branches and bark rubbed smooth.

In pastures with few trees the damage is even greater for it’s here the cattle gather when sun beats down, when rain and hail pelt them, when snow falls thick and fast.

The earth also suffers as their hooves churn the soil to dust or mud holes or frozen lumps, depending on the season. Little can grow under such a pounding.

All part of the price of hamburger and steaks.

Closed for the Season

First snowfall of the season arrived yesterday. Not a lot. Just enough to let us know that winter has checked its bags and is on its way south.

A walk along the fence line revealed that many local inhabitants have already hunkered down.

On sunny days just a week or so ago, wood ants in this ant hill still foraged outside for food. Now all is quiet, muffled beneath the white.


Wood ants   Formica spp.

Sapsucker Sap Wells

 

Okay, say that title 5 times without tripping over your tongue.

Sapsuckers do, indeed, suck sap. It’s their main food source, though they also dine on insects, especially ones attracted to sap.

Sap wells are the holes that yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill into live trees. Once you’ve seen sap wells, you can’t mistake the lines of organized holes for anything else.

In the spring sapsuckers drill deep round holes (into the tree’s xylem for the botanically inclined) to catch the sap rising from the roots up to the branches.

Later, after the tree has leafed out, they drill shallow, rectangular holes (into the phloem) to catch the sap being sent down the tree to be stored in the roots.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are frequent visitors to our yard. For years they have dined on the sap from lilac, saskatoon and mountain ash.

This year, for the first time, I caught a sapsucker family feeding on a large aspen.

Search YouTube if you’d like to see these suckers in action. 🙂


Yellow-bellied sapsucker   Sphyrapicus varius
Aspen   Populus tremuloides

Whose Bones?

As I followed a narrow trail not far from the red squirrel penthouse  a flash of white caught my eye.  A small skull, about 7 cm long (2.7 in), lay in the deep moss, a few vertebrae loose behind it. The two halves of the lower jaw, just centimetres away, were almost buried in the soft green.

The remains had lain there for some time, all flesh gone, bleached by air and wind and dappled sun.

Who died? I found no other remains but the skull was enough.

Its sharp teeth — including “Dracula” incisors — said carnivore. But who? The shape and size narrowed it down to a member of the weasel family. Even that is a big group — weasels, mink, otters, fishers, wolverines, skunks, badgers, martens and black-footed ferrets.

I know the predators who live in our woods so that eliminated some of the weasel clan. My book of skull drawings and a quick check online gave me the answer: a marten (aka pine marten aka American pine marten).

About the size of a house cat, martens are highly adapted to life in the forest. They’re fast, sleek and skilled at climbing. We once watched a life-and-death chase between a marten and a red squirrel in our yard. They were a blur of fur going up, down and around the spruce trees, leaping from branch to branch and tree to tree.

After several minutes the chase moved from our yard further into the woods. I’m not sure how it ended but it was one of those I-don’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing  moments.

Google “images pine marten” to see what they look like.


Marten   Martes americana
Red squirrel   Tamiasciuris hudsonicus

Stumped

Over the years numerous red squirrels have staked their claim to this large stump and the midden that surrounds it. Middens and squirrels are common in our woods but this arrangement is different from most.

I spotted the cone pile first, right on top. An odd choice as cones are usually stored underground.

Alongside the cones was another surprise — a nest of dried grass and moss. And sitting in the nest, the current owner, with a great view of the neighbourhood.

On rainy days, the owner is absent so perhaps he (or she) is tucked down in the midden, safe and dry.


Red squirrel   Tamiasciuris hudsonicus
White spruce   Picea glauca

Squirrely

I was walking on moss between the trees. Especially quiet I guess. Suddenly the air exploded — I’d surprised a red squirrel who let off a torrent of verbal abuse.

I stood still and spoke softly. It took a few moments of one-sided conversation but curiousity got the better of the young squirrel. He (or  she?) came closer. And closer.

Finally, figuring I posed no threat, he went back to what he was doing before I’d interrupted. But the “what” puzzled me.

After several minutes I realized he was chewing off all the twigs and sharp branch ends along the fallen spruce, making a path the length of the tree. You need a clear get-away if danger is chasing you.

Clever fellow, that squirrel.


Red squirrel   Tamiasciuris hudsonicus
White spruce   Picea glauca