Impressions of Autumn

More so than summer or winter, fall is a time of rapid change in the northern latitudes, especially in the long shadow of the Rockies.

Light disappears at both ends of the day. Colours abound. Rain drops freeze overnight and moths no longer come to the window.

Photographs of vivid sweeping landscapes are popular this time of year. As for me, I’m drawn to out-of-the-way spots where Autumn reveals herself in different ways.

Leaves on the forest floor

Dried grass in shadow and light

Wild rose leaves on the forest floor

Dried grass on the edge of the forest

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So. I’m working on my laptop when this largish beetle crawls down my sleeve and onto my left hand. I immediately stop typing.

First thought: Is it going to bite?

Second thought: Can I get a picture before it does?

I hold my beetle hand steady, push back my chair, snatch the camera with my other hand and head for the door.

Outside I lower my still unbitten hand to the deck and let the hitchhiker crawl off. It sets out along the deck at a good clip. It’s obviously on a mission and not interested in posing.

Known as jewel beetles or metallic wood-boring beetles, they have been on my I-hope-to-find-one-of-these list for some time. I could hardly believe my good luck that this one had actually found me.


Larvae of this species — known as flat-head or flatheaded borers — live inside spruce or pine and feed on dead or dying wood. Depending on the species, adult jewel beetles eat leaves, nectar or pollen.

A beautiful bite-free beetle. Come back any time.

Spotted-belly buprestid   Buprestis maculativentris

Bedding Down in the Snow

Yesterday after wind and whirling snow subsided I tucked the camera into my down jacket and headed a short distance into the bush. Several inches fell during the storm so much of the colour I photographed the other day was buried for now.

But I did discover two large bare spots beneath the trees. Both about the same size and with tracks nearby.

Deer bed in snow

Two whitetail deer had bedded down to wait out the storm. They are probably the ones born here last year. I took this photo a couple of weeks ago as they grazed along our driveway.

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer   Odocoileus virginianus

Falling into Autumn

When autumn arrives in Alberta it doesn’t come with the glamour and flare of eastern Canada where colour spreads like wild fire across the landscape. Yes, aspens turn gold here and bring their share of ooo’s and ahhh’s with blue skies and dark spruce as a backdrop. And cities — with ever-increasing exotic plants and trees — have their share of colour.

I prefer the quiet corners and little seen spots where autumn colour, when I find it, brings a feeling of delight and joy, a special corner of the world.

Right now in our woods bunchberry is painting the understory with reds and purples. There’s dried grass. And fading leaves of lungworts, roses, fleabanes and strawberries.

It’s all a beautiful toss-up of colours and textures, a see-you-next-season greeting card just waiting to be discovered.







One Hail of a Storm

July 12th was a typical hot summer day. Until late afternoon. Then black clouds billowed out of the northwest wiping out the sun and trailing thunder so loud it hurt the ears.

It was fury unleashed as the storm pounded the house and turned deck and driveway white with hail.

When the cacophony finally stopped about half an hour later we ventured outside. Nearly 4 cm of water — more than 1.5 inches — sat in the rain gauge. Flower and vegetable gardens resembled huge tossed salads.

In the woods we found the remains of a recently opened wood lily, one petal still clinging to the stem. Pockets of moss held handfuls of white stones (that were still there two days later).

A mossy bed of hailstones

In spite of the damage much of the gardens will recover. That’s the nature of plants.

As for the woods? They were transformed — filled suddenly with light, branches sparkling crystal-like with rain, mist floating in the air …

After the storm

… the wonder of a storm.