Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekend Adventures

Samuel looks above the Doon Mills Ruins

"Rain, rain go away..."
Last year we chanted "Rain, rain come again..."

My eleven year old cousin Samuel wanted to go birding on Saturday. The probability of rain was 80% but the morning dawned sunny and bright. He was ready to go quickly and we drove to the trail he wanted to explore. Within fifteen minutes, dark clouds moved across the sky and a light rain fell. We sprayed ourselves with insect repellent and headed towards the river under a canopy of dense leaves. I have walked this trail dozens of times but the undergrowth is like that found in a rain forest this year.

Giant ragweed towered twice my height above the ground.
Trees downed by recent storms lined the sides of the path.
Himalayan Balsam, and invasive weed stood tall and was in full bloom.
I pulled several out by their shallow roots.


Samuel found some Broadleaf Arrowhead blooming at the river's edge. I have never seen this wild plant which is also known as duck potato or wapato. Its tubers are edible and were eaten by indigenous people. Sam identified it readily when he saw it.

The birds kept our minds off the buzzing mosquitoes...Wrens, Cardinals, Blue Jays, immature Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Herons, Swallows, Woodpeckers, Orioles, Goldfinches, Chickadees and more chirped, called, sang and flew above our heads.

Young Great Blue Heron

The ragweed was making Samuel sneeze so we left and headed to the swamp where we could see from the car if the rain continued. The swamp never disappoints and we were able to walk along the edge during a break in the weather. A juvenile Great Blue Heron flew in front of us and landed on a high stump.

It rained most of the afternoon and evening. Whenever I see the sun shine these days, I rush out to enjoy the light. I managed to walk a trail on Friday evening as the sun was going down and dusk came.

House Wren in evening light

House Wrens are very visible lately and I sat on a fallen tree to watch the antics of a pair of them in the nearby brush. My feet rested on the ground and I watched the grass part as a young skunk approached me. It came right up to me and sniffed my comfortable Keen sandals (thanks Beth). My camera was in my hands but I sat there without flinching a muscle.

What does it take to startle a skunk?

I didn't want to experiment with the click of a camera. The skunk moved away confidently and went under the tree I was sitting on. Perhaps there were others beneath me. I left carefully wishing I hadn't been afraid to take a picture.

Saturday evening heavy rain accompanied thunder and lightning. But at sunset a full rainbow filled the sky above our house. It was impossible to fit the entire arc in the viewfinder of the camera but the colour and clarity made it the most spectacular rainbow I have ever seen. It was only a week ago that we chased the last rainbow. We are getting used to rainy weekends! I still prefer this summer to the hot, dry variety.

(See Samuel's account of our outing on his blog here)


  1. Your shot of the rainbow certainly surpasses the one I took. It truly was magnificent. Did you see the second one showing its beauty too.
    You and Birdman sure saw a large variety of birds & flowers, much to his delight.

  2. what a day and how very special to share it with your young cousin. Like you, we are saturated--today was the first day that I could get out and do anything in about 3 weeks and now it is pouring again with the rest of the week forecast to be the same. I agree, though, this is much preferable to the dry, hot summers.

  3. I still can't stop laughing when I think about that skunk story... :D

    Like your rainbow pic and that first pic with Sam.

  4. Great that you have such a good hiking companion. I recall you writing about Samuel last year.
    On the skunk--I think I would forego a photo also--better no photo, no smell than photo + smell!

  5. Your pictures are worthy of frames, as usual. I think I'd have done the same thing with the skunk!

  6. Wonderful photos. Thanks for linking to Birdman's blog. Very impressive and so rewarding to see the young folks interested in birds and nature.

    The rainbow shot is perfect.

  7. Sorry we are sending you that moist air.GG. It is wet isn't it. I was wondering how you tell a young heron from an adult? Is it the beard of feathers? ..Michelle..

  8. I agree: I prefer this weather to our usual hot and dry droughts, even with so much rain and hail....This evening I saw the boldest rainbow I've ever seen. Magical! Quite a reward for these storms.
    Your photos are as lovely as ever.

  9. Omalois- I hear you had a double or triple rainbow in Breslau last night. I do enjoy Sam's company very much.

    Beth- We were ready to remove our lawn this year after so many dry summers. Now it is so lush and green. I don't expect all our summers will be like this though.

    Becka- Good thing I left the dog at home! I like the pic of Sam too.

    KGmom- Samuel now lives 20 minutes from me instead of 2 hours away. We haven't had a lot of chances to get out this year due to weather and holidays.

    Jean- I think you and Donna feel as cautious as I do around skunks. But it was so cute!

    NCMW- Nice of you to visit Samuel's blog. He likes to take pictures and loves nature.

    RW Michelle- The young herons are smaller and still have streaked breasts. I will have to check out their "beard" next time.

    Melissa- thanks... I missed tonight's rainbow :-(
    You really have to watch the sky constantly these days. Things change so fast.

  10. I'm glad that you and Samuel were able to hike the trail. I wondered after I seen you how you faired out in the rain. The Doon trail is covered thick with vegetation creating a wall of protection from the everlasting rain. That morning I heard so many different birds, but didn't see the faces to match it. Looks like you guys came up with a great list.

    Now as for the skunk; take it from someone who has worn the perfume "Oh la Shunk", there is no good shot that would out way the aroma. I commend you on your bravery and nerves of steel. Skunks another creature admired from a distance.

  11. I think it is great that Samuel likes to go with his cousin on nature walks ... and that he is such a keener on all things natural. He does a great job on his blog.

  12. P.S. I love that rainbow picture!

  13. What a great day, despite the rain! And that rainbow! Spectacular!!

  14. Ruth,

    What a wonderful walk on the trail. It rain torrents here on Saturday and that is when the lightning got my computer. It was shut down and there was a surge protector on it, all to no avail. I'm glad you were able to enjoy nature before that severe storms moved in.

    The photo of the Blue Heron is great and I wish that you had shot a photo of the skunk. However, like you I would have probably froze in place, which is the safe thing to do.

    Take care and enjoy the week. Today (Monday) was beautiful in our part of the country.


  15. A close & non-stinky skunk encounter would be exciting for me Ruth. I find them to be intriguing little critters (although I think most people would disagree!)


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