Tag Archives: birdland

My Blogging Life – The First Six Months

Reid Dickie

Hello and thank you, my beautiful audience,

It was six months ago today ReadReidRead began its blog life and I am thrilled, astounded and humbled to report that my blog is approaching 25,000 hits!! It appears I have succeeded in finding my audience, which was one of my resolutions for 2011. I have had lucky help along the way, namely the flood which continues to develop and which draws hundreds of hits every day. People want to know and see what’s happening in a certain area. The internet is loaded with flood pictures from which I have judiciously selected ones to include on my blog. I have tried to look inside the ‘high water event’ as well as offer the current flood status of various regions. I received my first grateful comment about my flood coverage this week. Thank you for returning to my blog for flood updates.

In addition to the flood, I am getting lots of people checking out other parts of my blog. The most popular pages are Birdland, Sacred Places, Houses, Churches and About. Thank you for wanting to know more about me by clicking on About. Posts that have a life of their own include Weasels Ripped My Flesh, Rooster Town and Obituary Euphemisms.

Has blogging affected my lifestyle? Drastically! Being a retired writer is a bit of an oxymoron because old writers never die, they just backspace once too often. Writing is such a pleasure for me that attempting to retire from something that wasn’t work to begin with is a bit of a trick. I know, poor me. Such a dilemma to have!

Even after six months of this, I still put in at least four to five hours a day working on my blog. I love exploring the guts of it, the background information WordPress supplies about search terms, popularity of posts and pages and specific clicks in a post or page. As I’ve learned more about blogs, I’ve expanded “my little empire” as a friend calls both my blogs (this one and Shoal Lake History), the DickTool Co YouTube channel and my Flickr image collections.

Here’s the First Six Months of ReadReidRead By the Numbers

Number of posts: over 350

Pages: 13

Categories: 64

Tags: over 2650

Comments: about 100

Best day: May 12 with 935 hits at height of first wave of flood

Hits in May: 12,058, average 389 per day

Hits in June: about 5500, average about 500 per day

Most Popular Post: Manitoba Flooding – 890 hits

Most Popular Page: Birdland – 840 hits  

These are amazing numbers! Thank you for checking into my mind from time to time. I promise to continue sharing the quirky and soulful events of my inner life along with the external quirky and soulful stuff that floats my way. My summer travels begin soon so there may be a couple of days without a post but know I remain diligent.

oao

Reid

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Filed under Blog Life, Flood, shaman, Spirit

Peregrine Falcons Nesting in Brandon, Too!

When I posted the first story about the falcons in Winnipeg a few days ago, the Brandon cam wasn’t up and running. Today it is and what a great angle on the future festivities! The nest is situated high atop the McKenzie Seeds Building in downtown Brandon. There are two tabs along the top of the image, one for Winnipeg nest, one for Brandon nest. Click pic for both cams.

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Filed under Birds, Natural Places, Winnipeg

Peregrine Falcons Nest on the Cliffs of Downtown Winnipeg

Following an alarming decline during the 1950s and 1960s, this spectacular falcon, also called the “Duck Hawk,” is on the increase again, now that DDT and other pesticides that caused thinning of eggshells have been banned. After an intensive program of rearing birds in captivity and releasing them in the wild (a process called “hacking”), this large falcon is reclaiming nesting grounds from which it disappeared a few decades ago. Although their habitat is mainly open country, especially along rivers and coasts and near lakes, a favorite nesting site nowadays is a tall building or bridge in a city. These urban Peregrines subsist mainly on pigeons.

Since 1989, pairs of reintroduced Peregrines have nested high atop the Radisson Hotel on Portage Avenue in downtown Winnipeg. Characteristically, Peregrines return regularly to favourite nesting sites. One pair after another has used the same spot in England since 1243. Since 2006, CBC Manitoba has provided a falcon cam in the nest of the downtown birds. This year, the chicks have just hatched so the feeding frenzies now begin. Click pic to start live falcon cam.

The Peregrine Falcon has been the favourite of falconers for over 3,000 years, ever since the nomads of central Asia first pursued game with trained hawks and falcons. Extremely acute eyesight, even in dim light, allows falcons to be very effective hunters around dawn and dusk.

Peregrines often migrate very rapidly between breeding and wintering areas, flying as much as 500 km per day. A female Peregrine that nested in Edmonton flew to Mazatlan, Mexico, in less than eight days and returned in six days.

With the exception of Antarctica, New Zealand, and Iceland, the Peregrine is found around the globe. Twenty-two subspecies are recognized throughout the world. Their great powers of flight have enabled them to establish nesting populations in the Arctic, and as far south as Tasmania, South Africa, and the Falkland Islands.

Peregrine Falcon Range Map

Peregrines breed from Alaska and the Canadian Arctic south locally through the mountainous West, and sparingly in East. Winters coastally, north to British Columbia and Massachusetts.

This post can also be found permanently on my Birdland page.

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Filed under Birds, Hope, Winnipeg

Vultures of St. Victor

Reid Dickie

            Above and south of the tiny village of St Victor in southern Saskatchewan a row of naked sandstone outcrops protrude over the Sylvan Valley. The view from the place is spectacular. To the north Montague Lake is a blue dash among yellow and green fields checked with black summer fallow. To the west is Twelve Mile Lake; in the east is Willow Bunch Lake. These lakes are the remnants of a huge drainage channel that icy torrents of glacial meltwater dug from the prairie as the latest Ice Age ended. They extend east to include Big Muddy Lake and the surrounding badlands, finally to meet the Missouri River and flow to the sea.

            Etched into the top of one of the sandstone promontories is a variety of petroglyphs, images hand carved in the stone. Turtles, human faces, grizzly paws with long claws, human hands and feet, buffalo, elk and deer tracks with dewclaws, carved into the horizontal sandstone surface. Near the outer edge of the stone, there are carvings of two human feet aligned so the next step would be into thin air. Or perhaps onto the ice. It is possible this was an unglaciated area during the last Ice Age and the ice abutted this cliff. See Sacred Places page for complete report on this site.

             St Victor is one of the stops on my annual pilgrimage into the Saskatchewan holy land, a tour of ancient sacred sites, geographical anomalies and interesting “feeling” places that runs parallel to the Canada-US border. This is my fourth visit here. The tour begins in southern Manitoba at several burial mounds. In Saskatchewan it includes human effigies, turtle and buffalo effigies, the petroglyphs, a medicine wheel in Grasslands National Park, a ceremonial site near Val Marie, and the “mystery rocks” south of Cypress Hills Provincial Park to name a few of the places created by ancient peoples.

            It’s a hot day at the end of July 1998. I turned south out of St. Victor for the short drive up the steep side of the valley to the parking lot and noticed a huge dark bird circling slowly on the updrafts. I park below the sandstone cliff where the petroglyphs are.

            At the base of this outcrop, there is dense and rich forest with plenty of game. There is also a large source of red ochre. Sitting in a small pasture to the east of the road to the site, there is a large boulder bleeding red onto the ground. This would have been a strong attraction. Red ochre was used ceremonially, to “embalm” the dead and as an insect repellant.

            A short hike through a cool forest and 165 wooden stairs that wend their way up the face of the cliff gives you access to the site. The layers of stone you pass as you ascend reveal the area’s geological history. In the soft sandstone, deep tunnels have been eroded smooth by centuries of water and wind. The hen scratchings in the stone by modern visitors are lame imitations of the sublime carvings at the top.

            I get to the first landing and from above hear a sudden gruff gurgling sound. Looking up I saw a large black bird perched on a jutting rock near the top of the climb. It had naked red skin over its small head and neck, a large, cruelly hooked beak, its neck curved into a hunched black body that suggests vulture. It ruffles its feathers in a mildly threatening manner and makes the strange gurgle again as I climb the stairs. I thought the petroglyphs must have acquired a guardian spirit. A few more steps I see what the bird is guarding.

            Two almost-grown chicks stand a few meters inside a deep rock crevice. As big as adult chickens they are mostly covered with white down, their wings blackening. The parent bird takes flight as I approach and silently performs aerial ballet for the duration of my stay. Eyeing me with suspicion the chicks retreat deeper into the crevice as I pass by. When I come back down the stairs, I don’t see them at all.

            It is my first encounter with a turkey vulture, not uncommon on the prairies but this would be close to the northern limits of its habitat. A big bird, the turkey buzzard can have a wingspan of two meters. It is a carrion eater living mainly on dead and decaying flesh and finds suitable habitat from southern Canada to the Strait of Magellan. Turkey vultures are voiceless birds which accounts for the attention-getting gurgle. Though its sharp talons and curved beak suggest killing ability, they do not possess enough strength, thus the reliance on scavenging dead and decaying meat supplemented by some vegetation. Day flyers, turkey vultures have keen senses and locate food by sight and an acute sense of smell. The turkey vultures play an important role in cleaning up carcasses. Their digestive juices are so strong that no virus or bacteria can survive.

            The natural gas industry has found an interesting use for the keen sense of smell of turkey vultures. Since natural gas is odourless, a chemical, ethyl mercaptan, is added. This chemical, also produced by decaying meat, attracts turkey vultures to leaks in gas pipelines.

            If cornered, turkey vultures have two ways to defend themselves. They will suddenly roll over and play dead. Sometimes they will eject a foul-smelling vomit at their foe. Turkey vultures are among the most graceful soaring birds in the world. With the silvery lining under their wings glinting in the sun, they can glide on thermals for hours. During these long soars, the wings are held in a distinctive V shape and seldom flapped.

            Turkey vultures are not averse to being around people. They seem to enjoy us. There have been occasions when turkey vultures “adopt” a person such as the woman in California who walked her dog in a certain place each day accompanied overhead by a turkey vulture. When she was unable to walk her dog due to a broken leg, the turkey vulture found her home in a town of 12,000 people and welcomed her one morning from her backyard tree.

            Two chicks, such as the brood I encountered in the eroded sandstone, are typical. No nest is built. Instead, they lay their eggs on a rock ledge, in a cave, hollow tree or barn with several generations returning to the same spot to roost and procreate. Turkey vultures cooperate with each other in supplying food and roosting spots. They are clean birds that spend several hours each day preening themselves. Turkey vultures migrate south near the autumnal equinox.

            Since turkey vultures often return to nest in the same place, it is likely that whoever came to carve on the stone here long ago also encountered turkey vultures, watching them hover in the air, afloat on the rising thermals. 

            The layout of the site in 2011 is very different from what I just described. The wooden stairs are gone completely, destroyed in a windstorm. Access is now gained by a prairie road up the hillside. The site is approached from the rear. Limiting access is attempted by a chain link fence between viewer and site. Though I didn’t see any nesting birds in 2010, when they do return they will have privacy and protection from humans now that the staircase has been removed.

(This article can also be found on my Birdland page.)

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Filed under Birds, Sacred Places, shaman, Spirit

The Whole Song Birds of North America Book Now in Birdland

         I wrote about my old collector card bird book a few weeks ago and the response to Birdland has been amazing! I decided to post the entire bird book including front, back and inside covers, sixteen pages of information and all 48 full-colour collector cards. You can find it all on my Birdland page. Here are three sample pages from the book. Tweet this!

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Filed under 1950s, Birds, PRAIRIES