An Enchanted Winter Walk: A Photo Essay

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“We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.”

~ Gary Zukav

A Winter Wonderland

As if on cue, the snow gently floated down in soft feathery flakes on Christmas Eve and I fell asleep, all warm and cozy in my bed, hoping that the snow would keep falling all night long. I knew that a fresh snowfall would bode well for the Christmas Day nature walk we planned on taking and I was not disappointed. The next morning could not have dawned more beautifully—the world was covered in a soft, thick, blanket of pristine white snow, there wasn’t a hint of wind, the sky had completely cleared and was bluer than ever and, in spite of the cold temperatures, a golden butterscotchy light gave the whole world a warm, inviting glow. Not a single wisp of cloud dared to show its face in the brilliance of that blue sky. My partner and I knew we were in for an incredibly beautiful walk.

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“Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.”

~ Bill Morgan, Jr.

Very Cold and Very Beautiful

Nothing uplifts our spirits more than a walk in nature and we couldn’t think of a better way to spend Christmas Day. Happy, chirpy birds greeted us the moment we set foot in the park—flocks of Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, House Finches and Chickadees flitted about from tree to tree, seemingly just as happy to be there as we were. A thick layer of fresh snow embedded with millions of sparkling diamonds softened the shape of everything it covered, creating an art gallery filled with soft white sculptures. Frisky squirrels scampered from tree limb to tree limb, their every movement throwing off a dusting of snow which fell like magic pixie dust, sparkling all around us.

It seemed as though we had entered some sort of enchanted winter fairy tale land. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the birds and squirrels started talking to us! It was one of those walks where everything was almost too beautiful to take in with our limited senses. Our unbridled joy turned to pure euphoria. It was simply not possible for us to capture the true beauty we found all around us, but I hope this photo essay hints of the glorious beauty we found on a cold and utterly spectacular winter’s day.

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“Snow flurries began to fall
and they swirled around people’s legs like house cats.
It was magical, this snow globe world.”

― Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen

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“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

~ Lewis Carroll,
Through the Looking-Glass

Pine Grosbeaks

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Pine Grosbeaks winter here in Calgary. The incredible showy red plumage of the male birds looks extra brilliant against the white snow. It is a spectacular thing to see a flock of these beautiful birds in the wintertime.

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Though not quite as vibrant as the males, female Pine Grosbeaks have a pretty gold-orange colouring.

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Grosbeaks are part of the Finch family, as you may be able to tell from their finchy beaks.

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A spectacular male Pine Grosbeak peeking at us from his perch.

 

curious Red Squirrel

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Few critters are as entertaining as squirrels. As we sat on a sunny bench drinking hot tea and nibbling on some of my homemade shortbread cookies, this little guy entertained us, jumping from bough to bough as his curiosity brought him closer to take a better look at us.

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“In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”

~ William Blake

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The simple beauty of winter rosehips.

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My partner, oblivious to the -20 C temperature, happily photographing birds on our Christmas Day walk through Weaselhead Flats, a 237 hectare natural environment park in Calgary.

 

Uncommonly Beautiful Common Redpolls

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Redpolls are a common sight at backyard feeders. They are little birds and they need to eat constantly in the winter to be able to keep themselves warm in such cold temperatures.

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“I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“When you’re really happy, the birds chirp and the sun shines even on cold, dark winter nights—and flowers bloom on a barren land.”

~ Grey Livingston

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“Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.”

~ Mary Oliver

Downy Woodpecker

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“Mid-December is thus one of the most positively magical times of the year. Things are possible during December’s darkening days that are not even dreamt of at other spokes of the Wheel of the Year. We should use this magic as a vehicle for deepening our awareness of the world around us and preparing our souls for the ongoing pilgrimage of our lives. A seeker of Wisdom in the thrall of Winter’s Solstice should consider their celebrations as a spiritual pilgrimage or even a quest, during which, through the disciplined use of the spiritual imagination, he or she may encounter one’s own truest self along the way and in communion with Spirit.”

~ Montague Whitsel, The Fires of Yule

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“He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter… In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity.”

~ John Burroughs, “The Snow-Walkers”, 1866

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“There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you…
In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.”

~ Ruth Stout

The Cheeky Little Chickadee

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“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.”

~ Tom Brown, Jr.
The Tracker

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“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.”

~ John Burroughs, Winter Sunshine

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“How beautiful thy frosty morn,
When brilliants gem each feathery thorn!
How fair thy cloudless noon!
And through the leafless trees, at night,
With more than Summer’s soften’d light,
Shines thy resplendent moon.”

~ Bernard Barton, “Stanzas on the Approach of Winter” (Stanza VIII),
Napoleon and Other Poems, 1822

Image Credits:

All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife and BJC Photography;
© 2015 madlyinlovewithlife and © 2015 BJC Photography

28 thoughts on “An Enchanted Winter Walk: A Photo Essay

  1. I enjoyed every step on this walk. Such beauty encompassed us while we visited with the birds!
    Thank you for sharing the close shots of all the beautiful birds… However I enjoyed the Grosbeaks as I never saw one so close. We get them at the Pennsylvania Lakehouse (I am told) but have never seen them. So thank you!
    I see you had an amazing Christmas! So glad for you and your partner!
    We also had a beautiful day! Going to post a few pictures of where we went soon but first coffee! Happy New Year if we do not chat soon!

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Nancy! I’m so glad you could get a good look at the Pine Grosbeaks. They truly are beautiful birds. We are fortunate to have one of those super long zoom lenses that make it possible to get these kinds of close-up shots. It’s a wonderful way to get to enjoy the pretty details in the plumage and markings of these incredibly stunning winter birds. Happy New Year to you! ~ Jeannie :))

  2. It is an enchantment to admire such beautiful pictures,
    the winter is wonderful. I have a weakness for the squirrel and
    birds, thank you for sharing.
    Beautiful end of the year, Jeannie.

  3. wow… it was a Christmas gift to have such beauty on that day. We also walk on Christmas Day but no snow..a bit of sun , better than rain ! You could see so many pretty birds. Your photos are wonderful as always and I love the quotes ! thanks for sharing it. ♥

  4. Love all your photos, especially the adorable little chickadee. You had a perfect day, beautiful blue sky. Nice way to end the year :)

  5. What an amazing series of shots!! These have restored my faith in winter….a bit :)) Hope you and yours have a fantastic 2016 Jeannie :)

  6. Oh my dear friend, this is divine! I am so happy for both you and your partner, it must have really felt like a taste of heaven :) Your partner looks so happy with his super-duper-zoom lens, and you’ve both made breathtaking shots. I agree, can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas. Simply wow! Happy happy holidays to both of you, and here’s to another year full of new adventures and hope! :)))

    • Hello dear Takami! Our Christmas Day walk really was a magical one. It was our first time out in very cold winter temperatures with our new cameras and lenses. They were definitely a bit sluggish with the focus due to the cold, so we thought we might not get any sharp shots. While we were out there, we decided it didn’t matter if we didn’t get a single shot, because it was just so wonderful to be out on such a beautiful day. But when we got home and looked at our shots from the day, we were thrilled to find we got as many focused shots as we did. Thank you for your kinds words, dear Takami! Wishing you and yours a very Joyful and Happy 2016! :))

  7. What a beautiful post! Love all your photos – perfectly captured and lovely winter light. I never have patience enough to catch those fast birds on film! Weaselhead is really a great spot in the city:) Wish you all the best for 2016!

  8. Oh Jeannie, I had such a lovely walk here, thank you so much. I read and absorbed every quote, enjoyed all your words of joy (“cheeky chickadee: made me smile). Photos are fantastic, incredible clarity. And oh, what glorious eyeful on the redpolls and pine grossbeaks–two birds that can only be seen by hearty, courageous winter inhabitants like you and your partner. Thank you so much….

  9. Thank you for the walk, Jeannie! As always, gorgeous photos. I especially love the redpolls. I’ve never seen one around here…maybe I’m too close to the city. I’m a little late, as usual…in wishing you and your partner a happy, healthy New Year!

  10. This is such a timeless post Jeannie, a beautiful way to bring in the New Year. You bring out the beauty of nature and of winter, a great post and best to you with your writing and photography in the New Year. Cheers to a great 2016.

  11. Beautiful set of photographs. i didn’t have a proper winter experience this year (winter is not done yet), but I remember our time in Lapland last year and how wonderful and freezing it was to take pictures in the snow. It’s such an amazing experience. I hope you had plenty of hot beverages after that little expedition.

    I wish you the best for 2016 !

  12. That’s some artillery piece your partner is sporting! What is that? At least a 300mm?? Handheld!!

    Your writing is always so delicate and heavenly, Jeannie. Always brings a smile to my heart… and it does need a heaping of it. ☺

    • Thank you, Koji. The super long lens is the new Tamron 150-600 mm we got this past summer. It’s amazing for bird and other wildlife photography because, unlike Nikon or Canon’s counterpart, it can be used handheld and Tamron’s price is so significantly less than its competitor’s brands, making it within our reach to consider purchasing. But it takes a bit of strength to handhold super still. It’s so long that every small movement is magnified. The lens alone weighs 6 lbs so I still need to build up a bit of arm strength to be able to track anything moving. The only problem is it’s almost impossible to pry it out of my partner’s hands when we go on our nature walks! Thank you, as always, for your kind words. :))

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