Little Pond on the Prairie

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We cannot see our reflection in running water.
It is only in still water that we can see.

~ Taoist proverb

A Trip We’ve Taken A Million Times

Early in July, my Sweet Bear and I packed up our vehicle for the 600 kilometre road trip from Calgary to my home town, North Battleford, Saskatchewan. Our car was chock-a-block full, containing everything needed for our contribution to my mother’s birthday party: two homemade cakes, one poppy seed cake and one orange-almond cake (careful where you put them honey, they can’t be squished); an electric hand-mixer and a large stainless-steel bowl (to make whipped cream for the cakes); five strings of fairy lights (for a splash of magic); assorted plates, utensils, cutlery and fancy napkins; two small suitcases and one garment bag; two pillows and one yoga mat; one guitar and an entire sound system, which included two heavy and somewhat bulky microphone stands, two speakers, a very heavy amp, a sound mixer, a big box of cables and wires, and two microphones—all equipment required for the live entertainment (Sweet Bear and I were the live entertainment.)

After some concern about whether everything would fit in our car and many trips to and from the car (parked down in our building’s underground parkade) and a good amount of sweat, Bear somehow managed to successfully sardine everything into the car.

We were locking the door when I asked him if he thought we should bring our cameras. Wincing with the thought of where he might wedge the large backpack holding our very long, 7 lb 600mm lens, he decided to leave it at home. I agreed. We’ve traveled that stretch of road a million times—what could we possibly see that we’ve never seen before? At that moment, the easy solution seemed best. At the last minute though, I threw my camera and my 300 mm lens into the front of the car, where it sat at my feet for the eight hour journey from Calgary to North Battleford.

 

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Passenger with a camera.

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Taking a break to stretch our legs.

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The Way Things Go

Of course, we did see something we had never seen before. Near the side of one of the back roads we like to take as we travel cross-country, in a small, shallow pond, we spotted an American Avocet couple and their three adorable little chicks. Thank goodness, I had taken my camera at the last minute! The chicks were the cutest little things we’d ever seen. Sadly, however, the birds were a good distance away and we didn’t want to frighten or disturb the family by getting out of our vehicle to try to get closer.

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We were only about an hour or so away from our Saskatchewan destination when we spotted the Avocets and stopped so I could take some shots; but it was late afternoon, the bright summer sun was directly behind the birds and there was glare on the water. I couldn’t do much about the light, so the shots I took that day didn’t amount to much.

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We continued on our way, calculating when the morning sun would likely hit the pond on our return trip back to Calgary so the light would be just right for photographing the Avocet family. We figured that we’d have to be at the pond shortly after sunrise, which meant that we’d have to be in the car and on the road by 4:30 in the morning.

And, for the love of birds, that’s exactly what we did!

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Perfect Light

The early morning light was exactly what we’d hoped it would be when we arrived at our little pond on the prairie. Miraculously, the long, low fog fingers and misty haze we’d driven through up to that point suddenly cleared and the light was perfect. There was only one problem: my 300 mm lens simply wasn’t long enough to get the kind of close-up shots I wanted. Why, oh why, didn’t we bring our big super long lens? Couldn’t we have squeezed it in somewhere? Oh yeah… the trunk would barely close and the back seat was stacked as high as it could possibly be. Still, I tried not to kick myself.

The three little chicks were out and about and feeding contentedly in the pond. They were adorable to watch through binoculars, but in my camera viewfinder, they looked like small blurry dots. I took some shots anyway and I thought I’d post two of the best (highly-cropped, rather grainy) shots. I hope they give an idea of how cute these little chicks were.

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“With its elegant profile and striking coloration,
the American Avocet is unique among North American birds.
In summer it can be found in temporary and unpredictable
wetlands across western North America where it swings its long upturned bill through the shallow water to catch small invertebrates.”

~ Cornell Lab of Ornithology (All About Birds)

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A male Yellow-headed Blackbird perches in a willow bush at the edge of the pond, likely guarding a nearby nest.

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Ponds are magical in morning light. At the pond’s edge, tiny crystal beads of morning dew caught the light on a thin strand of spider’s thread.

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“I hope you love birds too.
It is economical.
It saves going to heaven.”

~ Emily Dickinson

Heaven in a Prairie Pond

I wanted to stay at our little prairie pond all day—to sit quietly, find an inner stillness and delight in the abundance of life generated by this one little pond.

Although I was thrilled that I got to enjoy this little slice of heaven, I knew we still had a long journey in front of us, so we reluctantly left our little pond and its resident Avocet family to carry on our way.

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Passenger with a camera.

Back on the road again

Cruising down the highway, mesmerized by the beautiful world spinning madly by, I  thought, “We can never really take the same journey twice, can we?”.

 

Image Credits:

All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2016 madlyinlovewithlife

15 thoughts on “Little Pond on the Prairie

  1. What a fantastic story. I loved reading it all. You truly like birds and know so much about them. 600 km is a good road trip. I can only imagine how you fit everything inside your car. It reminded me when we traveled with our two boys. I want to say that your photos are wonderful, as always. (I am not a pro with great gear and I am quite happy with my tiny little camera) MERCI. Thank you so much to share this special time you had this summer.

    • Hello France! Driving to Saskatchewan is a trip we’ve made often, but this time our vehicle was filled to the brim because of the things we were taking to my Mom’s birthday party. It’s always a treat to see all the birds in the ponds as we drive across the prairies. Wishing you a happy week ahead! :))

  2. What a amazing journey! And as you say, even places where we think we know everything about, some how find a way to surprise us. Thank you for sharing some wonderful scenes! I hope you have a lovely time in your hometown :)

    • Thank you Takami. We had a wonderful time at my Mom’s birthday party. It was a rare treat to see the Avocet family on our trip there and on our way back. From now on, even if our car seems filled to the brim, we will always find a way to fit in both of our cameras and the big lens! Have a great week ahead! :))

  3. Camera…..never leave home without it ;) Your photos are so beautiful as always! Your mom’s party sounded like so much fun! And….both of the cakes sound SO delicious!

    • Hello Diane! I certainly learned my lesson. You are so right: never leave home without it! The cakes were delicious, if I say so myself! :)) Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by! Wishing you a very happy week ahead! :))

  4. Fantastic series of shots Jeannie…People who don’t know the prairies think they are flat and boring..but as you proved they are a treasure trove of natures wonders.. Have a great week :)

    • Hi Sam! I totally agree with you: most people who have never been to the prairies or who have never taken the time to truly appreciate their subtle beauty often miss how spectacular the prairies are. I vividly recall my cousin coming to visit me from BC for the first time when I was a kid and how shocked she was that the prairies were so pretty, and not, as she put it, “as flat as a pancake”. I love the prairies dearly. As much as I adore and appreciate the mountains, the Canadian prairie, with its big sky and wide open spaces, is the place that will always feel like home to me. Thank you as always, Sam, for stopping by. Wishing you a very happy week and good luck with this year’s harvest. :))

  5. Great post ~ the series of shots brings out the wonder of this place…reminds me of Eastern Oregon in some respects. The third shot, Taking a break to stretch our legs, is great as it shows exactly the mood needed to enjoy such a beautiful place.

  6. Another delightful post, Jeannie. Thanks for taking us along on your well-written adventure. I loved hearing what you all brought for the birthday party, the dilemma with the cameras, the rest break — all so much about the joy of life. Then the prairie pond, finding the avocet family. Then when I scrolled down and saw the first baby…I gasped. So completely adorable!!! I have never seen an avocet chick. I never tire of avocets, espec. when the adults are in breeding with that cinnamon wash. I think it’s great, too, that you two engineered the return trip for the best light and managed to leave at 4:30 in the morning. Terrific!

    • Hello Jet! Thanks for leaving another lovely comment. We are fairly new to birding, so this was our first real good look at the adults with their stunning cinnamon wash. And the chicks! Well, that just about sent us over the edge! We were in heaven. It was definitely worth getting up before the sun and hitting the road bleary-eyed so early in the morning so we could catch them in proper light. I’m still sad we didn’t take our big lens so we could get close-ups of those adorable chicks. But I’m glad I at least threw my camera in at the last minute. We had a wonderful time at my Mom’s birthday party and the birds were pure icing on our cake! Thanks again for stopping by! :))

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