Friday, March 14, 2008

Sky High

On Monday morning I thought about a nearby area which a neighbour mentioned to me just days before. She told me of how she crosses one of the main parkways bordering our park, and enters into the valley on the opposite side. She warned that passage was difficult with newly-fallen snow because very few people seem to know about the area. Hers are the only human footprints she usually sees on her regular strolls. I decide to add mine to them that day.

I tend not to be terribly adventurous on my own. I'm the kind of person that prefers to explore and share new finds with somebody else, so I considered waiting for the next weekend when I could probably convince Frank to come along with me. But that annoying voice in the back of my head kept telling me to scout it out first. "It might turn out to be a boring trek and I don't want to be dragged all over Hell's half-acre and back for nothing." Yes, that voice belongs to Frank. So, with my camera slung over my shoulder, I made the nerve-wracking traverse up and over the snowbanks and across our area's busiest road, into the valley of the creek which runs away from our pond.

At first I saw footprints, and I followed them knowing I was probably in the right place. They stopped abruptly though, and I realized that someone had determined that the snow was too deep to continue. This person had likely turned around and retreated by matching his or her own steps. I decided to continue onward. Several times, I thought it might be best to return another day, but my feet kept taking one sinking step after the other. I stopped occasionally to look up and around, or to unzip my jacket and remove my gloves, or snow from my boots. The sun was reflecting strongly, reminding me that despite the knee-deep fluff, spring truly was around the corner.

I trudged amid rabbit and other animal tracks for about a half-kilometer, noting the strange combination of nature and industrial surroundings. To my right was the creek, fed from the lake in our park, and which runs into the Credit River and ultimately Lake Ontario. To my left was a large car dealership with outdoor loudspeaker which occasionally blared announcements of incoming phone calls for one employee or another. Despite these interruptions, I could easily focus on the beauty around me.

On my right, the creek babbled as it wound its way toward open water.

A mini waterfall sang loudly.

This beautiful old tree on the far side of the creek seems barely rooted to the lower part of the slope.

Looking up, I could see various birds in flight. Two hawks soared together just outside of my camera's range. They appeared to be weaving toward and away from each other, in a majestic dance across the sky.

Occasionally, one or the other would veer in closer to me and I was able to take a couple of shots (Please click on each image for a slightly larger view).

This one traveled from tree to tree, in search of a better vantage point from which to assess his surroundings.

Eventually I was able to focus on a couple of different hawks as they landed briefly in the branches above.

My wishes alternated between a closer landing and a better zoom.

As I continued walking, a hawk landed on a tree branch almost directly across the creek from me. I focused my camera and captured several shots. This noble creature reacted to every subtle sound a split-second before it became audible to me, and it watched my every movement as I waited for it to tire of sitting still.

I was being watched closely.

Alert to every sound, he would turn toward the direction of the loud speaker an instant before I could hear its announcement. I surmised that the hawk might hear a crackle from the speaker which was not within my own hearing range.

I had hoped to capture its departing flight but it proved to be more patient than I was. I continued onward after at least fifteen minutes of vigilant observation. A few more steps and I'd focus again but he wouldn't budge. Finally, I decided to explore just a bit further along the bank of the creek, a bit fearful of stepping too close to the slope, lest there be a sudden drop that I couldn't detect beneath the blanket of snow. A moment later, the snow was getting deeper and more difficult to navigate, so I decided to return, only to find that the bird had departed silently while my back was to him.

I can only hope that winter takes leave as quickly.


Crabby McSlacker said...

Do you have supernatural powers?

I don't know how you manage to capture birds and other flighty photographic subjects with such clarity. All I ever get is empty sky or a blur of feathers.

And beautiful scenery, as usual.

Phyllis E said...

Hi cuzzie,

That was worth getting snow in your boots!

Reb said...

Oh Hilary, those are great shots! All of them! I like the sight of melting snow and running creeks though. Almost as much as hawks - okay, now I'm torn.

photowannabe said...

Beautiful well written post and those pictures are lovely. I'm glad you went exploring on your own. A time of serendipity.

AphotoAday said...

Great bird shots, Hilary...

And yes, I sure hope you get some Spring soon. Spring is already busting out here in California.

Jo said...

It's great going on walks with you, I never have to bundle up. I too would have debated going forth alone...what a nice solitary adventure it turned out to be, good for you! Hawks are my favorite, what a treat--so beautiful.

the Bag Lady said...

I'm ba-a-ack! Sorta.

Still trying to get things sorted out and working, but loved the commentary that went along with the blank spaces where the photos should be... :)

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Crabby. I lucked out for sure. Those hawks were waiting for me. :)

• Hi Phyllis. I totally agree. :)

• Hey, Reb. No need to be torn. You can like them both. I sure do. :)

• Thanks, Photowannabe. I'm glad about that too. :)

• Hi Aphotoaday. Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by. :)

• Thanks so much, Jo. I'm glad you enjoyed the walk. Hopefully you can join me on a spring walk soon. You won't need to worry about mud on your Mary Janes. ;)

• Welcome ba-a-ack, Baggie. I hope you sort out your computer woes soon. Until then, I get your hint. I'll send you the photos shortly. :)

Anonymous said...

so beautiful! I'm so glad you decided to be adventurous! It was WELL worth it.

Chica, Cienna, and Cali said...

it's snowing outside here right now.......there was a promise of spring in the early week but we are back to square one.....but honest , i love to wake up to snow flakes dancing outside my window!!!

beautiful images, Hillary!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

We have lots of hawks around here but they're much darker. We also have a bunch of robin red-breasts out and about. Always a sure sign of spring!

It's weird to think about the scenic beauty of your picture locale being juxtaposed to a car dealership, isn't it?

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Moi. This winter has been a beauty, for sure. Thanks for the visit. :)

• It's very strange indeed, EWBL. I guess that's pretty much par for the course with suburban living. Thanks for stopping by. :)

david mcmahon said...

Awesome photos, great post. You have the magic touch with a camera and a keyboard.

Cath said...

Truly beautiful shots. Well done! What a gorgeous bird.

Seen your post re Zephyr - fantastic! Hope he is now well recovered.
(Commented there too)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You make we want to take a nature walk!

Hilary said...

• Thanks, David. That means a lot to me. :)

• Hi Cathy. Zephyr is doing very well, thanks. Your Misty looked grey and white to me. I'll have to see another photo sometime. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Make sure you bring your camera, Jenn. :)

Daryl said...

That was just wonderful .. thank you for sharing ..

David sent me.

Anonymous said...

In all my attempts I have taken one descent photo of a bird -- and it was accidental!

Tink said...

See? I need someone like you around to go on hikes with me! I think the snowy trek was well worth the beautiful pictures.

Frank Baron said...

You sure were blessed by the hawks that day. I'm glad you convinced yourself to go. :)

You do a half-decent impression of me too. ;)

Hilary said...

• Thank you Daryl E. That David sure likes to tell people where to go.. and for that, I'm grateful. :) Thanks for stopping by.

•Quilly, an accidental bird shot is better than none. Keep on shooting. Thanks for the visit. :)

• I agree, Tink - I'm glad I took that walk. I'm up for a hike with you if you ever venture up this way. :)

• Thanks, Frank. It was indeed a magical day. And you're fun to mimic. ;)

Shammickite said...

It's quite exciting, blazing a trail through the deep snow, isn't it? makes you think of how it was for the pioneers who settled this area more than 100 years ago. I was doing lots of puppywalking this weekend, and we did a little bit of trail blazing, but the snow was just too deep to veer off the beaten track through the forest. And in a couple of weeks it will be too wet to go far into the trees.
Great pictures.

Hilary said...

Thanks so much ex-S. A puppy would make a walk in the deep snow quite difficult for sure. I'll have to keep that pioneer thought in mind next time I'm out there with my digital camera hearing the outdoor PA system announce calls. It might just help to focus. ;) Thanks always for stopping by.

John-Michael said...

Oh Hilary! I am so glad that I 'sorted out' my faux pas' and 'found' these posts. The shot of the hawk soaring through the branches is SO nice! And the waterfall ... Ah! Serenity.

I am anxious to go on.

Hilary said...

Glad you like it John-Michael. :)