Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category
Another week has passed, and even though we’ve had night-time temperatures as low as -6C, daytime temperatures in the single digits C, April showers, and … yes, even some snow yesterday! … spring is still springing. A week ago I took some plants from indoors to the greenhouse, thinking night-time freezes were finished. Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. Despite that, the plants are doing well–and the temperature in the greenhouse today got up to 30C (check out that thermometer!) though it was only 7C outside. The smell in the greenhouse was lovely … warm, moist soil and fresh new plants. The garden plants are doing well, too–wild strawberries, chives, green onions, rhubarb, and more. Flowers and bushes … and early fruit blossoms … are in bloom around our complex, too!
Then off for another solitary walk through the neighbourhood oxbows. As usual, I didn’t meet a soul during my trek … at least not humans … but lots of flying creatures (check out the ducks taking off from the pond and the robin looking for worms), beautiful skyscapes (including the man in the moon peering down), and, of course, plants springing forth to welcome the spring! When I was just about home, a man came out of his house and demanded, in a cranky voice, what I was taking pictures of. “Spring!” I announced joyfully … and a smile broke out on his face. “Yes, it is!” he agreed.
Is Spring springing? Well, take a look at these photos, and tell me what you think!
The last set of photos I posted were taken March 15–the beginning of Spring Break here in Penticton. Since then we had a lot of beautiful sunny days, clear blue skies, daytime temperatures around 7 or 8 C. and night time as low as -6 C. In the past few days the clouds have moved in … and temperatures have risen as high as 14 C in the daytime and usually – 1 or -2 C at night — except for last night when the temperature only dropped to +3 C! That must mean spring is springing, right? So how does that explain the weather predictions for tonight for heavy snow in all the highway passes (but rain here in the valley)? Oh right, it still is March for a few more days … and you know what they say about March weather: “Comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” … Hmm… A bit more “lamb” would be nice, don’t you think?
The photos in this slide show have been taken over the past few days, and it does look kind of hopeful that spring is springing 🙂 Check them out 🙂
These Thanksgiving weekend snapshots were taken on October 10 2015 in my neighborhood … mostly at the oxbow at the foot of Baskin Street and Warren Avenue. Such a beautiful place; so much to be thankful for!
Did you know that 10,000 years ago or so, the Penticton area was under about 2 kilometers of ice? Even our mountain tops were covered. As the ice slowly melted over time, a proto-lake was formed, which flowed north toward the Thompson region. Gravel fans in our area are reminders of the run-off from that time of glaciation. Later, at some point the flow changed toward the south. The “benches” above the current valley bottom are the remains of beach levels. At one time, a large ice-dam in the McIntyre Bluffs area, towards what is now Oliver, burst, and the water rushed out of the valley, leaving behind Okanagan and Skaha Lakes, and the slow-moving Okanagan River and its surrounding wetlands and marsh. The slow river twisted its way through the wetlands, forming many ox-bow turns between the lakes.
The First Nations were content to live with the natural formations of this valley. When the first Europeans arrived in the Penticton area, they settled in the drier areas of the valley bottom. Small steamships pulled barges between the two lakes, carrying freight, and dredging kept the channel open to a sufficient depth. But as the town grew and more land was needed, and as folks experienced some years of severe flooding, it was decided in the 1940s to 1950s to “improve” the Penticton townsite between the rivers by putting a direct channel through from Okanagan to Skaha Lakes, thus cutting off the oxbows from river flow.
When the Penticton townsite was laid out, and the Penticton Band reservation lands, the border between the two ran down the center of the Okanagan River. When the channel was pushed through, this meant that some pieces of land on the west side of the channel belong to the city, while some pieces on the east side belong to the Penticton Band. Thus, the valley bottom involves both municipal and federal governments (and the Band government)–and the river itself is provincial! This means that when groups like the Friends of the Penticton Oxbows want to care for the oxbows, they must work with multiple levels of government, not to mention individual landowners, both in the City of Penticton and “locatee” landowners from the Band. But the Friends of the Oxbows are not daunted by this prospect, even if it does complicate things. Goals of the Friends include securing and managing habitat, encouraging natural riparian vegetation, providing controlled access (such as through “blinds”) for the public, preventing too much silt and other run-off materials from entering the oxbows, dredging out the excess that is already there, and improving water flow in and out of the oxbows.
Our tour started at the Okanagan Avenue northern access of the Warren Avenue oxbow. We saw turtles, ducks, redwing blackbirds, and many other birds. There is quite a bit of debris in the water, and an invasive species, yellow flag (a type of iris) has filled up a lot of the edges of the oxbow. Across the oxbow is locatee land; the family is working with a developer to put housing in the area, but as sustainably as possible to maintain the wetlands.
We also went to the Roy Avenue access point of the same oxbow, where we saw a large heron and mallard ducks. The deer enjoy browsing the native wild rose bushes, which also form a good natural riparian boundary area along the banks of the oxbows. The surrounding lands used to be productive bottom land during the freshet, which overflowed the natural banks and laid down nutrient-rich silt. The current higher banks are a result of the dredging done when the river was used for transport. The water weed here are a good sign of continuing productivity of this land.
Going on to the south end of this oxbow, on Warren Avenue, we saw the tall pole placed there for the osprey; this year a pair of geese decided to take over the nest, and the ospreys did their best to chase them away! There was once a crossing here for cattle as well. We were impressed with the size of the carp in this oxbow. The water this year is very low due to the lack of moisture over the winter, but there is still some surcharge from groundwater. Pipes connect most of the oxbows to the channel; however, they are placed so that overflow from the oxbows will go into the channel, but fresh water from the channel cannot get into the oxbows. The Friends of the Oxbows would like to see this remedied.
Next, we went to the oxbow access point at the foot of Kenney Avenue. There is one oxbow right there; and if one walks or drives down the dirt road, there is access to more oxbows. The first of these is behind Ayres Crescent. It has a lot of cat-tails growing in it, which is causing diminished productivity for birds that need open water; the very invasive yellow iris add to the problem as well. Tall cottonwood trees along the oxbow are typical of local riparian vegetation; there used to be many more of them in the area. Trees near the oxbows have been wrapped in fencing wire to discourage beaver from cutting them down. Along the highway by these oxbows are many Russian olive trees (they are not native to the area). If you decide to follow the path along these oxbows, be sure to watch out for snakes. Unfortunately, some folks also seem to think the land alongside the oxbows is a great place to toss their junk–cleaning these areas is another goal of the Friends of the Oxbows.
The oxbow at the foot of Brandon Avenue has been the receiving environment for half the city’s street runoff, including a lot of silt. At one time the city dredged the excess silt to keep the water clear; however, governments have been doing less of this lately, and the oxbows have been filling in with silt and vegetation. The built up banks, and spots of bare sandy soil are other reflections of past dredging. Most of the dead trees in this area are a result of beaver activity; at first the wire wrap held them off, but now they’ve learned to climb above the wire. Beaver tend to be a problem in these kinds of managed environments. There even used to be lots of trees along the Warren Avenue oxbow, but the beaver took them out about 10 years ago, and this has put back succession by about 50 years worth. Beavers along the oxbows tend to build bank dens rather than dams. Water birch, a native raparian species, is almost endangered now.
The final oxbow along this path (almost to Green Avenue) is beside a privately owned piece of land, and the owner has been taking very good care of it–this oxbow is generally in the condition that the Friends of the Oxbows would like to see all the oxbows in. Across the highway and beyond the channel, there are other oxbow areas which have been used most recently for cattle farming, but that is changing with the introduction of a new channel crossing and an upcoming shopping center.
We walked back to our parked cars and then drove to the foot of Brandon Avenue to see that oxbow from the other side. It is astonishing that only ten ago this was quite deep, open water; now it is very shallow and mostly filled with vegetation. However, just recently the City of Penticton has put in a silt interceptor on the drain at the foot of Brandon Avenue, and it is hoped that this will stop the silt build up.
On to the next oxbow access point, Figueras Mobile Home Park, where we enjoyed watching more ducks, including a wood duck, and also a muskrat. Our guide noted that there has been undercutting of the banks along the Mobile Homes due to the water; attempts have been made to stop it by putting in large cement “legos”; however, promoting more riparian growth would be more helpful.
Our next stop was behind the Oxbows RV Park, where for the first time we did not see any cat-tails; the water here is basic rather than acidic. Old pilings are part of the CPR waterway barges system when the oxbows were used for transportation. Rocks placed along the edges of the oxbow have created banks that unfortunately are too steep for good riparian growth.
Finally, we went out onto the highway where it enters Penticton, and took a quick look at where the Okanagan River used to flow into Skaha Lake–you can see it just east of where the channel enters the lake; it is the marshy area that crosses the beach there. We drove back north along the highway bypass, and parked near the north end of the channel by the recreational area there (just south of Loco Landing). This is what is left of the old Okanagan River at its northern end–bits of swampy ground surrounded by lawns and large, planted trees. Because it is so close to the channel, and there is no road in between, it could easily be connected to the channel to introduce fresh water and restore the natural riparian vegetation. Our guides showed us aerial photos of how the area looked before the channel was put in and the oxbows were cut off. Thanks to the Friends of the Penticton Oxbows for an amazing tour!
Coming up on my 60th birthday in a couple months, and thinking about friends who have celebrated their 60th (or 65th) by heading out on a long trek/pilgrimage. I was feeling sad that I can’t do that just now … but listening to CBC radio early this morning, a piece from Australia about World Labyrinth Day and the new labyrinth in Centennial Park in Sydney …
Which led my fingers walking through some googled articles on “salvator ambulado” … and I realized that I can “trek” every day, even if only for short periods at a time. After all, I live in a perfect spot … beautiful community parks, oxbows, community food forest, wild meadow, walking trail along the river channel, all within view and within a 5 minute walk of my house … and Okanagan and Skaha Lakes within 20 minute walks north and south …
Time to stop dreaming of (or at least focusing on) ocean cabins and beach trails, and stepping out into what is right in my own backyard (including my sweet tiny backyard full of raised garden beds and a bistro set and comfy lawn chairs!). Combine that with my art supplies, camera, and beautiful new notebook … I AM going to trek … and solve … by walking, and sitting down and writing and drawing …
The articles I’ve been reading promise walking will help me move, get out of my box, let go, go with the flow of my imaginings, be shaken from my complacency and pride, take creative turns, live without regrets, listen, connect, feel more centered, bring clarity and peace and well-being, become reorganized and refreshed and revitalized, engage in new responses and perspectives, literally be moved forward, gain emotional and physical well-being …
restore resilience and focus, add mindfulness to life, stop anxiety-producing mental patterns and allow my body chemistry to return to health with stimulated circulation of nutrients, gain improved energy and mood and immune functions, push stress and tension from my mind, restore alertness, prepare for worrisome appointments or meetings, increase resourcefulness of body and brain, reduce illness and fatigue, feel better and perform better …
reconnect with the things that are truly important in my life (spirituality, family and friends, health, writing and other creative pursuits, life-long learning and sharing), help tap into my creativity and wisdom and capacity for wonder, connect with what I really value, relax and clear my mind of jumbled and stressful thoughts, really attend to the beauty of the world around me, think deeply and efficiently, be lifted out of depression …
build relationships and discover solutions and discuss life’s questions while walking with companions, become more generous and community oriented, improve my community and society by improving my own life since we are all inter-connected, force my brain to process my environment and engage it more fully, improve my cognitive performance (and stave off the horror I feel about the possibility of dementia down the road), become fitter, reconnect to my true self, personally affect climate change and other environmental factors by walking instead of driving (and cut down on personal financial costs at the same time!), hug some trees, lay on the grass and soak up the sun…
When you set out on the voyage to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
But over the years I came to realize that a journey — one that can also be full of adventure and knowledge — doesn’t have to involve planes and cars and passports. The benefits of a journey are always available simply by walking.
Maybe someday I’ll take a long trek like my friend Yasmin John-Thorpe did for her 60th when she trekked the Camino or as my friend Robin Edgar-Haworth is doing right now as he treks across Canada to Ottawa seeking to Right the Wrong
But right now, I can get up from my easy chair, put down my laptop, put on my walking shoes, put my backpack of journal and camera and sketchbook over my shoulder, and step out the door, wander through my little garden, and out into my neighborhood …
One of the wonderful things about Penticton is all the beautiful wild green spaces tucked in here and there among human habitations. Believe it or not, all the wilderness spots in this slide slow are located within 5 minute walks north, south, east, and west of my very ordinary residential neighborhood in the middle of the city.