Westside story

In Westside Marsh (just west of Port Darlington, on the north shore of Lake Ontario) the colour scheme is still mostly brown and blue. But the signs and sounds of spring are everywhere, with birds picking out nesting locations and a few already settled down on nests.

An osprey chows down on fresh fish. Unfortunately this bird appears to have a thorn or twig lodged in a nostril – it was clearly visible, sticking out at the same angle, on three different evenings in the past week. (Click image for larger view)

 

A real fixer-upper. The view from this platform is great but the furnishings so far are sparse. (Click image for larger view)

 

These nests are last year’s models but they’ve certainly held together through many strong winds. At left, this nest is only a few feet above ground in a dogwood bush, but its location on a narrow island makes it inaccessible to most predators. At right, this oriole (or possibly red-eyed vireo) nest hangs high in a tree on a hill overlooking Westside Marsh. (Click image for larger view)

Mute swans, which stay in the area through the winter, are already on their nests. (Click images for larger view)

 

These plovers splashing in the shallows at sunset may be just passing through. (Click image for larger view)

 

Beavers are a common sight here, especially in evening when they cross the open water to the wooded edges of the marsh.

Top photo: ospreys perched below one of several nesting platforms in the marsh. (Click here for larger view)

Sideways Glances

With sunlight in short supply in southern Ontario for the past month and spring greenery still at least six weeks away, it’s been a challenge to capture much colour in outdoor photos. But that makes every brief break in the clouds all the more precious.

These panoramas were composed in the old-school, 1990s way (pieced together in Photoshop from several shots) rather than the new-fashioned way (waving a smart-phone camera at the landscape and choosing the “create panorama” function).

 

Waterway, Saturday afternoon, February 4 (click here for large version)

 

Breakwater/Snowshower, Monday morning, February 6 (click here for large version)

 

Seating is limited, Monday afternoon, February 6 (click here for large version)

 

Top photo: Winter’s Dawn on Bowmanville Marsh, Saturday morning, February 4 (click here for large version)

Common Tern on paddle board

Surf culture at Port Darlington

Before I moved to Port Darlington I was told that yoga-on-stand-up-paddle-board was popular here, but I had no idea how varied this behaviour might be.

Herewith are just a few of the remarkable characters I have had the privilege of meeting out on the waves.

I will leave it to the ornithologists to explain the evolutionary advantages of these practices.

Canada Geese and Night Heron on paddle board.

Branta canadensis and young Nycticorax nycticorax

Mute Swan on paddle board.

Cygnus olor

Double crested cormorant and juvenile night heron on paddle board.

Phalacrocorax auritus and juvenile Nycticorax nycticorax

Great Blue Heron on paddle board.

Ardea herodias

Common Tern on paddle board

Sterna hirundo

All components of these photos were shot on location in Port Darlington, Lake Ontario. No birds or paddle boards were harmed during filming. All models were paid union scale. You can go out and ask them yourselves, some other day, but they all take a paid holiday on April Fool’s Day.

Open roads of South Dakota

This story of potential restricted access to rural roads has a happy ending.

A hat tip to Momentum magazine for news from the great state of South Dakota. A bill proposed in the South Dakota legislature would have required cyclists to routinely stop and get off the road in deference to any faster vehicle:

If a person is operating a bicycle within a no passing zone on a roadway that has no shoulder or a shoulder of less than three feet in width, the person shall stop the bicycle, move the bicycle off the roadway, and allow a faster vehicle to pass.

As is clear from the following pictures, many of the roads I traversed on a bike trip through South Dakota would be affected by this bill. Although traffic was seldom heavy, shoulders were narrow or non-existent and no-passing zones were frequent. If this bill had been law, I would have been required to get off the bike and hit the ditch any time a single vehicle came up behind me in a no-passing zone. Maddeningly pointless, and for someone on a loaded touring bike, a real momentum-killer.

So I sent the following letter to each of the bill’s co-sponsors. For each co-sponsor in a district I had travelled through or spent a night, I added a sentence about my journey through that district.

A letter to the co-sponsors of House Bill 1073

In June of 2014 I enjoyed the most wonderful vacation of my life, bicycling through North and South Dakota. Entering your state at Lemmon, I biked several hundred miles on back-country gravel roads, state highways, and Interstate 90, before ending the trip by riding the length of the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills.

Throughout the trip I met a warm welcome from ranchers, farmers, other tourists in campgrounds, and people in the hospitality industry. I was equally impressed by the services offered specifically to self-propelled travelers in the Black Hills. I was so enthused about the experience that I developed a travelogue of stories and pictures, and presented it to four different groups after I’d returned home.

Had Bill 1073, at least in its current form, been law in the summer of 2014. I would not have considered taking the trip. I would have concluded that a touring cyclist would be regarded as a nuisance in South Dakota, rather than welcomed. I am so glad the bill was not law then, and I hope the proposed legislation is dropped so that other touring cyclists will know that they too will be welcomed, and that they too can enjoy every mile of riding through your beautiful state, as I did.

Sincerely,

Bart Hawkins Kreps

former resident of Minnesota

current resident of Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada

Postscript: I received an email from one of the bill’s co-sponsors letting me know the bill has been defeated in committee. Let’s hope this bill never returns to the legislative docket. While my email arrived too late to have any possible impact on the legislative committee hearing, I do find it worthwhile to remind legislators that’s it’s in everyone’s best interests to encourage cycling rather than trying to keep us off the roads.

At the North Dakota/South Dakota border on US Hwy 12 near Lemmon, South Dakota. June 15, 2014.

At the North Dakota/South Dakota border on US Hwy 12 near Lemmon, South Dakota. June 15, 2014.

White Butte Road near Bison, South Dakota. June 16, 2014.

White Butte Road near Bison, South Dakota. June 16, 2014.

State Highway 73 near Faith, South Dakota. I was happy to dismount and get off the road to let this truck pass. June 18, 2014.

State Highway 73 near Faith, South Dakota. I was happy to dismount and get off the road to let this truck pass. June 18, 2014.

Badlands Scenic Loop Byway in Badlands National Park, South Dakota. June 19, 2014.

Badlands Scenic Loop Byway in Badlands National Park, South Dakota. June 19, 2014.

Interstate 90 between Wall and Rapid City, South Dakota, with the Black Hills looming in the background. Cyclists are allowed on Interstate highways in both Dakotas. The traffic makes for a noisy ride, but the wide paved shoulders make for a comfortable ride. On this day I also chose I-90 because the bridge overpasses would offer some shelter if I didn't beat the predicted late-afternoon hailstorm. June 21, 2014.

Interstate 90 between Wall and Rapid City, South Dakota, with the Black Hills looming in the background. Cyclists are allowed on Interstate highways in both Dakotas. The traffic makes for a noisy ride, but the wide paved shoulders make for a comfortable ride. On this day I also chose I-90 because the bridge overpasses would offer some shelter if I didn’t beat the predicted late-afternoon hailstorm. June 21, 2014.

The Spearfish Canyon road, in the northern Black Hills. June 27, 2014.

The Spearfish Canyon road, in the northern Black Hills. June 27, 2014.

Looking north on County Road 8 near Cottonwood, South Dakota. US 14 runs through the centre of the image from west to east. June 19, 2014.

Looking north on County Road 8 near Cottonwood, South Dakota. US 14 runs through the centre of the image from west to east. June 19, 2014.

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The Colour of Water