Spring Thaw

Winter started its annual retreat around here about a week ago. And with it the ice on the lake began to break up and move out. Open patches of water appeared and the ice volcanoes shrank a bit. And blue skies - something we haven’t seen much of this winter. But weather changes quickly, as I recently experienced. These images were taken over a five-day period, in different light, in areas close to where I live. All were taken around water and ice that changed on a daily basis.


A large piece of driftwood sitting close to the beach in the open water. But it didn’t stay that way for long. Just five days later strong winds, high waves and cold weather brought in more ice and water and that large log was buried once more.


Looking out from the shore, a close up the ice volcanoes. The white bands, and soft edges on some of the ice is due to the combination of moving ice and a two minute shutter speed.


The change in weather also affected the river cut. Completely open just a few days ago, it’s full of ice once more. It won’t last long, the warmer weather will quickly melt it, but for now this is what we have.


Driftwood comes and goes. It’s been in the water - sometimes already on the beach, often coming in with the winds. But those trees are no longer alive and the harsh weather can’t hurt them. But this small tree, once on the beach, is now surrounded by water and lots of wind. Will it survive? I hope so.


The living trees growing near the edge of the lake face harsh weather in the winter and early spring. Ice builds up on the branches, melts, and builds up again. Yet the trees somehow survive. I find their resilience - and their beauty - comforting.


I’m captivated by driftwood. Once living trees, possibly part of a forest, transported from parts unknown, they now appear as natural sculptures, formed by time, wind and water. Their shapes and textures are remarkable.


There was a lot of ice at Grand Bend this year. It is starting to melt but it will take time and some warmer weather before it’s all gone. But people are already there, watching the ice recede, and looking forward to the summer that’s not too far off now.


Weather changes everything. The light makes a difference, as does the wind. And ice - well that’s a whole story on its own. Ice is powerful, it moves whatever’s in its path And when it leaves, what’s left behind is different than what was there before.

Nesting Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes are large birds, 4 feet in height with a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet.  The head is white with a bright red cap, the beak is black.  The body is predominantly grey but the reddish-brown hue they often take on comes from the mud they use to preen their feathers.  They winter in the southern United States, Mexico and Cuba and come north to breed.  Sandhill Cranes can live for 20 years or more.  These images were taken in southwestern Ontario over 4 days from April 30 to May 3, 2016.

Sandhill Cranes mate for life and they stay with their mates year round.  Their habitat is freshwater wetlands, marshes and river basins.  The nest is large, built in watery areas, and constructed from reeds.   Two eggs are what's normally laid; sometimes there's just one, but rarely three.

Both parents take care of the nest, and both sit on the eggs.  The male is always close by, scanning the environment.  The eggs take 28-32 days to hatch.

Watching the eggs.

The first chick is born.  It is able to stand and move around almost immediately.

Checking the newborn and watching the second egg.

Resting in amongst the mother's back feathers while she sits on the second egg waiting for it to hatch.

And now there are two...

Proud parents

A Canada Goose wandered by and stayed for some time.  The parents remained relaxed and unalarmed which meant the goose posed no threat to them or the chicks.  At other times, when birds flew overhead or noises alerted the cranes, they became extremely alert and very vocal.

Hovering over the chicks while the other adult looks on.

The cranes have now left the nest, the parents moving their chicks to new places, where they'll start them on their journey to independence.  The chicks are able to survive alone from the age of two months, but usually remain with their parents for about nine months, migrating south with them in the fall.  Around two they will start looking for a mate of their own and will start breeding anywhere from the age of two to seven. 

Sandhill Cranes are beautiful, majestic birds.  It has been a great pleasure watching them over the past four days and I'll be looking for them again next spring.