Lens-Artists: Look Up

I am currently obsessed with the ever-changing landscape that is the sky.  Looking up has become a habit.  The featured image was taken from the car while traveling – so not the best, but still the cloud images look alive.

Taken from the front porch, this late afternoon, September sky is perfection:


During a recent trip to Ottawa, we parked the car downhill from the Parliament Buildings and I managed to capture this image of the capital with the fall sky overhead:

parliament up hill

Inside the Parliament Buildings was spectacular, and the library was no exception.  Not the best photo because I was too overwhelmed by the overall beauty to focus on any one aspect:

Parliament library

(Submitted for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Look Up.)

Leaving Ottawa

stone artCanada’s capital city has lots to offer.  Before leaving we took the scenic drive along the Rideau, stopping in at the various parks and places of note to take pictures.  At the Remic Rapids, Muskoka chairs line the grassy banks, overlooking rock sculptures in the water.  Apparently, artist John Felice Ceprano has been creating these figures since 1986.

library clock, carvingsOf course, no trip to Ottawa would be complete without a visit to the Parliament buildings.  As one of our clan works for the liberals, she arranged to give us a private tour.  The buildings are currently under restoration, which was clearly visible, but the majesty of the place still shone.  Marble floors and archways, floor to ceiling portraits, stained-glass windows, and elaborate woodworking make the Parliament a place of art and history.

The plan after leaving Ottawa was to drive north to Algonquin Park and then back to Muskoka to visit with friends, but at our first pit stop my left leg decided to stop working.  I’d been having trouble with muscle spasms and weakness since we arrived, and now my body was giving out.  Ric made the call to return home.  I am grateful that he did.  Home is the best place to be for recuperation.

Besides, I have many photographs to sort through, and blog posts to make, which works well with my feet up, so all is good.

Discovering Ottawa: Jack Pine Trail

chickadeeWe didn’t bring the recommended seeds, and wished we had the moment we stepped onto the Jack Pine Trail.  In Nepean, Ontario, just outside Ottawa, this trail is a short but very worthwhile walk.   Dogs are not permitted, which I found odd at first, but soon realized is part of the magic.

Nuthatch 2-2Magical is the best way to describe this little oasis.   Chickadees, and nuthatches welcomed our approach, flitting about our heads, landing on the path before us, and one even settling on Ric’s offered hand.

Not even my walker threw them off.  One little nuthatch, in particular, kept close to me, as if he’d claimed me as his human.

Blue jay profileBlue jays watched from nearby trees, chattering merrily – none of the usual cries of warning.

Chipmunks and red squirrels also skipped about, and I suddenly felt like Snow White, cooing and coaxing my newfound companions.

See why we wished we’d brought the seed?  Our little friends were looking for a gift, but nevertheless, they accompanied us along, delighting me each step of the way.

red squirrel 2A friend had told us about this place, and recounted many encounters, not just with the birds but also with deer.   Chippy

“Sit for a while, and they will come,” she advised.

But the other thing I forgot was mosquito repellant, and the buzz around my ears warned me that I was providing a feast for the pests.  I kept moving.

As you can see from the photos, the foliage is thick, and the many trees meant several roots, along with rocks, marked the trail.  We opted for the short loop for this reason, but I would love to come back again, better prepared.

If you are in the area and can only do one thing, check out the Jack Pine Trail.

Discovering Ottawa: Hogs Back Park

Hog's BackNature, weather permitting, is always the first draw for us when travelling.  After a lunch in Lansdowne, we decided to visit Hog’s Back Park and see the falls.

Located in Ottawa, along the Rideau river, Hog’s Back Park offers lots of free parking and appears to be a popular spot.   While there are plenty of handicapped spots, the path itself is steep, and the closest lookout to the parking lot is paved with uneven stones, making it difficult to maneuver with a walker.   The view, however, is well worth the effort.

duck napsHuge rock formations jut in and out of the water’s path, with several waterfalls contributing to the rush.  From where we stood, high atop the flow, we spotted several groups of black ducks enjoying the area.  While many bobbed up and down in the water, some found flat spots on the rock to nap.
hunched heronIn a deeper crevice, a Great Blue Heron, readied himself for the hunt, taking time out to preen himself.  We moved to the next lookout downstream in order to get a better shot of him.

The paths continued alongside the river on either side of the falls, and I walked for a bit, but my legs weren’t up to the many hills.

Hog's Back Park rocks_treesTree lined walkways, areas to sit and enjoy the view, and a pavilion that offers restrooms make this an alluring spot.   Despite the beauty of this place, and signs posted regularly discouraging litter, it was easy to spot discarded cans and food wrappers shoved beneath the bushes, which I found to be disappointing.  Still it was worth the stop.

For more on the construction of the damn at Hog’s Back, click here.



Discovering Ottawa: Mer Bleue

frog closeup“Did you see anything cool?”  We ask the young boys running ahead of their mother in the parking lot.

“Frogs!” they exclaim.

“There’s a frog sitting on a wasp’s nest, catching the wasps as they exit,” another group tells us.  We head in that direction.

We’ve come to Mer Bleue Conservation area just east of Ottawa.  The area itself is huge and comprised of several trails, but we have chosen the Bog Trail, as it is 1 km in length.

small frog 2Entering the left fork of the trail takes us through a wooded area before we reach the boardwalk itself.  We find a large frog just beside the path, but can’t see any wasp’s nest.  Maybe, sated, he has moved on.  He sits for some photos but as soon as my walker hits the boards, the booming sound scares him away.

No worries, Ric spots a smaller, well camouflaged frog further along.

Bog walkIt is not as overcast today, and warming up.  A large crow bellows from a tree well off the trail, and to my right I can hear the sweet, clear note of another bird, but cannot find it.  Bog life is well hidden in the tall grasses.

The boardwalk takes us over a wooded area where many interesting plants and fungus grow.

As we approach the open water, I catch a bull frog ducking under the lily pads.  A red dragonfly hovers just above the pads and I’m waiting for the frog to go into action when Ric calls out that there are turtles in the water.  Distracted I join him, but he says their heads pop up and then they disappear again.

terrapinI have heard rustling in the grass, and caught sight of a bird, but it stays hidden.  I do recognize something familiar across the way, sticking out of the brush – a terrapin.

The day is warming up and we decide to move on.  I linger capturing a few more images.  The path leading to the car is covered in wildflowers and golden rod, all buzzing with bees.  I snap a few photos and I’m not sure, but is this:  two bee or not two bee?2 bee or not

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Discovering Ottawa: Manotick

We are drawn to Manotick, a suburb of Ottawa, to visit with friends.  Arriving early, we decide to check out Watson’s Mill along the Rideau river.  Unfortunately, as it is off-season, the mill is not open this day, however there is still plenty to explore.

rain crystalsNext to the mill is a Veteran’s Memorial Garden with well manicured gardens and a paved path overlooking the river.  The clouds from yesterday’s rain are still lingering, and water droplets remain form jewels on spider’s webs.  Everything is still lush and green even though we are now into September.  We had hoped that the fall colours would be popping out.

Manotick, OnBlack ducks fish for their lunch in the waters below, or laze on the rocks, as gulls fly overhead.  On the other side of the mill is the damn, and further upstream, the water is mirror-still except for the patterns carved by ducks enjoying the serenity.  The park across the way looks pristine and dreamy in this light.  Later we will drive to the other side to enjoy it..

Across from mill is another, related, building which houses a used book store.  For $5 I pick up two hard-covered, and one paperback.  A steal!

random pianoThe park across the river is A Y Jackson, and its tree-lined paths lead to further viewing points.  At this time of day, there are only two others present – a woman on her phone (I walk in the opposite direction), and a woman reading her book on a bench in the shade.  A painted piano graces the overlook just beyond her, and I imagine impromptu concerts.  From here, I can see the back of the mill, the damn, the walkway across it, and more ducks enjoying the day.  A cormorant stands still in the middle of the river, as if announcing itself King for the day.

It is easy to understand why our friends chose to retire here.  Not unlike our Stonetown, the buildings have charm and the main area is lined with interesting shops and restaurants.

hawk perfectionMore than that, the house they have built for their retirement, backs onto a wooded area, and the irony of the day is that I get the best photos from their back step:  magazine worthy gardens, a wild rabbit that drops by and my gorgeous picture of the Cooper’s hawk on their back fence.

(V.J.’s challenge this week has been irony, so I apologize if the theme is getting a little tired, lol.)

Stoic Hunter?

Who is more stoic
than the Great Blue,
stealthily enduring
rocks and rapids
to catch the day’s meal?

Appearances, however,
have been known to deceive…

seems this bird is no emotional
void, no paragon of strength,
but a closet thespian – caught him,
mid rehearsal – aspiring
to a phantom role –
of the opera variety.


(Written for Manic Mondays 3 Way Prompt: stoic.  Inspired by this Great Blue Heron photographed at the falls at Hog’s Back Park, Ottawa, On.  V.J.’s challenge this week is irony, so forgive me for injecting a bit of humour into the scene.)