Hawk, Heron and Kayaking Fun

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #30! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, hot chocolate, or a cold drink at my coffee station and let’s chat.

It was a fantastic week with a mix of sunny days and some showers. I enjoyed cycling, walking, playing disc golf, strength training, meditation, yoga, learning French and Spanish, watching Olympic highlights, photography, reading and writing. I went canoeing and kayaking. I had a few nice surprises.

1. A Red-Tailed Hawk

One morning as I cycled to Ontario Place to go kayaking, I spotted a hawk on a fence post. I turned my bike around to get a good look. I’ve seen hawks in Toronto before but this was the first time I was about 2m (6 ft) from a calm red-tailed hawk. What a thrill to observe this beauty up close!

Red-tailed hawk.
A magnificent red-tailed hawk.

2. Dr. Duke Redbird

I continued cycling to the South Marina. Dr. Duke Redbird was at the Big House Canoe (Wigwam Chi-Chemung) that I wrote about here. I said hello and we chatted. As a few ducks swam towards us, he mentioned that they like oatmeal. It was an unexpected and nice encounter with Dr. Redbird at his houseboat.

Dr. Redbird at his Wigwam Chi-Chemung (Big House Canoe).
Dr. Redbird on his houseboat.

3. A Great Blue Heron

I picked up my kayak rental and paddled for about two hours. I saw many colourful fish amid green aquatic plants. Blue and red dragonflies flitted around me and some of them landed on my kayak.

Blue kayak.

At the Fish Habitat, I saw a Great Blue Heron! This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage stood motionless as it scanned for prey. I paddled quietly to get closer and we watched each other in silence.

A Great Blue Heron – What a majestic sight!

I paddled away and when I circled back, the Great Blue Heron was still there. It moved from the tree log to the river bank, to the rock, and flew to a small island in the Habitat before I left.

Great blue heron.
“I’m over here”
Great blue heron.
Wait, I see something!

4. Other Aquatic Life

I saw cormorants, a variety of ducks, and a muted swan. The cormorants are swift divers. The ducks and the swan were less shy and let me take their photos. Some of the ducks swam merrily alongside my kayak. I love it when they do that.

The water was so calm and clear, I could see the bottom of the lagoon. I also got a close-up view of green floating mats and white water crowfoot flowers.

Aquatic plants and flowers.
Aquatic plants and flowers.

5. Over Floe by John Notten

My kayaking fun continued as I paddled to Over Floe, a floating art creation by John Notten. He also designed the Plant It Forward urban garden sculpture that I shared in my previous post. I was glad to see this interesting art exhibit first on the water.

Truck, School
Bank, House and Factory

Then from land after I finished kayaking. Here are two views of Over Floe and what Notten says about each view. Click on each image to enlarge it.

It was a wonderful outing. I had a blast!

Linked to #LifeThisWeek, #PPAC7, #TreeSquare30, #WWE90.

How was your week? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Paddling within Toronto Islands

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #28! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, hot chocolate, or a cold drink at my coffee station and let’s chat.

My first stand up paddling (SUP) excursion of summer 2021 was a resounding success. The morning started with some clouds. By the time I reached Toronto Islands to pick up my SUP board and go paddling, it was clear and sunny.

These surf boards are outside the centre where I book my SUP board. For my fantasy beach cabin, I’d like a mini version of these boards at my cabin door. My favourite is the O board with the blue waves.

WELCOME surf boards.
WELCOME Surf Boards. Sharing for #PPAC#5.

I love paddling within Toronto Islands and experience nature. The island vibe is totally different from the city vibe even though the two sides are only ten minutes apart by ferry. In the summer, the Toronto Islands are beautiful.

For readers who are unfamiliar with Toronto, the following map shows Toronto city centre with the CN Tower at the bottom of the map and Toronto Islands in green, surrounded by Lake Ontario in blue.

Map of Toronto Island Park.
Map Source: City of Toronto.

Once on the island side, I picked up my rental board, the red Starfish, by the water’s edge.

Then gently paddled towards Long Pond to see aquatic life and the wetlands.

SUP board.

Beautiful white lotus flowers are in bloom at this time of the year. Their presence is a display of purity and tranquility.

White lotus flower.

A few snowy egrets were catching fish in the wetlands. They flew away when I tried to get closer for a good photo. Better luck next time.

Snowy egret.
A snowy egret amid the green trees.

The painted turtles were out on tree logs to bask in the sunshine. Their name comes from the brightly colored markings on their extremities, which range from yellow, to orange, to red.

The head of the turtle is distinctive. The face has only yellow stripes, with a large yellow spot and streak behind each eye, and on the chin two wide yellow stripes that meet at the tip of the jaw. Their feet are webbed to aid swimming.

Painted turtle.
This big painted turtle is basking on a tree log. Zoom in to see its face and webbed feet.

A double-crested cormorant perched atop a tree. Up close, cormorants have gorgeous aqua green eyes and orange-yellow skin around the base of the bill and chin.

I saw beavers, fish, birds, geese, swans and duck families with cute little ducklings. The islands are green and idyllic at this time of the year.

After about two hours of paddling, it was time to return to the city. I’m grateful for a wonderful SUP outing on a beautiful morning with blue skies, green trees and water everywhere! I’ll be back next week to canoe with friends.

Before leaving Toronto Islands, I always take a few photos of Toronto’s skyline which has changed over the years with new skyscrapers and green space along the waterfront.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Linked with #Colour2021, #LifeThisWeek, #Pond, #SundayStills, #TreeSquare, #WWE.

How was your week? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Spadina Quay Wetlands and Fun List

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #20! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate at my coffee station and let’s chat.

This past week the weather was glorious, lots of sunshine and blue skies with daytime high reached 27C (81F), felt like 30C (86F) yesterday. Since I’ve been cycling, walking, exploring and having fun with photography most days, I have a backlog of things to write up.

Today’s post is about my walk at the Spadina Quay Wetlands and my Spring fun list update.

Spadina Quay Wetlands

Spadina Quay Wetlands is a gem located in Toronto’s waterfront area. It’s a thriving ecosystem full of plants, birds, butterflies, ducks, and fish. It’s complete with flowering heath plants, poplar trees, flagstone paths and a creek. Aside from nature, there is also art.

1. Birdhouse Sculpture

Artist Anne Roberts designed the Birdhouse sculpture on stilts that was installed in the wetland garden. This sculpture recalls the human activities of the Toronto lakeshore at the turn of the 20th century, with warehouses of the Toronto Electric Company, the corner bank, the Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion and clusters of ice cream parlours and boathouses attracting Toronto residents to the lure of the water.

Birdhouse sculpture by Anne Roberts.
Birdhouse sculpture by Anne Roberts.

When the water level in Toronto Harbour is high, water fills up the small creek where the Birdhouse sculpture is located and it’s not accessible to foot traffic. This spring, since the creek has been dry, I was able to visit the sculpture up close.

A bird flying above the towers on the left.
Can you spot the bird flying above the towers on the left?

2. Bright Birdhouses

While walking around the wetland garden, I found these bright birdhouses. They made me smile.

Which birdhouse would you choose?

3. Gosling sightings

Remember I mentioned Lucy the nesting goose and my previous check-in? Her nest was close to the Spadina Quay Wetlands. She delivered five cute goslings.

It was a delightful walk at the Spadina Quay Wetlands. As an urban dweller, I appreciate this green space and enjoy seeing wildlife in their natural habitat.

Spring Fun List – May Update

Back in March, I wrote a Spring Fun List of things to do while in COVID-19 lockdown. Most of my activities are outdoors or online and follow public health protocols so I’ve been checking off a few items in April.

I’ve recently completed two more items (#3 and #7). Here’s my update and contribution to Leslie’s Spring link-up.

  1. Cycle to explore parks, the lake shore, and the city centre: Yes, most days.
  1. Take walks to enjoy nature in Spring and free outdoor public art: Yes, most days.
  1. View Toronto’s Cherry Blossoms and the annual Canadian Tulip Festival: Yes, I saw gorgeous cherry blossoms and tulips in Toronto. I viewed the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa virtually due to the province-wide lockdown.
  1. Meet my family and friends outside: Pending. Starting May 22, outdoor gatherings for up to 5 people are allowed.
  1. Play 9-hole disc golf in a public park: Yes, here’s my intro to how to play disc golf.
  1. Paddle around Toronto Islands: Pending.
  1. Plant a small herb garden: Yes, it was warm enough to plant. A small bed, soil, assorted herbs, sunlight, water, and voilà, a herb garden that is manageable and useful for the next several months.
  1. Read 1 book per week and add to my Books in 2021: Yes, average 1.8 books per week.
  1. Take photos and share my explorations on my blog: Yes, every post so far.
  1. Try a new restaurant take-out: Yes, from Salad King.

So eight done, two to go. I hope to complete the remaining two items in June.

Linked with #LifeThisWeek.

How did your week go? What do you do for fun this weekend? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Pink Flowers, Pets and Fun List

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #16! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate at my coffee station and let’s chat.

A quick glance at my phone shows that in April I’ve seen gorgeous daffodils, dandelions, magnolias, forsythias, pansies, ranunculus, tulips, and many more pretty flowers. I’ve also taken photos of birds, the lake shore, historic buildings and public art displays. It’s been a colourful month.

On Wednesday winter’s last hurrah brought spring snow. By Friday, it’s 15C (59F) with sunshine. My coffee share today: Pink flowers, Outdoor pets, and Spring fun list update.

1. Pink Flowers

I chose the following images to contribute to Jude’s Pink colour challenge, Becky’s Bright Square and Cee’s Flower of the Day photo challenges.

Pink ranunculus.
Pink ranunculus (or Persian buttercup).
Pink tulips.
Pink tulips.

Here are four more from my photo archives in alphabetical order.

2. Outdoor Pets

Terri’s prompt for her Sunday Stills photo challenge this weekend is Pets or Kids and improvisations are accepted. So I’m improvising and introducing my outdoor “pets” that are nesting and expecting “kids”.

The first pair is Gucy and Lucy, two Canada geese. Lucy is nesting under a small tree by the waterfront. Her nest is made of mulch-like materials. Their babies (goslings) are expected after 25-28 days of incubation.

Canada geese
Canada geese
Geese nesting sign.

The second pair is Cob and Pen, two Mute swans. Pen is nesting on a small island. Her nest is a soft bed of round balls of grey fibres. Their babies (cygnets) are expected after 34-41 days of incubation.

Mute swans
Mute swans
Swan nest.

I visit my outdoor “pets” often and hope to see their “kids” soon.

3. Spring Fun List Update

Back in March, I wrote a Spring Fun List of things to do while in COVID-19 lockdown. Most of my activities are outdoors or online and follow public health protocols so I’ve been checking off a few items. I’m contributing this update to Leslie’s Spring link-up.

  1. Cycle to explore parks, the lake shore, and the city centre: Yes, I’ve been cycling on different routes and they bring me many bits of joy.
  1. Take walks to enjoy nature in Spring and free outdoor public art: Yes, I take walks most days. Examples: My walk in Yorkville and the above walks to see spring flowers and bird nests.
  1. View Toronto’s Cherry Blossoms and the annual Canadian Tulip Festival: In progress. I’ve been watching Toronto’s cherry blossoms virtually with #BloomAtHome, a 24-hour 4K BloomCam livestream during the peak bloom period. The Canadian Tulip Festival is coming up May 14-24.
  1. Meet my family and friends outside: Pending. Currently, we are not allowed to gather indoors or outdoors with anyone we do not live with, until at least May 20.
  1. Play 9-hole disc golf in a public park: Yes, here’s my intro to how to play disc golf.
  1. Paddle around Toronto Islands: Pending.
  1. Plant a small herb garden: Pending.
  1. Read 1 book per week and add to my Books in 2021: Yes, average 2 books per week.
  1. Take photos and share my explorations on my blog: Yes, every post so far.
  1. Try a new restaurant take-out: Yes, the Pad Thai and curry dishes from Salad King were good.
Azalea flowers.
Azalea flowers with a hint of pink last spring.

I look forward to more cycling, walking, watching spring flower blooms and welcoming warmer weather in May. I hope the lockdown will be lifted after May 20 so I can meet up with my family and friends.

How did your week go? I’d love to hear your comments.

Linking to: #BrightSquare, #Colour2021, #FOTD, #LifeThisWeek, #SpringList, #SundayStills.

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A Year Later

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #10! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate at my coffee station and let’s chat.

This Week

It’s been a very good week with spring-like and mostly sunny weather here. The daytime high temperature reached 17C (63F) on Thursday. I complete my meditation, body weight workouts, and yoga at home before going outside to cycle and walk most mornings.

A beautiful day by the pier.
A beautiful day by the pier.

When I walk in the parks and along the lake shore, I see and hear red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, starlings, woodpeckers, ducks, geese, gulls, long-tailed ducks and swans . Most trees, except evergreens, are still bare with small buds on the branches.

White birch trees.
White birch trees.

Nature continues to keep me smiling and feeling positive. I also blog, chat with my family and friends by phone, learn French and Spanish online, listen to music, sort my photos, read, and write. I just finished a very good thriller, The Suspect, by Michael Robotham.

A woodpecker.
A cute woodpecker.

A Year Later

One year after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, I reflect on some of what’s been happening:

SubjectMarch 13, 2020March 12, 2021
Lockdown in TorontoFirst lockdown lasted from March 13 until June 2020.Second lockdown that started on November 23, 2020 is still on.
Food and household suppliesShortage occurred (e.g. Flour, yeast, toilet paper).Stable supplies.
Arts and entertainmentAll venues were closed. Exhibits and shows moved online or outside.All venues are closed. Exhibits and shows are available online or outside.
City-led and City-permitted outdoor major eventsOutdoor major events were cancelled (e.g. Parades, running races, festivals).Outdoor major events are cancelled through July 1 (e.g. Parades, running races, festivals).
Personal and recreational servicesLibraries offered digital services and closed branches.

Hair salons, gyms, and swimming pools are closed.

Public parks are open. Going outside is allowed for essential reasons (e.g. exercise, health care, groceries).
Libraries offer excellent digital services and limited services inside library branches.

Hair salons, gyms, and swimming pools are closed.

Public parks are open. Going outside is allowed for essential reasons (e.g. exercise, health care, groceries).
Social distancingPublic Health advised people to practice hand washing and social distancing (2m or 6 ft. apart).

Masks were introduced later and mandated in indoor public spaces and on public transport.
The 3Ws (Wash hands, wear mask and watch distance) continue. Masks are required in indoor public spaces and on public transport.

Indoor gatherings are banned, except with members in the same household. Outside gatherings limit to 10 people.

International TravelCanadians abroad were advised to return to Canada.

Airline and tour operators started cancelling flights and tours.
Canada added travel restrictions (e.g. hotel quarantine, COVID-19 test).

Non-essential travel is discouraged.
VaccinesNo vaccine available.Canada has approved four vaccines and vaccine rollout is in progress.

There was a temporary relief in Summer 2020 when the first lockdown was lifted. I got a haircut, socialized outside, and enjoyed a fun-filled summer paddling around the Toronto Islands.

This 3-geese distancing sign reminds me to do my part while keeping a sense of humour, including in difficult situations like living in a lockdown and a pandemic.

Three-geese distancing.
Three-geese distancing.

A year later, the main improvements are stable food and household supplies and vaccines. Since December 2020, Ontario has started its three-phase vaccination plan. I’m in the last phase to get the vaccine at the end of summer 2021 depending on vaccine supply.

I choose optimism. Yellow is the colour of optimism. So I updated this post with some yellow flowers from my photo archive. All florals are shared with FOTD photo challenge and Life This Week.

Daffodils.
Daffodils.
Sunflowers.
Sunflowers.

How did your week go? What improvements have you noticed 1 year after the pandemic started? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Lakeside Birdwatching

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #7! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate at my coffee station and let’s chat.

1. Link-Up News

Last weekend, we had a new high: 42 participants at Weekend Coffee Share #6 (41 in InLinkz and 1 did a ping back to my blog but didn’t enter the InLinkz party). Thank you, everyone, for your participation.

We have new participants and some returned from a blogging break at each link-up. So, a gentle reminder of my guidelines to join the Weekend Coffee Share link-up:

  1. Link one post.
  2. Read the host’s post and two posts from other Coffee Share participants and leave a comment so they know you’ve dropped by.
  3. Spread the Weekend Coffee Share word and link back. The hashtag is #WeekendCoffeeShare.

The guidelines are also posted in the InLinkz dashboard.

2. This Past Week

I had a good week, enjoyed many activities, and chatted with my family and friends more than normal. Downtown Toronto got some snow overnight on Monday and part of Tuesday, a lot less than other areas in Ontario. During the week, my brisk and long walks boosted my mood and the birds by the lake kept me entertained.

3. Birdwatching

I got into birdwatching about two years ago. When my sister and I went to Ecuador, the biodiversity there, including species of birds were amazing and noticeable. We spent time watching colourful birds and had a memorable overnight stay in the Amazon rainforest.

After that trip, I pay more attention to birds. Lucky me, Toronto is the home of the Blue Jays and over 350 other incredible species of birds. Toronto Blue Jays are a Canadian professional baseball team based in Toronto. They won the World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

When I walk by Lake Ontario, I enjoy watching birds in the harbour. They make my walk more fun and interesting. In this post, I focus on birds by the lake even though I’ve seen many more bird species in land. Let me show you in photos.

Common Birds

Common birds that are at the lake year-round include gulls, ducks, geese, rock pigeons, and swans. The ring-billed gulls have a black band encircling the yellow bill that distinguish them from other gulls.

A ring-billed gull.
A ring-billed gull.

Canada geese have the signature white chinstrap on their black necks. There are many of them along the lake shore, both on land and in the water.

2 Canada geese.
2 Canada geese.
Winter Birds

In the winter, attractive bufflehead ducks, long-tailed ducks, and common mergansers arrive here and stay for a few months. The cormorants with aquamarine eyes show up in the Spring.

Bufflehead ducks: The male duck has a large white patch on the head, the female duck has a small white patch on the cheek.

2 Bufflehead ducks.
2 Bufflehead ducks.

Long-tailed ducks: The males have mostly white, rich brown, black and grey on the face and long, slender tail feathers. Females are smudgy brown and white without the long tail.

4 male and 1 female long-tailed ducks.
4 male and 1 female long-tailed ducks.

Common Mergansers: They are large ducks with long, slender bills. The males are striking with clean white bodies, dark green heads, and a slender, serrated red bill. The gray-bodied females have rich, cinnamon heads with a short crest.

3 female mergansers.
3 female mergansers.
Summer Birds

Last summer, I was thrilled to see many birds when I went paddling in the wetlands on Toronto Islands. My favourites were the great egrets and grey herons.

Great egret.
Great egret.
Grey heron.
Grey heron.

I refer to the Birds of Toronto guide to identify these birds.

What birds are common in your neighbourhood?

Linking with Sunday Stills, Life This Week, The Weekly Smile.

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Life Is Like A Box of Chocolates

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. Forrest Gump’s expression “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get” came to my mind this week. If we were having coffee or tea, I’d share what made me smile and feel positive since my Trumpeter swan sightings last week.

It’s also time for the fourth Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020. The optional prompt is Water Sports. I hope you join me and my blogger friend, Leslie, to share what helps you stay healthy these days.

Family and Friends

I did my round of calls, email, and texts to my family, friends, and neighbours. Everyone has a story and I’m listening. Sharing our thoughts and updates was like sharing a box of chocolates. We were able to make each other smile or laugh out loud. I feel grateful that I’m with a group of optimistic people and everyone is well so far.

Three crocus colours

Family members and friends who are working shared their experience of working from home or how their employers arranged for physical distancing in the workplace. My nieces and nephews who are students shared their online learning experience and social life while schools are still closed. Friends who care for elderly parents shared how they’re managing it. My neighbours shared their early “senior hour” shopping experience.

Health

I’ve been diligent about my fitness routine to keep me emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. Here’s what I do to stay calm and feel positive:

  • Daily meditation, 15 minutes/ day.
  • Deep breathing at meditation, yoga, bedtime, or any time.
  • Outdoor walks with physical distancing 5-6x/ week, one hour each time.
  • Strengthening workouts 3x/ week, one hour each time.
  • Yoga 3x/ week, one hour each time.
Gulls by the lake

My outdoor walks are like a box of decadent chocolates. I love my time by the lake where I see open space, hear the sounds of water and bird life, and feel what the weather brings. The birds and waterfowl are very active. Their antics and conversations made me smile.

Nature

Tulips

Nature continues to show her best in spring time and delight me with her transformation from one day to the next. Daffodils and tulips started to bloom this week, adding more colours to the existing crocuses and hyacinths. I feel grateful to be able to walk outdoors with my senses all engaged.

A bunny

Oh, I spotted a bunny in a bush. S/he moved slowly around for a while before hopping away. I live near the centre of the busiest city in Canada so seeing bunny in the wild is a rare sighting that made me smile. I usually see them in the suburbs or more rural areas.

Shopping

Grocery shopping has been like a box of chocolates. The grocery stores continue to tweak their directional signs, the queue location, and in-store procedures so every trip is a mini-adventure. The stock inventories are inconsistent. I never know what I’m going to bring home with me.

Basmati rice bag

Example: No long grain rice from Thailand? Buy Basmati rice from India. I’ve never had such a colourful rice bag with a zippered top before. Now I own one. The rice was good, and I have two rice brands to choose in the future. I feel grateful to be home in my familiar surroundings while having opportunities to try food products from faraway places.

Water Sports

Being close to one of the Great Lakes means I’m close to popular outdoor water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, sailing, power boating, and stand-up paddling. The season usually starts in May and ends in late September.

Canoes and kayaks

The bright colours of the canoes and kayaks made me smile. They look like cheerful chocolate wrappings. Even though it’s still chilly to be out in the lake at this time of the year, the canoes and kayaks lying in the sun are like a promise of the summer fun to come. Something to look forward to.

How did your week go? What helps you stay healthy? I’d love to hear your comments.

Click here to join the Wellness Weekend link up and share your wellness updates.

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Life and Trumpeter Swan Sightings

Trumpeter swans

Hello blog friends! How are you doing? I hope all is well with you. In my March Wrap-Up post, I wrote about keeping a routine. This week I took a few cues from nature and mapped out a number of activities that made me smile and feel positive.

Family and Friends

Three sparrows

Nature: Three sparrows stood on a wooden handrail and chirped almost non-stop to share their news. They were so busy “talking”, they let me take a group photo. Their brown feathers blend them well with their habitat.

Me: I made my round of phone calls and texts to touch base with my family and friends. Wished one of my dear friends a happy birthday. Sent an email to my friend in Finland. Had a fun virtual party with my extended family, and a good phone conversation with my cousin who lives in France to share updates. Also did hand clapping every evening at 7 PM to show my support for the essential health care professionals and front line workers.

Health

Canada geese and ducks

Nature: Two Canada geese and two ducks swam happily in the calm harbour. They are exercising or meditating while physical distancing, LOL.

Me: I did my daily meditation, three yoga sessions, and three workouts at home using my own body weight and a Theraband resistance band. Also did short walks outdoors by the lake when there was no one around, just the birds.

Leisure

Nature: A variety of spring flowers are showing up in different colours, shapes, and sizes. Each is pretty on their own. The skies change daily, from clear and sunny to clouds and short showers. Why not try different leisure activities?

Me: Nature is my endless source of art and inspiration for sure. What else did I do from home and all for free?

  • Visited art exhibits at the Virtual Museum of Canada.
  • Wrote one blog post to wrap up March.
  • Read the thought-provoking Dear Life book by Alice Munro.
  • Took daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo.
  • Watched Charlie Chaplin’s comedic masterwork in The Gold Rush movie.
  • Watched the amazing Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet The Nutcracker at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre (Russia’s most famous theatre).
  • Watched an incredible Cirque du Soleil Premier show at CirqueConnect.

Trumpeter Swan Sightings

About ten days ago, when I was at the Toronto lakefront, I saw two Trumpeter swans flew by and heard their call to each other. This week I got to see them up close in the marina, right under my feet. Their black bills distinguish them from other species. I saw the tags, P24 and T63, on their wings.

The bright yellow numbered wing tags mean the Trumpeters are from Ontario. They are tagged by volunteers, often when on their winter feeding grounds. The two swans lingered near me for a while then swam away gracefully.

Two Trumpeter swans

Did you know that the Trumpeter swan is North America’s largest wild waterfowl and that it was almost driven to extinction early in the 20th century? The All About Birds web site gives an excellent overview of Trumpeter swan and clear audio of their unique sound.

Biologist Harry Lumsden began a provincial reintroduction program in the early 1980’s to re-establish the Trumpeter swan population in Ontario. With a lot of staff and volunteer efforts, the restoration of the Trumpeter swan in its former habitat and range has yielded good results.

I consider myself fortunate to be so close to these magnificent birds and to spend a few moments captivated by the sights and sounds of a pair of Trumpeter swans. They made me smile and gave my week a nice ending.

How did your week go? What wildlife have you seen recently? I’d love to hear your comments.

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My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

Last month my sister and I made a trip to Ecuador, a country on the Pacific side of South America. Our itinerary included visits to Quito, Otavalo, Papallacta, the Amazon, Banōs, and Patate. We had a wonderful time with numerous memorable moments.

I love so many things about Ecuador and it’s tough to name my ten favourite experiences. Nevertheless, I’m listing ten for now and plan to write more details in the next few posts.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

1. Visit Quito and its historic centre: Quito, founded in 1534, is the capital city of Ecuador. The historic centre of Quito was one of the first centers of its kind to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. A good place to see the panoramic view of Quito is at Itchimbia Park.

Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park

We walk the cobblestone streets in Quito’s historic centre and visit some of the beautifully restored colonial-era churches, palaces, and public plazas, such as the Independence Plaza, the Cathedral, Presidential Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace, La Compañia de Jesus Church with its beautiful gilded interior, and the Church and Monastery of San Francisco with its impressive facade and atrium.

Independence Plaza in Quito
Independence Plaza in Quito

2. Straddle the Equator at the Middle of the World Monument: The country is called Ecuador as the Equator passes right through it. We visit the Middle of the World Monument which commemorates the first Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Sciences. This is where Louis Godin, Pierre Bouguer, and Charles Marie de La Condamine first determined the equatorial line in 1736.

Even though GPS measures later proved that their magnetic measurements were flawed, and the actual equator is located 250 meters from the monument, it’s still a nice place to visit and to stand at a latitude of 0º0’0” with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere.

Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0'0''
Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0’0”

3. Hike and hike some more: We hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo, and the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall near Baños. The landscape that we see along the Pan-American Highway is breathtaking. The most strenuous hike for us, however, is in the Amazon rainforest.

Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Peguche waterfall
Peguche waterfall

4. Shop at the Otavalo market: The Otavalo market is one of the largest in South America run by the local Otavaleños. Here, we enjoy the lively market atmosphere and browse the various stalls for traditional goods such as handwoven cloth and rugs, Panama hats, art work, jewelry, and more.

Otavalo main square
Otavalo main square

The Panama hats, by the way, are made in Ecuador, and not Panama. The construction of the Panama Canal caused a great demand for toquilla straw hats from Ecuador, because of their qualities to protect from the sun. From Panama the hat was internationally known and people began to call it “Panama Hat” even though the place of origin is Ecuador.

Art for sale at Otavalo market
Art for sale at Otavalo market

5. Relax at the Papallacta hot springs: Ecuador has many volcanoes hence hot springs are plentiful. We enjoy the thermal hot pools and our overnight stay at Termas Papallacta hotel and spa. It’s a beautiful place to relax and recharge before we go to the Amazon rainforest.

Papallacta hot springs
Papallacta hot springs

6. Explore the Amazon rainforest: We stay at a lodge in a lush tropical and tranquil setting on the banks of the Napo river in the Amazon Basin. Birds, flowers, and sounds of nature and nocturnal animals fill our senses. We go on a guided and challenging hike for approximately two hours while viewing many species of tropical plants and insects up close.

The Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle

7. Visit beautiful colonial-Spanish haciendas: We stay at Hacienda Leito which provides a fabulous mix of old and new. The original ranch building, with its original cobblestone driveway, central fountain, and antique artworks and furnishings, is a classic example of a colonial-Spanish hacienda. The up-to-date rooms and free Wi-Fi let you know you’re in the 21st century.

Hacienda Leito entrance
Hacienda Leito entrance

On another day, we lunch at Hacienda La Cienega, one of the oldest and most historical haciendas in Ecuador, dating back to the 17th century, with a view of the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, in the background.

The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega
The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega

8. Try Ecuadorian food: We try various dishes in Ecuador and like most of them such as ceviche, quinoa soup, potato soup, shrimps and grilled fish. We did not try cuy (guinea pig). There are also lots of fresh and inexpensive fruit such as bananas, plantains, papayas, and chirimoyas. Ecuador cacao and chocolate taste divine in their desserts and hot chocolate drinks.

Cacao-based desserts
Cacoa-based desserts

9. Tour a beautiful rose plantation: Although roses are not native to Ecuador, the country has a perfect environment for rose cultivation and is presently one of the world’s major producers. On the plantation tour, we learn about the farming process, from planting to exporting, and admire numerous rose varieties.

Rose plantation
Rose plantation

10. Watch nature, local fauna and flora: While in Ecuador, we are surrounded by nature and innumerable varieties of fauna and flora. I take in the lush vegetation, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, rainforest, and cloud forests as much as I can. Below is a sample. I hope you see the hummingbird on the right of the red flower.

Hummingbird by a red flower
Hummingbird by a red flower
Tungurahua volcano at dusk
Tungurahua volcano at dusk

Many tourists come to Ecuador and jump from Quito or Guyaquil to the Galapagos Islands. There is much more to Ecuador than the Galapagos. I’m happy with what I’ve experienced on my first visit to beautiful Ecuador: culture, history, nature, food and its people. I hope you enjoy seeing Ecuador through my lens.

Have you been to Ecuador? What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

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