On the road


Last week, as I watched a number of bighorn sheep travel along a highway, I thought about how often I had seen wildlife use our roadways.

Certainly highways cut across the landscape and can act as barriers to the movement of wildlife, particularly when there is heavy vehicular traffic. However, in regions of lighter traffic, wildlife often takes advantage of roads to move through the countryside.

In a way, there is  irony to this behaviour. Initially, paths through the wilderness were wildlife trails. They were adopted by humans, were widened for vehicles, and were ultimately straightened and paved. It is likely that in many cases, wildlife is merely using its own historical routes. 

A ewe and lamb appreciate the easy travel along our roadways.

A different pair struggle to abide by lane markings.

White-tailed deer usually travel our roads in the evening when pictures are difficult.

I see black bear on sideroads more often than on highways.

The same is true of grizzly bears.

Coyotes like our highways.

And even use them for a dump.


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Bighorn portraits


A visit to a herd of bighorn sheep yielded two portraits.

A ewe and lamb

A ram


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Great War, R.I.P.


Today, November 11, 2018, marks the centennial of the end of the Great War (1914-1918), a horrendous conflict that erupted accidentally. Requiescant in pace.

Ancestral military service: In addition to my grandfather’s service during the Great War, my father, R.T.Fraser, served in the Second World War from 1940-1945. Further, my great-great grandfather, Hugh Fraser, served against Napoleon in the Peninsular War, c. 1810, and against the Americans in the War of 1812.

My grandfather, Thurlow Fraser, served in the Battle of the Somme (1916), was wounded, and was mentioned in dispatches for bravery. Further, many of his and his wife’s relatives were killed or wounded in the conflict, and he expected to be killed. Indeed, at one point, he bent over to help a wounded soldier and a bullet passed over his crouching body killing another person behind him.

Rev. Thurlow Fraser was 45 when he enlisted.

What is Thurlow Fraser’s connection to Kootenay Lake? It’s actually rather tenuous:

• He worked in Sandon (our local ghost town) in 1909;
• His brother, Sydney lived on the West Arm and gave rise to Fraser’s Landing, the ferry terminus (1931-1947), and to the extant Fraser Narrows;
• His cousin, Rob Fraser Langford gave Yasodhara its name (the site of the ashram).

But I live here, and that has to count for something. So, this is personal.

However, the point of this posting is to present what was a hand-written letter he sent from the front. It was a letter of sympathy addressed to the parents of Allan Bishop upon his death. (Allan was the cousin of the ace flier, Billy Bishop, after whom the Toronto City Airport is named.)

If the letter offers anything today, it is a poignant record of the horror of this century-old conflict. 

10th Canadian Inf. Battalion,
B. Es, France, 30-12-16

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Bishop:

I cannot let this year which has brought you so much sorrow, pass out without writing you a few words of sympathy on the loss of your son, Allan.

Although I was in the battle that day, Sept 26th and probably not far from where he was, I did not hear about his being wounded until weeks afterwards. In a battle such as we had on Sept. 20th, 26th, 27th, we know nothing of what is going on except what we are able to see with our own eyes. There is the continual roar of guns, so that we can only make a comrade hear by screaming in his ear. Shells are howling through the air and bursting all around us. Men whom we know, and men whom we do not know are being killed around us. On that day men who were so close to me that they were touching at the moment they were hit, were killed. The probability is that we will be next. We do not think of running away or even taking cover. Our work has to be done. So we go right on, doing whatever our hands find to do.

That day I saw some of my best friends wounded, and some killed. I chanced to be there at the moment, and was with them when they died. But, others were hit within two or three hundred yards of me, and I did not know it. One of my own nephews was corporal in charge of the signallers on a battery not over 200 yards from where I was, and I never knew he was there until I met him this week.

That is how it was with Allan. He was not far from where I was helping to care for the wounded. But I did not know it till weeks afterward.

I know what a blow it must have been to you. He was young, and his life full of promise. Yet it is just such lives that this war is taking all the time. It is reaping a harvest of the young before their time.

And yet short as these lives are, they have lived longest who have lived best, and died for what is worth while. I feel that those brave young fellows are dying for what is worth while. They feel it too. Much as they hate the war, and much as they would like to get home, they would rather go on fighting and taking their chances of getting killed, than see a premature peace which would simply bring in its train another war.

They all say that they would rather finish it now while they are at it than have to start over again.

I have had six nephews in it. One was killed in November; one was wounded about the same time and is in hospital. The other four are carrying on. Of six cousins of Mr. Fraser’s, who were here in April, there is now only one left. Three killed; one wounded and disabled; one a prisoner in Germany, one still fighting. I have so many other relatives in it that I have ceased trying to keep track of them. I know what this thing means. But, I would rather see it fought to a finish, than ending by a compromise which would leave things in the same bad old way.

I hope Howard is keeping well and safe. Of late I have been separated from the Owen Sound boys. So long as I was anywhere near there, I kept in touch with them. But of late that has been impossible. I do not even know where they are at present. Our units are forever shifting; and they are all with different divisions from what I am.

In your affection and sorrow, you have my deepest sympathy. May God comfort you, and give you strength to bear it.

I am
Yours sincerely
    Thurlow Fraser

Finally, I include his “Mentioned in Dispatches” signed by Winston Churchill.


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Incompatible raptors


Among our various local raptors, there are two that are almost mutually exclusive: the Osprey and the Rough-legged Hawk. The Osprey hunts over water in the warm months; the Rough-legged Hawk hunts over land in the cold months. Although each spends a half year here, the one might never have encountered the other.

The Osprey begins arriving from the Tropics in April and returns in September. It lives on fish. This picture was taken last June 15th.

The Rough-legged Hawk begins arriving from the Arctic in September and returns in April. It lives on rodents. This picture was taken November 7th (yesterday).

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Horaltic dipper


The dipper is perhaps the most unusual bird in this region. It is a songbird that hunts for comestibles on the floor of turbulent mountain streams. It peeks below the water’s surface and dives to the creek bottom to fetch things to eat.

Here a dipper pauses on a rock before resuming its hunt for food in the creek.

The dipper stands on a rock and sticks its head underwater to search the bottom.

This is the horaltic pose, sometimes adopted by large birds to warm or dry their wings. The dipper does not need to do either of these things. Indeed, this is the first time I have seen a dipper adopt this stance (see, horaltic vultures).


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Pied-billed Grebe


Along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, the Pied-billed Grebe is not all that common. That it is seen primarily in the spring and fall, suggests that we usually see migrants that breed farther north.

When the bird comes by early in the year, it is in its breeding plumage as is shown in the earlier springtime shot to the right. This picture also shows the origin of its name: pied-billed.

This morning’s shot shows it in its non-breeding plumage.


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Lollygagging heron


A young Great Blue Heron stood on one foot and lollygagged in the midday sun.


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When I was a child, I was told of two kinds of trees: deciduous and conifer. This distinction seemed odd, for these are not matching classifications: deciduous refers to a seasonal shedding of leaves; conifer to a reproductive structure. Skepticism was appropriate: there are, in fact, broadleaf trees that are evergreen — the arbutus, and conifers that are deciduous — the larch.

Indeed, my favourite deciduous tree is the larch. Each fall, it decorates the mountainside when its needles turn golden before being shed.

The Western Larch flows down this distant mountainside like ringlets.

These backlit larch appear orangish.

And nearby in bright sunlight, the larch is golden.

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Underwater spring


Video: It is rare that I think that a posting would have been improved by the inclusion of a video clip. I am usually more concerned with stopping motion than showing it. However today, a movie  clip would have helped the communication. Alas, I do not have one.

In mid-August, two springs appeared on the bed of Kokanee Creek (at ~400 metres from the mouth). They persisted until early September, when they disappeared. In mid-October, one spring reappeared. 

Visually, the springs were a churning mass of a lighter shade of sand upwelling from below which then spreading sideways.

On September 1st, Gary Munro waded out and took temperature measurements. Thrusting the thermometer deep into the upwelling fluid, he got a reading of 7 °C. At the time the water flowing in the creek was 11 °C.

This suggests that the source of the spring water was not elsewhere on the creek, but possibly ground water from off the mountainside. But, who knows?

One of the springs on the bed of Kokanee Creek in mid-August.

Churning sand rises from the bed of the creek in mid October. 


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Western sky


The western sky is associated with sunsets — also grand haloes. 

This evening’s sky had a group of haloes. They were not the best I had seen, but they were eminently satisfactory. There was a modest 22° halo, an upper tangential arc, and (best of all) a grand circumzenithal arc.

The western sky before sunset shows haloes. The circumzenithal arc is near the centre top.

The circumzenithal arc varied in intensity and colour quality, but this is one of its better views.


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