We spotted a strange sight this June when Nelson pointed out what looked like a Brown Thrasher without a tail. I reached for my camera and zoomed in to confirm the yellow eye and slightly curved bill. It even acted like a Brown Thrasher. (Video at ...
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"Anita Mae Draper" - 5 new articles

  1. Brown Thrasher
  2. Wind and Fire
  3. Tale of the Tiny Discarded Tree
  4. Tale of the Bluebird Tree
  5. Wildlife Watch March
  6. More Recent Articles

Brown Thrasher

We spotted a strange sight this June when Nelson pointed out what looked like a Brown Thrasher without a tail. I reached for my camera and zoomed in to confirm the yellow eye and slightly curved bill. It even acted like a Brown Thrasher. (Video at bottom of post.)

Brown Thrasher with Missing Tail, June 2020, RM Montmartre, Saskatchewan

For further confirmation on the identity of this bird, I posted an image on the Facebook group, Sask Birders. Soon enough, another member said she had seen a Brown Thrasher in the mouth of a fox going one way, and minutes later, a Brown Thrasher without a tail running the other way. She added that the tail feathers grew back over time. I wonder if this is a defense mechanism.

Brown Thrashers are rusty or reddish-brown on the topside with a beautiful long tail which is sometimes pointed high. It's very noticeable, especially when they fly up and away from you.

Brown Thrasher, June 2019, Regina, Saskatchewan.

However, the wing bars on my image of the Brown Thrasher without a tail seem almost nonexistant, and it's hard to tell if the wings are the correct length for an adult thrasher, such as the one shown in the above photo which I took a year ago, in June 2019.

A check through my photo files brought up two interesting photos of Brown Thrashers. The first is a photo of a juvenile taken in June 2012 where I spotted one camouflaged under the evergreens in our shelterbelt while an adult kept watch nearby.

Brown Thrasher Juvenile, June 2012, RM Montmartre, Saskatchewan

The wing bars on the Brown Thrasher in this next photo made me think of a juvenile, but it has the long tail of an adult. Because this photo was taken in September of last year, I now believe it's a Brown Thrasher in molt. Mid-July to September is prime season for birds to shed their old feathers and grow new strong ones for the long trip to their wintering grounds, so if you see a bird who appears to have lost its dignity along with its beauty, and it's too old to be a juvenile, it's probably molting.

Brown Thrasher in Molt, September 2019, RM Montmartre, Saskatchewan

Here's the video I took of the Brown Thrasher without a tail, which is also available on my YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/YKRICrGNpXo


Our photos can also be found on our Bird and Wildlife Pinterest boards, as well as on Instagram.


Wind and Fire

The prairie wind has been ferocious this year straining power lines to their limit. Tree branches are a particular menace on windy days. Recently, on a harsh, windy, HOT day, a tree branch tangled with a power line in the corner of our farmyard. We saw the fallen line on the ground and tried to contact the power company who had numerous calls already on the go. Not long after, we saw smoke coming from the area and called 911.

The Montmartre Fire Department showed up in record time and got to work putting out the fire. Since the line was still live, the guys stayed on guard for several hours in case the fire flared back up, waiting for the power company to come out and shut the power off.

The Draper family would like to thank the Montmartre Fire Department for their quick response. The damage to our farm and more could have been horrid if the fire had gotten out of hand.


Tale of the Tiny Discarded Tree

Draper's Acres, Winter of 2007
In October 1999 when we moved to our farm, we planted an 18" spruce tree where it would stand as a beacon to show the corner where the lawn ends and the gravel driveway branches off. This is needed to aid snow clearing so we don't ruin our lawn every winter. It was the perfect spot for the imperfect little tree. The tree is special to us as we had rescued it in 1994 from a large tree farm operation that threw out several hundred seedlings because they'd grown too large for the automatic tree planting equipment. We rescued 10 of the trees, deep down from a pile that had been left lying with their roots exposed to the sun for several hours. We planted them at home on our acreage, hoping they'd survive. The next year we retired from our military careers and left CFB Cold Lake, Alberta for the balmy climate of Saskatchewan. Along with our kids and belongings, we took our houseplants and six containers of sorry-looking seedlings which we transplanted into the garden of our new home. (The seedlings, not the kids.) We lived in town for five years. The seedlings were alive, but didn't thrive. Then came the move to the farm where we picked the healthiest seedling for the honored corner spot.

By 2010 the small spruce was still too small for Christmas lights. Although it wasn't actively growing, it was still green and healthy looking.

Draper's Acres, May 2010

Then during the summer of 2011, we noticed new growth at the ends of each little branch and it didn't look lopsided if you looked at it from the right angle.

Draper's Acres, Dec 2011

In 2013 the tree grew upwards and outwards, filling out yet still with its signature branch jutting out.  The gardener in me figures the roots had stretched out and down and the tree decided to put its efforts into growing topside. But my heart likes the thought that the little discarded tree finally realized it was home and would never be uprooted again.

Draper's Acres, Nov 2013

The tree was 20 years old in 2014 and continued its growth spurt--so much that when Nelson (and the boys who are hidden) went to string the lights, they had a tough time reaching the top branches. And oh, that tree shone through the darkness, a wonderful sight to behold during those long winter nights.

Draper's Acres, Dec 2014

It's hard to tell how tall the 2015 spruce tree is in this next photo, so that's when I decided I'd need to include the power line above it in all future shots.

Draper's Acres, Dec 2015

By 2017 the once-discarded spruce was over 14 feet tall as shown by the height of Nelson and JJ, the space between them and above them. To string the lights, JJ used two of those picker-upper things so it looked like he had extended lobster claws, but they did the trick of reaching the top of the tree. (For comparison, check out the 2010 photo to see the progress in the past 7 years!)

Draper's Acres, Nov 2017

Throughout the years we've lived on the farm, the tree has been the gathering place for family photos. It's a visual reference to the growth of the kids as well as the tree. Like this 2017 photo when all four kids were home for Christmas and after they went home, we were left with a beautiful memory of the event.

Draper's Acres, Christmas 2017

Draper's Acres, Nov 2018

The guys have gotten inventive over the years and last week when they went to string the lights, Nelson taped one of the picker-uppers to the end of a long handle. JJ held the lights up and they both circled the tree, winding the lights around as they went.

Draper's Acres, Nov 2019

A few hours after this year's tree was strung with lights, the moon tried to peek out and add to the light show. .

Draper's Acres, Nov 2019

So there you have the tale of the tiny discarded spruce tree. I only have one worry now...because of where we planted it, we may have to shave a bit off the top side if it reaches the power line. It's my fault--something I should have considered, but never imagined 20 years ago on that late October day when we moved to Draper's Acres to raise our family.

What started out as a tiny discarded tree provides us with immeasurable blessings throughout the year.

This post is also posted at https://www.inkwellinspirations.com/2019/11/tale-of-tiny-discarded-tree.html

Tale of the Bluebird Tree

Mountain Bluebird, male, May 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
One day, a man and woman were driving along and saw a flash of blue in a field of stubble. Oh, how pretty to see a bluebird. Another bird flew past with only a touch of blue on the wings and landed on a nearby tree branch.

Mountain Bluebird, female, May 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
The man and woman didn't think the tree looked pretty at all. It had no green leaves like all the other trees were getting, and the branches were wiggly and sharp. 

The Bluebird tree, May 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
The man and woman drove away, but later at home, they looked in their bird book and saw that the bright blue bird was a Mountain Bluebird male, and the one with only a bit of blue was the female.

A week later, the man and woman went back to see the pretty bluebirds. They were surprised to find the male poking his head in a big hole in the dead tree.

Mountain Bluebird, male, May 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
As the people stopped to look, the male pulled his head out and flew away. The people were sad they had scared him away, but happy when the female came out of the hole to take a look.

Mountain Bluebird, female, May 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
And the people knew that the bluebirds had built a nest in a hole of the dead tree. Soon, baby bluebirds would hatch from eggs laid by the female. 

The woman took a picture of all the trees near the bluebird tree so they would remember where it was, and then they drove quietly away.
Before the storm, Jun 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
One week later, a terrible wind blew across the prairie and many trees were damaged near the man and woman's home. They drove out to check the dead tree that held the bluebird nest. 

But where was it? The people knew they were at the same place because they had a picture of it. But where was the bluebird tree?

After the Storm, Jun 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
The bluebird tree was gone! Everything in the picture was the same, but the tree wasn't there.

The man walked over to take a look.

Looking for fallen Bluebird Tree, Jun 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
He pointed to something that the woman couldn't see, and then he took a picture of something laying on the ground. 

Taking photo of fallen tree, Jun 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
The man showed the woman a picture of a tree on the ground with a big hole in it, and they knew the mighty prairie wind had pushed over the bluebird tree.

Hole in Fallen Bluebird Tree, Jun 2019. Source: Nelson Draper
Then the man showed a picture of inside the hole. It was empty. Only bits of old grass and small twigs lay at the bottom. The nest was gone. 

Empty hole in fallen tree, Jun 2019. Source: Nelson Draper
The man and woman were heartbroken. The pretty bluebirds were gone and they didn't know if they had even survived the storm. For several days, the man and woman stayed away. It was too sad to drive by the fallen tree. They prayed that God had taken care of the birds that He had created. 

One day when they couldn't wait any longer, the man and woman drove to the fallen tree. From a distance, they saw that nothing had changed.

But then they saw a flash of bright blue zip past their car. Right behind it flew a bird with a bit of blue on its wings. The bluebirds! Yes! As the man and woman watched, the bluebirds flew past the fallen tree and deeper back into the trees behind it. Somewhere in that bush, they had built another nest, sheltered from the prairie wind. So deep, that the man and woman couldn't see it from the road.

Mountain Bluebird, male, on stubble, Jun 2019. Source: Anita Mae Draper
It was the last time the man and woman drove that way, but one day, they'll be back looking for new bluebirds. Meanwhile, they look at the pictures and imagine the male bluebird out on the stubble and new crop, watching out for insects to bring back to his family.

Tale of the Bluebird Tree video shows the bluebird pair at the tree.



This is a true story, but if you like fiction, you can check out my other stories at www.anitamaedraper.com


Wildlife Watch March

With all the wildlife we spotted in February we weren't sure what to expect in March, but we hoped to see some early risers if the weather cooperated. Note that this post is for animals only since March birds are shown in the following posts:

On the evening of March 8th we were within half a mile from home when we spotted a Moose browsing on the shrubby slough brush they love. With the fading light of an overcast day, we took a couple pics and left it munch. This was the only moose we saw in March 2018.

Moose, RM Montmartre, Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

A couple of days later I was out on the front stoop talking pics of the frosted trees when I spotted movement on the western ridge. Zooming in, I recognized the top half of a coyote heading south. He wasn't trotting as if he had someplace to go, but was walking slowly toward an area I'd seen ravens flying over the day before.

Coyote, RM Montmartre, Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

With Easter on the way, it seemed appropriate to catch a glimpse of a White-tailed Jackrabbit, still wearing his winter white coat. (Apparently Black-tailed Jackrabbits don't change their coat colour for winter.)

White-tailed Jackrabbit, Southeast Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

Nelson brought back some nice shots of a Red Fox on March 17. Apparently, he was up upwind of the fox because all the pics have the fox looking forward or down, but none looking in Nelson's direction.

Red Fox, Southeastern Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

I had my own Red Fox encounter, again from the front stoop of our house. I often step outside to see what's in the yard and on March 24th I was taking pics of dark snow clouds when I spotted something halfway up the western ridge. I zoomed in and saw two foxes, one larger than the other. They were walking, but then the bigger one in front looked back and suddenly the smaller one ducked down into a low spot. This image was taken at 5:16 pm.

Red Fox, RM Montmartre, Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

The weather was light blowing snow under heavy cloud cover. As I watched the foxes, they curled into sleeping position with their heads tucked in and only the tips of their ears showing. I went into the house but checked back frequently to see if they were still there. 

Red Fox, RM Montmartre, Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

At 6:50 pm I saw the foxes walking away. Their behaviour seemed strange at first, until I remembered other fox encounters where they would sit and pose, and then lie down as we took wonderful photos of them. The latest such opportunity was last month in the post, Wildlife Watch February

Prairie Dogs came out to play in March. My first sighting was on the 18th as I zipped down Highway 48 and spotted a little creature on a high snowbank. A snowmobile rally was going on at the time, but the snow machines had veered off and were gathered in a field a few hundred feet from the prairie dog's location. Perhaps with spring approaching their noise had awoken it from hibernation? Since I didn't want the guys to think I was taking pics of them, I carried on down the road wishing I wasn't such a chicken. Lo and behold, I spotted another prairie dog just a few miles further which is the one you see in this picture. By the way, if you recognize this guy, he's the model for my Happy Spring Instagram post

Prairie Dog, RM Montmartre, Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

A week later we were driving back from church when Nelson pointed out a prairie dog poking its head up from a snowbank in the roadside ditch. As I zoomed in, I was surprised to see its wet face as if he'd just tunneled through the snow - a first for me. When I submitted this prairie dog image to the iNaturalist.ca site, it was confirmed as a Richardson's Ground Squirrel, quite common on the prairies. This image made me think of the shark from the movie, Jaws, so I used it as the model for another Instagram post.

Richardson's Ground Squirrel, RM Montmartre, SK, March 2018. Credit: Anita Mae Draper

On March 17, Nelson was seeing the pink hues of a sunrise instead of kelly-green when he spotted these White-tailed Deer with their tails waving good-bye.

White-tailed Deer, Southeast Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

Three days later, Nelson caught another batch of White-tailed Deer in a scenic stubble field. White-tailed deer have a brown tail when it's down and only shows the white underside when it's running, after it's been alerted to danger.

White-tailed Deer, Southeast Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

Both White-tailed Deer and Mule Deer have white rumps, however the tails of Mule deer are white with a dark tip, as if they've been dipped in paint, like this next image:

Mule Deer on Snowy Day, Southeast Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

Nelson took this next photo on March 14 which clearly shows a white rump, but no white tail sticking up. That tells me they are Mule Deer.

Mule Deer at Dawn, Southeast Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

Nelson knows they are Mule Deer because he looks at their huge mule-like ears. Sometimes that's a give-away for me too, like this photo Nelson took on March 31st. 

Mule Deer, Southeast Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

We'll finish this post with a Common Raccoon that Nelson spotted on March 29th as the month neared its beastly end. The raccoon was moving fast and we've cropped this photo as much as we can before it loses definition, but you can still make out the ringed tail. 

Raccoon on the Run, Southeast Saskatchewan, March 2018. Credit: Nelson Draper

Nelson had another raccoon encounter in May, so we'll be posting those images soon.

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Pins of the above photos can be found on our Pinterest board:
Photos: Wildlife


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