Archive for December, 2013


Black-capped Chickadee

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There’s stiff competition among the four-leggers for the best seat in the house: Curled up with Railguy on his recliner.

Merry Christmas to all from Willow House. May your holidays be merry and bright!


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Last Light

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Hip Hip Hooray, it’s Turn-Around Day, otherwise known as Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. In Ottawa, the sun officially rose at 7:40 this morning and set at 4:22 this afternoon, for a total daylight period of 8 hours, 42 minutes and 50 seconds. Tomorrow will be longer by 2 whole seconds, 8 hours, 42 minutes and 52 seconds. I know, it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s great to know we’ve turned the corner and are no longer descending relentlessly into the gloom of December’s long and longer nights. We’re beginning the march to Spring.


Solstice officially marks the beginning of winter, but the season of snow and cold has already made its debut this month. We’ve has deep freezes dipping to – 28 degrees Celsius, a foot and more of snow, and today, freezing ice pellets added a solid crust to the layer of snow. Another winter storm blast is in the forecast for tomorrow. But hey! It’s Turn-Around Day! We’re on our way back to sun and warmth.


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Mink, St. Lawrence River

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I love this photograph of two pollinators visiting summer flowers. That’s a honeybee on the left, and a big, fat bumblebee on the right. I love to watch bees, all kinds of bees, and other pollinators enliven my garden. But you have probably heard that honey bees are severely threatened by a syndrome that has been named Colony Collapse Disorder. Although multiple causes may be implicated, the smoking gun points to one major culprit: neonicotinoid pesticides. And you can bet that it’s not just honeybees that are being affected. Other pollinators, birds and aquatic life are all at risk as well.


In Europe, precautionary bans of some neonicotinoids are being instituted.

The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association is supporting a call for a ban of neonicotinoids in Ontario. The banner, above, is from their website. You can sign their petition and read more information at ontariobee.com.

The Sierra Club of Canada is also supporting a ban. You can sign their petition and read more information at Sierraclub.ca.


The American Bird Conservancy have looked into the effect of neonicotinoids on birds.

ABC commissioned world-renowned environmental toxicologist Dr. Pierre Mineau to conduct the research. The 100-page report, “The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds,” reviews 200 studies on neonicotinoids including industry research obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act. The report evaluates the toxicological risk to birds and aquatic systems and includes extensive comparisons with the older pesticides that the neonicotinoids have replaced. The assessment concludes that the neonicotinoids are lethal to birds and to the aquatic systems on which they depend.

The beauty of bees and the desperate crisis that threatens them, and by extension, us, is documented in the award-winning video, The Vanishing of the Bees. I was able to borrow a copy from my local library and highly recommend it.


Another source is David Suzuki’s Nature of Things special, To Bee or Not to Bee. If you missed this show, you can still watch it online. Time well-spent.


In addition to becoming informed and supporting a ban on neonicotinoids, you can help by buying local organic honey. Did you know that a lot of commercial honey isn’t pure? It has been ultra-filtered to disguise ingredients:

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. However, the FDA isn’t checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.

Food Safety News found that more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores had been ultra-filtered.

Note: additional images here are copied from my facebook page where they arrived from unknown sources.


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Winter Whites

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Woodland Morning

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