Category Archives: Nature

Crocus Hunting – Always a Unique Adventure

It’s become a kind of tradition for us to head out to our friend Bill and Marie’s cottage in Woodridge, Manitoba to look for crocuses every spring.

Usually it’s pretty easy to find the crocuses but this year we had to go a little further afield and keep our eyes glued to the roadside to see any.

It was a gorgeous sunny day in Woodridge. Just perfect for crocus hunting.

I spotted a crocus first but once we got out of the car to inspect the one I’d spied we discovered that in fact there were budding crocuses all around hidden in the dry grasses.

The crocuses were in different stages of unfurling.

Some were still fuzzy little buds
Some were just starting to push their way out into the world
Others had emerged further and were reaching for the sun
But some were already full blown and beautiful

As I mentioned we had to go a little further afield this year to find the crocuses so in our search we visited the community park in Carrick Manitoba a neat little place full of history.

A historical marker in the park explained its significance as a place where trains stopped to pick up coal and water on the Winnipeg to Sprague railroad line built by the Manitoba Southeastern Railroad Company in 1898.

There is a model train on the site.

Dave and Marie gamely clambered up inside for this photo.

The Spurgrave School was in the park. Although it is now covered with siding beneath that siding are the rough hewn logs it was built with in 1909. It is one of the only log schoolhouses remaining in Manitoba.

Note the little building on the left which was the teacherage- a home for the teacher of the school. The school is named for man named Spurgrave, a railway worker who died and whose grave is located at the site.

There was an old fashioned water pump near the school. Dave tried it out and it worked! He had a refreshing drink!

For Dave and Marie who are avid birdwatchers the highlight of our stop at the the park in Carrick was spotting this bird, one neither of them had ever seen before. After we were back at Bill and Marie’s cabin and bird books had been consulted they determined it was a yellow-rumped warbler.

My friend Marie took this photo. She hopes to turn it into a water colour painting.

There weren’t as many crocuses out yet this year as there have been on our past crocus escapades but as always crocus hunting was plenty of fun and an interesting adventure.

Thanks Bill and Marie!

Other posts……….

Crocus Hunting on an ATV

Crocuses All Around

Wild Grasses – A Love Story

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Ten Moments of Wonder

The CBS show Sunday Morning always ends its programming with a full minute of immersion in some natural setting, where all you hear and see are beautiful sounds and images of nature.

It is a peaceful and calming moment to catch your breath and marvel at creation. Here are some of my favourite photos of those kinds of moments in nature I’ve experienced that made me feel whole and calm and full of wonder.

Watching the sunrise from our kitchen window in Praia da Luz Portugal
Coming upon deer on the Harte Forest Trail in Winnipeg
Watching a swan glide across Lake Konstanz in Germany
Chilling in a waterfall in Costa Rica
Holding a chickadee in my hand in the Assiniboine Forest
Looking at a rainbow forming from the balcony of our house in Monteverde Costa Rica
Stopping to rest on a hike on the Peralta Trail in Arizona with my friend Sue
Walking through a graveyard in the early morning mist in Iceland
Walking an unmarked trail along the ocean in Newfoundland
Watching my sons and some of their cousins gathered on the shore of Lake Erie on Pelee Island at sunset

Other posts……….

Hugging the Cliffs in Hermanus South Africa

Just to be Alive on This Fresh Morning

The Clouds of Winnipeg

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It’s Earth Day

Did you know today is Earth Day? First held on April 22, 1970, it has become a global celebration embracing more than one billion people in 193 countries.

It’s a day when people are encouraged to do something good for the environment. I found a few photos that illustrated some things our family has done.

Planting trees for a reforestation project in Borneo with our students while Dave and I were teachers in Hong Kong.

Going on an educational tour to learn more about the Cloud Forest a protected conservation area in Costa Rica.

Cleaning up trash from a beach with my Hong Kong students

Trying to bike places rather than take our car.

Volunteering at a thrift store where donated items are sold for reuse.

Writing a series of blog posts about four trees in our neighbourhood over the course of a year to show the importance of appreciating and protecting the city’s trees.

Participating in Earth Day celebrations in Winnipeg.

Visiting a bird rehabilitation centre in Croatia to learn about how they are saving birds of prey and returning them to the wild.

Trying to instil a love and appreciation and respect for nature in our kids with lots of family outings in the great outdoors.

Trying to foster that same love and appreciation in our grandkids.

These are only little things and I know we should be doing more, but on Earth Day perhaps it is good to look at what we ARE doing to give us all a little hope.

Other posts…………

The Clouds of Winnipeg

Taking a Moment at the Marsh

The Lake is Like Glass

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Foiled by A Car Race We Go Gardening

On Saturday we’d planned to spend the day on a tour bus that runs through Cape Town. Your ticket included lots of special activities. Buses left every twenty minutes from their headquarters. You didn’t need reservations.

We showed up at the tour bus office on Saturday only to find a big sign on the door, ALL TOUR BUSES CANCELLED TODAY DUE TO FORMULA E RACE.

There are lots of high-end car shops in Cape Town. Dave took this photo of me with a Ferrari on one of our first days here. I can see why the city would be a popular place to hold a professional car race.

Turns out Cape Town was hosting the 5th round of the 2023 Formula E Grand Championships. Since electric cars would be racing through the streets of Cape Town that day all bus tours had to be cancelled.

What to do instead? We still hadn’t visited Cape Town’s famous Kirstenbosch Gardens at the base of Table Mountain so we decided to catch an Uber and spend some time there. The place is huge and divided into all these different sections. My favourite section was The Arboretum which featured 450 different kinds of South African trees.

This is a Wild Almond Tree. It looks like it’s running wild, doesn’t it?

In the Arboretum, you could view the forest from this canopy bridge that took you up over the trees.

It reminded me of the canopy walk Dave and I did in the rainforest in Costa Rica.

Dave was desperate to get photos of some birds from the canopy walk. Here he looks longingly at a sign showing the different birds that live in the canopy. But even though we spent a long time looking for birds and calling to birds and saw them flit through the trees and heard them sing to us….. Dave was unable to get even a single bird photo.

He had better luck with flowers even though this isn’t the best time of year to see them in South Africa.

Coppery Mesemb also known as the Red Ice Plant
The African Blood Lily
This flower was on a tree called The Shrove Tuesday Tree
The Red Hot Poker.
The African Lily
The Pineapple Flower

I’ve already written about how Nelson Mandela’s name and likeness are everywhere here in Cape Town. There is even a bird of paradise flower named after him called Mandela’s Gold.

There was one area of Kirstenbosch called The Scent Garden where you are encouraged to smell all the plants. Here Dave gets a whiff of the spur plant.

Cheetah Chasing Buck by Dylan Lewis

Our Hermanos hosts Paul and Shirley had told us about the work of South African sculptor Dylan Lewis, so I was excited to find that two of his pieces were featured in the Kirstenbosch Garden.

Surveying Cheetah by Dylan Lewis

There was an art gallery in the gardens featuring the work of local artists. I was particularly drawn to the work of Jeremy Day who had this colourful modern view of Cape Town on exhibit.

It provided a different image of the city than the photos from the same perspective I’d taken at the cable car station on Table Mountain.

I also liked his painting of Cape Town’s Green Point Lighthouse.

I had taken photos of it when we walked along the ocean one day.

We spent several hours soaking in the beauty of the Kirstenbosch Gardens. It made me almost glad that the car race had cancelled our other tour.

Other posts……….

First Look At The Leaf

Art in the Garden

The Chi Lin Nunnery

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Penguins Galore

Say hello to an African penguin.

Our ever-generous South African friends Paul and Shirley took us to visit a large colony of penguins at Stoney Point near Cape Town.

It was super windy and chilly…..

but that didn’t stop us from heading down the long boardwalk to see more penguins

and learn all kinds of things about them from the interesting signage along the way

like the fact that seals and sharks are their enemies.

Two penguins ventured into the Stoney Point area in the early 1980s

and now some 3,600 of the birds make their home on the rocks nearby.

African penguins were formerly called Jack Ass penguins because of the loud noise they make that sounds like a donkey braying.

Conservation authorities have built these little clay burrows so the penguins can be shaded from the hot sun for sleeping and laying their eggs. Both parents take turns looking after the eggs.

Dave got this great photo of one of the penguins asleep in its burrow.

African penguins, also called cape penguins are an endangered species thanks to commercial fishing, oil spills, and human intrusion into their habitat.

Each African penguin has a unique pattern of black spots on its white chest that can be used to distinguish individuals from one another.

African penguins are monogamous and breed with the same partner throughout their life.

There were many cormorants living near the penguins. Like the penguin, the cormorant dives for its food and can see underwater.

On our travels around the world, we had seen many different kinds of birds in the wild, but we had never seen penguins in their natural habitat before.

This sign on the parking lot at Stoney Point was a good reminder that we were in the penguins’ home and we needed to respect that.

My friend Paul made a short video of the penguins going for a walk. You can watch it here.

I made a video too from a little further away but it does show the penguins doing a little rock hopping. You can watch it here.

Most of the photos in this post were taken by my husband Dave.

Other posts……….

How Many Mennonites Does It Take to Get A Picture of a Bird in Tanzania?

Finding the Elusive Quetzal

All Those Birds- Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

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Hugging the Cliffs in Hermanus South Africa

On our second morning in Hermanus, our hosts Paul and Shirley suggested we take the cliff path for our walk. We had already explored the beach and seen the stunning shoreline from that point of view, now we would look at it from another perspective.

The cliffs provided heart-stopping panoramas of the ocean…..

but the path itself was a work of wonder with its twisted trees, bright flowers, and intriguing birds and animals.

The lush green of the bushes and grasses provided a stark contrast to the rocks and water.

It was a misty morning so there was a kind of mythical quality about the shoreline. It was as if a fairy tale was about to unfold before us.

I almost thought I might see some of the Middle Stone Age people who had lived here 70,000 years ago. Might their spirits still haunt the rocky cliffs? How had the landscape changed over all those tens of thousands of years or since the time of the San hunter-gatherer people whose 2000-year-old pottery has been found in the area?

One could imagine ancient ships wrecking on this rocky shoreline and dramatic adventures ensuing.

I was so glad Dave had brought his camera. I can’t always convince him to take time for photos but love it when he does.

Our host Shirley who once managed her husband Paul’s professional photography business, gave Dave a couple of photo tips before he took some pictures of the birds we saw.

Although I thought it was remarkable how this bird blended in with its surroundings in contrast………

I loved how the red shirt of this fisherman made him stand out adding just a dot of colour to the seascape.

The flowers we saw along our walk added colour to the trail too.

Can you see the fuzzy caterpillar heading in towards the flower from the left?

It was raining lightly as we walked and delicate drops glistened on the petals of these flowers.

I loved all the different shades of purple in this blossom.

These flowers brought to mind a song I sang in school about ‘coral bells upon a slender stalk’. The song went on “oh don’t you wish that you could hear them ring? That can happen only when the fairies sing.”

These flowers reminded me of the one on the flag of Hong Kong, a place where we made our home for six years.

I named these South African daisies.

We spotted plenty of rock hyrax on our cliff walk. They are also called dassies or rock rabbits.

Interestingly the hyrax’s closest relative in the animal world is……… the elephant!

As we followed the twisty 14-kilometre cliff path I thought of Hermanus Pieters a Dutch teacher who the city of Hermanus is named for.

In the early 1800s, he decided to leave his teaching position in Caledon, Boontjieskraal, and explore more of South Africa. He ended up following an elephant trail that led him to the ocean. He built a farm and settled there and founded the community of Hermanus.

Now here we were two people who had also been teachers just like Hermanus Pieters, and we were doing our own bit of exploring.

It didn’t escape me that Hermanus Pieters’ last name was much like my maiden name Peters. In fact, Wikipedia says Peters is the Anglicized version of the Dutch surname Pieters. Hundreds of years ago my Mennonite ancestors lived in Holland too.

Could Hermanus and I have been related? Could I share some distant family connections with the founder of this beautiful community in South Africa? It was intriguing to ponder that idea in such an intriguing place.

Other posts……….

Nature’s Artwork

Keep Your Mouth Closed Grandma

Ten Things About the Ruins in Tulum Mexico


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So Many Animals- The Trip of a Life Time

On our safari in Tanzania, I kept a list of the thirty different animals we saw as we made our way through the Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We were very lucky to spot all of the big five which people traditionally have on their bucket list when going on safari…..

the lion

the leopard

Unfortunately, we only saw the rhino through our binoculars- it was so very far away Dave couldn’t get a good photo but this one proves we saw itand we actually saw several

the rhino

the elephant

and Cape buffalo

But thanks to our amazing guide Malaki Samuel from Dashir Safaris we also saw many other interesting animals……..

The topi

The black-faced velvet monkey

The eland

The Warthog

The hartebeest

The baboon

The leopard tortoise

The hyena

The Steenbok

The Wildebeest

The dwarf mongoose

The impala

The Hippopotamus

The rock agama lizard

The zebra

The crocodile

The Thompson’s gazelle

The giraffe

The Grant’s gazelle

The Cheetah

None of these blog posts about our safari would have been possible without the AMAZING photography skills of my husband Dave and the expert safari guiding of Malaki Samuel from Dashir safaris.

There were a few animals we saw that Dave wasn’t able to photograph but I think he did an excellent job of capturing most of them.

The links in this post take you to other posts I have done specifically about those animals.


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Giraffes For My Granddaughter

My youngest granddaughter LOVES to read biographies with me and one of her favourites features a Canadian woman who was a giraffologist.

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes by Kathy Stinson is about Anne Innis Daag who in the 1950s when she was just a young zoologist went to Africa all on her own and became the first scientist to study giraffes in the wild. Her book about giraffes became the definitive textbook about the animal. She is often called The Jane Goodall of Giraffes.

While reading Kathy Stinson’s book my granddaughter and I have not only learned about Anne Innis Daag but have also discovered many interesting facts about giraffes.

Anne Innis Daag

I became enthralled with Anne when I saw a movie about her called The Woman Who Loves Giraffes and so I share my granddaughter’s fascination with the tallest mammal in the world.

That’s why I was absolutely delighted to get a close-up look at so many giraffes during our safari in Tanzania.

Both male and female giraffes have two hair-covered horns called ossicones.

A giraffe’s neck can be seven feet long.

A giraffe’s favourite food is the leaves from the acacia tree. They eat up to 75 pounds of food a day.

A giraffe can run as fast as 60 kilometres an hour.

Each giraffe’s colouration is different, so the pattern of its spotty patches is like a fingerprint because it is unique to each giraffe. The giraffe’s spots also act like a “thermal window” helping to regulate the giraffe’s body temperature.

Even newborn giraffes are taller than most humans.

Giraffes spend most of their life standing. They even sleep and give birth standing.

I can hardly wait to get home and share all these photos of giraffes taken by her Grandpa with my granddaughter.

Other posts……..

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes

Rare and Momentous


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I Might Have Been Harvested by a Lion

On one of the first days of our safari, we pulled into a rest stop where there must have been fifty or more safari jeeps parked in the lot.

We were very impressed with the facilities at the rest stops in the Serengeti.

The rest stops were places where safari adventurers could use the washroom, and have lunch at one of the many picnic tables provided.

That morning I had become fascinated with all the acacia trees we were seeing and wanted to get photos of some with the thought of possibly doing a blog post about them.

After we’d had our lunch, Dave and I were waiting for other people in our group to arrive back at our jeep and I spotted an acacia tree a little distance away from the parking lot.

Handing Dave my camera, I ran over to pose in front of it. Dave took my photo.

But when I returned to the jeep and was in the middle of admiring the way the tree had cast a lovely shadow around me on the ground, the safari guide in the jeep next to ours started giving me a stern lecture.

He said stepping outside the perimeter of the parking lot like that all by myself had been dangerous. “You might have been harvested by a lion,” he said.

Later when I asked our Dashir guide about it he said his colleague had been right. As long as people are together in a group wild animals are most likely to stay away, but a lone person not close to buildings, or vehicles could be in danger.

It was a sobering thought but the truth of its possibility was illustrated to me when we saw the huge solar panels that provided power to the facilities. Resting under the panels were two male lions. They had been closer to me than I might have imagined.

Dave got some amazing photos of the lions.

I felt even worse later about my irresponsible behaviour when I found out that if patrons on a safari are injured or killed by an animal their safari guide can go to jail, even if it was the customer’s recklessness that caused it

For the rest of the safari, I did my picture-taking from INSIDE the jeep

Just another reminder that the national parks in Africa are animal territory first and foremost and we are just visitors in THEIR home.

Other posts………

Was The Lion Pride in Danger?

A Rare and Momentous Occasion

A Dream That Didn’t Come True


Filed under Africa, Nature

Was the Lion Pride in Danger?

On the second morning of our safari, we came upon a pride of lions resting under a tree.

There was one male and several females

and at least ten children

of various sizes and ages.

We noticed that one of the females was wearing a collar around her neck.

Malaki Samuel our Dashir safari guide had told us that when we saw a lion wearing a collar that meant it was being tracked by researchers.

We sat in our jeep and watched the pride for quite a while and then the male lion got up to walk a bit and Malaki noticed right away that he was injured and was limping.

Most of the lions were all turned in one direction and someone in our group followed their line of sight through binoculars and reported there was a cape buffalo carcass off in the distance and a baby lion and a male were eating from it.

Malaki was relieved there was another male in the vicinity. He said if the injured male had been alone in the pride and couldn’t have protected the females and babies, males from another pride might have come.

They would have killed the injured lion and then KILLED all the babies so they could mate with the females in the pride who would give birth to their children.

The male off in the distance looked healthy so he could help protect the pride’s youngsters.

After a time some of the females and a few of the children stood up from under the tree and headed off towards the carcass to feed.

It was a fair distance away.

As they walked one of the babies straggled behind. It just couldn’t keep up. We wondered what would happen.

The baby was alone and vulnerable out there on the Serengeti.

But it wasn’t long before one of the females turned around and waited patiently for the little one to catch up to her. Then they walked together to feed on the carcass.

Later as we drove down the road we spotted a couple more male lions nearby.

Malaki said they belonged to the same pride as well since a pride’s territory is an 8 square kilometre range and no other males would have been there resting except ones from the same pride.

That meant there were at least three other males to protect the babies besides the injured one.

My friend Shannon imitating the lion she was hoping to see

Everyone was happy about that, especially my friend Shannon who loves lions and had been waiting to see one in the wild since she was eight years old.

We would go on to see many more lions on our safari but this encounter with a whole pride and their story would remain the most memorable.

Most of the photos in this post were taken by my husband Dave Driedger

Other posts…………

No Christians Fed to Lions and Other Things You Might Not Know About the Colosseum

Ten Good Things About Dandelions

How Many Mennonites Does It Take To Get A Picture of a Bird in Tanzania?

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