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Thursday, 14 April 2011
Haiku Bald Eagle

Haiku Bald Eagle

Copyright April 14, 2010

Aaron A. Lehman

Bright white head and tail

Powerful black feathered wings

Bald Eagle takes flight


Massive yellow bill

Feet with four talons of steel

Catch prey feed babies

Posted by blcitours at 4:39 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 14 April 2011 4:42 PM EDT
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
New Haiku to You

Strong north wind blowing

Wake up dormant winter buds

Burst forth to face sun 



White appendages

Reach for blue sky gleam sun

Insects pollinate


Strong blue-green steel walls

Envelop secure Field House

Workout blood sweat tears

Posted by blcitours at 4:57 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 12 April 2011 5:04 PM EDT
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Haiku Canadian Spring

Haiku Canadian  Spring

Copyright April 8, 2011

Aaron A. Lehman

Tinkling ice crystals

Bright hot sun morning spring time

Rivulets melt runs



Slave candled rhomboids

White ridges sport gleaming ice

Sun glint diamonds



Wings over water

Sights sounds smells that bring the spring

Swans Canada Geese



Melodious trills

Flashing Alberta song birds

Flight coloured brilliance

Posted by blcitours at 2:56 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 9 April 2011 2:58 PM EDT
Haiku To Japan


To Japan

Copyright April 6, 2011

Aaron A. Lehman

Silently spreading

Japanese killer disguised

When will it be stopped?


Who is next in line?

Suffer radiation burns

Don’t know, could be you


Carry on the fight

Future for children not bright 

Help stop melt down now


From around the world

People watch sacrifice made

Remember friends pray

Posted by blcitours at 2:53 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 9 April 2011 2:56 PM EDT
You've Gotta Be Kidding

You’ve Gotta Be Kidding

Copyright April 9, 2011

Aaron Lehman

“You’ve gotta be kidding!”


“Where’d you hear that?”

“My Mosôm said his Mosôm could do it.”

“I don’t believe it.”

“Well my Mosôm said it and I believe it.”

“Well my Mosôm is a more important elder than your Mosôm.”

“No he isn’t”

“Yes he is!”

Two young Aboriginal boys were having a discussion about something they heard from a Mosôm.  Joey, a black haired, dark skinned, bright eyed youngster reported to his friend Sandy about his great grandfather’s vision.  Sandy, a sandy haired, light skinned friend, about the same age, was a bit of a sceptic.  Both boys had been forced to attend a powwow at the Métis Crossing.  Although very different in looks, they were both Métis and related.  They had been dragged along by their parents.

“You need to hear what the elders have to say.  It will help you when you grow up.  Blah! Blah! Blah!”

“This drumming is driving me crazy,” Joey mumbled to Sandy.

“Yeh, that weird singing by the elders is awful.”

“Let’s split when my Mom isn’t looking.”

“Okay.  Head for the bushes and we’ll listen to some rap music on my I-pod.”


Slipping carefully to the back of the crowd, they inched toward the closest bush and then escaped without being detected by the sharp eyes of their Mothers.

“We made it!” Joey gasped.

“Yeh!  Let’s crank up our music.”

“Do you believe all of that vision stuff?”  Sandy asked Joey.

“No, but my brother said that once he was trapping with Mosôm and he wanted to break into a beaver lodge.  Mosôm said to never disturb the beaver lodge because if you do, the beaver will stop counting the days and his calendar will miss a month.  This could cause him to stay in his lodge too long in the spring and he would starve.”

“Do you believe that?”

“Well, my brother said that sometime later he did break into a beaver lodge without letting Mosôm know about it.”

“What did he find?” Sandy asked.

“He said the beaver had all vanished, but he saw twelve big sticks and three hundred sixty five little sticks.  Some were arranged to show the month and day that he broke in.”

“Wow!  Did it screw up their calendar?”

“I don’t know.  He never went back.”

“What are they doing over their?” Sandy asked.

“It looks like they’re dancing,” Joey replied.

“Wait, one of the elders is in a trance.”

“Let’s slip into the dance and see what is going on,” Joey offered.

The boys joined the others in the round dance, but were captured by what Joey’s Mosôm was doing in the centre of the circle.  The drummers were beating the drums with increasing speed.  Mosôm’s voice reached a feverish pitch.  The swaying of his body and the up and down change in pitch was causing him and others to go into a trance.  On a stump in front of him lay two moth cocoons.  As Mosôm reached the peak of his singing, the cocoons started to break open.

“I told you so”, Joey nudged Sandy.

“I don’t believe it, but the caterpillars are coming out of their cocoons and swinging in time with the singing.”

“See I told you, my Mosôm is better than your Mosôm.  Now my Mosôm can do what his Mosôm did,” Joey chortled.


“Maybe we should try this powwow thing.”

Posted by blcitours at 2:51 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 9 April 2011 2:59 PM EDT
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Long Haul

Long Haul

Copyright March 30, 2011

Aaron A. Lehman

Long Haul.  Long Haul.

The story of life is like a long haul.


The trucker who drives all day with good sight

            Longs to be home on a Saturday night.

He keeps his rig running and knows he can’t stall

            Because he is in it for the long haul.


When the shine has come off of the wedding ring

            And I’m no longer such a beautiful thing.

Don’t you start looking around at all

            Just remember we’re in this for the long haul.


When the kids start to scream

            We know this wasn’t our dream.

Late at night into bed we crawl

            Just remember we’re in this for the long haul.



Off to the practice and then the big game

            We know our lives won’t be the same.

The phone rings and we answer the call

            Just remember we’re in this for the long haul.


Busy and loud the kids play their song

            How can the volume be all wrong?

With friends all around on the floor they sprawl

Just remember we’re in this for the long haul.


Out of the door and into the night

            How to protect them is the big fright.

Young adults now they're off to the mall

            Just remember we’re in this for the long haul.


Though my hearing is fading and my hair is now gray

            My hands are still willing to work and to play.

When my writing is nothing but a scrawl

            Just remember we’re in this for the long haul.


When my skin begins to sag

            And under the eye there’s a big bag.

Don’t turn away with a surly drawl

Just remember we’re in this for the long haul

Posted by blcitours at 11:16 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 2 April 2011 1:40 AM EDT
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Sugar Shanty Blues

Sugar Shanty Blues

Copyright March 8, 2011

Aaron A. Lehman


If it happens every year

As sugaring draws near

If you shiver in the night

            And sweat in the day

If you shed enough tears

            To catch them in buckets

You’re just like the maple tree that freezes at night

            And runs in the day

Out of the spout

 And into the bucket


To all you ex-Yankees

            With your heart in your shoes

If these are your symptoms

            Then here’s the sad news

You’ve just come down

With the sugar shanty blues



If you remember the sap wagon

            That splashed through the mud

When a wheel hit a rock

            And stopped with a thud

Then the sap in the tub launched into space

            And we all took a hit in the face

With sap running down

            We thought we would drown

Our clothes were a fright

            But what a tasty delight


To all you ex-Yankees

            With your heart in your shoes

If these are your symptoms

            Then here’s the sad news

You’ve just come down

With the sugar shanty blues


If you remember the shanty

            With a tin roof on the top

The sap boiled over

            And the steam wouldn’t stop


When we put in the wood

            The fire would roar

It seemed to say

Feed me some more

When the sap boiled around

            To the very last pan

Then the golden syrup

            Drained into a can

What a tasty treat when the syrup had cooled

            No ex-Yankee will ever be fooled


To all you ex Yankees

            With your heart in your shoes

If these are your symptoms

            Then here’s the sad news

You’ve just come down

With the sugar shanty blues

Posted by blcitours at 11:34 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 8 March 2011 11:38 PM EST
Sunday, 6 March 2011
Ten Mile Ride

Ten Mile Ride

Copyright March 6, 2011

Aaron A. Lehman

No time to repent or say goodbye

On the innocent side of a ten mile ride


The weather is nice, but the road has black ice

            Professor or worker it won’t matter much

They could be poor or very rich

            One spin or two spins, it’s into the ditch


No time to repent or say goodbye

On the innocent side of a ten mile ride


When meeting a car with its lights on bright

            The driver holds onto the steering wheel tight

Out of the darkness a moose stands still

            Now it’s too late to avoid hitting to kill


No time to repent or say goodbye

On the innocent side of a ten mile ride



Super wide load coming down the road

            No time to pass so just give it more gas

Out on the shoulder a mother has stopped

            The baby in her seat is securely propped


No time to repent or say goodbye

On the innocent side of a ten mile ride


A truck makes a pass coming over a hill

            Four headlights ahead give the driver a chill

The truck takes the left, the car takes the right

            A father and son are now lost in the night


No time to repent or say goodbye

On the innocent side of a ten mile ride


One weak link in the log truck chain

            Around the bend takes an extra strain

The logs came down in the traffic lane

            Now the driver’s on the road and going insane


No time to repent or say goodbye

On the innocent side of a ten mile ride


For years in the country across the railroad track

            The train is heard by the whistle stack

Now distracted by a family that’s lost in a fight

            He’ll miss the sign of the flashing red light.


No time to repent or say goodbye

On the innocent side of a ten mile ride

Posted by blcitours at 11:38 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 6 March 2011 11:43 PM EST
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Bird in Hand

Bird in Hand

Copyright Feb. 10, 2011

Aaron A. Lehman

How would you like to get caught in a net and have someone stick you in a bag to carry you to a banding station?  It might just ruffle your feathers, right?

This is exactly what happens to hundreds of songbirds every spring and fall at the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory Banding Station.  The banding station is operated by Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory (LSLBO) and the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation.  The Boreal Centre is housed in a modern building, built to specifications that qualify it as a LEED Gold building.  That stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  It houses offices of the Bird Observatory and Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park, laboratory facilities for university research and a large room full of interactive displays about birds for school groups and the general public.  The banding station is a small building located at an exceptionally beautiful location along the north shore of Lesser Slave Lake in Alberta, Canada.

One can hear the haunting laugh of a Common Loon in the distance.  Waves splash on the rocks along the shore.  In the spring, the sun begins to rise about 4:30 AM and the bird banders begin to set up the nets for the day.

Who are bird banders?   Richard is a bird bander.

“Do you have to be smart to be a bird bander?” a grade fives student asks.

“Well,” Richard says with a smile.  “You have to have training to band birds.  It would be illegal for you to set up a net and catch birds in your backyard.”

“Do you have to go to university?” another student asks.

“No, but I have a degree in Environmental and Conservation Science.”

“What about you?” a student asks Nicole, the assistant bander.

“I have an Honours diploma in Renewable Resources.”

“How old do you have to be?”

“There are some young bird banders, but most are adults who have degrees and special training.  Let’s see if we can find some birds,” Richard says as he starts leading the class toward the net lanes.

“Do you need a license?”

“Yes.  The bird observatory has a master permit and we have sub-permit banding licenses under this master permit.  I have a sub-permit to work with songbirds.”

“I also have a sub-permit under the master permit,” Nicole offered.

“Did it take a long time?”

“We had to take special training and then pass a test where two expert banders watched us work with birds,” Nicole answered.  “We also needed to identify all of the birds in the area by sight and sound.”

“Was it scary?”

“Yes,” Richard said with a chuckle.

“Are you going to go back to school?”

“Someday, I may go for a Master’s degree,” Richard mentioned.

“Could I be a bander?”

“With proper training, anyone can be a bird bander, even you.”

“We have to check the nets!” Nicole called from a net lane.

Richard and Nicole continued giving information to the class.

Bird banders use leg bands to collect information about migrating birds.  All of the information is recorded on special data sheets.  Later it will be entered into a computer and sent to the US Department of Fish and Wildlife in Laurel, Maryland.  This information will be used to learn more about these amazingly beautiful birds that migrate thousands of kilometres each year.  Where do they travel?  How fast do they fly?  How do they find their way?  Why have their numbers drastically dropped in recent years?  These are some of the questions bird banders are trying to answer.

Many birds migrate at night, including the small, colourful songbirds.  Some are long-distance, neotropical migrants.  In the early morning, they land in the willow shrubs growing along the edge of the lake to feed and rest.  Scientists have found Slave Lake to be an excellent site for a banding station, since these birds follow the lake shore as they travel north to nest in the spring and pass by again in the fall as they travel south for the winter.  Some will stay during the spring and summer and nest in the boreal forest around Slave Lake.

Long, narrow clearings called net lanes are cut through the bushes.  Black, lightweight, nylon mist nets are stretched the length of the lane and hung between two aluminum poles.  One to twelve net lanes may be used depending on the weather and the wind. 

There are many different kinds of song birds and in the spring the males usually exhibit a blaze of colour as they fly north to mate and nest.  They also have a variety of songs and calls to identify their territory and to attract a mate.  Some birds fly into the nets and get their wings and feet caught.  The bird banders must gently untangle feet, legs, wings and head.  This is called extracting.  They hold the tiny bird with its head between the first and second fingers.  The thumb and third finger hold the bird’s legs and feet.  Great care must be given so the bird is not injured, especially its fragile legs.  Some days there may be over two hundred birds caught in the nets.  The banders must work fast, yet carefully, to band all of the birds.

When completely free of the net, the bird is placed into a small cloth bag with a draw string that can be pulled to close the opening.  The dark environment inside of the bag helps calm the captured bird.  While talking excitedly about the birds caught, Richard and Nicole collect and label the bags.  This identifies the specific net lane where the bird was caught.  When taking the birds back to the small building for banding, everyone is looking and listening for other birds.

“What bird is singing now?”

“Look, there he is.”

“What is it?”

“Look at the geese flying over the lake.”

“There is a Bald Eagle!”

Back at the banding building, the first step is to take the bird out of the bag as quickly as possible.   The birds are positively identified by checking the size, colour, and specific markings for each species.   Next, a small aluminum band is placed on one leg using a special kind of pliers that causes no injury to the bird.  Each band has a different number and is recorded for future identification.  There is a great deal of excitement when the bird already has a band from some other banding station.

While Nicole, the assistant bander explains the procedures to the interested visitors, Richard takes various measurements, including fat deposit, muscle development, and length of wing.  This information is recorded by Nicole or a volunteer.  Feathers are also checked for condition and wear.

If the bird is a male, he is checked for a cloacal protuberance.  Blowing on his bottom separates the feathers to expose his cloaca.  A swelling of this organ indicates he is ready for mating.  If the bird is a female, she is checked for a brood patch on her breast.  Again Richard blows on the feathers to expose the patch.  During the nesting season, this area loses its feathers and becomes filled with blood vessels.  The blood filled exposed patch helps to warm the eggs in the nest during incubation.

By looking at the wing feathers, a bander can estimate the age of a bird.  To age a young bird, the bander may use a procedure called skulling.  This is done by using a wet finger to push apart the feathers on top of the head.  A young bird will have a soft spot, much like a human baby.  An adult does not.

With a big smile, Richard now checks the weight of the bird by placing it head first into an empty plastic tube and weighing it on an electronic balance.  The weight is measured to one tenth of a gram.  A kinglet, for example, may weigh as little as six grams, the weight of a quarter. 

When the bander is finished, the bird is admired and photographed by the visitors.  Then the hand that held the bird is opened.  Sometimes the bird leaves a little deposit on the hand before it flies off, as if to say “pooh on you!”

Feathers are ruffled, but otherwise the birds are unharmed.  Soon they will get back to the business of courting, mating and nesting.  Some however, will be sporting a ring on their leg and a new, fancy hair-do.

While waiting for the next round of collecting birds, the students pepper the banders with many interesting questions.

“How many birds have you banded?”

“A total of 55,255 birds and over 100 different species have been banded since the beginning of the LSLBO in1993.”

“What’s the biggest bird you’ve banded?”

“The Northern Goshawk.  It is the largest forest hawk with a wingspan of 75 centimetres and it weighs about one kilogram.”

“What’s the smallest bird you’ve banded?”

“The smallest bird we’ve banded is a kinglet.  We’ve caught a hummingbird, but we are not allowed to band them.  We just let them go.”

“What’s the meanest bird?”

“Well, the woodpeckers can hurt you when they drill you with their bills.  The talons of the Sharp-shinned Hawk can tear your skin off, but for its size, the Black-capped Chickadee is the greatest fighter.”

“What’s the oldest bird you’ve caught?”

“Aging birds is very difficult, but we banded an Alder Flycatcher in 1996 and it was recaptured here in 2005 so it was at least 10 years old.  Most birds don’t live that long.”

“How fast do birds fly?”

“The fastest bird is a Red-breasted Merganser that can fly 161 kilometres an hour!”


“Time to check the nets!”

Do you have questions?  Stop by the banding station and ask Richard and Nicole.

Maybe someday the banding information that Richard, Nicole and other banders are collecting will answer the questions we have about migrating songbirds.  We already know that some of the decline in the number of birds is caused by a loss of nesting habitat in the boreal forest of the north and wintering habitat in the tropical rain forest.  Other reasons may include hurricanes, tornadoes, crashing into high rise buildings, wind turbines, electric wires and natural predators, as well as the friendly household cat.

More answers to questions about the decline of songbirds may give information about the environmental changes that are also affecting humans.  Hopefully, the answers will come before it is too late for both birds and humans.

If you are looking for an interesting excursion, try a visit to the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation and the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory Banding Station.  However, don’t get caught in a net.  You might end up with more than ruffled feathers!

Posted by blcitours at 12:39 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 3 March 2011 12:40 AM EST
Cops and Robbers

Cops and Robbers


Copyright March 2, 2011

Aaron A. Lehman

            Bang!  Bang!

            “You’re dead!” Ray yelled.

            “No I’m not!” Rickie yelled back.

            “I shot you!”

            “No you didn’t.  See, I’m still walking around.  You missed me.”

            “No I didn’t.  I shot you!  Remember.  I’m the cop and you’re the robber.  You’re supposed to drop dead when I shoot you”

            “I’m not a robber and I don’t want to die!” Rickie said as the two boys walked toward each other.

            “It’s just a game,” Ray reassured the younger Rickie.

            “Why do I always have to be the one that gets killed?”

            “Because you’re the robber and I’m the cop.”

            “Well I don’t want to be the bad guy anymore. I’m not a robber.”

            “It’s just a game.”

            “I’m going home.”

            Ray and his younger brother Rickie often played cops and robbers around the small town neighbourhood, running to hide in the bushes or behind the big maple trees, pretending to shoot each other.  All of the neighbours complained, especially when the games were played with cap guns early on a Saturday morning.   Sometimes, when Rickie got tired of always being the robber and didn’t want to play anymore, Ray coaxed his younger neighbour Marty into playing.

            “Can I play hide and seek with Ray and Rickie?” Marty asked his Mother one Saturday morning.  He was careful to specify that it was going to be hide and seek.

            “Okay, but remember, no guns.”

            Marty’s parents didn’t think it was right for kids to run around pretending to kill each other, even if movie stars did it in the movies.

            “I can play hide and seek,” Marty called as he ran to meet the other boys.

            “We’re not playing that baby game,” Ray announced.  “We’re playing cops and robbers.  Rickie and I are the cops and you are the robber.  And remember, when we shoot you, you have to fall down dead.” 

            Marty knew he shouldn’t play cops and robbers and he didn’t want to be the bad guy who was going to get killed, but when Ray offered him one of his shiny cap guns, he just couldn’t refuse.

            “Okay,” Marty said as everyone loaded up their cap guns with new rolls of caps, ready for action.

            “We’ll count to one hundred and then we’ll come after you,” Ray instructed.

            Marty ran as fast as he could and then found two overgrown bushes behind Mrs. Stamp’s garage. 

            “Here we come,” Ray shouted.

            Marty stayed really quiet as the boys ran past his hiding place.

            Wow! I’m safe, Marty figured.  I could have shot them, but I don’t want to kill cops.

            Just then, Rickie caught a glimpse of Marty’s shiny cap gun.

            “He’s over here!” Rickie called to Ray.  “In the bushes.”

            Ray and Rickie ran toward the bushes with their guns drawn.  Marty knew he was going to get shot and would be dead. 

            I don’t want to die!

            Marty didn’t want to get shot, but he didn’t want to kill anyone either.

            In an instant, Marty jumped out of the bushes, grabbed his pistol by the barrel and let it fly through the air.  The butt end of the gun caught Rickie right between the eyes.

            Rickie screamed and fell to the ground crying.  Blood from his head, mixed with tears from his eyes and snot from his nose was smeared across his face.

            “Why did you do that?” Ray asked.

            “I don’t know,” Marty said as he walked slowly to the scene of the disaster.

            Tears welled up into his eyes and he started to cry.  He honestly didn’t know why he threw the gun.  He had gotten caught up in the frenzy of the moment and he knew he didn’t want to die.

            Ray wiped off Rickie’s face and they realized that the injury wasn’t really all that serious.  It was nothing more than a scratch and bruise from running through the bushes on a Saturday morning.

            “I have to go home,” Marty said.

            Relieved that Rickie wasn’t seriously injured, Marty headed for home.

            The boys never told their mothers what had happened.  However, it was a long time before Ray and Rickie asked Marty to play cops and robbers with them again.   

Posted by blcitours at 12:36 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 3 March 2011 12:37 AM EST

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