Tuesday, 11 December 2018

A Snowy Ottawa Weekend

07 - 10 December 2018

     We drove to Ottawa on Friday 7 December to spend the weekend with my daughter, Caroline, son-in-law, Andrew, grandson, Will and other grandson, Sam, who has now moved out of the family home but who would be visiting with his girlfriend, Melanie, to have dinner with us on Saturday night.
     We had a perfect drive up to the Nation's Capital, experiencing only a brief delay on the final leg of the journey due to a vehicle collision on the highway. Even that incident cost us only about twenty minutes.
     Caroline prepared a great dinner and we were happy to catch up on each other's lives.
     We awoke on Saturday morning to a classic Ottawa winter weekend, with the early morning temperature registering minus 20°C, with bright sunshine and barely any wind. By mid morning we decided to take the dog (Nallah) for a romp through the woods near to Caroline and Andrew's house in the eastern suburb of Orléans. It was very pleasant indeed and I am not sure who enjoyed it more, us or the dog!

Miriam, Caroline, Andrew

     Nallah is an old dog now, but still with the heart of a pup, and she loves to gambol through the snow. She is truly a faithful companion, always looking back to make sure that her human charges are within view. 
     On Sunday, still experiencing glorious conditions we ventured a little further afield, to Gatineau Park across the Ottawa River in Québec. We had decided to do an approximately 5 km trail at the William Lyon Mackenzie King Estate, managed by the National Capital Commission.
     William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada's longest serving Prime Minister, heading the government from 1921-26, 1926-30 and 1935-48. He is especially remembered for steering Canada through World War II and for the important role he played as an international statesman dealing with Winston Churchill of Great Britain and Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States.


     Mackenzie King was a great lover of nature and the outdoors and spent every summer for almost fifty years on his 231 hectare estate in Gatineau. Upon his death the property was bequeathed to the people of Canada to be enjoyed by them for all time.
     It is a magnificent location with topography characteristic of both the Canadian Shield and the Boreal Forest, a landscape somehow imprinted into the psyche of every Canadian. In many ways it identifies who we are as a northern people.

     Walking through the woods on a crisp winter day in La Belle Province, one cannot help but call to mind that great Québec poet, publisher and songwriter, Gilles Vigneault, who wrote "Mon pays ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver," a song which has become a sort of unofficial anthem in Québec. 
     For a while I lived in Québec City, Caroline was born there and Sam is now living in Gatineau. We all cherish our association with this beautiful land.
     There is much to learn about the Mackenzie King Estate; buildings have been restored and history abounds. What is the story behind the ruins of this abbey?

     I had neither the time nor the inclination to find out, only wishing to embrace the outdoors, but I vow that I will, and much more too. We live in Waterloo, Ontario and our city has a connection to Mackenzie King, for it is here that one may visit his boyhood home.
     The woods were quiet as we explored their snowy solitude with barely the sound of a bird, sometimes the crunch of our boots in the snow being the only intrusion on the silence of the deep woods.

     The few leaves remaining on the trees, especially the golden foliage of the beech, were the only reminders of the riot of autumnal leaves so recently fallen to the ground and now buried deep beneath the snow.

        The deep croak of a Northern Raven (Corvus corax) caused up to look up as it coursed over the treetops. 

Northern Raven (picture from the internet)

     Caroline and Miriam often walked ahead, enjoying their time together in the great winter forest.

      As Andrew and I dawdled along behind, Caroline suddenly spotted an Ermine (Mustela erminea), but it darted away, and even though we could follow it, we were never able to get a picture, so I am relying on the internet to provide you with images of this delightful creature.

     It is a fierce and proficient hunter and when we last caught sight of it had a rodent of some kind in its mouth.

     In former times these animals were trapped mercilessly for their fur which was used to trim the capes of the European aristocracy and its religious élite.
     The chatter of Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) suddenly attracted our attention as we searched in vain for the Ermine which had removed itself from the scene.

      These little charmers are the familiar companions of winter and survive even the harshest of conditions. It always brings great pleasure to enjoy their company.
       This outcrop of granite was barely visible beneath its coat of snow.

     The splendour of the forest was visible at very turn.

     Andrew stopped and kneeled down to get the best possible angle for a photograph. Caroline was no doubt offering words of encouragement.

     Nearing the end of the trail we heard the nasal call of a White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) and it did not take long to find a bird. (Pictures from our archives).

     It had been a splendid walk, enjoyed not only by us, but by numerous other outdoor Canadians too, both walkers and cross country skiers. Many were families with young children being introduced to the essence of their country. I think at times we fantasize about living in a climate with year round warm weather, a place where you need never wear a toque or gloves, but I think if push came to shove, we would all confess to being pretty happy where we are.
     Vive Le Canada! Vive Le Québec! Vive La Neige!


  1. What a beautiful time spent outdoors. I grew up in North Dakota and there is nothing like a good walk in the snow. Love seeing the canine companion.

  2. Those are beautiful winter photos. And wow, seeing an ermine. I have never seen one though I know they are around. I love seeing you and your family and especially Nallah.

  3. Looks like a wonderful place to walk.

  4. Hari Om
    Snow of this quality is rather lovely, in the same way as a tropical beach. Both can wear thin when they show their leaner-meaner sides though! Spotting the ermine would have been extra special. YAM xx

  5. Bonjour cher ami,

    Vous nous offrez des images de neige splendides...
    Je ne connaissais pas les mésanges à tête noire... Elles sont très belles tout comme cette petite hermine chasseuse.

    Gros bisous 🌸

  6. How absolutely heart stoppingly beautiful.

  7. Hello David!
    Lovely picture with your family!
    Like the Winter scenery ,in the woods!
    Great captures of the Ermine and the beautiful birds!
    Thank you for sharing all those stunning images from your walk!
    Have a great day!

  8. What a wonderful place for a walk - my niece is sending snowy pictures as well. I did manage to find a small amount of snow in Tasmania, which was fun, but nothing like this!

    Hope all is well.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS: comments now seem to be working properly - but only from my lap top!

  9. Hola David.

    Preciosas imágenes del inicio del invierno, aquí en Galicia continuamos con un tiempo más bien propio de principios de octubre, ayer mismo he estado en la playa tratando de fotografiar a un Gavia stellata sin apenas abrigo.

    Muy bonito el Mustela erminea con el pelaje invernal.

    Un abrazo,


    1. Gavin stellata is a great bird, Rafa. I hope you will be posting pictures.

  10. Jag läser ditt inlägg med stort nöje, att kliva rakt in i vinterlandskapet med sträng kyla är en omtumlande upplevelse. Min kunskap om Canada är begränsad och det är intressant att få ta del av premiärminister Mackenzie King och den roll han haft i historien under en fruktansvärd period i mänsklighetens historia.

    Snön, kylan och mörkret är en stor och viktig del av våra liv, även här i Skandinavien. Tyvärr håller det på att förändras i snabb takt och en vit jul kan vi inte längre ta för given. Till glädje för vissa, för andra en föraning om de förändringar vi står inför.

    Din berättarkonst David, är så tilltalande. En promenad i ett kallt vinterlandskap blir en berättelse om din kärlek till naturen och dess invånare, filosofiska betraktelser om det du ser samt inte minst en viktig länk till historien, det nya och det gamla.

  11. How amazing to see the Ermine!! Looks like a lovely walk!

  12. Hermoso paisaje de invierno y bonito paseo amigo David junto a familia y el amigo Nallah, esas son las cosas importantes de la vida y que merecen ser disfrutadas plenamente. Allí estáis a -20 ºC y aquí seguimos con temperaturas durante el día de 20/22 ºC para nada parece que estemos en pleno mes de Diciembre.
    Un fuerte abrazo amigo David

  13. Hi David.

    Beautiful where you've been.
    So wonderful in the snow.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  14. It's easy to see how much you cherished this time with family and a walk in an absolutely beautiful place, shrouded in snow and enlivened by its wild occupants, as it seems to have fully invigorated your poetic side, David! A delightful post.

  15. Good post with great pictures David. Apart from the knowledge that you actually enjoyed a temperature of minus twenty.

    I knew little about Mackenzie King but it's good to know he was a lover of nature and the outdoors. Here our political leaders and royalty are more likely to see the great outdoors as a chance to go and kill out wildlife. What a coincidence that today I bring news of how our upland custodians are all out to destroy the Raven, that most intelligent and iconic emblem of The Tower of London.

    There is still good use to be made of the dungeon therein.

  16. Hello, beautiful snowy winter scenes. The Ermine is a cute critter. I love the Chickadee and the Nuthatches, both are great birds to see in the forest. Nice walk and lovely photos. Have a great day!

  17. Beautiful photos, David. I love the snow if it's not too much of it.
    I like the Nuthatch and the Ermine. I have never seen it in the winterfur. Here it lives too, but it's not often seen. Nice to read about Mackenzie King.

  18. A walk that I thoroughly enjoyed - from my comfortable armchair in a warm room. We hardly ever get temperatures as low as that, though we did have a -18C morning a couple of years ago. I went out walking in it and was surprisingly warm, though collected some ice in my beard. We get very little snow either so our stoats remain brown throughout the winter though the ermine form does occur further north. They certainly are ferocious hunters and I once saw one kill a rabbit several times larger than itself and carry it away with little trouble, presumably to feed its kits.

    1. Lagmorphs are the preferred prey of many species of mustelid and if I am not mistaken stoats are used for the purpose of hunting rabbits in the UK. Rabbits and hares are too big for the weasel to sever the spinal column as it does with rodents, so the rabbits probably die from shock.

  19. This is such a beautiful place to have a walk, to watch the birds. The Ermine is a very interesting animal!
    I also enjoyed very much the photographs of a White-breasted Nuthatch. I know that we have these birds where I live but I have never met them. Not yet. And a Chickadee is adorable. Love this bird a lot!

  20. Beautiful winter scenery and a nice walk through the woods. Reminds me when I lived in Alaska. We had ski trails that we could hike or ski on. The birds are amazing, they can withstand the harsh winter climate better than some people. Thanks for taking us along and sharing this beautiful Canadian spot.

  21. Hi David,
    Always good this time of the year to have a family meet up, and you appear to have had a wonderful time.
    This is a walk I really enjoyed sitting at the computer with the heating keeping us warm, minus twenty is certainly on the cold side.
    Some wonderful snowy scenes but excellent to get an image of the Ermine. Also the White-breasted Nuthatch is a real beauty.
    All the best to you both, John

  22. Preciosas fotos de la nieve, me han gustado mucho las del cuervo y sobre todo la del armiño, blanco sobre blanco, fantástica. Te deseo desde España unas felices fiestas y un próspero año nuevo, Feliz Navidad. Todo lo mejor!!!

  23. Hi David,
    Beautiful family life and beautiful nature encounters!
    In a wonderful white world
    The Ermine is beautiful! Dramatic to see!
    The White-breasted Nuthatch is stunning! The Black-capped Chickadee is also gorgeous and cute.
    Best regards,

  24. Beautiful shots, especially the Abbey folly in the snow. I've cross country skied up in Gatineau Park, but I've never been at the estate in winter time.

  25. Such a lovely post, it's always nice to spend time with family.
    I enjoyed the snowy scenes, the ermine, the birds … all of your photographs:)

    All the best Jan

  26. Pretty scenery and icicles I see in one of the photos - oh gosh, well I won't go on about the snow :)

  27. Dear David,
    thank you for taking us out on this winterwalk. I enjoyed looking at you pictures of a snowy landscape. Spotting an ermine is awesome.

    Best regards, Corrie

  28. What a beautiful place, I was always think snow makes everything look so much nicer!

  29. Es bueno reunirse con la familia u y pasarlo bien. Me encanta la naturaleza amigo y pasear por ella y descubrir. Estupendas fotos.
    Un abrazo.

  30. Each to their own. I would die if I as much as put my nose out of the door!! Fabulous photos and it looks so pretty in a picture! Take are Diane

    1. You stay indoors when it is cold, you stay indoors when it is unbearably hot......that eats up a whole lot of the year, Diane.

  31. A walk in the snowy woods, beautiful. I love the Ermine, going about her/his the job.

  32. Hi David,
    Beautiful place to walk and be able to observe all the splendor of nature.
    Wonderful shots.
    Divagar Sobre Tudo um Pouco

  33. Ermine (Mustela erminea) looks so cute.
    thank you for sharing series of beautiful photos.
    have a great day

  34. Wonderful! I feel happy with your blogpost. So I can increase my knowledge and that is what I love. I know the birds. They are so cute. But I have never seen a ermine. We have them here but I never saw one of them. I know that in the past, winter coats of ermine were used for the production of King sheaths (coats?). So nice to see the snow and trees and streams.

    “I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

    (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass)

  35. Such an interesting and magical location. The pictures of the snowy landscape are so very beautiful and it is a wonderful place for a family get-together.

  36. Beautiful winter scenery and your family,David.
    Thank you for sharing such charming birds and lovely creature in the snow.I really enjoyed it.
    I am smiling to Nallah, she is lovely. We have a bulldog. She has not experienced any snow.
    Happy weekend to you all!!

  37. Lovely scenes … this is when snow is at its finest. It is dangerous driving though so I hope the road accident that slowed you down earlier was a minor one. Also, glad to hear the Mackenzie King buildings were restored as I seem to recall some push back over that years ago.

  38. Yep, the road was dry and the accident didn’t look serious. Three cars in a fender bender type situation but it blocked one lane and everything else slowed down as cars had to move over.

  39. Beautiful photo with family members including the dog. So much snow so it must be very cold...Brrrr....Great sighting of the Ermine and birds searching for food. Keep warm and have a wonderful weekend!

  40. Hi David, That was a very nice family reunion in a winter wonderland. Lovely to see an Ermine like this. I've seen them a few times during nature walks but never in their winter outfit and that's really gorgeous!

    Nice you enjoyed your time all together.

    Have a nice weekend,

  41. David - a marvelous winter wonderland, complete with cute critters. How amazing to see an ermine! We have seen a weasel around our house - they are fast and furtive and almost impossible to catch on film. I agree with you - I can always travel to a warmer climate, but I prefer living in a place with snow! Enjoy your weekend.

  42. Hello, David

    The walk looks cold but beautiful. Congrats on the Ermine sighting, that is a cool critter. I have been watching for a Black-capped Chickadee to show up here, I have seen them before. They are cute birds along with the Nuthatches. Great post and photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your day and weekend. PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

  43. Hello. Beautiful place for a walk. Great photos. The photos of White-breasted Nuthatch are awesome.

  44. Looks like the sort of walk I would like to do. Some super wildlife.

  45. David, what a nice walk in Canadian woods! I see there is a lot of snow and temperature _20 C. We have -4 C here and 5 cm of snow. I love to see very calm wintry forest and only a branch produce sound or a bird makes a noise with its wings. Your (or Miriam's) photos show well the winter nature. The Ermine is rare here but titmice are a lot, waiting for food in my garden birdfeeder.

  46. Oh David, this is one of those posts I've been saving for awhile because I wanted to have the time to really sit down and savor it, enjoy every photo, every word. And enjoy I did. It's beautiful -- everything about it. The wonderful snowy views, the birds (nice job, Miriam!) and of course your beautiful family. I can't think of anything nicer than a walk like this with people you love.

    I think William Kendall has written about the abbey in his Ottawa posts. It sounded familiar to me from his Mackenzie King series. And I do believe Rick has either camped in or ridden through the Gatineau. It is wonderful territory and I think you were there at just the right time!

  47. Wonderful series of photos David.
    Beautiful as the snow landscape, also the Sitta carolinensis and the Poecile atricapillus are really great.
    With kind regards, Irma

  48. Love the old dog he is precious...and great to see an Ermine!

  49. Lovely winter pictures, David.
    Have a nice sunday,


  50. Hi David,
    These are the winter conditions people are longing for but at the same time they are afraid of it because of the trouble it may cause.
    Lucky you to spot an ermine. A beautiful animal I have seen twice in its winter outfit, but just like you I wasn't able to take a picture.
    Merry Christmas,


  51. How wonderful to be with your family David.
    You have made beautiful pictures.
    Greetings Tinie

  52. Yes, Vive la neige !!!! lol. Give me some flakes ;-)
    I like this pretty nuthatch very much. Bravo Miriam

  53. Attractive course in the snowy forest, the snow gives a special atmosphere, at least to those who are not used to see gelid environments. While as you say not many birds you see interesting things like ermine and the beautiful nuthatch

  54. love the snowy world and great wildlife. :)

  55. Very cool this series of foot's. Besides very beautiful birds also a true ermine !!! It's great to be able to photograph them :-) I also find it hard to see the white-breasted sticker. We do not have that in Neerland, of course, lol .... Good series and I enjoyed it again ;-)
    Greetings, Helma