Category Archives: Observations

Day of the Giant Water Bug

This photo in no way conveys the absolute f’d up size of this thing. And it was crawling.

I was today years old when I found out that we have something called Giant Water Bugs in Edmonton. Turns out, they are the largest insect in Canada, and (after getting my face nice and close) they are poisonous!!

When I first spotted it, about a block off 142 Street as we headed west to the MacKinnon Bridge, I thought it was a palm-sized moth. It was rather hideous and clearly on its way out. When I shared the photo on the What’s App family thread, I was corrected by my ever resourceful niece Kate, who said it was a Giant Water Bug (or GWB). She sent along a photo of what it looks like when it’s healthy and ready to kill. Good god.

From the interwebs, a sprightly GWB!

Also from Kate: “The only reason I know about them is my Bio 30 teacher lectured us during a swamp diving field trip. Apparently, the year prior she had to send a kid who got bit to the hospital because his arm was melting.”

It was really creepy, crawling on the road propelled by what looked like two large antenna, or as my other niece Beth suggested, like it had swallowed a frog, head first. Gross and fascinating. I had considered putting my hand beside it for scale, but glad I didn’t. I’d hate for my epitaph to read “Killed by Giant Water Bug”. Or, would I?

Some of the comments from my Facebook post:

Brian Thair: “It’s a true ‘bug’. It has piercing mouth parts to inject digestive enzymes which dissolve the innards of living prey caught with those 2 powerful front legs that you can see. What has always impressed me is the aquatic, paddle shapes of the legs. Rolled over, the underside of the body has a keel like a boat. If wing span mattered for the size of Canadian insects, then several of the Saturnidae moths are the winners. Polyphemus and Luna are overshadowed by Cecropia which can be the size of my hand.”

Janice Hurlburt : “Not sure if you saw my post from a week ago of a White-faced Ibis with one in its beak. Here’s what John Acorn (the Nature Nut) said “Wow! Giant water bug (Lethocerus americanus)! Physically big, with a painful, tissue-dissolving bite, and chemical deterrents as well. Not sure what an ibis might do with such a thing. I’ve never seen ANYTHING eat a giant water bug. Very cool picture!”

White Faced Ibis carrying a Giant Water Bug (photo: Janice Hurlburt)

It was an otherwise uneventful morning walk, with some fabulous non-bug scenery.

From MacKinnon Ravine bridge
Glenora fountain in Alexander Circle

Awash in Colour

A riot (of colour) at the museum

Late afternoon walk in and around Oliver, the museum, and Glenora. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

View of Groat Road from the bridge at 102 Avenue
The always beautiful grounds at the (old) museum
Pale rider

16C, 8,500 steps.

Here Comes Autumn!

MacKinnon Ravine

As always, September is a spectacularly changeable month, second only to May. There are days when the morning brings an exponentially yellower canopy than the day before, with piles of leaves ever deeper on the ground. Over the years, and especially since I got a car, I’ve come to view Autumn in terms of what comes next—winter, which pushes me out of pure and present enjoyment of the season. It’s beautiful out there, and the temperatures are brilliant, but I can’t help thinking about the snow and ice just around the corner. I used to be a winter person.

The Glenora trail to MacKinnon Ravine

Beautiful walk this morning with Tom. We left around 9 am and did our usual route, but instead of walking up to 102 Avenue, we walked down to MacKinnon Ravine and the river. Several times a week we end our walk at The Colombian Coffee Bar & Roastery (right by Vi’s For Pies) for an almond milk latte and almondine croissant. It’s wonderful. I’ve turned Tom into a late stage coffee drinker! On two separate occasions, Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian walked in to grab a coffee. Glenora is lousy with Oilers.

Heading up to the bridge (MacKinnon Ravine)
Thanks Mr. woodpecker for pecking so close to me and my camera

About 8C to start and 13C at the end (it’s now 19C).

A Summer Walk in and around Fort Edmonton

The newly reopened Fort Edmonton Park

Beautiful walk this morning with Tom from Fort Edmonton to Terwillegar and back.

Because of extensive renovations and expansion, Fort Edmonton has been closed for three years. It just re-opened on July 1, so there were more cars in the parking lot. As a kid, Fort Edmonton was one of the less enjoyable outings, which was often a yearly event or whenever relatives visited. It was literally a fort and not much else, but I liked the train, whose distinctive whistle can once again be heard through the trees. With a cost of $165 million, I’m guessing it’s a lot better and more kid-friendly now, and there’s a ferris wheel. We’ll have to check it out.

View from the Fort Edmonton Footbridge

Lots of fresh coyote shit on the trails but we didn’t see any of the furry dispensers. Not sure if that’s good or bad. I love seeing coyotes, especially if they’re close enough to get a good photo, but not too close. Not being a snack dog or a young kid, I don’t fear them, but I also don’t want to be seen as potential prey, however remote. The vast majority of the time, they don’t want to have anything to do with humans, and I don’t blame them.

Fun fact: you can always tell the difference between coyote and dog shit by the amount of berries. Obvious berries, I should add, no microscope required. Also, most people pick up after their dogs, whereas coyotes have no such service. Thankfully, Tom didn’t notice. I was afraid if I told him he would want to turn around. He loves coyotes too but the amount of berry-filled shit shimmering in the bright sun at regular intervals was a little alarming.

Lots of grasshoppers. We’ve had everything else this summer, why not a plague of locusts? (Seriously though, I love them).
Hello hard-to-spell footbridge

Cool to start (12C), and warm by the end (21C), but the breeze helped to keep the temperature down. Although it seems like a much longer walk than our usual walk around Glenora/Ravine Drive, it’s actually only about a 1,000 more steps. I got about 13,597 steps in total that day.

It Rained!

Whitemud Creek Ravine

For most of the day on Saturday, it rained (about 20-30mm, cumulatively). Beautiful, glorious rain. I had intended to walk Stella in the morning (Sharon and Vic are visiting Beth and Josh in Minneapolis) but it rained on the way over, and by the time I got to Sharon’s, the skies were VERY dark. I decided to take Stella for a quick pee and poop in the nearby park, and then we waited to see what the weather would do.

Oh boy.

It stormed, and thundered, and rained. There were successive storms, so by the end of day, there was no walk with Stella in the woods. Poor doggo, she was quite frightened by the thunder. She’s not usually that sensitive but not having Sharon around probably compounded her anxiety. I’m her favourite auntie, but I’m still just an auntie.

So today, even though it was cloudy and cool (12C to start), I picked Stella up and we drove to Whitemud Ravine, by the Rainbow Valley entrance. It was cool and wet, but still gorgeous. Things seemed the tiniest bit greener.

Now that she’s ten, Stella is a bit slower these days. The slight hesitancy reminds me of Maggie. In her later years, Maggie clearly and intentionally shortened our walks. Sometimes she just stopped in the middle of a trail, and said, no further. Slowly, our circuits became smaller. Finally, it was just the park, but she was always enthusiastic. Stella is on some meds now for sore joints. She gets two or more walks a day with Sharon, and is mostly fine, but she used to run like the dickens. She can still gets lots of speed up when she wants, like when she’s greeting me from across the park, or running after a ball. She’s become more of a sprinter, I guess.

Hey, that’s a heart in the wood!
Stella refuses to look at the camera (as always…)

We both enjoyed the walk, and Stella read and/or sent a lot of pee-mail. No creek splashes though. In spite of the rain yesterday, the creek is still pretty murky.

Along the boardwalk in Whitemud Creek Ravine

About 15C, 4,000+ steps (I’ll get more later walking to Tom’s)