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May 26, 2009

Fuchsia Rodent

I wrote back in February about White-footed Mice living in the treetops at the Koffler Scientific Reserve, in King Township. Well, my naturalist-training classmates and I were back at it again last week. We went on another hike with Dr. Monika Havelka, of the U. of T., in search of another White-footed Mouse. Finding the critter was easy enough. It was another matter when it came to measuring him, determining his sexual maturity, and putting an ID tag in his ear. But the Doctor had lots of experience and things went routinely for her. Her final item of research was to facilitate the tracking of of this little mouse's comings and goings by coating him with fuchsia-coloured powder. The powder trail that the little guy leaves behind is readily picked up by a UV light source, and is a valuable tool in research on this small mammal species. The powder, by the way, is not harmful to the mouse and wears off in a few days. Until that happens, though, he probably looks like a rock star to his buddies.

May 25, 2009

Dirty Bird Joke

Off-colour jokes, with a birding theme, are not so easy to find. Sometimes, you have to depend on friends. My friend, Pieter, the Squire of Toad Hill, in the Mulmur Hills, sent this candidate along today.
I took my 92-year-old dad to the mall to buy some new shoes. We decided to grab a bite at the food court. I noticed he was watching a teenager sitting next to him. The teenager had spiked hair in all different colours: green, red, orange, and blue. My dad kept staring at him. The teenager would look over and find him staring every time.
When the teenager had had enough, he sarcastically asked: "What's the matter old man, never done anything wild in your life?" I quickly swallowed my food so that I would not choke on his response, knowing he would have a good one, and in classic style he did not disappoint.
"Got drunk once and had sex with a peacock. I was just wondering if you were my son?"

May 20, 2009

Archaeologist for a day

The young fellow, pictured at right, is Scott Eckford, a member of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority's Restoration Services. He is holding a Indian arrowhead, or as archaeologists call them "points". It was the only really exciting artefact that 3 TRCA staffers and 6 volunteers, including me, found during a 5-hour archaeology research survey of a field on Jim Rainey's farm in north-west King Township. It was a learning experience for some of us. I learned a couple of things.
#1. Walking back and forth, bent over, across farm fields, for hours at a time is a back-breaking pastime.]
#2. You have to be very, very patient to be an archaeologist (45 man-hours produced one arrowhead). Plus there was lot of pre and post-activity involved by the TRCA folks.
Was it worth it? As a first-time experience it was very interesting; mainly because there was a lot of information exchanged. King Township has largely been overlooked, archaeologically, among Greater Toronto Area municipalities. The Royal Ontario Museum did numerous digs in King, decades ago, but the sites were never officially registered. And the fate and whereabouts of the ROM's artefacts, from those digs, is questionable. There's even a suggestion that they may even have been put out with the trash - inadvertently.
But the situation is changing. With ever increasing development pressures on King Township, organizations, like the TRCA, are trying to leap into the breach when it comes to the study of King's human history and prehistory. Can you dig it? Well. if local archaeology sounds like something you may be interested in, go to and click on the Claremont Archaeology Festival icon to find out about TRCA's first-ever archaeology festival on June 7. You and your family can just be observers or you can actually help in the excavation of the remains of an 1870s era blacksmith's homestead.
As for me, I heading to bed early tonight, to rest these weary bones.

May 16, 2009

Backyard warblers keep dropping in

Connecticut Warbler

Tennessee Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler
Three more warblers have shown up in the cedar hedge in the backyard. Connecticut, Tennessee and Bay-breasted Warblers all dropped in this afternoon after a rainfall. They had all been brought to ground by the rain, just like the other warblers noticed in the last couple of weeks. This spring is turning out be quite productive for backyard warblers and Linda and I are loving it. All three internet photos, above, were taken by a fellow named Brian E. Small.

May 13, 2009

Birds to booze - I answer the call

The word went out. Volunteers were needed to assist the Toronto Police Services. Were Tamils running amok? Point duty at some intersection where the traffic lights were out? Did cruisers need washing? Coffee and donuts, somewhere? No, none of the above. A few community-minded individuals were needed, however, to imbibe enough alcohol, as to make themselves intoxicated to the point where police officers, in training, could readily recognize an inebriate, even when the inebriate was well beyond being able to do so himself, or herself.
With no selfish thought for myself, I appeared at the designated time and place, to do my duty. I was filled with civic pride. Being full of emotion was quickly replaced by being full of a pleasant-enough Sangiovese. Sangiovese gets its name from the Latin 'sanguis Jovis', (the blood of Jove). Jove, or Jupiter, according to Roman mythology, was the king of the gods. As my grandchildren call me Grandpa Jupiter, or approximations thereof, such as Jupa and Goonda, I felt things were off to auspicious start. I felt the Blood of Jove also set me slightly apart and above the other participants, who had chosen to relegate themselves to beer and that mean spirit, Vodka.
I learned that drinking 40 ozs. of red wine, over the course of two hours, takes away any sense of auspiciousness, much less a sense of balance. I did not fall over, however, and was cheery and cooperative throughout the testing that followed. I was asked to walk a straight line, hands at my sides, toe to heel, turn around and return to my starting point. I was asked to stand, hands at my sides, on one foot, with the other foot held out in front of me and count to 30. I was also asked to touch the top of a pen, held 12" from my nose, and then, without moving my head, to follow the pen, with my eyes, as it was swept from side to side, in front of me. Apparently, I failed every test and was declared "arrestable"on all the scoresheets. I was asked if I thought I could drive an automobile at that point. I said no. At least, I got that part right.
Late in the day, I was delivered by a police constable into the hands of my son-in-law, Hector, who saw that I safely got home. As I walked away from the experience, I thought about getting intoxicated, free, right under the noses of the cops, without be charged with anything. Part of it had been great fun. My ex-boss, Murray, who had recruited me for this affair, and I had laughed our heads off at several points. But there is just no ending this blog on a humourous note. Getting drunk like this was sobering. The kind of testing I was put through has been standard practice in the U.S.A. for years, and it is now coming to Canada. It's one more tool for police officers to use in the fight against drinking and driving.
My retirement is full of lessons, and this was one of the serious ones. I missed a day of monitoring birdboxes at Cold Creek Forest and Wildlife Centre on this day, but I have a new appreciation for how lucky I am to have the opportunity to enjoy another day.
Please comment if you wish.