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Feb 18, 2010

Canoeing in February

Well, not exactly. But two recent trips to the Canadian Canoe Museum, in Peterborough, Ontario, have made my new, least-favourite month, February, almost bearable. One step inside the museum and one is transported to a state of mind that sighs of summers on the water, loons calling, and campfire smoke inducing leafy and rocky mirages.

My friend and neighbour, Mike 'Wood & Canvas' Ormsby, got me to re-visit the museum for the first time since it opened 13 years ago. Like many other people, Mike is my go-to-guy for all things about canoeing. He introduced me to museum General Manager, John Summers, and Curator, Jeremy Ward, who gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum's huge separate storage facility where most of the collection's approximately 600 craft are stored (see photo above).

We had such a great time, we went back two weeks later for another go-around: this time meeting Professor Kirk Wipper, who founded the collection back in the 1950s. At 85, Kirk is still a volunteer resource person at the museum and a charming gentleman (see photo below). The Canadian Canoe Museum is the largest of its in the world and brilliantly uplifting for anyone with an interest in canoes. I can't recommend it highly enough and plan to go back in May to collect the canoe I'm planning to win with a fund-raising raffle ticket I purchased at the CCM. The canoe is being built as I write this blog and you can see it underway in the Rona Building Centre, adjacent to the museum on Monaghan Street in Peterborough.
Mike Ormsby and canoe legend, Kirk Wipper

My least favourite month: February

I never knew I had a least favourite month, until this year. My friend, Pieter Thoenes, sent me a Daily Telegraph article by Horatio Clare who tries to make a case for February not being a miserable month. Mr. Clare quotes his godfather, a Welsh hill farmer, calling February a "little bugger of a month". Whereas his mother declares February as "crows-on-posts weather" and each one a hunched little angel of death, wishing illness and injury on every living thing, that they might take its eyes and tongue. Gosh, and I'd already forgiven Wiarton Willie for saying we were in for six more weeks of weather. The lyrical Mr. Clare suggests that February is the perfect time to heed the advice of Valentine and make a fire, cook some lamb chops, curl up under a fleece in the back of our cave and do what comes naturally, thereby producing a little Sagittarius in November or early December. Good Lord! That's why I feel the winter chill so much in my dotage. I was conceived in late February and born in early December (the 6th).
Actually, Horatio Clare has a wonderful command of the language and although he inadvertently prompted me to turn against February, most readers would probably be persuaded in the opposite direction. The website address is below. As friend Pieter puts it: "Barry, as a lover of our language, this is a beautiful article. Read, savour, enjoy!" Click on:
Please comment if you wish

Feb 8, 2010

No Redpolls or Siskins this winter

I've had as many as 100 American Goldfinches at the feeders in the backyard this winter, but unlike last year, not one Redpoll or Pine Siskin. The picture above, of goldfinches, was taken about two months ago when we had lots of snow. Now, in early February, the snow is almost all gone and only about 25 to 35 goldfinches show up each day. The others are probably finding lots of natural seed that was previously under the snow. Last winter, at this time of year, I had about 50 Redpolls and 50 Pine Siskens that were at the feeders - this year, none. That's the way it goes. It's usually all about food supply. I suspect the seed and berry crops, up north, this past year, were plentiful and the many northern birds, including Crossbills and Grosbeaks, have not had to forage south. I have not seen a Sharp-shinned or Cooper's Hawk in my backyard this winter also, for which the smaller birds are grateful. Those hawks have to eat also, and they are handsome birds. The picture below, taken by friend, Geoff Simpson, shows a Cooper's Hawk flying off with a Mourning Dove in its talons. See another picture of this raptor and its prey, in my 4th blog previous to this one.

Feb 2, 2010

Varied Thrush still at Cold Creek

I took this photo this morning at Cold Creek Conservation Area on the 11th Concession of King Township. It is still regularly visiting the feeders at Geoff Simpson house just before the Cold Creek main gate. Park on the road and walk in Geoff's driveway until you reach the feeders. This showy visitor from Canada's west coast looks great against the snowy backdrop. Another good sighting today was a Snowy Owl on Strawberry Lane in the Holland Marsh, east of Hwy. 400. Birders have been seeing Snowies all winter in the Strawberry Lane/Woodchoppers Lane/King Street area. And of course there are Red-tailed Hawks every kilometre or so, along the sideroads and concessions, wherever you go. Haven't seen any Redpolls or Siskins yet this winter...last year there were 50 of each species in my backyard.