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Oct 31, 2010

Hallowe'en 2010

Photo by BarrytheBirder
Apparition at Nobleton
Click on photo to enlarge, if you dare

Oct 30, 2010

Top 10 reasons
for why I like to rake leaves
C'mon, cut me some slack. I've been doing it for over 60 years. Have a great day.

Oct 27, 2010

Tufted Titmouse at Bolton

Wikipedia photo by Ken Thomas
Dave Milsom of Bolton (see previous blog entry below) emailed to acknowledge my mention of his bird sightings at Cold Creek and to say that he has also seen, in the last few days, a Tufted Titmouse at his backyard feeders and four Cattle Egrets at an industrial area near Bolton. I responded to Dave that I had only ever seen a Tufted Titmouse once in my backyard. It was Christmas Day, 1990, 20 years ago less a couple of months. As for the Cattle Egrets, they are becoming more and more frequent in Ontario. Here they are, still hanging about, and we had snow just a few kilometres north of here, a couple of days ago. Global warming's effects are becoming especially evident in the number of bird species that were once rarities in Ontario and are now widespread and seen frequently.
Please comment if you wish.

Oct 26, 2010

Lincoln's Sparrow at Cold Creek

Wikipedia Photo by Terry Sohl
Dave Milsom, intrepid birder from Bolton, Ontario, has just added Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) to the Cold Creek Conservation Area's bird checklist. It brings the list's total to 122 species. Dave saw two Lincoln's Sparrows on October 25th, along with Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, American Tree Sparrows, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Northern Harrier and numerous Grackles and Red-wing-Blackbirds. The Lincoln's Sparrow was not named for Abraham Lincoln. This wee skulker, which has been described as being afraid of its own shadow, was named by James Audubon after his friend, Thomas Lincoln, of Dennysville, Maine. Lincoln shot the bird on a trip with Audubon to Nova Scotia in 1834, and Audubon named it "Tom's Finch" in his honor. Mercifully, cameras have replaced shotguns in the interim.
Please comment if you wish.

Oct 25, 2010

Fall's last bright colours

Oct. 25 ~ Ontario's Municipal Election Day

Hallowe'en doggerel

If I should be buried before I am dead,
let my marker read as follows:

Barry D'Alive

Oct 24, 2010

Branta canadensis

Once, maybe twice, I've pictured a Canada Goose in this Blog space. Our Canada Goose is so ubiquitous that one is reluctant to show one more image than is absolutely necessary. I suppose there are those who would say they never get tired of seeing the Canada Goose, either on-the-wing or in pictures. Nevertheless, I believe this photograph captures this bird as well as any I have ever seen. It was taken in 2006 at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, in Calgary, Alberta, by Chuck Szmurlo. It appears in Wikipedia's List of the birds of Ontario. This goose with the pale breast, beautifully captured here, appears to be of the subspecies hutchinsii and is common in central and western Canada. Canada Geese normally max-out, in size, at around 114 cm. (45") long, with a wingspan of about 180 cm. (71"). Wikipdedia declares that: " An exceptionally large male of the race B.c. maxima, the 'giant Canada goose' (which rarely exceed 8 kg/18lb), weighed 10.9 kg (24 pounds) and had a wingspan of 2.24 m (88 inches)...this specimen is the largest wild goose ever recorded of any species". Anyway, enough said. My purpose here was to show Chuck Szmurlo's perfect photo of a big beautiful bird. Click on the image for a larger view.
Please comment if you wish.

Oct 23, 2010

I wish I'd said this...

God forbid that I should go to a heaven
in which there are no horses
Robert Bontine Cunninghame-Graham 1852-1936

Ozark Trail Association Photo

Photo by Daniel, Fordland, Missouri

As I searched for a photo to illustrate the Cunninghame-Graham quote, above, I recalled a herd of wild horses I'd briefly glimpsed on a canoe trip, along the Current River in Missouri, almost 20 years ago. Long-time friend, Peter Marsh, had organized a gang of good ol' Ontario boys to spend a week paddling across and down the Ozark Plateau from Cedargrove to Van Buren. As our 12-canoe flotilla paddled past the point where the Jack Forks River merges with the Current, I saw a band of wild white horses stampeding along the shoreline and off into the woods. It was a fleeting moment and I wondered if I hadn't seen the ghosts of horses, instead of the real thing. Later, a local Missouran told me I had been lucky to get the glimpse I did and that there were people who had lived all there lives in the area and had never seen them. Sadly, I never got my camera out in time. Now, these many years later, I Googled 'Missouri Wild Horses'. It turns out these horses have been around for a hundred years and in that same year as my canoe trip (1992), the National Park Service was given permission to remove these nuisance horses from their federal land. Apparently, all hell broke loose and following action by good Ozark citizens, the Missouri Wild Horse League was formed and fought a 5-year battle to protect these horses in their home environment. President Clinton signed a bill in 1996 that declared the horses part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Today, the horses are thriving, and in the interests of maintaining a healthy balance in this situation, extra stallions are gelded and put up for sale occasionally, to a lucky few. I'll never forget my lucky glimpse at the last wild horses of the American mid-west.

Please comment if you wish.


Oct 22, 2010

Furtive feeder

Oh furtive Red-breasted Nuthatch
Streaking in for seedy snacks
Always retreating - never attacks
Oh furtive Red-breasted Nuthatch

Oct 18, 2010

I wish I'd said this...

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry
Mark Strand, Eating Poetry (1969)

Oct 17, 2010

Sitting pretty

Like a small gray
coffee pot
sits the squirrel
Humbert Wolfe 1885 ~ 1940

Junco hyemalis

Now summer is gone
Warblers give way to Juncos
Bags of seed await
Male Junco

Female Junco

Oct 16, 2010

Rebecca Caine revisited

Wikipedia Photo
Linda and I first saw and heard Rebecca Caine in Phantom of the Opera 20 years ago in Toronto. Last night we saw and heard her again in the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts in a cabaret show called Raising Caine. There were spoken references to her roles in Phantom and Les Miserables next to the likes of Michael Crawford and Colm Wilkinson, but the music of this evening featured other musical theatre and operetta selections. The song-list mattered not, because every note she sang was a jewel. To top it off, we didn't have to drive down into, and back from, the "Big Smoke" (Toronto). We were home in 15 minutes and slept the best we have in weeks.

Linda in the leaves

Linda and I ooohed and aaahed our way along a leaf-strewn section of the Oak Ridges Trail at Mary Lake today. Pictured above, Linda is standing on a footbridge over one of the several streams that trickle down from the King Ridge and into Mary Lake, which in turn is drained by a stream that empties into the east branch of the Humber River in King City. Mary Lake is at its picturesque best in autumn. I've rambled this piece of the King Ridge for 55 years and never get tired of its timeless beauty.

Oct 13, 2010

Fall visitors flying in

Here's a female Purple Finch (on the left) which I photographed at my Niger Seed feeders today. She was not warmly received by the ever-so-slightly smaller Goldfinches (on the right) but she held her perch until satisfied. The Great Lakes area is the part of North America that can host Purple Finches year-around. Elsewhere they can be found as far north at James Bay (in summer) and as a far south as the Caribbean's American shoreline. For a few minutes, earlier in the afternoon, a Carolina Wren ate seeds on a nearby platform feeder. By the the time I retrieved my camera from the Jeep, it had vanished. Although I waited for an hour or so for it to return, it did not. The waiting time was not completely wasted as I watched many of those trapped Chilean miners being returned to the surface of the earth, above the San Jose Mine, into the arms of their loved ones. Maybe tomorrow the Carolina Wren will return to my feeders and I will take its picture - stay tuned. As it is, today's sighting was species #72 for my list of backyard birds.

Describe this colour if you dare

Here's another Fraser River Delta sunset photo from my old acquaintance, Don Flucker, in Ladner, British Columbia. Don's one of those lucky people who lives on the water - literally. He lives in a floating house and is one of the lucky people in this world who gets two sunsets each evening: one in the sky and one in the water, coming together, becoming one and then vanishing.

Oct 12, 2010

Thanksgiving weather ~ you never know

This is my daughter Allison and my grandson Spencer enjoying a Thanksgiving dip in Uncle Patrick and Aunt Beth's pool, in London, Ontario. You just never know at our latitude, in south-central Ontario, what kind of weather to expect at Thanksgiving. I remember long ago returning on a ferry boat from a Thanksgiving celebration on Christian Island, in Georgian Bay. As we ploughed through the cold October waves toward Cedar Point on the mainland, I remember an indian elder looking back saying it looked like snow coming. It was cool and overcast but I couldn't imagine it actually snowing. Twenty minutes later, as we reached the dock, it was snowing heavily. The thing about Thanksgiving is you have to give thanks no matter what, including the weather.

Oct 11, 2010

October's last rose

They are not long, the days of wine and roses.
Ernest Dowson, English poet,
who died at the age of 33 (1867~1900)

Oct 9, 2010

Imagine, if you will...

Temagami? Algonquin? Haliburton? Muskoka? I wish. Try Richmond Hill - on the edge of Toronto. I had to settle for the lakeside trail around Bond Lake today for my fall flavours. If there is a better one-to-two-hour walk in southern York Region that makes you feel like you're 200 kms. north of here, then let me know. The trail I'm talking about is not the official Town of Richmond Hill walking trail which skirts around the southern side of Bond Lake, in north Richmond Hill. I'm talking about the unofficial, but well-trodden trail that circles the entire lake at the water's edge. It's easy enough to find, on the east side of Yonge Street (on the big curve), just south of the community of Oak Ridges. My photos above do not do justice to this historic, moraine kettle lake. Extremely tall and mature Oak, Maple, Spruce and Ash soar up the steep slopes that encircle Bond Lake. It's a popular spot, but it is so beguiling in its northern Ontario disguise, that you feel like you're on the infamous 3-mile portage between Lake Opeongo and Dickson Lake in Algonquin Park. On my walk, I saw one of our smallest birds, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and one of our largest birds, an Osprey. There was a fellow fishing who told me there were metre-long Pike in the lake. At another spot, a middle-aged couple were sitting in small camp chairs, eating sandwiches and passing a litre of red wine, back and forth between themselves. On top of everything else, the weather was perfect...the kind of day to which Rip Van Winkle succumbed, methought.
Please comment if you wish.

Oct 8, 2010

No Nobel ~ but worthy of one

Liu Xiaobo, Chinese dissident and human rights advocate, has just won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Greg Mortenson, of the United States, was a nominee for the same prize. Greg was also a nominee in 2009, but lost out to Barrack Obama. I have just read Greg Mortenson's book, Three Cups of Tea, which describes the years of work he has put into building schools (especially for girls) in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am late coming to this man's inspiring story.

Greg's book was published in 2006 and became No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List. I can't recommend his book highly enough. Three Cups of Tea was co-written by David Oliver Relin and is a compelling and inspiring read. But the book's triumph of story-telling pales in comparison to the brilliant life being lived by Greg Mortenson, the humanitarian. Governments love to talk about humanitarian aid, but here is the gripping tale of how humanitarianism is really about one-on-one sacrifice and service. I sincerely hope you find the time to read this book. You may feel re-born.