Birdiest readers! Need I say more? February has been depressingly grey and I’m ready for it to end! Thankfully, spring is just around the corner (after we’re done with the upcoming snow/rain extravaganza that’s in store for Southern Ontario starting tomorrow).
But before we’re done with this drab month that never ceases to amaze me with its relentless ability to make everything seem not quite great, I do have news, birdy and otherwise.
I wrote about my miraculous experience of seeing SIX snowy owls in one day here. Check it out! The week before my bonanza owl day, I saw a glorious Short eared Owl! He performed his awe-inspiring neck twisting routine for me, and I couldn’t tell if he was just grumpy or didn’t care for my outfit because he kept twitching and turning away from me as soon as we made eye contact. We certainly kept our distance, but I didn’t get the sense that he was in the mood for company. Regardless, I got great looks through the scope, and perhaps one day we’ll meet up again and he’ll remember me as that birder who was so happy to see him she couldn’t get that dumb grin off her face. I probably did look a little too eager.
Shortly before the short eared owl sighting, we caught a glimpse of a juvenile Golden Eagle flying around from one tree to another. There was a hawk slightly above him, trying to psych the eagle out, but the eagle remained calm as a can be and continued his odd flight patterns (was he trying for figure eights? I couldn’t figure it out…). Our fearless leader caught the eagle in his scope and managed to follow him around for about 10 minutes. I relied on my Zeiss binoculars to expose his glorious plumage (I couldn’t see the gold but did get the great white wing bars, and the white on his tail).
And though I know this news will thrill nobody but me (and perhaps anybody whose birding skills are worse than mine), I’ve finally learned to distinguish the nuthatch from the chickadee. I made some rather embarrassing gaffes, but those are now a thing of the past!
Finally, in non-birdy news, I have a creative nonfiction publication in PRISM International that’s out on newsstands right now! If you are desperately aching to read it and can’t access PRISM from where you are, send me an email. It’s nice to see the piece out in the world, since it’s one that was years in the making! And, I’m thrilled to have an essay forthcoming in a collection called Truth, Dare, Double Dare which will be published by Goose Lane in 2014. The essays deal with the full spectrum of motherhood (or non-motherhood, as is my case). The collection is edited by the wonderful and brilliant Kerry Clare, and features a fantastic array of Canadian writers! I’m honored and humbled to be part of this collection. Here’s a link to the genesis of the book.
So, in the grand scheme of things, February has been quite kind to me, but I’m still glad it’s over. Something about grey days, the lamest Academy Awards Ceremony in recent memory, a dearth of good movies, and the absence of properly insulated boots brings out the worst in me. I’m officially ready for March!
Beloved Birders! Since you’re all dying to know — I *LOVED* Jeffrey Kimball’s BIRDERS. You can read my mini-review right here. I’ve been recommending the movie to everybody I know. Watch it! You won’t regret it. Even my nonbirder husband couldn’t tear himself away from the couch.
I hope you all celebrated World Wetlands Day (February 2) in appropriate and lavish fashion. I spent a fair bit of time researching the Donana National Park, which happens to house Europe’s largest wetland, and which my nonbirder husband, my Tilley hat and I plan on visiting this coming April. If you have any tips on birding in Spain, do let me know!
Beloved Birders! I think I might be starting to believe in miracles.
Miraculous event #1: I saw my first Wood Duck, which is cause enough for rejoicing. My enthusiasm was just about boundless when I saw this marvel of a duck that looked like it had been painted by a brilliant, meticulous, first rate artisan. I was so impressed that I wrote about the event here and here. (The wood duck also happens to be the state game bird of Mississippi. Clearly, I’m not the only one who’s obsessed.)
Miraculous event #2: The second of the two links, fellow birders, is another blog that I’m thrilled to be a part of. BirdCanada now features contributing writers from all across the country, and I’ll be writing there on the 26th of each month.
Miraculous event #3: As my faithful readers know, I’ve been dying to see Jeffrey Kimball’s BIRDERS since the documentary came out on HBO earlier in July. As Rick Wright suggested, I could have gone to the January meeting of the Linnean Society to watch the film, but finances, better judgment and work commitments intervened. Instead, I called my video store (yes, I still frequent a video store) and asked if they had the film on release day (January 22 — ok, truth be told, I got a bit obsessed with the idea of seeing this movie) and the friendly video-store-owner kindly asked me to describe the movie, which I proceeded to do in a slightly hyper and perhaps overly effusive manner. Five minutes later, the video store owner called me back (!) and announced he had ordered the DVD. Two days later, said video store owner called me yet again to tell me the movie had arrived and he wished me good luck with my birding!
Miraculous event #4: I am about to watch BIRDERS.
Miraculous event #5: Guess who’s going to Hog Island Audubon Bird Camp in September to study fall migration?
And to think… it all started with a wood duck. I’m beginning to think 2013 may well be my Year of the Wood Duck. Stay tuned for more.
Beloved Birders! Some of you may recall that this past Spring, I had a particularly impressive string of bad-car karma. Within the span of 24 hours, I was hit by a drunk driver and received a speeding ticket on my own street, in front of my own home! Thankfully, the accident was minor, but the speeding ticket was particularly insulting (then again, I may have overdone it on the emotional front; perhaps a strategically timed tear gliding down my cheek would have done more for my cause than my relentless, pathetic sobbing — once again, less is more!).
Anyhow, earlier this week, I went to court; the fine was lowered and the demerit points erased from my record. The news thrilled me to such a degree that on my way out of the courtroom, I dropped my purse and proceeded to watch the contents spill out in slow motion. I tried to collect my odds and ends — including a grapefruit, multicolored pens, my journal, lipstick, and the bird book I brought to court just in case I had time to acquire a little more ornithological erudition — without tripping over my stuff. This morning, I searched for Colin Trudge’s The Bird and it was nowhere to be found. Oh well — so much for having a delightful story of reading about birds in a traffic court room.
May whoever finds my copy of The Bird (which I really enjoyed until I reached the end of page 4, when I was catastrophically interrupted by my own clumsiness and embarrassment) delight in the book and may it be the beginning of a lifelong interest in the wonders of the avian world!
In other, more positive news, I saw my first Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) this weekend! And, in the spirit of this post, the impressively grey bird was entirely covered in fog and appeared in my binoculars as nothing more than a silhouette. Alas, even my beloved Zeiss binoculars failed to distinguish the bird from a dark blob.
(What the bird ought to have looked like. Photo from here)
Back in October 2011, I encountered my first Pine Grosbeak in Clea Roberts’ fabulous poem, and knew it was love at first sight. In fact our initial meeting felt so vivid, so colorful, so entirely real that I assumed it had actually taken place:
Seeing boreal birds yesterday morning (both male and female, though yesterday’s male wasn’t nearly as stunning and bright as the fashion icon on this photo!) felt like a moment of recognition: alert birds feasting on the remnants of berries, unexpected patches of color illuminating a drab, grey winter morning. The sight was immediately familiar to me, but it took me about an hour to place where I had last seen the bird. I thought it might have been Algonquin park, but it turned out to have been a purely literary encounter. The words of the poem had rendered the bird real.
My first birding day of the year also included watching a Cooper’s Hawk terrify a bunch of Mourning Doves. They looked more robust than usual to my eye — possibly the result of excess holiday eating — but they had no trouble darting into the sky as soon as they sensed the hawk nearby. Saw dozens of chickadees, nuthatches (white- and red-breasted), a downy and hairy woodpecker, cardinals, blue jays, and most of the usual suspects for January. Came across a rather unsightly conglomeration of 3000 or so Canada Geese huddled together by the side of a pond (they looked like large rocks from a distance); I know the geese must have been freezing, but I still couldn’t warm up to the sight (and sound) of them all. Nor could I forgive David Sibley for including a Canada Goose as the September bird in his calendar a few years ago; my birthday month has yet to fully recover.
I’ve decided to start keeping a bird list in 2013. Wish me luck. So far I’ve seen 14 species — that’s only 330 less than the illustrious Josh Vandermuelen, who broke the Ontario Big Year record last week! Hearty Congrats to Josh, and fear not, dearest readers, I won’t be planning a Big Year any time soon… I’m just starting with a list with the modest hope of being able to remember what I see (inside and outside of a poem!) and possibly recognize the bird when I see it again! But really, in all honesty, my Big Goal is just to keep looking…
It seems like New Year’s greetings are rolling around with greater frequency than ever before, but I’ll save my musings on Time Passing for another day! It’s been a fantastic year over here at Birds and Words. I’ve identified more birds than ever before, though my success rate is still rather shaky, as the comments in the previous post attest — for the record, a rockstar birder and generous reader alerted me that the shorebirds in question were Ruddy Turnstones and Western sandpipers, not Semipalmated plovers as I had assumed (the other mystery bird was a Little Blue Heron). I held a bird in my hand for the first time, watched my husband marvel at a Baltimore Oriole that I located at Leslie Spit, saw my first Phalarope, went on my first Christmas Bird Count, wore my Tilley Hat more than ever before, and finally discovered that there might be more to sparrows than sheer frustration. A great year. On the non-birdy end of the spectrum, I recently started blogging for Ontario Nature and have a couple exciting publications coming up. And, in other exciting news, I saw Midnight Sun in the Lofoten Islands in June, and it looks like I can now play Chopin’s Valse Brillante #2 in tempo (small thrills abound around here). It’s been a wonderful year and 2012 came to a grandiose end with two fabulous events: my dearest high school best friend’s wedding and a luminous performance of the Messiah!
For 2013, my resolutions are simple — I’d like more of the same! In short: more birds, more words, please! In more specific, New Year’s resolution-type style, I’d like to:
- Finish my book. (Translation: keep working really hard and do not despair at the rejections. Keep. Writing. Every. Single. Day. Eventually, the hours and words have no choice but to add up! Better translation: keep showing up!)
- Keep my bird list up to date.
- Keep swimming regularly (I’ve gotten faster now that I’m able to breathe every three strokes when I swim front crawl!)
- Keep playing badminton.
- Keep practicing piano (on the horizon are: Beethoven Sonata [#7], a new Bach Prelude & Fugue [Bk 1, #3], Brahms Intermezzi [op.117, #1,2,3], a Shostakovich Prelude & Fugue [#7], and perhaps a Chopin Ballade, but that might be pushing it)
- Eat seasonal food and keep cooking healthy meals (thanks to my fantastic food share for making this possible!
As I said, lots more of the same. Happy New Year, everyone! Wishing you a stellar, birdy New Year full of good health and happiness!
Beloved Birders! I’ve just returned from a week in paradise:
That’s the beach in Turks and Caicos, where I spent a week watching the ocean, swimming, staring at sunsets, walking along the 20km beach, cooking, eating, and repeating the cycle for seven days. I had grand intentions of reading Bleak House, but ended up opting for Nabokov’s Pnin, which seemed more my pace. Dickens will have to wait until I acquire a greater attention span. I had meant to go on a birding trip, but it seemed that staring at the ocean took up the bulk of my time, and I didn’t quite get around to accomplishing any serious avian feats.
I did, however, see a grandiose Brown Pelican and watched him fly close to the ocean, and then land on a scraggly branch of a tree, no stronger than a small twig. Not only did the pelican land on the twig-like branch with grace and style, but he sat there for at least ten minutes, scratching his breast by opening and closing his giant bill in a scissor-like movement. It was entrancing and I bemoaned the fact that my camera was an hour’s walk away, lying on my towel, next to poor Pnin.
I did manage to take a picture of a congregation of what I think are Semipalmated plovers relaxing on a pier. (Please tell me I managed to identify these birds correctly! If not, please correct me!):
And, I saw this lone mystery bird on the next pier, which I should be able to ID but can’t seem to. Let me know what it is! There he is, staring out into space, pondering the meaning of life. He almost looks like a night heron, but that couldn’t be, could it?
And there were warblers galore, colossal quantities of Common ground doves (Columbina passerina), egret type species, a glorious Osprey, and a majestic Cuban Crow (Corvus nasicus) who made the loudest, strangest door screeching sounds imaginable. There were dozens of other species, but between eating, sleeping, swimming and staring into space, that’s all I managed to accomplish, bird-wise, in paradise.
In other, infinitely more exciting bird news, I started blogging over at Ontario Nature earlier this month. Feel free to read my stories over here.