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Literary Sightings

January 4, 2013

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:

Photo by Mario Belanger from here.

Photo by Mario Belanger from here.

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…

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