Spring is here and flowers are coming into bud wildly. The scillas have gone, but redbuds are just appearing and yesterday I saw cherry blossoms and their devotees in Trinity Bellwoods Park–a downtown west end park. Spring also means the return of birds and their songs. I hear cardinals, robins and sparrows daily. Last week I heard a chickadee and the other day–mourning doves. On the weekend, I also saw a tern with a bright orange beak at the Brickworks in Toronto.
Last month, I found a list I’d made in an old journal from May 1988. The list was of some of the birds I had seen on a trip to the countryside in Massachusetts and Virginia in the U.S. I don’t keep lists of birds, but I was so thrilled at the large variety that I saw during that spring migration, that I wrote them all down. The list also brings me some sadness because I hear less birdsong on my trips to the Ontario countryside than I used to. And in the city, I am aware of losses from previous years when I used to hear more bluejays and nighthawks that have all but disappeared.
Above is a linocut I made in the 1980s.
And here is my list from almost 30 years ago–May 12, 1988:
- Mallards, male and female
- 2 killdeer
- tree swallow
- male downy or hairy woodpecker
- another woodpecker with red brown crest drooping downward as it cling to tree–brownish body from afar
- white-breasted nuthatch
- brown creeper
- yellow warbler
- hood warblers–male and female
- common yellowthroat
- yellow throated warbler
- chestnut-sided warbler
- gold-winged warbler
- northern oriole–male and female
- rufous -sided towhee
- blackburnian warbler
- rose-breasted grosbeak
- purple finch
- house finch
- scarlet tanagers
- gray catbird
- black-capped chickadee
- solitary vireo–unafraid!
- gray-cheeked thrush
- swainson’s thrush
- worm-eating warblers
- brown-headed cowbird–possibly female
- whited throated sparrow
- song sparrows
- black and white warbler
- red winged blackbirds
Alas, this bluejay had recently died, but I was struck by his beauty and took a photo of his feathers.
On my walks around my neighbourhood in Toronto, I notice small sights and sounds. Around ten days ago, and before last weekend’s ice storm, I came upon these soggy leaves in a garden. The long white and grey leaf looked very much like a wing to me. I had to look closely at first to see what it was.
Then, this past Tuesday, when the ice was starting to recede and people had done some cleaning up, I saw these small branches and twigs. Someone had beautifully bundled them and they looked to me like part of an art installation.
And, a little further on I saw leaves of bulbs, dried grasses and twigs through the ice in someone’s garden. I liked the contrast of the plants with the white ice.
As for what catches my ear these days–the birds are singing away. I noticed their return a few weeks ago. Not that some didn’t overwinter, but the increase in song was very apparent. I heard my first robin’s spring song last week. And I’ve been hearing cardinals, red winged blackbirds and the many house sparrows that accompany my walks year round.
On the art front, my block prints are finally dry and I’m about to pack them up and submit them to BIMPE. I’ll be sending them to Vancouver on Monday. Then I’ll be able to turn my attention to other projects.
The textile show opening that I mentioned in my last post was enjoyable. Since then I’ve continued painting and I’ll post some of that work in the future. I also continue line drawing. This past weekend, the weather was a lot milder and we went for a walk in a park that is part of one of Toronto’s ravines. On our walk, we came to an open area with stumps of trees, branches on the ground and dry grasses that I loved for their different shapes and placement of all their forms. I took several photos and today made some simple line drawings loosely based on those photos.
Recently we traveled east of Toronto to Prince Edward County for a relaxed weekend. A highlight of our trip was a visit to the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory where they band birds so their migrations can be monitored. There we were given close instruction by a staff member and were able to release 2 blue jays. A big thrill for 2 city dwelling humans! We saw birds large and small including two male sharp shinned hawks who had flown into nets and been banded. Here’s a photo of the two hawks just before they were released.
Later, on our way back to Toronto, we stopped in at Presqu’ile Provincial Park and saw gorgeous views of the windswept beach being enjoyed by gulls and geese and a handful of humans.
We recently went to Algonquin Park, a few hours north of Toronto. Because of the very warm and, sometimes, hot autumn, the trees had hardly turned their usual bright colours. Apparently they began turning late in August when there was a cold spell and then stopped when the warm weather arrived. Nevertheless, we had a beautiful time in bright sun hiking through forests and by lakes. I made some quick sketches, this time with thin felt pens. These sketches continue to surprise me. As in Newfoundland, I found myself making minimal lines that, even without much detail, still bring back memories of the places I drew in and the feelings of being in nature, during these changes in our climate.
Here’s some photos and sketches from the trip:
No drawings this time, but here’s photos of one of my favourite places that we visited in Newfoundland. It’s Grates Cove at the northern tip of the Avalon Peninsula. We visited twice, had an excellent meal at the Grates Cove Studio amidst terrific artwork and walked on trails overlooking the ocean and later amidst the remains of old dry stone walls that surrounded the gardens of early settlers.
If you’d like to see more Newfoundland photos, I’ve opened a flickr account and uploaded 57 photos from our trip.
And if you click on the image below, you can see some of my artwork in my etsy shop:
Here’s 3 more drawings I made in Newfoundland in the presence of sweeping ocean views. The more dramatic the scenes became, I fewer lines I used. I didn’t have any plan to do this. It was just the only way I found I could put anything on paper, so magnificent were the views. So a few gesturing lines and some broad movements were what arose on paper.
Here’s 2 drawings from Western Bay, with a bit of a boardwalk showing in the second one:
And here’s a drawing from the East Coast Trail that we hiked:
And the photo near the spot that the above drawing is from:
Plus another photo at the start of the Witless Bay entrance to the trail: