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.
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.
Monday was a gorgeous day in Toronto–sunny and in the 20s. An appointment took me near Spadina House, an historical house and grounds in mid town Toronto. I realized it would be a lovely day to go see the gardens and grounds before heading home. The scillas outside the garden walls were a sea of intense blue and the path inside by the wall had first green shoots, bulbs and last year’s fallen oak leaves. I felt great peace in the garden and recalled myself as a small child who felt an intense love for gardens and trees, shaded forests by rivers and the ocean. I saw and heard three cardinals flying among the bushes. Robins and small brown birds flew close to me as I sat enjoying the view. It was a good day to be alive.