Friday, February 26, 2010
Snowy Owls and More
It is always interesting to drive by well kept Mennonite mixed farms and to see people going about their daily business. Flocks of Snow Buntings flew between corn fields and the edge of the gravel road and Horned Larks sang their tinkling tunes from fence posts.
Nature Images Online Magazine that is well worth checking out.
Near the end of my little road trip, I saw my first Song Sparrow of the season. Maybe he was telling me that spring is just around the corner and that he would stay long after the Snowy Owls, Snow Buntings and Horned Larks went north again.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Death and Life in the Park
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The Discipline of Waiting
A number of years ago we watched a segment on ABC's news magazine 20/20 about deferred gratification and emotional intelligence. In a classic experiment, young children were given a marshmallow and were promised another if they could wait 20 minutes without eating the first marshmallow. The experiment was repeated on the TV show and some children were able to distract themselves from the temptation of the treat while others ate the candy right away. In the first experiment, children who could wait were better adjusted as adolescents and were more successful in school.
Deferred gratification is the ability to wait for something we want. Today was a beautiful late winter day and I walked through the Arboretum in Guelph, Ontario in the sunshine. There is nothing we can do to make spring come faster and nature waits beneath a blanket of snow for the time when it will bud and bloom once again.
In our society, waiting is an unknown discipline for many people. "Buy now, pay later" attitudes have led Canadians to the highest levels of personal debt in history as reported in news stories this week. We indulge our children and many grow up feeling immediately entitled to their every whim and desire. Others want God to immediately bestow their demands and expect him to deliver them from uncomfortable situations rather than learning and growing in grace.
This is the Lenten season but more attention is given to Mardi Gras celebrations and Pancake Tuesday than to the pre-Easter fast. Late winter fasts used to be a natural occurance as food stores were depleted after many months of cold weather. It is not hard to fast if you have no food. We now live in a world where for the first time more people die of obesity related illness than from starvation according to a recent report from the World Health Organization.
Fasting generally refers to abstinence from food but there are many other things we can refrain from for a season. Rachel Held Williams wrote an excellent Lenten post and her ideas for observing the season are spiritually and socially meaningful.
When is the last time I felt real hunger for anything?
When is the last time I truly sacrificed when I gave to someone in need?
Do I demonstrate emotional maturity by my ability to delay gratifying myself?
Our fasts are not to be public demonstrations of piety but our lives should be examples of discipline and self control. And that is something we will not see advertised on a billboard or television commercial.
and he will give you everything you need.
Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
Here is another interesting post on deferred gratification from the blog Turbulence Ahead.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Friday Flowers: Spring will come to Narnia
My mother called me a few days before we drove to Algonquin Park and told me that snow showers were in the forecast for the area. She lives in Mexico but could look up the weather in Huntsville, Ontario on the internet. Winter driving in Ontario can be unpredictable especially near the Great Lakes where heavy snow squalls can move inland quickly, but snow showers seldom bring much snow accumulation.
There were snow showers each day we were there and the landscape looked like the inside of a snow globe. The trees were dusted with snow and were very pretty. I took the first picture at the west gate of the park. The lampstands were still lighted and the scene looked like the entrance to Narnia at the back of the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis' book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is the land where according to Mr. Tumnus, "It is always winter and never Christmas."
But according to Mr. Beaver, "There's no mistake. Aslan is on the move."
I bought a pot of daffodils at the grocery store which were just developing buds. We watched them develop and open this week and the blooms brightened the dull, grey days of late winter. The signs of spring are far more subtle outdoors but they are there in longer days, enlarging tree buds, the song of the House Finch and the new bright feathers on the Goldfinches.
Spring is coming.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Gray Jay Nesting Season
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Winter Weekend at Algonquin Park
When this blog was very, very new, I wrote about Grandma's birding club which had its inaugural outing on May 3, 1937. In the first picture, Grandma and her friends are sitting on the ground outside the cabin at the farm which is 5 miles outside of Aurora, Ontario. In another post I wrote about a birding birthday party held on the property in 1944.
In early 1942, a Gray Jay, also known as a Canada Jay or Whiskey Jack was seen at the farm. The Gray Jay is a bird of boreal and sub-alpine forests and is rarely seen as far south as Aurora. On January 11, 1942 the bird was banded by the Toronto Field Naturalists and the event was written up in the newspaper along with this picture of the bird.
I have never seen a Gray Jay and this past long weekend, my husband and I drove three hours north of Toronto to Algonquin Park for some winter trail walking and nature exploration. Birding has been very slow at the park this winter as there are few pine cones or berries around. Last winter large numbers of winter finches and grosbeaks were found all over Ontario but only a handful of sightings have been reported this year.
Algonquin Park. Most of the 7630 square kilometers of this huge provincial park are inaccessible by road. But there are many trails along the highway where people can walk, ski or snowshoe in the winter and animals like moose, deer and wolves are sighted daily. At kilometre 10, we had a magnificent view of a Golden Eagle flying up in front of the truck. This eagle is not very common our area. We found no Gray Jays the first day and were a little overwhelmed trying to decide where to look for them. A helpful employee at the visitors' centre told us of a few places to start our search and we came back early the next morning.
We found two Gray Jays who stayed in very close range for over half an hour. They are beautiful birds and are much larger than I expected. In my next post I will share more pictures and information about this pair of birds.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Happy Valentine's Day
Love life and life will love you back.
Love people and they will love you back.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
More Adventures with Food
vegetable bahjis which are made with chick pea flour or besan. This week, I bought a colourful bag of mixed lentils and used them in a vegetarian version of my mother's ground beef goulash recipe. The experiment turned out well and the recipe is posted on Come Home for Supper. There is a Chinese supermarket downtown which has the largest selection of reasonably priced fresh green vegetables I have ever seen. Last week I bought a large bunch of mustard greens, a vegetable I have never found in our regular stores. It has a peppery flavour and is tasty in soups and stir fries.
My main complaint with restaurant meals is the high sodium content of almost every dish. I really notice salty foods because we use few processed foods or canned soups at home. So I prefer to spend money on good ingredients and experiment with herbs and spices instead of relying on salt for flavour. I am enjoying this food adventure very much!
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Remember Whensday: Green and Warm
Monday, February 08, 2010
Cold as Ice
Spencer Gorge. The trails were easy to walk because of the lack of snow yet the cold air turned the spray from the falls into interesting ice shapes.
I like old cemeteries and the plot of the Webster family is near the falls of the same name. Old epitaphs were often written as moral lessons and warnings to the living and George's tombstone is a good example. He was a young man when he died but he is not forgotten as his grave is viewed by all who walk this section of the Bruce Trail.
Then go your way prepare to die;
Learn here your doom and know you must
One day like me be turned to dust...
MY WORLD TUESDAY
Friday, February 05, 2010
Blogging is so last year!
I watch teenagers in church as they text their friends during the sermon. Others text while driving, putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.
I dropped her off and she thanked me politely for the ride. The news came on the car radio and the announcer said,
"Blogging is so last year... A study has found that young people are losing interest in long-form blogging, as their communication habits have become increasingly brief and mobile." (source)
Writing and commenting on blogs is taking a back seat to other forms of social networking with people under 30 years old. I have a Facebook account and interact with family and friends daily on this platform. But I have avoided Twitter and texting, accessing the internet from my computer only. I still read real books but all types of print media are struggling to make a profit these days. I doubt this young student opens a book outside of school. Another news report this week said,
"Little or no grammar teaching, cellphone texting, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, all are being blamed for an increasingly unacceptable number of post-secondary students who can't write properly. (source)
I got a "fashionable" Razr cell phone three years ago which is now a relic in the fast changing world of electronic devices. (It is a really lousy phone too!) My cellular provider has sent me letters advising of the opportunity for a "free" iPhone or Blackberry with my next contract. Do I want to enter this portable internet world, a world requiring good eyesight, fast thumbs and multi-tasking prowess? Will I have to own one eventually? Technology prophets predict that PDAs will be used instead of credit cards before long.
For the time being I will continue to read books, write blog posts, use Facebook moderately, and buy a basic cell phone. I will be sure to engage in face to face conversations with people each and every day, but the world is not following my example.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Paralympian Sarah Doherty is the final torchbearer and cauldron lighter in Sechelt. She has competed in athletics throughout her life. At age 14, she was struck by an impaired driver while riding her bicycle, resulting in the amputation of one of her legs.
Doherty was a member of the United States Disabled Ski Team from 1983 to 1985 and a member of the 1988 United States Adaptive Ski Racing Team. She is the first woman to summit Mount Rainier on crutches. She has also climbed Mount McKinley — the highest mountain in North America — as well as Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Doherty also competes at the international level in adaptive paddling and participates in kayaking and outrigger canoeing.
She holds a degree in occupational therapy from Boston University. She has worked on the development of specialized sport crutches, called SideStix, to help people with mobility challenges lead active, healthy and productive lives.
Doherty works as a pediatric occupational therapist. She is a role model to her clients and their families, demonstrating what a person with mobility challenges can accomplish.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Half way through winter
Shadow seen=six more weeks of winter
Truth be told, spring does not arrive here until the first or second week of April which is a good eight weeks away. Most of us would be happy with only six more weeks of winter. Wiarton is about a three hour drive north of our city and it was overcast there as well. Imagine my surprise when I heard that Willie had seen his shadow! I left for work shortly after the 8:00 AM announcement and sure enough, the sun was visible behind high clouds and cast enough light to make a faint shadow.
No one knows if cold winter weather and snow will persist past the third week of March, but it is certain that the days will continue to lengthen. I took the picture below on January 14th on the way to work and the sun was much lower in the sky. Today, at the same location, the spectacular sunrise was missing, but the sun was noticeably higher. The days have lengthened about 40 minutes in the past two and a half weeks.
Life goes by fast enough so I resist wishing winter away. We are planning a visit to Algonquin Park in a couple of weeks and nice winter weather would be most welcome. And I also look forward to Red Maple blossoms and Snowdrops by this day in April regardless of Willie's prediction.
Monday, February 01, 2010
January Bird Count Final Tally
So my final tally was 56 birds, 5 short of last year, but 11 more than my goal for this month. Winter finches are still absent around here this season and I had several of them on my list in 2009. I added four birds to my life list which was unexpected.
Here is my final list:
Great Black-backed Gull