Sunday, October 31, 2010

More Banded Birds

Male Rusty Blackbird
My daughters sometimes laugh at my enthusiastic accounts of bird encounters. I was telling one of them that I held a Rusty Blackbird and she asked facetiously,

"Would you get tentanus if you were bitten by a Rusty Blackbird?"

Well I guess I will find out. 

A variety of sparrows, finches and black birds were captured and tagged on October 30th. There were seven different sparrows caught, not counting Juncos. Sometimes there was a moment of uncertainty about the species, especially with juveniles, but the banders had reference books available. Here are six different birds. How many can you identify?

pɹıqʞɔɐןq ʎʇsnɹ ǝןɐɯǝɟ ˙6
ɥɔuıɟ ǝןdɹnd ˙5
ʍoɹɹɐds pǝuʍoɹɔ-ǝʇıɥʍ ǝןıuǝʌnɾ ˙4
ʍoɹɹɐds pןǝıɟ ˙3
ʍoɹɹɐds dɯɐʍs ˙2
(ʍoɹɹɐds ƃuos snuoq) ʍoɹɹɐds xoɟ ˙1


Saturday, October 30, 2010

My First Eastern Tufted Titmouse

The past week has been extremely busy and included a quickly planned business trip to Canada by my father and brother. We enjoyed their visit and they returned to Mexico at the end of the week. I took a couple of days off work and chauffered them around but the weather was less than ideal and like much of the continent, we experienced high winds and rain.

I have had little time to wander about outdoors so I decided to spend this morning at the bird banding station at Ruthven Park. Fall banding is almost done and will continue only until the second week of November. Dawn is arriving later now with sunrise today at 7:50 AM, so I did not have to get up much earlier than usual to get to the park, which is a 75 minute drive south of our home. Many birds are making the final push to migrate and the banding station is busier than when I visited at the end of September.

One bird I have wanted to see for a long time is the Tufted Titmouse. According to the bird guide, "they barely range into southeastern Canada in the Great Lakes region." I have never heard of any sightings in our city but they are seen occasionally in the Niagara area and the north shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

The banding station was busy and I scribed for two banders. Other people were taking the birds out of the nets and placing them in bags to be inspected and tagged. Those of us in the station did not know what was in each bag and it was like opening a gift (which sometimes pooped) each time a bird was extracted. And just for me, there was one Eastern Tufted Titmouse. I asked for a time-out from scribing to take pictures of the spunky bird. It is related to the Black-capped Chickadee but has far more attitude and a much louder voice. It reminds me of a Blue Jay in a small package. I took my pictures quickly because this bird was an aggressive little nipper unlike most of the birds I have held after banding.

Ouch!...but very worth the pinch!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chilly Mornings

It takes me about 13 minutes to get to work if the traffic on the expressway is moving well. I do not like to be early or late and aim to get to my floor right on time. When the weather is good, I allow myself 15 minutes and hope there are few red lights and no accidents.

Today I left the house on my usual tight schedule only to discover that the car windows were ice covered. Fortunately it was thin enough to come off with a couple of doses of windshield washer fluid and the defroster on high. But my travel time will now increase for the late fall and winter season. My sister-in-law posted pictures of their snow covered lawn in Barrie, Ontario today.

The highlight of my morning was wearing my new half mittens knitted by Minnesota blogger Ruthie J. Yes, she does ship to Canada. I ordered a pair for each of our daughters and myself and we love them. (My eldest daughter calls them "mis" just as she calls my short shawl sweater a "swea".) When the weather gets colder, we have thin gloves to wear under them.

Ruthie has an Etsy store and lots of lovely hand knitted things for sale. I have already put in a second order for Christmas gifts. Here is her Etsy link and the link to her blog Nature Knitter.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fallen Leaves

"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, 
and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October."
-  Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Bittersweet October.  The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause
between the opposing miseries of summer and winter."
-   Carol Bishop Hipps

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time
to sit still and watch the leaves turn."
-   Elizabeth Lawrence

I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand, shadowless like Silence, listening
To Silence.
- Thomas Hood

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TO-DAY...Post #1000


So here hath been dawning
Another blue day;
Think, wilt thou let it
Slip useless away?

Out of Eternity
This new day is born;
Into Eternity
At night will return.

Behold it aforetime
No eye ever did;
So soon it forever
From all eyes is hid.

Here hath been dawning
Another blue day;
Think, wilt thou let it
Slip useless away?

Thomas Carlyle 1795-1881

I walked along the river before work yesterday and enjoyed the beauty of the trees, sky and water. There was frost on the ground, the first of the season, and being out in the crisp fall air was a perfect way to begin "another blue day".

This poem is on the first page of my father-in-law's old school book, "The Ontario Readers Third Book." It was used in Ontario schools from 1925 to 1935 and the price for students was 14 cents. The book is filled with classic stories and poems which teach history, nature, patriotism and good moral values. I enjoy reading it through from time to time and wonder what this generation of middle elementary children would think of it.

Today you can download an e-version of the Third Reader at Project Gutenberg. Like many people, I spend more time online than I do reading bound books, although I am trying to reverse the trend. Computers and the internet have changed the way we entertain ourselves and the way we interact with each other. I started this blog a little over four years ago as a way to keep in touch with my widely scattered family and this is post #1000. But Facebook and Skype are the internet platforms we now use to communicate. In four more years it will likely be something else.

Blogging continues to be an enjoyable creative outlet. I have learned a lot about history, nature, patriotism and good moral values from other bloggers I follow in my Google Reader. (What would my father-in-law think of a Google Reader?!) The written word is still important no matter the format we use to read and write.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

The Cheltenham Badlands are a unique Ontario land feature located on the Niagara Escarpment near Caledon. We drove there early this Thanksgiving Monday and enjoyed the fall colours along the escarpment between Milton and the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. The soil here has washed away and soft shale rock has eroded into hills and steep gullies. The terrain is difficult to traverse and we walked carefully around the perimeter of the site.

I have much to be thankful for this season. But others who are close to me are going through very hard times. This Thanksgiving is painful and the future appears to hold even more difficulty. Yesterday our pastor shared the Pilgrim story of the five corn kernels.

After the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, the Pilgrims faced hardship and a period of severe food shortage. At one point their rations were five corn kernels a day. In 1623 the corn crop was failing due to drought, but rain arrived after the Pilgrims held a prayer service asking for God's intervention on their behalf. The harvest of 1623 was bountiful and the five kernels of corn became a way to remember the sacrifices of the past and to be thankful for present blessings.

The Badlands were surrounded by the extravagant beauty of autumn woodlands clothed in brilliant colour. The scene reminded me of the good times and bad times which all mankind will experience in a lifetime. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 30:11-12,

"You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!"

The five kernels of corn remind us to be thankful for specific blessings which we can list ourselves. One constant blessing is the knowledge of God's compassion, love and provision in all circumstances.

Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Sunday, October 03, 2010

October Joy

A stunted Red Maple grows on our front boulevard but its leaves have always turned to orange and red in time for the birthday of our twin daughters. Today is their birthday and while neither of them could come home to celebrate, the colours on our faithful tree reminded me of the joy of their early but healthy arrival.

Most of the week has been cloudy and wet but the bright colours of harvested vegetables brightened a cool, damp market day. As children, we spent every weekend of September and October picking apples at my uncle's orchard. The fruit from the trees was graded and sold and we collected grounders to take home. I know it is October when I bite into a hard, crisp Cortland apple and smell applesauce simmering on the stove. October is baked squash and pumpkin pie, sweet carrots and fresh cabbages, local grapes and green pears.

Autumn is a lovely gem nestled between the tiring heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter. As a season it is well defined unlike the often fickle days of spring. We will celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving next weekend. It is my favourite celebration of the year with few obligations and plenty of time to enjoy the beauty and bounty of nature and harvest.

I love Fall's morning mists, low rays of afternoon sun, warm socks and hoodies, milkweed pods, wild asters, big clouds, golden fields, crisp leaves underfoot, clear, cold nights and a hot cup of tea.

Happy October!