Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers' Day 2013

The weather today matched my mood...sun, rain, blustery winds, snow showers, even hail.

I visited Ruthven Park the past two years on Mothers' Day to help with spring migration bird banding because I prefer this activity to dinners and gifts. Mist nets cannot be used in rain and wind so that outing was impossible today. We drove out to a marshy lake in the afternoon to do a little birding. Just as we arrived a heavy snow shower rolled in on strong winds. The Osprey's nest was destroyed by the wind and futile efforts at rebuilding were underway.

I stepped out of the car for these photos but the wind made it hard to hold my camera steady. I haven't seen snow on Mothers' Day for at least 25 years. This area is one of few in our area where Bobolinks can be found. They sit on the fence posts and belt out their crazy metallic songs throughout the day. Five large communication towers stand on the land here so the meadow is untouched by pesticides and herbicides. Thousands upon thousands of acres of corn have destroyed the habitat for meadow dwelling birds like Meadowlarks, Bluebirds, Savannah Sparrows, Killdeer and Bobolinks to name a few. (And that corn is grown to raise cattle but that is a subject for another day)

The winds kept the Bobolinks in the grass more than on the fence wires but they sang in spite of the weather. This marsh is also home to a few nesting Sandhill Cranes and we were fortunate to see two of them grazing in the shallow water.

My family bought me a brand new pair of Nikon binoculars for Mothers' Day and they were useful in watching this drama. A Sandhill Crane was approaching the nesting area of a pair of Red-winged Blackbirds. The male performed aerial attacks on the crane repeatedly, and as it came closer to the nest, the female joined in as well.

Here is the full frontal and rear attack on the Sandhill Crane and it is not even flinching. We couldn't tell if it ravaged the Red-winged Blackbird nest or not.

Fresh air and birding make me happy even in unpleasant weather. As a true introvert, I recharge best wandering about on my own or with a quiet companion. Life can be tough and you might lose your nest or someone special. The wind may batter you about today but there is a tomorrow when the sun will shine and all will be well in your world.

This is my Father's world, 
and to my listening ears 
all nature sings, and round me rings 
the music of the spheres...

This is my Father's world. 
O let me ne'er forget 
that though the wrong seems oft so strong, 
God is the ruler yet. 
This is my Father's world: 
why should my heart be sad? 
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! 
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a significant Mexican holiday and we even had events in our city this weekend to mark it for our local Mexican and Latino community. 

Today is also the 81st anniversary of Mom's birth and it was two weeks ago tonight she left us for a better place. There were several May birthdays in our family and we celebrated them with outdoor picnics when flowers were bursting forth on the trees, in the garden and in the woods. I walked in the woods on Friday and found many beautiful spring ephemerals pushing up through the dead leaves of autumn and winter. They made me think of the a song based on Isaiah 61:3 that we used to sing a few decades ago when scripture songs were popular.

He gave me beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise
for the spirit of heaviness;

That we might be trees of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD,

That he might be glorified.

Our earthly stay is also ephemeral, but like these spring flowers our lives can be beautiful and productive in the time we are given.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Spring Birding Here and There

Rufous-backed Robin-MX
I had my first good look at the Rufous-backed Robins found in Mexico this April. I heard their song early in the morning, a chirping very similar to our Robins in Canada but with a trill sounding like a rolled "R" and sung in a different key. These Robins were more wary than the ones that hop on our lawns at home. The orange-red breast colour extends over the wings and upper back of the birds. The American Robin below was in a tree today in a nearby wood lot here in Canada.

American Robin- Ontario
I didn't see any Great-tailed Grackles in January in Mexico but they were around in great numbers in April. The males displayed noisily throughout the day. They liked the bird bath and would clean out fallen leaves before splashing about. The bird below was the "alpha" of the flock and would not share the water with other Grackles.

Great-tailed Grackle- MX
There were many Orioles on the property in Mexico last month. They are very shy and the picture below was taken through the window in the morning. This is a Black-cowled Oriole and it was a life bird for me. The Altamira and Hooded Orioles are more commonly seen. Along with Hummingbirds, they like the nectar in the Bottle Brush blooms by the house.

Black-cowled Oriole- MX
I meandered around local trails in Ontario this morning for several hours looking for wildflowers and birds. Many long distance migrants have not arrived yet but some birds are already in their active nesting period. I walked by one tree and saw a female Pileated Woodpecker at the base looking in the ground litter for insects. She and her mate were actively calling and feeding in the area.

Female Pileated Woodpecker- Ontario
Forty feet above the woodpecker in the same tree, a female Wood Duck perched above her nest hole. It amazes me to think that the young ducklings will be pushed out of this high nest and led to water before they can fly. It would make more sense to see the duck at the bottom of the tree and the woodpecker at the top.

Female Wood Duck- Ontario
Mom always looked forward to the return of the Barn Swallows who nested in the car port of their home in Mexico. This is one bird that is common in throughout North America and their nesting period is similar in the north and south. The Swallows returned later than usual this year but their noisy chatter as they prepared their nest was heard throughout the day. The picture below was taken shortly after the sun rose over the mountain behind the house in the morning.

Barn Swallows- Nayarit, MX
There was one more bird which was heard and not seen in Mexico. After she was bed-ridden, Mom told me about a bird which called out all night long. She finally identified it as a Mockingbird who was looking for a mate. Apparently they do their courting after dark. Sure enough, as soon as the sun went down, the Mockingbirds started calling. They are great mimics and the calls sometimes sounded like a car alarm. I looked for them in the morning but never found a single one during daylight hours. I recorded the call with my camera and it is uploaded below.

I haven't kept a bird count this year but observing bird behaviour is more interesting to me than tallying a list of sightings.

Mockingbird night call

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The First of May 2013

Spring has finally pushed ahead of winter and the dull, 
dead earth is bursting with colour and life.

The first day of May... favourite week of the year as trees open, flowers bloom,
promise is fulfilled, and hope shines for the future.

Our home is filled with beautiful flowers too,
from caring friends and family at our time of loss.

I sit in the peaceful morning sunlight with my cup of tea,
thankful for this new month and new beginnings.