Sunday, January 15, 2017

Deep Winter

Northern Cardinal (m)

Winter arrived suddenly after a hot summer and long autumn season. We have received a lot of lake effect snow from the relatively warm, open waters of Lake Huron along with days of dreaded "mixed precipitation". Just before Christmas I bought snow tires for my 4 wheel drive vehicle and I have been thankful for them several times in the past month. I also bought "snow tires" for my feet in the form of vibram-soled Sperry winter boots. I prefer driving on ice to walking on ice and the new boots have eased a lot of anxiety about falling. (Here is a link to an Ontario study about the best winter boots for staying upright) 

There has been little time for birding and trail walking this month but I have been out on a couple of occasions. American Tree Sparrows, with their bi-coloured beaks and distinctive chest spot look for handouts along with Juncos, Chickadees and Nuthatches.

American Tree Sparrow (banded)

The river is home to "snowbirds" from the near and far north. Bufflehead ducks, Goldeneyes, Mergansers of all types, and other small diving ducks fish in fast-flowing open waters of the Grand River. I haven't made it down to Lake Ontario yet this winter where many other water birds over-winter.

Bufflehead (m) Duck

One afternoon I heard a lot of anxious bird chatter and looked up to see this Cooper's Hawk patiently waiting for his next meal, or, perhaps he was just sunning at the top of the tree. No songbird would dare fly in close proximity to this swift hunter.

The same day, we found a couple of American Robins in our neighbourhood digging in the dirt close to houses where the snow had receded. I usually see a few Robins in January but they are often by the river in berry thickets. 

The pictures below were taken last week. The first was after a beautiful snowfall and the second was taken the next morning as people were rushing to work. Our region has built multiple roundabouts to replace traditional intersections. I have mixed feelings about them as some people are still confused about how to navigate multi-lane versions. The car in the picture left the road at a roundabout near our home, accelerated up a sloped yard right into the townhouse. It took a day to extract the vehicle because of the structural damage to the building. I don't mind winter driving myself, but I am wary of other people who are not comfortable driving on ice and snow.

In spite of winter hazards, there is still time for fun. Our dog loves to chase a sled down the nearby slopes of the old city dump, affectionately known as Mount Trashmore. We are expecting a January thaw this week but hopefully it is short-lived so winter sport venues can enjoy a profitable season. Winter is not my favourite time of year, but I will make the best of it, especially as I see the days getting longer and pointing to spring.

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year's Welcome

Whatever this year may bring I will remember
that it started in perfect harmony with a bubbling
brook that sang as it rushed over rocks 
and chickadees who chortled before 
taking seeds from my hand.

Whatever this year may bring I will remember
sunshine on fresh unmarked snow a
crescent moon beside Venus 
in the twilight sky and the 
exhilaration of a walk in crisp, cold air. 

Whatever this year may bring I will remember
to find joy in simple things and take time 
to dream, and learn, and give thanks, and smile 
even when life seems overwhelming 
and the future is uncertain.