We had a surprising and humorous encounter with a cormorant on a recent visit to the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. Shortly after pulling out of a parking spot in the town of Lion’s Head, we heard a loud sound coming from the back of the car. We couldn’t figure out what this was and thought that perhaps something was rolling around in the trunk. However, when the sound returned 2 or 3 more times, I turned around in the passenger seat to see if the trunk was unlatched. There, looking back at me from the rear of the car, was a cormorant. We quickly pulled over to the side of the street and got out, hoping the bird wasn’t injured in some way. S/he seemed fine–no wings held at odd angles or other obvious problems that might explain why s/he had landed on the car. So this remains a mystery to us. After looking at us for a few seconds, the cormorant hopped onto the side of the road. A man heading the other way stopped to tell us he’d been amazed to see the bird land on our car. Thankfully, Lion’s Head is a small place where other vehicles had a chance to slow down or stop to make sure they didn’t hit the bird.
I went to the Brickworks last Sunday. The air was awash with the calls of red-wing blackbirds and soaring and diving swallows. I came upon mallards and cormorants in the ponds, plus a mournful and patient dog awaiting the return of his human companions.
On Sunday, I went again to Todmorden Mills in Toronto. It was sunny and relatively mild–around 8 or 9 Celsius. I walked on the little wildflower path through trees and by a pond and streams. On the way, I’d seen a cardinal atop a naked tree–pointed out to me by a young couple passing by. In the woods, I heard chickadees and a red winged blackbird. And a woman walking her dogs pointed out a woodpecker–I think it was a downy–on a nearby tree that she was photographing. I searched the ground for tiny green shoots, leaves and moss, looked in the trees and shrubs for buds and came upon a squirrel looking down at me while munching a nut.
I was thinking about the latest climate change report that came out several days earlier warning again about the changes to the climate that are already here and that will be coming. I thought about what we gain and lose when nature is protected or harmed. When I am in a natural setting, urban or more wild, I feel a link to something larger than myself. I am a living being among others in nature. I know my experience is not unique and that the companionship of humans and non is vitally important for my, and others, well-being.
Last week we had some warmer days and on a sunny afternoon, Wednesday the 19th, I walked to Todmorden Mills Heritage Site just off the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. I knew it was my chance to see the wooded wildflower preserve while the snow was still on the ground, ahead of predicted above-freezing temperatures and rain. As always, my mood improved greatly walking in this beautiful setting. I heard chickadees and, I believe, a cardinal above the traffic. And I loved seeing the late sunlight on the snow, trees and rail fences. Here’s some photos from that day.
Here’s a photograph I took in 2009 of birds, trees and the houses across a laneway. I think I’ve mentioned before that in winter when colours are more muted I look to the shapes of bare branches for beauty in the city.
The other day I was viewing photos I had taken around a year ago to see what winter was looking like then. I came upon this image of pigeons on electrical wires on a grey day. They congregate near a tiny park outside a subway station in Toronto. I love these birds. They are a familiar and often undervalued sight in the city. But I enjoy seeing them on my walks, being careful, however, not to walk directly underneath them!
I’m back at the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve in my mind. This photo shows Northern Gannets and Kittiwakes on tiered rock. The expanse of ocean, rock and huge numbers of birds created exuberance in many of us there. Indeed, while setting out for Bird Rock, we came upon 2 people from England returning from the walk. We talked for a few minutes, as people often do in natural settings. The man told us that he is a volcano watcher and has been to see some fantastic volcanoes. Nevertheless, he said, what he had just witnessed at the Cape had been the greatest natural experience of his life. Later, I would have the same feelings.
In August we went to the Ecological Reserve at Cape St. Mary’s in Newfoundland. This was the most intense and positive experience of nature I have ever had. It shocks me to even be able to narrow down all the wonderful experiences in nature that I have had, but there it is. It was an extremely windy day, as I gather it usually is. Fog is also very common here. We saw it dissipating over the water as we walked over the barren’s grass, past grazing sheep, near orange stakes that guided us and kept us from venturing too close to the cliffs.
This reserve is known for its spectacular views of seabirds who nest on Bird Rock, 10 – 20 metres from the viewing area which is the edge of a cliff. The majority of the birds we saw were northern gannets, but we also saw black-legged kittiwakes and other visitors saw murres. There are over 50,000 birds nesting at the reserve–an amazing sight as they flew with grace near us or sat on the rocks with their young.
The entire site is beautiful in a haunting way, what with the fog, 100 metre high cliffs descending to the ocean, the lighthouse in the distance and fog horn sounding. I also enjoyed the nearly level walk to Bird Rock with grass and low lying plants stretching out before us. It reminded me a bit of the prairies.
Here’s another bird, a more common mallard. Still, she was delightful to see earlier this summer on the Cyprus Lake Trail in Bruce Peninsula National Park. I see many mallards in the city and enjoyed seeing their countryside relative.
A week ago Sunday we went to the Brick Works which has been flooded twice this year from torrential rains. A little over a week after the last flood and a clean-up effort, the site had recovered quite a bit. On the way over, the wildflowers by the railroad were dense leaving only the tiniest of paths to stumble through.
Shortly after arriving at the Brick Works, we saw this black-crowned night heron in one of the ponds. He or she stood hunched and still for long periods, except when catching a meal. It is heartening to see wildlife in Toronto in this place where nature is being restored so close to a major highway.