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.