Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Natue Notebook – A Bird Day In The Life On Country Street

By: Eileen Hennemann

When the sun warms your bones after a disappointing week of uninspired gardening weather, and you can get out there for hours of bliss, you’d think nothing else could make you happier. We were proven wrong by being very pleasantly surprised from all the bird activity throughout the day. What should have taken us but a few hours to finish stretched out to a full day of working and stopping to watch the aerial activity.

While Allan turned the soil over in the front area where the shrubs have taken over he would stop often to listen to an odd “kwock” sound emanating from the Buckthorn hedge. A trio of Green Herons finally flew out and perched in a tall tree beside him. After quickly referring to the bird book did we learn that they really shouldn’t be here with us but instead by water of some kind. Throughout the day they would entertain us with their very un-birdlike sounds.

As we became blasé with the Green Herons we returned to our chores only to stop in our tracks while a couple of Baltimore (Northern) Orioles swept in, their orange feathers blazing through the budding lime-green leaves. This is the only time of year we are privileged to enjoy this bright and elusive bird. They joined in the chorus of the brilliant yellow Gold Finches and glorious red Cardinals swooping in to the feeders at the front door.

While I returned to the back yard, Allan continued his digging by the Forsythias. The buzzing around him was deafening as not only were the yellow blossoms covered in bumblebees but with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. They’d chitter and chatter while trying to buzz each other away from the best blooms and jet-zoom by Allan’s ears while in chase.

Meanwhile the Warblers were keeping me company out back with the various local Sparrows, Chickadees, and Grackles. The Mourning Dove was watching me silently from her perch waiting for a good time to flutter back into the cedar hedge where her nest lay.

Three other nests nestled in the cedars and juniper around me – two Robins’ nests and a Grackle’s. They were constantly swooping at each other to make sure their individual nests were left undisturbed.

The Cat Bird did its best to hide from us but couldn’t resist singing her meow-like call while she flitted along the length of the hedge. And not to be outdone, the Thrasher appeared later in the day to mimic as many of the birds he heard entertaining us until that time. A very prolific bird, he’s proud and shameless.

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker and Flickers stayed on the telephone poles at the end of our driveway and made many irritated sounds while we went to and fro in our gardening chores. We probably could have finished several hours earlier but who could resist such an aviary delight. In addition to stopping to smell the roses we got to stop and hear the birdsong. We’ll remember this day during the dark and bitter cold days of winter.

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Nature Notebook – You Don’t Need To Rent a Car

By: Gene Fytche,


Janet and I have just returned from three pleasant weeks in the Algarve in southern Portugal, having made our way by public transport. That decision was made from a previous experience when I saw nothing on the roads and Janet was overcome by the antics of our opponents for tarmac space. Out of season, the competition on the Algarve highways seemed tolerable

The Algarve is 150 km from east to west and 40 km north to south. A railway runs from Lagos in the east to Vila Real in the west. And is parallelled by a coastal road that runs through all the famous tourist towns, and a throughway further north for those in a hurry. Both busses and trains are frequent, both along the coast and to towns in the foothills, each with its own scenes of interest. Cost is about 10 cents per km. If each town visited takes a day, it is cheaper than a rented car, which you can’t park, and you see the people close up! What’s time, anyway.

We chose Faro as our first base: it is the major airport, but ignored by most tourists who head for better known tourist spots. But it has everything, our 4* hotel was facing the marina, was two blocks from the bus station and three from the train. The fortress and cathedral are interesting, and the town is walkable. From there we saw Vila Real, Loule, Tavira, Estoi, and Albufeira. And made side trips to Seville and Gibraltar.Then we moved to Lagos,because it was a much smaller (lovely) town, from which we saw Sagres (remember Henry the Navigator) Portamao and Silves

Walking is safe, (needed to walk off the enormous meals of good fresh food) and pleasant once one gets away from the high rise developments. The nature parks on the west coast, and along the ocean front from Faro to the Spanish border give scope for the walker and opportunities to bird watch, sea birds, waders and field birds. In season, there are boat trips to satisfy the sailors, and these go for the birds too.

Try it!

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Nature Notebook – Free To Go

By: Joel E. Byrne

Back in ’97 while vacationing in Texas I somehow got this poem into the Big Bend Bull (the park’s newsletter)… “Dedicated to the good folks of Big Bend National Park in grateful recognition of their continuing efforts to keep the magic in the air.”:

Free To Go

I roamed green hills throughout the east,
And tarried in the west;
I rolled the south ’round in my mouth,
And in the north did rest.

I tasted of the ocean,
And watched the desert bloom;
I dreamed of southern woodlands
As ice hung ’round my room.

I warmed by a maple fire,
Remembered a mesquite tree,
And longed for sandy reaches
But the north had hold of me.

Then in the dead of winter
I struggled up a knoll,
And gazing ever southward
Felt a tugging on my soul.

I left the lakes and woods asleep,
And ran down to the plains,
Free again in the sunny south
To laugh in winter rains.

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Nature Notebook – The Purloined Partridge

By: Joel E. Byrne

This was written in my hunting days. The “owl” could well have been a Northern Goshawk, according to our own “Professor Partridge”… Dr. Jim Bendell.

The Purloined Partridge

An owl a partridge plucked for tea,
And had it eaten partially
When my dog pounced on it
Beneath a tree…
Good boy, Lukie!
I purloined the partridge plucked,
And racing home with glee
Popped it in the oven with potatoes
One, two, three.
Somewhere out there, in a tree,
A mad old owl waits for me.

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Nature Notebook – Thunder Down Below

By: Joel E. Byrne

Just stick your ear to someone’s gut,
My God! the sounds you’ll hear,
No matter what their diet is…
Veggies, toast or beer.

I thought of this the other day
When the merc’ dropped out of sight;
Old winter covered up the lake,
And bid the bays goodnight.

But the lake was in a party mood,
And mumbled discontent–
It growled and groaned all through the night,
Three guesses what it meant.

Imagine being put to bed
Your belly full of ice…
An ice-sheet for a blanket,
And your stomach lined with gneiss!

So stick your ear to somone’s gut,
My God! the sounds you’ll hear–
Reminds me of the lake’s complaint:
No veggies, toast or beer!

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