I'm Becoming a Cranky Middle Aged Bird, and That's Okay With Me

You know, sometimes you just have to wonder what we'd look like if all this stuff hadn't been invented, and we'd never been sucked in to buying it!

Microderm abrasion system
Retinol anti-wrinkle,
Fresh new skin that's Nu2U
Put your money in a sinkhole!

I'm here, I'm fluffed & ready to go
So bring on all the creams,
The unguents, emollients & vitamin E
Time to fulfill all my dreams.

Above the brow and under the lid
I gently pat and buff.
Some new botoxin lipstick.
Who invented all this stuff?

I'm worth it, I know it, or so says she,
The model who's skin clearly glows.
And if I just follow the daily regime
Why you won't even notice my toes!

For they need help too, and so do my arms
My hair could be more naturelle.
It's easy to get this, just hundred$ a month
And gone is this old-aging hell.

So what do we do when gravity sucks?
And time won't grant us a favour?
Write all of your friends and family, too
And remind them, this moment's to savour.

Wrinkles are us, and so is gray hair!
Welcome puffiness, weird aches and pain.
We babies have boomed all over the world
Gray power is our new domain!

There's no limits where you’re going
Except the ones that you put in place
So try and avoid the speed bumps
And wipe that makeup off your face!

-The Beginning.


Lunching with the Birds

The Waterfront ( at left, bird’s eye view in summer) is a beautiful park just minutes from my office, and today, as temperatures climbed up into the double digits for the first time since last fall, it beckoned.
The 2009 Spring List begins in earnest!
Song Sparrow - perched on top of a willow and singing his little heart out. He was being answered too, but I never saw that coy little one.
Canada Geese - preening on the ice flows where the Ottawa and Muskrat Rivers meet.
Common golden-eye, dippin’ and divin’ and generally showing off in front of the geese.
American Black Ducks – a small, noisy flock on the water, bathing and being rather quarrelsome with each other.
And the other usual suspects –ring billed gulls, crows, ravens and starlings –circling the lunch timers out for a stroll, hoping to pick up a cast off French fry or two.
Not a long list, but a beginning…and after this past winter, which was as long and cold and snowy as any I can remember, it’s a good beginning. “Cheer-up!”


Discovering Jim Burns

Who knew that when we decided to go to SE Arizona for a little R&R from winter that it would become a birding adventure extraordinaire! While clicking through various birding sites on line, I came across the name of Jim Burns, and a note that said if you have any questions about birding in Arizona, just email Jim. That sounded easy enough...so I did. A short little email that explained our upcoming trip, and asked if could he suggest any birding hotspots. Little did I know that I had just tapped in to one of North America's better birders, an author (North American Owls: Journey Through a Shadowed World), and an amazingly generous man who emailed me back. Not just a short pithy little response either. Oh no! A very pointed one..."I'd be happy to direct you, but first you need to tell me what birds you're looking for.", wrote Jim.
Well! That sent me searching through all my bird books, looking at migration maps, and making lists of birds I actually hadn't seen yet, but wanted to. I was a neophyte birder - and until this Burns initiated quest, hadn't really taken it too seriously. That was about to change big time!
Several hours after cracking open the first bird book - my tattered and worn Stokes - I had in fact come up with a Bird Wish List. And it had 72 birds on it!!
I thought, "Well, I can't send this back to that man! It's too long!" Then, I thought, " But he did ask!" and so I hit send.
Three or four days later, a reply arrived. Not just any reply...an amazing four page response that had taken my wish list, and then gone through it, bird by bird. He'd devised a numerical code:
1 - no chance; to 5 - can't miss. Beside each of my birds was now a number, and THEN a comment on where to find it!! For example: Elf Owl - 4 - They nest in the telephone pole by the Santa Rita Lodge in Madera Canyon. This kind of incredible information was provided for every one of my 72 birds! I was absolutely gobsmacked!!
The List became our trip bible, and lists were made of lists, pictures added, notes, and driving directions included. Never in my life had I been so prepared for a trip - and never has a trip been more successful! Thanks to Jim Burns, I added 62 new birds to my life list, we had an amazing time, met some wonderful people, and can't wait to go back.


Flying Cigars and On We Go

My first organized bird walk resulted when I saw a notice in the local paper that renowned Canadian birder, Bruce DiLabio was going to be leading a spring bird walk at the Britannia Filtration Pond in Ottawa…interested people should show up at the appointed meeting place at 6:00 am.
With my second marriage about to disintegrate in tatters around me, I had been looking for something for me to do, just me. Something that resonated within my spirit…fun, fulsome, and fulfilling. And this really felt like “it”! As I drove to the meeting place one very early Saturday morning, I felt happy and excited, believing that I was about to embark on the lifelong adventure that I’d been looking for for years!
And so it began. A motley crew gathered in the parking lot, and before half were even out of their cars, Bruce was calling “Chimney Swift at 9 o’clock”. I looked around, saw a dark cigar shaped speck off in the distance about 2 miles away, and knew that this was going to be a bit of a challenge!
The group ranged in age from 8 to 80, and we represented almost every cultural group found in Canada’s capital. Happily assembled, we started along the trail circling the pond, following our learned leader as he called out names to flashes of colour above, below and beyond.
I was awestruck, and overwhelmed! I would never figure out what that small yellow wink was heading into the bush. Or that grey blur, or the pipping in the cedars. Feeling quite disheartened and totally out of my comfort zone, I decided to call it a day, and head back home. Which is when I heard a whispered, high pitched “Help!” And again, “Helllp”. Looking around I couldn’t see anyone in distress, the entire group was busy training their binoculars on a bit of fluff high up in the pines, necks tilted, binoculars engaged. And again, “Hhheeelp”. And there right behind me was an older gentleman, quite tall, who in his eagerness to see fluff feather overhead, had overextended his neck…and it was locked in at full back tilt. He couldn’t move…until I gently placed my hand on the back of his head, and just as gently, pushed it forward, releasing him in to the fully upright position.
We laughed, causing others to look. He explained he had been necking with himself and got caught, and more laughter ensued. Bruce went on to discuss ways to prevent Birder’s Neck (who knew??) and we proceeded on, as a bonded group of beginning birders, having a great time on a fresh spring morning. And that was it! I was hooked on birding! I didn’t leave, and I never looked back.


My Mom the Nuthatch

My Mom died of pancreatic cancer when I was eight months pregnant so when my beautiful blue eyed daughter arrived I briefly entertained the notion that perhaps she was my Mom – reincarnated. But, really, that was just way too much to process, and I quickly let it go thus allowing my daughter to develop all by her wondrous self.
The first summer of missing Mom, I spent some time with her sister –my aunt, at the family cottage along the historic Rideau Canal system. It was (and remains to this day) a lovely island retreat with the summer sun softly filtered by a verdant canopy of leafy green. It’s a birder’s paradise, and many’s the night I have gone to sleep counting the number of times the Whip-poor-will cried out for love (many, many, many times!!!). In telling Aunt Marg about the record breaking 132 calls I’d heard the previous evening, it became the conversation starter that allowed her to talk to me about my Mom, and how much she missed her. She told me that every time she saw a small warbler flitting along the edges of her flower beds she just knew that it was Mom and felt comforted. This notion both pleased and surprised me because I’d never thought of my Mom as bird before. And I had always thought my aunt was more, well, scientific or something.
Years passed, and I more or less forgot about the ‘my mom is a bird’ conversation until a trip back to the prairies two years ago. The weather was warm and balmy, and Mom’s dearest friend Mardy asked me to take her out to the cemetery for a little visit. I agreed and we spent a quiet, peaceful hour with many old friends and relatives. The windows were down in the car as we drove out of the cemetery, and just as Mardy turned to ask me if I knew that Mom liked birds, a little red breasted nuthatch lit on a branch that was practically inside the car and proceeded to “whank, whank”. And just as quickly, Mardy said, “Oh, there she is! “ and we both burst out laughing. We left feeling happy, and knowing we had, indeed, had a visit with Mom.
A birdsong brings comfort. And my daughter sings like a lark. Mysterious ways indeed.


Memorable Encounters -2

I never thought of myself as a birdwatcher, or one who even particularly cared about fowl things while I was growing up. But I have some very interesting memories of road trips with my Dad and his friends that now, in retrospect, surely contributed vastly to the growth in my interest in all things avian. On sunny Sundays in the fall, we kids would pile in to the back of the Ford station wagon, and Dad and a buddy would be in the front. Off we’d go, giving our Moms a break no doubt, while exploring the northern prairie parkland, and looking for hot puddle duck potholes that the men could go hunt the following morning. My Dad and his buddies were duck hunters. They weren’t too serious about it, they didn’t hunt because they needed to feed their families, but because they enjoyed the friendship and camaraderie that defined the hunt (along with the odd shot or two of whiskey no doubt). Landing a few ducks was a bonus that made it even more special to them.
One Sunday drive stands out above all others from those days. We crested a hill near Paradise Valley on a crisp autumn afternoon, and as we all got out of the “wagon” for a stretch a dark, flapping cloud appeared on the eastern horizon. Dad called me over to stand beside him to watch the birds fly over head…for a minute, then ten minutes, then half an hour, and then an hour, and then another! The prairie sky was alive with millions of ducks, flying, flapping, squawking, quacking ducks! Fall migration in the 1950’s, a sight I have never seen since and that I have never forgotten. The stuff of dreams.

Memorable Encounters -1

The very first bird I vividly remember was a robin in our backyard in Lloydminster, Alberta. I have a sun-filled memory of the grassy yard, and a tree at the end of the garage that flanked one side of it. In the tree was a nest, and as a curious, precocious four year old, I would sit on the lawn and watch the birds going to and fro. They had worms in their beaks, and the little nestlings would pop up as enormous mouths…waiting and noisy. One morning the happy birdie bliss shifted in to a confrontation with death, as I discovered a scrawny, blue veined baby bird, lying on the lawn and not moving. While the feathered feeding and to and fro-ing continued overhead oblivious to the drama below I learned two important life lessons: that flying creatures are enormously interesting, and falling out of a tree can kill you. Good lessons both.