The year that will end in just a few hours has not been the kindest we have experienced and I suspect that most people will be glad to close the door on "The Year of COVID".
For naturalists, however, life has been far more tolerable than for urban dwellers, especially those confined to small apartments, and in truth it has not been terrible for Miriam and me. We have certainly regretted the ability to get together with good friends, and we miss the opportunity to travel. But nature writ large, in all its ever-changing glory, is at our doorstep and we enjoy it to the fullest. We could gripe about the inconveniences that are now a part of our daily routine, or we can rejoice in the immutability of what pleases us most, and that is what we choose to do.
If you were feeling a little constrained, a tad down in the dumps, what could perk up your spirits more than sharing precious moments with friendly Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus)?
And if a Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) should happen along to join the party, more to the good.
Right up until Christmas Eve we had rain, but overnight the temperature dipped and it changed to snow.
Hillside Park looked quite glorious.
A Black Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) has lived through winters past and was determined to guard his post.
Miriam is a dedicated sewer (I think the term "sewist" is now used more frequently), and she was delighted to see this sign in the park, no doubt placed there with people like her in mind!
Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) are possessed of an infinite charm, and nothing is quite so appealing as this little bird going about its business, winter be damned.
As long as we have open water Mallards (Anas platyrynchos) are equally at home in Ontario in December.
A Barred Owl (Strix varia) has taken up residence in the park, but knowing it is there and seeing it is a different matter entirely. Our luck held out, however, and find it we did, quietly roosting, waiting for the cover of night to begin its hunt.
Miriam's sister, Karen, was walking in the park too, unknown to us, so we were able to show her the owl.
Snow, delightful though it is, and an integral part of the fertile land that is all around us, means that I have to shovel my driveway and the sidewalk.
It is not a chore I really mind, but I have to confess that sometimes when it snows for days on end, and it needs to be done daily, it can get to be a little much!
This is the time of year for special treats and we made chicken empanadas with a yogurt/cilantro sauce - and they were delicious. New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs are just the wine to pair with such delights. Okay, with just about anything if you insist!
The end of a year is a time for reflection, perhaps, and as I cast my mind over many experiences, I am truly grateful for the wonderful opportunities a love of birds has laid before me. My travels to many foreign lands have been a significant part of my enjoyment of life to the fullest, not only in the quest to see new and exciting birds, but to participate in the cultures and food of other nations. I have seen magnificent landscapes, spectacular mountains, wide rivers and tranquil streams, beasts large and small, jungles, forests, woods, and grasslands, and endured every climate this Earth can throw at you. I have met and enjoyed the company of many people from world-renowned ornithologists to the humblest of peasants. Each encounter has enriched me. We are all fellow travellers on this one planet that we share and differences of colour, religion, caste or economic circumstance should never be allowed to divide us. You are all my brothers and sisters.
For the past eighteen years it has been a joy of immense magnitude to share my life with Miriam. She has been (and continues to be) the finest companion one could envisage and shares my love of nature, music, books and wine! Who could ask for more?