Saturday, 30 October 2021

Two Cuties

      In Bechtel Woods there has been a very cooperative Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) of late, and it has generally been perched at its hole when we have gone to see it.

      Captured in a picture like this the owl is quite visible, but I can assure you that in life you could walk past it a hundred times without seeing it.

     Any encounter with an owl makes for a great day!

06 October 2021
Riverside Park, Cambridge, ON

     It has been a while since I brought you news of Lily, so get ready for a feast of photos!
     Riverside Park has a long boardwalk where all manner of people have for years brought bird seed to feed birds that have become increasingly willing to take food from the hand.
     Lily wanted to give it a try!

     Oh, look at that!

     That was fun, huh? 

     Wow, Mom, you know how to do it.

     How much fun is that!

     I'm going to try again.

     I don't think I've quite got the hang of it, but I can watch all the pretty birds anyway.

     I'm even starting to recognize their calls.
     Let's give it another try.

     It's time to go home for lunch, but we sure had fun today. I can't wait to feed the birds again.

14 October 2021
Columbia Lake, Waterloo, ON

     Some of you will perhaps recall that when you first met Heather as a biologist helping us with bird banding at SpruceHaven, she was usually joined by Daina Anderson, equally dedicated and proficient. 
     A couple of years ago Daina moved to Alberta to take up a new job, and was visiting Ontario for the first time since then. COVID prevented an earlier visit "back home".
     It took no time at all for Lily to say hello, in between bites of a cookie, that is.

Oh how I like Daina, she brings me leaves and flowers to study.

     I can start training to be a flamenco dancer. Do I look sufficiently seductive?

     Adults are crazy; they just walk past a metal sign without realizing how much fun it is.

     Thanks, Daina, a little girl in cowboy boots needs a helping hand to walk on a narrow concrete kerb.

     After that you get tossed in the air. I sure hope that Daina comes back often.

     Adults always like to pose for group photos, so I just go along with it.

     I forgot to introduce you to Daina's beau, Rob. That's him on the right. He's an engineer who works on drones and he could tell you all kinds of interesting facts.
     This has been a great outing.

     Doesn't it sound great when you smack this sign?

     As always, all too soon it's time to say goodbye for another week.

     I heard that my mom is going back to work in January, so I'm not quite sure how we will be able to have our walks then. I hope we can work something out.
     Bye for now. Hugs and kisses from Lily.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Book Review - Dinopedia - Princeton University Press


     This volume represents the fourth in the "pedia" series that I have reviewed for Princeton University Press. I am quite taken with the concept, so I was very pleased to receive Dinopedia.
     I suspect that like many, I have an unremitting fascination with dinosaurs, yet inadequate knowledge about them. This compendium of information is really quite wonderful, presenting facts in a very readable way, while not neglecting the influence of dinosaurs on popular culture.
     Darren Naish has done a masterful job in avoiding arcane terminology as much as possible, but in a work such as this, it is impossible to ignore it completely. I found it fun to get my tongue around such seemingly unpronounceable words as Opsithocoelicaudia and Pycnonemosaurus, by breaking them down syllable by syllable. It is amazing how quickly they then roll off the tongue, and a brief foray into their etymology reveals much about their meaning. This was, in effect, a secondary exploration, a bit of an intellectual adventure, from which I derived great pleasure.
     As a lifelong birder, the question of whether birds are descended from dinosaurs, and if so which ones, has been part of avian discourse for as long as I can remember. Having read the opposing views held by Sankar Chatterjee (The Rise of Birds) and Alan Feduccia (The Origin and Evolution of Birds) in their respective works, and being susceptible to accepting either side, I was glad to have Naish set me straight once and for all - kick Feduccia and his heretics (adherents to the BAND (Birds are not dinosaurs) movement) to the ashbin of ornithological history! I was also reminded of David Quammen's ironic and amusing essay, Local Bird Makes Good. The heavyweights have indeed written on this topic!
      Dinosaurs have never left us; not all were destroyed in the KT extinction. Birds ARE dinosaurs. When the next Nightingale or Wood Thrush enraptures you with its melody, remember that you are listening to a living, breathing, and yes, flying dinosaur.
     From A to Z, from Abelsaurids to the Zigong Dinosaur Museum, and everything in between, dinosaurs are extolled and explained in all their glorious diversity. Controversies are explored; successes are lauded, personalities probed and the fossil record dissected. The lively, often witty text, is accompanied by drawings from the author's own hand.
     I can say without reservation, it is a very satisfying little book from start to finish.

Dinopedia - Princeton University Press
Author: Darren Naish
US$16.95 - £9.99 - ISBN: 9780691212029
216 pages - 4.5 x 7 inches (11,25 x 17.5 cm) - 50 b/w illustrations
Published: USA  30 November 2021
                  UK     5 October 2021 

Friday, 22 October 2021

Our Final Days in Atlantic Canada and the Journey Home

 16 September 2021
Auld's Cove - Western Side of the Cabot Trail - Auld's Cove

     We awoke early after a good night's sleep and went for breakfast in the restaurant at the motel. After a walk around the grounds and alongside the bay we were ready to leave for the western side of the Cabot Trail.

     We still had a way to go to get to the start of the Cabot Trail, but there were many scenic views to make the journey interesting.

     It was a dull day with a little rain now and again, mostly while we were driving fortunately. 
     The Cabot Trail beckoned!

Image from the Internet

     Our journey was taking us into the heart of l'Acadie, and we began to see Acadian flags flying as soon as we arrived in the Margaree area.

     The coastline was rugged.

     The flags flew proudly.

     It is a tribute to the Acadian people that despite persecutions and expulsions, their culture has survived and a vibrant, distinct community exists to this day. Long may it continue.
     A couple of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) cruised along the coastline where sea and land meet, no doubt taking advantage of the sheer winds rising off the cliffs.

     At one point they were almost right above our heads.
     The views were impressive at every turn in the road.

     It is a feature of this part of the world that the houses are often colourful, and what might look incongruous in a city suburb, is perfect for the region.

     It was always a pleasure when we came across a sizeable flock of cormorants.

     A Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) was equally at home on the ocean.

     There was never a shortage of convenient spots to pull off to the side of the road and walk the beach.

     There were many freshwater lakes in addition to the salty water of the ocean.

     It was the awesome coastline that inspired us most, however. 

     We were gob-smacked the whole time and it made me wonder if the people who live here come to take it for granted. I suspect they do, but every once in a while, on a bright day when the sun is warming their face, they surely must look at it and know that they live in a very special part of the world.
    Chéticamp, the largest town in l'Acadie, is home to the ancient craft of rug hooking. This is perhaps the only part of the world where the ladies are proud to call themselves hookers!
     Rug hooking has evolved from a utilitarian pastime to a a distinctive art form, requiring the highest levels of dedication, creativity and skill - much like quilting. A premium rug by a skilled artist commands several thousands of dollars and is eagerly sought after by collectors. They are displayed as works of art, adorning walls in distinguished homes around the world, including at Rideau Hall, home of the Governor General of Canada.
     Miriam was especially keen to gain some exposure to this craft and we could not have been more fortunate to drop into Lola's Hookers, the pre-eminent shop for hooked rugs in the area. Lola had been working on a rug that had given her a lot of trouble. She told us that she finally got tired of picking apart what she had created, because she knew it wasn't right. She called in two renowned hookers of the area, and we were privy to their discussion about the rug and what was needed to finish it well.

     They were actually sketching on the canvas so that Lola would be able to remain true to their design.
     It was fascinating to be privy to the creative process unfolding before our eyes, with the very finest proponents of the art sharing their knowledge.

     I was happy that Miriam had such a wonderful opportunity to satisfy her curiosity and to learn a little more about the process. We will not soon forget this encounter.
     Unfortunately, Miriam's pictures covering the rest of the day, and our journey around more of the Cabot Trail, somehow got deleted from her memory card, so I have nothing else to share with you today. Rest assured that we had a great day, however, and the eastern part of the Trail will be brought to you tomorrow.  

17 September 2021
Auld's Cove - Cabot Trail - Cape Breton Highlands National Park - Auld's Cove

     It was a considerably brighter morning than the previous day, and we looked forward to more enjoyable hours of exploration along the Cabot Trail. 

     The views are so spectacular, even more so on the east side, and one dramatic and beautiful scene followed another.

     Whenever it was possible we stopped to enjoy the view - and to take some pictures of course.
     The Cabot Trail runs through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and there is a fee that must be paid to enter the park. I don't recall the cost, but it was quite modest.

     I never resent my money going to such magnificent places, the patrimony of all Canadians; of the people of the world, in fact.
     There was a short, very steep trail across from the park headquarters and we decided to climb up to enjoy the view from the top.

     We arrived at the top a little out of breath, but we were able to sit for a while and contemplate the splendour before us.

     The views were spectacular!

     We had not seen many dragonflies during our visit to The Maritimes, so we were delighted when this Autumn Meadowhawk ( Sympetrum vicinum) landed right in front of us.

     We were heading for Neil's Harbour, a classic little fishing village, where we planned to have lunch.

      The local chowder house lived up to its reputation for excellent seafood, and we both had a bowl of seafood chowder with a delicious hot biscuit.
     The lighthouse has been converted into an ice cream parlour, but we were too full to even think about it!

     Great Black-backed Gulls were dotted throughout the harbour. If I am not mistaken this is a second cycle individual, meaning that it wears the plumage before entering its second prebasic moult.

     More information than you wanted or needed to know, I am sure!
     In a couple of years it will look just like this.

     An American Herring Gull (Larus smithsonianus) is a large gull - except when standing next to a Great Black Backed Gull
 that is!

     Does anything shout out "Maritime coast" like a bevy of cormorants loafing on a rock?

     We decided to walk the Coastal Trail, about a 3km trek.

     On the way down to the shore we passed this tranquil brook.

     As we paused in quiet contemplation of nature, I could not help but be reminded of a stanza from Alfred Lord Tennyson's immortal poem, The Brook.

"I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever."

There were delightful walks through forested areas where we saw the only Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator), a female, of our trip.

I have no idea why Blogger is doing this but after a half hour of frustration I have been unable to change it.

     The pictures are not terrific but they are the best we have!
     The beach was pretty much ours, there being very few people to disturb the tranquility.

     Imagine our pleasure when small parties of Sanderling (Calidris alba) were there to greet us.

     It brought back instant memories of Prince Edward Island, and a contingent of Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus) cemented the recollection.

     Relaxation on the sand is always a good idea!

     A healthy stand of dune grass seems to be anchoring the sand well and preventing it from blowing away.

     The next trail we explored was the Jigging Cove Trail, a round trip of about two kilometres.

     This trail was pleasant enough to walk but was not brimming with birdlife. 
     A couple of Spreadwings (Lestidae) were quite obliging.

     Spreadwings are not easy to identify without close examination, but based on the time of year, the location and the prevalence of the species, I think they are male and female Spotted Spreadwings (Lestes congener).
     Green Cove was a very short trail, only a couple of hundred metres or so, but it provided excellent views of the ocean where whales are known to pass at certain times of the year.
     We had to be content with cormorants on a rock, a quintessential image dear to my heart.

     On the drive back to Auld's Cove we spotted a few American Wigeons (Mareca americana) in a pond by the side of the road, the only sighting of this species on our journey through Nova Scotia.

     Back at Auld's Cove we were tired enough from our day's activity that we were not inclined to go out for dinner, so we picked up a couple of sandwiches at the local Subway store and enjoyed them in our room.
     It had been a great experience to get to know the Cabot Trail and Cape Breton Island - at least a little anyway.

18 September 2021
Auld's Cove, NS - Perth-Andover, NB

     We left our room and went to the local Tim Horton's for breakfast - coffee, and herb and garlic cream cheese on a bagel. While eating, a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) started to call vociferously, and then flew over right in front of us.
I wish it would join us for breakfast every day!
     The journey from Nova Scotia to new New Brunswick was a bit of a challenge at times. We drove through several periods of torrential rain and fog so thick you could barely see through it.
     The Perth-Andover Motor Inn turned out to be a great choice. It was exceptionally clean and we were well satisfied with our room.

     The local pizza store was in the supermarket. It took a while to get our order filled and the pizza was mediocre, but it filled our stomachs.
     We settled in for the night, glad to be off the road.

Accommodation: Perth-Andover Motor Inn, 560 Route 190, Perth-Andover, NB  E7H 4H8, 506 273-2224  Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

19 September 2021
Perth-Andover - Four Falls - New Denmark, NB - St-Hyacinthe, QC

     The reason for our stop at Perth-Andover was to visit our old friend Julie Johnson and her mother, Joy, who had moved from Carlisle, ON to New Brunswick several years ago.
     We were up early and had lots of time to spare before heading for Julie's home. Four Falls sounded like an attractive place to visit, so that is what we did.
     As the name implies, it is the site of four waterfalls and there is much natural beauty there.

     Pristine you might add.

     A lovely place to walk and enjoy nature.

     And then there is the other side of it. Humans, the supreme despoilers have left their mark.

     What would a bridge be without graffiti?  Mindless, vulgar, senseless graffiti.

     Local culture is on full display.

     Nothing was sacred, nothing should be left as nature intended it.

     What do you feel like today?

     Oh, how we have added to the charm of the place. Uplifting messages too, just what everyone wants to see, especially if you bring your children for a walk through the woods enjoying the sound of the falls.
     Let's daub paint all over the rocks.

     Whatever else we do let's not leave anything unspoiled.
      While we're here let's liberally strew our trash around. The photographs that follow do not begin to capture the scope of the trash. They merely illustrate the variety of discarded items.

     There was more.

     And more.

     Don't for a moment think that I captured it all.
     If this is the way we treat own backyard, the natural beauty still remaining, areas still unpaved, how can we have any hope that we will cease to pollute the oceans and tackle issues such as acid rain and polluted air? I despair for humanity. I mourn for the inheritance of our children and grandchildren. The simple fact that we don't give a damn is clear. 
      We hear a lot about "freedom" these days. Is this what freedom means? Freedom to do anything? Freedom to willfully despoil the Earth? Freedom to have no concern for the biosphere and all its creatures?
      Does it convey the right for aggrieved anti-vaxxers to hurl abuse at doctors and nurses who are almost dead on their feet from long hours of treating their patients? Does it justify delaying ambulances from delivering their critically-ill patients to a hospital?
     Is this what freedom means?
     For some, everything seems to revolve around individual rights with no thought for the common good. Does it make any sense for a person to be able to buy a weapon so powerful that it can kill scores of people in a minute, and to lawfully carry that weapon into the street, or even into a state legislature? Does freedom confer the right on a politician to willfully and knowingly lie, over and over again?
     I can tell you it sickens me.
     But nothing sickens me quite as much as this continual, unabated assault on the Earth and its ability to deliver life itself.
     Do you want this?

     Or do you want this?

     When I see rocks defaced in the manner below, it almost makes me laugh to think that I was once horrified when people carved their initials on trees.

     I tell you again we are a sad, sad species.
     Having left the Four Falls Degradation Site we were very happy indeed to see Julie and Joy.

     They have a lovely home on 12 acres and cherish it with the loving care exhibited by dedicated, caring, active custodians of the land.
     We shared a lovely brunch together on the porch overlooking the valley.

     To paraphrase Robert Frost, we had miles to go before we slept, and left by late morning.
     We made it as far as St.-Hyacinthe, QC, where we got a room at a Day's Inn just off the highway. The room was very acceptable, enlivened by a small scene painted directly on the wall.

    We went across to a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel, but were unable to eat inside, Québec had just initiated its vaccine passport and, of course we didn't have one.
     There were tables outside, however, where we dined on some distinctly second rate food.
     The beds were comfortable and we settled in to blissful slumber.

Accommodation: Day's Inn, 410, rue Couture, Sainte-Hélène-de-Bagot, QC   450 791-2580, Rating: 3 stars out of 5.

20 September 2021
St.-Hyacinthe, QC - Waterloo, ON

     A complimentary breakfast was included, but it was a disappointing affair. There was little choice and replenishments were needed. There was only one muffin left, and it was chocolate chip, which neither Miriam nor I wanted. Everywhere was a sea of  styrofoam and plastic. We were the only people to arrive wearing a mask and there was no staff on hand to either restock the food or ask people to comply with COVID requirements. Only last evening we had been refused permission (rightly so) to dine indoors without showing identification and a vaccine passport.
    Just as we were leaving the fellow at the front desk came into the dining area, sans mask, sans gloves, and began to load the food trays.
     The regulations are applied in mysterious ways!
     We entered the highway in high spirits, knowing that by mid afternoon we would be home. In no time at all, or so it seemed we were approaching Montréal.

     Our journey proceeded uneventfully and by mid afternoon we were walking through our front door.
     It's always good to be home!    

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.