Kate's Blog

May 30

Our birds, observed, at Brewery Creek 80 years ago

Take a river, add a canoe, binoculars, notepad and pencil and you have a recipe for time well-spent. In this case, the time was during the 1940s, the river was in Ottawa and the watcher was the British High Commissioner, Malcolm MacDonald.

MacDonald’s keen observations of avian lives and loves, drama and tragedy - just a few paddle strokes from his office - survive the test of time. The Birds of Brewery Creek, published in 1947, is organized by the month and it’s a pleasure to find how the May chapter from 80 years ago mirrors the parade of birds observed here in south-central Ontario in May, 2024.

May is the start of nesting – and the familial experiences of many birds are described in detail. (The book can be read online on the website archive.org – by being borrowed for an hour at a time. I never had any problem renewing for another hour.)

“One of the most fanciful designers and builders of nests in Canada is the Baltimore Oriole. No bird is more skilful. Its creation is so fine that it might be classified as a work of art rather than one of mere craftmanship,” MacDonald writes. He found several such nests, but was disappointed in his efforts to view a bird in the act of building.
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Apr 28

Art, ephemerals and weeding

Generalizations about the weather are fraught with peril at this time of year. It's supposed to be raining, but at 8:30 am the sun is out and it's 15C. Still, a storm is predicted, and these wet and warm days are perfect for plants. So, if it rains, let Mother Nature do the work and sit back with a good book, tend seedlings and keep the binoculars handy for the return of interesting migrants. I note that the website Journey North had a Baltimore Oriole arriving in Toronto yesterday! And for the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists, out in the Copeland Forest today, it's spring warbler season - many of these small, distinctively marked migratory songbirds are passing through on their way to their boreal forest breeding grounds.

Two days ago, the weather gods smiled on our band of forest gardeners. We had sun and a temperature of 12C for the Garlic Mustard pull at Tiny Marsh. If there's one job we can't leave to Mother Nature, it's weeding, of any unwanted plant, which should be done early before flowering and seed-setting. Here's a primer on the problem with invasive Garlic Mustard, and a link to the upcoming pull days at Tiny Marsh. Volunteers welcome!  Interesting people show up; yesterday, it was Clare Ross, a Tiny Township artist photographer who has a deep knowledge and love of nature, as can be seen from her website

There’s an intensity to the colour, a sharpness to the detail and an unexpected quality to her work that adds up to a quite unique expression of the natural world. Take the bird’s nest with a single blue ribbon woven into it – linking us to a small hardworking creature that created not just a home for nestlings but a work of art with an extra highlight. It’s so good to have Clare’s eye to guide us to these memorable images. 

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Apr 20

Celebrate Spring in Wasaga Beach - plant sale May 25

The Wasaga Beach Horticultural Society is celebrating spring on Saturday May 25 at Oakview Woods (beside the Wasaga Beach RecPlex). I will be selling plants, along with another native plant grower - eARTh Revival. The event, which features a number of nature and conservation organizations, will run from 9am to 2 pm. 

FLAP

I will also have material to promote FLAP Canada, the Fatal Light Awareness Program, an organization that campaigns to curtail the danger of building collisions for birds. This is a cause that's close to my heart - migration is a perilous journey at the best of times, but our modern buildings and homes, with vast expanses of glass and window (including the "invisible glass railings" popular with cottagers) have ramped up the potential for danger.

That's because birds don't see glass. They're attracted to it if it's lit from within, or if it's reflecting nearby trees and vegetation, making it look as if inviting habitat is just a wingbeat away. The collision is most often fatal. FLAP promotes the use of decals, tape or nettig on the outside of windows. Gaps between window markings should not exceed 5 cm by 5 cm (2 inches by 2 inches). If gaps are any larger, birds may try to fly through them and still hit the window. More information: BirdSafe
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