Tag Archives: death

I forgot I had a “blog” / remembering Spring’s influenza

Tree swallow among the sumach, gazing into the foggy ethereals!


I was poorly already, but when the word came down that one of our rarer warblers was eating bugs in Etobicoke, it became essential for me to spend 5 hours in and around the dirt, snitching along the creek, hoping for pop-ups, easy light, and pictorial sweetwindows. Anyhow, the Kentucky Warbler is an elegant little softy but he is a demon also, and I consider him at least partially responsible for the influenza which ensconced me like a blanket of cold and leggy spiders! But feisty mulchers, worry not: I am on the mend, am no longer agued, and will live to taxidermize and photograph the good Spring warblers yet again!


Another pleasant look at the simple but dressy Kentucky Warbler, seen some days ago in southeast Etobicoke. Then I got influenza and hid in my apartment, but now it’s time to go snitching again.
P.S. The lamebrained composition was necessary because of problems to the left and right.


Wrens are easy to hear but difficult to see, or so I’ve found, and thusly I was especially glad to have encountered this tiny trilling monster near a snaky hibernaculum in southeast Etobicoke.

When I was a young man I was often accused of being a luddite, but in truth, I love much of this new technology, and find it very useful indeed! I am a great fan of electricity, for example, but if suddenly there was no more electricity, I feel I could adjust quickly and without vexation. Anyhow, the horned grebe is lovely in all plumages, and here we see “old red eyes” well into his breeding blacks and golds along the semi-sapphire waterways.

This sorry sapsucker must have smashed into the Sheraton. I picked him up and moved him away from the pedestrian traffic. HIs neck was broken and of course I was astounded by his impossible lightness! He was very fresh, and I wanted to pick him up and keep him, but don’t worry, I didn’t. I will admit that I gave him a few pats and examined his feathers for a little while.

In my muckpants, shitboots, and prone along the odoriferous rockways in the sunshine, I did remark “Well just look at this dumb little stander!”
P.S. Lying face-down in front of foraging tree sparrows = cheap thrills, etc!


Gentle squawko, seen in the “fake tundra section” of Toronto’s Old Country Spittoon.
In my books, lying face-down in one’s muckpants and shitboots along the fetid groundways is the acme of emotional excitement, etc.


Long-Eared Owl in a strange sweetpocket, yes yes.
He was perched perhaps two feet off the ground, as is the wont of this species. Many of us saw him, and quite a few photographers ventured around the sides and front of him, so as to get a closer, or better, or different look. The human ruckus perturbed the owl, who needed to sleep. The allure of owls causes many people, photographers especially, to behave very badly indeed. I will spare you the specifics, lest I sink into vitriolic indignation. I believe myself to be “one of the good ones” but I often worry that even at the best of times I am causing undue disturbance to these creatures I care about, and that really I should focus on other things and leave them to live their lives.
THEN AGAIN, I’m too sensitive! Even my own mother thinks so! Some bird photographers are tough guys, believe it or not. They snarl and grimace, wear full-body camouflage, carry around $15,000 worth of equipment at a minimum, and throw petstore mice to raptors so as to get the killer shots they need. Grrrr, etc!


A typical scene from “The Old Country Spittoon” (that being my witless nickname for Toronto’s best locale: the singular and cherished Leslie Street Spit.)

The rare and delightful Purple Sandpiper, seen among the “reverse highlows” along the icy waterways of The Old Country Spittoon.

Another fond look at the rare Purple Sandpiper who startled me with his sudden and beautiful nearness along Toronto’s icy waterways.


Children’s names I have truly overheard while in Toronto:


(the last one from just the other day, the handle of a dumb little donut at the dollarstore.)

I have not yet heard these names, but hope to soon:


I wish to hear this: “The problems from your flower garden are incessant; my daughter Guelph is allergic to bees!”

Or: “My daughter, Guelph, is allergic to bees!”

In the end it is you who must decide.

YOUNG GIRLS! Don’t talk in that fake raspy drawl anymore, like you just smoked a pack of cigarettes in an hour! Stop doing that! And please also remember that statements are statements and questions are questions and never the twain shall meet? Will your life really improve by imitating the people you see on TV?

P.S. Chestnut-sided warbler among the pleasant Springtime twiggeries

Adult Snowy Owl among the extreme highlows, rocks, and waterways: backlit as can be at The Old Country Spittoon.


On one of my trips to visit the long-staying Least Bittern in southeast Etobicoke, I met a woman who told me that she comes from “the south of France where we have bitterns also. When I was a girl, one flew into our backyard and it was injured. My father, who loved everything in nature, birds and bugs, even spiders, took care of the bittern. One day he wanted to show it to our neighbors and he put it in a cardboard box and brought it over to their house. When he opened the box, the bittern poked him in his eye and his eye came out. Later the bittern died and my mother had it stuffed, it was on top of the fireplace every day.”
Certainly I interjected with the odd “You can’t be serious” and “What do you mean his eye came out” and “Were you there, did you see it” and “What do you mean he still took care of the bittern afterwards” and “Impossible” and “Stop lying” and “But wait, how did it die” but my French friend insisted her story was free of embellishment and absolutely true. She added: “The bittern must have thought my father’s eye was shiny, like a fish, and that’s why he tried to get it.”
You know, I used to be antisocial on these excursions, these small-potatoes adventures, I would keep to myself and keep my head down. Then something happened, it’s as though a switch was flipped, and now I’m the way I am and these other people are the way they are, and I talk to them all, I ask questions, I try to listen, and I hear things, I really do!

A low-light look at a young least bittern, living prosaically among the mulchpiles and the stinkrocks; the heron family is full of friends

Young least bittern in Etobicoke:
A wider view of the toothsome “Ixobrychus exilis” thugging along the odoriferous rockpiles of loneliness and light: the heron family is full of friends

And finally, among the easy white high-lows:


On the streetcar a six-year-old boy is blathering to his father about hockey, planets, and grandmothers who are a billion years old but still do sit-ups and jumping jacks every morning.
The father, a gruff and ratfaced scowler, says nothing.
I briefly consider a sudden adoption and then the child says: “Daddy, Mommy says you smoke when I’m not at your house.”
The father says: “She’s lying.”
The son says: “Mommy says you smoke when I’m not at your house” and now the son starts giggling and says “Indigo buntings are blue” but it was loud on the streetcar and it’s possible I misheard that last one.

I walk through the city: the roadway repairs and construction undertakings seem endless. It’s difficult to get around, and the din is often maddening.
Later, I arrive at High Park’s Upper Duck Pond.
Within moments I uncover this scene, and wonder if our tax dollars are being at least partially misspent?
I will forward to “the powers that be” this picture, along with a succinct plea, and I will hope for the best?

Two young women are smoking postprandially on the corner, trying out different cigarette poses and squinting through their smoke. Clearly they are unseasoned, for the exhale in particular is very droll – they blow it out of their mouths like it’s poison: one big bad blow, face pointed skyward, and never once the slow-wisping rivulets I used to relish!
If they smoke long enough, one of them will croak in agony because of the damage the smoking did; go to any convenience store and read our government’s stark copy!
These thoughts do nothing to my heart as I stare out the window of the resting streetcar; such statistics are generally the concoctions of actuaries, their true scientific merit being unknown to me.


On the streetcar, a gentleman most disheveled took a mobile phone out of his coat pocket and made a call. I proffer his side verbatim, with each line break representing a pause:

“I don’t mean to trouble you, but could you tell me if you have an extra sleeping bag?

I understand, but I mean to ask if you’ll have a sleeping bag for me?

I see.

Or else a blanket? Just a light one for this time of year?

Well actually there’s something else.

Yes, I know.

I’m scheduled to meet Graham and Lucy this afternoon but we never set a time.


Well, I’m almost at Dundas West now, so how about if I go to the park for a while?

Exactly, and I’ll stop for a loaf of bread and go feed the ducks.

Yes, so if you could tell them there’s no rush?

Yes, they can meet me whenever they’re ready.

That’s right, Graham and Lucy.”

p.s. Different looks at the same young Great Blue Heron.

The horrors of dogs, unleashed by their moronic owners, the worst of which is certainly the beagle. Have you heard his deathful cry while you tried your mightiest at snitching through the April grassways? Impossible when strafed continuously by shrill and tuneless deathbarks!
At daybreak on the s. car you were desperate with hope that ________ would become your new Springtime spot, but now with this beagle startling the yellow-rumped warblers which you had fieldcraft enough to never spook and scatter, you wish to explode upon the simpering scoundrel who thinks it perfectly reasonable to own an unbalanced beast in the city, almost certainly claustered in a too-small and fetid apartment and unable to go anything but bonkers when unloosed into this waterside park, an accidental bird sanctuary (and yes and yes the cruelties of uncaring municipalities on whom natural history and proper living will forever be lost – DOGS MUST BE DISALLOWED!)
Always of consolation is the ritual cataloguing and so you prepare your avian inventory: the new fox sparrows, phoebes paired already and twisting on their buckthorn branches by the water, flickers, constant kinglets, and of course the YRWs whose deliriant abundance would under easier circumstances cause you to caper.


I was a little bit angry in April but I’m feeling much better now. There is no need to fear calamitous outburst from y.t., nor should the fine folks write me off as non compos mentis, no indeed! And RE dogs: so boon a companion to many a denizen! Semper fidelis and that’s just the beginning! Is it not impossible to feel anything but affection for a dog with his head out the window of a quickly-moving pickup truck, ears flapping, relishing the breeze? Show me the monster who would impugn the importance of a working dog! And what’s so terrific about yellow-rumped warblers anyhow? They’re drab and they’re vimless, usually nervous, they sing a boring song, and never ever will they smother you with kisses and love?