“Of late years there has been a great awakening of interest in the subject of natural history. More and more people are beginning to realize the pleasure and profit that can be derived from observation of common natural objects. In this growing field of nature study, few subjects have attracted so much popular attention as birds and few forms of life appeal so strongly to the aesthetic sense. They are beautiful; they arouse curiosity; their elusiveness piques the imagination; and by presenting constantly new aspects they never become commonplace.”
P.A. Taverner in Birds of Eastern Canada, 1919
Taverner was the first ornithologist in the government of Canada, and his Birds of Canada stands proudly on my bookshelf. Taverner really watched the birds he wrote about, and I delight in his writing because that comes through with every word, and because I, too, love to write and birds are one of my favourite subjects. I have always loved nature, but really fell for birds while completing my three year Fish and Wildlife diploma. These days, I work at a groundcovers nursery, and much of my spare time is spent bird watching locally and freelance writing.
This is Miller Creek Wildlife Area, and it seems necessary to share it with you as I introduce myself. Miller Creek, you see, is my favourite place to bird. It is home to Sandhill Cranes, Virginia Rails and Snipe, the American Bittern, Green and Great Blue Herons. The Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats flit from every shrub and cedar, the Harrier glides on immobile wings above the marsh, the muskrat snacks noisily beneath the bridge, and the Eastern Kingbird nests beside the beaver pond. The Veery’s song echoes through the spring foliage, giving way to the Chorus Frogs’ calls where the trees turn to cattails, and the Ruffed Grouse’s tracks mark the snow when winter comes.
My backyard here in Ennismore, Ontario comes in as a close second among my favourite places to bird. The faithful House Wren always takes up residence in the blue birdhouse, and year to year I never know who else will make our yard home. We’ve had Chickadees and many Robins, as well as Starlings, White-breasted Nuthatches, Grackles, Mourning Doves, Song Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos. And of course there are all the visitors, those who nest nearby and those just passing through, like the Great Blue Heron who discovered our little pond and thought it his own private little paradise.
I can hardly wait to see who will come this spring. My first bird of 2017 was the American Goldfinch, closely followed by the White-breasted Nuthatch and the hardy, ever-dependable Black-capped Chickadee. I keep a checklist each year of all the birds I see, and there is something very exciting about a new start in January. Looking back over 2016, some of my most exciting bird encounters include
Bald Eagles feeding on carp and leaving footprints on the ice of the Otonabee River;
my first Brown Creeper (which I watched, utterly enthralled, as it spiraled up each tree trunk before flying down to the base of the next);
Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs together in a flooded field;
Upland Sandpiper babies (!);
and hearing Whip-poor-wills call as the sun set in Frontenac Provincial Park.
I look forward to sharing my bird encounters of 2017 with you – who knows what the year holds!