Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘birding

BRUCE COUNTY BACKROADS

with 4 comments

img_3780

Side roads. Concession roads. Hardtop and hard-pack gravel. Graded and ungraded. Rutted and rain-eroded. They can get your car dust covered or mud caked depending on weather and which road you’re on. They are Bruce County two-lanes leading you everywhere and not necessarily where you want to go.

img_5269-jpg

We often drive these Bruce County back-roads. She is looking for birds. I’m looking for pictures. I don’t care much about shooting birds. My meager 250 mm lens fails in comparison to some of the big glass that other shooters carry. Most times, birds are just too far way to capture anything decent.

house-1

I’m OK with that. I’m more interested in what was…the abandoned barns and farmhouses, the fences, the fallen in roofs and stone foundations…the what’s-left-on-the-land from times gone away.

img_0627-jpg

The structures that faced years of winds and weather, that struggled to stay upright and remain proud of what they provided to their hard-working owners…structures of shelter and warmth, places, markers that families once called home.

Some markers are different.

tombstone847_o-1

This pockmarked weathered stone, its carved inscription unreadable, sits solitarily, a sentinel overlooking a vista of fields un-ploughed or planted. It seems out of place. More often than not you’ll see clusters of resurrected tombstones sitting on the side of secondary roads salvaged from some long forgotten cemetery to make room for more farmable fields. This one stands alone.

Cloud shadows silently drift across the fields it watches over. Why is it there? Is there meaning in its placement? Or is it just a photo-op for a wandering amateur with a camera? I doubt if I will ever know. But I take the shot anyway and move on.

img_4507

There is a great deal more to discover and capture on these roads.

version-2

So we drive on.

Things I Learned from Knowing Nothing

with one comment

Observations and Impressions Gathered During The Huron Fringe Birding Festival.

  • Everybody is really happy to be here.
  • Everybody is friendly.
  • All Birders carry binoculars. Obviously. Some are slung with intricate harnesses that look like straight jackets
  • Most Birders wear vests. Most Birders carry backpacks or fanny packs.
  • Carabineers are a popular piece of equipment.
  • Everybody carries water in eco-friendly containers.
  • Tilley Hats have not gone out of style yet.
  • Identifying birds by sound/song/call is a skill all Birders aspire to.
  • Nature photography is more fun than birding.
  • Serious hobby photographers have serious stuff.
  • The most serious have scary lenses and tripods of various shapes and sizes.
  • All serious hobby photographers think they’re pros.
  • All serious hobby photographers see something in your shot that you never saw.
  • Every serious hobby photographer’s idea of the perfect shot is different from every other serious hobby photographer.
  • All serious hobby photographers think they are creating “art”.
  • Real professional nature photographers will to anything to get the perfect shot.
  • Doug Pedwell, Kerry Jarvis, Carol Edwards and Ethan Meleg are passionate professional Nature Photographers and great teachers.
  • I need to study my camera manual more.
  • I know nothing about Nature Photography.

Week one is over. The wonderful weather repeated itself. Except for the last day, which started hot and humid. We were up at Cabot Head on the North Bruce when thunder boomed somewhere in the distance over Georgian Bay. First came the wind and waves. Then clouds turned gunmetal grey and it rained. But not for long.

Back at MacGregor Point Park seated on a gray driftwood log a few metres from the shore I watch as a light breeze raises a slight chop on the lake. White crested surf breaks on shore. Its repetition creates a white noise that can lull you to sleep if you let yourself relax.

I thought about what I learned. I thought about the impressions left by people who were not only great shooters, but also individuals who knew the Latin names of the birds, plants and flowers that were their subjects as well as the habitat, history, geography and landscape that is their inspiring natural studio.

And the best thing about it was – they genuinely wanted to share their knowledge.

 

"Dragonfly" patterned leaves on the surface of Turtle Pond

Rock formation found off Dyer's Bay Road

Ram's Head Orchid in Singing Sands National Park, North Bruce

Split Rock on shoreline of Huron, MacGregor Point

Cancer Root in Singing Sands Park. Very small. Needed macro lens.

Pitcher Plant - not mature. Singing Sands Park

Wild Rose - Singing Sands ParkWaterfall on the road to Cabot Head

Waterfall on the road to Cabot Head Lighthouse.

HURON FRINGE – THE DAY BEFORE

leave a comment »

The sun is warm on my back. I am sitting at a picnic table at the edge of the Visitor’s Centre of MacGregor Point Provincial Park. It is the day before the beginning of The Huron Fringe Birding Festival. I’m here to help set up the Registration Tent…actually it’s more like one of those large steel-framed-plastic-covered garages that pop up on driveways all over town come fall. What with all the volunteers, though,  it was up in no time.

Now, I’m whiling away the morning until N. finishes with some organizational details for opening day tomorrow.

The Chickadees are feeding out of my hand. They stay in the park year-round and have no fear of people baring food. Actually, they expect handouts.

It is a spectacular day. Cool and sunny. Traces of wispy cirrus clouds are lying high in an unbelievable blue sky. I walk the trails just to waste time. It is forest-quiet except for bird sounds and bellowing bullfrogs. A turtle sunning itself on a log plops into the pond as I attempt a stealth approach. Overhead a red-winged Blackbird chases a crow. They dive, wheel and bank out over the water in tight formation…aerial acrobatics. The Blackbird wins.

Looking down I spot three brilliant yellow Lady’s Slippers. One must tread carefully out here. The spring wildflowers are starting to show.

Over the next two weekends I won’t be looking at birds. I will be spending a lot of  time looking at nature and the land, hiking the Huron Fringe coastline of Lake Huron and the Bruce Peninsula and trying to learn all about nature photography.

If my pictures are any good, I’ll show them to you. And if this beautiful country shows me anything special, I’ll tell you about that too.


BIRDING

with one comment

Snow geese

Early on a November Sunday.

The sun had melted the frost that came by night and the remaining moisture hung in a haze over the Sound. The grass was still green. A few leaves, drained of colour remained on the trees. The day started out warm and comfortable. It was a typical ‘British Morning’. So says Peter, our guide for the day.

I am here looking out over Owen Sound with Birders from the Owen Sound Field Naturalists. Now, I am not a birder. Far from it. But, I am outside, under an unbelievable blue sky, in the company of people who find staring at waterfowl from a distance, fascinating. They come armed with books; binoculars and spotting scopes, which make birding, look like a very expensive hobby.

As the day, progresses, and we scoot from location to location, literally circling the Sound from one shore to another searching for different species of ducks, geese and biggest genus of sea gull in the world…I am impressed. I am impressed with the fine points of difference between ducks and greater and lesser geese recently arrived, thanks to the shift in jet stream, from different parts of Canada’s north.

And there were firsts for me as well. I saw pure white Snow Geese for the first time. I had never seen Snow Buntings before. They’re big. And their winter plumage gives them hawk-like colouring. Across from the grain elevators on the foreshore just in front of the weeds a Great Blue Herron stood silent as a sentry.

Its regal head turned slowly as if watching me watching it through the binoculars. It too, is big.

I learned that is it OK to talk, but softly, as you approach birds sitting close to shore. You won’t spook them this way. They know you’re not a threat if they hear and see you. Why? Because predators move swiftly and silently.

I learned that birders never stop birding. A prime example of this happened on Grey Road One as we drove past Cobble Beach. Peter, from the open window in the lead vehicle, frantically waving and pointing skyward, suddenly pulled off the road. We scrambled to follow suit without a long rear-ender. He jumped out and ran from car to car. There up in the sky, just above us, a Bald Eagle was gracefully riding the wind off Georgian Bay in lazy circles. It must have been a crazy sight to the motorists that zipped by us…14 people with binoculars trained on a dark, white-headed bird who couldn’t care less.

Birders know what to look for and where. They love nature. They love the land. They know what they’re doing. And I would follow them again just to be amazed at a world most of us tend to ignore.

Peter discovered this epitaph on a grave in Suffolk. The author was not recorded but the date was 1560:

The wonders of this world,

The beauty and the power,

The shapes of things,

Their colours, lights and shades:

These I saw.

Look ye also, while life lasts

Good advice.