Metropolitan Homesick Blues

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Posts Tagged ‘bruce peninsula

North Bruce Back Roads

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We set out to look for fall colours on the North Bruce Peninsula. We were probably a day or two early. Most trees were tinted with a yellow/beige showing promise of a glorious fall to come. Portions of the odd maple were turning a burning red. Even though it was a brilliant day with an unbelievably blue sky, nature was not yet ready to reveal its autumn show. We decided to look for birds instead and turned on to secondary roads to see if we would have any luck.

Heading up the 40 Hills Road we came upon St. Margaret’s Chapel. It crowns the crest of a hill on the way to Cape Chin. It’s a beautiful little church, “built of the stones of its own hills and valleys,” in true turn of the century Anglican tradition. The dolomite limestone blocks are cut large and thick giving the small building a stance that says it will stand for ages. To our surprise, the door was open.

The interior is finished in dark timber with oak pews. The stain class windows, some with a local wildflower motif, glimmer in the dim interior light as the sun pours through. A guest book revealed pages and pages of visitors from all parts of the globe.

Their comments basically contained the same thought…a beautiful, unexpected oasis of solitude well off the beaten path.

One should always  travel roads less taken. Robert Frost knew that. They lead to some wonderful surprises. All you have to do is follow.

Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

September 21, 2010 at 1:39 PM

LOOK DEEPER THAN THE SURFACE YOU SEE

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The last day of the Huron Fringe Festival began with heavy rain and the promise of a wet, uncomfortable day. As we turned on Highway 6 toward the North Bruce, the wind came up the sky partially cleared and the sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds. That damp-day promise would not be kept. It was perfect for hiking the Alvars north of Dyers Bay.

We were treated to a guided tour of some carefully preserved properties under the watch of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (www.natureconservancy.ca). Two of which are not yet open to the public. Our guide gave us explanations of the history, flora, fauna and geology found on these natural wonders. It is amazing what the ancient glaciers left for us.

As we walked and listened to his descriptions of the what, how and why around us – some lines a well-regarded local naturalist likes to quote popped into my head:

The wonders of this world.

The beauty and the power,

Their colours, lights and shades:

These I saw.

Look ye also, while it lasts.

[On an tombstone dated 1560 in a Suffolk, England cemetary.]

It must have been one of those days for me because, later, at their private Cape Hurd property, on the east side of the Peninsula just below Tobermory, this line from Wordsworth kept running through my mind: “The world is too much with us; late and soon…”

Here I was amid all this impressive natural beauty and Steve Jobs is turning the publishing business on its ear while making millions off  the iPad and introducing the iPhone 4. Harper is spending wildly on the G8 and G20 to impress the world. And the world and its people – after all this time – is no further ahead. The one constant is this; the natural world pays no attention to us and adapts as it sees fit.

Wordsworth was right:

The world is too much with us; late and soon

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. -Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

[William Wordsworth circa 1802]

Have things really changed between then and now? Exponentially, perhaps. But, back then people, pundits and poets had the same concerns, the same problems and world view as we do today.

We just get to blog about it.

Lakeside Daisies growing on a limestone alvar

Showy Lady's Slippers

Things I Learned from Knowing Nothing

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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.

BIRDING

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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.