Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Huron Fringe Birding Festival

MEA CULPA

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I have not paid too much attention to this Blog since well before January. Not because I haven’t had anything to say (which is partly true). But blogging, to me, becomes a tad boring (for the writer) if the writer isn’t following a personal message or cause or theme. And I, for one, don’t believe in listing or recounting all that happens to me on a regular basis.

brdfest2What I have been doing on a fairly regular basis, though, is posting a blog for the Huron Fringe Birding Festival (http://huronfringefest.wordpress.com). Not because I am birder but because I’m married to one and she is on the Festival Committee and I let myself be talked into becoming their ‘Blog Master’ as they have titled me.

Birders are interesting people, if not a touch obsessed. Actually a lot of them have become good friends. Their varied backgrounds and varied interests make for good conversation and good laughs. The Festival is over now so more time will be spent literally rambling on metropolitanhomesickblues.

So what has been happening over the many months? Sadly our cat of 19 years has left us. 

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Miss Molly was a clawless, long hair “tort” as they say, a rescue cat my wife brought home one day. She does that sort of thing with animals. Molly and I were buddies. When she wasn’t sleeping she was wherever I was, even in the middle of the night. When she walked into a room she walked to me and demanded (in the voice of her people) that I pick her up to carry her on my shoulder or place her beside me in whatever chair I was sitting in…room for her or not.

When she had had enough of her lazy life, Molly told us. She went quietly. She is well remembered.

A short piece of the Bruce Trail became my responsibility over that period.

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I am Trail Captain for a length that runs above the Slough of Despond towards Skinner’s Bluff. Its up on the North Bruce Peninsula and it’s a lovely hike. My duties are to inspect the trail at least three times a year and keep it clear and walkable as it varies from gentle to rocky to wet in the spring. Rest assured there will be words and pictures coming your way as summer unfolds.

Of course, who can forget the now legendary Winter of 2014.

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I can’t remember when it started, but it felt like it lasted forever. The Great Lakes were frozen over. The ice never left Lake Huron until mid May. Blizzards, road and town closures, endless driveway snow blowing, shovels and roof rakes were the norm.

boulder

 All of that is past us now. Just had to get it all out of my mind on to the page as an excuse to write this blog.

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.

HURON FRINGE – THE DAY BEFORE

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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.