Monday, January 30, 2012

Do you hear what I hear?

 This has been a luxurious, soft winter (except for one frigid week that, fingers crossed, didn't do my garden in). I have spent a lot of time on the trails in and around my beloved ravine that borders my neighbourhood. I usually have my phone with me, so I've been taking some pics with it. (The quality isn't great but I do have fun playing with them in the various apps that allow me to texturize them and add effects). Today was an exceptional day to be out and about so I did it twice. Once very early in the morning and once in the afternoon while the gorgeous men in my house napped. :)

The wildlife have been loving life this winter, too. I have seen deer, rabbits, weasels (pure white with a black-tipped tail!), squirrels and some overwintering birds that should be long gone. I've been walking, running, meandering, and just plain enjoying every minute of it. After last winter (think Mordor bleak) we deserve every minute of this wonderful year.

My favourite thing is the birds. Go figure. Normally, I like to get onto the secondary paths, the deer trails if you will, where it is quiet and I can listen to the birds chatter with each other and check me out. Chickadees have absolutely no shame, you know.

Today, however, I didn't have to go looking for the birds. Early this morning, great clouds of Bohemian Waxwings descended on my neighbourhood and into the ravine, where they reeled and rose and fell enmasse all day. I couldn't stay away. At times, I had clouds of them move past me so low that I could feel the vibration of their wings thrumming. It made me laugh. I remembered my final exam in an anthropology class, Preliterate Religions, where I had to write my own religion. I remember that my religion was very pantheistic. While that may have been a very simplistic approach, I still do feel a deep connection to joy and a sense of transcendence when I am awed by nature. I think that is why I want to go sea kayaking in the Queen Charlottes before I die. ANYWAY, I was awed today. I went down one of my favourite deer paths to settle in on a fallen tree and listen to the hub bub all around me. The jays were out of sorts, the ravens had to have a *talk*, the chickadees were having a great tweet-up, and a Coopers hawk flew silently by at shoulder height through the trees about 15 feet from me. The Bohemians were causing quite a stir.

I know it's still winter and spring is further away than it feels, but, dammit Jim, it felt like the world was alive today. Can a girl fall in love with a small bit of urban forest? Hope so, because I think I swooned a little today. In fact, I was speechless.

EDIT: Here is the link to a herky-jerky video I took with my phone. If you turn it up you can hear the amazing sound filling the sky.

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” ― Robert Lynd

EDIT: Feb. 5: HBG, this pic is for you. It is an awful photo, taken with my phone, of the weasel peeking out of one of the many "doors" of the burrow he ran to. He was fascinated by me. I was a little scared of him actually because I had one chase me, then charge me again, as I was crossing a bridge in the ravine last summer. My ankles felt conspicuously bare as he ran towards me. :)

Weasel in the winter when there was no snow to hide


Clayton said...

Great photos. I miss those kind of walking areas as we do not have anything close by that is naturally wooded. I grew up in the Nipawin Saskatchewan area on a farm where I could walk into the forest very near our house.

CanadianGardenJoy said...

This was a simply beautiful post Ms. S ! and I too would subscribe to your religion on those terms .. nature makes me the happiest of all things in the world when it comes down to bare bone feelings .. it is innate and waits for us to connect with it during moments like this .. I am very jealous .. you had a wonderful kiss from nature : )
PS .. I see you are using textures for these pictures .. it is very pretty !

sweetbay said...

Was that a Star Trek reference there at the end??? or something else? :)

I am glad that you are able to get out and enjoy nature this winter. I'd love to see Bohemian Waxwings. We have Cedar Waxwings but I've never seen a Bohemian.

The Garden Ms. S said...

Clayton, There really is something special about having forest so close by, isn't there. The area near me is a protected reserve because it is a major wildlife corridor. I feel blessed to have it so close by and find I am getting more protective of it. I find myself taking plastic bags with me to pick up garbage and giving the stink-eye to those riding their bikes in an area where they are not permitted. A couple weeks ago I saw a pure white streak flash by me and then watch me from various "doors" in a hillside burrow under the black spruce. I looked it up and am pretty sure it was a short-tailed weasel. I was amazed to find out that weasels turn white in the winter. I had no idea. And now I know the history of ermine used on royalty's cloaks. These woods have so many stories to tell. I feel like we are just visitors.

Joy, I love your expression that I was kissed by nature. I think that's just perfect. :) When they swooped low to land in some dogwood near me I wasn't sure if I was going to laugh or cry. I just stopped moving and let it happen. Something bounced on my back and I wasn't sure if they dropped something on me (wink, wink) or a wing brushed me. What a wonderful reminder it was that nature is still with us in the heart of winter.

You caught me! I am a not-so-secret nerd. Yes, I love Star Trek and Bones was always my favourite. :) The Bohemian waxwing is very similiar to the cedar. We get the cedars in the summer and bohemians in the winter. A win-win, I think. :)

Shirley said...

Good to hear from you! I enjoyed your commentary and, yes, you can fall in love with urban forests. I know I have!

Tell me please, what is the difference between cedar waxwings and Bohemian waxwings? Whichever they are, they descended upon our European Mountain Ash Saturday until the dogs frightened them off.

The Garden Ms. S said...

Shirley, Hi! The cedars and bohemians look almost the same to my eyes and I am definitely an amateur, (the bohos are a bit longer and more grey, I think). It was probably the bohemians that landed on your tree because they tend to show up here in great flocks in the winter whereas we get the cedars in the summer. Your ash tree would have been a nice smorg for them. :)

Amy said...

Oh...your post made me miss the snow in Colorado. We lived there before Austin. I love to hear the birds, too. I usually keep the door open just a little to hear them when I am sitting at our kitchen table. :)

Casa Mariposa said...

Incredible! I love your writing and the pix. I love birds and often keep the house quiet so I can enjoy their song. Chickadees are just as brash here. I once saw them band together and chase off a larger bird. Tough little birds!

Anna said...

Music to my ears. I am glad that winter is treating you gently this year. I love the name 'Bohemian Waxwings' - it conjures up all sorts of images :) Must try to be more adventurous with my phone.

Marguerite said...

I love your description of this winter and how much you've enjoyed it. I'm afraid I've spent most of my time wondering where the snow is at instead of getting outside and living it up. Good for you for remembering to live in the moment and enjoying all that this winter has had to offer.

The Garden Ms. S said...

Amy, Colorado is even famous here for its snow, lucky you! So nice that you take the time to listen to the birds. That's why I never plug the earphones in when I'm out in nature -- nothing beats the sounds of nature!

Casa, You are too kind. Chickadees are hilarious aren't they? I can totally imagine them chasing a bigger bird off. If I can use an old-fashioned word, I would call them saucy. :)

Anna, This winter is soooo much better than last year. It feels like April every day. I love the name of the Bohemian's too. They are the gypsy birds who arrive for fleeting visits and light up the sky with their music. :)

Marguerite, We have just enough snow to cushion the garden. I hope it hangs around. Right now, I am just happy to be able to get outside every day without freezing solid. :)

HomeBugGardener said...

Beautiful compositions and wow, a weasel. I've seen tracks, but not yet an actual weasel. I walk through the River Valley on the way to work, but it's too dark to see much but hares, coyotes, and the occasional porcupine or Great Horned Owl.

I'm not much good at telling the waxwings apart except guessing by season, but Bohemian Waxwings should have a rusty bum and Cedar Waxwings pale to white under the tail. Bohemians also have white and yellow markings on the wings that are lacking in the Cedars. Supposedly, some Cedars do hang around in the winter and flock with the Bohemians, so you might see both.

Do you know about the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project ( If your see coyotes around, you can report them and help the scientists (the one I know are nice and well meaning):

The Garden Ms. S said...

HBG, thank you for the additional info on the waxwings. I will see if I can find some of both in the next flock that I see. Thank you also for the info on the coyote project. I've only ever called the city once about coyotes and that was because there were two, one badly afflicted with mange, visiting yards and back lanes on a regular basis. I generally don't call about ones I see in the ravine. However, I did take a look at the project website you provided and would put the location info there as it doesn't look like their aim is to "remove" the coyotes. Thanks for the link.
ps. I posted the weasel pic for you so now you can say you saw one. :)

Jennifer@threedogsinagarden said...

I like your description of this as a "soft" winter. Your images have a soft, gentle quality to them as well. I am sure that this time for yourself while your boys sleep is precious indeed.

HomeBugGardener said...

Thanks for the up pops the weasel. I'd say it looks cute, but that would be anthropomorphizing something that might bite my ankles. Weasels do have a reputation for ferocity, but I think I'll think positively about them until I start raising chickens.

Clayton said...

I have nominated you for a Versatile Blogger award. Drop over to my blog for the details.


Crafty Gardener said...

Great photos. There is so much to see and hear while walking. That was a huge flock of waxwings. Love that white weasel, wish you could of got a close up.

Adrian Thysse said...

Just two weeks ago I had the pleasure of coming across a white weasel a couple of times out in a wooded area near the Fultontvale School east of Sherwood Park. He was quite brazen, but not aggressive. When I stood still he (she?)would bound silently closer, probably just out of curiosity. As soon as I moved my camera it would bound off. This happened three times, and I was totally unable to get a picture. A beautiful creature with its white coat and black-tipped tail.

The Garden Ms. S said...

Crafty,I wish I could have got a better pic of him too. I had plenty of time as he was hanging around, I just didn't have enough zoom in phone camera to get a close-up. I know where he lives now though... :)

Adrian, They are amazingly beautiful in the winter, and brazen. :) Maybe they are used to being fearless. Can't believe I am a little scared of something smaller than my cats. lol


Hi, It looks cold where you are! Stay warm until spring comes hopefully soon!
xoxo Ingrid