This Spring’s Spark Bird

Every year, I become more intrigued with the act of watching birds.  The book, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear put some of that into perspective for me…in fact, when I poured over the pages, it was the first time that I could really connect with why I am so driven to investigate Frank’s Flats; the wildlife, landscape, atmospheric changes and ecosystems.

I think that Maclear proposes that there is a single spark bird that draws the everyday person into the act of bird watching.  However, for me, it seems that every year, in springtime, I am renewed to the experience by a particular bird.

This year, that bird is this one, a Merlin.  And…I could be wrong in my identification and challenge my readers to look at its markings and confirm with me if I am mistaken or correct.  About three years ago, in my neighbourhood park, I noticed a nesting couple and likely heard them first.  They have a very particular high pitched call.


Adult male (Prairie)
  • Light blue-gray crown
  • Pale face with no distinct pattern
  • Streaked breast
  • Dark eye with pale eyebrow
  • Prairie subspecies occurs in Great Plains states and southern Canada

This year, I’ve been close enough to the nesting pair to have received a bit of an annoyed reaction.  They are very defensive birds and protective during the nesting period.  As I’ve discovered on line, their talons and beaks provide for some very nasty feeding frenzies on pigeons, sparrows, mice and I’m guessing that they could do a mean attack on young children or dogs if they felt challenged.

So, for now, I’ll watch from a distance.  They are just beautiful!

Usually, one remains in a sparse deciduous tree or atop a power pole some distance from the nest, while the other stays tucked into the evergreen tree, a nest that was stolen from a mating magpie pair three seasons ago.

Recent photographs have helped me to make some distinctions in the small raptor, however, I’m still learning.  I got some good shots of the nesting adult yesterday.  I invite any feedback about these or other raptors as I expand my knowledge.


Two Voices: Mr. Finds His Mrs.

Life for two small birds in a Bridge Street back yard.

The struggle of two small birds in a Bridge Street back yard.

In June, I wrote a post (One Voice) about an elusive bird that was calling out repetitively, seeking out its mate.  I thought there was no hope for this spritely male, after weeks of June crooning.  This post is a record of a partnership.  What my readers will hear is a defensive chatter as both birds try desperately to ward off ‘the enemy’.  Bridge Street is inundated with black birds and squirrels.  I don’t know how many small birds actually fend off such a huge number of predators.  This nest was abandoned a short two days later and at the time of this recording, I had already heard the hungry chirps of hatchlings, their demise, unknown.

Listen. Our Objects Speak.

My Grandfather’s Wool Carding Equipment

This morning, Max and I went to one of our favourite off-leash areas in the city… a beautiful ridge area… a long stretch above the  Bow River irrigation canal.  The wind was literally howling today, especially during a walk on such an exposed piece of land.  The tall dry grass was flattened, reaching east and pushing again and again while the wind shouted.  One of the most amusing events was the hovering presence of a immature Bald Eagle for the entire walk.  Most of the time, he/she was directly above me and finally broke downward and captured a field mouse.  From there, a brave raven made a huge effort to intercept the catch.  The two birds flew in tandem, diving and circling and soaring; one defending its prey; the other, not easily discouraged, attempting to steal it.  I was in awe.

Snowflake  Pattern: Cowichan Sweater

When, finally, we returned to the van, I turned to CBC radio.  I enjoy listening to IDEAS in the afternoon and The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers.  In the context of the sorts of things I’ve been thinking about lately, the interview with Sylvia Olsen was so relevant.  What she says about history being linked to civilizing/fusing of cultures is very interesting.  There was a progression from the Salish design being used in weaving to the eventual introduction of needles by Scottish men as a way of civilizing indigenous women.  The Cowichan sweater became a remarkable archive…in fact, as Olsen would say, the sweaters became the stories.  I think that there is an obvious link between the hard work of a people, attention to an aesthetic and careful consideration about function.  The concept of history/story being contained in our objects is evident.  I need to read her book, Working With Wool .  I find that this connects me with my own paternal grandfather’s connection with wool.

The Mule