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Birding the Morgan Arboretum

Birding on the West Island of Montreal

Green Birding

Coming in March …

A Self Guided Walk in the Arboretumfully illustrated with optional smartphone guidance. Learn about the forest, its plants and creatures

** The season is not ideal for discussions of wildlife and wildlife gardening … so here are a few items to fill in the winter months until we can return to the serious stuff.

Green, and other, thoughts …

“… very long ago, on the spot where the Wild Wood waves now, before ever it had planted itself and grown up to what it now is, there was a city – a city of people, you know. Here, where we are standing, they lived, and walked, and talked, and slept, and carried on their business. Here they stabled their horses and feasted, from here they rode out to fight or drove out to trade. They were a powerful people, and rich, and great builders. They built to last, for they thought their city would last for ever.”

“But what has become of them all?” asked the Mole.

“Who can tell?” said the Badger. “People come – they stay for a while, they flourish, they build – and they go. It is their way. But we remain. There were badgers here, I’ve been told, long before that same city ever came to be. And now there are badgers here again. We are an enduring lot, and we may move out for a time, but we wait, and are patient, and back we come. And so it will ever be.

‘When they went,’ continued the Badger, ‘the strong winds and persistent rains took the matter in hand, patiently, ceaselessly, year after year. Perhaps we badgers too, in our small way, helped a little–who knows? It was all down, down, down, gradually–ruin and levelling and disappearance. Then it was all up, up, up, gradually, as seeds grew to saplings, and saplings to forest trees, and bramble and fern came creeping in to help. Leaf-mould rose and obliterated, streams in their winter freshets brought sand and soil to clog and to cover, and in course of time our home was ready for us again, and we moved in. Up above us, on the surface, the same thing happened. Animals arrived, liked the look of the place, took up their quarters, settled down, spread, and flourished. They didn’t bother themselves about the past–they never do; they’re too busy.

Wind in the Willows

As he did not go into Society himself, he had got an idea that these things belonged to the things that didn’t really matter. He sat in his arm-chair at the head of the table, and nodded gravely at intervals as the animals told their story; and he did not seem surprised or shocked at anything, and he never said, ‘I told you so,’ or, ‘Just what I always said,’ or remarked that they ought to have done so-and-so, or ought not to have done something else. The Mole began to feel very friendly towards him.

“It was the Badger, who having finished his pie, had turned round in his chair and was looking at them severely. When he saw that he had secured their attention, and that they were evidently waiting for him to address them, he turned back to the table again and reached out for the cheese. And so great was the respect commanded by the solid qualities of that admirable animal, that not another word was uttered until he had quite finished his repast and brushed the crumbs from his knees.”

“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag”

Many of you will know that during the winter months we help to keep the bird feeders at the local bird banding station topped up for the resident birds. This is feeding on an industrial scale as the picture below (on a bright, sunny, breezy day at -17C) indicates. Note, in particular, the high-tech wiinter survival clothing.

If nothing else it gets us out of the house – not that that takes much – in the cold months and is really enjoyable. We park up on the access road to the arboretum, strap on our snowshoes and make our way down lanes and across fields to where the multiple feeders and our “customers” await our arrival. We do this every Thursday while another couple do it Sundays so there are two refills every seven days.

Carolina Wrens

The two “St-Andrews” Carolina Wrens appeared for their morning feed today. They have been almost daily visitors this winter, quite often coming and leaving together.

And, a bonus, an Eastern Cottontail rabbit arrived to see if there were spilled seeds below the feeders.

Catching up slowly

Slow learner at times … about six years ago, just before retiring and while I had the money, I bought a new pair of super high tech hearing aids for an obscene amount of money. If you ever want to get rich this is the business to be in – let’s just say that I could have bought seven of the iPhones that I bought one of  on Monday this week for the price of a couple of hearing aids. Eye-watering isn’t in it, but when you need then you need them and they are very good.

Anyway, to get back to the point of this story … when I took delivery I was also presented with a small electronic dongle to hang round my neck. That, the young lady told me, allows you to answer telephone calls from your cell phone – just tap this button and chatter away to your chums. She had the wrong customer – I have a phone, a very good phone, but its for emails and GPS route finding and playing music and recording bird observations and reading books on occasion. It is not for telephone calls which I simply do not do unless in extremis. Into the back of the drawer the dongle went and that was that. Just after Christmas the hearing aids were checked for settings and generally serviced and I learned (or was reminded as the fellow said – the pleasant young lady having moved on to other things) that the forgotten dongle also allows me to play, via the wonders of Bluetooth, music and audio-books etc from my phone of iPad directly into the hearing aids which then serve as discrete headphones. I already have a spiffing set of Bose wireless headphones but it seems I no longer need them except for super hi-fidelity music listening but can walk about town “reading” audio-books and listening to Beethoven like all the cool kids do, only without looking like a teenage geek wearing ear mufflers on a cold day. Pity about the dongle – makes me look like an old guy. “No problem” said the hearing-aid tech. “The latest versions of your hearing aids don’t need the dongle … not quite $10,000. Really good quality”. See what I mean about a way to get rich?

Who knew?

A Tale of Two Countries

There is certainly no doubt that recent weather has tended towards very cold and the climate change moderated jet stream has been behaving atypically and letting the polar vortex dip deep into the US. However …

The New York Times Canadian corespondent publishes a weekly email newsletter about things Canadian that is well worth reading for a different view of how we do stuff here. This week he has posted a piece about the way Windsor (Canada) and Detroit (US), two cities separated only by a river, react to cold weather.


The extreme cold, of course, also plunged down into parts of the United States. It’s reasonable to expect that some hard-hit American cities might not be as well prepared for snow and cold as, say, Winnipeg. But my hometown, Windsor, Ontario, and its American neighbor, Detroit, do provide an intriguing comparison.

About one kilometer of the Detroit River separates the two cities. But their respective responses to the cold were VERY different. On the American side, the governor of Michigan declared a state of emergency, the postal service stopped, schools, government offices, libraries, restaurants and businesses all closed. In Windsor, mail delivery was suspended briefly, a few water mains burst and some garbage pickup was delayed. But it was otherwise pretty much life as normal, even though the city isn’t particularly well prepared for severe winter weather by Canadian standards.

The CBC Radio station in Windsor spoke with Glenn Maleyko, who lives in suburban Windsor but crosses over to the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, where he is superintendent of the public school board. While the schools he runs were closed in Michigan, his two children didn’t miss any classes in Ontario.

I can’t help but feel that this illustrates very nicely the character differences between our two nations … or is it just that Americans are more litigious if they slip on ice in winter?

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