Monday, July 20, 2009

Bird play

My favourite songs of summer are the clear fluted trill of the hermit thrush and the peabody-peabody-peabody melody of the white-throated sparrow.

I wish I had a musical soul.

The thrush's call echoes each evening through the dusky forest, floating on a breath of green rain and moss, luring me to a game of hide n' seek. Sometimes I comply.

I wander about, ear tuned upward and trying to track this ethereal call...does it come from the right? From the left? The thrush eludes a mischievous sprite...he flies deeper into the forest...but not too deep. I thrash through ferns knee-deep, swatting mosquitoes. Then he calls again..."Here I am..." Eventually, I give up.

And the white-throated sparrow..well his song just makes me smile. Except I'd never actually seen one.

Until the other day, when a resounding thud on my office window snapped my attention from my work (any excuse gratefully accepted).

A single feather remained stuck to the glass. I rushed outside, expecting to find a casualty. A shaken sparrow crouched below the window, feathers fluffed and fat. Upright, but eyes closed, unmoving.

After a while, when he still didn't move, I gathered him carefully in a towel and placed him under the covered porch, safe from cats and hawks. With my bird book in hand, I soon realized this was the little songster I so loved.

Mahogany rich, the auburn brushstroke of his feathers...cross-hatch as fine as fishbone...
Tiny beaded eyes...buttoned up snug as a scallop shell. Leftovers on his bill.

He shuddered steadily. I thought he might die...I breathed prayers....I wished....and sent energy his way...and then...right when I thought he would give up his little spunky spirit...

...his little brown eye suddenly, popped open and looked directly into mine. Directly. Into mine. He saw into me. Through me.

For that space in time, there was only him and me. Why does it tingle so, to be a wild creature? Why does it feel like such a miracle? Like I've been noticed by God?

Sunday, July 5, 2009


“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
Rachel Carson

This place quiets me with its voice,
Its soft and wild beauty,
This place that pulses in rhythm with
the most magnificent tides on the planet.

I am but one solitary witness.
I see and feel and listen,
but how can I find words to speak of it all?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bay of Fundy whale sighting

Centuries ago, the Mi'kmaq believed the high tides of the Bay of Fundy were created by Whale. After Glooscap commanded Beaver to dam the bay so he could take a bath, he realized he had stolen water from Whale. Wishing to set things right, he asked Beaver to remove the dam, but it was Whale who broke the barrier with the mighty force of his great, powerful tail, causing a giant tide to begin sloshing back and forth in the bay.

It seems the Mi'kmaq knew, even then, what we know now - that the Bay of Fundy is a favoured marine environment for a number of species of whale. They mainly congregate in the Grand Manan area, south of here, where the bay widens into the Gulf of Maine. But this past weekend, a pod of 12-15 Atlantic pilot whales surprised a tour of kayakers with Baymount Outdoor Adventures, at the Hopewell Rocks. In the 13 year history of the company, this was the first such occurrence. One of the guides on the tour sent the link to this video, shot by one of the clients.

Traditionally, we've had very few reports of whales following schools of fish this far up the bay, as at low tide, the water is quite shallow. Just south of the Hopewell Rocks, the bay splits into two tidal rivers, so in this area, fresh water mingles with salt. (see map)

In the 1930's, before a causeway at Moncton blocked the river, about 20 pilot whales were stranded, most perishing, on the mudflats at low tide near Salisbury. Porpoises are common here, and a school of dolphins were also stranded on the mudflats a few years ago, but in the past few years, the odd whale has found its way further inland.

These tourists and guides were very fortunate to have played with this pod.