promises of spring

My personal barometer tells me that spring is happening. The snowbanks outside might not look like it, but there is definitely some warmth creeping back into the sunshine and the temperature fluctuations indicate the annual battle between the shifting seasons. Even though my body hates the weather issues, spring is my favourite of the seasons and I am feeling somewhat desperate for this year. I did see a robin on February 13th chirping at me from atop a snowbank and on the 19th I found a pussywillow out in soft grey buds. Perhaps the robin and the willow were just confused, but I am clinging to them as signs that spring is coming.

Pussywillow

Spring. Squelching through vernal pools and delightful mud puddles. Listening to the songs of mating frogs and finding tadpoles in spring pools. Daffodils and hyacinths, my favourite of the spring bulbs, pushing their green noses through the dark, moist earth to share their brilliant colours and fragrance. The red haze, already on the maple trees as sap begins to flow up from deep roots to the topmost branches, turns to red buds and spider-like flowers, then finally tiny umbrella leaves. Clouds of apple and pear blossoms, alive and humming with life, laden dark limbs. Dozy bees bumbling through lilacs. Shimmery beetles and chubby grubs return with clouds of butterflies. Worms trace their trails through soft mud in the misty mornings. Morning bird song changes as robins and blackbirds return. Creatures of all sizes, from insects to toads and snakes, basking in the warm sunshine. Purple violets peeking through the freshly green grass. Warm, sun-dried laundry scented with fresh-cut grass. Fresh thunderstorms rinsing away winter’s grim and leaving clean, rain-scented air filled with cheerful bird song.

Yup, I am ready for spring.

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Tropical Paradise in Niagara Falls

I spent a blustery January day with a friend inside the tropical paradise that is the Bird Kingdom at Niagara Falls Aviary.  Not only was it great to escape an icky winter day, but it was also a great opportunity to experiment with various camera settings. Learning the ins and outs of this photography thing is going to take a long time, but fortunately the process is fun and cheap. Bird Kingdom is a fantastic place to visit, with two aviaries (a small one for small birds and then a huge one planted with tropical plants for larger birds). The birds, of course, are wild, but there is a gallery where you can see and pose with a variety of birds and reptiles. I loved holding the silk-smooth yellow python and petting the very sedate iguana, Ferdinand.

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Downy Woodpecker

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This little fellow was busy in the apple tree outside my bedroom window while I was home at the farm. He has obviously found a very tasty snack bar, for the snow all around the tree was littered with little bits of bark. For almost as long as I can remember, my mom has fed the birds during the winter. Both cats and humans enjoy watching the blue jays, cardinals, goldfinches, juncos, chickadees, mourning doves, woodpeckers and others as they feast on sunflower seeds and corn outside the large picture window. I feel a little guilty bringing my cat back to my place, where the basement window affords a view of only a concrete pad, a little grass and the occasional squirrel or stray cat. My goal for 2011 is to move above ground where both Muggs and I can enjoy sunny windows again– and perhaps even have space for a bird feeder.

 

Standing Guard

Eagle on engaged column, 25 King St. W. I should begin this new blog with some philosophical treatise on the nature of Classical architecture. But I’m not going to. Instead, I am going to share a delicious architectural detail I discovered on a cold, windy day in downtown Toronto.  This grouchy-looking bird tops an engaged column framing a window on the south side of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) building at 25 King St. W, Toronto.

Note the amazing details that have gone into this. The bird’s wings are spread back at a 90 degree angle to support the bricks above. The feathers have been carefully differentiated. His expressive eyes have been deeply carved and his head positioned so that he looks down on the viewer. I should note that this window is very tall so his perch does appear to be quite lofty.  I find the basket-weave capital atop the spiral-fluted column evocative of a bird’s nest.  He is matched with a similar column and bird on the left side of the window.  The birds’ menacing looks threaten anyone who dares to mess with your money.

Banks are great places to look for details like this. Don’t forget to look up!