Saturday, July 10, 2010

After-work birding

As its midsummer and the days are long, I figure I should get out after work and see some birds. So despite the heatwave (mid 30s plus humidity) I get the subway to Davisville, walk a block south, and uncharacteristically for me find an entrance to Mount Pleasant Cemetery immediately. The cemetery is a beautiful, peaceful place. It’s like a large arboretum, with manicured lawns, tarmac walkways and some very lavish memorials. Its well used by joggers, cyclists, and dog-walkers, but being Canada they have the world’s politest dogs that trot by without fuss.

Its obvious from the outset that this will be hard work. The lawns are no good for birds, so they will be up in the trees. Being in North America the subconscious filter that in the UK means I don’t bother following up most bird calls doesn’t work, so I have to follow everything, and as soon as I see something I have my nose in Sibley instead of on the bird. Nevertheless, there are Black Squirrels, Grey Squirrels, and Chipmunks running over the lawns, and a handsome Robin allows close approach. This is very exciting until I realise that just about every bird that sits out on a tree-top, flies between trees, or bounds across the lawn is a Robin. By contrast a pair of Blue Jay’s come over to have a look at this curious visitor.

Following my birder’s instinct I head for an area with overgrown banks, and a ravine with a stream. However, I see nothing but a pair of Mourning Doves, a Red Admiral butterfly, some streaky finchey things in a tree and above Chimney Swifts whizzing round the sky and Ring-Billed Gulls drifting down to the lake front. I give up and head towards the centre of the cemetery and things pick up. Eventually I realise that the over-size chicken sat in a tree is in fact a Red-Tailed Hawk. Then on to the Eaton Mausoleum and at last I find a tree chock full with birds. There’s nine Robins, and a reddish bird that is a House Finch. There are two birds chasing each other through the tree, and I get a clear sight of it and it’s a slate blue back with an all white underside – White Breasted Nuthatch. A familiar type of call and a party of Black-Capped Chickadees move through. Back to the tree and picking through the various birds there’s a stunning Male Baltimore Oriole. The Nuthatch is back, but its got a deep rufous breast and a stonking eye-stripe – Red Breasted Nuthatch. I try to get a better view, lose it, and then find it again, but now its got a black back with fine white barring; Downy Woodpecker.

Its getting late, and as I don’t fancy spending the night alone in a park with a few thousand dead people I leave and get the subway back to Union Station, walk across Front Street and go and sit at the Sushi Bar in Benihana in the Royal York hotel. I have a couple of Asahi beers some Sashimi and Sushi, and write this.

1 comment:

tom s. said...

Nice: very evocative, and you seem to have seen more in one evening than I do in a year.