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  • January | 2015 | Birds and Words
    migratory songbirds are flying south A classic example is the Long tailed Duck formally known as the Oldsquaw Male and female Long tailed ducks Photo Debbie Buehler I first noticed these gorgeous black and white birds several years ago while taking the ferry to the Toronto islands Looking out at the grey waves on that cold February morning I suddenly noticed black and white ducks lots of them Indeed the Toronto harbor is home to thousands of these birds with counts for Route 13 alone above 1000 four times in the last 17 years though we only had about 350 this year On this year s count we also saw Buffleheads Common Goldeneyes Greater and Lesser Scaups and a smattering of Hooded Red breasted and Common Mergansers interspersed among the Long tailed Ducks But as much as I loved the ducks the highlight of the day did not come along the water s edge not even with two Iceland Gulls Rather the highlight came beneath a crisscross of over passes at the confluence of three highways the Gardner Expressway the Don Valley Parkway and Lakeshore Boulevard The veteran s of the Route 13 bird count know that these places tiny tracks of weedy and overgrown land are a refuge for passerine birds We weren t disappointed Amid the steady thrum of traffic we heard Chickadees and then within minutes there were also American Robins Cardinals a Winter Wren a Cedar Waxwing several sparrow species and an astounding Black and White Warbler a bird who should have made the journey to wintering areas from Florida to Colombia in September In past years other winter rarities like Nashville and Orange Crowned Warblers had been recorded in this wasteland But the sightings were bittersweet because two of the places that had provided refuge to birds in the past had been bulldozed We had Hermit Thrush here in 2010 remarked a volunteer Not this year We speculated about why the land might have been cleared Towering overhead was a billboard probably 14 meters wide advertising Animal Planet Perhaps this unused land had been cleared to make way for another billboard I hope not Perhaps the land was cleared in preparation for the naturalization of the mouth of the Don River project I hope so though I wish the land had been left as useful habitat a little bit longer Hopefully the newly built Corktown Common lying just to the north will provide shelter for birds in the future Over 700 trees have been planted there and that park makes me proud of my city But for now those trees are small and they are of little use to the birds that once took refuge in the bulldozed wasteland For now there are no animals on the peeled land beneath the Animal Planet billboard except us humans Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life seeing and tagged binoculars Christmas Bird Count ducks humility on January 18 2015 by Julia Zarankin This Place by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply Devoted Birders I ve been thinking a lot about how birding has changed me in unexpected ways I ve fallen in love with Southern Ontario and its parks rivers wetlands sewage lagoons beaches who knew Ontario had beaches fossils woodlands Of course I harbour no illusions about this landscape of mine it s not remarkable in any way there s nothing sublime in it whatsoever but now that I know many birding hotspots and as I get to know the local species along with their predictable but sometimes peculiar comings and going the province has started to really feel like home I ve lived in Ontario on and off since 1987 with a seventeen year interlude mind you and the province has always inspired a feeling wanderlust in me a take me anywhere but here mentality Strangely now that I m birding that feeling has abated I used to find the familiar both boring and altogether too easy now with every season I m starting to see the nuance of familiarity I relish the return of Snowy owls and breathe a sigh of relief when I see them back in familiar terrain This may well be age middle age but I marvel most consistently at the everydayness of this familiar landscape and the fact that I m learning more and more about its geography All that to say that although I love traveling and fantasize about northern light and landscapes pretty much constantly and imagine packing my bags and heading back for Whitehorse or the Lofoten Islands I am inadvertently becoming a child of this place of this altogether plain mountain less ocean less sublime less and yet utterly magical place And it s very likely the birds fault Yesterday minus 20 give or take degrees Celsius winds beating our faces we set out In spite of the weather or perhaps because of the weather Either way it s winter and I ve come to love the freezing temperatures A welcome jolt to the system this cold We visited with the local Peregrine falcon who nests on the lift bridge between Hamilton and Burlington we communed with the hundreds of Long tail ducks I finally grasped the difference between a Canvasback duck and a Redhead by seeing them side by side There were also coots trumpeter swans bufflehead greater and lesser scaup common mergansers all usual suspects for January And just when the day started to feel a little too uneventful we stopped by the Bronte Harbor and saw our first Snowy owl of the year I gave out a little yelp and said what I say every single weekend I m out in the field except that awful day last fall when we stared at 400 house sparrows for hours in a freezing car desperately in search of the eurasian tree sparrow and came home with NOTHING oh my goodness people this is

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2015/01/ (2015-09-25)
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  • December | 2014 | Birds and Words
    Acorn Woodpecker in Sedona when I was so frustrated by my inability to find a Red faced warbler that I nearly threw my binoculars into the recycling bin A few seconds before quitting birding entirely and tossing my bins the Acorn woodpecker busily tapped out a rhythm in front of me over and over again He was so persistent I couldn t ignore him and the more I looked the more mesmerized I became and to make a long story short it turned out it wasn t yet time for me to quit birding after all I assume it never will be I saw my first Great Grey Owl my first electric blue Mountain Bluebird watched my husband feed Sandhill cranes at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary near Vancouver marvelled at the Black terns flying low over Tiny Marsh near Barrie fell in love with Canvasback ducks found the dreamiest Red headed woodpecker and narrowly missed my first Pileated Woodpecker I also made countess mistakes called out misidentifications lamented the almost seen birds the just flew birds the was here yesterday birds and the came just after you left birds There was also a glorious CBC Christmas Bird Count one fall morning a week spent at the banding station a depressing morning of staring at hundreds of House sparrows trying to detect the lone Eurasian tree sparrow and failing miserably and a remarkable Varied thrush and a miraculous Spotted towhee who d lost his way and somehow found himself in Southern Ontario instead of California And there were countless other sightings And deep gratitude for the birds who never fail to teach me something new just by being for the ability and sustained desire to see them for the urban parks and paths and trails that sustain me and finally for the people I bird with they enrich my life by being my partners in looking It s been a wonderful year and I can t wait to see what 2015 will bring Thanks for reading and wishing you all a happy healthy adventure filled New Year Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life seeing and tagged binoculars Great Gray Owl humility outdoors persistence Red headed Woodpecker Sandhill cranes Spotted Towhee Varied Thrush on December 31 2014 by Julia Zarankin Search for On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/12/ (2015-09-25)
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  • November | 2014 | Birds and Words
    Hamilton in search of the likely confused or disoriented Wilson s Phalarope why he is still in Ontario in mid November is either a grave error or a colossal mystery I ve seen a Red phalarope before but the Wilson s turned out to be a lifer in spite of the less than hospitable weather The lake was frozen over save a patch of water and that s exactly where we found him swimming frenetically in what resembled a jig like posture as if he couldn t tell whether to dance or swim and attempted a mix of the two next to a Pectoral Sandpiper He put on a ten minute show for us before disappearing behind a conglomeration of cattails It s rare that a target bird appears as if on cue and I found the experience almost disorienting Sometimes it feels more rewarding to work for the sighting even if one misses it in the end But I embraced the opportunity to see a Wilson s phalarope I never tire of these polyandric birds with reverse sexual dimorphism Sounds racy and progressive even by bird standards We saw Cedar waxwings American robins Chickadees Red bellied woodpeckers Downies Blue jays Golden crowned Kinglets American goldfinches and then when I thought my ID skills could get no more impressive I saw something swoop down into an open field and called out SNOW BUNTING For some reason I had been craving a snow bunting all morning in my fierce desire to embrace winter Well that sure put me in my place Birding has a way of doing that to you just when you get overly confident the universe corrects itself and humbles you In the end the bird turned out to be an American kestrel but lest I feel completely defeated I was congratulated on my sighting and ability to detect the bird s pointy white wings The first real winter day would have been incomplete without an owl sighting and we happened upon a magnificent Eastern Screech owl grey morph taking in the midwinter sun Here he is terrifically peaceful Note the fetching winter sunbathing pose photo by Lyle J It turned out to be a spectacular day But really how could it not Winter sun binoculars birds beware November I know how to thwart your depressive ways And in case you missed my piece about competing in my first Birdathon here it is sans paywall in Maisonneuve Magazine If you re looking for a fantastic birdy read I would definitely urge you to pick up Tim Birkhead s Bird Sense Here s my exuberant review of the phenomenal book on the ABA website Onwards with November Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life seeing and tagged binoculars hubris humility kestrel outdoors owl Zeiss on November 18 2014 by Julia Zarankin On Days Like That by Julia Zarankin 4 Replies Dearest Birders How did it get to

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/11/ (2015-09-25)
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  • September | 2014 | Birds and Words
    birdy books for Birding My Yiddish skills are now good enough that I can read Vini der Pu oyf Yiddish I still have a ways to go before I ll be fit to tackle Sholem Aleychem but progress is being made Piano progress report Three Brahms Intermezzi a Mozart Fantasia c minor and a very slow rendition of the third movement of Beethoven s Moonlight sonata still alas a massive work in progress Czerny studies Always Czerny A Mountain Bluebird sighting in the foothills of the mountains in Whitehorse Yukon Blindingly brilliant blue Not one but two juvenile Yellow crowned Night Heron sightings one on Monhegan Island in Maine and the other in the west end of Toronto An embarrassing misidentification at Rondeau provincial park I accidentally mistook a Canada warbler for a hooded warbler called out the wrong name and suddenly found myself surrounded by a dozen very forgiving as it turned out Great Grey Owl that pretty much says it all I yelped A woman next to me cried It s emotional this birding business Two incredible t shirt purchases from the great Paul Riss of PRBY Apparel Hey if Ken Kauffman wears his t shirts so will I I opted for a RWBL obviously and a stunning STFL 29 warbler species seen and mostly ID d OK I got help OK a lot of help My first red headed woodpecker sighting It was epic This thing that started out as a frivolous hobby four years ago has unexpectedly turned into a way of life Here at Birds and Words we bird We make mistakes constantly we misidentify we learn we correct ourselves we try again we fail to see what we set out to find we encounter something surprising instead and most of all we marvel at the world Happy New Year everyone Here s to more more more of all of the above for the coming year Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Birding Life seeing and tagged binoculars Great Gray Owl Red headed Woodpecker on September 25 2014 by Julia Zarankin Search for On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement Joe Eaton calls Fowl A Review Toad In The Hole Published on July 4 2015 by Joe Eaton The other invisible hand View from Elephant Hills Published on 5 June 2015 by T R

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/09/ (2015-09-25)
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  • August | 2014 | Birds and Words
    Bird Sanctuary in Ladner BC about a 45 minute drive from Vancouver on our travels in early July I had originally picked out a tame shirt with a minuscule warbler in the left corner but my dear husband assured me that when acquiring items for my avian garderobe I should just go whole hog And so I did Puffins on an acid wash background Shirts like this shouldn t exist but it s also kind of marvellous that they do and kind of extraordinary that I now walk around clad in breeding puffins Tshirts aside the Reifel Bird Sanctuary regaled us with stellar looks at Great Blue Herons juvenile Wood Ducks Sandhill Cranes and even a Canada Goose who imprinted himself on us and refused to let us out of his sight We named him Jack and thankfully he decided not to hop into our car on the way home After a quick trip to Vancouver we boarded Yukon bound plane and landed in paradise aka Whitehorse two hours later Suffice it to say that we re now scheming of ways to divide our time between Toronto and Whitehorse The mountains pristine lakes glorious poplars extraordinary German rye bread and expansive wild landscape took our breath away And the coffee The land of the midnight sun produces some of the finest coffee we ve ever tasted We flew home with a mere 7 pounds of coffee beans in our luggage we re now down to three and wishing that we had In more birdy news I saw my first Mountain Bluebird in the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and screamed in awe at the bird s electric blue plumage Photo from here The Mountain Bluebird was completely and absolutely this bluest of blues The day before the Mountain Bluebird sighting we found ourselves in the town of Haines Junction population 800 amidst the smallest quaintest Canada Day Parade I ve ever seen All highways in Haines Junction were closed for the parade Note the Mounties and the Rangers marching in front Our b b owners suggested we get there in advance You blink and it s over they said They were not wrong Shortly after the parade we hiked around Lake Kathleen in Kluane National Park and the lake officially wins for best most stunning cleanest clearest world s most magnificent body of water I also ID d about 20 Yellow rumped warblers in the vicinity I m also slightly mortified to admit that every time we encountered another human on the trail I accosted them to find out whether they had run into a bear that day Not my proudest moments but I seriously feared for my survival no hiding that I m a city girl alas Everybody graciously humored my frantic inquiries and assured me that I was not about to be eaten by a bear Nerve wracking but worth it Kathleen Lake Kluane National Park The photo doesn t even begin to do the place justice Not pictured above

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/08/ (2015-09-25)
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  • June | 2014 | Birds and Words
    you might be wondering dear birdy readers what it is that I do in those hours when I m not misidentifying birds or suffering from warbler neck In my other life when I m not lecturing to later life learners or teach writing to exuberant teenagers or massacring a Beethoven piano sonata I m writing And this post is dedicated to just that Thanks to the brilliant Maria Meindl for inviting me to join on this literary blog tour Next week I will pass the torch to two wonderful writers Heidi Reimer and Rebecca Rosenblum Heidi writes both fiction and creative nonfiction and her brilliant essay about becoming a mother was most recently featured in The M Word Rebecca has published two fantastic short story collections Once and The Big Dream which has one of my all time favorite stories Loneliness Tune in next week to read their answers to the following four questions What am I working on Currently I have a few things on the go I m usually not a multi tasker so this is new for me but it seems to be working thanks to generous support from the Toronto Arts Council Ontario Arts Council and Access Copyright I am tinkering with a memoir Geographical Error about my failed attempts at finding love and a home in mid Missouri I m also working on a nonfiction project about how I unintentionally became a somewhat crazed birder Another nonfiction project is all about how learning Yiddish is helping me unravel my family history How does my work different from others in this genre I write somewhere at the crossroads where fiction and reality meet Happily there s a name for this world my writing inhabit and it s called creative nonfiction but I hesitate to put a label on what I m doing I strive to bring a world to life to fuel it with energy I have great admiration for Gary Shteyngart especially his memoir Little Failure In particular I love how he pays homage to a tradition of humorists who have the power to make you laugh and cry in the same sentence I like to think that my writing highlights the absurdities of life the ridiculous inconsistencies and also the accompanying pain Most often I write out of admiration out of a love of literature most of all I want my words to add to a conversation with writers whose language I cannot fathom living without Chekhov always Chekhov Tolstoy Babel Franzen Munro Proust Lahiri Robinson Why do I write what I do I write because I m addicted to making sense of the world around me There s nothing stranger and more fascinating to me than what I see and hear on a daily basis whether it be family stories overheard conversations absurd interactions with my movers what have you I write to hoard and embalm the present moment Yes I m a hoarder at heart How does my writing process work I

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/06/ (2015-09-25)
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  • May | 2014 | Birds and Words
    low to the ground in a mess of branches The bird resembles an athlete sporting a balaclava Here he is in full regalia Photo from here There were others Golden crowned kinglet shimmering Mountain Bluebird Yellow rumped warblers Field sparrows I think I finally have their bouncing ball song down and woodpeckers of various persuasions including dozens of Pileated woodpecker holes which I can now recognize so they count for something A perfect glorious day So I ll repeat what my new tshirt says Go Birding It doesn t get much better than this Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on May 11 2014 by Julia Zarankin WMBD 2014 by Julia Zarankin Leave a reply Delightful birders The time is upon us What are you doing to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day tomorrow I m not quite sure I understand this holiday since I really believe that every day should be world migratory bird day but then again anything that promotes awareness about birds migration and protecting nature is super worthwhile So I m wishing you a wonderfully festive birdy day tomorrow My own personal migratory bird festivities actually began last weekend when we drove out to Hamilton and I saw my first five warbler species of 2014 A yellow warbler myrtle warbler pine palm and a dapper looking black and white We also headed out to Milton to locate the six or was it eight Long billed Dowichers Limnodromus scolopaceus and witness their deliriously frenetic back and forth bill motion its no wonder their feeding process is referred to as sewing machine like I always think of my grandmother s Singer sewing machine and its restless pace whenever I see a Dowicher Later in the day we were once again teased by an American Bittern we heard its toilet plunger esque call but he was so well camouflaged among the reeds that he refused to be seen And there were blue gray gnatcatchers galore and Downy Hairy and Red bellied woodpeckers and a lone Northern Flicker And very much ready for more Let s see what tomorrow brings Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Uncategorized on May 9 2014 by Julia Zarankin Lessons from a Red faced Warbler and an Acorn Woodpecker by Julia Zarankin 6 Replies Things have been quiet here at Birds and Words because we were in Arizona for a short vacation We spent three days in Sedona and another three in Tucson and decided that the Southwest is officially our favorite place in the world I could go on and on at length about the otherworldly red rock formations in Sedona the hikes we took the Javelinas wild New World pigs we saw the magnificently lush desert in Tucson the Catalina mountains the sunsets the tremendous cacti and perhaps I will tell you about all of that at some point

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/05/ (2015-09-25)
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  • April | 2014 | Birds and Words
    And so back to the King Eider that was about to offer me respite from all things moving related The King Eider that was destined to recalibrate the world The King Eider that would brighten my week Here s the King Eider I should have seen Here is the Somateria spectabilis decked out is in all his splendor on Wednesday in Lasalle Marina Burlington Photo by Cam Millward And as you can guess twas not to be Who knows what happened maybe the King Eider met a gal who lured him to other shores or perhaps he flew off to visit a long lost penpal or something These things happen We drove all the way out to Burlington and got great looks at Red Breasted Mergansers Coots Ruddy Ducks White wing Scoters Scaup and Common Goldeneye I m not complaining because I managed to ID all of the above birds by myself which is a feat equal or greater to packing up our entire apartment And then we drove out to Grimsby in search of the elusive Lapland Longsupurs who were supposed to be be displaying all sorts of wild behaviours in the Saltfleet area and that too turned out to be for naught So when I came home and my husband asked me my favorite question so what did you see today I smiled and told him that some days are just about the birds I might have seen and that doesn t make the day any less wonderful To which he kind of rolled his eyes In the end I made it out into the field binoculars in hand and that was pleasure in and of itself Sometimes birding like life is about not seeing too Share this More Email Press This Share on Tumblr Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in seeing on April 6 2014 by Julia Zarankin Search for On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015 by Madhusudan Katti Making Friends With Crows The Corvid Blog Published on August 2 2015 by The Corvid Blog The Heart of Freedom Cecil the Lion Wild Within Published on July 29 2015 by Jennifer Molidor There s Gold in Them Hills Dispersal Range Published on June 28 2015 by Meera Lee Sethi California note 1 Slow Water Movement Published on July 7 2015 by slowwatermovement Joe Eaton calls Fowl A Review Toad In The Hole Published on July 4 2015 by Joe Eaton The other invisible hand View from Elephant Hills Published on 5 June 2015 by T R Shankar Raman The Silurian Valley spared but will it be conserved Miracle or Mirage Published on December 5 2014 by Patrick Donnelly Lone Pine s lone pine Is Dead InyoOwnWay Published on August 13 2014 by Mike Prather A Good Defense Is Not Enough

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/birdsandwords/2014/04/ (2015-09-25)
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