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Will there be spring in Gatineau this year?

March 31, 2014

One full day to April 1, and outside it looks like mid-February.  Still about a metre of snow in the yards and in the bush.  On Friday I visited Mike Burrell’s house just north of Kingston.  It was spring there.  Turkey Vultures over highway 15, Grackles and IMG_6715Red-winged Blackbirds at his feeder, even a Song Sparrow.     Though Gatineau is a three or four hours flight for birds, I don’t expect to see them for a while.   However, today I did have a new species for the year, only my forth for March and the 22nd in 2014, but an unexpected delight.  One that brings childhood memories rushing back, when I, as a child growing up in Milton, was responsible for maintaining our bird feeder in the front yard.  It was in a flowering crab tree that my brother still has growing there.  The tree would be full of blossoms in the spring and fruit in the fall.  I imagine that my mother loved that tree, though her cancer didn’t allow her to stay around long to enjoy it.   The berries were favoured by Evening Grosbreaks, that would descend like the plague on the tree, the most beautiful variety of plague imaginable with their cartoon “Boston Bruin” colours, and leave a day later with the ground beneath slick and red with juicy pulp.  Messy eaters those Grosbeaks.  I loved them, but they were not my favourite bird back then.  It was the Purple Finch.  It came by for the seed I put in the feeder.  I remember marvelling at the colour and shape of the males, a real raspberry red.  They sometimes have a peaked head also, and could erect the feathers to sort of look like a mini-crest.  And that call note of theirs, so subtle yet so distinctive.  I was onto this bird with the faintest and most distant “pip.”

Well, this morning, my hand was moving to tap the window to scare House Sparrows off the feeder – I do this from time to time though they really are not a problem – when I heard that “pip.”  In the milisecond between my hand hitting the window and registering the pip, I glanced up into the Japanese Elm and the gaggle of Goldfinches, and there they were, a splendid male and female Purple Finch .  then momentum of my hand carried to the glass pane . . “tap”  and everyone flew off.  I was upset with myself for a moment, but not for long.

Because that’s birding eh?  You just need a pip, or a glimpse to turn your day around.  So many observations are that, yet I cherish those ones, because at that instant I connect with the bird, with my past and my love for nature, my memories of my mother and the house I grew up in.

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