Sunday, March 30, 2008

Many Happy Returns! 100 Year Celebration!

On March 15th, while out for an afternoon ski in the Eldred King Forest tract, I heard the distinctive 'gronk, gronk' call of the raven. I searched the tree-latticed sky, but couldn't find the source of the sound. Giving up, I once again looked the trail, and continued on my way, grateful of the opportunity to at least re-confirm the presence of this species. Moments later, I heard overhead the rattle of wingbeats, and saw not one, but two ravens passing over head. They spoke to one another along their travels as ravens do, and I could only guess at the meaning of their conversation.
It was, for me, a momentous event, filled with hopeful magic. Deluged as we are with dreadful tales of fallen forests and species driven to extinction, it is a privilege to be a witness to the ravens comeback.
It has been a 100 years since the ravens have been counted in the York Regional Forests; let's celebrate their return!
"Raven makes first appearance in 100-plus years at bird count" (article by the Georgina Chronicle)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Before the storm

We camp on the beach at Lake Superior Provincial Park every summer for as long as we are able. Last September, we were lucky enough to score a prime campsite on the sand beach. Large storms rolling from the west often produce long glassy rollers that are perfect for body surfing if you can stomach the cold. I used to hate swimming in cold water until Superior tempted me in with its aquatic roller coasters. I had mixed feelings about this storm, though. It was pretty to watch, but it eventually dumped buckets of water all over our hot-dog supper.
I'm not telling you which beach this is, because I wouldn't want the whole world trampling all over it. Just me, my dog, my husband, other nature nuts, bear, lynx, sand-pipers, seagulls, crayfish, moose, etc....

South Western Exposure

S0, Easter weekend came an went. My brother arrived via TTC at the Metro Toronto Zoo exactly on schedule, as did my husband and I. The day was so gorgeous and sunny that we unanimously agreed to spend as much time outdoors as possible, negotiating the undulating paved pathways that wind their ways across acres of parkland. The temperature was a crisp -1C, but the March sunshine was so strong that it warmed up every surface it struck.
Of course we had to make a pilgrimage to the Arctic Wolf paddock, a long hike down a steep hill into a wooded valley. The wolves were sleeping, soundly, lost in whatever land captive wolves inhabit in their dreams. Curiously, they all were aligned neatly along some invisible line. It was only upon midnight reflection that I realized they'd all arranged their bellies to the south west to soak up maximum heat from the sun.
Sleeping, snoozing, lounging seemed to be the theme of the day, because we spent most of our time anxiously watching and waiting for any movement at all. Mostly, movement was minimal. Animals are quite good at conserving energy for went it really counts. A raised head, or a twitch of a tail was enough to elicit elated comments. While watching a lone fur seal float languidly in her pool, my brother observed "Man, I'd love to be a zoo animal. They'd give me a couch, a tv, and all the burgers I could eat". To which I said, "Yah, and whenever you'd roll over to burp or fart, the crowd would 'ooh' and 'aaah' with excitement."

Friday, March 14, 2008

3 Good Reasons to be a Blood Donor

My husband and I have been blood donors for quite some time. At first he was a reluctant tag-along, but lately he's been an enthusiastic regular. Could it be that he has a tendency to be in the centre of a gathering of nurses?
On our last foray, sure enough, whilst I lay prone and draining, I heard again the sounds of feminine laughter, and peaking around, there he was, surrounded by three blond nurses (I kid you not--this really was the scene).
Okay, the true story: some of that blond came from a bottle, and the gathering was due to technical difficulties. They couldn't find a good vein, and, in fact, that lovely baggie of blood was rather limp on delivery as they had to abort the mission before it was filled. Apparently, the vein collapsed, or some such thing, which precipitated the flurry of attention. But still, when an else can a married man garner so much feminine attention with the full approval of his wife?
Me, I'm in it for the free cookies.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Whoo Hoo!!!

Me, racing dog down my favourite hill. I love this hill, I take it three times over again just for the thrill of it. Sometimes, when I get going really fast, the wind catches my pants and makes a sound like a hundred flags flapping in the breeze. Dynamo always beats me down, though.
PS. Today, I wiped out for the second time this year. That's what I get for bragging.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

One Way -- Do Not Enter!

There is a downhill slope along the north-east perimeter of the Hollidge Tract that I absolutely do not recommend for skiing in a westward direction. It starts of with a long straight slope that lets you pick up speed at a gradual pace and ends with a steep drop and dog-leg turn at the bottom. For cross-country skiers new to the area, a "One Way--Do Not Enter!" sign might be helpful. Judging by the tracks I saw on March 1, some anonymous person choose to abort their westward plummet by straddling a large pine tree. Ouch!
Me, I take the middle route, which features a sharp steep but ruler straight slope, where I can pick up plenty of speed, shout "Whoo, hoo!", and race my dog (and win if she's already tired). So far, I only wiped out once this year.

Friday, March 7, 2008


The York Regional Forests are fractured parcels of forest tracts surrounded by farmland and estate homes and bisected by highways and concessions roads. In spite of these limiting factors, they are a haven for wildlife and support species not normally seen in southern Ontario.
It was last spring, while walking through the Eldred King Tract, that I was first surprised by the call of a raven . Its call is unmistakable, both eerie and amusing at once. It is a sound of the wilderness that I had only heard in contiguous forests much further north. I was thrilled, and a little bit skeptical. My birders field guide informs me that they are not found so far south, and perhaps this one was just a little lost.
On March 2, 2008, while skiing with husband and dogs in tow, I heard its call (a gutteral metallic 'goink' 'goink') yet again, and looking up, saw a large dark bird gliding with weighty grace through the sky. I hope this one is making itself at home, and that I will have the privilege of hearing the ravens talk again.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Scout Tract

The Scout Tract is just a tiny segment of York Regional Forests, but one of its highlights is the walk along a causeway between two ponds. If I was the type to settle down in one spot for awhile, it would be a great place for birdwatching, but I usually march right through (enjoying scenery on the fly) and head back to the main (Eldred King Forest) and then to home.


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