Breakfast Club

May 4, 2008

feeder frenzy

Back on March 21, the Black-capped Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers were emptying the feeders, and only the cedars were green.

Sometimes I can smell seasons. This morning is one of those times. On my way over to Robert and Jane’s place to catsit, I could smell Spring. The air is cool, not quite 10 (50) degrees, and damp from yesterday’s downpour; the Crabapples are in full bloom; and the maples are replacing their delicate green bobbly bits with translucent young leaves. Scent is spilling out from sidewalks as each corner grocer displays hundreds of potted plants.

For a while last week, I was afraid we were going to miss out on Spring, just as we were cheated out of Autumn. It went from too hot to snowbound in about two days’ time, and then as soon as the snow melted we were handed unseasonably warm, dry weather. We Canadians like to joke that we have two seasons, Winter and July (or Winter and Construction if you’re a driver), but I think most of us enjoy the buffers between the two extremes.

Anyway, today is a perfect Spring day. And tomorrow I will bring my binoculars! There were three types of sparrows feeding at the suet block next door when I arrived.

The White-crowned Sparrows were encouraging conversation, saying, “Speak! Speak!”

The House Sparrows chuckled, “Ju-jube!” in reply.

The White-throated Sparrows, pushing back from the feeder, sang out “O sweet Canada, Canada, Canada!”

Then an alarmist Starling started spitting, “Ca-a-at! Ca-a-at!” and the party broke up for a moment. But the sparrows were soon back. Robert and Jane’s cats don’t do fences, much less tree limbs. They were simply out for a post-breakfast sniff, to sit in the back yard and enjoy this fine morning as much as I am.

When Fancy is Turning

March 29, 2008

cowbird courting
I read someplace once that February 14 was chosen as a celebratory day for lovers because it was observed that in mid-February, songbirds start exhibiting mating behaviour. And indeed, on February 11 I saw, on one end of the fallen log that lies just inside the fence on the far side of the parkette in front of our building to the north, a bird. A male house sparrow he was, looking pretty small on that log, but proudly shaking his fanned tailfeathers like a peacock on espresso. “Here I am, ladies! Your chick magnet has arrived! Take a number!” I can vouch that in mid-February, the sight of that much cheery sex appeal brought a smile to more than one species.

Six weeks later, the filthy old snow is still ebbing from parks and soccer fields and front yards. The sidewalks are mostly clear, though, and poggles — oops, I mean Cai — and I can go walkies at a good clip now.

Since his leg owie, when he was limping from a pulled ligament, Cai has been learning to walk nicely on leash. That’s because Mummy dislikes pratfalls. So we’ve been going up street and through alley and along river, noting gradual changes as Spring comes to the city.

Some of these changes are happening throughout the province: the Red-winged Blackbirds, for example, are returning to the still-frozen ponds. (And now, thanks to the March 12 and March 24 entries of The Marvellous in Nature, I know what they’re eating!)

Other changes are distinctly urban. We’ve seen people hacking at the ice in their backyards and banishing winter over the fence. The other day, the storm sewers were full, flowing merrily merrily down the street. Bundle-buggies are out again in  full force.

Finally, there are changes  that belong to the Little World — the world of little creatures, or personal significance, or both. For instance, earlier this week, I went out for walkies without needing either mittens or four layers of shirt-and-sweater under my parka. On the way back, Cai and I surprised a female sparrow bathing in a real live puddle. (Maybe she was getting ready for a date with Mr. Espresso Peacock, who knows?) Today, I saw a baby’s mitten placed on a fence picket, resembling a tiny pink cactus, and it looked out of place.

And yesterday, fresh in from walkies, we heard a familiar yipping in the back field. Cai looked up in barklove (thanks for the phrase, Aged Cat!), and I said sure, we’d go out again. It was his best friend, the little Jack Russell from the next building. With the combination of lousy weather and his play restrictions, Cai hadn’t seen her for a few weeks. We went out to say hello, and there was the JR, racing around all nudie, freed at last from her faux-sheepskin jacket.