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  • Merri-Lee M.

2022-- A Year of Gifts




"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."

-W.B. Yeats



2022 was filled with "magic things", and delightful encounters with wonderful creatures. It is always a privilege to be permitted a glimpse into the lives of our non-human friends, if only for a short window of time.

As our "senses ... grow sharper", and as we open ourselves to the possibilities that Nature offers, we are, at times, invited into an intimacy with the natural world that goes beyond observation, or "listing", or casual interaction. We are gifted with rare moments of being one with Creation.

Our fellow participants in these encounters show no fear; I like to think that on some level they share our appreciation for the experience of connection with another species! In these special times, having opportunities to take photos is always a bonus, and I share images with you in the hope that you will feel some of the wonder and joy that I have felt, as these amazing creatures, unsolicited and unexpected, briefly allowed me

into their worlds.

 

Spring is always full of natural wonders, as migrants return to Ontario to nest and raise young. On an early May morning, as we waited near the edge of a small marsh, a lovely Virginia Rail landed a few metres in front of us. Almost immediately, its mate appeared, and they proceeded to feed in the shallow water, unaware of our presence. Their reflections were nearly perfect mirror images in the stillness of the pond.



 

Spring Warbler migration is a time when one cannot help but be overwhelmed by

the diversity and beauty of Nature. Standing very still, waiting expectantly, I was rewarded with "fallouts" of tiny birds -- on one occasion, 17 (that I counted) different kinds of Warblers and Vireos surrounded me, feeding and flitting quickly, before vanishing to work another area.

I certainly wasn't able to photograph all of the little ones that I saw, but here are a few:


Yellow Warbler -- always one of the first to return in the Spring.


Philadelphia Vireo


Blackburnian Warbler


Bay-breasted Warblers




Yellow-rumped Warbler


Black-throated Green Warblers

(Male with black throat)



Wilson's Warbler


Magnolia Warbler


I saw this male Common Yellowthroat later in the summer, feeding young. These Warblers, also seen in the Spring fallout, stick around and raise families in our area.


I have so many photos of Warblers, but will stop here -- you get the idea. I just love the vibrant colours and ENERGY of these tiny birds!

 

Butterfly encounters are always uplifting. Many kinds of Butterflies stopped by the gardens this summer, to sample the nectar from flowers that had been planted with Pollinators in mind. It was cause for celebration every time a new "flyer" showed up.


Viceroy on Butterfly Bush


Monarch on Coneflower


And it was rewarding to see eggs being laid on my Swamp Milkweed plants by a weathered Mama Monarch. New life begins!


 

A very special visitor showed up in April, North of Elmira. Although I usually catch sight of a few brilliant Scarlet Tanagers passing through in the Spring, and am always thrilled to see them, in all their radiance, ...



I felt very fortunate this year to spend time with a young male Summer Tanager. Native to areas far South of us, this little fellow had wandered quite a distance out of his range. His bill is larger than that of his cousin, and he is "bulkier" all over than the Scarlet Tanager. When he is finished with his molt, he will be completely red with grayish wings.


Summer Tanagers' foods of choice are bees and wasps, but there were not many insects around in April when this guy was visiting. He seemed happy with black oil sunflower seeds, though, and foraged among the weeds and tree branches as well.


What a privilege to spend time with this bird! I hope he was able to navigate his way South -- at least far enough to find himself a mate.


So lovely in the early morning, posing on a Wild Rose branch ... one of those rare moments of connection with another living being that cannot even be described.


 

Same place, later in the year ...

Evening Grosbeaks are not as common in our area as they are in other locations in Ontario, and it was a pleasant surprise to find 13 of them one Fall morning, at the same feeders that had hosted the Summer Tanager. One male, showy and elegant, posed among the Maples and White Pines for a few moments.




The Evening Grosbeaks were excited to find some Cedar cones,


and Sumac berries to eat.


The female Grosbeak is much more "subtle" than the male, but every bit as impressive, with her muted grays and yellows, and distinct blacks and whites.




One Grosbeak found a small puddle-pond, and hopped down for a drink (and wiggled his tail just as I pressed the shutter!).

They took advantage of a birdbath too, for drinks and a bit of "refreshing".


They really do smile...

and we did too!

 

As I sat on our front step one Spring evening, this stunning male Indigo Bunting (in molt, with the brown patches) landed on an apple branch. Again, a few quiet minutes with a lovely, unusual visitor.



 

On a lakeside walk, I was delighted to find a patch of Pink Lady Slippers. Exotic and lovely, tucked in among some Poison Ivy, perhaps they will survive another season! These flowers had been open for several days, and had lost some of their earlier deep pink colouring.


 

A Black-bellied Whistling Duck joined us one calm, still evening in July for a couple of hours. The sun was very bright, and photos are cropped, but it was wonderful to spend time with this beauty. Another smiler!


Although a long way from where it should have been, the Duck seemed quite content to hang out with some Mallards and Canada Geese, and was finding food in the shallow water of the pond.


One Goose was fascinated by this unfamiliar Duck,


and especially liked its large feet...


All of the socializing was tiring, and after a huge yawn, the little Duck tucked its head under its wing and had a nap.


While it is exciting for us to see species that are not usually in our area, it is also concerning for solitary animals to be out of their range. Hopefully the single Black-bellied Whistling Duck was able to join a flock of its own kind when it left Waterloo.

 

There are usually some welcome arrivals in mid-Winter; appearances by Snow Buntings and their friends are always a highlight of the coldest season of the year. (These birds were featured in their own blog, "A Winter Party", last March, but I have re-posted a few images here.)

Snow Buntings


Horned Larks


Lapland Longspur and Snow Bunting


Snow Buntings



Bundled against the elements on frigid afternoons, passing a few hours with these beautiful birds -- what a privilege! Here's hoping they soon drop by for their annual visit.

 

Living in the country has its drawbacks, one of which is the number of stray cats that show up in the Wintertime, hungry and cold. Drop-offs? Wanderers? Who knows? At any rate, there is always a dish of food set out on the deck in the evening, and it is always empty in the morning.


Looking out one night, I was surprised to see 3 baby Opossums enjoying the cat kibble. They waited politely until the cats were finished eating, then dove in. I did not know that Opossums had pink ears, noses, and toes. Interesting little beasts!


 

As Winter closes in around us; as the spectre of Covid lingers; as negative thoughts threaten to creep in and overwhelm us...


may we all be blessed with soul-stirring Nature moments and experiences that remind us that there are, and will continue to be, glimmers of beauty, hope, and peace in our troubled world.


Happy New Year!

-Merri-Lee


 

*Many thanks to Monika, Wayne and Dawna for sharing your wonderful property and feeders with me!


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