I remember now why my husband and I used to enjoy bird watching so much.
Oh yes, there was the fresh air of the open countryside, that was good. It was fun exploring the back roads, or ones we’d forgotten, where interesting things always seemed to be found. A truly great day was when we would find a delightful fishing stream where we could spend hours of peaceful relaxation, soaking in the sun and the scenery.
It was even more fun just being together in the car, learning more and more about each other, while taking the time to enjoy life.
Most days we’d find a roadside market stall and take home summer-fresh vegetables and fruits that always seemed better tasting, better smelling, better looking. than the supermarket variety.
We found many a delightful restaurant in little out-of-the-way places, with friendly people and great food, many times warranting a return visit or two or three. More than once we found small communities where gourmet chefs had left the frazzle of the big city restaurants, and found their own niche in a quiet town, where they could be more individual in their field, and introduce town folk to some pretty awesome dining. What a pleasant surprise to find a five-star chef way out in the boonies! What great memories!
I remember times we would be driving slowly along a road and I would see a flash of colour in the grass and we’d stop the car while I picked wild strawberries, or make note to come back for a wild blackberry patch about to ripen. We would always be prepared for a picnic – a blanket, a cooler, some sandwiches and fruits, and a bottle of wine. Have you ever eaten wild strawberries? So very tasty, they will spoil you forever. “Tame” strawberries just can’t replicate the flavour of the wild ones.
Bird watching was a prime reason for the trips, so we would take our bird identification books, our cameras, and our binoculars. We would sit by the side of the road, or wander into a meadow, gently trespassing at times, but never leaving a disturbance or debris behind.
I remember one foggy day at Sauble Beach, near Wiarton, seeing a tree filled with “leaves” of Cedar Waxwings.
I remember a cold March morning along a Lake Ontario road that was not much better than a path, and suddenly stopping to allow a walking flock of Snowy Owls to pass in front of the car. Outstanding and rare!
Another time in Kingston countryside, we came across a dozen or more bluebirds, when we thought we would never see one in Ontario again. The last time we had seen one had been when we were children in Owen Sound. And that same summer, we saw some more in a meadow near Oliphant, along a logging trail near Sauble Beach. I remember an Indigo Bunting and a Painted Bunting seen on the same day in a deep woods near Wiarton.
On the way home we saw a Pileated Woodpecker, who let us observe him for quite awhile. I’ve never seen another since, except in a caged environment. Days filled with beautiful sightings like these imprinted more memories to our mental storerooms.
One time there was a tiny little pool of water, a spillover from a rain shower, and two Mallard ducks were swimming around in it, determined to find a meal, or perhaps just enjoying the water on a hot day.
Once at the beach we saw a marching army of young cowbirds, being shepherded along by older ones, all having been raised in the nests of other birds. How did they know they were cowbirds? How did they instinctively know they had to match up with their villainous parents who destroyed other birds’ eggs and laid their own in their place in the chosen adopted nests? Why wouldn’t the young birds think they were cardinals, or Goldfinches or whatever bird’s nest into which they had been deposited and then abandoned for some other bird to raise? Continue reading