I am just back from a long run along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. It's a beautiful day–bright, clear and warming up nicely. It should hit 10º C (50ºF) today, unseasonably warm weather for this time of year. It's been a reasonably mild winter here in Toronto, very little snow and moderate temperatures all winter long.
The birds are busy, noisy and abundant. Yesterday I was awakened by one of the Red Tail hawks that live in the back-yard, year-round. It brushed the skylight over the bed as I lay looking at the sky urging me to get up. They are very noisy neighbors, these Red Tails. They squawk all day long. I love them, especially when they hunt. Once, I snuck up on one of them while he/she was cleaning a kill. It diidn't like me so close and chased me home. I didn't blame it, I don't like to be stared at when I eat either. The Red Tails are busy getting the nest ready for egg-laying. They haven't had much luck with reproduction over the years. Hopefully, this year will be different.
The Owls seemed to have moved on. I haven't been able to get a close look at them but there were several out back. You could hear them at dusk and during the night, hooting away. Something other-worldly about that sound, opposite to the effect that the Morning Doves have on you. They are soothing and reassuring where the Owls are mysterious and impending.
Saturday afternoon brought an unexpected sighting of a Fox. Not that the Foxes are unusual-there are a mating pair that live at the ravine at the end of the street. We see them every day. What was unusual was to see the female sitting on my neighbor's roof. The neighbor has a bungalow cottage pressed back against the ravine, easy transit for the critters. Racoons and Cats are the regulars up there. The Fox must have envied the vantage point and was sitting there with full command of the street. We haven't seen the litter yet, but you can hear the Fox family at night screaming to each other about something to do with food. Last year they had seven pups. They were a hoot to watch as they learned to hunt.
The Coyotes have been spotted on the opposite ridge. They come and go, a less welcome neighbor all the way around. They push the Foxes out of the ravine and take over, decimating the Cat population and eating as many Squirrels as they can. Eventually they move on or are run down by the traffic. We don't care for the Coyotes too much given there are so many small children on the street. But nothing is quite as exhilirating as walking down by the pond at twilight, hearing them announce your presence with their canine howls. One time my wife and I were down there walking in the mist and there had to be six or seven Coyotes howling. They don't scare me but we don't encourage them to get too friendly either.
The Geese and the Swans are waiting for the pond to thaw so they swim at the shoreline of the lake, patiently waiting for the ice to retreat enough to begin the nesting season. The Red Wing Blackbirds are not yet in attack mode. That will come with the eggs. They chase man and beast, unconcerned about the size or disposition of the intruder. I felt in good company when one chased me for half-mile during a run, pecking at the top of my head. It tore after a swan shortly after it drove me away, teaching both of us a lesson in respecting limits and boundaries.
Gratitude to the spirits of land and place and to the abundance of nature here in the City. Gratitude for the change of seasons and the cycles of natural law. We'll see some late snow, no doubt. But the back of winter has been broken and new growth has already begun.
© Patrick O’Neill 2010. All rights reserved