To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"

Take a second look …

The yellow eyes of the Saw-whet Owl are so startling, their gaze so steady, that we tend to ignore everything else. It’s easy to miss the trace of blood just below the owl’s bill, a smear of something that changes the way we look at the bird, that deepens our understanding of it. What discoveries might we make if we took that second look more often, if we trained ourselves to see?

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Photo of a Red Fox for the Mammals post.

Mammals of the Leslie Street Spit, Toronto

More than twenty species of mammals have been recorded on Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit, an artificially constructed peninsula that juts into Lake Ontario from the city’s east end. With more than three million people, Toronto puts the kind of pressure on its parks and green spaces that should eliminate any hint of the wild and untamed. Yet somehow the Spit, also known as Tommy Thompson Park, has achieved the character of an “urban wilderness” that provides shelter and food for a population of mammals that range in size from the White-tailed Deer to the White-footed Mouse. For more than sixty … Read more

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Audubon's Gyrfalcon: featured image for Audubon Again post.

Audubon Again: Another Look at the Fair Incognito

I have been thinking and writing about Audubon’s story of the Fair Incognito, the woman who commissioned him to draw her portrait in the nude, for the past two or three years. I kept returning to the subject because I never thought I really understood why the artist felt compelled to set this story down in words, and to do so in a letter to—of all people—his wife. Was his purpose serious or trivial? Now, I think I’ve finally found a critical framework that not only helps to explain what he meant by this story but that places it at … Read more

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Feature photo for spring post.

The Omnipotent Goddess of Spring

My friend and sometime birding companion, Lynn Pady, recently sent me a copy of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Windhover,” a poem about the bird we call a Kestrel. I don’t know for sure but suspect this may be a product of spring fever on Lynn’s part. It’s not the first time she’s emailed me this poem (may it not be the last!), and every time I see the damn thing, I have to stop what I’m doing to read it again, oh, for the something-hundredth time or so. Hopkins wrote “The Windhover” in the form of a sonnet, and it’s … Read more

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