Winter Birding: A photo essay from Algonquin Park

Feature photo for Algonquin post.

Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the finest places in North America to see winter birds, those boreal species that rarely come down to more southerly locations. Situated in central Ontario, the park is a three-hour drive north of Toronto and about the same distance west from Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. I spent two days … Read more

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Cold-weather Camouflage: How do birds conceal themselves in winter?

A Purple Sandpiper on a rocky shoreline.

To put it as simply as possible: birds display two types of camouflage: color and shape. Both of these techniques help them to perform the magical act of disappearing, of blending into their surroundings, sometimes to the point of invisibility. In the spring, birds put themselves on display in hopes of finding a mate. During … Read more

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Derive or Drift: The Art of Exploring the City on Foot, Part One

Urban street scene

In its root sense, the French word derive is a nautical term that comes from the Latin rivus or river. It means “drift,” as a canoe drifts down the river or a ship drifts out on the ocean. In the second half of the 20th century, certain French writers appropriated the term as the name … Read more

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Courtship Behavior of the Orchard Oriole: A photo essay

Male Orchard Oriole--Featured Image.

On a hike through Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto near the end of May, I noticed a bird sitting in a tree. It was small in size and yellow in color: a female Orchard Oriole. She sat on an exposed perch with a long piece of grass in her mouth. Was she collecting nesting material? … Read more

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The Sensual Nun

Featured image for The Sensual Nun

Quietly chanting crossword puzzle clues instead of the divine office, she sat behind the wooden desk at the front of the room and waited patiently, patiently for us to finish the final exam. Sister Mark Marie, a pencil in one hand and the Globe and Mail in the other, unruly locks of grey hair wisping … Read more

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Dylan’s Voice, Part Two

The elderly boy topic “Yeah, I’ve got lots of his poetry and every one of his records,” the woman said, smiling. She looked at me for a moment, then looked away and cocked her head wistfully. “His poetry’s really good, you know. There’s a lot of this in it.” When she said “this,” she tapped … Read more

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Dylan’s Voice

The old man—boy complex How could something originate in its antithesis? Truth in error, for example. Or will to truth in will to deception? Or the unselfish act in self-interest? Or the pure radiant gaze of the sage in covetousness? —Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil Or a grandfather’s voice in the body of a boy … Read more

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The Wounded Mink

A few years ago, I was having a slow day on the Leslie Street Spit, the reclaimed landfill and Important Bird Area that juts into Lake Ontario just east of downtown Toronto. Over the years, I’ve seen more than 240 species of birds on this five-kilometer-long peninsula, including such local rarities as Connecticut Warbler, Northern … Read more

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Thin Places

The term “thin place” has become popular to refer to a location where two worlds, two planes of existence, seem to converge. Heaven and earth, time and eternity, the sacred and the profane—in a thin place you feel the barrier that separates these different worlds has worn away or thinned out. Suddenly, your awareness shifts, … Read more

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