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?
I talked with a birder several years ago who was also an amateur artist. We were on a field trip to Amherst Island, where there’d been reports of a Eurasian Wigeon. At the time, this was a life bird for me, so I was understandably excited. My companion was indifferent. He wanted to talk about the much more common American Wigeon, whose plumage fascinated him. As an artist, he found the bird a challenge. The color of the breeding male—on the back and along the side—was indescribable and almost impossible to duplicate in a painting. “It’s actually a very delicate … Read moreRead More
Summer Birds, 2
A few weeks ago, I spent an hour at the Black-crowned Night Heron colony on the Leslie Street Spit, watching the birds build their nests. The males were in their mating finery, which means bright plumage—cream-colored below, grey and slate-blue above—and two long, thin plumes that stick out of the head and arch over the back. Each male gathered twigs and tree limbs and delivered them to the nesting site the female had chosen. Then both birds arranged their material roughly into the shape of a nest or, more accurately, a nesting platform. A male Night Heron doesn’t pick up … Read moreRead More
Summer Birds, 1
Walking on the Leslie Street Spit last week, I came upon a pair of Canada Geese. They were belligerent. Hissing and blocking the path, they refused to let me pass. I soon saw why. A gosling sat in the weeds just off the path, and the parent birds wanted to protect it from me. The goslings are attractive in a way the mature birds can’t match, the plumage a glowing shade of yellow and the feathers all soft and fuzzy. I’m tempted to call them cute, but if I dig down past the cliché to get at the root of … Read moreRead More