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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Feature photo for Woodpecker post.

One Woodpecker: A Photo Essay

Most birders I know have a weakness for woodpeckers. It’s partly the drumming that seduces us: that monotone hammering woodpeckers make every spring to claim a territory and find a mate. But it’s also their shape and color. Shape because every part of a woodpecker’s anatomy—bill, skull, ribcage, tail feathers, and feet—has been adapted to its peculiar foraging techniques on the trunks of trees. Color because most North American woodpeckers are something like the Tuxedo Cat of the avian world, clothed in a simple but striking arrangement of black-and-white plumage, often with a Scarlet Pimpernel dash of red somewhere on … Read more

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Feature photo for Eiders post.

Two Eiders: A Photo Essay

I biked down to the Leslie Street Spit the other day to look for winter birds and brought a camera with me in case anything good turned up. “The Spit,” as it’s known in Toronto, is a former landfill in the east end of the city that juts into Lake Ontario for about five kilometers (three miles). A disused lighthouse stands at the far end, and a paved loop road makes cycling an easy affair. Otherwise, the land is covered with habitats that include wetlands, wildflower meadows, and patchy forests of cottonwood, poplar, and birch. In winter, with the wind … Read more

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Feature image for "Two Owls" post.

Two Owls: A Photo Essay

With the approach of winter, the owls have returned to Toronto. Every year at this time, they come down from the boreal forest and northern tundra looking for food. They like to hang out in forested areas near the Toronto lakeshore, where they find a plentiful supply of rabbits, squirrels, meadow voles, field mice, and song birds to prey on. Some of these owls just stop off for a day or two on their way further south, while others dig in for the whole winter. On a recent walk, I ran across examples of the largest and smallest of the … Read more

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