It’s that time of year again, when birds are on the move! I’m an old hand at this by now, with one entire previous fall migration under my belt, so I know what to expect: so long to white-crowned sparrows, see you again in March! Hello to golden-crowned sparrows, fox sparrows, juncos, wigeons, goldeneyes and buffleheads.
Not to mention shorebirds like greater yellowlegs, currently crowding Piper Spit and the ponds of Reifel. I wasn’t able to get good pictures of them last year, but some of the Reifel ones were kind enough to hang out near the warming huts to show off their eponymous gams and beautiful speckled plumage.
And a quick wave to snow geese as they stop by on their way to California. Ditto to a juvenile white-fronted goose I saw quietly browsing at Sunset Beach Park earlier this month. Haven’t seen it since, so I guess it moved on?
Moved on to where, though? That’s what fascinates me about migration: the birds that do it may cross hundreds or thousands of miles, over mountains or oceans. Think of all the sights they see! On the other hand, it might the same sights year after year so that can’t be fun. On the other other hand, I used to tell myself the exact same thing when I started my photography challenge, that my commute was always the same and my photos would be too boring. They kind of were for a while, until I learned that even the same places constantly change, so I always get new sights from day to day.
If birds were sapient, would they feel the same? I like to think they would, that every migration is an exciting journey with something new at the end. Sure, I’ll admit that’s a little bit of projection born of envy, since I haven’t traveled much in my life—if you don’t count my regular holiday migrations to Ottawa—and the furthest I travelled since the panini started is goddamn Chilliwack. But I have big plans for 2022 and hey, I got to do something new this month: flying out east to spend a week with family. Ottawa in the fall!
Of course, in addition to reconnecting with family I was hoping to capture cool birbs. Cardinals were top of my list, since we don’t get them out here. Blue jays too, which I think are very rare here and I don’t remember ever seeing. That was all I could think of, since I really had no idea what kind of wildlife I’d find. Blue jays turned out to be very elusive and I only got one pretty good shot near Dow’s Lake. Fun fact I learned: they have a sharp screechy call very similar to northern flickers’. Cardinals were much nicer, and I managed some excellent photos right in my parents’ backyard when a couple of female (or immature) birbs decided to hang out one afternoon. Mind you, I would have preferred males with their brilliant red plumage, but I’m grateful for their company!
I made some other cool discoveries, such as an eastern song sparrow on Bate Island. Neat how the patterns seem to be the same as mine, but the colours are off-white + dark brown instead of grey + reddish-brown. Plus another little brown job near Brewer Park off Bronson Ave, which Merlin identified as a chipping sparrow. This one required lots of patience because it (along with its dozen or so friends) were very shy, but I persisted and managed to snap a couple decent pictures.
The festivities included a train trip to Montreal to check out the Museum of Fine Arts. Our main goal was the exquisite Yousuf Karsh exhibit but, much more than precise and award-winning photos of world leaders, what really touched me was Outside the Frame, showcasing incredible amateur work from museum staff.
I sorely needed this trip, this break in my routine. And now that I’m back, there’s another kind of migration I’ve been thinking about…
For the last few months I’ve been gradually redecorating my apartment. Everything changed: new furniture, big-screen TV, new art for my walls—mostly prints of my own photographs, a selection of my favourite cityscapes, sunsets, birbs, and Iceland shots. I figure if I’m going to be a hermit hiding out from COVID, I might as well clean this place up, get rid of my old raggedy-ass furniture and build a space that’s comfortable and inviting, for others and for me. Wish it hadn’t taken a pandemic to make me do it, but there you go, it’s never too late.
Part of this involved throwing out, donating and recycling a lot of stuff—not just surface junk, but cleaning out my closets and the entropic mess that is my storage locker. And with every thing I got rid of, every thing I found again after it was lost for years, every thing I put in a new and better place, I felt another weight fall off my shoulders, as though I was preparing to move to a new place, but on my own time. None of the stress, all of the sweet anticipation!
I’m not even actually planning to move. I really do like my place—even more so now! But I know that if and when I choose to, I won’t have all my old junk dragging me down. It’s a nice feeling, to like where you are and know you could leave if you wanted.
If only I knew where I was going. Well, I don’t have a bird’s instinct to lead me, so I need to figure it out in other ways. But that’s okay, I’m determined to enjoy the journey.