April 8…Kinglets!

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Golden-crowned Kinglet – April 8

The kinglets are here, a little late. Most were golden-crowned. The earliest we’ve ever seen them in Our Woods is March 31. All photos are from Laurelcrest Park except the crocuses – they’re from our front garden.

But first, a poem…

Unnatural Selection

The robins and grackles are back from the Gulf
The latter I chase from the feeders
Five cardinal couples we welcome with speed
And everything smaller is welcome, indeed!
And one pair of blue jays partakes of our seed.
Sans grackles Big Blues are the leaders




Last Year’s Burrs – This Year’s Buds

This morning’s light gave us good birding. We welcomed the male R-B Grosbeak for the first time this year. The Cape Mays were around and a female Yellow Warbler in addition to the plentiful Myrtles. Spotted the male Northern Oriole singing to us high in a maple on our way back for breakfast. A nice start to Mother’s Day with my spotter!

This is the peak of the Spring migration. We hope for hummingbirds at our feeder as they move north and maybe, just maybe,  a pair will stay all summer….

Autumn in “Our Woods”




It has taken a while, but it’s unanimous now: Fall has fallen. My favourite Canadian season. We only have three here: Summer, Fall and, of course, winter. Spring is usually crushed by Summer before the poets can get more than a few lines scribbled down.

Fall has deliciously dawdled this year.

What? No Birds?

A couple of species that just might outlast us...
Buzz… Buzz… Buzz… B??

Whaaattt? No birds?

Looks like the environmental Rip Van Winkles among us, after letting Monsanto, Bayer et al. poison everything that isn’t a profitable crop, are finally getting a rude awakening:

CBC’s Ontario Today asked people to call in and report what species they’re not seeing now that they used to see. The many responses were scary. Here’s one dramatic example:

Russ, a farmer from Acton, ON, has seen 50 barn swallows every year in his barn. This year: NONE. Suddenly, none.

The 23-minute podcast is here.

We snored through the Monsanto Roundup years and even the recent Bayer Neonicotinoid bee-killing years. “Health Canada” is a disgrace to its name, in recent years just a follower and a pawn of agribusiness and big pharma. And, down south, Monsanto is close to being favoured with draconian legislation that will nullify a ton of existing local American laws against GE crops!!

Maybe the accelerated vanishing of our feathered, fellow-vertebrate friends like barn swallows and (in our back yard) hummingbirds, will wake us up to the global threat to the entire food chain caused by pesticides that are hugely potent and woefully undertested. We are blind to the critical importance of the tiny, even microscopic, living things in this world, without which the bigger things like us can not continue to survive.

Gotta be a better way than snoozing our way to mass extinction…

We must learn to tread gently on our earth. We’ve been struttin’ way too long, John…

Hummingbird at feeder
Ruby-throated at our feeder in 2012

A Garden Speaks

A solitary sweet pea grows in our garden
A solitary sweet pea grows in our garden

A messy garden doesn’t reveal much about the occupant – basically like you have other priorities in life, leaving your neighbours to guess – or inquire – what they might be. You remain a private and, to the house-proud, a frustrating enigma.

A well-gardened property says a lot about who you are and what you value. It says that you have an eye for beauty if it’s mostly flowers and shrubs. Plantings of tomatoes, beans or onions on their own or among the flowers says you like fresh, home-grown fruit and/or vegetables. Our garden is mostly beauty with some edible stuff mixed in. We have several gardens, a small shed and a two-story house on our ~ 50′ by 145′ lot. We bought this place in 1985. It was one year old then, so we get the credit or the blame for how it looks now.

In the mid-1970’s I planted some corn outside our ground floor apartment in Etobicoke. It was cool to wake up and see the corn stalks waving in the morning breeze through our bedroom window. The message to our neighbours was probably that we were a little nuts. I was raised in the city, so there was no nostalgia involved. I didn’t say that a garden reveals everything about you.

Continue reading “A Garden Speaks”

Nile River Scenes – Part Two – Feb. 2009

Nile Town
Nile city, possibly Naqada

We boarded the Giselle in Luxor for the beginning of our 7-night Nile cruise on Feb. 12 in the afternoon,  after visiting  the fabulous Temple of Karnak. This city was on the west bank as we sailed north to Dendera that afternoon. My guess is it is Naqada, the site of over 2000 pre-dynastic graves and two major historical archeological sites. Red Sea gold was found in those times not far to the east near the Red Sea. We disembarked just after sunrise and visited the Temple of Dendera.

Southern Egypt from Luxor to the Sudan border
Southern Egypt from Luxor to the Sudan border


The above map came from the National Geographic Traveller Egypt, 2nd Ed. The huge Lake Nasser is the flooded product of the Aswan High Dam. Monuments like Abu Simbel and the Temple of Isis, due to their magnificence, were rescued from their original locations by slicing them up carefully into pieces and removing them to higher ground (Abu Simbel) or another island (Temple of Isis). Apologies for Dendera not being on the map. It is just north of Luxor.

Sailing toward Dendera on Feb. 12
Sailing toward Dendera on Feb. 12

I know this was featured on its own page. I put it in because it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Birds on the Nile
Birds on the Nile – 300mm zoom

Birds taken Feb. 13 from our boat on our way back from Dendera towards Luxor (Thebes). During the sail to Dendera and back to Luxor we were protected by two soldiers manning a machine gun mounted on the upper deck at the stern. The soldiers were with us only for the brief sail to and from Dendera as there were probably fewer boats on the river in this area.


A donkey finds dessicated sustenance in the dry grass.


Birds flying south at sunset
Birds flying south at sunset Feb. 14
Looking at the West bank of the Upper Nile from our boat, the Giselle, on Feb. 14 some large birds flying South caught my lens.
Edfu Vendors
Edfu Vendor flings a garment to tourists on the Giselle. “Lady, just your size…”
Passing southbound through the lock at Esna  after visiting the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, vendors on shore and in boats sold garments to our passengers. They tossed up the item in a plastic bag. The customer examined it and either tossed back the item or payment in the bag. We learned that some of these vendors knew how to curse when one garment returned by a tourist with a poor aim ended up in the water.
Nile cruise boats at Kom Ombo dock
Nile cruise boats at Kom Ombo dock

On Feb. 15 we visited the Temple to Horus and Sobek (the Hawk and the Croc) at Kom Ombo. Two riverboats like ours are shown docking in this photo. We saw mummified crocodiles here and a fascinating ancient calendar. The Egyptian calendar had three seasons based on the cycle of the River Nile. After sunset we sailed for Aswan. In Aswan on Feb. 16 we visited a huge, ancient, granite obelisk left in the ground because it had cracked during the process of cutting it from the rock. We then visited Aswan High Dam, the Temple of Isis at “Philae,” went on a felucca sail around Elephantine Island – all of these with the tour. There was still time in the afternoon for Anita and me to visit the Nubian village of Koti on Elephantine Island. A really packed day.

View from the Temple of Isis
View from the Temple of Isis

On Feb. 17 we took a short flight from Aswan to the amazing temples to Rameses II and his favorite wife, the beautiful Nefertari, at Abu Simbel, not far from the Sudan. Read the fascinating story of how these two huge temples were cut up and moved to higher ground to avoid them being flooded when the Aswan High Dam was opened. More on a later post about that. We were rushed there because our flight was delayed and it’s a very busy schedule. After flying back to Aswan, we boarded the Giselle for the last time for the sail back to Luxor, from where we would fly back to Cairo for two more nights. Our trip began and ended with two nights in Cairo.

Nile cruise boat passes through the lock at Edfu
Nile cruise boat passes through the lock at Edfu

On Feb. 18 we followed this boat north through the locks at Esna, where we had met the vendors on the night of Feb. 14. Esna is the place where Set, the god, Osiris’ evil uncle, after killing and cutting up Osiris’ body into 14 pieces, threw his phallic member into the Nile. Osiris’ wife and sister, the formidable goddess, Isis, collected all of Osiris’ parts except this one, because it had been eaten by a fish. She then miraculously fashioned a phallus, attached it to Osiris and thereby conceived a son, Horus. Horus, like Moses, was protected in the reeds on a bank of the Nile and lived to avenge his father’s death and dismemberment by killing the evil Set. This is the Osiris Myth.

Horus is considered by many scholars to be the early mythical figure on whom much of the symbolism associated with Jesus of Nazareth is based. Isis was a hugely popular goddess for the later Romans. But all of that is another story.

Horus spears Set while Isis looks on.
Horus spears Set while Isis looks on.

OK, this is not a river scene. I snuck it in. In this scene captured with my SONY camcorder from the Temple of Horus, Horus spears his evil uncle Set. Note the defacement of the faces of Horus and his mom, Isis. This, we were told by our guide, was done by early converts to Christianity who considered these carvings to be pagan. Wikipedia tells the same story. Defacement is very common in many of the ancient temples.