The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

April 11, 2009

Let me tell you 'bout the Birds and the Be's



Yes, that's a real picture above, taken in the last day or two in Selkirk, just north of Winterpeg, by a reader of our newspaper.

It's a pic of the ice jams that are forcing yet another flood of our Red River which flows through this city of about three-quarters of a million people who, for whatever reason, live on its banks.

And whose ancestors have forever had to live with nature's reality that ice and snow melt and a river engorged must overflow.

It happens every few years, with 1897, 1950, 1996 and 1997 being among the worst as far as I know.

This year, a long, cold winter that persisted well beyond its normal lifespan kept the ice from melting when it usually does.

Giant blocks of ice and snow have backed up the river all along its length, south beyond North Dakota and I believe as far as Missouri.

The water has nowhere to go. A flood results. People lose their homes as the water, over the years, has reached to rooftops and beyond. Gigantic volunteer sandbagging efforts are mounted.

I tried to volunteer on Saturday, but because our floodway gates were opened and we're breaking up the ice with equipment and the weather has been favourable, the water is moving.

The immediate threat has diminished.

For now, they don't need people to help with sandbags.

They need the ice to move and the water to flow north with it. They need nature, with a little help from us (the pic below shows the machines hacking up river ice), to do what it's always done.

I know I've lamented here previously about the brutal winter and the absence of spring. But finally, on the Easter long weekend, I can feel and sense and hear and smell the hopefulness of spring in the air.

The snow, finally, is melting. The Canada geese are returning in ever larger numbers, although those early arrivals from a few weeks ago might have flown back down south, who knows.

When I had my own house several years ago, even though I lived in suburbia, I could get out into my yard and rake leaves, tend to a garden, do some landscaping and planting, sit under a huge tree with a beer.

I could feel and sense nature and animals, including our ten-inch mosquitoes, and live in solitude with them, almost take their bothersome buzzing and biting as a rite of summer and the sweat I was emitting which they love.

I could hear the birds chirping and the squirrels squawking. I could hear a woodpecker pecking.

I could watch the robin prance around and miraculously find a worm it could hear underground. I could watch the ants do their remarkable tasks, lift a rock and find a centipede and know how its bite could hurt.

As an apartment dweller for the past five years or so, I've lost that connection except on a superficial level.

I've lost my chance to be one-on-one with the natural world, the way I was when I spent hours alone collecting insects as a kid. Because of that, I've lost a lot of the "kid" in me.

I plan to get that feeling back through camping and travelling and hiking, which I plan to do this summer. Less computer, more living and loving.

Anyway, the weather finally HAS warmed up, a bit.

And the forecast is for it to get considerably warmer this coming week, with highs of around 17C, which for you Far Out Fahrenheiters is somewhere around the mid-60s, I think.

But the point of this is that in the last day or two, I noticed there were a bunch of little twigs and some straw material accumulating under the mailbox at my front door and even inside it.

Just like in the old Canadian kids' show The Friendly Giant, I looked up -- waaaaaay up -- to the light above. And I could see what was happening.

It's the height of survivability stupidity, perhaps, but a mating pair of sparrows, spurred on uncontrollably by the warming weather and the undeniable need to reproduce, are building a nest up there.

They are doing so a mere two or three feet from my door.

The door is opened and closed regularly. If not by me, then by my son. The mailman, the paper delivery guy, any number of bothersome humans approach that area on a daily basis.

But the sparrows -- the male with a bright red chest, the female with beautiful brown splotches on her breast -- won't stop. They won't and maybe by now can't. They've picked their spot, and that's their spot.

When I had this closer look, they were both perched in the elm (I think it's an elm) right outside my front door, making all kinds of noise and obviously alarmed.

I had discovered their nest.

If I had wanted to, I could destroy it. Mating birds can be a pain in the butt in some ways, over a fairly lengthy period of time.

Their beautiful instinct to protect the nest and the eggs and then the chicks within it is a remarkable, evolutionary thing. But is this really what they want?

Did they anticipate the pain-in-the-ass human element when they chose to nest where they did?

I contemplated this thought as I considered what to do next.

Would it be better if I destroyed the nest and forced them to find another spot that wouldn't interfere with my life and where I wouldn't interfere with theirs?

I decided that if that's the course that nature paved for them -- whatever the consequences to them or to their chicks -- that I shouldn't interfere with them any more than I would purposely step on an ant or spider.

So it seems these sparrows and I might be knocking heads together over the next few weeks.

That's their choice, and I'll try to respect their space, but I'm not going to become a bird-brain trying to accommodate them, either.

This is my space and theirs.

And my feeling is if they're willing to live with the angst of a potential predator walking just below their offspring at least twice a day, then that's the choice they made.

And to answer the question of why I continue to live here? First, it's just part of who and what I am.

And second, there's something incredible about existing in a place like this and still being filled with the natural abundance that shows itself every spring and summer.

It's the variety of life. And it's the timing of it all and the change and metamorphosis, I figure.
It's the shedding of skin, rather than the static of sameness. It's that simple.


  1. Anonymous5:18 p.m.

    Well, I'm with you on most of this. Just not too sure about such a long, freeze-up!
    But the thing I miss most, living in the tropics, is the sharp definition of the four seasons. Here, we have HOT and wet / cooler and dry.With the occasional curve ball thrown by Mother Nature, like winter flood or summer drought.And the seasonal change is more a segue! Now go chip the ice off the beer!

  2. So the simple it is and what a wonderful life it can be. I love the nature too. There is something so basic about. Have you ever cut the grass and just loved the smell especially if the grass was still a tad wet from a rainfall? I do not know what the attraction is, but I like it. As a child I did not have many chances to explore, but next to the house was a soybean field and every year after the ground was just freshly tilled I would run through the dark rich dirt with my bare feet. There is rarely a thing that compares to it.

    I know, I am rambling, but it made me find a time where as a child I felt alive. Thank you.

    Soft love,

  3. Dinah:

    Yeah, the long freeze-up is a nasty, annual complication in things, isn't it?

    I and wet/cooler and dry sounds kinda nice to someone who lives in cold and dry/hot and sticky/cool and nippy/thaw and slowly warming.

    That's what I meant, the seasons are so obvious, and we all need change, and change is good.

    But not THIS much change!!! Slow and easy and predictable wouldn't be all bad every once in a while.


    Yes, the smell of freshly cut grass and walking through it, letting it tickle you between your toes...

    As a kid, I did nothing BUT explore. And climb trees or hop across rocks as if they were checkerboard squares. And learn agility and roll in the dirt or the grass.

    I can feel that rich dirt between your toes. Wonder how many worms and other things you squished.


  4. Really? 17 this week? I would LOVE that. We don't have any snow left, but its been raining and gloomy a lot and cold too. I'm ready for sunshine and warmth. Of course, we'll be complaining about heat and humidity in a few months... but, whatever - bring it on!

    The nest thing would be very troublesome for me and my bird phobia. I would have to have someone else destroy the nest for me... or I would have to move.

  5. Great sentiments and awesome fotos of the new neighbors, the luv birds.

    I'd imagine it would be nice to hear the chirping birds some days...unless you want to sleep in and then they become annoying.

    I have 3 spiders that've set up homes outside my front door and window; they keep the insects and bugs away, so I let them stay. Also I'm hoping that they'll be like that Charlotte spider and weave fantastic signs on my door, like "Some Bachelor" or "Good Time" ;)

  6. Anna:

    Nice new pic!

    It's SUPPOSED to get up to 17 sometime this week. Today is warmer but dreary grey. I'll see it when I believe it, that 17.

    A bird phobia? I have no such condition, except when it comes to having a fear of birds pooping on my shoulder or head.

    By letting these sparrows make their nest here, I hope I'm doing my part for evolution and natural selection. Maybe next year, they won't do it again. :-)


    The chirping of birds is never a bother to me, really...the feeling of waking up like that, even if it's earlier than I hoped, is OK with me.

    What kind of spiders are you rooming with? Watch out for those black widows...

    That is so cool. Most people cringe at them, but they're beautiful things and they're helpful to us.

    And great idea taken from Charlotte's Web. That's a book I used to read to my kids all the time and it's a movie we watched over and over.

    Somehow, I get the feeling you don't need that kind of advertising hanging outside your door, but if it brings even a few more female admirers into your lair of silk, then go for it.

  7. Wow you still have snow.... dam and bugger that for a lark.....

    How sweet that little bird nesting on top of that light, the heat from the bulb will keep them warm, Im glad you didnt smash it up.... let them have a chance.....

    I cant imagine living in a flat without even a little back garden to sit in on a Sunday morning with toast and a cuppa tea and watch the birds...... but, sometimes ya know, needs must, at least ya aint homeless, and im sure you will oneday have a house and garden and a loved one to share it with...... maybe this is your year :) - this I hope....

    Where on earth would I keep me chickens if I lived in a flat lol

    Its certainly spring here now, we had a fortnight of glorious warm weather, the past few days though have been overcast with showers... April Showers :)....

    Keep safe, keep warm and keep ya pecker up :)


  8. This post proves that all you think about are chicks.

  9. Toasty:

    Yep, we still have snow. It's not funny!!! OK, yes it is.

    Yeah, I agree, it has diminished my existence not to have my own yard. At least there are trees outside my flat.

    They do abound with birds and squirrels and, certainly in the summer, mosquitoes.

    It's not quite THE experience, but it's better than nothing.

    I'm convinced this WILL be my year, yes, in one way or another. A lovely lass would do it.

    And only that would help keep my pecker up!


    Ha! Was there ever any doubt?

    You've got your Filthy Fridays, I've got my Sexy Saturdays, with chicks on the menu.

    One particular chick. I can hear her now, making that tell-tale sound: feed me! Feed me!

  10. I so get where you're coming from! When the knucklehead and I lived in our 2nd floor flat, we had a pair of lesser striped swallows nesting about 50cm from my front door in the passage above the stairs. We watched them year on year, and then the old bats who also inhabited our flats decided they were unsightly and had the nests broken down until the swallows stopped rebuilding.
    I was very sad, and the old ladies wouldn't listen.

  11. Anonymous8:39 p.m.

    “I was sent here by MJ from Infomaniac.”

    Pictures of trees and branches...nice... Can i light a fire?

  12. Angel:

    When you referred to old bats, I thought you meant REAL bats, the kind that roost upside down.

    It's too bad the old bats YOU'RE talking about got rid of the swallows, although they're about the most aggressive little birds on the planet.

    Buy ducks. They're much slower and easier to catch, and you can eat them if you don't want them any more.


    MJ's doing her annual "get to know your fellow bloggers" exercise, I see.

    Well, welcome. But if you lit a fire to the nest, well then, my apartment would burn too.

    That MJ...always throwing a party.

  13. I sense that a Darwinian correction will soon be in play for these boidz.

    What are ya gonna do? It's an awesome spot.

  14. Ms. Coppens:

    You could be right. Who knows, they might just abandon their efforts and take it elsewhere.

    But you're also right, it IS a great spot.

    Maybe they're so accustomed to people they don't MIND that a squeaky door not two feet away is opened and closed with regularity.

    And that humans pass within a long arm's reach of where they hope to raise their chicks.

    Anyway, that's their call.

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Such dramatic seasonal transfigurations there! It makes Brooklyn winter seem like a child-sized scoop of vanilla ice cream, although the flowering abundance in spring is nice.

    It's true that those parental birds can get mighty testy with humans! I've been dive-bombed viciously more than once. But I'm glad you let it stay.

    And I too am here from MJ's.

  17. (((Shake it all about))) I have a feeling that this is your year to.... and a damsel not in distress will come into your life and blow you away...... NOT in that way, get ya mind out of the gutter lmfao.......


  18. Leah:

    Well thanks for the visit from lovely MJ's abode!

    You might wonder, given the tameness and comparatively boring content of this post, why MJ has me on her bloglist.

    I'm not sure, actually, but I do tend at times to get raunchy, although never in her category.

    I'll instruct her next time to let me know in advance when she plans these things, so I can be particularly raucous and uncouth.


    Yes, I do believe that's true. My fortune cookie foretold of it and therefore I AM shaking it all about.

    And I didn't have a raunchy thought about the term "blowing me away" until you mentioned it.

  19. ::shakes her head:::while laughing .. silly boys.

  20. Tara:

    No, I'd rather you shake your hips, please. Being silly is the new cool. :-)

  21. Come to Australia! The weather's slightly better, and we have lots of interesting (read: dangerous) animals too! :)

  22. Stace:

    The weather's "slightly" better? Cmon! And I know all about Oz's wacky wildlife.

    I think I've told you before it's one of my 10 things to do before I die, to get there. So I will.



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