Thursday, May 31, 2007

More "studio" photography

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Not much time to blog today, as I went back to work and then had about a bajillion errands to run afterward. But here's a favourite shot I took in my portraiture class recently.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm baa-aaack!

Well, the flight home yesterday was pretty uneventful, aside from the fact that it took ALL DAY.

However, post-trip I find I am not much worse for wear, aside from some puffy eyes and Johnny Cash's "Ghost Rider in the Sky" (his late-in-life version with voice warbles and all) persistently looping through my head.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Seattle Weekend Recap

Tomorrow I fly back to Toronto after staying an extra-long weekend with my brother and sister-in-law and their four-month-old twins. This morning when I started to think about it being my last day here, I actually started to cry (actually, I just cried; to say I "started to cry" might imply that I actually didn't cry). I will miss these little gaffers terribly. But that’s all that I’ll say about that because I don’t want to start feeling sad again.

Instead, let me tell you what I’ve learned since getting here Thursday night.

  • Carrying babies around is an excellent exercise regimen. Since I stopped going to the gym in lieu of the bird rescues a month and a half ago, I haven’t done much to develop the muscles in my arms. This weekend was an intense get-back-in-shape routine. I’m ready to start canoeing!
  • If you have twin babies, earplugs are an essential investment. Not the kind that make you oblivious to anything, just the kind that reduces the decibels of the inevitable screaming somewhat. You may think I jest. I do not - Joe has a pair like the ones I wore to a rock concert on an end-table in his living room, and uses them from time to time.
  • Raising twin babies is hard work. If you happen to have friends or relatives who have twin babies and you are able to pitch in and help in some way, please consider it. Joe and Lisa are doing a great job, but I think it helps to have at least an occasional extra pair of hands so they can take care of odd jobs around the house, sneak in an extra nap, or just get out of the house for an hour.
  • For that matter, being a stay-at-home mom is hard work. There were times just being here for the weekend when I was cabin-feverish or sometimes bored because babies – as darling as they are – are not always intellectually challenging. To you ladies (and gents) out there who have done it – or are in the trenches now – my hat is off to you.
  • The most delicious, most sinful trail mix there is has the following ingredients: peanuts, peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, pecan pieces, raisins, and dried cherries. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. And amazing that I didn’t gain 10 pounds since arriving here. My only saving grace is the exercise regimen noted above.
  • Reece is one of the most determined, intense babies I have ever seen. Initially his parents thought that he was going to be a laid-back kid, but it doesn’t look that way right now. Unless he’s just chilling on his mama’s lap after a feeding, he is all about action and learning new stuff. He is one smart kid.
  • Lorelai is one of the sweetest babies I have ever met. Her smiles would charm a rock. The cooing sounds she makes are bone-meltingly adorable. She loves to cuddle and interact with you and is actually very loving.
  • Joe and Lisa continue to be a great couple. They still laugh and have lots of fun together, and are unswervingly supportive and considerate of each other. Pretty cool that my brother has found this fantastic relationship - and life - for himself. I’m thrilled for him. He deserves all of it.
Well, that's all, folks. Next time you hear from me, I will likely be back in T.O. With a big piece of my heart left in a Seattle suburb.

Sweetheart baby

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

See what I mean about her being the sweetest baby? I instructed Joe to take this picture from behind and to the side of me because a) I wanted him to capture her expression; and b) I was upset because it was my last day with this angel.

Big yawn!

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Her father took this one. :->

Daddy time

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

They obviously find him enthralling ... :)

Getting more muscles!

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Mmmm ... fingers are yummy ....

Monday, May 28, 2007

Soooooo tired

Soooooo tired
Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Absolutely adorable, no?

You can see the entire set of photos taken of my niece and nephew here:

Bounced to sleep

Bounced to sleep
Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Joe's sitting on an exercise ball. What did parents DO before there were exercise balls???? LOL


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Because my mom didn't think I had taken enough photos of Lorelai yet.

Two pretty girls

Two pretty girls
Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Both hands full

Both hands full
Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Here's Lisa entertaining both Lorelai and Reece.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lisa and Reece

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

YOU try having two preemies (one cervically, the other by C-section) and nurse incessantly for three months with little sleep and see how well you do! There is certainly no way you could exceed the amazing job that Lisa has done with these two. When they were born, they were in the last 5th percentile of newborns (not taking their preemie status into account). Now, four months later, they are in the 10th and 12th percentile and are flourishing.

As a sister-in-law and an auntie, I am very lucky.

Cuteness alert!

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Babies holding hands!

1-2-3 everybody: Aawwwwwww .....!!!

Happy Reece

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

And another one

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

I should note that it was a foregone conclusion for me that Joe would make a terrific dad.

Joe and Lorelai

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Here is a somewhat out-of-focus but still great photo of my brother with his baby daughter. He completely melts with her (she IS terribly cute, though!).

He's already such a great dad - totally connected and involved. It's really great to see.

Shared exhaustion

Okay, I know I’ve just cheated and posted stuff that I actually wrote yesterday during a stopover, but I know you’re actually waiting to hear about the babies. They’re cute and all, but to be honest by the time I finally got there, they were about to go to bed, Joe and Lisa were exhausted by the colds that have been shared around the family the past week, and the most exciting thing for me was sliding between the blissful covers of the cloud-like bed in the guest room.

But it’s a new day today, Joe’s gone to work, and Lisa and I are at home with the babies. Lisa looks a lot more rested this morning (totally surprised me because I know she’s not a morning person). No babies yet. Will keep you posted.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ready to lose another piece of my heart

So here I am, sitting in the airport at Vancouver. I guess I’ve mentioned that a few times already. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been pried once again from my home, my books, my routines, my independence, and my poor cats (Cleo was heartbreakingly glum this morning as she watched me pack). All this to see two babies.

When they were born four months ago, it was a thrill. I was excited, engaged, curious … and then when I was reassured that all was well, my life went on. And I became excited, engaged, and curious about other things. (I hope this doesn't sound cold ... it's just, jeez, how sick would it be if I sat by my phone waiting to hear whether the babies were having regular bowel movements? LOL). Anyway, eventually the fact that my brother and sister-in-law had a baby son and daughter seemed like a dream, something completely disassociated from my reality. So much so that when I told friends and co-workers about this upcoming trip, they were frankly more excited about it than I was. (Although this could have also been due to the fact I was so busy that I couldn’t see beyond the current day.)

But now, in just a few more hours, I will see them. They might be sleeping (for their parents’ sake, I hope they are), but they will be an irrevocable part of my history.

I have a feeling that I am totally unprepared for the grip these two will have on my heart.

But unless you are reading this blog for the very first time, you will know that I welcome it anyway.

Vegetarian traveling

This is my first long trip as a vegetarian. As I’d suspected, it sucks. Or at least my level of expertise/preparation sucks. Here in Vancouver, before checking in with U.S. customs, I found a little food court that offered Greek and Chinese food as well as a Burger King and a pizza-by-the-slice place. First I went to the Greek place, in the hopes I could find my faithful standby, falafel … or even a spinach pie. There were a couple of young men in the line before me. “Don’t you have any vegetarian food?” one of them asked. (I nearly swooned – vegetarian boys?!?!?) Apparently the vegetarian options were Greek salad and … Greek salad.

So I moved on to the Chinese place. They actually had a combo plate advertised as vegetarian (mixed vegetables, spring roll, fried rice, and chow mein), so that’s what I got. Kinda. The chow mein was actually lo mein (noodles), so with the rice it made for a meal high in refined carbohydrates. But worse, the mixed vegetables had an OVERPOWERING shrimp flavour. I would have found it unpalatable even when I was an omnivore.

So what’s the secret? There must be people out there who travel considerably yet are vegetarians. Any thoughts on how to do so without subsisting on a diet of refined sugars and edible oil products? To add another wrench in the works, I’m carrying my camera gear, laptop, and CPAP device onto the plane, so I’m reaching the limit of burdens my back can carry and the airline will tolerate.

You know, I’m not a rabidly ideological person, and would even consider eating meat while traveling if I really had to, but I really question the quality of the meat that would be sold in airports and other tourist-y places, and I am extremely leery. These sorts of places seem to be the smartest places to be vegetarian, you know what I’m sayin’?

I'm not supposed to tell ...

After I tell you this, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security might come after me. I’m generally pretty good at keeping secrets, but not this time …

You see, today, at the Vancouver Airport U.S. customs clearance, officers allowed me a couple of sips out of my own water bottle before they made me throw it out.

Yes, it’s a shocking breakdown of officer discipline, but don’t blame them. My subversive silver tongue undermined their best intentions and most stringent training to accept that – possibly – a blonde middle-class woman in her thirties might perhaps be carrying something other than powerful explosives in her water bottle. Or that she might be doing something other than carrying out some bold and evil plan that involved her actually ingesting such explosives … And that she might just be desperately thirsty and nearing dehydration! (I had a beer on the flight from Toronto to Vancouver in the hopes that it would help me relax … no such luck.)

Hey, I’m all for protecting people and society from the deranged and psychotic, but could we do this through policies that are not in and of themselves deranged and psychotic?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Checking out this auntie business

Keeping this post short because I'm exhausted and so should be in bed sleeping so I can get up early and pack because I'm going to Seattle tomorrow morning because I have a new niece and nephew who live there whom I've not yet met in person.

But that changes tomorrow!

I will try to post regular updates.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A better world without him

This week, Natalia wrote:

Jerry Falwell is dead. And I cannot muster any type of sorrow for the passing of such a deluded and corrupt hate-monger. Good riddance. The world has one less asshole.
Too harsh? Take a read of quotes from JF, here, like this one:
You know when I see somebody burning the flag, I'm a Baptist preacher I'm not a Mennonite, I feel it's my obligation to whip him. In the name of the Lord, of course. I feel it's my obligation to whip him, and if I can't do it then I look up some of my athletes to help me. But, as long as at 72 I can handle most of the jobs I do it myself, and I don't think it's un-spiritual. When I, when I, when I hear somebody talking about our military and ridiculing and saying terrible things about our President, I'm thinking you know just a little bit of that and I believe the Lord would forgive me if I popped him.

Why I'm Glad I Don't Eat Chicken

Totally gross.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Post #921

Today was likely my last FLAP patrol until the fall migration. There was only one bird today. I nearly missed it because it was sitting so far away from the gleaming building it had struck. I used my net to trap it, but I really didn’t need to.

I didn’t hold it the way that I was trained. I held it cupped gently in my hands, trying to warm it. I knew it was in rough shape, and I wanted to do everything possible to help it recover. A man walked by as I kneeled on the cement sidewalk and thanked me for the work that I was doing and told me it was important. I was distracted but smiled and thanked him. His kind words would really mean a lot to me, later.

It was a pretty nondescript bird. It was grey – or was it brown? Even a dull olive colour? It was hard to tell. But it had two distinct white bars on each wing, and a small beak that gaped open just a little.

How can you love a bird that you find on the sidewalk? It’s just a bird, something that is probably going to die, if not on this sidewalk or in your hands, it might be in a storm next week or in the talons of a hawk next year. And yet when you hold this sacred, fragile creature in your hands, you’re the one who is captivated. Love pours out of you geyser-like and you pray that somehow this little one won’t be hammered by the force of it.

My shift was over and I had other commitments (it’s a holiday, but I was helping a friend with a project). I was heartened by the occasional rustle of wings against the inside of the paper bag in which I’d finally placed the bird. Normally, I’d leave the bag at the security desk of one of the office towers, page the FLAP driver for a pickup, and continue on with my day. But I knew the holding station is a chilly concrete stairwell, and I truly couldn’t bear to leave this bird there for even a minute.

After the subway ride, the bird rustled more in the bag as I walked down the street to my apartment building. I was convinced that it sensed the sun and the beautiful trees and wanted to fly, and I was heartened and hopeful. By car we continued on to the Toronto Wildlife Centre, where I handed it over for assessment. Later I went there again to see if the bird was ready to be released. Instead I found out that due to the severity of its injuries, they’d had to euthanize it. The kind woman at the Wildlife Centre looked sympathetically at me, and I told her it was okay, that you win some and sometimes you lose some.

Goodbye, little Least Flycatcher. It’s actually not okay that we lost you, but I hope your last memories are of being held with reverence and enveloped in love.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I Lost Myself There for a Moment

I had a Tourette moment this morning.

My alarm went off at 5:30 AM, and I sooooo did not want to get out of bed. (I’ll note that this is a Saturday morning when all sane people should be sleeping in.) But that was not the Tourette moment.

I really thought that today’s FLAP patrol was just going to be a long walk in the concrete jungle on an otherwise beautiful morning. Spring migration is wrapping up for southern Ontario, and on yesterday’s patrol, my lovely friend Lucy and I found no birds – alive or dead.

One of the parts of being a FLAP volunteer is public education. And trust me, if you’re carrying a butterfly net with a 5-foot bamboo handle, strangers will (gawk and) approach you to learn what the heck you are doing. I really enjoy raising people’s awareness. I always welcome their questions and tell them about the birds that are injured or killed on our shiny, reflective glass windows, and what can be done about it. I find I smile a lot and feel genuinely open to these individuals. I also make sure I give friendly waves to the security guards, because it’s important that they like and respect all FLAP volunteers.

But I digress … I was telling a story about walking around Toronto on a gorgeous day at the end of migration season, and fully expecting to not find any birds in need of rescue.

But at a particular corner, there was the unmistakable sight of a songbird stunned: feathers messily fluffed, entire body still, sitting about a metre from the exterior wall. I think it was a hermit thrush.

Maybe I could have walked right up to it, but I decided to circle around and approach it from behind with my net – just in case it was conscious enough for me to scare it away.

But in that moment, there was a seagull with the same thought; it swooped in to snatch the thrush, which it obviously considered breakfast.

“No! NO! NO!!!!! DAMMIT!!!!! ARRRRRGGGGH!” (Yes, there were people standing on the corner, waiting for a streetcar. So much for all my PR efforts.) I ran toward the birds, waving my net like a lunatic, but the seagull persisted and reached the thrush as I hauled out a few other curse words.

Fortunately, I caused enough of a ruckus that the thrush snapped out of its daze and flew off across the street. Wonders of wonders, the seagull did not follow. I think it might have been startled that the thrush was still alive.

At first I thought I’d lost the thrush. But I was surprised to see that it had still landed in as vulnerable a position as it had just left; again it was sitting on the ground, feathers in disarray and not very responsive to its environment.

This time I was able to catch it. It squeaked when I grasped it through the net and didn’t appreciate my ministrations much. But it was alive. And I expect that, after some time and some rest, as well as an assessment at the Toronto Wildlife Centre, it was released this afternoon.

And this alone made the 5:30AM wake-up call – and the momentarily lapse of verbal self-control - totally worth it.

UPDATE - May 21/07: I heard that this rescued bird was actually a Swainson's thrush, and that after it was assessed by the Toronto Wildlife Centre, it was released back into the wild the same day.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Another awful but heartfelt poem

Tonight, thinking of you amid the rumble of laundry machines
I felt your sadness, loneliness, grief;
No one can replace your beloved.
I felt the darkness and shame
Lingering from a violent act acted upon you.
I felt it, allowed it to linger as long as I dared.
I won’t say it was so I could understand,
But I was seeking something close to understanding.
Perhaps your spirit was showing it to me.
And then a vision of rose petals
White, soft rose petals
Falling from the sky over both of us
And as they drifted down, the darkness fell away.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Check 'em out ...

The photos that follow were taken in my photography class. Ashley was our model. She's beautiful, isn't she? What do you think of these portraits? I'm still learning ...

... There were a lot of my photos that didn't make the final cut.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Studio Portrait Exercise


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Amazing video of peregrine nest

Check out these videos - really interesting to see nesting falcons, what the babies look like and how they behave, and what unfolds for this little family is quite the story!

The chicks sound almost like any baby bird. I thought my cat Sabrina was going to go through the monitor once. (But mostly she was just transfixed. She's an apartment cat; a little excitement is good for her. LOL)

Bird archetypes

You know how when you start doing something new, or you become aware of something new, and then you see it everywhere? Such is the case for me and birds.

Yesterday, I was walking outside in the financial district (downtown Toronto), and couldn't help think that all these young men in their pinstripe suits, spiffy ties, and $300 sunglasses were just another species of preening, strutting males showing off their fancy colours. The things that geeks like me find amusing ... LOL

Here are some pictures I've been meaning to upload since Easter!

Allow me to introduce you to Adam - a second cousin of mine. Does he make you think of a baby bird? :)

Maybe we're not so far removed from animals - or they from us - as we would like to think.

This said with all due respect to Adam, of course. :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Heard this weekend

"I wanna go to Vegas just so I can use the phrase, 'What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas'!"

"I have a very metrosexual poodle."

Chana Masala

I know I'm slow on these things, but I've just recently started to enjoy Indian food!

I love this recipe, and it's really easy too.

I never would have thought that I would look at a pot of chickpeas on my stove and think, "Yummy!"*, but there you go ... It shows that even a bad chickpea experience can be overcome! :)

Update: I forgot to mention that I throw random amounts of chopped zucchini in this recipe. And a lot more spinach than the recipe calls for. It's delicious!

* Do people use the word "yummy" any more, or am I just slow on that too? Come to think of it, I haven't heard anyone use "yummy" for a long time, unless it's paired with "mummy". And I'm really not sure what to read into that.

Update to the update: Alert! Alert! This part is a public service announcement for all culinary twits like myself - when the recipe calls for the juice of a lemon, for the love of Pete do not allow any of the pips (seeds) into your concoction! And if you somehow let one of the pips into the food, you can still not eat it. Just now, after feeling like my mouth was going to turn itself inside out to avoid the bitterness of the first pip, I spotted a second one still in the bowl. I momentarily pondered actually eating it so I could scientifically prove that they are one of the most disgusting fruit parts ever imaginable, but then I decided that I'm just not that committed to science.

Now, to appease my tortured tastebuds, perhaps a few cranberries covered in dark chocolate? :)

Monday, May 14, 2007

An awful but heartfelt poem

Not everybody blogs.
Not everybody needs to.
Sometimes I blog to share information, such as how to help the environment.
Often I want to share a laugh with you.

Always this blog is an expression of myself.

In an awkward way, I am more open through this blog
Than with most people face-to-face.
Not because I have anything to hide;
It’s just easier this way.

You are a trusted visitor,
A guest in my home.
I may err or offend,
But you can tell me directly.

If I am still such a stranger
I must wonder
Why you are still standing in my kitchen.

Tara and Max

Tara and Max
Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

I recently had the privilege to observe one of the coolest parent-child relationships I have ever seen. Tara treats Max with a rare respect for his creativity, his intelligence, and his personhood. Max in turn is an extraordinary young man.

A fabulous modern poem

I just happened to find this poem online. It is fascinating and powerful, but accessible. Give a visit.

An amazing video

I think you will find this video to be very cool.

Worst Police Dog Ever

Hilarious video here. It might be the highlight of your day.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fun in the cold

I was cleaning up my e-mail accounts today and found this picture sent to me by Lillian. It was taken at the outdoor Philosopher Kings concert this past winter. So it's chronologically orphaned, but still fun. We had a fantastic time that evening.

Left to right: Julian, Linda, me, Tara

If you look really closely, you will see a neon-orange object protruding from my ear. This was one of a pair of the most protective earplugs I could find at a local pharmacy. I value my hearing, and hate how my ears ring for a day after a pop/rock concert. I came prepared so I could stand as close to the front as possible. They worked great, and I was still able to fully enjoy the music.

Yes, I am a dork. A dork with a really great auditory range. LOL

A rant: I am not my relationship

Okay, before my mother’s heart starts to flutter with excitement and her head fills with dreams of her only daughter finally getting married and starting to pop out more grandchildren to show off to her friends whose grandchildren are already teenagers or older, let me set the record straight: I’m actually not in a relationship.

But the point of this rant (and it is a rant; let me take a moment to apologize in advance for sounding harsh/judgemental/negative) is still the same: my relationship (or lack thereof) doesn’t define me.

I love talking with men. I love looking at (attractive) men. I hope to eventually be in another relationship with one of ‘em. But I honestly don’t think about it all that much, and enjoy talking about it even less.

This is my observation/experience only, and maybe it has something to do with my age group or whatever: there’s a weird thing that seems to happen when many women get together – whether they’ve known each other for 5 years or 5 minutes. They talk about men and their relationships. Ad nauseum. They dissect, they analyse, they complain, they feel superior, they feel victimized, hour after hour going round and round. I never hear an “aha!” moment when answers are found, issues resolved, and thank god we can now talk about something else.

I can’t explain it, although I guess there are a few theories I could conjure. But they’d likely be as general and meaningless as “Men aren’t socialized to be in touch with their own feelings”.

I have an excellent auditory memory; I remember all the crap I've heard before. All I want is for us to talk about something else. Preferably something worthwhile and meaningful and intelligent. Or, at the risk of sounding anti-social, dare I suggest silence as a preferable alterative?

Honestly, one of the reasons I like talking with men (or my kick-ass female friends) is that I can generally have a discussion about politics/current events/issues/music/film/nature/travel or something that at least I may never have heard before. With my closer friends, I can discuss these topics plus our dreams, our art, our aspirations.

Don’t get me wrong: if you’re a friend of mine and you’re struggling with your relationship (or lack thereof), I promise I’ll be there for you when you need me. But after a while I will want to tell you, “Hon, get another life. You are not your relationship.” I find it particularly frustrating with patently intelligent women with a long list of cool life experiences still persist in fixating on relationships.

I've been a feminist ever since I can remember. It frustrates me that, even away from men, women can be so defined by their relationships with them. It seems such a pathetic waste of time, talent, and opportunity to me.

Years ago, living in the suburbs with nary an eligible man in sight, I guess I came to the realization that life still went on. I started pursuing interests that brought me joy regardless of my relationship status. I enjoyed the challenge of learning Mandarin Chinese (regrettably, I’ve forgotten most of it since) and biked every weekend the weather cooperated and volunteered with a newly-immigrated family who became like my own family. Life became a thrilling challenge and adventure. I was amazed at the life I was starting to lead.

I realized that I could hold myself back in the hopes that I could be easily incorporated into a man’s life as his girlfriend, or I could truly spread my wings and do what I love to do, prepared to be alone if that’s the way it worked out. In the end I think I’ve become more intimidating to men than ever, but whatever. Because regardless of whether I ever date or live with another man, I will always have to live with myself. Flaws and all, I like my own company more and more.

I am the culmination of my own choices.

Part of the gang at Stratford

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Some of the gang at Stratford (there to see "King Lear" yesterday).

Left to right:
Jenny, Hong, Shannon, Jan

I particularly like this group photo for the energy it has.


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Tulips in dappled shade

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Adorable baby wear

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

I saw these baby clothes in a store in Stratford yesterday. The store was already closed by the time I arrived, so I just took pictures of the products in the window. They are too funny!!!

Just in case the slogans in the picture are too difficult to read, they read:

"MOMMY'S BOY - Get your own mommy. This one's taken."
"I'M NEW - What's your excuse?"

"Text me when my food is ready"

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

"Email me and we'll do a playdate"

Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Diary of a neophyte FLAP volunteer

Note: I've been meaning to post some of what follows for days.

Day One: On My Own

Last night, I had trouble sleeping, thinking about my first solo patrol for FLAP this morning. I am totally unsure of myself and my “skills”. Will I be able to catch the migratory songbirds? Will I cause them further harm? Will I even see them? (A former roommate once called me “the least observant person” she had ever met.) But I drag myself out of bed obscenely early this morning, because, as the great Lyle Lovett croons, “But what would you be if you didn't even try?”

And then the incredible happens. Within minutes of beginning my patrol, I see a dark lump at the base of an office tower. As I approach, I note the breeze stirring the feathers of a Brown Creeper and I initially think it can’t possibly still be alive. But as I get closer, it sees me and chirps but is otherwise helpless to move.

But to say it chirps is a disservice; I think the song of the brown creeper – even an injured one – is one of the sweetest, purest sounds I have ever heard.

My heart becomes a strange mixture of compassion and realism. I can’t imagine this bird surviving once having reached such a helpless state, but I am passionately determined to protect it from being eaten by a gull or some other kind of grisly fate.

The Brown Creeper is soon in its brown paper bag (for transport and reassurance), and I fight through the associated documentation (Which building is this, anyway???) before continuing my patrol. All too soon, I come upon a dead White-throated Sparrow. Again I plunk myself down on the cement to go through the paperwork. This time, there is a smoker standing in a nearby doorway who takes an interest in what I’m doing. Like quite a few Torontonians, he is aware of FLAP and the problem of migratory songbirds hitting windows. He tells me how a Northern Flicker tried to fly through the 10th-story window of his office just the day before, and how he saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in a tree in this courtyard a week prior. Uh … I’ve heard the name of a yellow-bellied sapsucker before. Boy, this guy knows a lot more about birds than I do. I make a joke about how long it’s taking me to document this dead bird, and he encourages me by telling me I’m doing a great job. We both laugh. I place a numbered tag around the dead sparrow’s leg, and after some more friendly chatter, move along in search of more birds.

As I walk along the streets of Toronto with my bag of supplies and my net with its long bamboo handle, I garner quite a bit of attention and friendly curiosity from office workers and commuters. Some ask me if I’m trying to catch butterflies, so I very pleasantly tell them about the songbirds and their unfortunate relationship to modern buildings. I am even stopped by a tourist from Philadelphia; I tell him about this North American problem that kills at least one billion songbirds a year and smile as I suggest that he could help birds similarly in his own city. I don’t dawdle very long, but I see him carefully studying the FLAP brochure I’ve given him.

In the next hour, I find two more White-throated Sparrows, one alive (but again helpless) and another dead. I give both live birds to Brian, one of FLAP’s most tireless volunteers, to take to the Toronto Wildlife Centre for assessment. I don’t dare believe that either will survive, but fervently believe in the value of the efforts made to protect and save them. Oddly, I am somehow invigorated by this patrol. I don’t enjoy seeing dead or injured animals at all, but it is such a powerful experience to rescue a wounded, helpless wild animal that I am charged up, amazed, and inspired. I decide to patrol again the next day.

Day Two

Once again I am pounding the sidewalk at some god-awful time in the morning. I run into fellow volunteers Brian and Eric again today, but initially it seems like a slow day for me. It is a clear, beautiful morning, and perhaps this bodes well for the birds. I continue to briskly walk around the buildings, figuring it’s great exercise and at least I’m not bored.

Doubling back to a place I’d been only 15 minutes prior, I see a pair of White-throated Sparrows desperately flapping along a wall of windows, trying to get through. They are strong birds and seem liable to hurt themselves through this effort. As I approach, they become more frantic. Not good. I easily capture one of them in my net, but can’t get the other one with it as well without possibly hurting the first. As I focus on extracting the first sparrow from my net and putting it into a paper bag, Eric happens to walk by. I call him over and the second sparrow is easily netted and placed in a paper bag so it won’t harm itself. We hand them over for temporary storage at the local security desk and continue our separate ways.

Later, in separate instances, I find three more live birds – one in dubious condition and colder than the two additional dead birds I’ve found. In each case, I hand the birds into the local holding station for pickup by a FLAP driver. Eventually, hollow-eyed and yet feeling like I’ve never done anything more optimistic or worthwhile, I head home.

Two Days Later

I receive news that the little Brown Creeper, whose life I feared was ending, was actually examined, assessed to be relatively healthy, and released the same day into the wild near the city, as were the White-throated Sparrows (WTSP) that Eric and I captured together. The live WTSP from my first day and the cold WTSP from my second day were also examined at the Toronto Wildlife Centre and held back for treatment. I’m beginning to think that some of these birds just hit the buildings and are stunned, but would be okay if they could just be protected from predators while they regain their senses.

Day Three – a week later and after my bird-handling workshop

This morning I meet my friend Lucy, who took her introductory FLAP training last weekend but has yet to do a patrol. I try to share with her all that I have learned in the last week. At one point she remarks about how much experience I seemed to have gathered. Although I would certainly not call myself an expert in any way, it is remarkable to me how much more confident I already am compared to how I started. Maybe this is just a good fit for me. All I know is that somehow this resonates with me – perhaps there was a little heroine deep inside who was just waiting for an opportunity?

Today we find one dead Pine Warbler (still warm) and a live Chestnut-sided Warbler.

I still suck at doing the paperwork.

Lucy bought her own bird net today at lunch.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper
Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

I've already rescued two of these birds in Toronto among the skyscrapers. Teeny little birds. They are becoming a sentimental favourite for me.

Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home
Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

This one is cool too.


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

I think this is a fun shot.

Tree Swallow - male

Tree Swallow - male
Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

This was probably my favourite bird of the day. So beautiful.

We newbies didn't get to hold it because the tree swallow has a rather short neck, and its wings are delicate. But it was still incredible to see up close.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler
Originally uploaded by Noisypond.


Originally uploaded by Noisypond.

Last Sunday morning - EARLY! - I attended a bird-handling workshop at the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station (TTPBRS). Lori, a volunteer with FLAP, taught us how to properly handle live songbirds.

The TTPBRS captures migrating birds through the use of gentle mist nets. They then examine, band, and release the birds, capturing important data that will be used to monitor the health of various bird populations.

We were there as FLAP volunteers to learn how to handle live birds. When we pick up injured birds, they are already very stressed and need to be handled properly. The birds captured at TTPBRS are healthy and much less stressed, so it was better to learn with them.

I took a lot of pictures. You can see them all here, although I will post some of what I consider to be the highlights on this blog. Note though that these are not exactly the pinnacle of photographic excellence, as I didn't have the proper lighting, and the whole point of the session was to receive training on handling and identifying birds, not photographing them (I think if I'd asked for people to move out of the way or to turn the birds into a better lighting position, Lori would have dispensed with me quite quickly! LOL).

But overall the experience was very cool.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Again from Rude Cactus, one of the most endearing things I've ever heard about a toddler:

My daughter kisses my knees. When I come home from work, she helps me change. When I take my pants off, she screams "knees!" from wherever she is, runs to me and gives both my knees kisses. Sometimes several kisses. Being my knees is a pretty cool gig.

Moral dilemma!

You've simply got to check out this blog posting at Rude Cactus and let me know what you think!

New Avaaz e-mail

I am loving Avaaz! Please read the e-mail below and do your part:

Dear fellow Canadians,

Wow, I couldn't believe it when I heard about our government's sneaky ways of undermining the world's efforts to stop climate change. This week, the press reported Al Gore calling the Harper government plan on CO2 emissions "a complete and total fraud…designed to mislead the Canadian people". Recently, Canada also received the international "Fossil Award" for misleading countries and quietly undermining international efforts at the climate negotiations in Kenya.

Canada? Misleading people and undermining the world's efforts to save their children's futures and stop deadly flooding, storms, desertification, diseases? Not my Canada. Surely not.

Well, it's true. And now I'm a strange mixture of hopping mad and really sad. This isn't our country, not one bit, and we need to let our Prime Minister know which country he's leading, and remind him that he works for us. Please click below to send a message directly to Stephen Harper asking him to come up with a real plan on climate change that doesn't disgrace our nation and let down good people around the world:

Will the Prime Minister do the right thing this time? It's an election year and he has a minority government. If he knows he can't fool us with a fake plan, he'll have to meet our demand for a real one that doesn't put Canada almost 20 years behind schedule on the Kyoto treaty targets.

We'll need one heck of a flood of messages to get him to finally listen. But Avaaz has over 100,000 members in Canada. If each of us can respond to this message, and then forward this email to a few friends, that's going to add up fast, maybe even to the number of voters that tipped the balance for Harper in the last election. That's a number he'll notice. Oh Canada, let's do it!

With much respect and hope,

Ricken Patel,
Avaaz – The World in Action

PS - Here's some links and more information on this issue:

David Suzuki Calls the government's new plan a national embarrassment:

Reuters reports Canada receives international "Fossil" award for misleading countries on climate change:

Al Gore Calls Canada's Climate Plan a Fraud: