From my earliest childhood, I frequently accompanied my grandfather, Dr. J. Murray Speirs, on birdwatching outings.
He was one of Ontario’s leading ornithologists and taught at the University of Toronto. Dr. Speirs could identify birds from the briefest of sounds. I like this quote by Louise de Kiriline Lawrence about him: Murray’s basic ingredient was sound. Faultlessly learned by an ear constantly so finely attuned to the identity of the species, to the individual, to situations, even moods, that a mistake became almost totally unlikely.
Every sound that I hear in the woods brings back memories of his teaching. A short gentle pik is a Downy Woodpecker. A sharp, strong peek is a Hairy Woodpecker.
In the last few years, I have been hearing a chig sound with a definite ch beginning. This is not a sound that I recall from days with my grandfather. Eventually I was able to locate the source: the Red-bellied Woodpecker – a species that has become relatively common only recently. We heard one this morning.
Wilket Creek Park views:
This morning’s group:
Thank-you to a walker took this photo of a bird in my hand this morning.
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago. – Christina Rossetti