Rare Bird


Rare Bird

What a “goings on” we’re after having at my parent’s place in Topsail this year. I’m not certain how closely you’ve been watching our weather in Newfoundland, but 2018 has been brilliant thus far. You know, if you really, like weather! We saw a fair bit of frost in the late fall, and a mid December snow storm promised we’d have a White Christmas. But that was before Canada, and all of North America went frigid.



“… brilliant blast of spring temperatures…”

Remember that cold front that drove all the way up to Florida in early January? You must have. There were geckos falling out of trees and everything, sure. Well, all that warm air had to go somewhere, pushed south, it eventually swirled out to the east, then northwards till it circled back on our shores here in Newfoundland, bringing a brilliant blast of spring temperatures that peaked at an 18-degree high. Fabulous really.

In an environment that changes with the “frequency of a cheap ham radio”, its important to recognize and maintain normalcy wherever possible. If for no other reason than the standard against which we measure the madness of our world. At our family homestead in Topsail, we experience many comforts. Perhaps the most interesting of which are Mother’s bird feeders.



“… changes with the frequency of a cheap ham radio…”

Our garden is ideally situated in a beautiful river glen, with a babbling brook, plenty of wooded shelter, and a unique micro climate that is considered quite temperate when compared to the rest of Newfoundland. Add in the several dozen feeders Mother keeps stocked, and a lot of interesting birds avail of this Nirvana, often choosing to overwinter here. By fault or design.

We often see Chickadees and Juncos, Cedar Wax Wings, Gold Finches, Pine Siskins, Robins and the odd Starling. Occasionally we’ll spot Bohemian Wax Wings, Boreal Chickadees and the Red Cross Bills. Then there are times when, just like Ed Riche’s famous novel suggests, we’ll see a ‘Rare Bird’.



“… January mild…”

Such was the case after this year’s big January mild, when Mom noticed a peculiar looking character in the garden. Bearing some resemblance to our ‘Morning Dove’, he showed himself repeatedly for a couple of weeks, prompting much discussion and debate in the house. When father dismissed the newcomer as a “deformed wood pecker” – Mom dug deeper, finally calling one of her quilting friends whose husband is a biologist and bird expert.

Like any true birder, he was excited about the prospects, and immediately made his way to the Topsail House, identifying our new friend as a White Winged Dove, who might have made it all the way from the State of Texas. And just as Larry McMurtry suggested in his epic novel and television mini series – this truly was a ‘Lonesome Dove’.

dove 2

“… truly was a Lonesome Dove.”

He was lost. Had no buddies to talk to, didn’t speak any of the local languages, and he had to be mesmerized by the widely fluctuating temperatures and mad varieties of precipitation falling. The only thing he had going for him was Mother. As soon as she showed in the garden, he was out and ready to tackle whatever grub she presented. There was nothing wrong with his appetite. Which is probably what kept him alive this long.

Birders came from all over to catch a glimpse, and some were fortunate enough to snap a photo. I made several trips without any success, each time dreading the likelihood that he’d finally perished. I was surprised the cold hadn’t taken him, and every morning I called Topsail for an update.


dove 1

“… fortunate to snap a photo…”

The latest of which was most concerning since Dad had just spotted a mink in the garden. Nature was encroaching at a rapid pace so I immediately headed over the road for yet another try. As it turns out, my last, though perhaps most rewarding.

While I would have liked to capture him live, instead I happened upon an especially amazing spectacle when I found our new friend clasped in the talons of another garden regular, the Sharp Shinned Hawk.



“… Sharp Shinned Hawk…” 

An amazing photo op for certain. Closure for Mother, indeed. And most importantly, undeniable blame affixed to the appropriate predator. For mother, would have otherwise made a stole out of that poor old mink had he stood accused.

“Survival of the fittest?” I suppose, but that hawk would have been way down the grub line had I known our dove was actually a game bird that would have made an interesting addition to our supper table. Rare Bird? More likely to be ‘Well Done’ here in Newfoundland!”

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