Friday, March 28, 2014


To date, this is my favorite Eastern Bluebird shot of Rob's. Point Pelee 2011
Last Saturday, Rob and I attended the 26th Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society. This was only our second meeting and the first one since we starting running the groups Facebook page.

It was an all day event, but when you're spending the day with like minded people and learning about things that interest you, the time goes very fast, too fast.

The meeting starts with opening statements and members give nest box reports from last year. There is a guest speaker in the morning and another one in the afternoon. The always popular "Bucket Raffle" and lots of chatter and laughter, it's a grand time!

I loved meeting people who follow the Facebook page. Me with Delores & Patty who both have nest box trails.
Rob with Kristyn from Bird Studies Canada.
The morning guest speaker was Kristyn Richardson from Bird Studies Canada who gave a very informative talk on Barn Swallows. Barn Swallows are now on Canada's endangered species list. You can learn more about that and how to help by clicking here.

In the afternoon Josh Sayers gave a talk on a species I'm not sure many people even knew live in Ontario, Badgers. Learn more about the Ontario's Badgers. Now that I know what to look for, I'm going to have my eyes peeled when we're in a habitat I know they would like.

I have to share this picture of Bill Read, the Founder of the OEBS, and long time member Stanley Haworth. Bill presented Stanley with a certificate of appreciation for his long time service to the society. Stanley was instrumental in getting the society's charitable status and served on the executive committee for over 20 years.  

When Stanley gave his thank you speech he got a little emotional and teary eyed, which of course got me teary eyed. You could feel the love and respect he had for Bill and other long time members.

"There is nothing more noble then working with wildlife" ~ Stanley Haworth
Our donation for the Bucket Raffle, 2 Eastern Bluebird coffee mugs and a bag of coffee.
I love the Bucket Raffle and always buy lots of tickets. This year we won a couple handmade lawn ornaments, a homemade bird house and a honey gift basket!

Our haul from the raffle.
Eastern Bluebirds will be returning to Ontario soon to start nesting, keep your eyes open for them!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


There are 4 Short-eared Owls in this photo, can you find them all?
It has been a long, cold winter, but spring arrives tomorrow, finally! It won't be long until we are seeing green grass and enjoying warmer temperatures. Some of the first migratory birds are starting to return to set up territories and they will soon be followed by the beautiful warblers and nesting season will start again.

We didn't do as much birding this past winter, it was just too cold. We went out on Saturday and were joined by our friend, Lev. I really had no idea what to expect in sightings, and honestly, it was just nice to be out.

We ended up having a pretty grand day, or "epic", as Lev called it later. We were treated to 3 different owl species; Short-eared, Great-Horned and Screech. Winter and summer birds crossed each other on this trip for us, much to my delight. I saw my first returning Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern Bluebirds and Turkey Vultures. I had my second look at Snow Buntings and first sightings of Horned Larks this winter. We also had some Rough-legged Hawks and a Kestrel put on some amazing flying shows for us.

Please enjoy a few photos of our day.

Red-morphed Eastern Screech Owl.
A Tufted Titmouse at Ruthven Historical Park.
That's a female Great-horned Owl sitting on eggs in their nest.

I was thrilled to see my first Horned Larks this winter! We saw many.

American Kestrel.

I have to say a few words about this Kestrel. Sometimes a bird that you've seen many times can take your breathe away, and this one did. We watched him hoover for what seemed like forever, and then he swooped down and got a big vole right in front of us. The bitter wind had us watching this amazing show from the warmth of the truck. I'd never seen a Kestrel hoover before or catch something, it was awesome to witness!

First Eastern Bluebird sighting of 2014!
Always nice to see some fur bearing wildlife on these birding outings.
We ended this great day just the way I like, by having a grand meal! Lev and I feasted on a variety of oysters and seafood chowder at Jake's Grill & Oyster House. Rob tried his first, and probably last oyster! LOL!!  I love memorable days like this and hope to have a few this spring.

Friday, March 14, 2014


It's been 25 years since I moved to Toronto, Ontario!
I still remember walking out of Toronto’s Union Station onto Front Street all those years ago, and looking up at the tallest buildings I had ever seen.

It was 1989 and I was 19 years old. I had left my hometown of Truro, Nova Scotia the day before on the train. I came with a friend, Sherry. She was on March Break during her final year of high school. I had finished school and was working, but was off, still recovering from a serious car accident the November before. My older brother lived in Toronto at the time and I was coming to check out the big city. I had a return ticket for two weeks after I arrived that never got used.

There was a lot of job opportunities here at the time, and having my brother here was added security. Toronto was a big, new and exciting place to a small town girl from Nova Scotia.

Those first few years were spent taking advantage of all Toronto had to offer; the nightlife, new foods, seeing the bands live that I had worshipped as a teenager. My brother and I had a couple apartments together before I broke out on my own. He eventually moved further west, and I was truly on my own.  

I had a variety of jobs over those first years; cashier, filing clerk, and credit investigator. I’ve been working for the University of St. Michael’s College for close to 20 years now in an administrative type position.   

One of the things I am most proud of since I’ve been here, is starting a successful women’s social club that ran for over a decade. Many friendships were formed because of that club, and many of my closest friends are a direct result of it.

It hasn’t always been easy here for me, especially on the relationship front. I kissed a few frogs before I found my prince, but he was worth every tear shed. Rob and I have been together for over ten years now, and married for just over one.
I’m definitely not the same person I was when I left Nova Scotia. I don’t feel the need to always be on the go anymore and enjoy my time at home more and more. Rob and I have discovered a shared passion for birding, wildlife and nature in general. We volunteer and try to support many organizations dear to us. When we do go out, it’s usually early in the mornings to see birds instead of late at night to see bands. I still enjoy a few concerts every year though, I’m just more fussy about it.  

I will always be a Maritimer at heart and I still miss many things from Nova Scotia; my family, friends, the seafood, and the smell of the salt air, but Toronto has been good to me.  

Nova Scotia gave me my roots, but it’s in Ontario that I learned to spread my wings and fly.

Here's to 25, cheers!

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Rob with his all time favorite comic book character, Vampirella.
Before I get into this blog, I want to take a minute to personally thank all the fans who dress up for these events. Seeing you in costumes, for us, is a big part of the reason we enjoy attending so much. "Thank you for all the hard work you put into your costumes, it is appreciated, even from us who don't dress up."

Yesterday Rob and I attended Toronto ComicCon. We hadn't been in a few years, and we were really looking forward to it. I forgot how much fun it is hunting for comics to complete our collections. Rob - Vampirella, me - the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch series. We both lucked out and added 2 more to our collections.   

We arrived shortly after 10am and walked right in. Lots of people already there and lots of fans in costumes! We walked the whole area looking at all the booths, enjoying the costumes, and from time to time asking to take photos, which everyone happily obliged.

Me with R2D2! He moved, turned his head and made all sorts of noises!
The Ontario Ghostbusters.
    I have to admit, I had never heard of the "Ontario Ghostbusters" before, but after checking out their website was highly impressed. They raise money for various charities, and they do it well. Check them out!

We ran into "Harley Quinn" from Batman.
And then we ran into another....
Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.
  One of the reasons I was super excited about attending this year, is because I decided to buy a "photo op" with Billy Boyd (Pippin) and Sean Astin (Samwise) from "Lord of the Rings", one of my all time favorite movies. Lots of fans dressed up from the movie.

A Hobbit and an Elf.
The whole family dressed up from the movie, awesome!!!
Me with Billy and Sean.
I'm not going to lie, I was disappointed with the photo op, it was super fast, like an assembly line. But, I paid for a pic, not a meet and greet. It was over in less then a minute, one take, and I wish Sean had of smiled, not given his "look", but what's done is done and I still had a great time at the event. Even waiting in line for the photo op was enjoyable, talking to other fans about movies, shows and other events.

Our last visit to one of these events was in 2010, we won't be missing them again, they are too much fun.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


This Great Gray Owl was the highlight of the trip this past Saturday.
Rob and I have been birding for almost a decade now, and sometimes we forget what it's like to be "newbies". Please don't get me wrong, we are in no way experts, but we have picked up a bit of knowledge over the past ten years, and we are just learning how rewarding it can be to share that knowledge with others.

A couple of weeks ago we both volunteered at the Bird Studies Canada booth at the "Outdoor Adventure Show". We talked nothing but birds and the various programs run by BSC for 4 hours straight! It was awesome! I know more about birds than I thought I did! I told Emily, the organizer, that we'd do an 8 hour shift next year!

Rob waiting to share his knowledge.
Emily in deep conversation about birds.
This past Saturday we went on a "Toronto Nature Lovers" trip to Amherst Island. We've been there a few times with the group and it's always a good trip. You never know what to expect, and we sure weren't disappointed on this trip.

Some in the group were very experienced birders, while others were very new. It was a good feeling to share some bird seed so people could hand feed Chickadees for the first time. It was enjoyable for me to explain the difference between Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, and how to tell the difference between the sexes. There is so much to learn when it comes to birding, I still have plenty to learn, but it felt to good to share what I know.

We had quite the walk into Owl Woods. The road wasn't plowed and up to my knees in places, but what we experienced when we got there made it all worth it.   

The "fellowship" walking to Owl Woods. Photo by Jim Psilhogies.
I have never found an owl on my own in my years of birding. Jo-Anne, not only spotted the beautiful Great Gray Owl, but it was her first wild owl ever! Way to go Jo-Anne!

What a beauty!
Taking pictures, but being respectful of the owls space. Photo by Debbie Shields
A couple of people were not able to do the walk in, it was a tough one, so the next sighting we had after leaving Owl Woods was all the more special.

A gorgeous male Snowy Owl put on quite the flying show for us!
I was THRILLED to see some Snow Buntings! First time this winter.
It was a great and memorable day with a great group of people, and I look forward to our next trip.

This was Rob's and mines second Great Gray Owl. Our first sighting was in Oct. 2012, and came courtesy of Lev Frid. You can read all about that adventure here. It's one of my favorite blog posts.

Lev and I after making the return trip from Owl Woods.
Lev was my first exciting sighting of the day, in the parking lot before we left, I didn't know he was joining us, a surprise from Murray. Read the other blog to understand why I have such fondness for him. He payed it forward in a big way to Rob and I, and we will never forget it. 

You can find Toronto Nature Lovers on Facebook and Meetup.