The fish thrashed madly in the heron’s bill. The bird loosened its grip and lost the fish, but a quick stab and the Great Blue had it again. The bird beat the fish against the water, flipped it in the air, caught it head-first, then tipped its bill skyward and started the laborious process of swallowing the catfish whole. The walkers on the trail that curved around the small bay let out a sotto voce
Only the fins were visible when the heron gagged and the fish was in the water again. The bird nabbed its wriggling dinner and cocked its head, considering its options.
On a balmy Sunday like today, when we are in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, we taxi up to El Charco del Ingenio before the sun is fully up. The Charco is a swath of grassland, dotted with cacti and mesquite, that frames a shallow lake created by damming the stream that cuts through a wild gorge down into the city. Charco del Ingenio translates variously as “puddle of wit,” “water-works,” and “spirit pool.” I prefer the latter.
We moved to Calle Animas—Spirit Street—in San Miguel de Allende just as the jacarandas were coming into bloom. When we rented the place, I was leery of the three dogs on the rooftop next door, but once they got used to our routine of spending the sunset hour on our neighboring terrace, they were blessedly quiet. Our mornings, however, were thunderous. We’d wake shortly before dawn to deep poundings in the water pipes. We called our house manager, who sent her master-of-all-trades handyman, but by the time he arrived at a decent hour, the pounding had stopped.
The spring of 1956 was slow to arrive. That April—unlike ours—was cold, with heavy snows; at the end of the month, the ice on Pimisi Bay was still solid. The spring migration seemed off-kilter to Louise. The few flyttfågar
—migratory birds—that landed in her woods were five to eleven days late. The vast flocks were stalled, she assumed, somewhere to the south. Read more
This week, a female mallard with a slight limp came waddling through our condo courtyard, sizing up the planters beside each front door, hopping into one, wiggling her breast into the debris of last year’s plantings, then jumping out to try the next. Two years ago, this same female sat for ten weeks on soil barely covered by the dried tops of my potted daffodils and tulips. Roofers working nearby left corn and cut-off Coke bottles filled with water.
On March 25, 1945, a neighbour of Louise de Kiriline Lawrence followed a pair of Canada Jays carrying twigs among the conifers on the cliffs near the chute where the Mattawa River begins, east of North Bay. He spied the nest, and knowing Louise’s interest in birds, led her to the bushy white spruce and pointed up. Eight feet overhead, parent birds had woven dry sticks between a fork of branches, creating a frame for a nest of oak leaves, birch bark, bits of a wasp’s nest, and threads from tent caterpillar cocoons. On a mattress of fine grasses, animal hair, and breast feathers lay five white eggs spotted with olive brown, their small ends neatly nestled to the centre.