What are you not seeing?

My latest column, for the Christian Courier.


Up until a few years ago I had never seen them. I didn’t even know they were around, so didn’t know to look for them. But every Spring they are here. In fact, we are at peak season right now so there’s a good chance you will glimpse them if you look carefully. And it would be worth the effort, too, given how beautiful they are in their blues and greens and reds and yellows – especially the yellows.

IMG_6359Perhaps you’ve guessed that I’m referring to the birds that make their way north each spring, particularly the warblers that rest each night in the trees around us on their journey. There is the Blackburnian Warbler, the Magnolia Warbler, the American Redstart, the Chestnut-sided Warbler, and the wonderfully named Yellow-rumped Warbler. The picture accompanying this column is of a Yellow-rumped Warbler that stopped over, ever so briefly, in my backyard last May.

For so many years, I missed this annual wave of feathers and song. While I have always enjoyed watching common backyard birds (finches, cardinals, jays, juncos and chickadees), I assumed that beautiful, multi-colored birds were a unique preserve of more tropical regions. Now that I know better, I’m learning to recognize the telltale movements of these tiny creatures in high branches as the sun warms them early in the morning. Continue reading


listening for God’s voice…

Most of you will know Summit Park in Westmount. Westmount itself, of course, is one of the three small peaks that make up Mount Royal, such a defining feature of our city. And at the top of the third small peak of Westmount is Summit Park – a 57-acre urban woodland, a nature preserve, with towering trees and walking paths.

In the month of May each year, Summit Park is a favourite location for many of the birdwatchers in this city. May is a favoured month because at this time of year many warblers make the return to their North American breeding grounds – these tiny, brightly coloured, insect-eating birds are on their way back from Central and South America where they spend the winter. So, as the sun rises early in the morning, and as the trees and leaves are warmed in Summit Park, the warblers begin to sing and to feed – and the bird-watchers are there, trying to catch a glimpse of them.

So it was that this past Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. I found myself out on a cool spring morning, at Summit Park – binoculars hanging around my neck. Four of us had gathered there to go bird-watching… Now I have to tell you that I am an absolute novice when it comes to bird-watching. But one of that group of four was Alain Goulet – who is of course, known to many of us. I don’t know if you can ever apply the word ‘professional’ to a bird-watcher, but Alain gets pretty close to deserving that title. Like other seasoned bird watchers, Alain is able to see things and hear things and recognize things that a novice like myself barely notices. Continue reading