The Active Light

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Photo Dennis Vanderspek Trumpeter Swans on Mill Pond.

Isn’t it wonderful how the days are getting longer! I cursed the time change because it meant I was getting up in the dark (again!) but it got me thinking about light. And it just happened that I was re-reading Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” (totally wasted on me when I read it the first time in Grade 9!). In it I read this captivating passage: “In the twilight of the morning light seems active, darkness passive; in the twilight of evening it is the darkness which is active and crescent, and the light which is the drowsy reverse.” Obviously he’s being poetic but I now realize I think he’s got something there. Or it is just because I’m a “morning person”? Sure I love the longer evenings but there’s just something about the light of early morning.

But no matter what time of day you prefer and no matter what time of day you are able to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, this season has so much to offer. We are all looking forward to the first blooms of spring in the gardens and in the wild places. And soon the spring migration will be bringing back the colourful and appealing nesting birds. All of that we eagerly anticipate and we all are keeping our eyes open for. But let me tell you what I’ve seen lately , so you’re also prepared for similar unexpected sightings.

In early March we were lucky enough to have a pair of Trumpeter Swans back on the pond. My network of fellow enthusiasts had alerted me. And the first time I saw them one of them even obliged me by getting up on the ice so I could see its legs and feet (black, you see, and diagnostic that they were not Mute Swans). And the feet are enormous! My ROM field guide tells me this type of swan can weigh up to 12 kilos; while the Canada Goose only ever gets up to 7.5kg. They are majestic as they float along. The sound from the dam construction didn’t seem to phase them one bit–and they were quite near at the north end of the pond.

Another white oddity has returned to the millpond: Snow Geese. They are very different in shape from the Canada Geese and they are still in their winter plumage which is all white except for a few black tail feathers. They’re not nearly as beautiful as the swans but still something you should keep an eye out for.

One early morning walk allowed me to catch sight of a mink as it fished on the millpond. Somehow I happened to come upon it unawares and it startled and scooted across the ice and then swam to the island and disappeared into the bank. And then in the woods I heard an odd, raptorlike call. Before I could train my binoculars on the spot, it proved to be another mink which shot out and raced along the path away from me. Oh I hope they don’t get into anyone’s henhouse!

My morning walk always take me around the millpond to reach Medd’s Mountain. And this route has allowed me to keep track of the construction (destruction is more factual in this phase) at the dam. One day I was interested to see a group of people with colourful children’s pails doing something in the water below the dam. Of course I shouted over and asked them what they were doing. They were catching and releasing downstream all the species trapped there. I read online that they caught 800 fish along with crayfish and frogs. All in that little bit of water!

In that active light of early morning your ears should catch the “dawn chorus”. The birds have started heralding dawn again. They too are calling to us to get out! And enjoy!

Get Out! by Glen Spurrell

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