Sunday, September 15, 2013



I'm sure that the Great Blue Heron that stands as still as a statue when it isn't looking suspiciously up the Trent and pooping on my point is now the great great great descendant of the one that came with the cottage on Burnt Point when I bought it several decades ago.
To me it's the same bird. I greet it in the spring with quiet appreciation and then almost take it for granted. But when it lands close to me, we stare at each other and I admire it more than it admires me.
It gave me a magic moment the other day.
Years ago my son Mark went to Bay Bloor Radio (which sells wonderful but costly stuff) and bought me two outdoor speakers that look like rocks. Wonderful sound. I can really crank up the music through them if some jerk fisherman is in his ninth hour of fishing within feet of my shore.  Or when the neighbour's son brings a noisy pack to howl at the moon and play unmusical nonsense at 2 a.m.
The other day, the Toronto classical station which is relentless in promoting the Znaimer Zoomer empire, and Moses' wife, played one of the greatest songs in opera.
I stopped to listen, as I always do, because it is like the heavens opened and angels are serenading mere mortals.
Georges Bizet is scorned by some and his creation of The Pearl Singers may now be remembered mainly for  one musical soliloquy. I refer, of course, to "au fonds du temple saint" when the tenor and the baritone discover that they are in love with the same woman.
The hair stands up on my neck when Jussi Bjorling, the tenor known as the Swedish Caruso, and the great Robert Merill, sing that duet.  It almost makes the so-called "new" 96.3 FM classical station okay despite the incessant propaganda.
Then I noticed that the heron had moved from the very point, where it makes the manure spreaders known as Canada geese look constipated, to a little landing on the side that my son Brett built for his sons Matthew and Mikey for fishing,  We call it M and M Point. The heron wanted to be closer to the speakers. And there it stood listening to every gorgeous note.
It stayed for a few more pieces, listening intently but without the concentration it had given Bizet as interpreted by Bjorling and Merill. Then the mood was snapped by some Zoomer promotion and it flapped heavily away, looking like it was flying backwards, sounding like a rusty hinge.
Yet it does come back, not enough of course. My heron doesn't like the "modern" afternoon drive show music on CBC FM that much but the classics it loves, But then the world has paused for that particular duet every time it's played.
As I've written, I keep a radio playing in the boat house in a vain attempt to stop beavers from turning it into their lodge. Doesn't work. Even rap fails, and that can kill cockroaches. It was four centuries ago that the phrase was coined that "music has charms to soothe the savage breast." It certainly works for me, and the heron, but not, damn it, for beaver.
It is one of my joys of nature that herons and loons in my stretch of the Trent have now been free for generations of idiots who would chase them in their boats. You certainly seem to be able to get closer. I have been swimming around the point and been ignored by a pair of loons who are so busy diving and munching that they don't bother to keep their distance.
I was golfing with my Plewes cousins recently at Pinestone Resort near Haliburton when a very large heron stood near a creek where of course I had driven my ball, It reluctantly moved, even though there were men around swinging shiny clubs. Maybe it figured out we didn't know how to use them.
At St. Pete's Beach in Florida, some cold days there can be more herons near the pool than Snow Birds.
My oldest son John Henry and I went to the Galapagos Islands a decades or so ago at great cost and difficulty. Of course we were entranced by the Boobys (those are sea birds, not blondes) and the giant tortoises. After all, there still may be a tortoise around that Charles Darwin rode because no one knows how long they live.
I returned filled with stories and loaded with film, the digital snapshots not yet having been invented to ruin real photography. It was a busy Friday at the Sun so I didn't notice just how Associate Editor Glen Woodcock was displaying my column and pictures.
So I opened my Sunday Sun at breakfast with the same anticipation as our readers and discovered that  one of the main pictures in my spread was of a Great Blue Heron standing on a point being hammered by Pacific waves.
I phoned Woodcock to grumble mildly that I had flown out to the middle of a giant ocean to visit a famous nature sanctuary and he used a shot of a bird that I could have photographed at my cottage.
It was a great picture, Glen said. And it was. But then it's hard to take a bad one of a heron, the largest of the wading birds of North America, which is now more common than when I was a boy a century or two ago.
I was telling my musical heron story to one of the best dermatologists around, Dr. Franklynne Vincent, after she told me about her birding visit to South America, including, of course, Machu Pichu.
(Vincent rescued me from the deep bedsores given me by the evil care at St. Joseph's in Toronto, which never even bothered to reply when I told hundreds of thousands readers in the Toronto Sun that it was arguably among the worst hospital in Canada.)
Then Vicent one-upped me, which would please my friends who listen to my anecdotes. She and her  husband, the avid birder,  have had a macaw for 10 years which rides around on Vincent's shouder. In the morning before she starts her hectic day, the macaw gets vocally agitated if she doesn't turn on that classical station and let it listen, to the music that is, not the endless Zoomer plugs.
Doubt if I can get the heron to do that.

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