DSC_4543Redwing Blackbird.

Lisa and I are in Calgary taking care of our beautiful grandkids while their Mom and Dad are at a wedding in Mexico.

They are such good kids. We have tried to keep them busy and on schedule to keep them from missing their parents to a minimum. So far we have been successful, but it’s only day 3 of 8. The birdhouse project I planned and expected to take all week was completed in a morning. This had a lot to do with Grandma Lisa who believes once you start a project you finish it. The kids had fun putting roofs on the hollow logs, drilling holes and using screws and nails to complete the project. Of course they got to use all the tools, including the power tools (with assistance) themselves. The houses look great and they are very proud of them.

Each morning before the kids awake I take Willow and Gemma for a walk at Fish Creek Park. It runs for miles in the creek bottom. Mostly large poplar and cottonwood trees and plenty of birds. The entrance to the part of the park we normally access is closed, so we go to another entrance further west.

The path goes down a hill to wetlands with cattails and a few ponds. Signs say the pond is storm runoff and to use caution as the pond will rise quickly during wet weather.

The Redwing Blackbirds chirp and protect their nests, the females in the rushes below. They will hunker and show off their colourful shoulders to the dogs if they feel we are getting too close. Yet they are much less afraid then their rural counterparts. They have become used to humans walking by.


This evening, once the kids were in bed I went back to see if I could get some photos. Not having brought my camera I took my daughters oldest Nikon. I had planned it during the afternoon, charging the battery and found a memory card.

The first thing I noticed was the paths were much more busy in the evening. Unlike the morning, when the few people I met responded favourably to my, ‘good morning’. Almost nobody responded to my, ‘good evening’. They looked to the edge of the path.  The ones who did respond looked confused.

Perhaps they had reason. I was wearing an old plaid lumber jacket and had a scruffy Willow dog on a leash (I left Gemma home as she pulls too much for taking photos).

I had about 10 minutes of light, the birds hunkered saving their energy, their shrill song only used sparingly.

I closed my ears to the sound of the city, the hiss of the cars on the roads and the voices, everywhere, all wanting to be heard. The Blackbirds amazed me by their resilience. Would they loose their nests during the next storm when the rainwater was all funnelled through underground corridors to their pond?  I wondered if this part of strong wilderness could sustain Willow and I, both of us on a leash?

Tomorrow morning my Grandchildren will greet me with sleepy eyes, tangled hair and big smiles.

11 thoughts on “wilderness

  1. Jim R

    Red-winged blackbirds are staking out their territories here, too. Lots of scolding if I get too close to their ‘property’.

    Interesting observation about the difference between the morning and the evening people. You should make that comparison again to see if it holds true every time.

    We’re back from Tacoma WA. Our son’s house has an offer on it. Waiting for the financing and inspection to pass muster. They also became proud parents of our 8th grandchild, a boy. He is the cutest ever, of course. 🙂

    We’re going to our weekly ‘learners-of-the-English-language’ class this morning. There are 10-20 people in attendance. It is fun to help them speak the language.


    1. underswansea

      Hi Jim, congratulations on your new grandchild. Very exciting! The class you attend to help people speak the language sounds fun. I work with several Filipino immigrants and they are teaching me some Filipino. I am not a good learner, too old and too many head injuries, but they get a kick out of it and I enjoy it. It is a lot easier than Ktunaxa, that’s for sure.

      My guess on the difference between the morning and evening attitude is there is just way more people in the evening. Also I am noticing that cities are very tribal. People stick together with like people. There is a good chance I am not accepted in that part of the park.

      The other day I went into an Asian gardening store. It was a pretty cool place. I bought a couple cannabis seeds of a strain I thought sounded interesting. The owner and I got to talking and before long we both had our phones out and we were showing each other pictures of our gardening prowess (his results much greater than mine).

      All the best to you and Melanie.


      1. Jim R

        What is Ktunaxa?

        Is that park on the wrong side of the tracks? Or do you just live in the wrong side of town?

        From what I’ve seen of your garden pictures, you look to be a good gardener.

        I’ll pass it on to Melanie. Same to you and Lisa.


  2. Carol A. Hand

    Such lovely photos and reflections, Bob. I am impressed that you are able to find wilderness even in the city and ways to teach you grandchildren to love nature and practical, creative skills at the same time. Sending my best wishes to you and your lovely family.


  3. mountaincoward

    I’m the other way around – if I have to be up early morning I don’t speak to anyone ‘cos I’m very grumpy at that time and am cross with them for being up when they don’t need to be (i.e. if they’re just out for a walk and I’m going to work – otherwise I’d be asleep). Later in the day I’m pretty sociable out walking…

    Great idea to build birdhouses. Your blackbirds are very colourful with those red wings – not sure if I didn’t see some of those in Georgia (the Southern US one)? Ours are just plain black but very friendly and quite tame…


    1. underswansea

      Hi Carol, our Blackbirds are also very noisy. I am used to walking without seeing a soul so I am not sure of etiquette. It seems in the city you are not to acknowledge a passerby.


      1. mountaincoward

        definitely city folks don’t speak to people walking by – I know in our village, before it got overrun, everyone spoke in passing – now they look at you funny if you say hello


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