Monthly Archives: June 2017

Birdwatching at Long Point Provincial Park

Dear Mother Nature,

I took a long drive to Port Rowan, Ontario near Lake Erie this morning with a new pair of binoculars. My destination was the Long Point Bird Observatory.

I arrived around midday at the visitor’s facility. I found a route branching off towards the South. In front, there were multiple signs planted in the ground, warning adventurers of poison ivy and a possibility of ticks carrying Lyme disease on the trail. Nice. I applied a profuse spray of insect repellent on my body and carried on.

It astounded me how many birds I heard in the surroundings as I traversed the tall bushes and forestry surrounding my path – far more than you might find at a city park or trail. But as I discovered soon, finding and identifying them was a another challenge.

Early on, I arrived at an observing platform.. Dragonflies buzzed around at the pond nearby. After a couple minutes of viewing, a small bird landed on a metal pole no more than ten feet out from me. I was so breathtaken that I forgot to record it with my photograph, and I therefore cannot pinpoint its species. My best guess is that it was some sort of hummingbird.

With the help of an app on my mobile phone, I distinguished a couple creatures I observed today. Among those were the Red-Winged Blackbird, the Common Grackle, and the American Robin – all very common species. I think I’ll get better at finding more elusive varieties as I learn more about birds.

My clearest view and most enthralling view came at the end of the day, on a sandy path nearby the Long Point beach. There, I found a group of white-bellied birds which I identified as tree swallows: beautiful, acrobatic fliers with shiny blue backs. A couple brown-feathered females also rested on the branches of their tree. I walked up to around twenty feet away from their spot and got a great view of the half-dozen swallows perched there. Captivating.

The location where I found the tree swallows.

Was my journey a success? To even a novice birder, no. I struggled to put a name on even some common species in the area. But as I dive deeper into your rabbit hole, Mother Nature, I’m becoming more and more mesmerized.

Humans all have moments of intense enthrallment. The first time a child sees snow. The first time a mother holds her baby. More than ever in my recent years, I feel that I’m experiencing more and more of these moments in your presence, nature.

I’ll be back at Long Point soon.

 

Sincerely,

Eric

 

Do We Take Too Many Photos?

Dear World,

Recently, as I was backing up some photos on my iPhone, I found myself asking, do I take too many pictures?

Personally, compared to my peers, I am not a prolific photographer: my phone’s camera roll currently contains only 86 pictures. At times, I feel disconnected from a generation of millennials who obsess over posting photos online.

We take more pictures in the 21st century because the role of photo-taking is changing.

In the past, a photograph was a way of recording intense personal memories to savor in the future with family and friends, like Marisa Donnelley at Thought Catalog wrote. During my early years, my mother recorded videos of me at school or at the zoo or on the beach. Now, when we watch them on our VHS player, it brings us a lot of joy. My mother’s video-recording was a selfless act. She sacrificed her ability to relax and to enjoy her surroundings by constantly capturing my activities. As a result of her sacrifice, I can re-watch parts of my childhood which I would have forgotten.

Today, photography is not simply a selfless act. With the rise of social networks such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, photo-taking, or more specifically photo-posting, has become a tool for validation and self-promotion. It’s pretty common for a teenager to text his or her friends, asking, “Is this good enough to post on Instagram?” or “What should I caption this photo?”, and this is reveals the changing purposes of digital media. While pictures and videos may still be ways to share memories with close ones, we post them on Instagram and Snapchat to embellish our social image. By taking photos of concerts and parties, we seek approval from our followers – “oh, your life must be so awesome!” 

There’s a reason that Instagram users obsess over the number of likes on their posts.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with updating friends on your life through websites and applications, it becomes obsessive. My iPhone tells me that I’ve used Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook for a total of 6.5 hours this week, and for many teenagers, this number is double, or even triple.

I don’t have a solution to our generation’s social media woes, nor can I answer whether we take too many pictures. However, I believe that we should take more meaningful pictures.

The next time you pull out your phone to take a shot, ask yourself, why am I taking this photo? To cherish in the future? Or merely to post on a snapstory which will disappear in 24 hours? You’ll find your pictures a lot more meaningful.

 

Sincerely,

Eric

A Walk in Nature

Dear Mother Nature,

I ventured out into your realm on one of my morning walks around campus last Sunday, and you amazed me with your startling beauty in the most unexpected places.

There is a tree standing on the lawn outside my dormitory. I often sit under its shade reading homework assignments while playing music. Sometimes, other students climb up its smooth bark in an attempt to reach the top.

Today, I identified the tree as a yellowwood. The bark is deceptive: its evenness resembles that of a birch tree, but its distinctive traits give it away: its pinnately compound leaves, and its beautiful, white flowers which hang in clusters during the spring and the early summer. It is native to the southeastern part of the United States, but is commonly integrated into gardens and lawns in the north.

I walked to the other side of campus, where there is a little enclave. The ground is covered in foliage and deciduous trees tower over. With some research, I pinpointed the above plant as the Massachusetts Fern, native to New England. It naturally occurs near swamps and wetlands, which makes sense, since there is a river right beside the area. But you probably already know that. You’re Mother Nature, after all.

As soon as I entered the area, I heard a sudden rustle in the grass, and I spotted a wild turkey about seven or eight feet away, running towards the nearby downhill slope. I managed to capture the last few seconds of its escape on camera, but its a bit hard to see in the video.

I stared in awe and total captivation as it waddled away in the distance, disturbing the high grass as it moved.

I identified most of the plants and animals I encountered on this particular walk, but there was one type of bird perched high up in the trees that I could not discern. It was too far away to see, but I caught a recording of its call below:

If you know which species this is, please write me back. I will keep researching bird calls to try to identify its sound.

Overall, I would call this excursion successful and I look forward to many more in your domain. Mother Nature, I’ll see you again soon.

 

Sincerely,

Eric