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One positive about being sick

January 22, 2014

Last Thursday morning, after a night punctuated with fever-induced chills, tar-like mucous blocking my sinuses, and a deep sense of dread that somehow my malaise included insomnia to keep me from healing, I phoned in sick to work.  This was one of those odd occasions when the couple is sick – my wife was sneezing, coughing and chilled with fever that started the day before – clearly we both had “it.”  So we settled back into bed, a rare weekday morning at home, and we had no choice but to look after each other.  Minutes later, while trying to relax a “Jay Jay” call drifted in through the partly opened window.   Species 12, Blue Jay!  Cris is crazy about the Jay, and hearing it even put a smile on her face.

Sitelle watches me with forlorn expression as I cough behind the plate of glass.

Sitelle watches me with forlorn expression as I cough behind the plate of glass.

Thursday night, I discovered Ibuprofin broke my fever around 4 am, and like magic, I slept, for hour stretches, soaking sheets and T-shirt after T-shirt.   On Friday morning, after another frustrating interaction with the pathetic, non-existant health care system in Gatineau, we ventured into an Ottawa clinic where, amongst a room full of Quebec “orphan patients,” we waited for our eventual flu diagnosis.  Remedy . . .  more chicken soup, thyme-ginger-garlic and honey tisane and sleep.  The first two, I could assure, but sleep was hard to attain.   In my weakened state, I must admit that all I felt like doing was crawling inside a hole when I got home.

This Goldie is has extraordinarily beautiful colouring

This Goldie has extraordinarily beautiful colouring

Saturday morning, in bed, after another night of shedding water and restlessness, I finally drifted asleep for a few minutes, only to wake to the ringing call of a Pileated Woodpecker, #13!  Later that morning, when I was stumbling around the kitchen I looked out the window and there in the Japanese Elm was a Hairy Woodpecker, #14.    After only seeing the gang of Downys this winter, the Hairy appeared massive!  I wandered across the house, and immediately spotted the Pileated working some trees in Gatineau Park, about 40 m from my window.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Though I felt like crap, I was pretty jazzed about the birds.

Cris was talking with her mother on Skype for several hours, so she brought me into the conversation, and I suggested we take her computer cam onto the balcony to show her mother snow as it was snowing nice big flakes.  We open the balcony door

Boreal habitat on the balcony

Warning: snow on rooftops, and boreal habitat on the balcony

holding computer and cable and pointing the camera at our immediate neighbourhood.  Cris explains the white stuff falling from the sky and covering the ground and cars to her mother in Sao Paulo who reacts in shock and disgust. “Que horror!” she kept saying, “que horror!”  She could not imagine how people could move safely about in such wretched conditions.  While all that was going on, I blurt out “Cooper’s Hawk,” (#15) as a powerful adult sped past the south side of the house.  That bird would surely deserve the moniker “horror” from regulars at our feeder!

Sunday, was the first day a tiny bit of energy returned to my legs and I felt like eating.  I heard another new species from bed, a Raven #16, croaking away with some Crows.  Cris noticed the different sounds.  Birding had never been so easy!

Monday, still not through with the flu, I stayed home and spare my colleagues.  I spent some time watching birds feeding, and particularly noticing how much Juncos and Cardinals love our Christmas Tree.  And, we love the Juncos, those little balls of grey and white feathers.   We had tied our little Christmas Tree to the railing on the balcony last weekend, underneath the bird feeder.  Now it has become a key habitat feature, capturing bits of sunflower seed, and providing dense shelter for a variety of wildlife.   I saw its true value demonstrated for a cardinal today.

Sharp-shinned Hawk calms down anxious Cardinal

Sharp-shinned Hawk calms down anxious Cardinal

Something catches my eye.  A sudden flash of birds through the window, and a quick glance at the feeders reveals no birds.  Everything suddenly disappears and there is an eerie silence.  Then out of the corner of my eye I notice movement along the north side of the house, then out into the open.   The culprit: a female Sharp-shinned Hawk (#17).  She lands in a tree, allowing a good view and even a photo.  Then I look back at the balcony where I thought there were no birds.  In the dense foliage of our Christmas tree someone was hiding.  A Northern Cardinal, motionless, using the natural habitat of a Balsam Fir tree to save its life from a

Cardinal probing for missed Christmas gifts

Cardinal probing for missed Christmas gifts

fearsome predator.  Three weeks earlier that tree was adorned with decorations, some of which were glass birds including cardinals.  The Cardinal sat motionless in the tree for several minutes, then was gone.  Eventually the tree, and the balcony was back to normal, a buzz with life.   And it’s rubbing off on me, as my life is getting back to normal, which has a down side – less birding from the balcony!

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  1. First of all I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question which I’d like
    to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to know how you
    center yourself and clear your head prior to
    writing. I have had a tough time clearing
    my thoughts in getting my ideas out. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Many thanks!

  2. Ah, if the upside to being sick is some time for some window side birding, that’s a good upside. 🙂 Hope you’re feeling better. I had something hanging on for the first couple of weeks of the new year. I feel your pain.

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