Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Dove and the Olive Branch

Now that I am working again, I accept that I won't be able to chase every rarity that gets reported in Ontario like I did most of last year. I'm grateful to be employed again (w/ a job I'm enjoying no less!) so I'll easily deal. However, I'm on call this week so when a reliable rarity (White-winged Dove) is within reasonable driving distance (Rondeau Provincial Park), it doesn't take long to decide I'm going to twitch it (after sleeping in....shhhhh).

Well, as things sometimes do, things instantly went wrong.

The entire drive from home to Rondeau was a drive through fog whose consistency was more that of a hearty beef stew than of pea soup, a fog that brought to mind images from Stephen King's The Mist, or José Saramago's Blindness.

It was only when I pulled up to pay at the park office that it started to rain. Canadians are obsessed w/ weather so I often wonder if something is wrong w/ me because I never check it on days when I really should check it (like days I plan to be outside for long periods of time and it calls for rain but I don't pack anything waterproof...?). When I lived in Toronto I would always wear the opposite of what the weather called for (which I hadn't checked anyway). Mark Field can attest. 

                                                                                                      Cut to flashback:



     Ummm, you do realize it's -200 today, right?


     Ohhhh pish posh, I'll be fine! Let's boogie!

JEREMY jumps into car wearing flip flops, boardshorts, and a tank top. 



     Can we go to the hospital?


     Told ya.


The thunderstorm started when I entered the park. I was told at the park office that I was the first person to go through the gates that morning. Her smile said, "Welcome to Rondeau!" but her eyes said, "because what dolt would be stupid enough to be birdwatching right now." I pulled into the Visitor Centre parking lot (the White-winged Dove had been reported from the feeders there) and saw that it was covered in wet ice so I gently applied my breaks and slid from one end of the lot to the other. After eventually coming to a stop in a parking spot that I deemed "close enough", I stepped out of my car and fell right on my face. As I removed my cheek from the icy surface, sure enough, a maintenance vehicle had just entered the lot in time to see me flailing around on the ground. He averted his gaze to spare me further embarrassment (to cover up his laughter...?). He wasn't long at the Centre and by the time I finally found my footing and stood up, he had left. Success! I took a step toward the Visitor Centre, excited and hopeful to see the White-winged Dove!

...and fell on my face. 

Now, at this point, I was like, the definition of -___- but I'd made it this far so I was determined to at least reach the last 20 feet or so to get under shelter and out of the rain and look for the dove. As I dragged myself across the pavement, crying, flashes of lightning threatening to electrocute me into oblivion, the first ounce of doubt (that I'm certain enters every twitcher's mind) entered my mind: "what if I don't see it?"


I WILL see it. I must. It can't end like this. To my utter disbelief, the first bird I saw was the dove. OH GLORIOUS GLORY OF GLORIES! I fell to my knees, swung open my arms, and threw back my head thanking the skies like Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption before bringing up my binoculars to......wait what? This wasn't the dove. It was a dove. But not the dove. It was a Mourning Dove. My face darkened as I contemplated jail time for what I was about to do to that Mourning Dove but I took a deep breath and started to scan branches for the dove. Fogged and covered in water, my bins scanned along and came across not 1, not 2, but a total of 4 Mourning Doves. I tried to picture a beach and a calm ocean with Jeremy Renner emerging from the water. Perhaps a different vantage point will help me find the dove. I started to walk along the Tulip Tree Trail, which was now a muddy mess from the deluge. I limped along like some kind of swamp creature and those hearing my moans heard the wailing of a tortured soul trapped in purgatory. Nothing. I squished back to the Visitor Centre awning and watched the feeders. 

I found a 5th Mourning Dove.

Now at this point, the thought crossed my mind that I actually shouldn't see this bird. Seeing the bird would ruin the beauty of such a miserable day. I mean, a story like this, rife with pathetic fallacy, is supposed to push its main character to his/her breaking point, right? A story like this is supposed to end w/ me finally snapping and charging myself into the Visitor Centre wall and knocking myself out, waking up in a hospital bed only to have my doctor tell me that I'll be happy to know that the dove arrived at the feeders as I was carried away in the ambulance. But the author of my story didn't have the heart to do it. This story was to have a happy ending. The rain began to let up.

Slumped against the wall, I just stood there and waited. And waited. The rain stopped. A statue I was. Determined. And then, anti-climatically, there it was. It was just...there. It flew in right in front of me. Dropped an olive branch at my feet. Flew away and ate seeds within 20 feet of my own. I admired the dove and took notes. Its mixtures of soft browns and greys, ivory-white wing edges, poppy-red legs, and that delicate dab of purple on its nape, so faint it was almost imperceptible. A small, peaceful moment. A moment that reminds me why I watch birds.

As I drove home, the sky opened up. The fog diminished. It was a nice drive. 

I had posted my sighting to Ontbirds to let birders know the White-winged Dove was still present and hoped that others would be able to capture that small, peaceful moment if they decide to chase it. I noticed I had a few replies to my Ontbirds post so I opened one of them to read their congratulations.

"Get a job."


Brandon Holden said...

Is your new job a paying position as a writer? Cause it should be...

Blake A. Mann said...

You better get your skates sharpened.
Was that a Russian Olive branch? There is some in the park!

Jeremy Hatt said...

Thanks, Brandon. Those are very kind words! Not paid as a writer yet but that's the dream...

Blake, I'm not sure about skates but if I could somehow rig up a system where the Benny Hill soundtrack plays wherever I go...

Manda said...

Awesome blog. Glad I found you! Hilarious story (or rather, hilarious retelling...)

Jeremy Hatt said...

Thanks, Manda! Always happy to have new readers to the blog.