Saturday, April 25, 2009

Early Morning Bird walk April 25

      This morning we visited the Kerry Wood Nature Sanctuary . This is an area of over 300 acres consisting of two oxbow lakes , old growth spruce and poplar and grass and wetlands in various phases . The area has two viewing stands which we used .Historically the area has never been logged so the disturbance is minimal. The grassland is where clearing took place and cattle were pastured .

     This morning was cloudy , about -3 C and no wind . Nine people showed up to see what was out there and to learn from each other . Can you tell the sex of Canada geese from the way they Call? Apparently the male goose gives a steady one toned honk and the female has sort of loud soft pattern .

     We saw many birds and a variety of species . Crows , magpies and Canada geese were flying about us almost continuously . On the lakes we saw mallards , canvass backs, golden eye, green winged teal , blue winged teal, red heads, coots and a red breasted grebe. We also saw Black capped chickadees, boreal chickadees , white breasted nuthatches , robins, bohemian waxwings , ruby crowned and golden crowned kinglets, American tree sparrow, and red winged blackbirds.

      Just as we were leaving someone said " I hear swans." 97 swans went flying by . We also heard quite a few woodpeckers . Since we were in a sanctuary we could not go off the trails and actually spot the wood peckers .

      So, the morning was pleasant and productive.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


     This morning I led a group of people on a bird walk south of the Red Deer College . This is an area of open grassland, Buck brush, riparian and willows ,aspen stands and spruce . It's a rich natural area with a variety of bird and animal life .

     This morning was windy overcast and about +5 C...not a nice morning to see birds as they tend to stick close to cover .

     However, eight people met and walked through the area for an hour and a half . Birders tend to be an optimistic type so they cheerfully set out .

     Magpies, crows and mallards were flying in the area as we began , but things were fairly sparse . We expected to see some spring arrivals such as tree sparrows, white crowned sparrows etc. We spotted a large black bird about a kilometer away which turned out to be a bald eagle . At about the same time a flock of swans flew by . We could hear a woodpecker tapping but couldn't spot it . We heard juncos and saw black capped chickadees . Several robins were also spotted . On our way back we were able to find the female downy woodpecker.

     So our morning turned out to be fairly successful.

     I will be leading a Saturday morning bird walk for the next five weeks . You never know what to expect .Sightings vary each year . No matter what these mornings are always pleasant .

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hiawatha House


     Where in the world would I come up with a name Hiawatha House for my blog ? Did I see something like this somewhere else? Did I have a streak of creativity . Well, actually none of the above .

     I went to a rural one room school for nine years from the mid forties to the mid fifties . Yes, you can think ahead and guess ... the name of the school ...Hiawatha School District #1720. I, like many others who attended such schools look back with fondness to such schools and therefore honor my old school a bit by naming my blog Hiawatha house .

     I looked forward to going to school as we were somewhat isolated on prairie farms and therefore it was a place to have many playmates and fellow students . We were active on the playground before school began at nine AM. Games were played . Activities from the previous day were continued such as building a snow house or fort .There were chores to be done like putting the horse away for the day, starting a fire in the big stove or getting the day's supply of water . All of these things were done with other kids . It was like a very large family as the enrolment was from nine to seventeen students while I attended .The day proceeded with classes , recesses and noon hours.

      Since there were one to nine or ten grades in a one room school, the teacher had to arrange to have all grades organized so that they were active in the learning process at all times . Much independent work was done by the students . Students helped one another . You couldn't help but hear other lessons or activities going on around you . If you were in grade one you could listen to a grade eight science lesson . By the time you got to grade eight you'd heard the lesson seven times ! Was it boring ? No, it was your turn to be involved in the lesson that you had waited so many years for . Teachers changed and the grade eight science lesson changed . Many activities involved the whole school ...Christmas concerts . All students performed and sometimes the little guys performed with the big guys as a school choir . Think how proud the little guys were to be in something with with the big guys . Our ball teams were made up from usually grade threes to nine. We were immensely proud of these teams when we played other rural schools .

     From grade four to nine I was the only one in the class . I proudly claim that I was top of the class for five years in a row . Besides this I liked working independently . I would do my work fairly quickly , and behave myself so I was not noticed . Why? Then I could read . I loved to read . I would quietly chose a library book from the small book case we had and read . Some of the books I read many times . The school had encyclopedias which I would spend hours thumbing through . I'm sure that most of the time the teacher appreciated me getting lost and not being a nuisance . I'm sure some of the teachers were bright enough to realize that what I was doing was certainly contributing to my progress . I would read and have one ear on what was going on in the classroom ...multi tasking!!

     So the country school was a very pleasant place to spend your time . I have always looked back with pleasure at the time I spent in a rural school . Was it a totally successful learning venue ? Not really . Apologies to those who look on country schools as great learning institutions . There were many positive things which occurred , but many things were absent . We learned the basics , but often not much more . I learned to be a good reader and independent , but didn't learn to be assertive or competitive . As a result when I went to a small high school and later university , I found it difficult to be very active and participate in learning activities . I had not learned to discuss , question or write with any degree of competence .

      However , I do look back with fondness to the time spent in a rural school . We were more than a school ...more a large family with community involvement .

     So here's to you Hiawatha school!

     Hiawatha School closed in June of 1955 with only six students attending in the final year .

     There are many interesting books written about the rural school . One author is John C. Charyk. He has written several interesting accounts of rural schools . Try "The White School House" or "Syrup Pails and Gopher Tails ."