Thursday, February 23, 2017

Music on the Bay

By Shannon Chartrand

A few weeks ago, a television comedian was telling a joke about saving the planet. The punch line was "We'll start by composting Hamilton." The Toronto audience roared with laughter. I thought it was mean spirited.
     The City has done a commendable job of making this a highly liveable place. There is the Bayfront reclamation area, Botanical Gardens, our own Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, McMaster University, McMaster Research Centre, the Bruce Trail, rail trails, live theatre and live entertainment at First Ontario Centre.    
     We're the City of Waterfalls, for Pete's sake. I am proud to take out-of-town visitors down to Bayfront, for example. We just walked the trail down there this morning.

     Family Day was downright balmy at Bayfront. The warmth of the sun penetrated the back of my jacket as I walked. I haven't felt that warmth in months. It gives the spirit a boost to feel that winter will soon be behind us.
     On days like this, I am always reminded of a day in March, 1976. My dad stood at the open window of his bedroom feeling the sun's warmth and breathing in the promise of spring. "I don't want to die, Jessie," he said to my mother. She didn't know what to answer. He died in April. Days like this makes the heart ache for one more rebirth of the earth.

     The ice has melted on the Bay. Last week, there were a few tents on the ice. Men were mulling around. One sat on an upside down plastic bucket, fishing through a hole in the ice. Today, there's only one tent, close to the shore, living dangerously. Suddenly, I noticed a tinkling sound coming from the Bay, like wind through a crystal chime. I swivelled my head quickly, wondering what it could be. Then I understood. Waves have pushed chunks and slivers of what remains of the ice to the shoreline. The waves are brushing the shards up against each other, creating the music of the angels.

     There was a steady stream of walkers and bikers. But the wide trail never feels crowded. I noticed that the City has wrapped the base of some trees in wire mesh to foil the beavers. Their industriousness can be seen everywhere. Those busy fellows will never be accused of being couch potatoes.

     A formidable bird caught my eye as it circled above us. As we watched in awe, a lady came over to explain that it is a juvenile bald eagle. She knows it's a juvenile because it doesn't have its white feathers yet. Those come with adolescence. Bald eagles have a wing span of six to seven and a half feet. This one was circling low, looking for fish in the Bay. It made a dive for the water with wings retracted but aborted just feet above the water. Lucky fish must have sensed the danger and made a run for it.

     Nearby swans rustled their wings and moved farther away from the scene of the crime. After fish, sea birds rank number two on the bald eagles menu - even swans! I felt so privileged to see my first bald eagle in action.

Further on, we saw a tall, slim man crouching on the path. Seeing our curiosity, he came over to explain that he was training for the Around the Bay race. He said he has the endurance but is working on his speed. He was timing short sprints with a stop watch then crouching down to rest. I asked him if he will be among the front runners. No, there's no way. He's just keeping his body in shape. He says he's fifty years old. It's working for him. I would have guessed forty.

     I'll be back to watch the swan who is building her nest in the reeds at the beginning of the trail. I love to watch mom forage around for weeds and sticks to spruce up her nest. Last year, mom was standing over the nest to groom her feathers. A foolish mallard thought he could pinch one of her eggs while they were exposed. Repeatedly, the mallard tentatively stretched its neck up the side of the nest then pulled back. One careless move and the swan would grab the mallard by the neck and hold it under water until it drowned. I saw a dead duck floating aimlessly around the nest. Dad could be seen across the Bay. He seems distracted but he's watching. Any sign of trouble and he dashes across the Bay in seconds. Swans mate for life unless the male mismanages the nest. Then, she finds another mate.

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