July 5 2015 Crane Lake Rd., Bruce Peninsula, ON. Where I grew up there were many fords, the cars yes, but more particularly those places where a river or stream flows broadly across a paved road and where neither stream nor road is particularly inconvenienced. If winters in southern England amounted to anything much they might not be quite so common.
In Ontario’s less tamed countryside, water flooding across a road is quite likely to be the consequence of a beaver dam created somewhere not far away. Much as roads maintenance folks may curse them, you have to admire the dogged competence of a beaver at modifying its environment to suit its own purposes. That your only access road is flooded is not the beaver’s concern.
One of our familiar back roads in Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula crosses a shallow marsh which frequently becomes a wide beaver-enhanced lake. It’s a gravel road and the appearance of big puddles of varying depths makes for an uncertain drive, the sort of slow-paced sloshing that has the kids in the back seat tingling with excited anticipation. We don’t fill our cars with kids anymore so my more sedate pleasures come from pulling over and wandering the road to see what birds have made the most of the beaver pond.
All of that preamble is to set the stage for my encounter today with a pair of Eastern Kingbirds. It took me a while to understand why they seemed so loyal to one particular corner of the newly grown swamp but eventually I came to understand that they had appropriated a hollow in the torn stump of a drowned tree for a nest site and that it was home to a brood of hungry chicks. It was a treat to stand back and watch the parent birds bringing food, each time presenting a frail damselfly to the open mouths. A young couple with a large pick-up truck decided to park as close to the nest as was feasible and the parent birds watched them guardedly but nevertheless continued to bring food. There was more to be seen and heard here: Common Yellowthroats and Swamp Sparrows singing loudly to mark their territories, an adult Virginia Rail with two youngsters tip-toed cautiously across the road and I could hear Rose-breasted Grosbeaks singing from a nearby woods. But I think the kingbird family were birds of the day, a reminder of how the next generation is in the making and despite immense risks in their first year some of them will survive.