A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Where Have All The Birds Gone?

The Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory reports that......

It has been a disappointing, slow-paced week for us at Cabot Head, straining our eyes and ears to detect the sparse birds, with very little success.” Their banding totals being but about a third of their normal volume, my own less definitive observations have be even more startling. They say that “It is not a deficiency in our senses, then, missing secretive and quiet birds, but a mere absence, objectively reflected in very few birds captured in the nets.”

Here somewhat south of the peninsular in the Chatsworth area my normal steady influx of various birds to our forested hideaway and window feeders the absence of birds is both remarkable and concerning. We all know that in certain weather conditions our visitors will go hide for a bit until things are more to their liking and there are seasonal changes to those we see at various times of the year but in 20 years of enjoying our daily visitors at this location I do not recall it ever being so devoid of our feather friends for so long. What is going on, is it climate change, local conditions, migration pattern changes or what?

Up until around a month or two ago the daily visitors to our feeder included a multitude of Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers (at least 6 or 8 individuals) many Chickadees (estimated more than 10) and several Grosbeaks and Cardinals with a selection of finches dropping by a little less often but seen quite often. The mixed bush that crowds the house nearly always had birds fluttering around making their presence know even if not seen when hiding in the leaves, the activity rarely diminished from early dawn to fading dusk.

Now all I see is ONE Downy and ONE Hairy woodpecker and possibly a couple of Chickadees, even the Doves that always sat in the apple tree occasionally coming to sit on the top of the feeder to see what all the fuss was about have disappeared. The one female Grosbeak who always attacked her reflection in the window glass and the car mirror seems to have found another attraction and left that 'other bird' in peace.

As I said before the difference from 'normal' is very obvious and rather concerning, I miss our feathered friends, they are so much more entertaining to watch than that bloody TV which seems to be the very poor alternative!

I hope they return soon........

 New data..... 
Not directly related to the local 'temporary?' loss of visitors but....
Over the past half-century, North America has lost more than a quarter of its entire bird population, or around 3 billion birds. "We saw this tremendous net loss across the entire bird community," it's a 30% loss in the total number of breeding birds." The results show that more than 90% of the loss can be attributed to just a dozen bird families, including sparrows, warblers, blackbirds and finches. https://www.npr.org/2019/09/19/762090471/north-america-has-lost-3-billion-birds-scientists-say

Friday, May 24, 2019

Cell Phone Hell

I am a senior, I have in fact been a senior for a number of years now, I am hardly ignorant of 'modern' technology having had a computer on my desk continually for some 45 or so years since the early days of the Commodore 64. I will admit to being slow to now embrace new gadgets and applications still having a 10 year old win 7 on said desk having made the big step up from win 95 / 98, thats not only slow by modern standards but going backwards but I do not for the most part need or want MORE bells n whistles that I will never use.

All that said our old simple cell phone was recently declared 'obsolete' and a new one was required to keep in touch so we duly went to the Bell store and got an 'upgrade' to about the most basic cell phone available. The Mrs being somewhat younger than I, and probably somewhat smarter as I work towards my dotage, quickly mastered most of those new bells n whistles and in fact has become quite proficient at the poke, swipe and navigate around the multiple choices even doing the internet thing on it (with data via bell turned OFF – don't need that big bill thank you). I however despite my mant years of computer use am still a poke at the keys kind of a fellow, it was a bit step when I learned to use a mouse and as for track balls and that wander finger thing I just aint there yet … and probably never will be.

To get to the point of this ramble through my slow learning curve, I recently decided that I needed a personal cell to keep in touch with the Mrs and the kids when away from the house, be it making one of my rare trips to town or working back in the 50 acres of bush that needs maintaining if we are to find our walking trails as the spring growth takes over. So into town to the Bell store “ I meed a simple phone, just basic phone and possibly text and NO finger scrolling screen” yep they did have one …. just ONE small flip phone which upon checking had very bad reviews on the 'net' (oh yes I do use that 'new' technology lol) and further checking with multiple other retailers only revealed about one or two other choices, mostly 'only available to be ordered unseen online'. Thats the other thing that got my hackles up at the start of this journey through cell hell, that Bell store that HAD a phone to show me could NOT show me it actually turned on so that I could see if the screen was readable by these old eyes in order to select who was calling or otherwise navigate the choices available, could not hear the sound quality that the old ears needed to have an intelligent conversation or generally 'test' drive the thing. Sorry looking at a phone the the sales persons hand dont tell me fk all, when was the last time you bought a car by walking around the outside and peering in the closed window?

And that my friends leaves me still searching and less than optimistic in finding a suitable lifeline, I did find a listing of one phone that looked promising but as always not available in store and certainly not in an operating state. Anyone using a Doro 824, any thoughts?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mothers Day Heroes....

On this special day when we think of the ladies in our lives my focus is not upon the uncaring political types that I usually write about (over at Democracy Under Fire) but on the girls at the Owen Sound Hospital who have been attending to my wife over the last week. As I visit each day I struck by the cheerful and compassionate demeanor of each and every one of them as they take care of multiple patients each with a different need and personality equally as competently at the end of their 12 hour shift as they do at the start.

My old legs ache just after making the trek from the back of the parking lot and return after fighting with the parking ticket machine that begs me with $5 each day before it will let me leave. How must theirs feel after the miles they walk back and forth from room to room all day only to face another day of the same tomorrow all this whilst cheerfully taking care of the sometimes complex needs of each individual in each room. The knowledge and careful attention to detail to correctly administer the prescribed care without error must be quite stressful in and of itself but it is always done with a smile.

A couple of years ago I observed the same competence and caring from a slightly different perspective as I was myself of the receiving end of the care, that time in the ICU where there may be a little less walking for the girls but a more intense need than up on the 6th floor where-my wife is now being cared for. How these girls there and elsewhere in similar departments maintain such a caring and cheerful attitude day after day, year after year for many of them, is beyond me.

Thank you ladies, during what is a stressful time for our family as we learn to deal with further challenges to come it is your care and caring that eases the transition. These few words simply cannot fully express my admiration and thanks for you commitment to this work.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Learning Online Not Easy for All

Readers of my Democracy Under Fire blog will know I am no great fan of Doug Frord and on that part of my public writings I try to focus on the theme of said blog, that being democracy. Its a very narrow line between that and general abuse of rural residents where this part of my blogging has a somewhat wider focus.

A post by a fellow blogger mirrored my response to Frords recent move to 'improve' education access by providing (actually forcing) students to get part of their education via 'on line courses'. Lets be clear my kids are long done with school and both are doing well thanks in part to some excellent support from a number of under appreciated RURAL teachers despite the greatly reduced support compared with major urban areas. No doubt my fellow blogger linked to above who was a teacher in rural Ontario can expand upon that but I can say that more recent experiences with our 'challenged' grandaughter has highlighted the differences between the 'services' and 'support' available in less populated areas. This from within or not to far from 'the golden triangle', lord knows what rural and remote areas in northern Ontario or for that matter elsewhere in Canada go through.

It seems that those supposedly 'running the show' from the 'big city' have no clue that the speed and connectivity to the internet that they take for granted is NOT available to many rural residents and their children. I some areas the only choice some kids may have is 56k (thats 56K NOT 56 mb) at best via dial up, possibly 2 or 3mb via line of sight link IF they can afford it. Hardly conducive to on line learning where no doubt the material will be 'heavy' content! For the benefit of those city folk who are saying 'what you cant get highspeed?' or ' cant the kids go to the library if they have to' or even 'stay after school and use their computers' I will address each of those issues.

  1. In rural areas unless you happen to live near a major artery where fiber optics has been installed internet connection is generally provided by line of sight technology from the nearest independent supplier IF no trees, buildings or hills come between you and them. In most cases IF you do get service the speed is dependent upon a number of factors including number of users, weather conditions and ability to pay big $$$.
  2. Use the local library? Apart from the fact that many of our rural libraries have limited resources available and high demand from kids to complete their mandated on line courses would result in having to 'book time', most rural kids take the bus to school up to an hour away by said school bus and the bus wont wait for late comers.
  3. If the kids are able to make arrangements to stay with an in town friend or have a parent drive into town to pick them up and thus access the school computers after hours will they be available. With the cuts to staffing coming from the Ford regime will the school even be available for the kids use after hours?

Just asking.......

Bottom line 'Ontario’s plan to impose four mandatory online credits is without equal' HOWEVER 'Not all students have equal access to the internet or the computer skills (and access) required to complete said credits.'

Coming soon?
SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology project, known as SWIFT will begin the first phase of developing a fibre optic network to serve the southwestern region in the spring. Phase one is expected to take four years and will introduce about one twelfth of the infrastructure needed for an area that spans 41,286 square kilometres and contains 3.5 million people....... The remaining majority of residents had best not hold their breath and those on some of the less populated side roads will be very lucky to see a hook up (if they can afford it) by 2050.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Amalgamation raises it ugly head again?

'Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark sent a correspondence to Association of Municipalities Ontario members communicating the province is undergoing a regional review to take a broad look at the current model of municipal governance.'

The above little clip appeared in a short article in a recent Bayshore News item and in normal circumstances would be of little interest but given the enforced changes to Toronto Council and the elimination of elected chair positions in the Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka regions it perhaps require further scrutiny. That no copy of said correspondence can be found on the ministry web site (or anywhere else that I can see) is perhaps 'normal' for the Ford government but further adds to my concern.

The article also says that Clark's statement explains it is time to consider whether changes are needed to improve municipal governance where the dollars of taxpayers are being stretched. Also that Minister Clark's statement goes on to say the province's goal is to give people what they want: local governments that are working as effectively and efficiently as possible to support the economic prosperity of their residents and businesses.

"We look forward to discussing with our many stakeholders, including our municipal partners, to determine what is working well in our current governance model," says Minister Clark. "And what needs to be improved."

Perhaps I am being a little paranoid but the above brief quote from Minister Clark sounds a lot like bafflegab for “We are going to take our slash and burn agenda seen in Toronto to Municipal government elsewhere in the province”. As the article indicates some individuals are in favor of a least examining the possibilities in the name of 'efficiencies' and this in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, however given our new provincial governments proclivity for bringing in major changes to our governance with little or no 'consultation' and minimal regard for any opposing views I become deeply concerned.

All municipalities should keep an eye on this one and smaller rural municipalities should be particularly vigilant. I for one do not believe Fords earlier words at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario annual conference that “there are no plans to unilaterally slash the size of city councils in Ontario” …. his word is hardly the most reliable indication of his future plans!
Amalgamating large swaths of rural, suburban and urban areas into one monolith may be efficient (although that is debatable) but it sure is not desirable.

A copy of the full Bayshore News article follows.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Province Appears Open To Municipal Amalgamations: Owen Sound Councillor
Owen Sound | by Matt Hermiz

Outgoing councillor Jim McManaman urges new council to discuss possibility, given recent correspondence from province

Can't play this file? Click here to download/listen -

An outgoing Owen Sound city councillor believes there may be an appetite at the provincial level to amalgamate municipalities.

Jim McManaman says Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark sent a correspondence to Association of Municipalities Ontario members communicating the province is undergoing a regional review to take a broad look at the current model of municipal governance that has been in place for almost 50 years.

Clark's statement explains it is time to consider whether changes are needed to improve municipal governance where the dollars of taxpayers are being stretched.

McManaman says this letter, coupled with the recent move by Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives to quickly make changes to Toronto City Council, show the opportunity exists now to engage the province and push for change to the local government structure in the Owen Sound area.

"Better ways to try and streamline government, that appears to be what (the province) is looking for," McManaman says. "For a long time we've talked about regional government in this area."

At Owen Sound's Oct. 29 council meeting McManaman, who will not be on council next term after foregoing a bid for re-election, encouraged his colleagues to consider engaging the province on creating one larger, amalgamated municipality including Owen Sound and its neighbours.

"Have a serious discussion about what a bigger municipality might look like: What the boundaries might be? What services might be shared?" McManaman says. "In my 15 years on council that's been a difficult discussion with our neighbours. But, looking at the context of the provincial government is looking into these types of issues, perhaps now is the time to have that discussion."

Minister Clark's statement goes on to say the province's goal is to give people what they want: local governments that are working as effectively and efficiently as possible to support the economic prosperity of their residents and businesses.

"We look forward to discussing with our many stakeholders, including our municipal partners, to determine what is working well in our current governance model," says Minister Clark. "And what needs to be improved."

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What bird is this?

This little fellow was found on our doorstep this morning, at first glance we thought it was one of our regular Chickadees but on closer examination it is obviously not.  The nearest we can come is either a. Eastern Pheobe or Eastern Wood Pewee but according to our 'bible' Petersons Field Guide neither is exactly right. Note the all black head, back and chest, it has faint wingbars not seen in these pictures.

Replys to this question will be appreciated and once identified the info will be added to this post.

A further look at him and we think it might possible be a Black Throated Blue Warbler although it is a very dark blue and almost black unless examined very closely.......