I am an early riser – my natural biological clock, it seems. Even on weekends and holidays I am up and about when the world is quiet, waiting for the coverage of European golf to start, no cars on the road, I have no problem catching the 6:45 flight to Toronto.

About the end of February, light starts to creep into these early mornings. And with the light comes the accompaniment of the first birds: trills in the trees and brief, loud chirps as if these creatures are dusting off their vocal chords, tuning up their instruments. It is too dark to make out the individuals, but the chorus consists of robins, sparrows, a few thrushes. Now, in the middle of May, the sound is much more varied, the songs too numerous to identify. The light is now bright enough to watch small groups of juncos, small sociable birds that feed on the ground, alighting and flitting off in small swarms. An occasional varied thrush, and more common robins seem more intent on observing, like me, than on feeding. That is a mistake, I know. If you happen to be down by the water, as I was last weekend, oyster catchers hop on the rocks, wimbrels scurry over the open patches with their curved graceful beaks. Reading these comments, you can understand perhaps why Patrick Lane’s book There is a Season is one of my favourite books of the past five years.

When I arrive in my office these days, the world is still quiet. Later in the day you can’t really hear them because of the sounds of students in the quad, and people walking down the hallway, and cars driving by, but first thing, before any of that noise starts, the sparrows make a din. They are very gregarious birds, very intent on the nests they have built in the heavy ivy on the outside of School House. When School House was restored five years ago, we made a conscious decision to retain as much as possible of the original building, including the ivy, some of whose trunks are almost a foot across. The raucous village of sparrows is grateful for the ecological approach to our history.


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