Manfred and I like to sit on our back porch. Morning, noon and night if we can. We are fortunate that a few metres from the porch, our backyard descends into a large gully. The creek, at the bottom has cut a wide wedge over the centuries as water has wound its way to nearby Lake Erie. Part of the gully has been planted with white pine while the other hillsides are regenerating with native trees and invasive species too.
After spending time watching nature, we began to think that maybe, if we trusted ourselves, we could tell the time of day without a watch or phone. Sunrise and sunset are the natural starting points, but there is regular movements of birds and mammals that mark the passage of the time.
The songbirds break the daylight silence and then the herons, with their prehistoric-like flight, lift off. The deer, filter into the fields as the wind comes up to drive the bugs away. The coyotes, that can be heard all night, stop their incessant yipping. The mother cat, strolls through the yard, returning to her kittens.
Throughout the day the goldfinches flit from seed head to seed head, cardinals disappear into the Juniper branches and sparrows lounge on the porch railing.
After supper, the swallows appear at the same time as the mosquitos. One species more welcome than the other. The mother cat walks through again.
At dusk, the murder of crows appears. They fly in from the north to land on the tallest trees at the crest of the hill. Across the gully, from our perch, we watch them. Even at this distance of less than half a kilometre, their roosts look precarious. We see them, swaying against the skyline as the twigs they alight upon move with the wind. The crows then disappear into the crown of the trees, blanketed by the leaves. In the morning, their noisy caws will announce their departure.
And we will begin another day of keeping track of nature.