THE NATURE OF SOME THINGS

I learned to appreciate nature from a very young age. Our neighborhood in the small town where I grew up contained all kinds of wonderous creatures if you wanted to seek them out. Praying mantises, skunks, racoons, graden toads, garder snakes and in the fall the geese could be seen in their magnificent formations high above in the crisp autum sky flying south for the winter. Some of them didn`t make it because hunters in duck blinds out on the lake would blow them out of the sky. We also had this marvelous owl that lived in the big oak tree in our front yard and he could sometimes be seen in the daylight hours sitting on his favourite branch . Our family cat would go out and kill God's creatures which he dragged iinto the house and deposit underneath the couch . There were regular offerings of field mice, robins, sparrows, blackbirds  and blue jays.


 My dear old dad would also take an active part in my early natural education. We would take long walks in the forest located just on the northern outskirts of our small town of Lake of Two Mountains, Québec ( which, unfortunately is not a small town anymore ). There were tons of abandoned vehicles that people had set fire to or put holes in with their shotguns. A `56 Buick, `58 Plymouth, a `57 Chev Bel Air and an old Thunderbird that I remember well which would today be worth a king`s ransom to collectors and would probably fetch a high reserve at the Barret-Jackson classic car auction.


My Dad : Norman George Gledhill

1920 - 2007

 I also had an uncle who had a cottage on a small man-made spring fed lake that was located  about 20 miles notheast of Lachute called Lac Solar where we would often visit for weekends or even longer. Engines were not allowed on the lake and the water was so pristine that you could even drink out of it. There were plenty of frogs and fish to catch and I actually could swim the whole lake which is probably why I'm such a strong swimmer to this day. My best memories of the cottage were from swimming the lake because I could get away from everyone and everything and be free and one with nature. Astonishingly, some people have a fear of water ( aquaphobia ) but I'm in my prime element when in the water. My father's brother, Allan, was in the navy and never learned to swim !


 I`ve decided to share some of my nature stories that I`ve accumulated over the years. Hope you will enjoy them.   

   Ian's guide to birdwatching in the Columbian tropical rainforest

 Prior to even considering the wonderfully vibrant species of birds that you can expect to encounter on your birdwatching expedition to the tropical rainforest bear in mind that you will not enjoy the many comforts offered by your back yard or local park. The high humidity, almost daily rainfall, nasty insect bites and leaches are the least of your worries considering your choice of adventure destination. Bear in mind that although Colombia`s principal industries are petroleum and exporting bananas, it also illegally processes over 250,000 tonnes cocaine and  marajuana on an annual basis, so my first recomendation would be to arm yourself appropriately and take plenty of extra ammunition in case you happen upon a cocaine processing site and have to shoot it out with the local guerrillas. My weapon of preference would be the Rigby .450 Nitro Express. As the name implies this monster will stop anything and makes a sound not unlike a  nuclear explosion when fired. Watch your stance and hold firm when firing since the recoil of a .480 grain bullet travelling at 1250 fps can knock you flat on your on your ass if you`re not careful.

There are numerous practical difficulties to consider when studying and observing God`s creatures in the Colombian rainforest. Since many tracts are inaccessible, renting a helicopter gunship is advisable to provide insertion/extraction in and out of the tropical canopy as well as providing emergency cover fire in case you run into any para-military forces. My choice would be the AH-64 Apache.Although many of the birds have brightly coloured plumage, the dark environment created by the tropical canopy effectively camoflages tthem. The high canopy also provides an ideal vantage point in order to discover our feathered friends in their natural environment. So blending in with the environment is vital. A visit to the local army surplus store should solve this problem though. Waterproof footwear, DPM ( disruptive patern material ) clothing and a waterproof rucksack are some of the items that should be on your shopping list. A good pair of waterproof binnoculars is worth the extra money since they have nitrogen-filled chambers which prevent condensation.

My last tip is to go on your adventure as soon as possibe because as this is being written in July 2009 over 50-60 % of the beautiful rainforest which essential for our very existence has been wiped out by man or in the process of being wiped out. The rain forests once covered over 14 % of the Earth`s surface. They now cover barely 7 %. This is as result of deforestation which has occured due to to logging and agriculture. Man as a bumbling King-fool has to put the brakes on until it`s too late. Besides providing the bulk of oxygen needed for plant and animal respiration, the rainforest is vital in controlling the planet`s weather system`s and climate. A typical rainforest syphen`s out the carbon dioxide from the Earth`s atmosphere Caused by the greenhouse effect, It`s a simple equation folks : No rainforests = no oxygen = no lovely birds to watch = no life. Maybe you should just stick to your National Geographic subscription, The Discovery Channel or your local zoo in order to experience the wonderful world of tuocans, mcaws and parrots and other exotic birds that inhabit the exotic, exciting but fragile rainforest. Happy birdwatching  






                   THE POWER OF JANE


When I was a young child I would read through my dad`s extensive collection of National Geographic magazines and discover all kinds of fascinating things from the natural and human world and that`s how I discovered ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall. At the time I just though she was this cool hippie chick who hung out with the chimps in the jungle.Sort of like a female version of Tarzan without the vine.

Of course, years later I came to understand the importance of her passionate, patient and unobstrusive studies of our closest living relatives, the noble ( and sometimes not so noble ) chimps in their wild environment. Through her daily contact with them at close range she was able to gain their trust, naming them rather than assigning them numbers, which facilitated the taking of detailed notes describing their complex and developed behaviour patterns.This first hand research began in 1960 in Gombe stream Game Reserve ( now Gombe Stream national Park ) in Tanzania that would dispell many miscoceptions held by science towards chimpanzees. After she discovered that chimps constructed and utilized tools, the scientific community really sat up and began to take notice. Subsequent discoveries included the employment of man-made objects, coalitions, courtships, the use of medicinal plants to reduce stomach pains, the sharing of discovered technology and warfare campaigns that could last up to several years.

 After earning A Phd in ethology from Cambridge UniversityJane established a permanent reasearch facility at Gombe Stream in 1977 and established the Jane Goodall Instutute. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honours as well as a number of honourary degrees. She has authored over a dozen of books on chimpanzees and continues to lecture the world over on their behalf as well as giving our seemingly doomed planet rays of hope through other projects.  Find out more about her work through the link I`ve provided and you can take it from there. I`ve also inserted a rather dreary prophetic video which reminds us why we should be thankful that there are concerned humans on this planet such as Jane Goodall. Check out another dark, prophetic video from Hawkwind.

The Jane Goodall Institute


 Jane's words of wisdom

" The very most important thing that we can do to try and get out of this mess we've made on this planet, both social and environmental, is to spend a little bit of time learning and thinking about the consequences of the choices we make every day. "

What Gene Simmons from the rock band Kiss has to say

"We don't comment on the whales and the rainforest. We don't try and be ambassadors to Bosnia. You need a rock star for that? Some idiot who couldn't tune a guitar six months ago is an environmental expert?"


The planet is indeed a scary and fragile place and sometimes we should be reminded of what a thin line we are walking. It puts up with a lot of our shit and sometimes I wonder how long it's patience will last. Back on June 11, 2007 wrote this review on the Progarchives music website to celebrate what would have been Jacques Yves Cousteau's 90 th birthday. I was aware of the water from a very early age because we lived on a lake and have had a reverance for it ever since. Sometimes I wonder about humans' pre-occupation with space exploration but then Paradoxically I have to agree with Stephen Hawking. If we are to propogate our species in the long run it is imperitive that we move into other realms because by the time our sun goes supernova in 6 billion years we would have literally transformed our blue dot into a garbage world.  As of April 2013 1.2 billion of the world's population doesn't have clean drinking water due to uneven distribution. Horrorifyingly cellphones outnumber clean toilets. Or planet has a population of over 7 billion inhabitants while the it's bounty is only realistically capable of sustaining 4 billion. I think of this everytime I have a hot shower or pause for a sip of water. I also look at Chris Hadfield talking to us from the International Space Station and wonder, are we jumping the gun a bit here?


 On the International Space Station on World Water Day 2013 : Chris Hadfield rockin' & rollin'.  


On Earth on World Water Day 2013: Pakistani girls washing laundry in a polluted river.


My Record Review on for En Attendant Cousteau by Jean-Michel Jarre, 1996


 "Water & air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends have become global garbage cans". - Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Initially employed as a seductive prelude for audiences attending his spectacular open air concerts Jean-Michel Jarre reworked the captivating ambient passage into 48 minute showpiece entitled " En Attendant Cousteau " as a homage to the French underwater explorer and scientist Jacques-Yves Cousteau on the auspicious occasion of his 80th birthday on June 11, 1990. Over a decade after Cousteau`s passing an almost chilling spectral presence presides over it`s sublime hydrospheric visages resonated by a forlorn piano melody that is so subtle that it`s labyrinthine virtues are not immediately noticed as It gradually acquires a poignant trance-like cadence.

While many were quick to to critcise Jarre for deviating from his established formats at the time of it`s release it must be remembered that that the length and moody aura of the piece is meant to metaphorically express a life-long dedication to unlocking the mysteries of the silent world of the sea whose secrets are only revealed to those who possess the reverence of a man such as Cousteau. For the uninitiated, among Jacques-Yves Cousteau`s lifelong achievements was the perfection of the aqua-lung breathing apparatus, predicting echolocation capabilities in cateceons in addition to producing numerous underwater film an television documentaries which gave the layman a glimpse into this elusive and infinite world. A dauntingly challenging piece of music for the chance listener, it is preceded by a somewhat shorter section in three parts entitled Calypso, Calypso II & Calypso III ( Fin Du Siecle ) which are more representative of previous works. From a personal standpoint I prefer to begin with the longer centerpiece and concluding with the introductory trilogy.

Although not containing the pathos of the expansive title composition, the Calypso trilogy reflects Jarre`s passionate admiration for his fellow countryman and each part can be seen as a metaphor in itself as well. Although Cousteau`s research vessel which was affectionately named Calypso after the sea nymph in Greek Mythology the pieces seem to convey different aspects of Cousteau`s work in which the ship, a converted WWII Royal Navy minesweeper, played an instrumental role. Calypso music is used as a device to personify the human facet of the sea exploration on the introductory upbeat electro-carib rave up, Calypso, which includes steel drums normaly associated with that style which was ascended from Afro roots as well as French troubadour music, fitting for both Jarre and Cousteau. The two other sections investigate life in Cousteau`s silent world where the unknowns and perpetuity of the sea are anounced with foreboding synth passages which give way to a more uplifting, breathtaking images with omnipresent aqua-synth effects which emphasize the unfolding undersea dramas. The final section with it`s sub-title Fin Du Siecle ( end of the century ) evokes optimism and establishes a majestic celebratory tone that conjures images of operatic underwater waltzes of dolphins, sting rays and sea turtles conducting their aquatic rituals and beckons to the future with glimmers of hope.

Perhaps a black sheep in comparison to the rest of Jarre`s catalogue but it accomplishes it`s main goal of extrapolating the life of one of the most celebrated undersea explorers through the medium of electronic music. En Attendant Cousteau is a magnificent, relaxing and wondrous audio experience for those who have time to sit down and reflect on the vitality and revelance of the resources of the sea to our very survival as revealed by a master of the deep and romanced by a master of electronic music.



Addendum :

I came across this note recently that I was not previously aware of. The album was originally titled Cousteau On The beach but was changed at the request of Cousteau himself because he considered beaches to be environmental disasters. 

                                          THE POWER OF THE PUNKS

In my hometown we have some wild creatures who only come out at night. We have skunks, racoons and some red foxes who for the most part are very shy and confine themselves to a large greenspace atop of Mount Royal Park. We also have a population of punks who for the most part keep to themselves and remain within their own individual enclaves except when their favourite band comes into town to play for them. Just watch the video and then I`ll explain exactly what happened and how it could have been avoided. I kind of felt for the punks!

  You`re probably wondering why I kinda felt for them. Well, earlier on in the evening before all mayhem erupted a friend and I passed the punks waiting in the lineup in front of the Medley Club to see their favourite band, The Exploited, a hardcore punk band from Scotland who have albums with titles such as Let`s Start A War, Beat The Bastards and Fuck The System who were coming in on their tour bus from the United States. Now these punks were well behaved. They weren`t causing any trouble maybe a few open beer bottles, an aroma of marajuana but that was about it. We even waved to them and gave them some thumbs up signs. Happy punks.


They recieved the news that Ccustoms Canada wasn`t letting the Exploited across the border because their bass player had some ancient drug charge that he had already been cleared on. This is when happy punks turn into angry punks and you can see from the video the resulting carnage. We kept our distance.At first the police couldn`t do a thing. It was 800 angry punks against 4 cops. It took the Montréal Police about an hour to get the riot squad on the scene and by that time a whole section of St Denis St.looked like a war zone.Over $ 1,000,000 worth of damage. Cars flipped over, police cars on fire computers strewn all over the place looting. It wasn`t until about 5 in the morning by the time all the smoke cleared.

Now, I don`t think I would have wanted to be in the shoes of either the promoter or the propieter of The Medley Club but it was revealed in the morning that they had done their best. On a local radio station morning talk show they said that they were both on the phone pleading with Customs Canada officials to allow the band into the country to do the show or there would be nothing they could do to control the punks. They even warned the police. But Noooooooooooo.They still wouldn`t let them cross the border. They managed to get the leader of the Exploited, Mattie Buchan on the phone on the show and he just said he was sorry but they weren`t coming to cause trouble, just to play for the kids.

 When I think of all the terrorists and drug smugglers and fuck knows who else that make across our border all I can do is shake my head when a rock band is stopped for a trumped up drug charge. It sort of makes me sick.And while I also feel for all the people who lost property during this event I can`t blame the punks. It`s the nature of the beast. They`re bloody punks. What were the authorities thinking? That the punks were just going to go home and play backgammon.I really hope the smart person at Customs Canada who had his or her head  up their ass that night got sacked.I honsestly believe there would have been no trouble had the  band been allowed to perform. What we would have had were............well, happy punks.

                           Never Underestimate A Raccoon


One thing that those pesky raccoons have going for them is that they are cute and almost cuddly. Whenever you see a feature on the news showing the animal control officers evicting a raccoon family from someone`s attic you can`t help but feel some sympathy toward their  plight.After all,they`re only trying to survive through the madness of the planet just like every one of us. There`s actually a certain innocence about them that wins us over to their cause and as a result they manage to get themselves into the most uncanny of situations and jams.

If you can top the following story please send it to me because as far as I`m concerned this beaut has got to be the mother of them all ! This episode was related to me a few years back by a very talented young musician who was studying and teaching at McGill University. Using some creative licence I came up with this narrative. Ready?

It had been a long drive up to the cottage. It was late and the whole family was knackered and sleep beckoned. Nobody really felt like unloading the provisions from the car so they decided to leave it for the morning.

"But what about the raccoons dad?", asked young Catherine.

" Heh heh heh, your wise old dad is one step ahead of that game " he replied, producing a tube of laxative. " Raccoon repelent.This`ll stave off the little bastards."


  "I dunno dad, I think we should unload the car right now", pleaded young Catherine and sister Jane.

"Nah nah this`ll fix `em."  Wise father insisted as he started to smear the laxative around the car.

Everyone had a sound slumber and were looking forward to a hearty breakfast. Dad emerged with a big morning smile on his face ready for a week of carefree relaxation in the country air.

" So who`s going to help unload the car so we can eat then? "

" We dunno dad ", the daughters replied in unison.

Outside in the car a collossal event had unfolded over night. After lapping up all the laxatives that were spread around the car the racoons had managed to jimmy a window open and proceeded to tuck into the provisions. Unmitigated feeding frenzy! It also didn`t take long into the feasting for the laxatives to kick in.Torn open packages of bacon, hot dogs, cereal and eggs mixed with a few litres of raccoon diahrea all over the place. Everything including the critters were covered in it. It was like some sort of war zone inside the godforsaken car.

" Dad, I think you`d better let them out of the car ", young Catherine suggested.

As five rather confused raccoons scampered off into the forest a mammoth clean up effort was begun.

" I guess we`re going to have to go back to the store", dad finally said as the last of the raccoon poo poo was wiped up. 

" Yeah, and don`t forget the laxatives." young Catherine added.

Well, it`s pretty obvious that the moral of the story here is: Pretty much nothing stands in the way of a determined raccoon family. No challenge too formidable. They are considered to be in a higher intelligence percentile than domestic cats and have the manual dexterity of monkeys. If their brains were more developed they could probably even solve the freakin`Rubik`s Cube ! Nothing is safe with these critters around in any case.As for Exlax well, this is a testimony to the quality of their product. Hell, it even works on racoons maybe even rhinoceroses. Think of the advertising potential here. But first and foremost, when you visit the cottage next time don`t leave your provisions to the mercy of hell bent raccoons.

                 Memories of the Country Vet

When I first saw this it reminded me of my teenage years when I used to take care of horses out in Mirabel Québec. I had to assist the vet in a number of ways. Mostly it was just keeping the animal calm while the vet treated it. Ali G unknowingly captures the spirit of these country vets here. I kinda feel sorry for the vet and  would have really liked to hear what the guy had to say about his noble profession but Ali G just messes  with his head.




 It was on the remote Galapagos Islands 650 miles due west of Ecuador that Charles Darwin collected evidence to support his theories of evolution when he was a part of an expedition aboard the HMS Beagle that landed there in 1835. The island contained a remarkable variety of wildlife, flora and fauna including 11 species of giant tortiose not found anywhere else on the planet with the exception of Aldabra Island in the Seychelles. Along with studies made during his five week visit he was able to make a postulation that evolution was a process of elimination which sorted out the weak from the strong, in other words - survival of the fittest.Although many aspects of his resulting book, The Origin Of The Species, as it is now more popularily known, have been contested over the years that`s not what I`m concerned about as I write these words.

The handsome gentleman in the accompanying photo is a personality who has been in the news from time-to-time since 1971 when he was discovered on the island of pinta. His name is Lonesome George, because he is the rarest creature on Earth, being the last of the G.e Abingdoni species of giant tortoise.

The good news is that he now living in the sanctuary of the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island where he is protected from potential predators, most notably man who in the past as buccaneers and whalers hunted giant tortoises for their meat and body oils. The habitat of giant tortoises is also protected from feral animals such as pigs and goats introduced by man who have encroached on their territory over the years.


  The bad news is that even if the local dating service can`t find a bride for George scientists, who estimate his age between 80-90 years fear that either George has forgotten what sex is or doesn`t even know what it is in the first place! Personally from a tortoise point of view I can`t see how a lady tortoise could resist his astute charm and sophistication. A reward of $10,000 has even been offered over the years but all efforts to locate a female specimen have been unsuccessful.George still has about 100 years to go since these majestic creatures have life spans which can reach up to 200 years but it doesn`t look good for George and scientists believe he will die a lonely bachelor, the last of his line.

In the meantime he is a star tourist attraction on the once peaceful & serene islands. The tourist onslaught which began in 1968 has brought with it the strife of modern human society in every form, from pollution to crime all in name of the almighty dollar.Although much has been done recently to reduce this exploitation, including strict rules which must be adhered to with regard to the preservation of the natural condition of the flora and fauna it is expected that the population of the the islands will nevertheless swell exponentially, reachin 50,000 by the year 2020.


 Part of the poignant double irony is that George is a living example of the opposite effect of Darwin`s theories accelerated by man`s bumbling intervention (as usual) in the very land where Darwin formulated these theories. In addition, George has effectively provided mankind with an ominous symptom of his destiny. Of man himself playing out the part of a catalyst in the final act of his own excruciatingly slow demise. It`s not going to be as quick and to the point than it would be if a massive rogue meteor from outer space smashes into us or if a bunch of religious fanatics get hold of some horrific nuclear/chemical/biological weapon and wipe out the planet. It`s going to be slow and agonizing and the first act is already playing itself out with greed, materialism, and the general disregard for anything.

  At least we will be able to look back at some of the benevolent gifts such as George and the ethereal beauty of the Galapogos Islands that Mother Nature has bestowed upon us and say to ourselves, at least we had a good run at it.It strikes me with a sense of incedulousness that if one of nature`s most peaceful and docile creatures such as a giant tortoise living in one of the most remote areas of Earth cannot escape man`s bumbling maliciousness then we might as well just pack it in because the planet is fine.

 In the meantime, while we are still here I invite you to enlighten yourself with this enticing book by renowned nature photographer and author Tui De Roy. She was born and raised on the galapogos Islands and provides a magnificent  glimpse of what`s left of this last bastion of paradise.


Postscript :

I wrote the above entry sometime in 2009. A sad thing occured on June 24, 2012. George's keeper found him motionles in his pen. A necropsy revealed that he died of natural causes even though he was expected to live for another 50 years. A poignant event. " We have witnessed extinction. Hopefully we can learn from it." read a message on a blackboard in front of a local business.The New York Times wrote on July 2, 2012, "Giant Tortoise's Death Gives Extiction A Face. " George was a symbol of the plight of endagered spiecies. It would have been all good if it was nature taking it's course but the extinction of George's spiecies was a result of man's bumbling encroachment on it's habitat. RIP George.

                Canada's Ambassadors to the World 



In a startling development of planetary importance, an ecologist using Google Earth discovered something to truly make all Canadians proud : the largest beaver dam in the world. The amazing structure, found in a remote part of Wood Buffalo National Park's Birch Hills in Alberta, measures some 850 metres lond and took an estimated 40 years to construct, and can even be see from space! At long last, Canada has an artificial monument that can stand proudly alongside Stonehenge, The Pyramids and The Coliseum. Great Wall Of China eat your heart out! A monumental achievement of colossal proportions that will go down in the annals of history.




                   Cheetah - Built For Speed  !

Man has borrowed heavily from nature whether intentionally or not. The Cheetah ( acinonyx jubratus ) has all the qualities of a fearsome man-made weapon such as a fighter jet and is the world's fastest land animal ( up to 75 MPH in a sprint) .  Not suprisingly South Africa,one of the the cheetah's main habitats, actually named a fighter plane after this formidable creature. It's flexible spine, powerful heart, streamlined body,keen eyes and maneuverablity combine to make it one of nature's most efficient killing machines. Only twice in it's running sequence do it's powerful paws touch the ground and contact distances can be as much as 23 feet between two points! Cheetah's have an incredible acceleration rate of about 0-60 in 3 seconds, meaning it could beat a 1966 Pontiac GTO in a quarter mile drag race ! Once it has taken down it's prey, usually a Thompson's gazelle or an Impala,  rather than tearing it to pieces it will suffocate it by gripping the soft ventral side of it's throat and then drag it off and tuck in.

The cheetah's  depiction in pop culture ( films advertising etc. ) have contributed to misconceptions of their abundance.  Just between 10 and 12,000 cheetahs remain in the wild mostly in Africa with a small number surviving in northerm Iran and have been declared a vulnerable species by The International Union For The Conservation Of  Nature.  Some of the reasons for the cheetah's decline in number include man ( naturally ), predators such as lions and hyenas. Often young  cheetahs that are abandoned by unskilled mothers. Even supermoms face a daunting challenge to keep their broods alive and protected in the hostile open ground environments in which they reside.

National Geographic Cheetah

 Travelling to sub-sahara Africa snd witnessing  a cheetah hunt surely tops my list of adventure holidays. I snatched this short video from youtube that explains aspects of the   cheetah's  high speed capabilities.


 I couldn't resist including Robert Bateman's painting  

Cheetah Profile



            The Wonderful House Sparrow

Owing to the fact that I reside in an sprawl of ongoing urban decay I unfortunately encounter fewer species of mother nature`s creatures than I would like to. Fortunately though, during the summer months it`s possible to encounter many transient birds as well as a few species who nest all year round atop Mount Royal, a mountain sanctuary situated in close proximity to downtown Montréal, which also hosts a wide variety of other wild creatures. From the shy Red Foxes to the Great Blue Herons who skim across Beaver Lake during the early hours of daylight scooping out their breakfast of goldfish they provide a great escape from  dreary cacophonous city life. Other birds I have encountered include blue jays, Woodpeckers, Swallows, Red Winged Blackbirds and even the odd elusive Oriole or Cardinal. But all year round there are no shortages of my friends the housesparrows ( sometimes called English Sparrows ) fluttering about in parks, hedgegrows and trees scattered around the city. Although they are categorized as songbirds, they really have no particular song at all but rather random chirps which cheer me up after events such as near death encounters with maniac drivers. Whenever possible I offer them treats in the forms of seeds or bread crumbs from my lunchin order to give them sustenunce especially during the winter months. If you can believe it the City of Montréal will fine you $455.00 if they catch you feeding animals. A man got a ticket in Westmount park for feeding a squirrel once but the citizens banded together to fight it. If you don't believe me.....

 Public enemy # 1

House Sparrows occur in a wide variety of habitats that make do with whatever that habitat provides and are known to birders as generalists. Their adaptability in nests and food enables the generalists to to be successful under diverse and adverse conditions. Food generalists can often remain in cold climates wheras insect specialists such as Warblers must migrate to warmer climes. One of the reasons why the list of generalists contain so many species is that they not only adapt to humans , they actually benefit from our presence. Generalists are, in fact, often most abundant around human habitation.




Perhaps the best known generalist is, indeed, the House Sparrow. Like most of it`s ancestors were immigrants ; the House Sparrow was originally a European bird brought here to control garden pests and many pioneer wagon trains took along a few cages House Sparrows to release at their destinations. Although not prone to much wandering once established this species has spread over most of North America.
As with most generalists, the House Sparrows are nearly omnivorous and are not particular about their nest sites, although they generally are cavity nesters. Extremely prolific birds, they nest in outdoor light fixtures, in bird houses, in the nooks and crannies of buildings as well as in trees. They are adaptable in finding food as they are nest sites. This adaptability makes them sturdy survivors. I have seen them them feeding at night under electric lights, gleaning insects from car radiator grills and taking advantage of the warmth of buildings and eating grain spilled from the dishes of the calache horses we have here in Old Montréal. These little ladies and gentlemen are never far away from humans.

Although I have my fair share of House Sparrow stories here`s an interesting story I came across in a small guide to Sparrows in my local public library entitled Songbirds Of Eastern Canada :

" One observer saw a male House Sparrow bring a goose feather to his nest lay it there and fly off. A female House Sparrow, nesting nearby, flew to his nest, took the goose feather and hid it in the fork of a tree nearby. When the male returned and found the feather missing he immediately he immediately flew to the nest of the thief. Not finding the feather, he scolded all the birds in sight and then flew away. Then the thief flew to the tree recovered the feather and took it to her own nest. "

I am privledged to see displays such as the one I just described every day and wouldn`t be able to make it through the daily mayhem of city life without stopping to witness the entertaining frolics of these most interesting of creatures.
A great Sparrow site




        The Brilliant Australian Cattle Dog

The Australian Cattle Dog (ACD) breed was derived during the first half of the 1800's by crossing th Red Deer Dingo with a variety of other breeds including Border Collies and Dalmations. Cattle ranchers needed a tough dog to helpguide and control their cattle over long distances in extreme heat to markets. Up to that time imported breeds lacked the endurance and their barking and excitability would spook the cattle and cause them to "lose their meat" by the time they arrived at market. The cross-breeding process which took over 60 years from the 1830's to 1890's produced a tough and courageous dog which inherited the silent working skills and intelligence of the Dingo and the loyalty and good rapport with horses possessed by the Dalmation. Today they are also kept a s pets and are very vigilant, loyal and will sacrifice themselves for their master. Virtually tireless, ThACD is a very active breed and loves to play frisbee and go for long runs. If left unchecked an ACD will find interesting and creative ways of grtting what it wants particularily if it's food! With it's superior reasoning abilities the ACD is ranked in the 10th percentile of canine intelligence and can learn simple commands in less than 5 exposures. They come in red and blue speckle (illustrated) and like Dalmations are born completely white. The oldest dog on record was an ACD names Bluey from Queensland Australia who lived to be an incredible 30 years old and still working well into his 20's! One day I will own a vast tract of land for my  Australian Cattle Dog to roam.

                          The Iconic Tasmanian Devil

 There is really such an animal and it lives exclusively in the Australian island state of Tasmania in modern times. I have known this forever but I've discovered that many people in this age of information still think that it is a Warner Bros. Merry Melodies cartoon character! It is actually the largest carnivorous marsupial that is a nocturnal hunter whose diet consists of everything from insects to wallabies, preferring to scavenge when possible. They are rather small and look like medium sized dogs and possess sharp teeth and strong jaws. Just like the " Taz " cartoon creation it growls, snarls and screeches as can be seen in the video I hawked from youtube. I always wondered how they came up with the character and if it was in any way similar to the real animal. 

Back in 1954 the creative department at Warner Bros. were looking for a more mindless and ferocious antagonist for Bugs Bunny attempting to get away from cats, dogs & mice. The idea came from a crossword puzzle clue that director/illustrator Robert Mckimson came across. He  didn't even really know what a Tasmanian Devil was but as you can see that there are similarities. More of a nuisance and brush off for Bugs there are so many silly oversights in the " Taz " character that makes him even the more funny. For example, he has a limited command of the English language yet he can read & write. He is always hungry and, according to the running gag in the 5 shorts produced between 1954 & 64, eats "anything" from aadvarks to people and especially prefers rabbits. For me one of the most absurd, funny, dumbest and coolest of all Bugs Bunny's antagonists. He was almost shelved because the first short that  was shown in movie theatres was considered to be too violent for families.

You've got to love the old Merry Melodies cartoons. As far as I'm concerned they were not really intended for children and had depth and realism despite their absurdity. They offered parodies that made references to Shakespeare, the opera, fairy tales, show business, historical events, science fiction, vaudeville, gangsters etc. Most of it was stereotypical but it was hilarious and so ridiculously far fetched and if it was considered violent at the time the violence kids are exposed to these days in cartoons and films doesn't compare. 




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