As I drove to work at the Montreal Gazette this morning, having left our Outremont home in tons of time to get there early yet still finding myself late because of hellish traffic, I found myself thinking of how much more pleasant (and uncrowded) it is to drive along the byways of Hastings County.
So far in all our time spent there since we bought the Manse in Queensborough – including a fair bit in Belleville, by far the largest urban centre in the county – Raymond and I haven’t experienced anything remotely like a traffic jam. We sail along the pretty country roads, and wave to the other drivers we meet, and admire the landscape as it changes with the seasons, and just generally feel considerably more relaxed about driving then we do when we’re in Montreal, where everywhere you turn there’s another street-reconstruction project to tie things up and make you late for wherever you’re going. And grumpy.
A stark and beautiful reminder of the difference came one recent day when we were travelling back to the Manse in Queensborough from “town” (Madoc) in two vehicles, thanks to a repair needed after the infamous flat-tire incident that I’ve recounted elsewhere. Just west of where Hunt Club Road meets Queensborough Road, I saw it: a striking large bird such as I’d never seen before, standing stock still in the tall grass right by the side of the road, neck craned in the air in a graceful and distinctive way.
“Did you see that bird?” was the first thing I asked Raymond as soon as we got out of our respective vehicles back at the Manse. He sure had. And he made a point of making use of our trusty National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds (Eastern Region) to find out what it was. (His second official bird identification! The first one being a Northern “Yellow-shafted” Flicker, which I wrote about here.)
And here is what it was: an American Bittern. Who knew?
The American Bittern, the Audubon Field Guide told us, “is secretive and more likely to be heard than seen. When approached, it prefers to freeze and trust its concealing coloration rather than flush like other herons. When an observer is nearby, it will often stretch its neck up, point its bill skyward, and sway slowly from side to side, as if imitating waving reeds.”
That’s what we saw! (Well, except for the slow swaying motion, but we were driving by fairly quickly.)
And you know, I have to tell you that spotting a large, graceful, secretive bird on one’s drive is just so much more interesting and pleasurable than looking at the orange construction cones that are bound to make you late for work. Wouldn’t you agree?