The other day Raymond and I were in a newly opened local restaurant and, in casual discussion with the young woman who was our server, discovered that she had once lived in Queensborough. She had evidently loved her time in our little community, and had something to say about it that I thought was spot-on. I’m paraphrasing her, but the gist of it was: “There are so few people in Queensborough, and yet almost everybody does something cool and interesting.”
That’s something I’ve noticed too. It never ceases to amaze me how many people who live in or move to our area have remarkable gifts and talents: for painting, wood-carving, bookbinding, metalworking, gardening, music, photography, long-distance running, historical research, storytelling, cooking, graphic design, homebuilding, landscaping, chicken-raising, baking, kids’ programs, flower arranging, esthetics, pet grooming, maple-syrup-making, athletics, metal detecting, building restoration, and on and on and on.
Today I want to showcase the work of one of those people. And in doing so, I’m happy to say, I get to tell you a bit more about what seems to have become the unofficial bird of Meanwhile, at the Manse: the American Bittern.
Longtime readers may recall that I first wrote about this bird five years ago, telling a story about spotting a very striking large, long-necked bird standing near a marsh area on the side of Queensborough Road. (That post, if you’re interested, is here.) At the time neither Raymond nor I had any idea what bird it was we’d seen, but we turned to our Audubon Guide to Birds of Eastern North America and soon learned that it was an American Bittern. “When an observer is nearby, it will often stretch its neck up, point its bill skyward,” the guide told us – and that was exactly the odd position we’d seen it in. Then about a year after that first sighting, we came across a baby bittern crossing a road as we were driving to Queensborough from Montreal, where we still owned a home. You can read that post, and see my terrible photos, here.
A final connection with the bittern is that until this year, one of them has inhabited a marshy area that’s more or less right in the centre of Queensborough. We’ve never seen that bird, but on many evenings we’ve heard it making its distinctive kitchen-sink-glug-type call. As I write this, however, I realize that we didn’t hear our bittern this past spring, and that makes me sad. I hope nothing has happened to him/her.
But on to the connection between the American Bittern and talented local people.
A little while ago, I received an email from Lloyd Holmes, who grew up in Cooper, the hamlet just north of Queensborough, and who now lives in the not-far-away community of Marmora. Lloyd’s been to quite a few Queensborough events recently – and believe me, there have been a lot of Queensborough events recently – and I featured some of his stunning photos of our annual kayaking event here.
“Have been enjoying some of the activities around Queensborough this past couple of months and check your blog occasionally to see what the latest has been,” Lloyd said in his email. He carried on with this delightful story: “I never check at any time without recalling memories of my childhood that included riding in the wagon behind the tractor while my father took a grist to John Thompson’s grist mill in Queensborough to have ground into a mix for hogs or dairy and then return home to Cooper.” Here, people, is the very mill (no longer in use, but nicely preserved) that Lloyd refers to; it is owned by John Thompson’s daughter, Elaine Kapusta, and her husband, Ludwick:
The email continued: “When we were young we almost snickered when our parents reminisced and said, ‘Those were the good old days,’ and now we say that same thing ourselves.”
Lloyd: I hear you, loud and clear.
But the best was yet to come: two amazing closeup photos of an American Bittern. The first is at the top of this post; here’s the second one:
Now that, people, is what a bittern looks like. Light-years better than my photo of a photo from the Audubon guide, which itself was far inferior to Lloyd’s shot.
“(The) pictures were taken earlier this summer along the Cooper Road between Hazzard’s and Madoc,” Lloyd told me. “We don’t often see these birds and less often (are) close enough to get pictures of them. But even I get lucky once in a while.”
I happen to know that it was almost certainly patience, not luck, that allowed Lloyd to capture these amazing images. Here’s another story he told me after I’d replied to him, thanking him for the bittern photos and promising to share them here:
“I have a great time out there in nature trying to get these shots, and it is nice to have friends to share them with … One of the photos I will send you is of a female mink that I had found where she had a den of little ones and I spent a number of afternoons trying to get close enough to get some good pictures of her. I think it was the fourth or fifth day I was out there and had been there about 2½ hours and she was going out into Beaver Creek trying to catch some food for the den when, on her 11th or 12th attempt, she came back with a rock bass. I got pictures of her running through the rocks with the rock bass going back to the den. The most rewarding pictures are the ones you have to work the hardest to get.”
Let’s just say that I expect I am now not the only one eager to see those photos! As Lloyd says: “Some people like to see and read about our neighbours in the forest.” Count me in!
If you’d like to see more of Lloyd Holmes’s photos right away, please check out the website of the municipality of Marmora and Lake. Webmaster Jenn Bennett often posts his work there. Click on the “Discover” link and then “Photos,” or just follow this shortcut here. There are some great ones of Marmora events; here, for example, is an excellent photo of the July 1 fireworks in Marmora:
And here’s a lovely one of the town’s Santa Claus parade last winter:
There are also more photos here of the kayakers in Queensborough.
But for me the highlight is what you see when you click on this link, which takes you to a gallery of Lloyd’s photos, primarily nature and wildlife scenes. I’m only going to show you one, and leave the thrill of discovering the others to you. But people, just look at this:
I think you will agree with me that Lloyd Holmes has a prime spot on the long list of Queensborough-area people who are cool, interesting – and extraordinarily talented.