As the ice flows after breaking up on the North Saskatchewan River, I can’t help but think how many of us will be drawn to the water, wherever we live. I’m always so surprised by the energy of the river and how quickly the water is flowing. As beautiful and captivating as it is, I thought I’d take a moment to remind people to stay safe and think before you set foot on the bank of the water you’re visiting. In addition to being muddy, the ice is quite slippery and very weak. There’s no reason to step out onto the water. Make sure you’re not alone and be careful as you enjoy the time spent near the water, wherever you are.
Looking at the river, my mind is drawn to the animals that rely on this water as a source of life. As I ponder the energy I’m witnessing while the water wipes some of the ice buildup and a tree out of its path, I’m equally in awe of the wildlife who have made their way back home. This week I’ve seen Bald Eagles, Robins, Cranes, Ducks, Geese, Canaries, squirrels, gophers and a rumoured Hummingbird in a bird bath on the East Hill. As humans, our job isn’t only to look after the earth, but the creatures living on it as well. We are in a kind of transition period between the snowy winter and the vibrancy of fresh spring growth with succulent leaves and grass. There isn’t really anything for some of the animals to eat.
One of the first animals I think of helping are Hummingbirds. Not only is it pleasurable to have them visit my garden, I enjoy having them visit my birdbath and feeding stations as well. Growing up, the Hummingbirds were so plentiful in our yard, it wasn’t uncommon to have to duck out of the way as they raced to eat and darted at each other, trying to scare the other hummers away. Until last summer, I’d lived in my home for fifteen years and had never seen a humming bird once. Then I was recovering from major surgery and looked up one day to see a Hummingbird sipping from one of my flowers in a container. By the end of the day, it was eating at a freshly cleaned and prepared hummingbird feeder. She would come and keep me company several times a day, sometimes staying up to forty-five minutes as I sipped pots of tea and got used to not being as active as I was prior to the operation. I found I preferred serving home-made nectar to the birds, just so I knew what was going into what the Hummingbird was eating. Red dye weakens the shells of the eggs, killing the babies inside. Too much sugar, brown sugar and molasses make the nectar too heavy for the hummers to digest. And chemicals in the water can potentially encourage mold in the nectar, killing the birds when they eat from the feeders. Therefore, I decided to use a tried and true nectar recipe; one cup of sugar heated to boiling with four cups of water. After the sugar dissolves, I allow the nectar to cool completely before pouring it into the clean feeders. Hummingbirds will visit the feeder every fifteen to twenty minutes. And I can keep excess nectar in the refrigerator for up to a week.
I also put seed into the bird feeders, along with fresh water in the bird bath so the other birds always have something to eat, drink and bathe in. It’s surprising the abundant variety of bird species we can attract into our back yard with a feeder and a bird bath. Occasionally, I leave a freshly cut piece of fruit, such as an orange or tomato, for the birds to snack on. And as my sunflowers mature, I cut and dry the head off one of them and leave it out for birds to snack on. I also enjoy leaving nuts for the Blue Jays and Squirrels. Many people think squirrels are a nuisance however, I encourage them to come to my yard so that they will help me better care for my cedar and spruce trees. They chew and remove seeds I wouldn’t have been able to reach from the ground.
Just one more word regarding the swiftly flowing water and ice melt… water levels are going to be high and there will be flooding. Please don’t take un-necessary risks when off roading with your vehicle or hiking. There’s nothing worse then being stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service, stuck in muddy water up to the running boards. However you choose to enjoy our beautiful warm weather, make sure you plan, let people know where you’re going and as the sun sets, reflect on how enjoyable your day was in gorgeous northern Saskatchewan.