From The Norwich Gazette, September, 1989
Doug H. maintained a backyard chicken coop for many years -
he learned how to handle hens and roosters at a young age
My father was pretty happy whenever one of his five children would accompany him on a tour of his 'birdhouse route'. He built 100s of sturdy plywood birdhouses and placed them on fence posts at the edge of several farmers' fields in the Norwich area. He loved his bluebirds (I couldn't spot them easily until he pointed several out to me), barely tolerated sparrows, and yearly kept detailed notes about birds' habits, size of their broods, and the successes and failures of survival rates.
Besides the birdhouses which dotted the countryside around Norwich, he expressed his deep interest through his writing, book purchases and various pieces of artwork even into his last year.
Below is a 1989 column, stitched together using modern technology : ).
Note to readers: At the * above, please insert Doug's hand-written note. I.e., "at three of my (boxes last year. It was the most) bluebirds I have seen in many years."
Please note the "To be continued"
Mom and Dad had their own brood and it occasionally gathered at Turkey Point during summer months:
L - R: Gord Harrison w son Paul (in front of me, 3 - 4 years old then, 46 now),
Edith (Catton) Harrison, Doug Harrison, Ida Catton, Murray Catton
(facing camera),and Kim Harrison (lower right). Circa 1976-77
Hopefully I will be able to find the followup to Dad's story. Here's a bit of my own recollection of another bit of 'bird action' he and I enjoyed together in fall 2002:
Dad's Last Bluebird and Bald Eagle Sighting
I picked up Dad at the front door of Parkwood Hospital, London, just about every Saturday in the year before he passed away. We had a standing appointment - 1:00 p.m. He was always ready, eager to get out for a ride.
Within five minutes we would usually be heading south-east toward Oxford County - Tim Horton coffees in hand - and toward familiar country roads, just following our noses.
On one such drive in the fall of 2002 we ended up in Long Point - with customary refills - drove past Gord Bucholtz's old, tin-covered boathouse ("We caught some big green bass out of there," he said, and I nodded, remembering good times before my teens, before 'hanging out' with parents was not 'cool'), sampled ice cream at a well-worn variety store (once operated by the Bushells from Norwich), prior to turning around at the entrance of Long Point's campground in order to aim the car westward and toward home.
Within about 30 minutes I ventured onto a gravel side road northwest of Walsingham, and a few minutes later I spotted bluebirds flitting from fence posts to telephone wires to a farmer's field, and back and forth, outside my driver's-side window. I slowed and stopped the car. Dad's eyesight wasn't the best at that time so he couldn't see them, so I described the action - well enough for him to be pleased about our stop.
"I can't see them but I know they're here," he said.
As I slowly pulled away I saw more 'bird action' on the opposite side of the road. A large gang of crows and blackbirds, 200 - 300 meters away, filled the air with troubling energy. Oh, they were after something, and I didn't know what, but I suspected an owl. So I pulled over again.
As the rolling mass of birds approached - swooping, swirling, attacking - I saw the large, victimized bird, and it was not having an easy time. And as the whole gang drew closer I realized that the large bird at the centre of things wasn't an owl, but a bald eagle. It was swerving and taking hits, no more than 5 meters above the ground, and the whole scene was heading right toward Dad's passenger-side window.
He sat and stared, as silent as a ghost, as the majestic eagle and black darts raced toward the car and passed, seemingly, over our heads by mere inches. I instinctively ducked, then glanced over my left shoulder and watched the drama for another 10 - 20 seconds before it disappeared into the distance. Then we each took a deep breath.
Dad spoke first.
"I've never seen anything like that in my life!"
Did I believe him? I'm not sure, but I nodded agreement. We were certainly not going to see anything like that again, at least anytime soon.
To be continued (after I locate the second-half of Doug's story re curious birds).