My Aunt Cecilia picked me up from the airport. She lives just 10 minutes away, so she didn’t even need to leave her house until I had my suitcase and was waiting outside.

I asked Cecilia before hand if she would be up for keeping me for a couple nights so we could have a good visit. She was game!

We started out the next morning at a nearby park to do some urban birdwatching! Cecilia is a great birder, who travels the world, building her life list of birds. I’ve always wanted to know my birds. I notice them, I photograph them, but I don’t know many of them by name.

Maybe it is time to change that?

Cecilia lent me a pair of lightweight birding binoculars and armed with the Audubon bird ID app on my phone, I hoped to start building my own list!

Toronto already has grass and leaves and spring flowers. People have actually cut their grass already!

My first reaction was “Wow, it is hard to believe we’re in a big city!” and my second was “I’ve never seen so many bird watchers! This is wild!”

I guess birdwatching became a popular sport during Covid!?

Before leaving the park, I had 43 birds on my life list!! Almost entirely identified by Cecilia though. Time for me to join the game!

She told me about this app called Merlin that allows you to turn on your phone’s microphone and it helps identify birds that it is hearing! This is a game changer! Now I could know what birds were around me, making finding and identifying them a million times easier!

Look at all these people looking at the birds! In Toronto!

Even more over there! Turns out someone spotted a chat! It is a bird I’ve never heard of. I didn’t get a great look at it, so I didn’t record it, but Cecilia got a good look at it!

Some of the birders were friends of her’s, so we stopped to chat a few times. I worked on picking up the lingo. I had no idea what “bins” was, until I realized I was being asked about my binoculars!

After wandering the park for awhile, we headed out on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail to look for ducks and shorebirds. I know these ones!

After our adventure, we went back to birdwatch in Cecilia’s nice big treed backyard. I got some sun on my winter white skin!

That evening we took another walk nearby along a river (how is this in a city?) We walked for over 4km chatting away, looking for birds, chatting about life.

The next morning, the Ontario bird alert Discord channel on Cecilia phone alerted to a rare bird spotted in Oakville. One that is usually only seen in Arizona!

She watched the reports come in, and then photos that verified it was a legit alert! So we grabbed our binoculars and headed to Shell Park in Oakville.

At the back of the soccer field, just into some trees, we ran into a group of birdwatchers following the bird around. It was a Hepatic Tanager!

I was sure people in the nearby houses were going to flip when they looked out their back patio to see dozens of people with long lenses and binoculars pointed in their direction!

The bird was a bit shy, and hard to spot at times, but kept flying around the same group of trees, from one to another, so everyone got to see it and take photos. I didn’t have anything but my iPhone with me, so I wasn’t able to get an adequate photo. But I have added it to my bird list. At this point I was up to 63 different bird species!!

I scratched my legs up nicely on these raspberry bushes. Teach me to wear shorts!

Afterwards, back at Cecilia’s, we went back to leisurely birdwatching from a couple lawn chairs. My brother’s family stopped by while they were waiting on some maintenance on a tent trailer they were looking to buy.

Later that day, Cecilia and I head to Brian’s place near Pickering. Cecilia had dug up some raspberries for them to plant at their house. I birdwatched while they found the perfect location for their berries.

My nephew showed me an oak tree he planted a few years ago! It’s growing at the same pace as he is!

Brian and Leanne prepared a nice BBQ for us!

Easton wanted us to all play a game. I picked out Charades and we had so much fun! One of the ones I had to act out was “Harry Potter”. I got them to get “Hair Pot” and the final stretch to “Harry Potter” was long and unsuccessful!

Cecilia went home just before dark. Easton and I didn’t feel like watching the Leaf’s last game of the year, so we played a board game called Viviculture. I give it a solid 0.25 stars out of 100. Thank goodness Easton beat me after the first excruciating hour or so.

The next day, my niece Hadley introduced me to a show she’s been telling me about for years – “The Floor is Lava!”. It was pretty cool!

Soon after, my Mom, sister and her two kids came to Brian and Leanne’s for lunch, before we all went to the Toronto Zoo! Finally I got to meet my new nephew Jordon!

(Good grief I wish I had arranged a haircut before my vacation! Cecilia was ready to chop it herself!)

Little Jordy is one seriously cute kid! And he’s already 20 pounds at 5 months!!

They all have family passes to the zoo. It was HOT! Like almost 30C hot! I got to ride there between my niece Selinah and nephew Jordan in the back of Julie’s van.

Afterwards we all went to McDonald’s together for supper!

Jordan had a serious case of the giggles!

I went back to Julie’s house with them after. I had Selinah on my right, and was busy picking up her sound asleep head and putting it back against her car seat, rather than bent over and snoring. And on my left, Jordan woke up and was crying and I had to keep popping the soother back in and block out the lights of the passing cars! Whew, they kept me busy!

The next day Julie, Jordan, and I snuck out to the mall for a bit of shopping while Grandma (Mom) held down the fort during Selinah’s nap. That night I made us a stir fry and chicken supper!

The next day, Mom and I went to London to visit Grandma. 5 days shy of her 99th birthday!!

We had lunch with her as her guests in their dining room. Then we went up to her apartment for a visit. She lives in a seniors complex. Not even a nursing home. Not bad for 99 eh? And really, the place feels more like a cruise ship or resort. The food was great!

Grandma had me pour us a brandy and we had some All-Dressed chips for munching!

That night, Julie had our Dad over for the evening. Him and I made homemade pizza for us all. My brother in law Wole is so busy with work he missed out on the delicious pizza!

The next day, Mom, Julie and the kids, and I headed to Atwood to visit a few more folks.

Uncle Paul took me on a tour of his daffodils. He has over 100 varieties now! Many were already past their prime, but there were still plenty in bloom!

My cousin Tina and Aunt Maria joined us at Paul’s for a bbq lunch! It was so great to see them and give them a big overdue hug in person (my first time seeing them after the loss of Uncle Don).

This visit home was such a quick one, there wasn’t much time to plan any visits with anyone, but we did make another stop at my Aunt Nora and Uncle Ed’s at the farm where I was raised. Ed took Selinah and I out to meet this spring’s new kittens!

Julie treated us to Swiss Chalet that night. Chicken that practically melts in your mouth!

The next morning, we had time for breakfast and some photos, before Dad came by to pick me up to spend a day with me.

Poor Selinah had a swollen eye. She just may be allergic to cats like me 🙁 Sorry kid!

Dad and I went shopping for hours! I’ll talk about it more in another post, but I needed a bit of gear. I’m trying to see if I can get in better shape, lose more weight, and go for a 5 day backpacking hike next summer!

Here’s our new adventure hats!

We also went to the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s market, of course! It was a chillier morning. Everyone was bundled up and freezing!

I found a great pair of backpacking/hiking boots, after trying several on, in 4 different outdoor stores, and then we went to Factory Shoe and dad helped me pick out THREE more pairs of footwear! Shoes aren’t something we have much selection of up here in the Yukon, so I was grateful! And happy that I brought an empty duffle bag because Air North lets you check TWO bags for no extra cost!

The next morning, Dad and I got up nice and early, and he had me to the Toronto Airport by 7am. He was able to get back home before the traffic even picked up! Because the Toronto airport is so backed up now due to their shortage of workers, I was happy to be early. There was a wait to check in (I think they are still getting used to checking people in for these new Air North flights that go just twice a week). And then thanks for the Nexus card that let me bypass the security line 500 people deep for the Nexus line where there were only about 50. YAY!

Bye Ontario!

The lunch wasn’t nearly as good, since it surely just came from a Toronto kitchen with mass produced meals.

The vegan brownie was super weird!

But after a stop in Yellowknife, the afternoon snack was a plentiful plate, WITH a WARM chocolate chip cookie!

Back to Whitehorse! But my vacation is not yet done! Stay tuned for Part 3!!