Of cats, birds, wind turbines and buildings
Tabby was the quintessential cat, a homebody that was content with its environment, never to stray afar. That is, Tabby ‘was’ until new neighbours arrived down the street. Their feline companion, Purrpuss, was the wandering kind, inquisitive by nature and prone to impulsivity. This day, Purrpuss was spotted by Tabby as he nonchalantly strolled across Tabby’s porch deck.
Curiosity compelled the homebody to rise from his comfort, follow Purrpuss’s path through the cedar hedge and under the neighbour’s fence. Several fences later, Purrpuss paused to utilize a flower display as a litter box. Another abrupt stop followed as Purrpuss assumed a predatory stance. Some birds were twittering as they happily gathered at a feeder. Some birdseed fell to the ground and some birds flitted after it. Purrpuss pounced upon one of them. It would be that unfortunate bird’s last meal.
It would also be Purrpuss’s last one, as that very day Tabby watched in horror as the last of Purrpuss’s nine lives became one with the pavement. Several vehicles passed over him at a busy intersection.
Feel not sorry for Purrpuss, since that which is only imaginary feels no pain. This fictitious story is meant to convey a message.
Cats allowed to roam are estimated to kill about 100-350 million birds in Canada every year. Nature Canada says that North American bird population has declined by 25 percent in the past 50 years. It is why, for example, the Club des ornithologues de l’Outaouais, a local bird-watching club, believes that Gatineau will join over a dozen Canadian designated cities as a bird-friendly city in 2024. Along with other policies, the municipality is harmonizing its bylaws, as well as having the ability to prove that it is implementing them.
It is a noble aspiration. Birds are also killed when they fly into buildings, particularly into windows that reflect the natural landscape. It is estimated that about a quarter million birds collide with clear and reflective glass in Ottawa each year (Safe Wings Ottawa). Wind turbines, according to a 2013 research paper by Avian Conservation Ecology, take the lives of approximately 233,000 birds a year and displace 57,000 pairs.
Cats, however, remain the prime culprits in the decline of our bird population, something to be aware of if you own a feline companion.
In my last column, I related two stories about Dr. Wilfred Costello that Father John Whalen told me when we chatted in the staff room at Our Lady of Victory School in Ottawa, where I was teaching about half a century ago. I erred in recalling the exact details of what he said. Call it brain fog, or the antibiotics that I was taking for pneumonia, but I have to wear this one.
To be exact, it was at the corner of Main and Market Streets, the location of what was then the Cameron Store, in 1942, that the first mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Victory Church. It was there that Father E.F. Bambrick would draw a line up the centre of the floor. It was not at the present location of OLV that this happened. Those desiring to build the church were asked to stand on one side; those opposed, on the opposite side.
The basement church was built the following year on Charles Street. The present superstructure was erected in 1958.
My sincere apology to the parishioners of OLV parish for my error in the historical context.