For birdwatchers in Oshawa, the Spring migration is the harbinger of better weather. Thousands of birds of all kinds fly over Oshawa on their way north. The city’s lakeshore is a vital recharge stopover after the long flight across the expanse of Lake Ontario. Thousands of birders, too, will flock to the lakefront along Second Marsh and Thickson Woods, binoculars focused, notebooks unbound, to catch even a glimpse of their feathered holy grails.
Among them will be Oshawa resident and crime writer Steve Burrows, author of the birder murder mystery series based around Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Dominic Jejeune.
“I live in Oshawa, and most mornings during migration season will find me either at Thickson’s Woods/Thickson’s Point or in the Second Marsh/McLaughin Bay area. The birds are constantly on the move during migration, so I find a slow walk more productive than sitting in a single spot, but anywhere around those areas is likely to offer a great morning’s birding,” he says.
Like Burrows, DCI Jejeune is also a birdwatcher. In the initial book of the series, Jejeune, a Canadian living in Norfolk, England, even mentions Thickson Point. Burrows says the skills necessary for a successful birding hobby can also aid his detective’s pursuit of criminals.
“I think it is simply being an observer: that ability to watch and assess and perhaps even anticipate events. The attention to detail, spotting the small telltale clues, is important in both occupations, too.” Others, too, have found successful occupations around ornithology, combining birdwatching with business. Here in Oshawa, birders can, before or after their slow morning walk, grab a java at Aves Coffee Co. on William Street downtown. Aves specializes in coffee grown in a bird-friendly, environmentally sustainable manner.
Among the coffee options available are Piping Plover Light Roast Blend, Barn Owl Espresso Dark Blend, Acadian Flycatcher Decaffeinated, and Peregrine Falcon Medium Roast Blend. Too much, maybe, to ask for a coffee named after petrels. Asking as Burrows’ most recent book is titled A Foreboding of Petrels. This is the seventh in the surprisingly successful mystery series, says Burrows.
“The first book, A Siege of Bitterns, was written as a one-off,” he says, “and sent in on spec., known in the industry as an unsolicited manuscript. I really had no hopes beyond getting that one book published. Once it appeared in print, it received positive reviews, including being selected as the winner of Crime Writers of Canada's Best First Novel award and Globe & Mail's Best 100 Books of the Year, so further contracts followed until we found ourselves where we are today: seven titles published, number eight in production, and number nine in the ‘concept’ stage. I think it’s fair to say the series has been far more successful than I could ever have imagined when I wrote that first book nine years ago.”
Never imagined either but moving closer to reality is a TV series based on the books. “The option for the TV rights is currently held by an Anglo-Canadian partnership involving two of the top TV producers in the industry: Shaftesbury in Canada and Company Pictures in the UK. I’m not sure where things stand at the moment, but it would obviously be great if they were able to bring the series to the screen at some point.”
As Oshawa is a hub for film and television production and a birding centre, it would be great if we could bring DCI Jejeune to the city at some point too.