If you are anything like me, when you think of Canada you probably imagine wide open vistas, tree soaked hillsides and twinkling blue lakes. Even more so when we are talking about wildlife (you’re reading this blog, so It’s safe to assume we are). You probably don’t immediately think of the urban metropolis, bustling hive of industry and achingly modern life of its big cities. But despite the urban location there is still plenty of wild life to see.
On a recent visit (yes I did see the weather forecast before I left and yes, I went anyway) I was plunged back into the vibrancy of city life by the raucous, urgent effervescence of Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. Beaver tails, brightly lit diners, Dodge RAMs, maple syrup and armadas of snow ploughs assaulted my senses. Compared to my little corner of South Devon there is an awful lot happening all at once involving many many more people than I have seen in one place for a long while. I think this is entirely forgivable – the population density of Devon is in the order of 170/km sq, while Canada is more like 3/km sq. Of course, what I forgot to factor in is that in a city like Toronto this rises to more like 4,000/km sq.
So, what is a place like Toronto doing on a wildlife blog then? When I set up this blog it was with the intention of celebrating the wildlife that we share our everyday with. And that’s precisely what I found – when you look you can find wildlife in even the most steel and concrete dominated environments. In Canada this means bright red northern cardinals in municipal parkland opposite state buildings, a hodge-podge of ducks on frozen canals surrounded by decaying industrial parks, and ice coated trees right on top of a very hefty concrete wall holding back the mighty Niagara river itself.
Seeing how species are adapted to their habitat is part of the beauty of nature watching:
- The ducks on the canal clustered around a leaking lock gate, the slight turbulence preventing the ice from closing in and providing the fowl with a small portal to the cold cold river below.
- In a city park one tree in particular was absolutely buzzing with birds. A mixed flock of sparrows, tits and northern cardinals jostled for space. Getting closer it soon became clear there was a person in the tree, feeding the birds. While this was a bit of a social anomaly for us humans the birds were embracing the feeding opportunity with gusto. We get mixed flocks descending on bird feeders all the time – it helps birds keep a better watch out for predators and members can benefit from shared spatial intelligence about the location of food resources.
- The water from the great Niagara Falls rises in a vapour cloud, settling on the limbs of nearby vegetation creating an icy exoskeleton. Not all plants could cope with this level of entombment – heck, many plants get sniffy about a light frost. This was serious cold – both my fingers and my shutter on my trusty camera needed some serious attention to restore functionality. To anything that survives that – chapeau.
February is a tough month for wildlife in Canada (it’s a tough month to go wildlife watching in Canada too). Breathtaking in more that one sense, even from this fleeting visit I was excited by how much wildness was apparent. I have a feeling this won’t be my only visit.