Last weekend I camped in Killarney Provincial Park for the fourth time this autumn. As I sat at my campfire reading a book I looked up to see a sky pretty much unpolluted by light. There were many stars in view.

A single wolf called out and was answered by many others. Local residents had told me they’ve seen as many as a dozen wolves in the area so I vowed to look for them the following day.

From the rocks above my tent the sound of leaves rustling startled me. I looked up and my headlamp illuminated a pair of eyes. I figured it was definitely not a raccoon. The eyes shifted from side to side quickly as if the animal was stressed.

Grabbing my can of bear spray I stood up and watched for further movement. Then it started running down the rock face. With the very limited light I could just make out the white tail of a deer, a huge one,  perhaps the biggest I’ve ever seen. Within seconds it vanished into the nearby marsh.

I love encounters in the outdoors like these. It makes me feel alive. Over the years I have seen and heard owls, pileated woodpeckers, bears and wolves close by while camping.

One time in Killarney an Eastern wolf trotted very close to my tent as I was fixing a long lens to my camera. Good timing, eh? I coaxed it to stop for a few seconds – using words NOT food – and snapped this picture. Once the wolf was sure I had got the image I wanted it turned and continued its mission. Thanks, buddy!

Last Saturday night was very, very  cold. I had been expecting sub zero temperatures but not the -7C  (-9C windchill) which it dropped to.

When I woke up the roof of my tent was covered in frost. Despite having two sleeping pads beneath my sleeping bag I felt the cold when my arm or leg ended up on the ground and so I am now searching for a better winter pad.

Looking for wildlife to photograph is a primary objective when I go on these journeys but it’s not the only one. So the fact I struck out again was easier to accept. There are a lot of hunters out there this time of year especially on weekends and the sound of gunshots isn’t really conducive to attracting wildlife.

The drive home is around five hours so there was plenty of time to reflect.  I thought about needing a ‘re-set’ for my photography. If you have ever attended one of my photo presentations you will know I refer to myself as ‘the world’s luckiest photographer’ and it seems by focusing on one species at a time – coyotes most recently –  I have perhaps missed out on seeing other species in action. I feel my luck has been limited.

So the past three days I  have gone looking for local wildlife – whatever I might come across – just as I did when I was embarking upon this photographic journey. No pressure to come home with great images. On Monday I spotted a bald eagle in a tree overlooking the Grand River in Glen Morris, Ontario.

I used to go that location every night and wait for the eagles to fly past. At least one eagle would pass each time. There are two nests I know of near this spot and when this one flew upriver I figured it was one of the pair which nest on the southern end of Cambridge.

After this eagle’s departure I drove to another of my former ‘hunting grounds’. Within a few minutes I found a pair of sandhill cranes foraging on the side of hill. I stopped to watch them for a while. 

Today I visited the bald eagle nest in Ayr. I have not been out there for a few weeks and even then I only spent a short amount of time since the eagles were nowhere to be seen. When I arrived the adult male was sitting by the nest. I navigated my way to a better position where I might be prepared for an in-flight shot and waited. After about 40 minutes he turned around facing the sun. Perfect!

Eventually he took flight.

As I made my way home very pleased with myself I stopped at a pond where I have had luck in the past. There was another pair of cranes foraging in the water. 

It has been refreshing these past few days, to lower the pressure I put on myself and just enjoy and appreciate local wildlife. From past experience this is when the best photographic opportunities arise. Sitting by that campfire and hearing the wolves may have been the spark to remind me of the overriding axiom – we are nature!





  1. John

    You are still lucky Paul but no doubt your patience and perseverance is a huge factor.
    By the way, though unaware of him, I very much enjoyed your recent Canadian Running article about the much loved late Coach Hugh Cameron.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Thanks John. Although I raced against some of Hugh’s athletes I was always fond of him. Very nice man. He was national coach for the Canadian marathoners at the 2009 world championships in Berlin. So we had more interaction there. As for the photographic experiences – it takes a re-set sometimes to appreciate what we are a part of!!!!

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