Mobile phones are both a blessing and a curse: useful for staying in touch yet they are highly addictive devices which lead to stress and an inexplicable abandonment of senses.

Just this morning I watched a fellow walking along a path carrying his toddler in one arm while staring into his phone in the other hand. Despite the potential of receiving heavy fines or worse, causing traffic accidents, automobile drivers continue to use their phones recklessly. I even see people on hiking trails chatting away on phones. Do you remember when you went outdoors to experience mindfulness?

As any wildlife photographer might tell you – put down your cell phone and engage with your surroundings. And, although my wildlife adventures have taken me to the Brazilian Pantanal, the Peruvian Andes, Patagonia, Ethiopia, Alaska and to various ‘exotic’ Canadian sites you don’t have to go far to find amazing species.

Wildlife is all around us. All we have to do is slow down and open our eyes.

As many know I have been spending a lot of time with bald eagles along the Nith River (check out my gallery) but, due to the Covid 19 restrictions, I have also been spending more time at home and less time in cafes.  This summer I have frequently seen a red fox in the woods directly behind my building. It likes to sleep in the afternoon sun but I have also seen it on the hunt while I am enjoying my morning coffee. I have been keeping my camera close by on the off chance it appears again.  This is an image taken during a thunderstorm which accounts for the amazing deep colours.

Besides a family of deer, which turn up and rob the bird feeders my well intentioned neighbours keep replenishing,  and the aforementioned fox, for the first time in a decade I heard the unmistakable sounds of Merlins this spring. These raptors are slightly larger than American Kestrels and like Kestrels they are also members of the falcon family.  Most mornings I have been able to snap images of them in a variety of activities – again, while enjoying my coffee. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Merlins usually hunt small birds catching them in flight. The male would often land on a bare branch with a sparrow he had caught then proceed to pluck its feathers. The female occasionally would swoop down,  perch next to the male and then he would  give her the sparrow to take to the nest.  Here she is about to receive the prey.

More recently I have seen – and heard – the young ones flying about the woods chasing the adults. The nest which is in one of the tallest spruce trees in the area has been abandoned now I believe.

Wildlife photography is a game of patience. Often I have sat down on a river bank waiting for bald eagles to appear and been rewarded by spotting other wildlife. Indeed, any time spent outdoors seems to yield precious images. This coyote trotted up a hillside path earlier this year and I was fortunate to capture a few images.

A pair of American Mink sometimes appear along the banks of the Nith River. These are another elusive creature but they must eat and drink. This one ventured into the open a couple of times while I sat on the riverbank snapping away. One evening I watched it fishing.

I know I am repeating myself but……get out and spend time with nature!

If you have enjoyed this blog and the accompanying pictures please register now for my next Zoom Webinar (Thursday September 24th at 7pm). If you are not on my mailing list and would like to be please send me a note.

https://ideaexchange.org/programs/event/ontario-wildlife-encounters

8 Comments

  1. Ben Lanthier

    Thanks for the reminder to look in our own backyards. I remember taking our Scout troops to local camps. The kids (11-14) looked at these as adventures. I loved watching them discover things – frogs, birds etc. It helped me look more closely at our surroundings and enjoy these adventures.

    Looking forward to September 24.

    Take care.

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hey Ben, thanks for your note. It is great that you have introduced scouts to nature. I have often seen teenagers near the bald eagle nest in Ayr and pointed out the eaglets to them. Some stare blankly. Perhaps their indifference is due to a lack of early nature walks or literature in the classroom. But I am also encouraged when some kids ask questions and appear eager to learn more. It is a life long education though, isn’t it? Glad to hear you will participate in my September 24th presentation, Ben. Take care!

  2. George Aitkin

    On mor3 than one occasion in the past month, I have encountered three young baby white-tailed deer frolicking around in Mount View Cemetery. Of course, on the best occasion I had no camera with me as I had returned from an appointment. I have had merlins nest iin large trees behind my house several years in a row now..

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hi George, your encounters are wonderful. Until this spring I had never seen a Merlin and more than a few people have remarked at how lucky I am to have snapped some images of this pair. If you ever have a chance to see National Geographic’s Bertie Gregory lectures on urban wildlife it will blow you away. Many species have grown accustomed to living amongst us. Good for you, George, keeping your eyes open! Cheers!

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