Last week, I wrote how we overcame the curse of the beaver. But one place where the beaver curse persisted was at home, in Toronto.
Despite dozens of almost daily sightings from easy to access locations like Rogue Valley, High Park and Leslie Spit, we always seemed to show up five minutes late or, after hours of staking out a certain location, leave five minutes too early.
But such was our (urban) beaver luck.
And frankly, after our remarkable week with beavers in Grand Teton National Park last summer, it wasn’t the end of the world. As Jill would constantly remind me with each walk-of-shame back home following another failed beaver stake-out, could we really expect to get better shots than we already had?
No, but I’m greedy. I wanted a shot of the elusive urban beaver.
One of the (many) species on our photographic wish list are snowy owls and, like most of north-east North America, snowy owls are a dime a dozen this year in Toronto. For everyone except us, that is.
In order to rectify this problem, along with Jill’s dad, we decided to spend a cold Saturday in January exploring Leslie Spit’s Tommy Thompson Park in search of the elusive (to us) owl.
What is normally an easy walk was made more difficult by the fact the ground was completely covered by ice. By more difficult, I really mean we were lucky to escape without serious injury or broken camera gear, like many others we encountered that day.
To make matters worse, every time we’d come across a group watching something intently, we’d discover that a snowy owl had just disappeared from sight. Great.
But all was not lost.
After one particularly treacherous slip and slide adventure that nearly landed us in the water, we were rewarded with the one creature I thought we were doomed never to see in Toronto. A beaver.
Two beavers, in fact.
As they cut branches, I guessed they’d make their way back toward the dam they were building at the edge of the pond, near where our ice sliding forced us to take refuge.
Jill and her dad, ever patient with my animal gambling, got set-up and prepared for the cold wait that was to come.
But a worthwhile wait it was, as each beaver took turns to put on a wonderful show within close range.
The urban beaver? Check.
By the time the shoot was complete, we were too cold to continue with our pursuit of a snowy owl. Our slow retreat to the warmth of the car did, however, yield a Great Horned Owl.
And back at the car waiting for our return? A distant snowy owl, perched on a nearby dock.
It wasn’t our best day of photography in Toronto, but it wasn’t bad either. We got one monkey off our back and now, in the weeks to come, we hope to convert one distant snowy owl sighting into a more memorable encounter.
Will we succeed? Will we fail? Stay tuned. (If we do fail, snowy owls might be 2014’s beaver.)