Wildlife photography is usually synonymous with wilderness, but fret not if your only access to animals is an urban centre’s rapid transit system. In Toronto, Jill and I have spent two years researching and documenting the city’s numerous natural spaces and have been blown away by the urban wildlife they sustain.
And if urban wildlife can be found in Toronto, you can pretty much be assured that it can be found within the city limits of many cities across North America.
If lack of access to wilderness is what is holding too many people back from spending time in nature, we need to rethink our urban environment and the opportunities that exist in our backyards.
In Toronto, a quick street car ride (well, maybe quick isn’t the right word) to Sam Smith Park on Lake Ontario provided incredible opportunities for me to document a resident snowy owl this past winter…
…along with the park’s rich diversity of bird life, ranging from mute swans…
…to merganser ducks.
In the spring, we discovered the park is also home to coyotes, including the “missing” (now found) Miss 04, who has a range that rivals most grizzly bears – and commuters.
And no urban wilderness escape is complete without the urban beaver, which graced us with its presence at Sam Smith…
And I can’t even dream about beavers without stumbling across muskrats, like this fellow in Leslie spit’s Tommy Thompson Park.
Tommy Thompson also provided us with a great view of a great horned owl…
…which also nests in Thickson Woods, home to our best ever northern saw-whet owl encounter.
Lynde Shores Conservation Area is a marvellous oasis where we’ve found deer as well as this barred owl.
Closer to downtown, a rehabilitated factory, Evergreen Brickworks, hosts a rich marsh that hosts midland painted turtles…
…common snapping turtles…
…and leopard frogs.
And I haven’t even mentioned Toronto’s largest urban nature reserves: High Park, Downsview and Rogue Valley – soon to be Canada’s first urban national park. Each are relatively expansive and home to numerous species – such as the elusive (to me) fox and mink – even if our luck has been limited to geese and hawks.
But you don’t even need to leave the downtown core in order to find signs of life.
One evening, while walking Jill’s dog, I found my first live skunk also enjoying an evening stroll along a nearby railway line.
And then sometimes, urban wildlife finds you.
While enjoying dinner with Jill recently, I happened to look out our window and notice a raccoon. On the tenth floor. Of a neighbouring construction site.
(This is a little like Where’s Waldo)
Sure, I love my bears and wolves and expansive wilderness, but urban wildlife can be pretty fun and beautiful as well.