Urban Wild Exploring: Finding New Places - Part One

How goes your urban nature exploring?  Is it something you are interested in or are you enjoying getting outdoors in other ways?  If you do want to explore, have you found some new great spots to visit in your city? What is the best way you've found to discover new spots?  Tell me what you think of the follow ideas that I've found helpful:

How to Identify Wild Spaces Worth Exploring

  • The first thing I did when I started getting curious about wild spaces was to use online map websites (like Google Maps or Bing Maps) and topography/satellite image websites (like Google Earth or MapQuest Satellite) to search for green spaces in my city.  Online map websites show you the more official green areas and they also show urban streams that are sometimes not so visible when you are driving around.  Topography/satellite image websites can show you whether the area is forested or shrubby and green corridors that may not be as obvious on maps.  
  • You can enrich the information you find online through these two sites by also searching on your official City website.  Municipalities can provide information on local parks (locations, hours if applicable) and amenities (like washrooms, water fountains, sports fields, etc). 
  • Hydro and river/stream corridors also can offer some wild spaces - and you can some times confirm if there are local paths within these corridors with topography/satellite image websites.

  • Some urban parks have wild edges that offer great discoveries of local flora and fauna.  It's a great opportunity for learning about native and naturalized plants and the fauna that is attracted to these type of habitat including insects and urban birds.  If the natural area is large enough you may even find some informal dirt trails and/or paths that allow you to explore further.  Just remember to prioritize your safety!
  • Nature reserves and other natural areas (cemeteries and arboretums) can offer tamer opportunities to explore with the added bonus of learning opportunities.  Here in Ottawa, both the Dominion Arboretum and Beechwood National Cemetery provide tree species labels to make identification easy, while some nature reserves have outdoor displays and education signage about native flora and fauna.
  • Some public gardens also provide identification labels for plants.  The Canadian Wildlife Federation has a wildlife demonstration garden located in Kanata that shows various types of habitat (woodland, meadow, wetland, etc) and the types of plants you can find.  I also found a meditation garden at a church that is a small urban sanctuary for wildlife which had labels identifying most of the shrubs, trees and flowers (many of which were native).
  • As you are travelling around the city, look for interesting topography - see where streams are located and notice changes in elevation.  I've found some great escarpment areas and also stumbled upon this wonderful ravine as I got out to explore different areas of Ottawa.

Photo Credit for all Images in this Post: Viliam Glazduri (InstagramFlickr500 pxContributing Creative to Wild. Here.

There are some organized opportunities to get out and explore in both urban and wilder spaces.  I'll be writing about that and sharing a list of other resources such as websites and apps to help with your urban exploring later in the summer.

One thing you may want to think about if you are serious about exploring is what to bring on your adventures.  So depending on what time of year it is and/or how long you will be out, here are some items to consider:
- bug spray (especially in early summer when bugs are at their peak)
- suntan lotion
- sturdy shoes
- water proof wear if needed (I hate when my feet get wet)
- water bottle
- camera/binoculars/pocket lens
- identification books or apps
- sketch book/field notebook
- pencil (this is the writing instrument of choice for field naturalists)
Don't worry about timing or season.  Exploring can be done any time during the year (as long as you consider your comfort and safety).  Remember wild spaces in urban settings are still wild!  There is lots to see, to learn and to check out, whether you are a photographer, a birder, a plant lover, hoping to spot some wildlife, looking for a peaceful place to spend an afternoon or wanting to find a new place to go for a jog or bike ride.

Happy Exploring!

Other Posts on Urban Wild Exploring:

Intro to Urban Wild Exploring (Wild. Here. May 2016)

Urban Wild Exploring: Finding New Places - Part Two (Wild. Here. August 2016)

Urban Wild Exploring: Finding New Places - Part Three (Wild. Here. October 2016)

Urban Wild Exploring: Searching and Sightings of Fauna (coming soon)

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