wild and wonderful urban nature encounters

Wild and wonderful encounters can be a great reason to get outdoors.

Whether it's seeing a small, sweet raccoon up a tree at twilight or catching the swift movement of a mink hopping over your snowshoe trail (as you rest for a moment in the sun) it can be an amazing feeling to witness the fleeting appearance of wildlife that is normally hidden from view.

My spouse sent this photo of a Praying Mantis that visited him on the 16th floor of his office building  this summer - what a view!  And it reminded me how much our connection with nature can enhance our lives.  These special moments can happen at any time but you may find, by being more deliberate in getting outside and exploring wilder spaces, that they will happen more frequently.

Just last month, Viliam was out taking photos at sunset along the Ottawa River and was amazed to see this large bird fly in at dusk as he was making his way back to the car.  It turned out to be an owl and he was able to get a photo of it using his flash!  (I used the photo in last month's Exploring post.)  He gets out a lot during the #goldenhour so it finally paid off in spades!  (We've been hoping to stumble upon an owl on our walks, since we had a fleeting meeting as we were walking along Green's Creek years ago.)

Here's some ideas for inspiration:

A dinner party al fresco at a friend's house.

My friend has many large urban trees (conifer and deciduous) in her back yard and just at dusk between the main course and dessert, our dinner party was able to enjoy the amazing aerial acrobatics of some urban bats.  (And even in Centretown (with less trees) I remember hanging out with a friend on a back deck in late August and enjoying the same flying antics.)  And just an FYI - bats can be found clinging to building walls in daytime as they migrate during the spring and fall seasons.

Bat found behind a church in Orleans in the spring.

A sunset walk along a waterway.

Getting outside around sunset in areas that are close to water provide opportunities to see beaver and muskrats busy gathering food and woody materials.  We've seen muskrat at Petrie Island, beaver along Green's Creek and also heard of beavers in Brewar's Creek (which is quite an urban area!).

Migrating spring snakes, frogs and salamanders.

Many herptiles are on the move and may be possible to spot during the spring.  Cyclists along bike paths have encounter snakes that have recently left their hibernaculum and wanting to warm up along the pathways which act as heat sinks. (I just read that snakes enter a state of brumation not hibernation to survive the winter!) A friend also talked about seeing many small salamanders along quieter stretches of the parkway when she was out walking her dog. TIP: Large migrations happen at night!

"Teenage" raccoons visible during the day.

You may have been lucky enough to have a teenage raccoon visit your backyard during daylight hours or perhaps you spotted one resting up in a tree one afternoon.  Young raccoons are out during the day scouting out for their own territory and trying to avoid larger, older territorial raccoons that are up all night.

Late summer turtle hatchling sightings.

If you are around a lake or large pond in late summer or early fall be on the lookout for turtle hatchlings.  Even better is if you have witnessed a female turtle laying eggs in late spring, check out the same area approximately seven to ten weeks later.  Snapping turtle eggs take a bit longer - between eleven to twelve weeks.

Get out in early spring to see young squirrel antics.

A favourite of mine is seeing young squirrels chase and play fight once they are old enough to get out and explore outside their den.  I remember enjoying the antics of a young squirrel one spring when I found myself at the Governor Generals.  We also videotaped some sibling squirrels chasing each other, rolling around and fighting in our backyard.  Find a place with lots of trees and sit down and see if you can spot some!

Mink along a rocky shore of a river.

Some urban river shorelines, especially under bridges, will have large rocky berms (man-made) that many creatures use as shelter and even sometimes as dens.  You'll likely find some chipmunks and/or even some snakes but we got lucky enough to see this active mink (pictured below) both along the shoreline and even in the water!  You can also look for bank beavers when you find softer earthier edges of rivers!

Photos 1, 3 & 4 by Viliam Glazduri (InstagramFlickr500 pxContributing Creative to Wild. Here.

One last encounter: how about a Killdeer nesting at your community garden?  I couldn't believe this one when I read it.  What an amazing experience for those gardeners!!

What tips do you have for others who are hoping to have some encounters or sightings of wildlife?  

What unusual (or usual!) spots have you spotted urban wild and are there certain times of day or year that you find are good to get out?

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