A Collection of Foggy Day Rambles
Beasts and Birds: A Touch of the Wild
In 1783 the forest hosted an abundance of wildlife. The records of the mill showed that the furs purchased from the first nations and early settlers were primarily elk, deer, bear, wolves, fox , beaver and panthers. Although the last official record of a panther sighting was in 1854 there have been additional sightings as recent as 2010.
A few years ago Auggie and I were lingering until after sunset at the cemetery listening to the great horned owls. Stumbling back in the dark abandoned orchard without a flashlight was a trick. I didn’t panic until Auggie started to growl and reaching down I felt the hair raised on her back. It was so hard to resist the urge to run, heart pounding! When I finallymade my way to the creek crossing we saw our neighbours Ed and Elsa having a campfire in the distance. Auggie took off for safety leaving me to splash my way anxiously through the rocks in the creek. When I finally made it to my astonished friends I explained that we had been followed by some creature. They laughed at the city girl’s story until a wild scream pierced the dark. The campfire was doused and we quickly headed for home together. We must have looked a silly sight, a little knot of people with four sets of eyes wide open, scanning for a big furry creature lurking behind every bush.
The next day I returned to the creek and Auggie went wild when she picked up the fresh trail. In the silt along the creek banks were tracks as large as a St. Bernard, only they were feline. In the following weeks there were more sightings along waterways in the southern part of the Peninsula. * see news article posted at the end.
We’ve also had a few encounters with a local bobcat. The first time we heard his mournful mating call was in the wee hours of the morning in early spring. The hollow was swirling with floodwaters and blanketed in a thick fog. It was haunting, sounding like a lost soul calling for help. A few days later the cry wafted out from the chicken coop and I wasted no time rushing across the yard, flashlight in hand. A terrifying site, me in my nightgown and rubber boots wielding a broom to defend my ladies! He dashed from the bushes and ran to the corner, stopping to face me under the corner streetlight. We locked eyes at a distance of about 15 meters and he showed no intention of moving on. He was a glorious creature standing confidently erect. His tufted ears, distinct markings and thick furry legs were clearly defined under the street light! I slowly inched my way to the safety of the front door, I was no match for a creature this bold in the middle of the night.
Niagara on the Lake is situated on the route for migratory birds. Spring is my favourite time of year with so many varieties of birdsong filling the forests and flocking around the feeder. Rose breasted grosbeaks, orioles, warblers, chickadees, cardinals, bluejays, wrens, nuthatches, flickers and more are all regular visitors in spring.
Up until the late 1800’s flocks of passenger pigeons were miles long and so dense that people boasted of knocking them out of the air with sticks. In spring and fall the air would have been full of birdsong as large numbers of migrating songbirds would stop to rest and gather food for their long journeys. In fall huge flocks of geese and ducks would circle overhead to land in the mill pond and nearby marsh at dusk, no doubt of the target of young hunters looking to lay in supplies for the winter.
Wild turkeys also provided a reliable source of fresh provisions. You can still see their descendants in the tall grasses of the former department of National Defence grounds on Lakeshore Rd. when you drive in to town. Occasionally they venture further inland following the protective brush along the Four Mile Creek. Now the path is regularly travelled by coyote, deer, foxes and occasional flock of wild turkeys as well as those of us who seek a little solitude and sounds of nature.
A great blue heron is a regular visitor searching for sunfish or frogs in the dappled light. Its prehistoric night calls have roused us on a cold winters night wondering what kind of dinosaur was lurking in the forest! How it can survive in a northern climate with its long skinny legs and sparse food supply is a wonder! Here’s what it sounds like, it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard – https://youtu.be/LbNcdRrrJHs
I wasn’t the only one to spot to a cougar! Here’s an article from the St.Catharines Standard –