Frozen berries offer winter meals

As many of you might have gathered, I am constantly outside on the lookout for new animals and scenery, or just for the sake of being outdoors.

On my way downtown the other day, my eyes were drawn to the red berries in the bushes along Lakeshore between Ashbridges Bay and Leslie Street. On most days I catch quick glimpses of birds and squirrels chowing down on these winter treats. The most common birds seem to be robins, cedar waxwing and starlings. A few squirrels who haven’t gone down for the winter can often be found eating them too.

One recent Monday I saw a rather amazing berry-related sight. Driving on a back road I saw the same red berries that line Lakeshore, except these ones were really shaking. I stopped the car, rolled down the window, and, of course, grabbed my camera. Not 10 metres away in the bushes across the road was a deer stretching his neck, gobbling up the berries, and looking as happy as a clam.

These deer were spotted outside the city, but many other animals find food in similar berry-laden bushes near Ashbridges Bay and the Leslie Street Spit. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman
These deer were spotted outside the city, but many other animals find food in similar berry-laden bushes near Ashbridges Bay and the Leslie Street Spit.
PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

While I wish I could have captured a photo of the whole deer, I’m quite happy with catching just her head. What I found interesting was that she was so busy eating that she either didn’t notice – or didn’t care – that I was there. It was truly beautiful to watch.

Suddenly the bushes around the deer started to move. To my disbelief there had been an entire herd of nine deer standing there the whole time. While some walked out on the road, mere metres away from me, several young ones never left their mothers’ side.

This was a gift from nature, perhaps a reward for the patience to sit quietly and try to not disturb the deer by getting out of my car for a better photo.

A deer peers at the camera. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman
A deer peers at the camera.
PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

So what treats does nature provide for our animals friends in the winter? The main delicacies are the last of the fruits hanging on the trees – winter berries, seeds, nuts and dormant insects for my flying friends. Woodpeckers in particular are very adept at finding winter insects hiding away in trees.

A deer is caught taking a bite of some frozen berries. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman
A deer is caught taking a bite of some frozen berries.
PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

For a main course, deer will eat woody plants and twigs, as well as the leaves of conifers such as cedar and hemlock. Birds of prey, such as owls, can still find small animals to eat. If you notice mouse or rabbit tracks in the snow and wonder why they suddenly stop, keep an eye out for wing prints in the snow.

Often my husband and I see deer in our Scarborough backyard eating berries or nibbling on the trees. What a great way to start the day!

 

Ann Brokelman is an avid birder and nature photographer   –   naturephotosbyann.blogspot.ca


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