Recommended reading for wildlife lovers

Ever wondered why foxes do what they do? Check out some of wildlife photography buff Ann Brokelman’s recommended books for a better understanding of animal behaviour and identification. Photo: Ann Brokelman

Happy New Year, everyone! If you haven’t done so already, maybe take a moment to celebrate the wonderful natural world all around us.

Can you believe it’s already 2016? Although many are wondering what is in store for them at home, at work, with friends, family, and loved ones, I find myself wondering what wildlife sightings I’ll get to experience this year.

While the unknown is exciting and adventurous, I also want to express how grateful I am for the consistent wildlife I find all around me. Almost every day I can enjoy the cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, doves and woodpeckers that frequent my bird feeders, not to mention the cooper hawk that waits by those same feeders to catch its next meal. And how could I not be grateful for my dog, Rory, who lets me know when the deer and foxes are walking down my street or strolling through the yard?

My birding is unfortunately sidelined for a little while as a knee injury has kept me off my feet for the last few weeks, and perhaps several weeks to come. I’ve decided to spend my indoor time going through some of my favourite wildlife books and I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Recommended books for animal lovers. Photo: Ann Brokelman
Recommended books for animal lovers.
Photo: Ann Brokelman

If you’re looking to get some information on the behaviour of the many birds we find in Ontario I suggest you start with The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior (2001 – ISBN: 0679451234). This book will help you recognize what birds are doing and why they’re doing it. It has really helped me see the differences between aggressive, territorial, mating, and injured behaviours. It’s an easy read while still being detailed.

Have you ever seen a porcupine do a two-foot happy dance? I first read about this peculiar act in Behaviour of North American Mammals by Elbrock and Rinehart (2011- ISBN: 0618883452). I love this book for the depth it goes into on the activities, movements, habitats, courtship, parenting, and foraging behaviours of mammals, including many we have in the GTA. I haven’t seen the porcupine dance in person yet, but thanks to YouTube I’m a firm believer that it actually happens.

Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species by Scott and McFarland (2010 – ISBN: 0811736180) is a great resource for using colour, location, and size to identify feathers and the birds they once belonged to. (They aren’t all as obvious as blue jays). It wasn’t that long ago that my neighbour Ron asked me about some feathers he found in his backyard. It was obvious a hawk had gotten the bird and all that was left was the feathers. I was able to use this book to identify the unfortunate northern flicker.

Photo: Ann Brokelman
Photo: Ann Brokelman

Finally, my most recent favourite is Wildlife Search and Rescue: A Guide for First Responders by R. Dmytryk (2012 – ISBN: 0470655119). This is an excellent book that I was asked to read when I became interested in wildlife rescue. It prepares the reader for encounters with animals in distress by teaching how to recognize if an animal is in trouble, determine the extent of the trouble, and how to properly intervene in the situation without risking the safety of either person or animal.

Winter is a great time to get out and look for wildlife, but please make sure you go with a buddy, take a cell phone, and put safety first. Back country roads are a great place to experience nature but are often not as well maintained as city streets. Running into trouble – I’ve been known to find a few ditches in the winter – can go from a bad situation to a tragic one if you aren’t prepared for the elements. Enjoy, be safe, and let me know what you’re seeing outside!


Ann Brokelman is an avid birder and nature photographer –

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