On The Wild Side: January begins with photographer’s ‘luck’

So far it has been a great start to the year for wildlife photographer and columnist Ann Brokelman. She was able to capture these two great photos of a deer and a squirrel meeting face to face, and a swan breaking icicles. Photos by Ann Brokelman.


Some days I go out and feel like I am living in a children’s storybook. On my street alone I regularly see deer, foxes, coyotes, squirrels, owls, hawks, a plethora of pretty birds, and more.

I’d like to share two short stories today; while they may seem to rely on luck, I honestly believe that if you took up a hobby like birding/nature photography, you’d have similar experiences in no time.

Now, part of my ‘luck’ comes from my willingness to go out in all weather. In the second week of January, when it was -15 in the city, I convinced myself to head out to a local park in Toronto.

Thanks to the cold, I thought it was a perfect day for a walk as, with fewer people around, the animals would be more active.

I drove into the park, got out of my car, grabbed my camera, and looked up to see a young buck walking out of the forest! I couldn’t believe it.
The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and this beautiful animal was taking a leisurely stroll barely 15 metres away from me.

I stood behind my car, not wanting to move and give him any reason to leave and watched him walk over to where squirrels had gathered near some large rocks.

I had a hunch something amazing was about to happen, so I set my camera and held my breath.

Sure enough, the buck walked over to see what the squirrels were picking at, and, for a brief second, they had a face-to-face moment. I only had time for one shot before the squirrel took off, but my luck held, and I was able to capture this special scene.

My second story involves one of my feathered friends.

This time of year, I love going to the local lakes and ponds to see if the water is frozen. Anyway, I was on my way to inspect Lake Ontario and to see if there were any of the usual swans, ducks, or gulls that didn’t migrate further south. I wasn’t disappointed to see that, while there was ice in the area, there was an open inlet that was already full of waterfowl.

I then noticed cool looking icicles hanging from a tree that was leaning over the water. I thought it might be a great shot, but there was no way to know if any of the birds would cooperate. I sat on a rock and watched and waited.

It’s always a toss up in this situation to see what will hold out longer: My slowly freezing rear end, or my stubbornness to get the picture.

Fortunately, I had mallards, buffleheads, and a single green-winged teal to keep me distracted from the cold.

I was on the verge of moving on when a family of swans landed in the open water in front of me. While the swans were busy dunking their heads in the shallow water, looking for food, a juvenile trumpeter headed right for the spot for which I’d been hoping.

He moved through the branches and, though he carefully avoided the icicles, he chose to break several off with his beak and knock them into the water.

Did he have a reason for this? Was it just for fun? I have no idea, but it reminded me of my own kids, and now grandkids, and how they all seem to love to knock down icicles wherever they find them.

What a great start to 2022!

— With files from Erik Brokelman

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