On The Wild Side: Chances to experience nature can be found close to home

A robin feeds the chicks in a nest built in the top of a steel garden gazebo in a backyard. Chances to learn about and experience nature can be found close to home, writes columnist Ann Brokelman. Photos by Ann Brokelman.

By ANN BROKELMAN

I think a lot of people believe that every time I go outside, I have some sort of crazy animal encounter. It’s not like that at all, and, honestly, some of my favourite moments take place in a backyard with family.

Today’s story is inspired by the simple, but lovely, time I had over the past Mother’s Day weekend.

While some birds may force their young to learn to fly by literally kicking them out of the nest, and the occasional fratricide may go unpunished, our feathered friends are wonderful parents. (And let’s be honest: I’m sure some of you reading this considered kicking your own kids out of the nest a few times).

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been watching a pair of robins setting up a nest in my younger daughter’s backyard.

She has one of those metal gazebo things and the birds decided to nest on the inside, right at the very top. Today, after what felt like a long wait, I finally saw the heads of three baby robins pop up to beg for food.

I’d been sitting outside with my littlest grandsons, Josh, and Jason, watching off and on for hours as the mom and dad ceaselessly brought food back to the nest.

Talk about dedication: the feedings began around 6 a.m., from what I could tell, and continued at least every half hour until dark.

The boys were completely enthralled with watching the robins pull up worms or snatch up bugs and then deliver them to the babies. Josh helped me put out some sliced grapes for the parents, a little treat to keep their energy up, and the way they gulped them down showed their gratitude. Josh couldn’t have been more thrilled to see his own snacks disappearing!

The whole egg-to-flight development may only take a few weeks, but a lot of work goes into making it happen.

Have you ever taken a close look at a robin’s nest?

The next time you find any bird’s nest, take some time to appreciate the engineering that went into it.

Are the sticks/branches woven together? Does it use mud to help everything hold together? Is it the perfect size to keep an egg warm and a hatchling hidden?

Now, take some time one evening and try to build one yourself, and you’ll gain a new appreciation for our winged friends. Oh? You’re still not impressed? Ok, now you have to build it while only using your mouth and feet!
I’m reminded of how we should appreciate how much work is put into taking care of the next generation, and a belated Happy Mother’s Day (and an early Happy Father’s Day) to all my neighbours, human, avian, and others alike!

Just a quick reminder that, with the coming spring, it’s the time of year when people will be finding animal babies.

Birds will fall out of their trees, bunnies will wander away from their warrens, young squirrels will climb out of their nests too soon, etc…

Please read the information or call the help centres listed below before you rush out and try to scoop them up, take them inside, and feed them. It’s extremely easy to do more harm than good:

The Toronto Wildlife Centre advises that if you have found a sick, injured or orphaned wild animal, or a wild animal in distress, please contact their wildlife hotline or fill out their online Request for Assistance Form. Using the form and uploading photos helps them to assess your situation more quickly. Otherwise, call them at 416-631-0662 to leave a message and they will respond as soon as possible. Please note they do not answer the phone, so message is required.

You can also contact the Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge. Their contact info: 87 Routley Ave., Pefferlaw, ON – L0E 1N0. info@shadesofhope.ca or by phone at 705-437-4654. They take orphaned birds, squirrels, and bunnies.

Both the Toronto Wildlife Centre and Shades of Hope Wildlife Refuge have detailed websites on what to do if you find a bird, squirrel, fox, bat, duck and many more.

You don’t have to use Google to do your own research because it’s already has been done for you by the professionals! All you have to do is check their websites and make that lifesaving phone call.

Lastly, avian flu has arrived in Ontario, so please be careful when interacting with wild animals. Do not pick up any animal with your hands. Use gloves, preferably latex gloves, and a sheet or a towel.


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