On The Wild Side: Family adventures with wildlife made for wonderful start to 2023

A barred owl that was recently released by Shades of Hope. Photo by Lara Brokelman


What makes a great weekend perfect? Spending it with your nine-year-old granddaughter, who loves animals and photography as much as you do!

Not only did my son’s eldest, Lara, join me for a sleepover and some birding, but we also got the opportunity to attend the release of a red fox and a barred owl.

Lara and I got up and started the day as normal. Well, as my husband would say: he and Lara got up and started the day as normal, while I slept-in to a ridiculous hour. Eventually we were all awake and a call came in from Andrew over at the Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC).

A month earlier I’d netted a very mangy fox, near my house, and Andrew was asking if I was free to help let it go. Lara was 100 per cent on board with the change of plans, and we headed off to TWC.

While we were there, we did a quick tour to show Lara some of the birds/hawks that were being cared for, but we were both far more interested in seeing the fox.

We headed out, and Lara is going to write the next part of this article for her first publication:

“When I released a young fox with my Oma, I had a wonderful time. I got to see it up close, and learned more about foxes, mange, and releases.
“We released the fox at night, almost exactly where it was found, and filmed it. The poor fox had mange, so it went to Toronto Wildlife Centre where it was cured. Then, of course, we released it.
“It was amazing to be so close to an animal going back into the wild.”

The next day was a little quieter, but exciting in its own way. We went to the lake to look at the trumpeter swans, and luckily came across some sea glass on the beach.

Now, I obviously don’t want broken bottles/etc going into Lake Ontario, but finding a colourful piece, whose sharp edges have been worn smooth, makes for a neat souvenir. Lara took two pieces home to add to her collection of interesting rocks. (Why do so many kids love collecting rocks?)

Did you know that sea glass undergoes a chemical change while in the water? I’m not a scientist, so I’m sorry if I’m not explaining it well, but I found out that it’s the pH balance (acidity) in the water that causes the glass to change and take on its unique frosted look. Sea glass will also vary a little from ocean to ocean, and a lot from the glass found in lakes and rivers.

Our last day, and one of the main reasons for the sleepover to happen that weekend, was for the release of a barred owl from Shades of Hope.

Our drive up was quiet, but we saw some amazing animals once we got to wildlife centre. There were two other barred owls still waiting to get better, a fox, a porcupine, and more.

Lara is going to share the next part again:

“A few days after releasing the fox, I released a barred owl with Oma. The owl had gotten hit by a car, so it went to Shades of Hope to be healed. It was lucky that the owl was found before it died.
“It was thrilling to be part of the release. At first, it was unsure and stayed in its cage, but then it came out and flew to some trees. Before we left, the owl started watching something on the ground (Maybe a mouse or something?) and followed it. We did not see what it was, but the owl was truly a beautiful and majestic creature.”

Lara’s sister, her Dad, and his partner Kyla joined us for the owl’s release. (Her sisters weren’t going to miss out on two releases in one weekend!) If you go to https://youtu.be/jjqjirHxuzw you’ll find the video that Lara took of the owl flying away.

I am so lucky that I have children and grandchildren who love nature as much as I do, not to mention that they are all budding photographers as well.

I started the 2023 season off with some wide smiles and a lot of wonderful memories.

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