Roncesvalles resident Doug Bennet, along with Tim Tiner, has written Up North and Up North Again, a bestselling guidebook to Ontario’s wilderness, and offers his tips for the urban animal watcher.
• Feed chickadees niger seeds from your hand while in High Park, Bennet said. Listen for chickadees in brambles and trees at about eye level. They need a place to approach you cautiously. Stay just a few feet away from the trees and hold out your hand with niger seeds close to your fingertips. Stay still and don’t move your head. Bennet said it is a delight to have a chickadee come to your hand and grab a few seeds. Some nuthatches will do this, too.
• Winter is a great time to look for bird and squirrel nests, easily spotted in leaf-less trees in High Park.
• Downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks and red-tailed hawks can be seen in High Park, along with the usual Canada Geese, pigeons and mallards in winter. Bennet said he recently saw a Cooper’s hawk over the treetops at the High Park Zoo, flying toward Grenadier Restaurant. A good place to catch a glimpse of the Downy woodpecker and chickadees is at the feeder behind the emu cage at the High Park Zoo. Bennet said he also recently spotted a robin. Not all robins fly south in winter; some hunker down in secluded areas in southern Ontario, especially during warm winters.
• Grenadier Pond, once the ice is gone, is a fantastic place to see migrating waterfowl such as hooded mergansers, buffleheads, wood ducks and loons, Bennet said.
• Laneways and backyards are another place urban wildlife can be seen. Bennet said foxes and coyotes mate in late January and early February, and he has seen fox in his laneway in Roncesvalles Village. Laneways, backyards also attract dark-eyed juncos and other birds who winter in Toronto.
– ERIN HATFIELD