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City photographer explores the secret life of urban wildlife

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Journal Staff

Sarnia’s Lake Chipican in Canatara Park is home to a number of huge but rarely seen snapping turtles, including one that a biologist has estimated at more than 100 years old.

A great blue heron fishing in Lake Chipican wasn’t put off when the fish it speared for dinner proved to be an ornamental goldfish or koi someone released in the Canatara Park pond.
Ronny D’Haene

This spring nature photographer Ronny D’Haene watched as two of the dinosaur-like creatures emerged from the murky depths to mate, a violent affair he had witnessed once before.

“It’s unbelievable, really, to see them wrestle each other like that. I know it sounds weird, but it looks like she wrestles him until he submits, and keeps at it until all of her eggs are fertilized.”

D’Haene, 63, is a self-taught photographer who has made the wildlife of Sarnia and Lambton County – animals, birds, insects – his specialty.

He is entirely self-taught and picked up a camera seriously for the first time in 2002 following a life-changing accident.

Good wildlife shots are everywhere around us, he says, but patience is required to get them.

On one recent outing to Canatara Park he focused on one small patch of milkweed blooming with flowers. When he emerged hours later he had images of 40 different insect species.

One shot of a jumping spider, reproduced here, was taken from four inches away.

“You just have to be tenacious,” he says. “It’s like what they say about the lottery, if you don’t play you can’t win.”

Breakfast is served
A red-tailed hawk brings food back to a nest made of sticks high in a tree. The feathers of red-tailed hawks, like those of eagles, are considered sacred to many Indigenous people of North America.
Ronny D’Haene


Eight eyes are better than one
A tiny black jumping spider stares down a camera lens positioned just inches away. Jumping spiders are active hunters that chase down their prey. Many have eight eyes: two large eyes in front to get a clear image and judge distance, and extra side eyes to detect when something is moving.
Ronny D’Haene
A male pileated woodpecker brings lunch back to share with a youngster in the nest.
Ronny D’Haene


Hey, there’s room here for everyone.
A red-winged blackbird brakes hard to avoid the sharp bill of an egret it was harassing in Canatara Park on May 20. The egret, which can often be seen stalking fish in Lake Chipican, had flown about 25 feet up to a tree-top for a better look when the blackbird objected vigorously to the territorial intrusion.
Ronny D’Haene

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