OPINION: Watching wildlife helped many endure pandemic winter           

An Eastern bluebird seen at Canatara Park on May 1 2020. Ronny D’Haene Photo

Nadine Wark

This past winter will long be remembered, not only for the many setbacks of the pandemic but also for everything outdoors it brought, especially the wildlife.

I have heard more than once about the unusual number of ducks, geese, hawks and eagles that provided a feast for the eyes along the water, attracting both amateur and professional photographers.

Sarnia has some incredibly talented folks behind the camera, capturing majestic eagles as they swoop and soar looking for prey, sometimes competing with other birds for a meal. It’s been a time of award-worthy photos appearing online, including close-ups of them enjoying fish dinners on the ice.

The St. Clair River from Sarnia south provides so many places conducive to great bird watching. A variety of ducks, including fish-eaters like mergansers, have gathered by the hundreds to put on a show.

A large gathering I viewed on the river recently near Corunna looked like some kind of synchronized performance, with birds weaving in and out, forming straight lines, loops and zigzags. It was such a treat to watch, and no charge for the show. Not a production worthy of the Imperial Theatre, perhaps, but a great fill-in.

Many of Sarnia’s photographers – some retired or with lots of time on their hands – arise at the crack of dawn and make their way to Canatara Park or Wawanosh Wetlands or one of the trails. With a lot of patience, sometimes waiting for hours, they’re able to capture the image they came for, sometimes with the bonus of unexpected wildlife appearing.

The work of local photographers has revealed all kinds of songbirds that I never knew existed in our parks. Unfortunately, I’m not an early riser, and so miss many opportunities. When I do venture out it seems the birds know I’m coming and stay well hidden.

I did manage to capture a pic of “Ollie the Owl” at Canatara. Some know his location, and I guess I’m in that elite group. Next time, though, I hope he isn’t sleeping and will graciously pose for a shot. And not to be outdone by the birds is Pearl the White Squirrel, who hangs out at Germain Park.

This past pandemic winter provided plenty of outdoor activities, including skating rinks and pond hockey, sledding, ice fishing and motocross biking. It brought people together with nature in the great outdoors, making it easy to conclude, “the best things in life are free.”

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who lives in Sarnia

Sarnia wildlife photographer Ronny D’Haene spotted this young bald eagle clutching a fish as it swooped over the St. Clair River at Corunna on Feb. 24.
Ronny D’Haene, Special to The Journal