Hello Spring

There's incredible wildlife near you — here's how and where to find it

Where is all the wildlife? Even for city-dwellers, it’s a lot closer than you think! Nature educator Connel Bradwell lays out important tips for spotting the cool creatures in your neighbourhood.

Where is all the wildlife? Even for city-dwellers, it’s a lot closer than you think!

(James Wheeler/iStock)

Without a doubt, spring is the best time for wildlife spotting! At this time of year, the natural world is bursting back to life and is ready to brighten up your day with all its delightful spring drama. But where can you actually find all this wildlife and how do you even start looking? Here are some key tips to help discover the wildlife hotspots near you:

Look at the habitat

People think that you can only find wildlife in the thickest forest, the middle of the ocean or in a patch of pure wilderness, but this is not true at all. Wildlife habitat is all around us, we just need to know what to look for! 

Your best chance of seeing wildlife occurs on the edges of different habitats. These areas are called ecotones. Ecotones are the transition areas between two biological communities. For example, marshland is an ecotone because it is between dry and wet ecosystems. These ecotones often support a greater diversity of species and are more densely populated than the ecosystems on either side, because they include species from both ecosystems. Some examples are animals like deer who need open areas to feed in, but they also want to be close to sheltered forested areas, so you can find them in an ecotone. Warblers such as the yellow warbler thrive along narrow strips of forested land next to streams, rivers, and wetlands, as it can feed on insects that are attracted to the water, whilst remaining hidden from predators in the trees, again between two ecosystems the forest and the water.

Some great ecotones that are often easily accessible to us all are places like estuaries, riverbanks, shorelines, grasslands, meadows and even your local park or flower bed. If you are in a town or city, then wildlife corridors such as ravines, hedgerows and tree-covered streets are also great habitats to find spring wildlife, offering crucial stopover points during migration that allow wildlife to safely move through an urban space.

(Whiteway/iStock)

Time of day

Many birds and mammals are most active at dawn or dusk. If you can, set your alarm an hour before sunrise to have the chance to hear Canada's stunning dawn chorus.  Or venture out an hour before sunset and watch as wildlife prepares for a long night ahead, either by stocking up on food or, for nocturnal species, waking up. Dawn and dusk are generally good for most species. However, if that is not possible, many species are active throughout the day. When deciding what time to head out on your wildlife adventure keep in mind factors such as when the hottest period of the day is, when might parks be busiest and what the tides are doing. You ideally want to go out during cooler and quieter periods!

(James Wheeler/iStock)

Learn the signs

Nature has a great habit of letting us know it is around. Learning to spot some of the signs of wildlife can be key to spotting them. Taking time to assess your environment and learning to read the habitat can be incredibly beneficial and change the way you see the landscape. Most animals leave behind clues to tell us where they have been and what they have been doing. Anything from fallen feathers and fur to footprints and tracks can tell us a lot about where to find wildlife.

Go for a slow walk and look for clues. You could start in your own yard or try a path through a wild place. Pay particular attention to muddy patches or sand where animals might leave their footprints. Can you find feathers, eggshells, animal tracks, hairs caught on fences? Nibbled seeds or nuts? Holes in trees? Bird poo on a tree trunk (look for a nest). Then you have the fun task of working out what has been happening, maybe a raccoon squeezed through an alley, leaving fur some behind, or a deer walked across the path and left its footprints, or a woodpecker has been drilling holes for ants. You do not need to see much actual wildlife for an area to be a hotspot, just look for the signs that wildlife has been there!

Use technology

For many of us, nature is an escape from technology, but your phone can be your best nature sidekick. There are some amazing apps that can be used to find out where people are seeing wildlife in your local area. Apps like eBird and iNaturalist help you to ID wildlife through your phone and gives you the chance to see on a map, wildlife hotspots near you. You can identify everything from birds to flowers and snakes to moss or discover what species have been seen today at your local park. These are amazing resources for beginners, giving you a jumping-off point of where to explore and what you might see there.

If you are not that fussed about downloading new apps, then even social media platforms like Instagram can be a great resource, using specific hashtags such as #hellospringcbc, will give you an idea of where fellow wildlife watchers are seeing wildlife and what exactly they are spotting!

Take your time

The animals might be in a rush to get all their spring business done, but you do not need to be — in fact, quite the opposite. Slowing down and taking your time in nature is good for your mental health and it is great for spotting wildlife. Finding a place to sit quietly or take a slow walk along a trail is going to get you the best results. Patience really does pay off! 

Watching wildlife can be really rewarding and can act as an escape and a chance to de-stress. Remember some of the tips we have shared, and this will hopefully take your wildlife spotting to the next level! Just remember to enjoy it along the way!


Click here for more scenes from spring across the country. Show us your spring with the hashtag #HelloSpringCBC

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