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Nature Observation

Blending With The Flow

By Andrew TurnbullPublished 3 years ago 4 min read

I’ve found that being out in nature for a couple of hours everyday, taking photos of the wildlife and the natural beauty of the surroundings, has been healing for me.

All of the wildlife shown on this page so far has been found within view of the CN tower in downtown Toronto. It’s fascinating to me to discover wild places and wild things living their lives so close to a major metropolis. I think that, in some ways, it makes nature photography easier because the wildlife is concentrated into a smaller area and inured to the presence of humans. You can never escape the sounds of the city entirely and things like human smell are less of a factor in approaching the wildlife.

In the countryside, where I grew up, a wild thing would smell you coming long before they saw you, no matter what your personal-hygiene habits were, unless you were careful about wind direction. And if you were circling a pond, for example, one clear view of a human form would send every duck on the water quacking and winging up into the air and off to the other side of the pond; or away to a less crowded watercourse. So you had to think about screens and blinds and fence rows breaking up your silhouette, as a deer or coyote would, if you wanted to see anything up close.

Sound is equally important. Loud noises in general are likely to produce a similar result to being upwind; the animals can hear you coming and will leave the area. You can do everything else right but if you make loud, abrupt noises you will see the animals flee ahead of you.

A few evenings ago I saw three guys coming down the trail. I heard them before I saw them. They were chatting loudly and hurrying along the paths like they were in a shopping mall at closing time, their boots scuffing and kicking the gravel loose as they walked. They came out of the trees and stomped across the apron of the marsh right up to the beaver lodge where they stopped and declared loudly, “There’s supposed to be beaver in this pond. They must have left!”

I had seen three beaver within fifty metres of the lodge dive for cover as soon as these guys came out of the woods.

To get the most out of a nature walk and wildlife observation it is important to blend with the flow of your surroundings. Blending is the ability to move into the flow of the place and to be quiet, careful in your movements and patiently still when waiting. Exactly as a wild thing does. When you watch a heron hunting in the shallows, you see it’s pauses, and how carefully it picks up and places it’s feet. They don’t go sloshing through the muck and then wonder why no fish stick around.

For me, the walk, and taking in the beauty of the surroundings, is as important as the wildlife I find there and am able to photograph. I do pay attention to where the wind is blowing from, and what cover there is as I approach a pond or an open field, but in a casual, internalized way. Most of the time I see the encounters with wildlife as unexpected gifts; unplanned chance meetings as I pass through the environment. Except for the occasions when I know where something like a fox den or swan nest is located, and I’ve decided to work that into my way, I let nature and intuitive nudges guide me.

It’s fun too, to pay attention to animal tracks, to see where the game trails are and where they lead to, to see the nests and burrows and hollowed out logs where the animals live and to notice the signs of their feeding; nibbled grass and leaves, or perhaps pellets of burped-up fur below a tree where an owl had perched.

You become familiar to many of these residents of the park; the baby bunny who comes out of its hiding place to greet you as you pass by each day, the mother fox who trots around you in the meadow hunting for voles, the cantankerous raccoon that follows its route past where you sit among the reeds, or the fierce red-wing blackbird that is determined that you know to where his part of the marsh extends. So many characters.

These encounters are delightful; but for the most part, as I enter the park, I marvel at the light on the leaves and grasses and the fresh-air smell; the earthy smell of grasses and fallen leaves perfumed with blossoming trees or wildflowers. I watch the wind ripple the surface of the pond and the movement of the high clouds drifting overhead. I listen to the birds calling from every direction, to the honeybee buzzing at my feet, to the waves washing up on the rocky shore of the lake; and then I ask myself, “What is beautiful and interesting here today?”

I take out my camera, insert the fully-charged battery, screw on the telephoto lens, remove the lens cover and start walking. Then I try to let go of the concerns of the day and just flow with and absorb the beauty that surrounds me.


About the Creator

Andrew Turnbull

I take out my camera, screw on the telephoto lens, and start walking.

Letting go of thoughts or worries, I silently ask, “What is beautiful and interesting today?”

The answer to that question is what I photograph and write about here.

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    Andrew TurnbullWritten by Andrew Turnbull

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