Image credit Mike Derblich

Winter Wildlife

Four friends you’ll find in the valley this winter

Brrr. While some animals have disappeared into hibernation (groundhogs), dug into the mud (snapping turtles) and flown south to warmer climates (red-winged blackbird), winter remains a busy time of year for the creatures that call the Don Valley home.

In fact, the trails they travel - nature’s ‘highways’ - are more visible than ever. For Morgan Zigler, Evergreen’s Project Leader for Program Development and Landscape Education, winter is all about tracking. You can see him leading the littlest and eldest nature-lover through the trails around Evergreen Brick Works encouraging them to use all their senses and question the clues left behind by our furry and feathered friends.

So who is hanging out here in the cold weather and snow?

1 – Eastern Cottontail –These cute little brownish-grey bunnies can be seen any time of day but are most active from dusk through dawn, spending most of the daylight hours under vegetative cover. The easiest way to spot them is by the tracks left in the snow - two long marks of the hind feet ahead of two dots made by the front feet. You’ll know they were racing, possibly away from predators like coyotes, foxes, owls and hawks, if the hind feet are farther ahead of the front feet.

2 –​ Chickadee  - The cheerful and little Chickadee – with its white face and black cap and bib - sticks around over the winter. You may hear them before you see them, with their “here swee-tee” song or more alarmed call “chicka dee dee dee.” Be sure to tread lightly as it’s easy to startle these little guys - they weigh as much as about five M&Ms.

3 –​ Red Tail Hawk – It’s always an exciting moment to see the reddish tail of an adult hawk gracefully swooping over the Weston Family Quarry Garden. It’s the perfect windy perch to peer down at their prey from the ledges above. It may seem like they’re following a noisy group of hikers – don’t worry they aren’t interested in you. They have eyes on their lunch, which you have likely roused from their hiding spots.

4 –​ White-Tailed Deer – The reddish fur of the white-tailed deer turns greyish in the winter – a great camouflage for its habitat. They generally travel in small groups, eating buds and shoots and sitting low on the edge of a main trail. You may not see them, other than the two-toed prints on the ground. But they can hear you almost a kilometre away, and are quick to split, reaching peak speeds of almost 50 km and can jump as high as 3 m and 9 metres long in a single leap.

To learn more about nature and history of the Don Valley and Evergreen Brick Works area, join a Don Valley Guide Walk, sign up your kids for a Nature Camp, or participate in a Nature Scavenger Hunt.

Here are five more ways to embrace winter in the valley