Walking by the DVP

Hawk, Red, Tailed

My first job in Canada was just off the Don Valley Parkway and some lunchtimes a friend and I would take a stroll around the block, to get a bit of exercise. I always took my camera, although rather more in hope than expectation; on one occasion, this splendid bird decided to put in an appearance…

Cootes Paradise

American, Red, Squirrel

Cootes Paradise (possibly an egregious missing apostrophe there?) is a rather lovely wetland near Hamilton; it is looked after by the Royal Botanical Gardens, although it is a semi-wild landscape. In the not too distant past, the wetlands were badly damaged by pollution, excessive human use and also by the damage caused by the introduced carp from Lake Ontario.

Happily, in more recent years substantial rehabilitation work has been carried out with a view to trying to get Cootes Paradise into something more adjacent to its natural state and it is a great place to visit at almost any time of the year.

These pictures were taken in February 2012, so still in the grip of winter, although nothing like as fierce as the winter of 2013/14. Strictly-speaking one is not really supposed to feed the birds, as it’s a nature reserve, but people still do – one would feel a bit of a cad to not assist them through the cold weather a bit…


Health & Safety

Snow, Webster's Falls, Winter

Webster’s Falls used to be one of the finest places to visit in the Hamilton area: a lovely waterfall, with character varying with the seasons and a host of fantastic photographic opportunities. A stairway led down to the base of the falls, from where one could enjoy the river below and, in hot weather, the cooling spray from the falls themselves.

Unfortunately, the curse of Health & Safety has struck: now, the stairs are closed and blocked off with a very substantial fence that also extends far in all directions and completely blocks off all access to the falls. The small meadow just above the falls, where one could admire the view over the edge is also closed, as are a couple of great viewpoints further down the gorge. There is now nowhere that affords a view of the whole falls. A great shame – it is now really not worth visiting these falls as a photographer.

This photo was taken in the falling snow in the meadow that has since been closed – it now appears that this was a unique opportunity.

Geese: shortly after dawn

Geese, Canada Geese

One distressing aspect of an enthusiasm for photography is the need to get up at a totally unreasonable hour to catch some of the better light; this image required my surfacing when most sensible folk were still tucked up in bed.

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is one of the classic sights in their namesake country and these creatures seem to be everywhere at times. Living on the seventh floor (the sixth in UK money), skeins of geese tearing past below you are a fairly frequent and splendid sight.


One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how much litter gets dropped by Canadians in their wild places; if you walk in almost any conservation area, you will find litter somewhere – the ubiquitous Tim Horton’s cups or some plastic snack wrapper or similar.

How hard is it to pack your litter out with you? Remember the adage: leave nothing but footprints.

The image attached to this preachy post is of Grindstone Falls (also known as Great Falls); you’ll see on the right a classic example of what I’m talking about – the bright green thing at about half height.

There is such beauty in these wild places – who on earth would want to balls them up by dropping rubbish?

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red, Tailed, Hawk

Being from England, the sight of any bird of prey larger than a kestrel is a rare treat (unless one is driving down the M40 where the magnificent Red Kite is making a come-back); we have a deplorable history of killing off anything much scarier than a pigeon.

Happily, Canada still has quite a lot of its more impressive wildlife more or less intact; a nice example is the Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), which is a fairly common sight, even in the urban areas – these chaps may even have benefited from the spread of humans.

Monarch Butterflies

Monarch, Butterfly

   To see Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) is one of the treats of coming to North America; having been brought up in the UK on a diet of David Attenborough documentaries, the epic multi-generational migration made by this species has been in the back of my mind since my early years.

   Although Monarchs are a familiar sight to people here in Canada, they are still a spectacular creature in their modest way. Unsurprisingly, they are under threat from a range of directions, including loss of their favoured milkweed habitat and damage to their overwintering sites in Mexico.

Visiting Albion Falls in strong sunshine.

Waterfall, Cascade, Albion, Falls, Fall, Water

   Albion Falls is one of the more beautiful of the many waterfalls that cascade down the Niagara Escarpment in and around Hamilton.

    Rather than being sensible and waiting for good lighting, on this occasion I was there close to midday and had to deal with bright sunshine making the scene hideously contrasty (I also had to frame the shot carefully – there were a couple of young ladies in bikinis doing a photo-shoot and I didn’t think it good form to include them in the shot!).

   A variable density ND filter helped keep some of the light under control and allowed a long enough exposure to smooth the water out reasonably well; the final step was to combine two separate exposures into one HDR image, to cope with the worst of the contrast.

   Since the image is all tone and not much colour, a black and white conversion seemed to be in order.