Nature, Fun and Free; The Perfect Family Activity

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Bald Eagles and other large birds of prey can be seen throughout London, Ontario parks and ESAs.

Are you looking for an activity this long weekend that is fun for the entire family and doesn’t cost a thing? Then why not explore nature? City parks and ESAs are loaded with all kinds of wildlife and admission to them is free. Regardless of where you live in the city, a park or ESA is just minutes away. These areas provide hours of entertainment for all ages and a quick walk though will reveal an abundance of nature.

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White-tailed Deer are prevalent in many city parks and all the ESAs within the city.

Nature in the city comes in all shapes and sizes. From the tiniest of insects, to the largest of mammals, London has it all. Birds, butterflies, snakes, turtles, and deer make up only a portion of the beautiful wildlife our great city has to offer.

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Groundhogs are one of the many mammals found in the city. They can be found in open areas, such as fields and meadows.

Any park will do, but ones with mixed habitat will produce the best variety of wildlife. If quantity is what you desire, look for parks that have a combination of forests, meadows, and a water source, such as a pond or river. Greenway, Springbank, and Gibbons along the Thames River are perfect examples of parks with mixed habitat. London’s seven public ESAs all have mixed habitat, making any one of them a great choice. If you are unfamiliar with London’s ESAs, a complete list as well as locations and maps can be found here.

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Butterflies such as this Black Swallowtail can be found feeding on nectar from the various wildflowers throughout the city.

No special equipment is required to enjoy nature, just your eyes and ears. A digital camera will capture and save the memories of your encounters, but is not necessary. If you happen to own a pair of binoculars take them along. They can be advantageous when viewing smaller animals such as birds or ones at a distance, but again not a necessity. Much of the wildlife in the city is accustomed to human activity and close encounters are often had. The key thing to remember when searching for wildlife, especially with excited children is to stay quiet. Animals will quickly run, fly, slither, or swim away at the sound of shouting children.

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Encounters with baby animals are always exciting, like the one I had with this Red-winged Blackbird fledgling. Wild animals can become aggressive protecting their young, so viewing from a distance is best. Approaching too closely puts added stress on the parents, which in some animals can cause the young to be abandoned.

Exploring nature is a fun and relaxing activity that can be enjoyed by all ages. The physical and mental health benefits are tremendous. Combine that with the look on a child’s face when an animal is encountered, make this an activity all families should try at least once. I am willing to bet that you will be hooked, just as I was many years ago when my Dad first introduced me to nature. So give it a try, put down the smartphones, Xboxes and other electronic devices this weekend and explore the beautiful nature that London has to offer. I would be happy to hear about your encounters with nature in the comment section below.

Good birding,


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