When you are looking for something different to do this summer I would like to suggest an evening paddle along the old Ausable River channel in Pinery Provincial Park. It is one of the most enchanting and peaceful places in Southern Ontario. A river which is now only fed by springs, it slowly flows out to the “Cut”, an artificially constructed river channel which travels to Lake Huron.
As the sun begins to set, the calmness of the afternoon slowly changes as the river comes alive with animals and birds which have been resting during the day. Actually this is one of the best times to observe wildlife in the Pinery. Just as most people are preparing to enjoy an evening campfire, many birds and animals are attracted to the river to feed.
As you paddle along the old river channel listen for the rattle-like call of the Kingfisher as it flies along the river course, defending its territory against would-be intruders. If you are lucky you may discover the location of the tunnel opening to its nest in the sandy banks. Deer begin to carefully move along the water edge feeding on aquatic plants which provide them with much needed nutrients.
As you silently glide through the water you may surprise a beaver, which will slap its tail in an effort to warn its family of you approach, while signalling that it is aware of your presence. Watch for a Great Blue Heron feeding in shallows where frogs and small fish hide. If you get close to this bird, it will lift its large wings and fly off into the sunset. Often Bank and Roughwing swallows can be seen skimming the surface of the river in search of tasty insects. These birds nest along the lake front dunes, and will feed inland when the waves on Lake Huron are rough.
As darkness begins to fall, the swallows are replaced by bats who also find the river an excellent place to catch insects. The chorus of male green frogs and tree frogs starts at the time and will continue for most of the night as they try to attract females to mate with.. If you finish your evening paddle when night is in full swing you could hear the hoot of a Great Horned owl or the persistent Whip-poor-will calling its name in the Oak Savanna forest growing along the shore.
If you are interested in paddling the old Ausable river channel you can put your canoe in at the boat launch in the park. Canoes can also be rented at the Pinery Provincial Park store (519-243-2479). The Pinery Provincial Park is located on Highway 21, along Lake Huron, about 80 kilometres north of Sarnia.
For more information on this topic or any other nature-related subject, contact us.
Written by Terri Groh
* Thanks to the Sarnia Observer who originally published this series and granted LWI permission to use it online.