Photographing Wildlife at Rattray Marsh Conservation Area

For this wildlife photographer, Rattray Marsh Conservation Area is a great year-round spot to enjoy a piece of of nature in the city.

Rattray Marsh wildlife photographyPhoto: Karen Allin

Photographing Wildlife at Rattray Marsh Conservation Area

I walk through the Rattray Marsh Conservation Area in Mississauga on a daily basis. The marsh is partially bordered by Lake Ontario and Jack Darling Park, and is part of both the Waterfront Trail and the Trans Canada Trail. It is a little “gem of nature” in the middle of the city.

The marsh is maintained by Credit Valley Conservation. The main trail is a two-kilometre loop, with a couple of side trails. Although “marsh” is in its name, parts of the trail are a wooden boardwalk and other parts are dirt pathways. In spring it can be muddy, so don’t wear your brand new white running shoes! The trails aren’t maintained in winter and can be icy, but there are enough people who walk through the area, so paths are created.

Rattray Marsh wildlife photographyPhoto: Karen Allin

In spring and fall, the marsh is a great spot to see migratory birds, and in summer some of the many birds you may see include blue herons, great egrets, turkey vultures and the Cooper’s hawk, as well as Baltimore orioles, wood ducks and belted kingfishers. (Don’t miss these great Canadian bird stories.) The barred owl, great horned owl, hairy woodpecker and downy woodpecker are year-round residents. Occasionally, I see other critters such as minks, muskrats, snapping turtles and coyotes. My favourite animals to photograph, however, are deer.

Rattray Marsh wildlife photographyPhoto: Karen Allin

Rattray Marsh is home to about a dozen deer. Since the summer of 2016, I have spent hundreds of hours watching them. Before then, I’d only see a deer occasionally during my walks, but for some reason in 2016, I began spotting them almost daily. I now have almost 2,000 photos of deer in the marsh. Sometimes they are grazing in the open, about 30 feet from the trail, while other times they might be hidden in the vegetation, five feet from the trail. If I hear something rustling in the bushes I always stop. It might be just a squirrel, or it might be a deer. What follows are some of my many deer encounters.

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