Wandering Around Out There With A Canoe On My Head

Wildlife at Princess Point

by Preston
October 8, 2010

I was feeling I just had to get the canoe out on the water this weekend and so I decided to follow my own advice and find a nice local paddling spot. Often we try and find these out of the way places and ignore the pretty little spots that we take for granted. I decided on Princess Point – a nice little area at the very end of Lake Ontario in Hamilton. It’s part of the surprisingly nice – and green – areas of Hamilton, a city usually notorious for an industrial look. The area is actually a Nature sanctuary of the Cootes Paradise marsh and a favourite spot for all kinds of birds. I paddled along the southern shore that would take you straight through to Dundas.

I floated around saw some really neat stuff (I actually remembered to use my binoculars for a change.) I’ve walked the park trails many times of course, but I’ve never seen the area from the water. There’s no noise made trampling through the trails, so I saw a bunch of animals I probably wouldn’t have walking on shore. I saw several herons, and watched how easily they slip back into camouflage by just taking a few steps backwards (I described this to my wife as like in a horror movie where the ghosts slip backwards into nothingness). I saw a few raccoons who didn’t seem to be bothered with me, and a couple of other land animals I heard run away but wasn’t quick enough to spot.

The weirdest thing was as I passed into the last bay behind McMaster University I kept seeing the salmon jumping. The park has a salmon breeding program to help the species recover in the area. It’s obviously working. They were all over the place and were full on breaching. All you needed to do was to stare in one direction and wait a few seconds as one would jump up eventually. The bay got more and more shallow, and every other time I put my paddle down into the water I’d scare some fish into flipping about. Eventually they were flapping up against the boat on all sides. I thought at one point one was going to flop itself inside the boat.

I decided to try and get out to leave these guys alone, but also because of a pair of visibly angry swans who weren’t happy with me being there. Of course by this point the wind had picked up, and my canoe isn’t the best solo canoe in the wind. It took some doing just to turn it around, then to stay on course so I could leave. What’s worse was the lack of water depth which limited my ability to get a proper stroke going. With fish flapping and swans hissing I did eventually manage to turn around and carry on my way. “Okay, okay,” I said out loud at some point, “Calm down, I’m going. Jerk.” The swans followed a bit to make sure I was really leaving, then backed off – a bit. They still seemed pretty ticked at my intrusion as they slowly shadowed my eventual progress away from their home. Maybe it was the “Jerk” comment. I found myself paddling more quickly for some reason. I guess I started to wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t made a quick retreat.

I’d like to believe I could take on an angry swan if I had to, but the effort wouldn’t be worth it gratuitously. Besides, the water wasn’t exactly the nicest to be flopping around in wrestling fowl – it is a marsh after all, full of slippery salmon. Swans can be pretty nasty when they want to. And there was two of them! And I just ate less than 30 minutes ago, and it goes against my principles as an animal lover, as well as my ego I suppose. Oh, and you just know that would be the moment someone would show up.

  • Get the latest updates
    Preston and Nancy the dog pose with a Paddle in the Park Contest paddle
    Keep up to date
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.