Sunday, June 28, 2015

101 Squirrels!

Hi Everyone,
I'm always coming home and telling my parents stories about the different types of squirrels in the Nursery at Toronto Wildlife Centre. They are all pretty adorable and hilarious, so I thought it would make a good blog post! So here you are; the 101 different types of squirrels! (well not really 101 - I thought that just sounded good lol)

'The Newcomer'
When baby squirrels first come into the centre, they are often scared and confused. If they have any parasites, are sick, or have any major injuries they will spend their first few days in either assessment, ICU or one of the other rooms until they are ready to come into the nursery. Sometimes this period is just until they're parasites have cleared up, other times it is until they have had their x-rays or been to the vet.

Sometimes however, they make the transition over straight away, and for a little squirrel it can all be a bit overwhelming. We actually had a little girl who just came in today. She was crying her little head off, but when I offered her some pedialyte (a liquid that helps re-hydrate them before they transition onto food formula) she quietened right down and drank a lot! Turns out the little one was just really thirsty! Not all newcomers adjust so easily though - sometimes I swear they don't like the taste of the formula as we shift them onto it - I've seen squirrels stick their tongues out and everything!

'The Babies'

The littlest babies are fed up to 5 times a day, and spend most of the time when they're not eating fast asleep. Some of the babies even get what I call 'food coma' where they eat so much that they fall almost instantaneously into a deep sleep right in your hands as you're cleaning them off! =D

At this age they are very cute and honestly seem to think that we are somehow their 'mummy'.  Each baby has its own personality; some are very over enthusiastic eaters, while others prefer daintily licking at the end of the syringe nipple.

 (Note that the above photo isn't from TWC and doesn't show the correct syringe holding position - you should always have a finger acting as a 'stopper' on the plunger of the syringe to prevent over enthusiastic squirrels from sucking all the formula into their mouth at once and breathing it in by mistake.) 

When the squirrels are babies it's very easy to fall in love with their tiny little sleepy personalities, but we must always remember that these are wild animals. Since TWC works to rehabilitate and release these little orphans we try to keep their eyes covered while they are eating, and they have blankets over their cages so that they do not become to used to humans and can remain wild.


TID is the acronym we use to refer to squirrels that are feed three times a day. This is around the age that they start to become more curious, and realise that we're not actually their mummy. Generally this means they become very, VERY fussy!! They are very curious and easily distracted so at this stage feeding them suddenly takes double the amount of time!

When you finally convince them that now isn't a good time to run across the table or tackle the pillow case they're wrapped up in though, they do tend to still be very good eaters, and often end up with very full tummies at the end of the meal. Because squirrels are so small, their stomachs expand quite noticeably when they are full, creating an adorable bulge! 

They also start trying to be more independent at this stage, which can be very funny to watch. When baby squirrels eat they lie flat on the stomachs. As they get older they start to sit up, which isn't always as easy as it looks! Sometimes a slightly sleepy squirrel will end up falling over if your not careful! They also start trying to clean themselves up after feedings, which always results in them smearing formula all over their faces the first few times!

'One Timers (AKA The Teenagers)'

Finally there comes a point where these adorable little babies aren't really babies any more - and they know it! Once they have started to eat solid food (nuts and seeds) on their own, we will start putting them in outside enclosures for the day to adjust them to life in the wild. For a while however, they aren't really eating enough on their own, so must still be hand fed once or twice a day.

Just like human teenagers are known for being grumpy, squirrel teens have quite the attitude! These feisty little guys have decided that they don't need us any more (even if they actually do!) and let us know about it! Not only do they realise that they have quite sharp claws and teeth, but they also become very cleaver; I've had teens appear to be eating only to spit it back out seconds later, and even pull the nipple off the syringe and and try to hide it underneath themselves! These guys will do anything to get their own way!! 


And just when you think you've seen it all, a red squirrel comes along. Not only are these babies much tinier than any of the Gray Squirrels, but they're faster too!! Red squirrels love chasing each other around their cages and doing rolls in your hands as you try to feed them (I have no clue why, but they will just continuously roll onto their backs and then back upright again if you let them!) and getting formula everywhere! Once you've got some food in them however, just like any other baby they get very sleepy, and their isn't much that's cuter that a tiny sleepy red squirrel.

So there you have it, all the different types of squirrels babies at TWC! I bet you'll never look at the squirrels in you backyard quite the same! There are lots of other animals I'm learning about at Toronto Wildlife Centre too, so stay tuned for another post about all of them! 

Have a great week!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Trip to Toronto Zoo

Hello Again!

Last Friday mum and I finally made it out to the zoo (we've been planing to go for AGES but the weather never cooperated when we were both free - lol) and it was lots of fun. I took over 200 pictures :) so it's taken me a while to sort though them all!

The first animal we went to see was the giant pandas - Er Shun and Da Mao. Typical Pandas, one of them was fast asleep and the other happily munching away :)

"Giant pandas live in a few mountain ranges in central China. They once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing, and other development now restrict giant pandas to the mountains. The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Animals, since there are only 1,600 left in the wild." (

"A giant panda's digestive system is more similar to that of a carnivore than a herbivore, and therefore most of the bamboo they eat goes undigested, passing quickly through the digestive tract (giant pandas relieve themselves dozens of times a day). To make up for eating rather indigestible food, a giant panda needs to consume a comparatively large amount of food in order to extract enough nutrients. In order to obtain this, a giant panda must spend 10 to 16 hours a day foraging and eating!"

We also visited the Polar was a hot sticky day so I think this polar bear had the right idea. He kept swimming over to one side then flipping over and floating backward through the water :)

Then it was feeding time! One of the keepers chucked some fish into the water for them to catch, which was pretty cool to watch! 
'Where'd it go?'

'Oh look - a yummy fish!'

I love how they used the back of their paws as tables to hold up the fish. 

"Polar bears live in one of the planet's coldest environments and depend on a thick coat of insulated fur, which covers a warming layer of fat. Fur even grows on the bottom of their paws, which protects against cold surfaces and provides a good grip on ice. The bear's stark white coat provides camouflage in surrounding snow and ice. But under their fur, polar bears have black skin—the better to soak in the sun's warming rays." (

Next up we visited the Gorilla Family, including the little baby Nneka, who was very cute. 

"Western lowland gorillas are the largest of the primates and are critically endangered. There has been a drastic decline in wild populations of gorillas worldwide due to hunting, disease and habitat loss. Experts estimate a more than 80% decline in their population, and we need to act now to prevent the risk of their extinction." (

If you watch for long enough you will find that every animal has it's unique personality and story. Along our way we also saw...

A little parrot with a terrible itch - it just kept moving from one spot to the next!

A Monkey who likes playing 'this little piggy' with his toes... (ok, I know that's not actually what he's doing - but it looked really funny!)

And an elderly Orangutan that likes watching the kids on the other side of the glass. (Apparently she'll even clean the glass if given a sponge and bucket of soapy water!) 

Hope you've all had a great weekend,

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Toronto Botanical Gardens

Hi Everyone!
Since I'm now finished exams, :)  Mum and I thought it would be cool to take a look around the Toronto Botanical Gardens. We first discovered the place about a month ago when I had an awards ceremony there, and have been waiting for the chance to come back with our cameras ever since - it's really beautiful!

"The Toronto Botanical Garden offers an array of 17 award-winning themed gardens spanning nearly four acres, designed to educate and inspire" (

It was a beautiful sunny day so all the flowers and plants looked stunning in the sunshine!

There were also thousands of bees, butterflies and dragonflies flitting around. Especially around the river that runs through the gardens.

This damselfly was one of many that were laying eggs on the still water's surface. Look at all those tiny eggs!

It's not just insects and flowers that you'll see in these gardens though! While we were watching some geese on the river I suddenly noticed we weren't alone - a groundhog was happily eating dandelions right behind us! Unfortunately I only got a shot of his back before he spotted mum and ran off. 

There is also a forest trail with more wild scenery. Squirrels and chipmunks seem to love this area! 

Chipmunks are one of the smaller members of the squirrel family. They have pudgy cheeks, large eyes, bushy tails, and are all around pretty adorable :)

"Chipmunks generally gather food on the ground in areas with underbrush, rocks, and logs, where they can hide from predators like hawks, foxes, coyotes, weasels, and snakes. They feed on insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, and grain which they stuff into their generous cheek pouches and carry to their burrow or nest to store." (

Mum and I decided to sit on some rocks where the river came through the forest and watch the chipmunks for a while. There were about 5, if not more. Some of them chased each other playfully, while others sat eating food or cleaning themselves. :) 

Suddenly all of the chipmunks scattered as something big crashed around in the woods behind me. Turning quickly I saw a hawk tumbling down the hill, trying desperately to catch one! Realising that all the chipmunks had scattered off already, it righted itself and hopped up onto a tree to get a better view. 

Probably the most common hawk in North America, Red-tailed Hawks are often seen soaring above open fields, slowly turning circles on their broad, rounded wings, or perched on telephone poles, eyes fixed on the ground to catch the movements of a vole or a rabbit" (

Did You Know? "The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that’s what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears onscreen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk."

And so the waiting game began. The hawk sat there for almost a hour waiting patiently for a chipmunk to get bold or forget the danger and run to close. At one point she decided to move to another tree. I quietly followed and she was surprisingly tame towards me! 

 Every now and then I'd click a shot and the noise of the shutter would catch her attention. A few times I swear she was looking at me as if to say "'re not a mouse!"

Even hawks get itches!

Suddenly a chipmunk made a run for it directly past her tree! Typically the chipmunk ran right for where I had just been sitting! (That's sods law for you huh!) Within a few seconds she spotted it, jumped of her branch, swooped through the dense foliage and caught it! Evidently I need to be much faster at taking photos because I pretty much missed the whole thing, but I did catch the moment she first spotted the poor chipmunk!

 And here's the hawk with her prize! For those of you who are squeamish I'd advise you to skip over this photo. Although somewhat sad, this is the true meaning of a Circle of Life. While I sat waiting with the hawk I could hear a baby hawk squeaking nearby, so this chipmunk likely became a tasty meal for the little one.

One life lost, another just begun. Nature is certainly an amazing thing. :) 

 If you haven't recently, take a walk in a park or garden near you and see what you can find! 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Toronto Wildlife Centre Nursery!

Hello Everyone!
Sorry for not posting in a really long time - I've been busy with school, especially with AP exams coming up!
Couldn't resist telling you all about today though, since it was my first day actually working with animals at the Toronto Wildlife Centre! (I've been volunteering for a few months, but so far I've been doing laundry, sweeping, cleaning dishes, etc.) Now that baby season is starting up however, I got to switch into Nursery Care and it was AMAZING!!!

I arrived around 9am, but since the staff were half way though feeding the squirrels in the nursery, I started off working with one of the Wildlife Care volunteers. We cleaned all of the juvenile rock pigeons, and I learnt how to correctly hold them, covering their heads so they wouldn't be scared, and how to feel their crop to see how much food they had eaten. It was pretty awesome!

(photo credit Roy Subhasis)

While we were in the room, Lisa, one of the head staff members at TWC, popped in to feed some tiny coyote pups and let us watch!! They were so cute, and really wanted their food!! (they kept trying to eat the whole syringe (lol)!

(Photo credit: Trudy Vrieze)
We then went on to something I'm pretty familiar with (lol) - turtles! It was mainly baby Snapping Turtles, although there was a painted turtle as well.

(photo credit: Toronto wildlife centre) 

 At Reptilia we always talk about how turtles are in constant danger from cars because they must cross roads to get from their hibernation areas to their breeding grounds. Seeing the animals first hand really brought home how big of an issue this is - many of the turtles had huge scars across their shells from where they had been stitched back up.

(photo credit: Toronto Wildlife Centre) 

Finally it was time to feed some Squirrels! There are about 30 Eastern Gray Squirrels that are fed up to 5 times a day (depending on how old the baby is and it's weight)! They are all different ages, and pretty much every single one is squirmy and easily distracted! Let's just say it takes a while to get through them all!

(photo credit Toronto Wildlife Centre)

To see all the cuteness in action, as well as to learn more, check out this video all about our orphaned baby squirrels at

(photo credit audreyjm529)
All in all, it was a pretty awesome day!
To find out more about Toronto Wildlife Centre and all that they do, go to their website at


Thursday, January 01, 2015

Top 11 of 2014 - welcome 2015!

Hey everyone and Happy New Year!!!
For those of you who aren't also my friend on fb, I thought I'd fill you guys in :)
Counting down to the new year I picked my 11 favourite photo's that I'd taken over the past year. So here they are!


I like this one because of the contrasting colours on the ice; the bright gold from the setting sun against the dark blue shadows of the water through the thin layer of ice is really awesome! The way the ice created the "wave" to begin with is pretty cool too!


I took this one at Lockport, New York. I love the autumn colours just starting to appear and how the blue boat really 'pops' against the background!

#9. I love macro photography because it allows you to peer into a whole new world - the world of the tiny. My favourite is when you take a photo of something, and then afterwards notice something really cool that you couldn't even see before! 

That is what happened with this photo. It is a macro of a closed Dandelion bud that I took while demoing at Hillcrest Mall for the Richmond Hill Studio Tour & Art Sale. I hadn't noticed the tiny little bits protruding with my naked eye, so when I saw them all lit up it was a neat surprise. Even better though is that if you look closely at this photo you can see several of the protrusions are exploding! Pretty amazing huh??

#8. Animal photography (or any photography really I suppose) really requires two separate things - good technique and a moment. You can have the best lighting, focus, composition etc. ever but unless the animal does something special, it is hard to get that emotional connection. This is what I really strive for in my photos; I want to capture the soul of the creature - is it mischievous? Sleepy? Powerful?

This is why I love this photo so much. While it certainly isn't technically one of my best photos, I love the story told through it. This squirrel repeatedly steals the apples from our apple tree and hurries with them across the garden and off to wherever he lives. Often times the apples are bigger than his head as you can see below, and he'll trip over them as he runs. He never gives up though, and is always soon back for more!

#7. This one was taken at The Toronto Zoo on a school field trip at the end of the last school year. The droplets were from a misting machine, and I love how they distort the scales seen through them. The colour of the snake is pretty cool too - if you look closely you can see more than just green that the camera picked up! 

#6. Another one taken at The Toronto Zoo. I love this guy's expression - it makes me laugh every time. It's amazing how you can really connect with an individual of a completely different species just through their facial and body language!

#5. This photo was taken at the Lake Wilcox Park Opening during the summer. It was actually quite a stormy day (by lunch time it was pouring rain on us!) but I managed to grab this just as the clouds peeled away for a few moments - it was literally the only sunshine we had the whole day and it only lasted about 5 minutes! So that's one reason I like this photo - because I managed to actually be in the right place in the right time (which for those of you who know me, know is quite a rarity!  )

Also I love the composition I got with this photo - the head and arm all fall across the diagonal which I find adds some motion to the photo. Sometimes I imagine that this frog statue is about to come alive and leap right out of the photo! I always love looking for unusual or different ways of composing my photos - it's amazing how you can find so many different interesting things about one subject just by looking at it from a different angle or focusing in on a different part!

#4.  I like this one because it really shows the Fibonacci sequence in the center pod of the flower. I also love how the bright pinks stand out against the green background. Normally when your taking nature photography your photos are filled with muted greens and browns. Flowers (and to some extent insects as well) are always fun since they come in the most brilliant colours and patterns. (plus flowers have this great habit of not running away!

#3. You probably already know that I'm always complaining about having the wrong lens. It seems to be some kind of law - if you take a macro lens out all the mammals and birds will come out and taunt you from far away, but when you bring the telephoto lens out every insect and flower just decides to look extra awesome. (Clearly someone rich just needs to buy me another camera - duh...  )

Anyways, back to my point. I love this photo because that's exactly what happened. This was actually taken with my 100-300mm zoom lens - I know, pretty much the worst lens for the job! And yet I was so determined to get a good photo because I'd never actually seen a dragonfly eating anything before. So there I was backing further and further away on my stomach with this ginormous lens, trying to get the whole thing in the shot and focus, feeling kinda like an idiot, but hey - it worked!! Perhaps not the best focused shot I've ever taken, but considering the lens, pretty darn good. xD

#2So here's my second favorite for the year!!!! It's definitely been a really awesome year, what with the Richmond Hill Studio Tour & Art Sale and now my show at Citro Italian Restaurant! I took this photo at Lake Wilcox during the summer, sold one copy at the Studio Tour and currently have another copy on display at Citro! I love how the white feathers practically glow under the warm summer sun, and the amazng curves the duck creates with his neck as he cleans!

#1So here it is - my favourite photo from this passed year. 
Its a macro of this polished stone I have, but I always think the tiny bubbles along the edge and ripples of red running through the middle make it look like a ginormous lava wave!! 
I also like how I had a plan for this photo and after a few tries I got exactly what I wanted. Often times when taking pictures I have to pretty much take whatever is thrown my way (since you cant exactly plan what an animal is going to do - grin), so it was satisfying to be able to have a solid plan in my head and actually recreate it in the photo! 

So that's MY favourite photo for this year - but you don't have to agree with me! Tell me which one you like the best! It can be any of my top 11, or any other photo I've taken this year!! Can't wait to see what you all think 
Hope the new year will be just as awesome as the last!