Getting to know our wild neighbours

By JT McVeigh, The Enterprise-Bulletin

If you go out into the woods with Andrew Major, you are probably in for a surprise.

Major, a local wildlife technician and self-described forensic naturalist, has had a lifetime of exploring forests and ponds, and he has turned his passion into a business with Georgian Bay Wildlife, where he leads tours of small groups in the woods to show what a diverse home we share.

“There’s lots out there that no one really knows about,” said Major. “It’s really interesting to see what’s out there.”

Birding, in particular, is something that excites Major. His years of bird studies throughout Canada have increased his expertise. But there are some great places to see multiple species within 10 to 15 minutes of town.

“Every year, there is a bird-a-thon. It’s in the third week of February this year. It’s a world-wide competition,” said Major.

In spite of the increased development of the area, it hasn’t affected the bird numbers, he said.

There are some areas in Collingwood where you can see hundreds of waterfowl, said Major, sometimes five or six species in the same area.

“Springtime is a great time. That’s when all of the breeding birds are around here and you can really hear them,” he said. “It’s exciting when I have people with me, because they keep looking around, asking, ‘What’s that? What’s that?’ That’s a lot of fun.”

One of the reasons no knows about them is the material available.

“I have lots of maps and they aren’t that old, maybe five or 10 years old, and the information in them is just wrong,” said Major. “Some of the animals that you are told aren’t here are.”

Major was out recently in Grey County when he came across the tracks of a bobcat.

“When will you ever see a bobcat? Probably never in your life, but they are here,” he said. “They probably won’t go to much further north, maybe Algonquin, but they are south all the way down into the States.”

Coyotes and fishers follow the same pattern, he said.

“But they are so elusive. They don’t want to be seen. You pretty much have to sit and wait. All animals have patterns. They circle in loops. It might take them a couple of days to do that loop, but they’ll do it.”

His love of the outdoors came to him honestly.

“I was born in Iqaluit, where both of my parents were working near Frobisher Bay, and they moved down here because they were both from the area, and they bought a place with 50 acres, which had two connected ponds on the property,” said Major. “I spent about 99% of my time at the ponds, always catching frogs, salamanders, just to be out there. The rest of the time, I would be in the bush.”

It was all about exploring: wandering through the bush, looking for turkeys or deer, and getting lost.

“Getting lost is the best way to find stuff,” said Major. “When you’re not looking, you will find it.”

That wonderment of what is around us is what Major is trying to share.

“I love to see people out in the bush, especially when they see something new. That’s when I get excited,” he said. “Excitement is infectious, because then they get excited because they want to be out there, and that’s what it is all about.” 

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