A Toronto Transformation

Toronto’s Wildlife is Trying to Tell Me Something

Pink and purple flowers in a Toronto garden

Last week while I was enjoying a lunchtime picnic -for-one on a bench by a wee garden near my office, out of the corner of my eye I caught a tiny movement from the undergrowth to my right.

I had just enough time to think “chipmunk?” before the thing came streaking towards me. I shrieked “Woooooo!” in what I would like to think was a verrry dignified manner as it bumped gently into the side of my foot before scurrying back into the garden on the other side of the bench. I glimpsed its tail in the split second before it disappeared and realized that it was not in fact a chipmunk, but a small rat. Or a large mouse.

Because my life is clearly a thrill-a-minute at the moment, I found this little city wildlife adventure fairly exciting.

Until today that is.

This afternoon as I was sitting on a bench in an entirely different little garden finishing another solo lunch (I actually do have friends, I promise), I felt something come in contact with the back of my neck.

I involuntarily shuddered and reached back to slap it away as it lingered oddly for a moment, then turned my head slowly as I tried to figure out what the hell had just touched me. It felt so strange that I wondered for a second if someone had snuck through the tall grass behind me to cop a nervous feel? Of my neck? I’m usually pretty aware of my surroundings, but I did have excellent ear buds in so I guessed it was distantly possible. There was a guy in Toronto a while back who was slithering up behind women with long hair and fondling it. I glared into the garden behind me for a minute, then shrugged and turned back to pack up my lunch and reapply my lipstick.

I stood up, turned to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind and froze.

Five feed to the left of me was a low railing and on that low railing was the biggest damn hawk I’ve ever seen.

I swear to you, it was two feet tall.

We stared at each other for ten seconds while I grappled with my phone (which was still in selfie mode from the lipstick application – damn my vanity!) and he took off before I could snap a picture.

Watching him fly away I realized that’s exactly what that mysterious sensation on my neck had been. Not the nervous, fluttery fingers of a creepy hair molester, but the fluttery wings of a curious hawk doing a low fly-by!

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is here. That my hair looks like a delicious squirrel from above when I wear it in a messy, low bun? That I am weird, (and kind of gross), urban Snow White? That I need to start wearing tall rubber boots and perhaps a helmet if I’m going to continue eating in Toronto gardens?

If we’re going in order of the food chain, I assume if I dine alfresco next week a wolf will just walk out from between some parked cars, shake my hand and eat salad out of my tupperware!

Of all the things to get me writing again, an encounter with a downtown bird of prey isn’t what I would have imagined, but when inspiration literally hits you out of the clear blue sky, I say roll with it.

What’s your weirdest urban animal encounter?

2 Responses to Toronto’s Wildlife is Trying to Tell Me Something

  • Peter DeWolf says:

    I missed your writing!!!

    My weirdest non-urban animal encounter lately has been while I was driving from my little town to Sydney (Nova Scotia.) I was cruising down a straight stretch of highway – listening to a Star Talk Radio podcast – and a giant-ass bald eagle swooped down in front of me with its wings majestically spread. They must have been 12-15 feet across! It landed in the other lane, nabbed a rat or squirrel that didn’t look both ways before crossing and took off again just before I got there. It was like a scene out of one of those nature documentaries on Netflix that I use when I am trying to nap. Amazing.

  • I definitely vote for rubber boots and a pith helmet. And walk around with a butterfly net or a fishing pole. In the city. And keep a handy-dandy slingshot in a hip holster, for close encounters of the squirrel kind…

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