Catching Muskoka wildlife on camera is a tricky thing. You need patience and calm, an enviable camera, clothes that don’t swish. Photo duo Heather Truscott and Cheryl Nicholson of The Heartstone Photography are learning by doing. Friends since childhood, the pair spend their Muskoka weekends walking the woods, paddling the lakes, hiking the trails. Algonquin. Arrowhead. Muskoka Lakes. They stop, wait, listen. When they spot a deer or a special bird, a groundhog, a chipmunk, they raise their Nikons and shoot… in a kindly way. The result are these arresting wildlife photos published regularly here at MuskokaStyle. Oh, and Heather and Cheryl tell stories too—the stories behind the images: what it took, and more importantly, what it meant to capture these beautiful, natural, fleeting moments on film. Stop by often, this page is updated regularly with new pix. Now, get to it. Read and Look:
Zombie Geese Lead to a Shift in Perspective
A common refrain I hear from my Muskoka neighbours: “Those darn geese were on my property again!” Sometimes the word “darn” is replaced with an expletive that’s a lot more salty. Canada Geese have become some of Muskoka’s most cursed breeds, particularly because of the mess they leave!
Recently, on a rainy day, I was paid a visit from these “darn” geese. Out I went with the dog in tow (on a leash) to move them off my lawn, back to the water. They took their time shoving off, and to my surprise, once in the water they grouped up, stayed in place, closed their eyes. They had the audacity to go to sleep! I’ve never seen anything like it. There they floated, zombie-like, not at all bothered. Only two sentinel birds stayed awake to watch over the group.
Instantly I lost my sense of annoyance and saw, instead, pure potential. The way the rain beaded on their feathers as they slept was beautiful… ethereal. I knew the scene would make for some fabulous photos. I ran to get the camera.
Editing the pictures later that day, I thought about how a shift in perspective had changed my experience. I’ll try and remember that lesson the next time my zombie geese visit.
Look Up! Ospreys of Muskoka
At this time of year, especially on back roads near lakes and rivers, it is easy to spot large gray nests, high up and often on a platform. Osprey nests are always aloft and built near water. This vantage point helps them spot and capture fish, as well as elude predators.
What a lucky find to have come across two ospreys on the edge of a river in the process of building a nest together. Ospreys most often mate for life and return to the same nest year after year. As I watched them rebuild this year’s nest, I wondered how many times they’d performed this same ritual. They watched me as well trying to assess whether or not I was a threat to them. Eventually, sensing no threat, they returned to the task at hand.
Sunrise or Sunset? Either way, it’s Pure Magic
I hear people remark on gorgeous sunsets, or about gathering on the dock to toast the end of the day. Lakeside cottages with western exposures are highly coveted and desired.
For me though, it’s all about the sunrise. From sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean to sunrises over Muskoka lakes, I can’t get enough of them. Heading out to the dock each morning a half hour before sunrise is a favourite thing to do. The colours that show up pre-dawn rival even the best landscape paintings. If the water is still, sunrise can be exceptionally captivating, as unique colours and cloud formations are reflected in the water. And as the sun begins to peek over the horizon, the surrounding forest and lake come alive with sounds of red squirrels rustling through leaves, geese honking, birds singing, and loons calling from a distant bay.
Muskoka mornings are pure magic. It is on mornings such as these that my desire to capture awe kicks in. I happily click away until the sun has fully risen.
Modern Family: A Chipmunk Family Portrait
What a thrill to see not just one but two very small chipmunks scurry quickly across the yard and duck under a nearby bush. Right behind was a larger chipmunk, who followed them under the foliage. Eventually these tiny chipmunks became curious, coming out from hiding and scurrying across the patio. Under their mother’s careful watch, they explored and played, encouraged their mother to join in. I laughed as they tumbled over one other.
Often, they’d run back to their mother to give her a kiss and a hug, and then would scamper off to explore again. As I watched this little family, I reflected on the fact that so often we don’t notice the beautiful moments in nature that play out all around us. I was so grateful that, on this day, I spotted these curious chipmunks. I felt honoured to have been able to capture even just a little bit of their love and joy for each other before their time with me came to an end.
Friends since childhood, Cheryl Nicholson and Heather Truscott have a love of and a respectful appreciation of nature. The passionate, self-taught photography duo focuses on capturing unique wildlife moments and stunning landscapes while on their adventures, especially in Muskoka. The two recently combined their photography efforts, showcasing their shots primarily on social media. Cheryl and Heather aim to inspire in others a wonder and love for wildlife and the outdoors. Follow them at The Heartstone Photography on Instagram.