There’s something fishy going on in the Nottawasaga River

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Saturday, September 30th, 2023 – National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

A screech owl was calling from the spruce trees as I write this – a lovely sound this evening.

Today at the Glen Cross Side Trail in Hockley Valley, we were fortunate to catch the salmon run in the Nottawasaga River…

After 3 years of feeding and enjoying life in Lake Huron, adult Chinook salmon migrate up to 150 km upstream on the Nottawasaga River to spawn and lay their eggs. This amazing migration takes places in August, September and October. The eggs hatch in March and the juvenile salmon spend 3-9 months in the river before following the same route that their parents took, swimming downstream to the mouth of the Nottawasaga River at Wasaga Beach and out into Georgian Bay. Chinook salmon are hardy Pacific salmon. They are one species of salmon that have been introduced to the Great Lakes to restore the salmon fishery and enhance recreational fishing.

Salmon are like shape-shifting werewolves

On a recent trip to the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, I learned that the first primitive salmon appeared 50 million years ago. When salmon are ready to spawn, their heads grow dog-like canine teeth, their jaws extend and form a hook (or kype), their backs may form a hump, their stomach shrinks, their fins thicken and their skin absorbs their scales and toughens. Salmon are fearless, determined, resilient river monsters that are absolutely amazing! They change colour too…

Fun fact: A salmon leaping up a waterfall is equivalent to a human leaping over a 4 storey house!

We wandered through a cedar forest along the river for most of the day. The kinglets were singing “I see you” and a Swainson’s Thrush called during lunch. We tracked the muddy shoreline, observing track and sign from raccoon, mink, fox, coyote, deer, beaver, heron and possible otter. The chinook salmon swam nearby or were present as fish carcasses along the shoreline. The coniferous forest also revealed a Northern Short-tailed Shrew, grouse beds and deer trails. An apple tree captured our attention in the morning as we admired feeding sign and incisor marks on the apples. The staghorn sumac leaves were fiery red and the meadows were lit with an autumn glow of yellow goldenrods and purple asters. A Laurel sphinx moth caterpillar dazzled us from the leaves of a white ash sapling while the robin-egg-like seeds of a nearby Jewelweed matched the blue sky above.


    Another great tracking day and thank you for this lovely write up.


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