On The Wild Side: Some memorable sightings of heart shapes in the wild

Trumpeter swans make a heart shape with their necks. Inset photos: A Barred owl, a coyote and a Northern flicker. Photos by Ann Brokelman.

By ANN BROKELMAN

While I, of course, love all the seasons, I truly believe that now is the best overall time for everyone, expert and amateur alike, to get out and enjoy nature.

Take a walk and look around, go down to the waterfront and sit on the beach or on some of the big rocks, or just sit and relax in your backyard or local park and take some photos or videos.

Have you ever seen a rock shaped like a heart? Doesn’t it make you stop in your tracks to pick it up and smile? Before you might have had to take it with you to show friends/family, though today you can snap a quick photo and share it with everyone you know.

Have you ever seen a tree with a heart shaped face in it? How did it just happen to grow that way? Have you ever sat in your backyard looked up and seen a heart shaped cloud floating by?

What is it about this shape that so easily catches our eye and brings us joy? Today I want to tell you about some of my most memorable sightings of heart shaped wildlife.

The coyote with the loving face

A while back one of my outings was cut short by a heavy rain storm. I had just gotten back into my car, and started driving through the pouring rain, when I saw a blonde, soaking wet coyote.

His fur was drenched with rain, but his eyes were bright and his face a sign of beauty. I did a double take as the coyote had a peculiar mix of long and short fur on his face, which somehow created an almost perfect heart.

When I look at canines, whether it Is my own beagle, my friends’ dogs, or rescued coyotes/wolves, I often see so many emotions in their faces.

But this was the first time I saw such blatant love! After I had pulled over and watched him for awhile, I realized he was watching two pups of his own.

These amazing animals are so family oriented. I’m not sure if it was the actual father or just an adult who was tasked with babysitting, but coyote families take care of each other with devotion. Some people tend to wear their heart on their sleeve, and this coyote wore his on his face.

Heart Shaped Owls

Anyone who has read my articles before knows that I have always loved owls. I love how, when compared to other birds, they have such unique facial features, eye colourings, feather details, and the way they naturally camouflage with their surroundings.

A few owls also have naturally heart shaped faces, though not always as pronounced from individual to individual. Barred owls, in particular, have a heart-shaped face. It’s so pronounced that you can usually identify the Barred owl simply because of the heart.

My most memorable Barred owl sighting was when one went hunting and landed on a branch just in front of me, and I watched him swallow a vole in two gulps. Though the vole didn’t love that encounter, I certainly did!

Adult and baby Flickers

Once, while I was enjoying a walk through a local park, I spotted a northern yellow shafted flicker nesting in a nearby tree.

I watched both adults delivering food to the young, appreciating the colours on these large, distinctive woodpeckers.

You often see them on the ground looking for ants and other insects, and may not even realize they are part of the woodpecker family.
What makes them stand out is the beautiful red heart on the back of their head.

It wasn’t until this day that I learned that baby flickers also have a heart on the back of their head, well before their adult feathers come in.

Trumpeter Swans

Love is clearly in the air when you see swans making a heart shape with their long necks.

Many of these pictures have gone around Facebook and other social media sites over the last few years already, but I can’t resist sharing my own photos of the phenomenon. I captured a pair of trumpeter swans making a heart, with their two young cygnets in the middle of them.

They are also very vocal when they are doing this ritual. The swans form this classic image of devotion as part of a courtship ritual that bonds them for life.

So, the next time when you’re going for a walk, or spot a random animal in the wild, and catch a moment like these, try to snap a quick photo and send it my way. I’d love to see it!


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