Wildlife From The Water: Looking Nature In The Eye

When people talk of the canoe allowing you to get close to nature, you’d be forgiven for thinking of extended trips deep into the heart of the Canadian wilderness.

It’s true that the ability to paddle a canoe gains you access to wild country difficult or impossible to access on foot. It’s also true that extended, remote trips bring you to a much more intimate understanding of the landscape in which you are travelling.

But paddling a canoe also allows you to get closer to nature on a local scale. Wilderness or not.

I was reminded of this last week while running our Expedition Canoeing Skills Course on and around Windermere in the Lake District National Park.

Windermere is the largest lake in England and its setting is beautiful. It’s not wilderness though.

That said, there were plenty of opportunities to get close to wildlife, particularly birds. And we got much closer to them than we would if we weren’t in canoes – except perhaps the very tame family of mallards who were very regular visitors to our camp!

Below is a selection of shots, all taken from my canoe during the course of the week.

Canada Geese
Canada Goose stronghold on rocky outcrop, Windermere. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Mallard duck family
The friendly family of camp Mallards did occasionally head onto the water. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Cormorant on top of tree
Cormorant on a high perch. Windermere. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Goosander on Windermere, Lake District
Goosander, Windermere. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Graylag Geese on the River Leven
Greylag geese on the upper River Leven. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Herring Gull with a dead fish.
Herring Gull with its lunch. Windermere, Cumbria. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Mute swan.
Looking nature in the eye… Mute Swan. Windermere. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

If you’d like to see more of what we got up to during the week, please check out one of the public photo galleries below:

Expedition Canoeing Skills Course 2013 photo gallery (on Facebook)

Expedition Canoeing Skills Course 2013 photo gallery (on Google+)

And if you’ve had a great wildlife viewing experience or close encounter from a canoe, why not let us – and other readers – know about by posting a comment below?…

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Paul Kirtley is Founder and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog. He is the author of Wilderness Axe Skills and Campcraft, as well as having contributed to several other books. Paul has been involved in teaching bushcraft since 2003. He is also a Canoe Leader, British Canoeing Level 3 Canoe Coach and UK Summer Mountain Leader.

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6 Responses

  1. Will
    | Reply

    Some nice shots there, just up the road from me, spent many a day on Windermere
    making rafts when I was a good few years younger, planning to
    go canoeing on Windermere this autumn when the crowds have gone home 🙂

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      It’s a great place for playing about in boats that’s for sure. Enjoy your autumn trip.



  2. Leena
    | Reply

    Amazing photography..that too from a canoe…( my thoughts are on balance, steady hand etc…)

    You all look as though you had great moments during this adventure….reminded me of the first time I explored canoeing…and observed wildlife and all….leaned too far, tipped and toppled and overturned and got soaking submerged…wildlife scattered…thanks to my gesticulations…and impromptu shattering of the idyllic peace….

    Was that a canoe that overturned…or were you having sessions to how to turn a canoe back if it turned over…. comments indicate it was a training session… fun!

    Wonderful pictures, thanks again.

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Hi Leena,

      As always, thanks for adding your lovely comments to the thread.

      The capsize was intentional and part of training to deal with such situations in open water. Everyone had a lot of fun with this!

      Warm regards,


  3. Steve Bayley
    | Reply

    Thanks for posting these fab photos, and for a great week Paul. Getting closer to wildlife was one of my motivations for signing-up to this course. Sally and I went sailing on the Norfolk Broads in April and the wildlife was virtually flinging itself at us 🙂 Sailing is nice and quiet, like paddling but even a small yacht isn’t quite as close to the water as a canoe if you know what I mean. It certainly provides a unique perspective. Where’s your Tree Creeper photos though?

    • Paul Kirtley
      | Reply

      Yes I do know what you mean 🙂

      Tree Creeper photos were a bit disappointing. One of them was OK.

      But either way it would have been cheating to put them into an article about taking photos from a boat since they were taken from land.

      I guess you could argue that we needed a canoe to get to the place we camped, so maybe I should have snuck one of the photos in…



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