Looking for swans at the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area

I went to Brockville in Eastern Ontario last weekend with my sister and sisters-in-law. The reason? We wanted to do a short daytrip (without driving too far from home). We headed to Brockville because I wanted to revisit the old railway tunnel now that it is fully open (a visit I highly recommend by the way) and we wanted to do some hiking at the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area.

The Mac Johnson Wildlife Area is a protected area north of Brockville with approximately 11 kilometres of hiking trails. It is centered on a large water reservoir that is used to maintain water levels from Buells Creek to the City of Brockville. The place is considered a provincially significant wetland and hosts a high diversity of plant and animal life.

Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
It’s a beautiful day to be outside!

After picnicking in the park pavilion, we started exploring the trails. I especially hoped that I would have the opportunities to see some swans. The Mac Johnson Wildlife Area has been involved in a project to reintroduce swans in the area, and since I have never seen any wild swans in Canada, I admit that I was really hoping to see one of these graceful birds on the reservoir.


But when we arrived at the reservoir, it was rather an osprey that we saw. Perched on top of a platform, the bird watched over its nest while its companion flew over the area, a fish between its claws. Not a swan, but still impressive.

Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
Can you see the osprey?

Then we followed the trail along the reservoir. There were no one other than us and under the canopy, the trail was very peaceful. I could see here and there between the trees the deep blue water of the reservoir, but still no swans.

Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
A beautiful part of the trail

We hiked a little more than a kilometre along the reservoir, before deciding to return in the direction of the parking lot, but this time following the trail that was moving away from the reservoir and deeper into the forest. At this point, the hike became a little less pleasant. From the minute we moved away from the reservoir, we were stormed by deer flies.

The forest was pretty, but we were so busy chasing the flies and hurrying back to the parking lot that we did not really take the time appreciate it.

Mac Johnson Wildlife Area
Quickly trying to get out of the forest

And what about the swans? Before leaving the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area, I walked to the place where, according to the map of the area, the swan should have been. I only found the ruins of the cages that were used during the swan restoration program. The program is unfortunately over, the area doesn’t keep a breeding pair anymore, and although swans are still visiting the place, I did not see any that day.

I will come back again, maybe I’ll be luckier this time!

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