Friday, 18 May 2018

Canada May 2018.....Algonquin National Park

The Blue Spruce Resort at the west side of Algonquin was the base for the next two nights, looking out over a mostly frozen lake, we still heard the haunting calls of divers as we woke on our first morning.

Typical of the lakes when we arrived

We were soon on the road and heading for the Spruce Bog trail towards the east of the park, checking off other potential trails on our way, the first sighting of note was MOOSE!!! by the side of the road in the early morning glow, it moved off quickly before we had a chance to stop, great start to the day. As we approached the car park we saw a sign for the visitor centre, which had been host to some good birds over the winter, we decided to head there first but as we passed the entrance to Spruce Bog Trail, I spotted (couldn't miss) a large BLACK BEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!! standing in the entrance to the car park, we quickly reversed and Stephen managed to see the bear as well before it turned tail and headed into the woods, in the car park we couldn't hear or see anything so headed back to the visitor centre. Black Bears are easy to see in the west of Canada but apparently here not quite so easy we talked to a chap who has camped in the far reaches of the park every year for the last 20 years and he had never seen one! We didn't really add much back at the centre apart from a chattering CHIPMUNK. Back at Spruce Bog we took to the trail, no sign of bear, and hoping for Spruce Grouse, there was quite a lot of bird song, SWAMP SPARROWS sang, BLACK DUCK flew over the bog, a buzzy call took us back to October 1989, Holkham Pines in Norfolk as RED BREASTED NUTHATCHES were being pretty vocal, woodpeckers drummed and called and lots of Pine Siskins were heard overhead. A simple but pretty song turned out to be WHITE THROATED SPARROW, while a WHITE CROWNED SPARROW chipped in as we walked the icy paths. American RED SQUIRRELS and CHIPMUNKS were obviously used to people on the paths especially the former as it pretty much ran between our legs!

Red Breasted Nuthatch

American Red Squirrel
A short drive east was Opeongo Road, our main target here was Grey Jay, the drive along it was fairly birdy a particularly good car park just before the snow gate was full of finches which in the main turned out to about 100 Pine Siskins, overhead the odd CROSSBILL called, before we moved on. At the end of the road was a store and a kayak centre, but with the lake mainly frozen it was very quiet, as we pulled into the car park a large woodpecker caught my eye, PILEATED WOODPECKER, a real monster, suddenly there was more action as about 6 EVENING GROSBEAKS dropped into the tree above the woodpecker, a bird I was hoping we weren't too late in the season to see. The car park remained the focus as we added YELLOW BELLIED SAPSUCKER, YELLOW RUMPED WARBLER, BLACK THROATED GREEN WARBLER, CHIPPING SPARROW, BROAD WINGED HAWK and RUFFED GROUSE. All the time Siskins and a few Crossbills could be heard and seen flying overhead with the odd Diver and Turkey Vultures joined them from time to time for good measure.

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Ruffed Grouse

Evening Grosbeak

No sign of Grey Jay, so we took a slow drive back along Opeongo to highway 60 (the main route through the park) heading east again the information we had for a tricky species to see was to head to the 53km post and wait? on the way 3 more SANDHILL CRANES drifted over. We stopped by some open water which of course had a BEAVER swimming across it very close to the 53km marker..... within seconds we heard the call of BLACK BACKED WOODPECKER it came from a telegraph pole on the other side of the road, the bird showed well for a short time then disappeared, we spoke to several  people after this who had failed to find this bird so luck was on our side again.


Black Backed Woodpecker

In our quest for Grey Jay we ended up visiting the above sites a couple of times each during the day, everywhere was a little quieter although we added OTTER at the woodpecker spot, as well as AMERICAN KESTREL, BELTED KINGFISHER and EASTERN PHOEBE elsewhere.

Day two in Algonquin was focused on two birds we couldn't find yesterday Spruce Grouse and the Grey Jay. An early walk at Spruce Bog proved fruitless for the Grouse but we did add PINE WARBLER, here was the only place we saw this bird. Another drive along Opeongo and a look in the car park near the snow gates again loads of Pine Siskins were joined by 2 WHITE WINGED CROSSBILLS and nearby a PURPLE FINCH, another nice stop, we walked the road from here for while and we were treated to a surprise close encounter with a BLACK CAPPED CHICKADEE who thought we had food!! We again headed to the main car park at the end of the road, the EVENING GROSBEAKS re-appeared giving some better views. Conscious we had to head south later in the day again tried the Spruce Bog Trail and jackpot!!!! a male SPRUCE GROUSE, strutted its stuff for us not far from the main path, a really well marked bird, we were well pleased to add this the life and trip lists :-) We thought our luck had changed for Grey Jay as well when we met a guy tracking breeding Grey Jays!!! Unfortunately he couldn't take us with him but gave us hope of a more friendly recently fledged family back on Opeongo, so off we went again. The tracking guy said if we whistled in the given area there was a chance the Jays would hour or so later with my whistling starting to get on my own nerves let alone any poor unsuspecting Jay!!, we admitted defeat with only a couple of inquisitive Blue Jays to show for it!
Black Capped Chickadee

Friendly Black Capped Chickadee!
Spruce Grouse!!

On the road again and Niagara Falls was the target for an hour so before it got dark, we were treated to one last offering from Algonquin as 2 MOOSE posed by the road before we left the park for good...we made it managing to avoid the USA border, the falls were nice and gave us close quarters with RING BILLED GULLS, as well as a few Terns, Divers and Cormorants, the weather soon
broke and we battled the driving rain to get to an impromptu Super 8 motel for the night. Ready for some good weather and a morning journey to Long Point.....


Niagara Falls


Helma said...

I enjoyed your photos. I love the most animals you put in your 2 new posts. The squirrel is amazing but also the birds. Really beautiful specimens.

Did you know that my 5-year-old grandson Jahna was killed last October 31st? He is passing by a car and has not survived. I thought you wanted to know this.

That is why I started blogging a bit now.
Kind regards, Helma

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