Grundy Lake Provincial Park Part I

Spotted Jewelweed

Spotted Jewelweed

My fiancé and I spent the week of August 19-23 camping at Grundy Lake Provincial Park with my dad, his girlfriend Sharon, and Sharon’s daughter Ashley. Grundy Lake is a six-hour drive from Ottawa, and is located west of Algonquin Provincial Park about half way between Sudbury and Parry Sound. I couldn’t find any wildlife checklists for the park online, and presumed that it would have many of the same species as Algonquin. Indeed, Grundy Lake is included in the “surrounding area” of my dragonfly field guide The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Park and the Surrounding Area, so I knew that this guide at least would be useful.

Because it is such a long drive, we didn’t arrive until close to dinner time and spent the evening setting up our campsite. We reserved spots in the Hemlock Campground, and were the second site along the main road (#102). The road led to the “Pet Exercise Area” at the edge of Gurd Lake ran behind our campsite, though it was well-screened from our site. Altogether, the campsites weren’t very private….we could easily see our neighbours to the east, which wouldn’t have been bad if my Dad had been camped there; unfortunately he was on the other side of us. The site was very wide along the road, and smaller at the back. Since we had reserved electrical sites, this makes sense as there are some large trailers backing in and out of the campsites.

In the morning I awoke to the song of a Black-and-white Warbler singing in the trees behind our site. I saw a group of Red-eyed Vireos and heard several Red-breasted Nuthatches chattering in the trees above us. One thing that surprised me about the campground was how dusty it was – a fine film coated our car on our first morning, likely due to vehicles creating clouds of dust as they passed by. It was very dry, and indeed the fire danger level was high (but not extreme) due to a lack of rain. Another thing that surprised me was that you needed to boil the water before using it. Although park water is chlorinated, drinking water taken from the lake may contain parasites that cannot be killed chlorination. They hope to put in a new water treatment system in the near future that will remove the need for this precaution.

While waiting for Doran to get up, I took my shower then went for a quick walk to the pet exercise area to check out the lake.

Gurd Lake

Gurd Lake

I saw a loon swimming out in the middle of the lake, as well as a few fishermen sitting in canoes. There is a boat launch here, making it easy to take out a canoe or a kayak. One person just returning told me I had missed a heron flying by.

Gurd Lake

Gurd Lake

I found a clump of colourful wildflowers growing next to the water, so I stopped to take some photographs. This spiraea was a lovely shade of pink.

Spiraea sp.

Spiraea sp.

Spotted Jewelweed (aka Touch-me-not) is a beautiful shade of orange and attracts hummingbirds in the fall. I did in fact see a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the area while I was there, but it was feeding on some white flowers instead. I watched as it perched briefly on a tree branch before flying off above the trees.

Spotted Jewelweed

Spotted Jewelweed

A large Robber Fly sat on a leaf, waiting for the sun to warm things up.

Robber Fly

Robber Fly

I also saw my first dragonfly of the trip here, a rather dark meadowhawk. It was a neat spot, even if I didn’t see many birds that morning.

Meadowhawk sp.

Meadowhawk sp.

We met my dad later in the morning, and close to lunch time we decided to try one of the trails. Swan Lake Trail is the shortest of the three found in Grundy Lake Provincial Park, a “1.5 loop that winds through a special area in the park set aside as a nature reserve” according to the information guide. The guide says that the one-hour hike “crosses over rocky ridges and lookouts as well as a variety of interesting wetlands. The centrepiece of the trail includes a boardwalk, where wetland plants and animals can be studied. While there, be sure to watch for the Great Blue Heron, beaver, waterfowl, bitterns, and other varieties of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, deer, carnivorous plants and moose”. The wetlands sounded intriguing, so I took my dragonfly net with me on our walk.

Swan Lake Trail

Marshy Entrance to Swan Lake Trail

The entrance leads directly into a marsh with a slightly uneven boardwalk crossing over it. I saw an Eastern Forktail flying close to the shore and a couple of Painted Turtles sunning themselves on logs further out. A pair of large blue Aeshna (mosaic) darners were patrolling the edge of the marsh, and with a little luck I was able to net one, a Canada Darner.

Canada Darner

The trail climbed a large granite hill that looked down upon the lake. Although I’ve read online that swans (Trumpeter Swans, most likely) spend the summer here, we didn’t see a single one on the water. Or any other waterfowl, for that matter. The view, however, was breathtaking.

Swan Lake

A higher zoom shows another boardwalk at the other end of the lake:

Swan Lake

A view of the trail along the top of the hill (notice the yellow arrow pointing the way in the bottom right-hand corner):

The Rocky Swan Lake Trail

The trail descended to another lake, and I saw a spreadwing damselfly flitting about the vegetation. A few other darners were patrolling the shoreline, each at least a foot beyond the reach of my net. Although I heard a White-throated Sparrow singing I didn’t see a single bird.

The trail continued through a wooded area and then climbed up to the top of another large granite hill on the opposite side of Swan Lake. I caught another Canada Darner and spotted this odd-looking grasshopper that appears dressed in military camouflage:

Grasshopper sp.

Grasshopper sp.

From the top of the cliff you can look down on the marsh.

Looking down at the marsh

Looking down at the marsh

I saw two different butterflies along this trail, a White Admiral near the edge of the trees and a Viceroy flying over the marsh. I had to check and make sure it wasn’t a Monarch; I’ve still only seen one to date.

Grundy Lake was turning out to be a beautiful park. Of course, I was hoping to see some of its wildlife, such as moose, bears, otters, Massassauga Rattlesnakes, Smooth Green Snakes, Eastern Fox Snakes, and of course birds and odonata. The park office has free wildlife checklists and I had picked up two on the way in – one for Reptiles and Amphibians, the other for Odonata. I didn’t bother to pick up one for butterflies or mammals, and there wasn’t one for birds available. It appears from the checklists that I picked up that park naturalists have been conducting formal surveys since 2011; they have found 52 odonates to date, all of which are in my Algonquin guide.

It was a promising start to the week!

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