Grundy Lake Part III: Final Day

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

On our last day at Grundy Lake, Dad and I decided to get up early and try the Beaver Dams Trail on our own. We figured that the earlier we left, the better chance we would have of seeing some wildlife. The 3.6 km loop trail passes through dense forest and wetlands, and according to the information guide, “moose, deer, fisher, Ruffed Grouse, and many other species of birds and mammals may be seen. The highlight of the trail is the Great Blue Heron rookery, identified as large bunches of branches at the tops of swamp-killed trees. In the spring a few of these nests are active; but bring your binoculars! Finally, you will also see the dammed rock fracture which controls the water level in Bucke Lake and affects Grundy and Gut Lakes as well as Nisbet Creek. Beavers are amazing engineers”.

Although it sounded great, the trail was a bit of a disappointment. It started off at Clear Lake, where we spotted two loons swimming in the lake and a Great Blue Heron walking along the marshy edge, then travels through the woods to another wetland. The path was very narrow and the woods were very dense, which was a nice change after the open, rocky Swan Lake and Gut Lake Trails. However, for the first time during the trip we had to contend with mosquitoes, and after about 20 minutes of slapping them away we got tired of the unchanging scenery of the woods pretty quick.

Beaver Dams Trail

Beaver Dams Trail

We came to a rickety boardwalk crossing the edge of another wetland. While the cattails were too tall to see the water in most of the places, I was able to glimpse a couple of Wood Ducks and several Canada Geese, including a few standing on a beaver lodge. We saw a couple of Bullfrogs and lots of Meadowhawks as well. In the woods, I heard an Eastern Wood-pewee and a couple of Red-eyed Vireos. We came across a small flock of warblers foraging, but the only species I was able to identify was a Chestnut-sided Warbler.

The trail eventually leaves the woods and climbs up several granite ridges. From the top of one we saw a vast expanse of dead, swamp-killed trees, though I didn’t see any herons’ nests. The trail eventually led to the top of a round granite cliff surrounded by marshy wetlands on three sides. It looked like a great spot for dragonflies, and indeed I saw my first (live) Slaty Skimmer of the trip here. If there is a beaver dam here, I couldn’t see it.

Beaver Dams Trail

Beaver Dams Trail

As the trail ended here, we turned around and walked back to the rickety boardwalk where I had seen a side trail branching off. We saw more birds at the wetland, including three Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feeding on the jewelweed blossoms, a Belted Kingfisher flying over, and a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk soaring on the thermals.

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

In the woods, we saw a Mourning Cloak butterfly fly by and got great looks at a lovely male American Redstart perching in the open. As warblers don’t often sit still for very long, I was glad my dad got a chance to see this bird. My dad isn’t a birder, and he was impressed with the redstart’s bold colours. We also came across several chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and one Blue Jay, which made this the birdiest trail of the three. We didn’t see any mammals other than a red squirrel dining on some berries in a shrub, and no other herptiles except for a large toad sitting in a wet area. I was hoping for more given the habitat and the early start to our day.

We almost got lost on the Beaver Dams Trail, as we ended up on a side trail that wasn’t part of the main loop. Fortunately some maintenance workers pointed us in the right direction, otherwise we might still be wandering around the woods to this day!

When we got back to the campsite I found that Doran had rented a two-person kayak. We took it out on Gurd Lake. I enjoyed myself, even though the wind had picked up enough to create some waves and I ended up with a few blisters. As Doran and I were the only ones with experience kayaking, he took Dad, Sharon and Ashley out separately afterward. I stayed behind and spent some time examining the emergent vegetation for damselflies. For the first time since I started visiting the pet exercise area I found some. First some Eastern Forktails, then this Hagen’s Bluet…

Hagen's Bluet

Hagen’s Bluet

…and finally a Tule Bluet that I rescued from a lily pad. It had only two wings so I placed it on a leaf as I didn’t want it to get trampled.

Tule Bluet

Tule Bluet

I didn’t realize this at the time, but the Tule Bluet was a new species for the Grundy Lake checklist. There are only three confusing bluets on their checklist – Marsh, Hagen’s, and Boreal – so I’m guessing that they haven’t spent a lot of time examining bluets with a hand lens. According to the checklist, the first-ever odonata survey was started in 2011.

A large dragonfly circling the edge of the clearing caught my attention, and I was able to net it. It appears to be a very old-looking Slaty Skimmer.

Slaty Skimmer

Slaty Skimmer

I also noticed a small, dark damselfly skimming over the lawn and decided to net it. It was a female spreadwing, and based on the dark thorax and the two spots on the abdomen, I was able to identify it as a Spotted Spreadwing. I didn’t have the checklist with me at the time, and didn’t realize that this was another new species for their checklist! There are only four spreadwings on the list: Northern, Elegant, Swamp and Sweetflag. If I had known, I would have photographed it.

I returned to the water’s edge to look for more damselflies and found this Mink Frog instead.

Mink Frog

Mink Frog

As I was squatting down to photograph the frog, I caught a glimpse of something moving out of the corner of my eye. When I stood up I noticed this small, slender Northern Water Snake swimming slowly among the emergent vegetation, prowling for food.

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

The diet of the Northern Water Snake includes fish (either dead or alive), amphibians (both adults and tadpoles), crayfish, large insects, leeches, other snakes, turtles, birds, and small mammals such as mice. They hunt both during the day and at night, searching for prey along the water’s edge or underwater. Excellent swimmers, they can be found up to three metres below the surface of the water and several kilometres from shore.

Northern Water Snakes often escape predators by swimming across the water or by diving below the surface, where they anchor themselves to vegetation or logs. They are capable of remaining below water for an hour and a half. If they cannot escape from an attacker, they may attempt to bite, release a foul-smelling musk, regurgitate their last meal, or defecate to discourage predators. Northern Water Snakes are not venomous, and their bites are generally harmless. As with all wildlife, I try to give them the space and the respect they deserve.

Eventually it swam beneath some overhanging vegetation along the shoreline and disappeared. I was hoping it would stay out in the open long enough for my dad to see it, as he is much more enthusiastic about reptiles and amphibians than he is about birds.

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

When he and Doran returned from their kayaking adventure, I showed him my pictures and he went to see if he could find the water snake. As he was looking, I noticed a huge dragonfly circling the clearing and went off to find it. Eventually I noticed it hanging off the antenna of a truck parked in the area!

Dragonhunter

Dragonhunter

The Dragonhunter is such an impressive dragonfly that I had to point it out to my dad. I would have loved to have netted it, but couldn’t due to its location; so Dad said he would try to pick it up for me. He asked if they bit, and I told him they might nip you, but only if you stuck your finger in its mouth. Very slowly he approached the dragonfly, and was able to grasp it by two of its wings. He held it out to me while it buzzed around in a mad frenzy, then suddenly yelped and let it go! He said it had turned its head to look at him, and he thought it was going to bite him! I thought that was kind of funny, even though it was cool that he was able to catch it with his bare hands in the first place.

In the meantime, the Dragonhunter flew off, never to be seen again.

Dragonhunter

Dragonhunter

Our last evening at Grundy Lake Provincial Park was uneventful. However, I was thrilled when, just before dinner, a tiny Ovenbird emerged from the woods and started walking along the edge of the campsite…even going so far as to investigate Doran’s wet shoes. After dinner we spent some time playing UNO in Dad’s trailer, including one round that lasted almost a full hour.

The next morning Doran and I got up early to break down the campsite. We had a long drive back to Ottawa, and didn’t want to linger. Our best wildlife sighting came about ten minutes after we had left the park, driving east along Highway 522. Doran asked, “Is that a dog?” and when I looked I saw a Black Bear standing majestically on a rock at the side of the road. It would have been a perfect picture, if we had been able to stop in time. A few minutes later, a White-tailed Deer started crossing the road ahead of us, forcing us and another car in the westbound lane to stop while it dithered in the middle of the highway.

It was great to visit a new park, and take in some new scenery. Although a bit crowded, I’d recommend Grundy Lake for the swimming, the kayaking, and the smaller park experience. We didn’t visit the Interpretive Center (it looked quite small), and the store in the park office was very limited. However, the Supply Store just outside of the park is very close, and worth visiting for the fudge or the ice cream alone.

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