On Family Day I accompanied Jon Ruddy’s Eastern Ontario Birding trip to Algonquin Park to look for winter finches and other Boreal specialties. As predicted in Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast back in September, the winter of 2019-2020 was not an irruption year; most finch species stayed up north in the Boreal Forest given the abundance of mountain-ash berries, spruce cones and birch seed crops there. This meant that while berry-eaters such as Pine Grosbeak and Bohemian Waxwings remained on their breeding territories in the far north, Pine Siskins, Evening Grosbeaks, and both crossbill species were widespread across central Ontario – including the traditional winter finch hotspot, Algonquin Park. Continue reading →
On March 16, 2019 I joined another Eastern Ontario Birding excursion to Algonquin Park. It was much colder than our previous visit in December (especially for mid-March!), and the goal of this tour was to visit Algonquin Park until mid-afternoon, and then do some driving around the farmland near Cobden to look for birds of prey before heading home. We started the day at the winter gate on Opeongo Road where we had our best bird of the park: a Boreal Chickadee feeding in the trees right above the parking area. Both nuthatches, some Black-capped Chickadees, and a Downy Woodpecker were also present; the Canada Jays and Blue Jays were noticeably absent. A walk down the road produced no finches, no Black-backed Woodpeckers, and no American Martens (also known as Pine Martens). It was a taste of things to come.
On December 18th I accompanied Jon Ruddy’s Eastern Ontario Birding trip to Algonquin Park. This was an early Christmas present to myself as it’s one of my favourite parks in Ontario and I don’t get to go that often – it’s been almost two full years since the last time I’ve been. As usual, the goal was to find winter finches and Algonquin specialties such as Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadees and Canada Jays (formerly known as Gray Jays); we were excited when Jon told us just a few days earlier three Spruce Grouse had been photographed right in the parking lot of the Spruce Bog Boardwalk.
The drive down was pleasant; notable birds seen along the way included an American Kestrel perching on a wire near the town of Douglas and a juvenile Bald Eagle soaring above the car just past Barry’s Bay. When we got to the park and paid for our permits, the East Gate was quiet; we heard only a single chickadee calling in the trees.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Algonquin Park – over three and a half years! – and after having a camping trip with Dad last summer and a birding trip with Deb this winter both fall through, I wasn’t sure when I’d get to visit that beautiful park again. When Jon Ruddy announced an excursion to Algonquin this month, I jumped on the chance to go. The birding there this winter has been excellent, with not only the usual Boreal specialties being found on most visits (including Gray Jay, Evening Grosbeak, Boreal Chickadee, and Spruce Grouse), but also most of the winter finches as well. In addition, the park naturalists had put out a road-killed moose carcass in the valley below the Visitor Center, and foxes were being seen feeding on it. Pine Martens have also been observed at the suet feeders and Mew Lake garbage bins in the park on occasion.
Deb and I went to Algonquin Park last Sunday to enjoy some birds, fall colours, and late-season odonates. The fall colours were said to be at their peak, and with the temperature expected to reach a beautiful, sunny 20°C, we couldn’t have asked for a better day. Unfortunately the great weather enticed several other carloads and busloads of people to visit, so the park was the busiest we had ever seen it. Police were stopping people before they drove into the park to remind them of the speed limit (only 80 km/h in the park, and 50 km/h at the gate), and the parking lots along Highway 60 were full of cars – most even had a tour bus or two parked at the entrance. Some trails (such as the Lookout Trail and Peck Lake Trail) were so busy the cars had spilled out of the parking lot and were parked along the narrow shoulder of Highway 60.
Deb and I went to Algonquin Park on Saturday, and we couldn’t have picked a better day to go. We drove west under a bright blue sky, and while it was only -4°C when we left, the warm sunshine quickly heated the day to a balmy 8°C. We started the day with a drive up Opeongo Road which was an adventure in itself – the road was badly plowed with deep ruts, and the rising temperature made the surface slippery. We didn’t see or hear anything until we got to the gate, where we found piles of sunflower seeds left on various snow banks. Several Black-capped Chickadees, American Red Squirrels and Blue Jays were eating their fill; a single Gray Jay was also looking for handouts, and spent most of its time approaching the people coming and going rather than sampling the seeds left in the snow. Three Common Redpolls also flew in, while a single Pine Grosbeak seemed content to pick up grit from the parking lot. Then I heard a Boreal Chickadee calling from the edge of the parking area. His song is a slower, raspier version of the Black-capped Chickadee’s chick-a-dee-dee-dee. Deb managed to find it bouncing among the branches of a spruce tree, a beautiful little bird dressed in rufous and brown.
On Sunday Deb and I drove to Algonquin Provincial Park to enjoy some late winter/early spring birding. It has been a good winter for Boreal finches, with small numbers of Pine Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Red Crossbills and White-winged Crossbills reported in the park regularly and large numbers of Evening Grosbeaks (particularly at the Visitor Center feeders) and Pine Siskins seen daily. Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpeckers and Boreal Chickadees have also been seen regularly throughout the winter, and the mammal reports intrigued us – moose sightings have been sporadic along Highway 60; a lone wolf was seen crossing the highway in January; a red fox was eating black sunflower seed at the Visitor Centre on January 25th; and Pine Martens have been found regularly at Opeongo Road, the Spruce Bog Boardwalk, and the Mew Lake Campground. With so many species around this winter, we were sure to see something interesting!
Yesterday Deb and I spent the day at Algonquin Park. Although it was supposed to be cold (the high was supposed to be only 8°C), it was also supposed to be sunny. Dawn was breaking over thick, dark, cloudy skies in Ottawa, but by the time we reached Eganville we could see plenty of blue sky ahead. We saw a couple of Great Blue Herons, a flock of Wild Turkeys, four Turkey Vultures, large flocks of blackbirds, a Belted Kingfisher, and a couple of unidentified hawks on our drive; then, by the time we were about half an hour away from the park, several large, misty clouds had swallowed up the sky. In Whitney a light, misty rain began to fall; by the time we reached the park gate we saw – to our horror – snow mixed in with the rain! Continue reading →
The 27th of July was our last day in the park. I was sad to be leaving, and after Doran and I had our breakfast we quickly broke down our camp and packed everything in the car. My Dad still had to pack up his site and stow everything securely in the trailer, so Doran and I went back to the Whiskey Rapids Trail. As we were there earlier in the day the biting insects weren’t so bad, and the light was much better for photography by the time we reached the rapids. This time I brought my net to catch some dragonflies.
Doran and I returned to our campsite for lunch. Afterward Doran wanted to rest, and since my Dad wasn’t around I decided to read for a while. A Northern Pearly-eye wandered into our campsite, so I took some photos of it resting in a patch of sunlight. After about half an hour, however, I started to get restless and decided to go for a walk up to the lake. I was hoping to find some dragonflies, as I’d seen a few large, dark ones patrolling the shoreline on my previous visit, but none were visible this time. I did count four loons on the lake, and a small number of Chipping Sparrows flitting between the lawn and the conifers above the swimming area.