Monday 19 September 2016

Algonquin Park 2016

Algonquin played a large part in my childhood. I know what you're thinking, but no, I didn't go up there all the time. In fact, this is only my second time hiking on the trails. It was a large part because of all the stories my dad told me about his adventures within the park in his late teens. The tales he told shaped who I am today. If he hadn't taken a canoe trip a few decades ago, I probably wouldn't have ever stepped in a canoe. My love of the outdoors started with his stories, and now I'm living my own story.

This trip all started back in July when I came across some old blog posts that the  Burg' Birder wrote last year. He went to Algonquin, and seeing his phots and hearing the stories, I knew that I wanted to go in late September. I saw most of my target bird species, missing a major one (Gray Jay), and didn't get to the old railway bed, but I still had a lot of fun.

Early Saturday morning, my family piles up in the van and begins the six hour trek to the oldest and most famous provincial park in Ontario. I saw a few birds on the way including Northern Harrier, Northern Flicker, and Common Raven.

We arrived around eleven, and bought the permit plus some other books and guides at the west gate. We went to find a place for lunch. We tried the east beach first, but there wasn't really anywhere to sit. At least I found a few Dark-eyed Juncos and a late-ish immature Rose-breasted Grosbeak! We decided on the Lake of Two Rivers picnic area, where I swear I heard a Cardinal, but I know they are very rare, so I'm just going to assume It was a Chickadee or something. I also saw this cool looking mushroom. The next day it was three-times this size.

Despite it was raining, we went to the Lookout Trail. It was very foggy and looked like we were walking in the rainforest.

The lookout was spectacular, I can only imagine what it would look like during peak colour.

A few Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Black-throated Green Warbler were seen at the top. A single Double-crested Cormorant flew by as well.

We went to the Visitor Center next, and I must say, their exhibits are really cool! It was raining quite hard, so we decided to not do anymore trails and just go to the motel. But before we left, I checked the bird sightings and saw that a Spruce Grouse was spotted at the Spruce Bog boardwalk parking lot earlier, so we went to go find it, but we didn't locate it. We did make some new friends though.


The next morning, I took advantage of the motel's canoes, and went on a quick paddle around their lake. The highlight was probably the Common Loon that flew over singing it's song.

I saw a Monarch after breakfast in the garden.

We did a little bit of Mizzy Lake trail first thing. I knew we wouldn't be able to do all 11 km, both because of time and we were travelling with my father (who's leg is in pain), and my grandmother (who, as all humans who live to an old age, slow down. She's a trooper though, and made it through the trail slowly but surely). It took us about 2.5 hours to get to post 2, and another 1.5 hours to get out along a closed road, but we made it.

There was a lot of interesting fungi throughout the park.

I've confirmed Red Squirrels laugh at you while you struggle to get around mud and climb over rocks.

I wanted this bird to be a Goshawk, but I'll settle for Northern Harrier.

I found my first "life bird" of the trip. I've seen Black-backed Woodpeckers before, but it was before I started birding. I decided to wait until I saw it again to count it on my life list.

Canada Darners and Autumn Meadowhawks were everywhere. Along with this Chain-dotted Geometer (thanks Blake!).

We got a little bit of colour this weekend.

I wasn't expecting to find Savannah Sparrows in the middle of a forest, but two were working along a closed road.

We found a number of moose tracks. You can sort of see it here.

My third species of warbler this weekend...Common Yellowthroat.

A Eastern Phoebe and Hermit Thrush were found along the road.

We finally reached Hwy 60 off the closed road trail we were walking from Mizzy Lake.

 We were on our way to the picnic area, when we noticed a number of people along the side of the road. I looked back and instantly knew. I wasted no time in shouting "MOOSE!!! TWO OF EM!"

It turned out it was actually three of them, a cow and two calves. These were the first moose that I  and three other members of our party had ever seen, and no one was more excited than my aunt. She jumped out of the car and closed the door, forgetting about the two people in the back seats. She ran up to the guard rail with her bins, then remembered about her fellow passengers so she went back to help them.

I also saw a  Band-winged Meadowhawk (thanks again Blake!).

After the excitement, and the moose left, we went to lunch. A Canada Goose and Common Loon were observed.

The VC was next on our list, and we enjoyed the observation deck without the rain.

My grandmother had fun flashing everyone her new T-shirt.

Bears Love Humans!
(they taste like chicken)

We went to the Spruce Bog boardwalk afterward, and while walking through the woods, I heard a wing whir. I looked around and saw a Red Squirrel in a bush about 20 feet ahead of me. But...I then realized it wasn't a Red Squirrel. It was a female Spruce Grouse! I hunkered down in the sphagnum moss, and started taking photos. It was too dark to take normal photos however, so I had to use flash. That is why the grouse ended up with red eyes.

Since this is a spruce bog, it was dominated with Black Spruce.

The Black-capped Chickadees are really friendly on this trail, and would often eat out of your hand (as you saw earlier in the post).

 I heard one Boreal Chickadee on this trail as well. I was happy to observe this species not only because it's a lifer, but now I didn't have to search every single chickadee flock to find this species.

I thought I had found a Gray Jay, but it turned out to be a Blue Jay.

This trail is probably one of my favourite trails I've ever hiked.

We were going to the Railway bed, when we noticed a few cars parked on the shoulder. It turned out they were looking at two young bull moose.

They got incredibly close and I'd say we were about 10 feet away at one point.

As you may have guessed, my aunt went wild with excitement once again. Once she started talking, she didn't stop. I can't remember everything she said, but there was something along the lines of posting to YouTube what happens when she leaves and that he "wants to come home with me." The last line she said to three separate park rangers. I don't think that I need to mention that she got a few weird looks.

As we were about to leave, a cow moose started moaning in the forest, upping the day's moose total up to six.

Morale of the story: When you pull over to look at moose, you end up not getting to see Gray Jays.

It was a very fun weekend, and I wouldn't change a thing (except maybe seeing a Gray Jay).I'm hoping to get back before the year's end to see some winter finches...and a GRAY JAY!

Here are the answers to Birds Body Part Quiz from Friday!

1. Lesser Yellowlegs
2. Killdeer
3. Ring-billed Gull
4. Tree Swallow
5. Virginia Rail
6. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
7. Piping Plover
8. Blackburnian Warbler
9. Yellow Warbler
10. Bay-breasted Warbler
11. Swamp Sparrow


  1. Thanks for the mention!
    The moth is a Chain-dotted Geometer-quite common. The meadowhawk is a Band-winged-common this time of year.
    I won't be making it up there this year, but hopefully again next year.

    1. Thanks Blake! I'll probably be back next year as well. The CDG moth was very common along the boardwalk in Mizzy Lake, and I saw a Canada Darner catch one...very cool!

  2. Nice pictures, I'd be interested in letting you be a part of my bird banding program.

  3. Thanks for their inroduction to your adventure. I had the time of my life up there. I'm glad you are now caring on with our story where I left off. Savour every moment of it. Your loving dad.

  4. Hi! I love love love your MOOSE photos! Thank you for sharing them! :D Algonquin Park is a fantastic place to much fun!