Sunday 12 June 2022

I Love This Park: Part 1

I've spent too much time exploring Algonquin Park, and not enough time writing about it! I'll have to play some catch-up. Today's post will be about a three day trip I did on the East Side of the Park in Late May.

Back on May 23, I met up with Jeff Skevington and Vince Fyson for a couple days of Breeding Bird Atlassing in the interior of the Park (Jeff had an interior access permit to use logging roads). Our destination was Odenback on Radiant Lake, but also planned to do a bit of exploring along Bissett Creek Road, Shirley Lake Road, and Hogan Lake Road.

We met at Achray in the evening, and after a night of listening to Long-tailed Ducks migrating overhead, we left in the wee hours of the morning for Radiant Lake. The drive was pretty uneventful, although we did encounter a couple Whip-poor-wills along the way.

We arrived around 5:30, and got right to it. It was pretty cold out, and with nights of north winds in the days before, there weren't very many migrants to look at (Odenback has hosted a number of rarities over the years that we were keen to try and find). Overall, not really anything to write home about, other than a Brown Thrasher, which are very uncommon in the Park. We still garnered a decent list though:

We got back into the car and went for a drive, stopping along the way whenever something piqued our interest. One of our first stops of the day was at an interesting looking wetland that the Little Madawaska River meanders through. Jeff wanted to put up a song recorder, so we got closer to investigate and scope out possible locations. As I approached, I heard a pair of Virginia Rails, which are always a great bird to encounter in Algonquin Park. There were also a number of Yellow Warblers, another very uncommon breeder in the Park. Then, as we were talking, off in the distance, I heard it. It stopped me dead in my tracks. A simple, but beautiful, "Fitz-bew!".

I couldn't believe it. A few tense seconds passed, and then it sang again.


Could it be? Jeff heard it when it sang for the third time, and his heart rate must of spiked to the same dangerous levels that mine had. We took off running in the direction of the vocalization.


We found ourselves in the presence of the Holy Grail of Algonquin Park birds. It was a Willow Flycatcher. But not just any Willow Flycatcher, the first Willow Flycatcher to ever be observed in Algonquin Provincial Park. 

This species is a true enigma. It has left Algonquin Park birders scratching their heads for the better part of the last century, wondering why this species had never been recorded in the Park. It is a species that I have long dreamed about finding, and now, there it was, in front of me.

I should mention, I forgot my rubber boots at the office, so my only pair of footwear for the entire three days was my steel-toe work boots. There was a wet sedge-y area between me and the flycatcher, so I did what any reasonable person would do—I took off my boots and socks, and cut my feet to pieces on the sharp edges (scabrous, for those who are botanically inclined) of the Carex stricta leaves in order to get closer to the quarry. Jeff had done the same, although he left his boots on. 

Willow Flycatcher habitat, apparently

We managed to get great looks and audio records of this flycatcher. You can see some photos and recordings taken by Jeff here:

I didn't have my camera...

Needless to say, that was the highlight of the day. We did some more exploring, but didn't find any more new park birds. In the evening, we went back into that wetland by canoe to try for Yellow Rails, but had no success. Not super surprising, I suppose!

The nest morning we were back at Odenback, and it was COLD. There was frost on the ground, so it was right around zero degrees. Again, it seemed as though there were no new migrants which was a bit discouraging. We looked regardless. At one point, Jeff and I were on the far side of the field, and spotted Vince waving us over. What could it be? Well, it turns out we got at least one migrant—Vince had found a singing male  Golden-winged Warbler. This is an excellent bird for the Park, and one I was very happy to get to see. He was moving around quite a lot. Habitat is decent, so in the unlikely case a female shows up, perhaps he has a chance.

It was another decent morning, but again not a ton of movement. A pair of Green-winged Teal were a bit odd.

We left Odenback and started to make our way back to Lake Travers, were my car was, and we would part ways (Jeff and Vince were on their way out to Saskatchewan). We stopped at a bridge over the Petawawa River at Radiant Lake to look at a pair of Barn Swallows (a nest was found), and decided to bird around a bit. It paid off, as we soon found a Blackpoll Warbler (new for my Park List), and got very brief looks at a Northern Mockingbird, a rarity. A stop that was worthwhile! My feet were also killing me at this point due to the dampness and the sedge scratches, but no pain, no gain...

The rest of the drive back to my car was uneventful. We said our good-byes, and then went our separate ways. Although, I didn't have to go very far, as I would be spending the night on Lake Travers...and there was rain in the forecast.

Part 2

1 comment:

  1. Hey there, Quinten! How are your feet feeling now? Silly boy! How cool that you found a Willow Flycatcher...amazing find! Wishing you more "happy birding"! Take care! 🤗