Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Second Half of a Long Weekend...to Algonquin!

Where I left off last time was just finishing a visit to Killbear PP for the first half of the August long weekend.  For the second half of the weekend I was taken (by surprise!) to Algonquin Provincial Park for my very first backpacking trip (even if it was just an overnight one...it wasn't "car" camping!)

We went for a hike on the Western Upland Backpacking trail and made our way out towards Maple Leaf Lake. Our first stop was a few km in and it was near a giant beaver damn.  The water levels were obviously very low, leaving a lot of the area to be a mud flat.  I was actually very surprised that there were not more shorebirds there picking away in the mud!  Instead, we only saw one!  I am not the best yet at shorebirds, but I what we saw I have identified as being a Spotted Sandpiper! What an adorable little guy he was!
Spotted Sandpiper!
We continued further along the path. It seemed most of the time that all we were doing was walking uphill!  Isn't that always the way.  We stopped for a little snack on a rock in the middle of a little beautiful waterfall.  I don't think anything beats sunflower seeds and beef jerky when you are out in the woods! While here we had the most beautiful dragonfly land near a tree by us, so I took a few shots of it.  Turns out it is an Ebony Jewelwing! It was over all quite a quiet walk through the woods, I didn't really hear too many birds what so ever, minus the odd Chickadee!

Ebony Jewelwing Dragonfly

We finally made it to Maple Leaf Lake and spent the rest of the day collecting firewood, looking around, playing with chipmunks, and just completely vegging.   The sunset was absolutely beautiful on the lake and although it was too cold to actually swim we were able to put our legs in the water, hang out in the sun, and enjoy the loons with two young swim around the lake and listen to their haunting songs.  When the stars came out I could have almost sworn that I've never seen anything quite that amazing.  Half of me was scared that it was pitch black and I was just standing there (who knows what lurks!) and the other half couldn't move at the magnificence of it all. I hadn't seen stars like that since I was up working in Chapleau/Gogama area for a summer.  Just absolutely stunning.

The next morning I heard a very familiar song...one of the white-throated sparrow!  Now, I know that this is a fairly common bird but I had yet to actually SEE it!  So I went on a little hunt and was finally able to track this guy down.  What a beautiful bird it was!  Unfortunately my picture of it happened to turn out a little...hazy looking.
White-throated Sparrow.
White-throated Sparrow

Just before we left the next morning a little toad stopped by to wish us well!

American Toad

If anyone is thinking about taking a backpacking trip, Algonquin is totally the place to go. I am so glad to have been brought here, even though most people would scream at the thought of hiking about 16km in 24 hours! Maple Leaf Lake was also a beautiful place to stay. Not too, too far of a hike and was perfect for an overnight backpacking trip.  The lake itself was stunning and so clear, I wish it was just a little warmer to have swam (which is saying a lot because I hate swimming!)

The sights, the smells, the sounds...it was all just amazing. I really hope to head up that way again sometime in the fall because the colours will be nothing short of brilliant!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An adventurous long weekend.

I spent another fabulous long weekend at Killbear Provincial Park, the long weekend of August. Well, the first half of it anyways!

Our first adventure was out to Harold Point, the area of the park that has an amazing beach as well as a place known as the "jumping rocks".  The first thing I saw here, I have to say, are the absolute cutest thing I have ever seen in my life.  While beginning the hike I heard little peeping noises. All excited I knew there were babies nearby and after a few minutes of quiet searching...I spotted them!  What an amazing sight.  For sure I can tell you that they are flycatchers, although getting more specific may be a little more difficult.  The vast majority of people have agreed that they look to be little fledgling eastern Phoebes.  Unfortunately, I did not get that great of a look at the adult birds.  From the quick flyby that I did get, it looked like a certain possibility!
Potential Eastern Phoebe Fledglings

Female deer overlooking the Bay
It was another fairly quiet afternoon when it came to birds.  I did see a few flycatchers, although they
did not stay long enough for me to take a good look and ID them.  Common Merganser young were seen floating in the bay, yellow warblers also sung around us.  Our first mammal of the weekend was a very, very relaxed deer.  While walking along the rocks we saw ran into her, which shocked me a little as the last thing I expect to see is a deer out on rock cliffs!

The next exciting spotting was our first snake of the weekend, a beautiful Watersnake.  This guy was hiding in some tall grasses and we just happened to spot it slowly moving as we walked by it.  As it slowly slithered out of the grasses and onto the open rock we were able to notice that it was a really beautiful red morph.  I was fairly surprised at the number of people who walked by us, very set in their walk out of the area, and not being able to notice this little guy.  It makes me so happy that I and the person I am with, have such keen eyes and are constantly on the look out for this beauty.


We later decided to walk out into these beautiful back woods, still inside the park but taking an old path that seemed as if it hadn't been used in the past few decades.  The remnants of the path were still around, so we tried to follow them as close as possible to get ourselves out towards the rock outcrops.  We spotted quite a few different things while out there, another flycatcher sp., spring peeper, leopard frog, black-throated green warbler, yellow warblers, and a really big lump of fresh bear poo.  Naturally after seeing this, I was just a little bit on edge as by the sight of it we could assume the bear had been there within the last half hour.  Although I am used to working in bear country, I can't help getting a little nervous! 

Massie in the rocks
After getting a little "lost" (or as we like to say it wanting to walk in a giant circle) we reached the rock outcrops! It was such a beautiful outlook to the bay, it was almost breath-taking. We walked over to the first little patches of rocks and there in the middle was a beautiful Massasauga!  We took her back to the research station to get fitted, weighed, etc. and then brought her back out to where she had been previously found.  I was so happy to hear that someone called about us to the wardens making sure that we were not poachers collecting snakes.  I always love to hear when people do this because a lot of the time, people could really care less!  Hearing that someone was worried for the life of a creature that has often been so feared by humans, well that was just wonderful! 

So, that was the ending of the few days that we spent out at Killbear, although the next half of the weekend was a complete surprise to me.  Little did I know we were actually heading off to Algonquin Park!  To be continued...

Lookout of the Bay

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Birding Hike at Tommy Thompson

Well, I am skipping ahead by one post as the next one is going to be fairly long..most likely a two parter!
Canada Geese and Mallards on Lake Ontario

This morning I went on the first fall Bird Hike at Tommy Thompson Park here in Toronto.  The hike is put on by volunteers for the Conservation Authority and runs every Sunday at 8am.  It was my first time today assisting with leading the hike, and hopefully next week I may be able to help out again!

We had two people attend the hike, one was even from Seattle.  Both wonderful ladies!  We were able to see a few great birds along the trails we went around on.  First we hiked the trail that is directly off the main entrance and runs along the water's edge of Lake Ontario.  Here we saw Warbling Vireo, Song Sparrows, Cardinals, Mallards, Canadian Geese, Goldfinch, Chimney Swifts, Downey Woodpecker, Barn and Bank Swallows, and Caspian Terns. We were even able to spot a few Cedar Waxwings and their young!  They were not what I expected them to look like and had they not had a little mask, I wouldn't have been able to know they were Waxwings!  Way up in the sky we were also able to see a Osprey fly overhead.
Waxwing Young

We then continued out onto the road and towards the wetland cells.  Barn, tree, and a few bank swallows were flying overhead making their usual friendly chatter.  We got to hear and see some Caspian Terns. One of the ladies joked about how she made the sound all the time to the young ones in her family and now she can actually say she's mimicking a tern!

Great Egret in the cattails
Jumping around in some bushes we got great sights of Baltimore Orioles.  I really never get tired of their melodies and whistles, or their brightness!  Kingbirds were also flying around, but I've learnt that there is NEVER a lack of them at this location!  It was really interesting talking to the lady from Seattle. She was so excited to see the cardinal as they don't have any there.  I often find myself taking 'common' birds for granted so I always love having people like this around as it reminds me of the beauty that they really do hold.

Looking over the wetland cells we spotted a beautiful Great Egret walking around amongst the cattails.  We even got a surprise sighting of one of my favourite herons...the Black-crowned Night Heron.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a great shot of it! The only other birds we saw where a whole bundle of Double-creasted Cormorants.  Every time I visit I am surprised at the vast amount of Cormorants that can be seen flying over.

Can't wait for next Sunday. Hope everyone is having great times in the sun!

Cormorants flying over the wetland cells