Totally captivated in 2007 by the live camera feed of the Hornby Island nesting Bald Eagles in B.C., I was drawn into birding and have never looked back. Thus begins my account of what I'm fortunate enough to discover each day and perhaps capture with my camera.

Unless otherwise stated, all images were taken by and are the property of Janice Melendez

Species Counts:

2014 Final Year List: 255; 2015 Year List a/o June 5, 2015: 235; Life List: 327

Monday, October 3, 2011

Double Trouble in the Park

Ann and I always seem to get into trouble no matter what (well, according to her, it's apparently me more than her), and the week-end that began on Friday, September 16th was no exception. Still totally pumped by our Moosing misadventures from the day before in Algonquin, I made a quick run back home to Whitby early the next morning to drop off the puppinksies with Robert for the week-end so Ann and I could return back up to the park for an overnight stay. 

The first misadventure of the trip was all on me, as I stormed out of the least efficient Timmie's in North America  the monopoly only Timmie's in Bobcaygeon without Ann's paid-for bagel order, after standing in line for twenty minutes and not moving an inch. Hey, at least I had the coffee! This being the very same Timmie's that set Ann's sandwich order on fire right before our very eyes two days before, I kid you not, need I say more??!!  

What is it with Timmie's up north?  And what about the Minden Timmie's, how slow was that one?? It was so slow that after sitting in the drive-through for ten minutes and barely moving, I had time to get out of the car, go inside for a bio break, return back to the car that was still waiting in the drive- through, and be able to even change my order as we had still not yet arrived at the order window. I could have flown over to the newly-opened Timmie's restaurant in Dubai and done better, grrrrrrrrr.

But enough of my rant, back to the park! Before arriving at the West Gate to the park, we swooned over this landscape, made all the more interesting by distant gunshots, nooooooooooo:

We safely arrived at Algonquin in the early afternoon...

...and hoping for a repeat performance of the Moose sightings from the day before, we immediately headed back to the trail and learned that what we had experienced the day before was probably a once-in-a-lifetime event, as no Moose were to be found anywhere. However, Ann jumped ten feet in the air when this lil fellow scooted across the trail in front of her:

Our find of the day was a small flock of Boreal Chickadees that tortured us with their raspy calls as they flitted in and out of the evergreens, and for the next few days they continued with this annoying behaviour to ensure we were unable to get any decent photos of them. We also ran into Angie and Rob on the trail, who were pleased that we shared our special find with them!

Other than that, it was very quiet on both the birding and critter front, so instead we aimed our cameras at the beautiful landscapes as the late-day lighting was beginning to change:

Rugged walls  of rock revealed contrasting colours...

 ...but it was the autumn reflections of Algonquin in the water that mesmerized us both:

Floating away:

Aquatic brushstrokes:

A pleasant drive along Opeongo Road at dusk completed our visit to the park for the day, as we wanted to drive back to the motel in daylight.

Our next misadventure for the trip was at the motel check-in, only to discover that our reservations had been bungled up by the new owners. Frustrated by their lack of accountability, initiative, customer service and problem-solving skills, I frantically called around for other accommodations (from my cell phone, that is, as there were no phones in the room. "Free WiFi" was only available from the main building, the list went on and on) while Ann successfully practised her negotiating skills with the on-duty staff for a full refund. 

But by now of course it was pitch black out, and trust, me driving along Highway 60 in the dark, when sections of it are under construction with no lines to guide you, when you just know that at any moment, any number of critters could possibly jump out in front of you, this was not a fun time as well as the only time we ever prayed to not see critters!!! 


But we safely made it to our cozy new motel whose compassionate owners stayed open late to await our arrival, and it turned out to be the best place in the end. We had an excellent stay there, and their sincere friendliness and hospitality more than made up for the stress caused by the other motel.

We were thrilled to see the view of Spring Lake from our room the next morning at daybreak, as the gorgeous autumn colours were muted by the mist rising off the lake:

We decided then and there that we needed more time in the park, so we extended our stay, after enjoying a fabulous hearty breakfast with fellow birders Bill and Margaret. 

Although we dipped on the Moose again, the scenery more than made up for it (well, not really, but what choice did we have??). Another reflection shot:

My new favorite place in the province:

A first year male Spruce Grouse was a special treat to see on the side of the road, I've only ever seen the adults in Algonquin:

This was also a year bird for me, as we dipped on it during the OFO outing back in April:

A Great Blue Heron was in this tiny pond each and every time we drove by it:

And more tranquil landscapes to enjoy:

Along Opeongo Road I saw my first ever Pine Marten, and even though it was a really brief glimpse, it was still enough of a view to properly identify it. We returned to the main highway, and just for fun decided to see if Ann's CAA membership was current (it was). We also learned that Bell kicked Rogers' butt when it came to cell phone reception in Whitney, c'mon guys, what's up with that?? We also learned that there is extremely limited access to a car mechanic, even on a Saturday. We also learned that if one drives a noisy car long enough, the rock that was picked up along the way on one of the back roads will eventually be spewed back out onto the highway. Each and every time Ann and I have gone to the park we encounter some sort of automotive malfunction (on Thursday's day trip visit, a warning light decided to act up on my vehicle).  Actually, I just made up this last part, just in case any family members are reading this, you can all calm down now, everything was just fine, as is always the case on our road trips!

That evening over another delicious home-cooked meal in the motel restaurant, we decided on one last attempt to see some Moose, but this time it would be at daybreak the following morning. So it was that we were up at 5:30 a.m., heading out on Highway 60 in the dark yet again, further aggravated by fog, no lines on the road, and worst of all, no coffee in us!! Another white knuckle drive by Ann got us to the area on time to see more morning mist on the water:

But imagine our surprise when this beautiful Red Fox kit briefly appeared in front of us, running into the bush at the side of the road, but then he came back out to the road, once we stopped the car:

This was the closest ever that I had been to one in the wild, and certainly the healthiest. Most of the Red Foxes that come into the Toronto Wildlife Centre suffer from mange, so it was a pleasure to see such a healthy one:

What was not so good, though, was that he was begging almost like a dog would, so it was apparent that he was more accustomed to humans than was good for him. As I retrieved my tripod out of the car trunk, he waltzed around to the back of the car to watch me. He sat down, lay down, and checked us out for food, no doubt, but once he finally realized he was wasting his time on us, he left.

We continued on to the parking lot for our Moosing adventure, only to find several cars already there ahead of us, and any hopes of seeing wildlife was quickly dashed as it was a quite a large group of people on a nature walk where conversation took priority over critters.

We met up with Margaret and Barry, though, and had a splendid time together with them both. An adult male Spruce Grouse on the trail almost landed on Margaret's head when he took off, quite the close call for her! Ann and Barry stayed near the marsh while Margaret and I did our first work-out for the day as we hiked along the trail:

A heavy frost covered the grasses in the marshy areas:

The warmth of the sunlight was gradually burning off the mist:

It was still such a magical time of day in the park:

A Great Blue Heron warmed itself up....

...until it decided to move on:

Cedar Waxwings, Hooded Mergansers, and Northern Flickers were seen:

But still no Moose, so we headed over to Peck Lake Trail, as warblers had been seen in the parking lot, as well as Beavers and Common Loons out on the lake:

The 2.3 kilometre trail follows the shoreline of Peck Lake, with occasional lookout points:


As Ann and I made our way around the lake, towards the end of the trail we ran into Margaret again, and she immediately showed us where she had seen the young Common Loon out on the water. Sure enough, there it was, a gorgeous young bird, very close to the shoreline, slowly swimming back and forth right in front of us, but every so often it was frantically shaking its head, and we could see something sticking up from its back. At first its behaviour reminded me of the Osprey head shake, but our joy quickly turned to horror when we realized what was really going on.

I take absolutely no pleasure in posting these next three photos, as this poor juvenile Common Loon was severely tangled up in fishing line.

The fishing lure/hook is caught on its lower back, but the fishing line is wrapped around its lower beak and tongue. The fishing line can be seen on the left side of its neck:

One of its calmer moments between frantic "untangling" attempts: 

There are times when one just has to do something versus nothing.

After making several phone calls while keeping a watchful eye on the Loon (once again, those nerdy walkie talkies saved the day!), Ontario Parks staff eventually arrived to make a rescue attempt, but in vain. Common Loons are one of the most challenging species to rescue, as they're excellent divers and swimmers. Calls were also made to both the Muskoka and Toronto Wildlife Centres, as well as another organization called "A Wing and a Prayer".

Since that day as part of our follow-up, I have contacted a few other private individuals for their expertise to help save this poor Loon, and in fact a second rescue attempt was made a few days later, also in vain. We continue to monitor the lake for the Loon's presence, sadly with no luck so far, although I'm returning back up there again tomorrow for another look and will notify the Muskoka Wildlife Centre accordingly.
Our sincere thanks and gratitude go to everyone who has helped out with this very sad situation, including Margaret (who not only located the bird for us, but she and her husband Barry stayed behind with Ann and I until the Ontario Parks staff arrived), and all of the wildlife organizations and concerned individuals (Justin, Chris, and Andrew) that have given us encouragement and support.
To quote Justin, it's truly sad that a Loon can still haunt us, not just by its call... 
It was an upsetting way to wrap up our visit to Algonquin, but it was now time for us to return to the cottage in the Kawarthas before it got dark, so with heavy hearts we hit the road.
A quick stop at the Osprey nest on our way home cheered us up a bit (LEE: this is not an imminent pooparazzi shot!):
One of the babies flies overhead while the other one gives him the hairy feathery eyeball, can't they just get along, already??

...still keeping it in its sight:

It finally settles down:

Ann left for home the next morning, both of us being physically and mentally fried from the past few days together, but particularly because of the distressing Loon encounter.
As always, though, there were lots of shared adventures, misadventures, and in general, plain insanity. I haved since named ourselves "The Cuckoo and The Loon", who knows what our next adventure will be!


Lee said...

Awesome as always, Janice! I am really hoping to go back up in November if I manage to get a day off. I'll get my pictures together at some point this week but we really are lucky to have such a gorgeous park relatively close to the city.

Jen said...

That is so awful about the loon! I found a dead gull on the beach here with a fish hook in its pelvis... On a brighter note, the scenery you photographed is beautiful and I am mad jealous of your close fox encounter!! Oh and not to mention the grouse sightings!

Ann Brokelman said...

Janice a terrific account of many amazing days. Between the two of us the loon and cuckoo (the perfect name) we survived 6 days of great birding together.
You seriously need to write a book Janice. I love your writing.