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

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rediscovering Autumn in Ontario

I have a confession to make: I have embarked on a new love affair with autumn in Algonquin!

I made a solo return trip there on Monday, September 26th, mainly to look for the troubled juvenile Common Loon on Peck Lake as well as any moose, sssssh, not a good thing to do when alone!, but also to take in the fall colours which were almost at their peak:

I have since rejoiced in my rediscovery of autumn, as this was the first time that I'd ever been to the Park at this time of year, and it's now going to be a regular event for me going forward. As I left the Kawarthas in the dark at pre-dawn and drove through the Haliburton Highlands, the colour intensity became strongest in Algonquin, my gasps as I rounded each curve in the road were wearing me out!


My first stop was at Peck Lake to look for this poor Common Loon that Ann and I had seen in distress on September 18th:

I did an insanely quick circuit of the lake and unfortunately could not find any sign of the Loon, and at this point in time I wasn't even sure if that was a good or a bad sign.

The fall colours along the shoreline of Peck Lake were spectacular, though:

Common Mergansers breed in the Park, and one of my resource booklets tells me that the females become single moms almost immediately after mating season, I saw four that day. There's also a standing war between them and loons, so they tend to stick close to the shoreline:

 The distant call of a Common Loon caught my attention at one point, but it was well north of the lake, so I continued along the hiking trail:

My next stop was at Wolf Howl Pond, where I spent ninety minutes of sheer joy taking in the fresh air and beautiful colours of the landscape:

Reflections of autumn in the pond:

Painted Turtles basked in the sunshine:

I encountered a tiny, newly-hatched Snapping Turtle on the trail:

Ironically, a few of its siblings had already been crushed to death by the university research vehicle that made daily visits to monitor turtle eggs, this was a missed area that was lacking wire protection. This little fellow's eyes weren't even open yet:

The colours continued to take my breath away (instead of moose for a change!) :

An inquisitive Palm Warbler checked me out, one of several that I saw along the trail:

A shy White-throated Sparrow really wanted to pay me a visit but was unable to find the courage to come out into the open:


An adult male Yellow-rumped Warbler was more adventuresome:

I left the pond and continued along the main highway... Rock Lake Road...

...and arrived at Coon Lake, a brand new lookout spot for me with a phenomenal colour palette of brilliant reds, greens, rusts, oranges, and golds... 

...accentuated by the white bark of the trees, I was in heaven:

But it was back to the harsh reality of crowds and tour buses (even on a weekday!) when I arrived at the Visitor Centre, so I took a quick peek at the fall colours from the lookout deck and then hit the road again:

Another lovely view of the Park from the highway...

...was where I also spotted this huge adult Snapping Turtle meandering into the muddy waters of the pond:

More autumn colours along the highway distracted me:

My final panoramic vista before leaving the Park... this burly, yet still somehow handsome Common Raven escorted me back to the West Gate:

My return trip back to the cottage was beautiful, with the progression of fall colours being less advanced the further south I got, as expected. On a whim I stopped off at the Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower for a comparison:

But here's the deal on this tower: the location originally had a lookout tower for forest fires between 1922 and 1961, but this existing structure was opened just east of the original tower in 1967. That's all well and good, but unfortunately for me, the daunting thought of climbing up to the top, a whopping one hundred feet in the air with absolutely nothing between me and those gorgeous autumn colours just made me want to barf. There, I've said it, I suffer from vertigo, although flying isn't a problem for me, thank goodness. Past trips to the Grand Canyon and the Pacific Coast Highway near Pebble Beach had me hiding under the dashboard of the rental car. But I had come this far, and since there were no crowds to see me wailing, flailing, weeping, or puking, I attempted an ascent to the top and survived! It was definitely worth it in the end, despite my hyperactive gag reflex that gave new meaning to the expression "camera shake":

I forced myself to take this photo of a Turkey Vulture from above!

From the observation deck one can see over three hundred and ten square miles, which of course assumes that one's hands aren't covering the face!

The observation deck is four hundred and sixty-five feet over Lake of Bays I'm sure glad that I didn't read these specs until now! :

I made landfall fifteen minutes later, removing my bib and then cleaning myself  up before hitting the road again to continue home to the cottage, and saw this lone adult Osprey at the bridge near my nest, I wondered if this was possibly Dad taking a breather from the kids??

At the nest only one forlorn-looking baby quietly sat still:

So what an amazing road trip I had experienced that day, even if no Moose were seen in the Park. The autumn colours just dazzled me, and I was thrilled to have rediscovered autumn in Ontario. I knew I'd be back to Algonquin again very soon!


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