Friday, July 19, 2013

Birding Algonquin Park in Late June

Algonquin was amazing, we spent three days there during the last week of June as part of our summer vacation. It was our first time there actually!  I can't complain, but again, just like Georgian Bay Islands National Park, it was too wild and undeveloped  for my two kids to really appreciate (or they are just at a bad age 1 & 4). I really wanted to walk the Mizzy Lake Trail in its entirety, but only walked 1/4 of it. The Ontario Field Ornithologists have a great article about this trail here: . The 1/4 of the Mizzy Lake Trail circuit is still 6-8 or so kilometers (round trip), a challenging walk with 35llbs on your back, mosquitoes, biting flies and at times, muddy/slippery/flooded trails. Hardly a bench is offered to a weary hiker, but again, who am I to complain!
West Rose Lake was gorgeous. It offered the best birding as well, with Black Backed Woodpecker, Alder Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher as well as a bunch of warbler, sparrow and blackbird species.

Wolf-howl Pond Algonquin Park
The Amazing Resilience of the American Robin
At times, I would see a bird along the Mizzy Lake Trail, and put up my binoculars to see which majestic boreal species was greeting me. While focusing on the bird, I would anticipate the rareness of this unknown avian species of the north. I would think about driving 11km off the Hwy 60 corridor (along Arowhon Road) into the real wild, then hike 6 km into the deepest depths of the wild, undisturbed Algonquin. As I follow the bird, I wonder... would it be a Ruffed or Spruce Grouse? Gray Jay? Boreal Chickadee or Black backed Woodpecker?  Finally, I focus in on this avian subject and come to realize it was just a Robin....

Brief looks at Black backed Woodpecker
While walking along the Mizzy Lake Trail, I had just passed West Rose Lake, and I was at the end of my walk. I was looking at my map for "Flycatcher Bog" which I think has been filled in with natural forest succession. Giving up and starting to head back, a dark bird flew over my head through the old railway corridor that makes up this part of the path, then the bird flies back into the forest and alights (in the manner that woodpeckers do) onto a trailside tree. I was not sure what it was, but I briskly walked up to the area that it appeared to land in, and after searching for a moment, found it! The woodpecker worked its way up the side of a lichen encrusted tree flashing some yellow into my eyes in the process. Amazed, I realized that this might be the 10th woodpecker species that I've seen in my short apprenticeship of birding. I tried to take a few shots, but just couldn't seem to get focused on the subject. Then boom! Gone!

Diagnostic photo of a Black backed Woodpecker -Lifer!
I don't have to worry about anyone stealing this photo! .... 
10 Woodpecker Species:
2-Red bellied
3-Red headed
5-Northern Flicker
6-Yellow bellied sapsucker
9-Red Cockaded
10-Black backed

Do you see it?

Alder Flycatcher...In its northern Alder Swamp habitat... Lifer! (#337)

White Admiral. A colour morph of the Red-spotted Purple butterfly. The Red-spotted Purple lost its white stripes by  mimicking the (bad-tasting) Pipevine Swallowtail.
I was a little disappointed with the butterflies at Algonquin, I mainly walked Mizzy Lake trail and Spruce Bog Trail. I would have walked the old airport fields -at Mew Lake (which is well reputed for butterfly watching), but on my last day, I did not have a park pass to enter those grounds as I drove highway 60 one last time towards Ottawa.

Olive sided Flycatcher - Finally heard the "Quick three beers" call!
Oxtongue Rapids near the West Gate of Algonquin Park
A walk to Oxtongue Rapids at the west entrance of Algonquin Park had some easily seen birds. Winter Wren, Veery, Black throated Blue Warblers came out to great me as I walked the beautiful area.


The sloping pathway gave eye-level view of local breeders, such as this Black throated blue Warbler.
While on this walk, my wife told me a funny joke that I will share with you. My wife told me that a birch tree was bragging to the trees in the forest about how green it was getting, then from nowhere, an evergreen interupts and says "birch, please" (botany humour?).   LOL... sorry that was bad.
The Fam
After hearing the Olive sided Flycatcher calling "Quick three Beers!" and the Alder Flycatcher calling "Free Beer!"... I felt I should head back to the cabin... and... have a beer!

Good Birding!

Lifer Summary:
Grasshopper Sparrow #335
Black backed Woodpecker #336
Alder Flycatcher #337


  1. Sounds like a great trip. Congrats on the lifers!

  2. Thanks Kory. I had about 10 birds on a life list wishlist... But I only got 3. Its all good though. I need to save something for retirement. Missing the Prairie Warbler was painful though.-DM

  3. Glad you got some of those target birds. I hope my tips helped. Where are those elusive Spruce Grouse?
    I hope to get one while up there in late September!

  4. Blake, at one point (near west rose lake) I did hear a bird flush from a tree in a grouse-like fashion. I was hoping to see a grouse along Spruce Bog boardwalk, but not much was seen. White throated sparrows, a purple finch, and ... (wait for it...) An American Robin! :-(

  5. Sounds like a great trip. I haven't been to Algonquin in years! Nice to add three lifers!!
    I like your 2nd last picture the best! Am I really dense not to get the last one?



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