Algonquin Park a trip forward in time
Algonquin Provincial Park, a four-season gem, is a great destination for early fall migration birding. On a recent visit, I explored some old favourite trails such as Spruce Bog Boardwalk and the Whiskey Rapids trail. I was able to explore some new areas as well, including a hike. I had the best luck on Spruce Bog trail, finding pockets of warblers including Blackburnian, palm, black-throated green, black-andwhite, and black-throated blue. It was also fun to see several other London birders on this trail. Tim Arthur was doing very well with boreal specialties such as blackbacked woodpecker, boreal chickadee, and spruce grouse. Being in Algonquin was like travelling forward in time. The late August temperatures were fresh rather than hot, some leaves were already starting to turn, and I was seeing some species such as common loon, golden-crowned kinglet, and brown creeper that won’t be migrating through London for some weeks. During my visit, the numbers and species of birds were lower than I expected. At the visitor centre for example, where I have in the past enjoyed good birding success, there were very few birds. I was hoping for Canada jay and ruffed grouse but dipped on these species. Canada jays are permanent residents at Algonquin. They prefer black spruce habitat and are more likely seen on the east side of the park. These birds are not at all shy. They will approach people hoping for some seeds or other food. In spite of my relatively short trip list, there are always many pleasures in Algonquin. Being a Londoner, I don’t take common raven and loon sightings for granted. When I’m north, I am always hopeful of seeing interesting mammals as well. On this trip, I was excited to see a black bear two Ravens are common in Algonquin Provincial Park through the year. Although the bird is similar to a crow, its thick beak, shaggy throat, wedge-shaped tail, and croaky vocalizations set it apart. kilometres from the park’s west gate. Red squirrels’ chatter is part of the soundtrack on all of the trails. Through September, there good numbers of grouse, grebes, goshawks, broad-winged and other hawks, barred and great gray owls, and sapsuckers are in the park. In October, duck species, fox sparrows, and longspurs, are in and around the park in good numbers. For those who aren’t completely keen on birding, there is much to do in the park. Programs such as Learn to Camp are popular. Art exhibits featuring wilderness and wildlife artists at the Visitor Centre and the Algonquin Art Centre are inspiring. It is easy as well to learn about Tom Thomson and members of the Group of Seven who painted in the Park. Renting a canoe at Canoe Lake is another classic option.
• Crows and ravens are our only completely black birds. • The fall hawk watch at Hawk Cliff just east of Port Stanley on Lake Erie has started. As well as seeing migrating raptors, birders can see a good variety of songbirds on the move at this location. Daily raptor observations are posted to the Hawk Cliff Hawkwatch website and become part of the continentMigration Association of North wide database of the Hawk America known as HMANA. The daily count at Hawk Cliff is again co-ordinated by Dave Brown. It continues into November. • The annual taxonomic update on eBird has happened. This update reflects the previous 12 months of amendments such as species splits and lumps approved by the American Ornithological Society’s Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North and Middle American Birds, and name changes such as the shift earlier this year from gray jay to Canada jay. Some species splits will result in “armchair lifers” being added to the lists of some birders. • The bird sounds that most of us consider are vocalizations, however there are other bird sounds that are both interesting and useful. The sounds made by the flight feathers of hummingbirds, woodcock, and snipe are distinctive. With practise, birders can also identify a species of woodpecker based on its drumming. A yellowbellied woodpecker’s drumming sounds like it is running out of gas. A pileated woodpecker’s drumming is heavy and can be arrhythmic.