After a few weeks of working fairly steadily, I needed a break and Algonquin Park was calling me again. I regularly follow the ONTbirds listserv for bird sightings around the province and use my iPhone app called iONTBIRDS which shows data from the same listserv for my portable device. I plan my photography options around sightings reported on ONTbirds and other boards/forums that I frequent as often as I can. I look forward to postings every Thursday evening by Ron Tozer who is a expert birder and a retired Algonquin Park Naturalist. Ron accumulates sightings data throughout the week from visitors to the park and relays the information to the birding community and I for one, am most grateful. In the past few weeks, there has been fairly regular postings of Pine Grosbeaks, a male White-winged Crossbill and Boreal Chickadees. There has also been some irregular reports of Great Gray Owls so my mission was clear, another trip to Algonquin was in order.
The weather reports Sunday night didn’t look good, freezing rain was predicted. It was a super crappy drive Monday morning and I found myself wondering why I even left the house, cars in the ditch, an accident on Hwy 11 as soon as I got off the ramp and Hwy 60 was icy, slushy and sloppy from Huntsville to Opeongo Rd in Algonquin. If I had a passenger, I think there would have been a debate whether or not to venture on or not with the final destination being Tim Hortons. Being by myself, it was pretty easy to say keep going it will get better. Boy, am I ever glad I did! I ended up having a terrific day with the park all to myself, probably because all the smart people stayed off the road :). The following images are from my 6 hours in the park and I will let you be the judge whether or not is was just another day in Algonquin!
The thrills started when I saw the Great Gray Owl nicely perched at the top of a dead black spruce tree beside Hwy 60. There was plenty of room on the side of the road for me to park and shoot images right out my window. It was very cooperative and I took 264 images with the 500, 500 +1.4 and 500 +2.0 which almost gave me a full-frame image.
Great Gray Owl
The next stop was the Algonquin visitor centre. Even though there is no one working the desk during the weekdays, the building is still open giving access to the lookout and the feeders at the back. I was prepared to stay for a while and over the next 90 minutes or so I added 3 more most excellent species and I think I have at least one or 2 candidates for the 2014 calendar.
My other favourite stop in the park is the Spruce Bog trail and much to my delight Boreal Chickadees were there as well. The little speedsters are very quick and a challenge to photograph but I was able to capture a few images.
A big surprise on the Spruce Bog trail was the appearance of a Brown Creeper. Even though I have seen them often, they are notoriously difficult to photograph since they seem to sense a human’s presence and move quickly up a tree trunk and out of sight. I was feeding the friendly Black-capped Chickadees out of my hand but when I saw the Creeper, I had to make the decision whether or not to keep feeding the Chickadees or try and take a picture. It turned out not to be such a hard decision and the chickadees didn’t seem to mind that I put the seeds in the snow and I finally got my image of the Brown Creeper.
After a couple of hours on the Spruce Bog trail, it was back to Opeongo road to find Spruce Grouse and the Black-backed Woodpeckers. Alas, unlike the other birds, they were hiding from me but I did stop at a popular spot where Chickadees and Gray Jays regularly hangout. A old Black Spruce had fallen over and it was covered with various types of lichen. I envisioned some nice perches for the common birds hoping to make some not so common images.
Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay and Red-breasted Nuthatch
The day was almost at an end when I got one last surprise, a partially leucistic Black-capped Chickadee. At first glance, you could not help but wonder, what was that? I remembered Ron Tozer’s post and that this Chickadee was seen last year and was found again this year at the spot I was parked. Isn’t it the cutest little thing?
Leucistic Black-capped Chickadee
I hope you enjoyed my day in Algonquin as much as I did and thanks for stopping by!