Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chocolate Moose & Loons

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to share some of our moose sightings while in Algonquin Park last week. I get such a thrill at seeing the moose. This big bull was quietly enjoying a feed alongside the highway, when what to his surprise at least 20 vehicles pulled up alongside him and people started popping out and taking his picture! I don't know how long he stood in that still water trying to enjoy his meal and ignore dozens of people gawking at him, but he left shortly after we arrived and sauntered slowly and elegantly back into the forest. Isn't he gorgeous? One of my daycare clients told me he hunts moose. I don't talk about moose to him anymore.

This next guy was "our" moose. We paddled out in the late evening specifically for a little moose "hunt" on the lake where we camp. There is a lovely raised pond adjacent to the lake that is separated by a very solid beaver dam. We saw two female moose here last year and one of them came out of the woods about ten feet away from us! That day I didn't have my camera with me. The quality of these photos is a bit poor because the light was fading fast.

Giving himself a good scratch with the hind hoof

... and the other side
Finally, he acknowledged us ... "What you lookin' at?!"

We left him in peace at this point
This next young moose was very nervous. He too was alongside the highway, but he was really agitated and definitely not enjoying the camera-shooting public. Some people were getting up very close to him and he was running away from them and bawling. He looked like he was maybe  a yearling. As he ran along, he just moved so gracefully. Those long legs are sort of spring loaded, and he had such a smooth gait. I've not seen a moose running before, they're not awkward looking at all, and they sure cover the ground quickly! He didn't stay out in the open too long, and soon bolted into the safety and comfort of the deep forest beside him.

Look at that sweet face ... what's not to love?
With every step a swarm of flies rise up off his bum and settle back into his fur when he stops.

We saw one more bull moose alongside the highway, but he didn't waste any time getting back into the brush, and I didn't get a photo of him at all (my husband snapped a few quick ones from his phone).

Although I've always had some difficulty in naming my favourite bird (I love almost any bird I see ... except pigeons), I have now decided that loons are my favourite. We saw lots of loons while out canoeing this trip. I love the loons for their amazing plumage and their haunting cries. Can anything beat the cries of the loons over a northern lake as the sun is setting and night is closing in. (You can hear a great recording of the loons here too.) I don't think so. This loon was diving quite close to our canoe as we were paddling along. At one point we could see him swimming underneath the water beside our canoe ... amazing!

A mother loon with her fluffy brown chick.

Linking up with Eileen's Saturday Critters :)

Thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mizzy Lake Trail

Mizzy Lake Trail in Algonquin Park is a beautiful 13 km walk in the northern woods. It's rather rough underfoot with many tree roots and rocks, but there aren't any steep climbs. It travels alongside numerous ponds and small lakes, and if you get there early in the morning, you will most likely see moose and beaver in the water. There are wolves in the area too, but chances are you will never see them as they are quite shy. This trail is noted for its wildlife viewing, but early morning, and early evening are the keys to seeing anything.

It's my favourite trail in the park because it's rather dark and mysterious in those woods, and the trail is very narrow which makes it seem more like you're following an animal trail than one blazed by people. It's also a very quiet trail, and during the heat of a summer's day, you are lucky to hear even one bird singing high in the tree canopy.

Hiking along you are suddenly surprised to see beaver meadows glowing green in the sunshine with soft grasses blowing in a faint breeze. These glimpses of meadows and ponds and creeks are like looking through a window at a beautiful scene.

beaver dam

It was an extremely hot day when my husband and I traipsed through the woods, and all that water was looking more and more tempting, let me tell you!

Halfway around the trail, we follow a short stretch of disused railway track. The track is out in the open and spans a couple of large beautiful ponds. Unfortunately, this is prime nesting grounds for deerfly, and they mercilessly attack you all the way along the open stretch. It's annoying because you want to linger and admire the ponds, and hopefully see some wildlife, but the deerfly keep you moving! This year my husband packed his bug net that goes over his hat. He has a bad reaction to deerfly bites and wasn't taking any chances. I don't mind them so much because I know these flies will dive-bomb you for ages before they finally settle in for the bite. I just kept flicking the back of my shirt every so often to get them off me before that happened. 

People often see moose feeding in these shallow ponds in early morning. One couple we saw said their friend saw a moose here that morning around 7:00 a.m.  We did hear a moose giving a call when we were passing an earlier pond, but couldn't see one. 

One of these ponds (following) is called Wolf Howl Pond since this is where some wonderful recordings of wolf howls were made back in the 1970s.

There is a 2 km side loop that you can walk up that supposedly has some "bear nests" up in the beech trees. Bears will climb beech trees and break down branches to provide a platform or nest. This gives them a comfy spot to munch away on the ripened beech nuts. We had never done that loop before, so decided to give it a try this trip. It's not a very popular path, and is becoming a bit overgrown in places. Not to mention it was a bit eerie walking through the woods to an area known to be frequented by black bears! But on we went. We were greeted at the start of the loop by this inquisitive grey jay. They remind me of giant chickadees with their masked faces and friendly approach to humans (they'll come to your hand for seeds just like chickadees). We didn't have anything to feed him, so he soon left us on our own ... with the bears. 

The bear nests are difficult to see (so said our guide book), and I didn't see any! We did find lots of scratch marks on the trees' soft trunks from bears climbing up the trees, however. I was rather thankful that beech nuts weren't ripe yet, so we didn't have any bear encounters ... maybe in a week or so after our visit the beech nuts would be in prime shape for harvesting. 

My parents had two huge beech trees on their property, and whenever the beech nuts ripened and fell to the ground, you could no longer walk barefoot in that corner of our yard as the nuts have a very prickly shell, and they were littered across the grass!

We made our way back on the return trip, stopping a couple of times to rest for a quick snack and long drinks of water. At the muddy spots in the trail we saw what looked to be very fresh moose tracks (and also someone's bare feet prints!?). We started looking for them in every muddy spot along the trail, until eventually they ran out, and we were back out at a small lake. Two men were sitting at the lake resting (with a bottle of wine), and immediately asked us "Did you see the moose?!" What?! We told them we only saw the moose tracks, but no moose. They told us it was a big bull moose and was just off the path enjoying a munch on some leaves in a particularly leafy section of the trail. Darn it! I knew exactly where they meant as it was super hot through that part with low underbrush on either side, and lots of raspberry canes too. I was concerned about the bears at that point. So we walked right passed him and didn't even know it! I find it amazing that an animal the size of a moose, with enormous antlers, can easily glide through a dense forest and you won't even see him. Oh well.

This is another beaver meadow that you cross over on a boardwalk. It's always extremely quiet in this meadow, and that day it was dead still. It's peaceful for a few minutes, but the longer you stay there, the longer it feels a bit, um, lonely, and far away. But I do love these spaces with real atmosphere, don't you?

We finished the trail having seen one beaver in one of the ponds, a painted turtle, and a grey jay. We heard the moose calling, and saw the tracks, but no moose that day. We were rewarded all through our week with seeing other moose though, and I'll share those next post.

Looking through the forest along the path ... there are probably all kinds of moose in there!
Thanks for stopping by!