Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Birds in Algonquin Park

Well I'm sure you all know how it is.  If you're like me and don't get away from home a whole lot, when you do, you take a lot of photos and reminisce over the swell time you had on vacation!  I took a lot of photos in Algonquin Park last week, and today I'm going to show you some of the wild birds that found their way into my viewfinder long enough for me to snap a photo.

We saw this Common Merganser on Rock Lake, taking a break on a rock preening himself.  He needs to work on that crazy hair!


On our lake (Canisbay Lake), we took a quiet paddle one afternoon and saw these adorable fluffy loon chicks.  They were drifting alone on the lake with no adult loon in sight.  They looked young enough to still be able to hitch a ride on their mama's back (which they do).  Aren't they the cutest little fuzzy bundles?

They stayed close together, and we didn't dare go too close and frighten them.  I had the zoom on, but at that distance it was hard to keep the longer lens steady while in the canoe.

They kept a close eye (or two) on us the entire time.

It wasn't long before we heard the call of the adult loon, who bobbed up to the surface close by.

When she saw us there, she made a bee-line to her adorable chicks to reassure them, and herself I'm sure!  We paddled quietly away.
We saw lots of great blue herons this trip too.  It seemed there was a heron stalking frogs every time we got the canoe in the water. 
I like to see the herons, and they're a great subject for photography with all those plumes, intense eyes and subtle colouring.  Once you get too close to them, however, they fly up and away and often circle around behind you and land back up the river or lake.  I love watching them slowly and gracefully lift off.  Just look at those pointed toes ... this heron reminds me of a ballerina!
A lot of times a heron would fly up right beside us before we knew there was one close by.  They camouflage quite well, so I don't know why they take off so early.  Maybe they feel conspicuous.
I think this heron (above and below) is a young bird.  He didn't fly, and he's not showing any of the long plumes.
The best part of all of this, is that heron's have a magnificent wing span, and their feathers and plumes look just amazing from the back when ruffled up!
My husband spied this heron up above us in pine tree overlooking the water.  It's not often you see them in trees, although I know they make their nests there.
 This one didn't feel comfortable with us drifting below him in the canoe, and off he went just like all the others.  A rather interesting view of him from below.

 We saw lots of ducks there too.  I don't get too excited about the ducks.  We saw some other people feeding them potato chips ... dumb people.  The ducks immediately came swimming up to our canoe expecting a handout from us. 
These ducks seemed to have little smiles on their faces.
They were so friendly (probably the chips!!) and we saw them everywhere this year.
The ducks that missed out on the chips were forced to revert to wild eating habits ... bottoms up!!
Occasionally, there was one or two who were being all shy, hiding in the reeds ...
They were all rather cute, and made for a bit of fun photography as we paddled along the rivers.
The last bird I'm going to show you (yes! I'm almost done here!) is the pileated woodpecker. 
We have these largest of the woodpeckers in our own county, but obviously in the woods, not in town.  In our campground (Canisbay Lake) there have been families of pileated woodpeckers living there for a few years now.  Last year we saw the babies leave the nest one day, and then didn't see them for the rest of our visit. 
This year, the woodpeckers were especially noisy and they sounded like shrieking children at first.  They don't have a pretty voice ;)  A bit difficult to photograph since they are so busy!!  They tear into rotten wood with real determination ... bugs must get a shiver when they realize who is knocking on their tree bark door!
And that's it!  I hope you enjoyed the photos :)
and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mystery Solved

My little mystery is nothing really spectacular, it's just one of those little niggling questions that I've been unable to solve for many years.  I probably could've solved it years ago if I really thought about it, but I guess I just wondered off and on over this question without really figuring it out.
Years ago, while camping in Algonquin, I picked up a book by Roy MacGregor entitled "A Life in the Bush".  The book is a biography of the author's father Dunc MacGregor, and his time spent in Algonquin Park with the lumber industry.  I read the book right through while we were camping that year.  It must've been when my son was quite small and still taking afternoon naps, or I never would've had time to read an entire book!  In the book are a few black and white photos of people of importance in his father's life.  There is one photo of the author's mother Helen sitting on a rock outcrop at Lake of Two Rivers, and this location is where Helen's own father, Tom McCormick, had built a log home while he was Chief Ranger of the park.  There are quite a few references to the log home and the time that the author's family spent there.
I've always wondered where exactly this log home had been.  Lake of Two Rivers is a fairly large lake, and one year we paddled around a bit looking for the location.  There were a few clues in the book ... there was a cliff where the author's sister used to dive into the lake, there was a public beach nearby (which I took to mean the campground beach, but I was wrong), and the piece of land was on a point.  We couldn't find anything during our paddle that matched the descriptions, or the photo, and that was the last time we actively looked for the site.  But I've often wondered about it as we drove along the highway that runs through the park.
This year I suggested that we look again for the mystery location.  When I looked at the photo in the book again, I thought maybe the beach was the picnic area beach instead, so we headed there.  When we arrived at the beach and walked off to one side of it, we could see there was sort of a point out into the water, but I didn't see any cliffs there, it didn't seem like the ground was high enough above the water.
My son quickly found a path that led in the direction of the point, so we followed it.   We came out into a large clearing that was fairly hidden from the public beach.  There weren't any cliffs, but there was a rock outcrop on one side that could well have been where the sister used to dive into the lake.  But it wasn't until we saw the remains of the stone foundation of the home itself that I knew we had finally found the site!  
This home had been built by the Chief Ranger himself all those years ago.  The ground where the house had been was littered with broken bricks, bits of roof shingles and other rocks and concrete that had once been part of the home.
The home had been sold to an American years ago, and that purchaser had had the log home removed log by log to a new location.  It was at a time when the park was considering cancelling its leases with all the cottage owners which would force them to move their cottage or lose it.  This is an issue that continues today.  The cottages that exist in Algonquin are privately owned, but the land they sit on is leased from the park.  The park has been considering cancelling all the cottage leases because of the impact the cottagers pose on the natural ecosystem.  The current lease renewal for these cottages comes up again in 2017. 
Although the log home is no longer there, I found it rather interesting to see the spot that Roy MacGregor remembers so fondly in his book.  I found the exact rock where the photo of his mother was taken (below), and it made me think of her and the less than easy life this woman led. 
With her husband spending the winters in the bush with the lumber companies, and summers spent with her ageing parents and young children, it would've been a lonely and difficult time for her. 
It's quite a pretty spot with a good view across the lake.  On the far side of this lake runs a disused railway bed.  This railway line used to be the busiest in Canada.  The rail line has long ago been ripped up and is now one of two bike paths in the park. 
We also found what looks to be an overgrown flower bed. 
There was a wide swathe of Lily of the Valley ...
Along with some tiger lilies ...
There was only one lonely bloom on the tiger lilies ...
So my little mystery has finally been solved.  I've walked around the site that has been bugging me since I read that book!  Now I think I may just read it again and I'll be able to picture the log home's location perfectly :)
Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Week in Algonquin

Hello Everyone!  Thank you again for all your kind words, thoughts and prayers with respect to my dad's move.  I've been unable to visit him this past week since I've been on vacation.  I know ... move my dad into a brand new facility, and then hop off for vacation.  It wasn't something I had planned.  The room had become available at this facility just a couple of days after we viewed it, so my siblings and I decided not to let the chance slip away from us, and we moved Dad in as soon as all the paperwork was completed.  Unfortunately, one of my sisters was on vacation the day he was moved in, and then I went on vacation the day after he moved in.  He's a tough man though, and I'm sure he's had the staff running around in circles to please him ;) 
Anyway, I'll be checking up on all of that with my family tomorrow.  I assume that no news is good news, and that everything has gone well.  But today we had a long drive home from Algonquin Park ... where my heart lies.

Rock Lake
I went with my husband and son, and we had a lot of fun adventures every day we were there.  We did a lot more canoeing this trip than we normally do, but we wanted to get a lot of use out of our new canoe.
Rock Lake
 I'll give more details about the trip in future posts, but I just wanted to show you a few snippets of some of the spots we visited.  We did the Old Railway Bike Trail, a 34 km ride ... something we really should've worked up to.  We were all so sore and stiff at the end of the ride, I didn't think I'd be able to move for the rest of the week!  But the muscles relaxed overnight, and not any stiffness remained the next day (thank goodness). 
We saw lots of reminders on the trail that we are not the only ones in the forest.  Bear poop (full of berry seeds) and wolf scats (full of fur) are quite common along this trail.  There are quite a few people riding on the trail, so I take comfort in that fact, and hope that the animals had visited the trail much earlier in the morning ;)
Bat Lake Trail
 We hiked a few pretty trails, but we were starting to feel like we really wanted to relax, so we just did a couple of easy trails, neither one was more than 5 km.  We'll save the more difficult 10 km Centennial Ridges for our fall camping trip.
We saw lots of wildlife in the park this week.  There were many bird sightings of ducks, herons, geese, hawks, vultures and the big black ravens.
We enjoyed sharing our campsite with the pileated woodpeckers, who were squawking to all the sleepy campers most mornings.  What a racket!  The one below was quite busy digging for bugs both up in trees and on the ground.   We saw him one evening as we were paddling around 'our' lake (Canisbay Lake), and stopped alongside him to take a few photographs.
Pileated Woodpecker
I think the previous visitors to our campsite had spent a lot of time feeding these little monsters ...
Chipmunks are so cute, but once you start to feed them, there's no getting rid of them.  They would actually jump into our laps while we sat outside our trailer!  One poor little guy startled me so badly when he jumped on my bare leg (I had my legs outstretched and resting on a facing chair and didn't notice him until his sharp little claws dug into my leg), that my leg jumped up sharply and I sent him sailing up in the air about six feet!  Ooops!  We didn't feed them for the entire week, but they were continuously seeking out food from us together with a red squirrel who was just as cute.
There was no end of fun for us at the park.  We had only one half day of sort of rainy weather, but the rest was beautiful.  It was quite hot a couple of days, so we planned canoe paddles with a swim at the end.  The bike ride had a swim for us at the far end of the trail too.  The lakes are so refreshing and cool.  Although we tried really hard to swim off of a rocky area one day in order to avoid the beach, I just couldn't make myself jump into that black water without being able to touch the bottom (not to mention I saw a very big fish slowly swim past me which creeped me out just a little).  I had to admit defeat to my husband, and we headed across the bay to a small public beach where I could walk into the black water without fear.  I really am such a chicken in deep water.
Lake of Two Rivers
I had a little mystery solved that has been bugging me for many years.  I'll tell you all about that in another post.  It involves the point in the above photo.
Bat Lake Trail
This was one of the many wildlife sightings we had ...
We don't often see bears while we're at the park ... usually lots of moose.  But this bear and her cubs were being spotted all over.  The park has been posting lots of information sheets around, and we had one delivered to our campsite while we were out.  They had lists of things to remember when you're out in the bush and encounter a black bear.  I particularly liked the suggestion that you carry a long-handled axe on your hikes!  We had such an axe, but I don't think any of us was willing to lug that heavy weight around with us.  And if you did have to use it, what if you only wounded the bear?!  They neglected to mention that a wounded bear is much more dangerous than and curious bear. 
And I'll leave you on that happy note :)  I've got a few photos (ok...over 600) to sort through before I can write another post.  While I was taking the photos I had a couple of post ideas forming in my head.  Do you do that too?  Remember a little snippet of something to write about some of the photos you take?  It keeps my mind racing along, and I think that's why I ended up with so many photos.  I hope everyone has been keeping well, and I'll be around to visit everyone soon.  Thanks for stopping by again today.
Canisbay Lake, Algonquin Park

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Home Again, Home Again, Rig-a-Jig-Jig

My dad used to always say "Home again, Home again, Rig-a-jig-jig" every time we returned home from a vacation, or any extended time away.  It was a fun way to welcome us all home again. 
Today we moved dear old Dad into a new retirement facility.  Everything went FANTASTIC!!  I am just thrilled with his new home, and the people that came to greet him and welcome him.  I was blown away by the response of the people on the floor which he now calls home.  "Am I home?" he asked as he shuffled down the hall.  Oh yeah!
No one came up to my dad to say goodbye or wish him luck at his previous residence, although the movers were busy hauling his furniture right past the front desk for over an hour.  We were waiting with my dad in the large empty lounge while the movers worked ... quite visible to anyone.  I found that was the saddest thing to witness.  It shows how little they cared about him, and it shows me we have done the right thing in moving him out of there. 
At the new residence, there were smiles, handshakes, introductions and lots of excitement at his arrival.  There was a group of four ladies on his floor who came to say hello, brought a chair out for him to sit down right there in the hallway, as we chatted together and they welcomed him in.  My sister and I were completely astounded at the change in atmosphere.  He happily went out onto the veranda to wait for the movers to finish their work ... and the movers were a couple of very cheery, polite men, who were so careful around all the residents (many of the residents are completely lost in their own little worlds).  Dad was escorted into the dining room for lunch, and he seemed quite pleased with everything.  It was a beautiful day all round. 
It eventually came time to say goodbye to him.  We had his furniture all arranged, and all his stuff packed back into his dressers and cupboards.  There was more than enough storage space for all his possessions, and we left quite a few drawers empty!  All but the smallest pieces of furniture fit into his room, so I was happy about that.  We took out quite a bit of stuff that was no longer needed, which made me feel better about things too.  I hated to see all the accumulation of so much rubbish in his room, and it's nice to make a fresh start again. 
Dad was content with everything, and said it all looked very nice.  He didn't have one complaint (of course there'll be time for him to find something to grumble about I'm sure!).  The person in charge on the floor mentioned to us that the first matter of business would be to get him showered, and my sister and I were so relieved that they recognized this at once.  So I had a little talk with Dad to let him know they would ask him to shower and to try to be cooperative.  I don't know if it will help, but we'll find out soon enough if he is agreeable.
So the deed is done, and I couldn't be happier.  Thanks to all of you who left such kind comments about this move on my last post.  I can't believe the week is coming to an end already ... my head feels like it's been in a whirlwind of preparation for this!   And I just wanted to let you all know how well the day went for all concerned.  I can't tell you what a relief I feel tonight that everything worked out so well!

PS ... I didn't have any photos of the day, but have filled the post with photos of my garden this week.
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