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12 August 2009 @ 07:09 am
Algonquin, Part I: Beaver Pond Trail and Spruce Bog Boardwalk  

During the second weekend of August my fiancé and I went camping at Algonquin Provincial Park together with my sister and her fiancé.

Algonquin is a beautiful, rugged, and breathtaking park which lies in a transition zone between the deciduous forests of the south and the coniferous forests of the north. The diverse habitats that can be found within the park, such as maple forests, spruce bogs, road edges, beaver ponds, lakes and cliffs, provide a home to a large number of species: 53 species of mammals, 272 species of birds, 31 species of reptiles and amphibians, 54 species of fish, approximately 7000 species of insects, over 1000 species of plants and another 1000+ species of fungi are known to occur within Algonquin's boundaries. This diversity, as well as its remote wilderness, make it an excellent place to see a large variety of wildlife. I was really excited about our camping trip and hoped to find some new birds, butterflies and dragonflies during our four days there.

Garter Snake

The weather, fortunately, was mostly cooperative. It only rained once during our long weekend there, for about three hours on Sunday morning. The rest of the time it was partly sunny/partly cloudy, with temperatures in the low twenties. Although this wasn't good for looking for butterflies, dragonflies were fairly easy to find.

We spent three nights at the Canisbay campground along Highway 60. We didn't do much hiking on our first night there, although I walked over to the lake to see what was around. Not much, as it turned out; a pair of Herring Gulls floated on the lake in one spot, while a Common Loon dove for food in a different area. Our entire trip was punctuated with the hauntingly beautiful calls of the loons somewhere close by, and one even flew over our campsite one evening.

On Saturday morning I found a pair of male Black-throated Blue Warblers on the way to the outhouse; although I had my binoculars with me, I didn't bring my camera. Once breakfast was over and done with, the four of us went for a hike along the Beaver Pond trail in the eastern part of the Highway 60 corridor.

The trail sign

This trail is not an easy one; it circles two beaver ponds and climbs several steep hills which afford stunning views of the ponds below. Right at the entrance is a bridge which crosses over a steep ravine. I heard several Black-capped Chickadees in this area.

Bridge at trail entrance

The trail leads a short way through the forest to the first beaver pond. A few side trails lead to the water's edge where I searched for odonates among the vegetation. I saw two spreadwing damselflies which I couldn't identify, and neither of them was willing to pose for my camera.

The first beaver pond

Hiking along the trail

As we crossed the boardwalk over the first pond, I found this delicate pink wildflower worth photographing. I later learned that it is actually a small shrub.

Spiraea tomentosa

At the second beaver pond I saw more damselflies, most of which appeared to be Sedge Sprites. I also had one unidentified bluet. Birds in the area included a pair of Eastern Phoebes flycatching from a dead tree overhanging the water and a pair of ravens which landed in the marsh.

Sedge Sprite

By the time we finished walking around the first pond, we had to climb a steep hill and then back down to the next pond. Fortunately stairs had been built into the side of the trail to make it easier.

Staircase in the woods

The view from the top, however, was worth the effort it took to get there.

View from the cliff

We didn't see any other wildlife of interest, so we stopped by the Spruce Bog boardwalk next. This trail is supposed to be good for seeing odonates and bog butterflies, but the day was cloudy and only one butterfly was present. We did see several meadowhawks perching in the vegetation next to the boardwalk, including White-faced and Band-winged species, and a large darner flew overhead and landed in a tree further away.

Spruce Bog Boardwalk

We did find an interesting insect on the boardwalk, a long-horned beetle which is likely a White-spotted sawyer. The antennae were unusually long!

Long-horned Beetle

I liked the heart-shaped white spot on its back:

Long-horned Beetle close-up

Just as we were leaving this open area, a brown butterfly flew past us and landed on the boardwalk. As it was the first one of my trip, I had to stop and photograph it. It was a Northern Pearly-eye, a species I am quite familiar with as it is common in Ottawa.

Northern Pearly-eye

The boardwalk left the open area and went back into the woods. Here we found some unusual plants growing. Indian Pipe is also known as “Corpse Plant” because it doesn’t contain any chlorophyll and appears to be a waxy, whitish color. With its drooping flowers and tiny, scale-like leaves, it's no wonder that most people think Indian Pipe is a fungus, particularly as it grows in shady woods with rich soil and decaying plant matter.

Indian Pipe

As it does not contain any chorophyll and therefore cannot make its own food, Indian Pipe obtains its nutrients from a tree and a fungus through a parasitic relationship with the fungus. Its roots tap into the mycelia of the fungus, which itself takes nutrients from the tree's roots through a mycorrhizal relationship. As the fungus takes nutrients from the tree, the Indian Pipe takes nutrients from the fungus. The Indian Pipe, however, does not give anything back to the fungus or the tree which makes it a parasite of both the fungus and the tree.

Indian Pipe

As I was photographing the Indian Pipe, my fiancé told me that a large dragonfly had just landed on a tree trunk. It was so well-camouflaged that he practically had to touch it to point it out to me!

Unknown mosaic sp.

I took photos of it from both the front and the side, hoping to get a decent enough photo to be able to identify it. As it was a female dragonfly, however, and as my photos didn't show enough of the thoracic stripes, I was unable to confirm its identity.

Unknown mosaic sp. - side view

There were quite a few meadowhawks along the trail as well. Most of them appeared to be yellow females or immatures, including this one perching on a tree branch.

Meadowhawk sp.

In the same area as the meadowhawks we found a garter snake basking among the rocks along the side of the trail. My fiancé and I actually visited the trail two more times during our stay at Algonquin, and we found it in the spot each time!

Garter Snake

The Beaver Pond Trail and Spruce Bog Trail were beautiful in the summer, and even though I didn't see much that day, our trip wasn't over yet...I couldn't wait to get back out and see what was around!