Thursday, February 24, 2011

Family Day Frolics

Grey Jay in Algonquin Provincial Park. Photo by Marianne Balkwill

We just recently returned from five days up north to see family, birds, and butterflies...yes butterflies!

Last week on Thursday, Aaron and I drove up to Barrie to see my sister and her husband. The next morning we intended to relocate the Northern Hawk-Owl near Orillia. Apparently, there were two Hawk-Owls spending their winter along the same stretch of road near the intersection of Road 6 and 46 near Lake Dalrymple. Unfortunately, the one owl was killed by a vehicle. Unfortunately for us, we never did see the other owl.

Our next stop was the Huntsville Econolodge with the following day spent birding in Algonquin Park. The weather was miserable with heavy wind gusts, snow and cloudy skies. We even overheard someone saying that highway 400 from Toronto to Barrie was closed due to whiteout conditions. We checked out a few spots including the search for my nemesis northern Ontario bird, the Spruce Grouse, at the Spruce Bog Trail. Today, the bird still remains my nemesis, though we did see the reported Boreal Chickadee at the suet feeder, along with Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Hairy Woodpecker. Red Crossbills and American Goldfinches were heard flying over. At the parking lot we observed 5 Grey Jays and even a hungry Red Fox eating seed that visitors have spread along the ground.

Boreal Chickadee at the Spruce Bog Boardwalk. If the weather was more cooperative I would've got a better photo...and probably saw my Spruce Grouse too!!!! Photo by Marianne Balkwill.
Red Fox eating bird seed in the parking lot at the Spruce Bog Boardwalk. Photo by Marianne Balkwill

Other observations included Common Redpolls at the visitor centre feeder and 3 Ruffed Grouse along the visitor centre driveway.

The next day we decided to go to a new park we have never visited before for some snowshoeing. Arrowhead Provincial Park is a lovely park that has both snowshoeing and cross country ski trails and the Family Day Sunday attracted many people. Bird life was pretty minimal with the crunching of snow under the snowshoes making birding by ear nearly impossible. We did see Pine Siskins, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Common Raven and Jeremy Hatt..............WHAT?!?!!??! Indeed, while I was in one of the park's warm-up shelters I did a double-take when I thought I saw a familiar face walk by the window. I ran out the door and there was my best friend Jeremy, with 3 of his friends from Toronto taking in some snowshoeing as well.....Just unbelievable and so great to see Jeremy and meet some of his friends!

After Arrowhead Provincial Park, Aaron and I drove back to Barrie after another round of snowshoeing in Hardy Lake Provincial Park near Lake Muskoka. The only bird of note we saw was a Pileated Woodpecker on the drive down.

The next day was the Family Day monday and our drive home. We had all day to drive and I thought it would be neat to check out the Butterfly Conservatory near Cambridge. Needless to say the place was packed on the holiday Monday. The observatory is an interesting place. There is the actual observatory where you can walk among exotic species of butterflies and birds, along with insect collections, a gift shop and a cafeteria. Here is a link to their website for more information.
The Postman butterfly. Just one of the many species of butterflies you can encounter at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory. Photo by Marianne Balkwill.


  1. Neat blog. Your certainly have some terrific pictures. The fox and the screech owl particularly. Glad I ran across this. :)

  2. Fabulous Fox Foto!
    I've been to Arrowhead several times--nice park.

  3. Thanks for the comments. Arrowhead is quite a nice park. I'd like to check it out sometime when there is no snow on the ground.