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Back from Algonquin!

July 8, 2010

Dearest Bird Aficionados! I’m back from my northern holiday. We stayed at the best cottage/lodge ever called Hay Lake Lodge. As you guessed, it’s right on Hay Lake, a 16 km long lake near the East gate of Algonquin Park. Here is the view from my (screened) front porch:

If you look very closely, you can see the screen’s mini-squares. I suppose if I were a real photographer, I would have taken a better photo, but this pretty much captures the mood of the place. Perfect. The lake was gorgeous, clear, warm, and I never tired of watching it. I got to know this lake fairly well; I swam in it daily, both in my swimsuit and fully clothed! We managed to tip our canoe twice (within a 10 minute span) in knee high water! In fact, I didn’t know such a thing was possible. I came back to Toronto with an array of multicolored bruises. (I just wish they didn’t turn a sickly greenish yellow; really, quite unbecoming.)

We stayed in a delightful cottage with a full kitchen and a bbq! We cooked, we grilled, we swam, we read (and read and read and read), we contemplated, we ate (and ate and ate and ate — why is it nature makes one so compulsively omnivorous?), we did a day-hike (rather, a morning hike) in Algonquin Park, we visited a small town with the saddest, most depressing and forlorn “farmers” market I’ve ever seen in my life (I was so moved by the sight I bought some horseradish; it turned out to be too sour and I threw it away in the end, but felt compelled to spend the 3$ anyhow), we napped — it was a perfect vacation. You’ll be happy to know that I got great use out of my Tilley Hat.

And now — the moment you’ve been waiting for — the birds! I’m sure you’re dying to know what I’ve seen. You’ll be happy to know that I went to Algonquin with my binoculars (such as they are)! And I looked! And I saw a few great things, though didn’t get everything on my wish list, which was, incidentally, compiled for my by my Bird Guru. Hence the sophistication.

I hadn’t taken into account just how loud Woodpeckers can be until they woke me up the first morning! The incessant and relentless rhythmic hammering is far from poetic when the bird’s favorite tree happens to be right outside your bedroom window! At 6 a.m.! I think the culprit was a Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), though I wouldn’t bet my life on it:

I think Hairy and Downy are related because they pretty much look identical. But, I’m willing to bet it was a hairy and not a downy woodpecker given the sheer volume and power of its hammering. According to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, the Downy woodpecker is the slightly more docile of the two. It must be that “much larger bill.” Who knew? The birch tree outside my window was home to three Hairy fellows (haha) who beat holes into the bark in perfectly symmetrical lines. All that without a ruler!

The lovely Hay Lake is home to many a common loon (gavia immer). There’s something truly magical about the loon until you hear its sound. Then you want to crank up your ipod and pretend the whole thing never happened. But I love the black and white patterning on its neck and feathers. (I didn’t take this photo. Someone on google images is to thank for this image of mother and baby loon!)

I was deeply convinced that I caught sight of many a Boreal Chickadee, but upon further investigation, I have a deep, abiding fear that what I really saw a Gray Jay. I’ll have to leave you in suspense on that one. My husband kept telling me he was seeing dozens of warblers, but I think that’s just because I had recently taught him a new word…

And, in culinary news, we grilled delicious grilled lamb (marinated in orange juice, wine, garlic, rosemary, thyme), steaks, corn on the cob, asparagus and red peppers. Did I mention it was a perfect vacation?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Fireweed permalink
    July 9, 2010 12:10 pm

    Sounds like the perfect Canadian summer holiday, though some practice with canoe technique might be in order. Watch Bill Mason’s perfect Canadian canoe series – the Path of the Paddle, I think they’re called. Were those lamb chops you grilled? Aren’t gray jays large and chickadees tiny little fluff balls? Gray jays will scavange and go after your crumbs while you are eating outside; chickadees keep their distance. We have a woodpecker hammering away on the metal roof of our woodshed every morning now. Sadly, I think this is because it’s mate died last week when it hit one of our windows, and now the remaining bird is drumming away trying to call its mate back every morning. Usually they only hammer on the roof in early spring before they nest.

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