I was able to get a few days off at the beginning of the week so we decided to take a last minute trip up to Algonquin. This would be the kids’ first trip up to the park, a place Sarah and I love to visit in the winter. This time we were going to be staying in a cottage just outside of the park at the Blue Spruce Resort.
We left as the sun was coming up on Sunday morning and made great time. The kids were awesome and we managed the long drive with only 2 stops! We arrived at the Blue Spruce Resort around 3 and checked in to our cottage. After unpacking a few things, Em got her snowsuit on and we headed to the on-site toboggan hill. This was her first experience with tobogganing and I wasn’t sure how she would react. We got all set and sent her on her way down. She screamed. I couldn’t tell if she was terrified at first or if they were screams of joy. Luckily they were the latter. “AGAIN DADDY” over and over. Of course I had to pull the sled and her back up the hill each time, but we had a blast. Eventually Sarah and Lys joined us and Em and Sarah rode down a few more times while I played in the snow with Lys.
The next morning, after breakfast, we packed the car with snacks and headed off into Algonquin. The plan was to head to the Visitor Centre to check the feeders and have a look at the moose carcass that had been placed down in the valley below in hopes that the Fisher that had been seen the day before made another visit. If you’re interested, the park has a live stream of the carcass. Fishers, Red Fox, Marten, Eastern Wolves and other creatures have been spotted feeding on the carcass.
On our way into the park, we stopped a few times along Hwy 60 to look through the birds picking up grit along the side of the road. We added a few of our targets within the first 20 minutes – White-winged Crossbills and Red Crossbills. At the Visitor Centre, I was thrilled to spot the Fisher making its way over to the carcass just as we were getting to the viewing deck. This was a lifer for me. I was amazed at the size of the animal. We watched for a while, checked out the Evening Grosbeaks coming to the feeders (a favourite of mine), had a little snack then headed over to the Spruce Bog Trail.
I had high hopes of seeing my Algonquin nemesis – the Spruce Grouse – as a few had been seen pretty frequently right along the trail within the past few days. I’ve had terrible luck with this bird in the past in the park. No luck again. We did however add a few Algonquin specialties to our trip list – Gray Jay and Boreal Chickadee. Of course 2 Spruce Grouse were spotted right at the entrance to the trail maybe an hour or 2 after we left. Oh well – that’s birding!
After our walk, we headed back to the Visitor Centre for lunch and a little more feeder watching. A Red Fox was now feeding on the carcass. The girls were getting tired so after lunch, we took a drive to Opeongo Rd to see if we could spot a Black-backed Woodpecker. No luck but still a nice place to explore. The girls napped as we made our way back to the cottage to turn in for the evening. Sarah and Em hit the hill again while I hung out with ‘Lys.
The forecast for Tuesday was a bit dicey, especially for the afternoon. We figured we could at least enjoy the morning in the park and then make our way out if the predicted freezing rain hit. The plan was pretty much the same as the previous day. Start at the Visitor Centre feeder and then Spruce Bog Trail. They are 2 of our winter favs in Algonquin. And they’re easy especially with 2 young kids.
After a snack for the kids at the Visitor Centre, we headed over to Spruce Bog Trail. Still no Spruce Grouse for me. I’ll get you one day!! We enjoyed another great hike around the loop and then set off for another drive down Opeongo Rd. This time as we approaching the turn off onto the road, I spotted a Red Fox coming at us down the middle of the highway. By this time, the snow was falling and the visibility was a bit reduced. The fox tried to get off the highway a couple times but it couldn’t make it up over the steep snow banks. Eventually it made it over the side after a few close calls, the closest being with a logging truck which blasted its horn.
After a quick check up Opeongo, we decided to try one last time for Spruce Grouse at the Spruce Bog Trail – Steeeeeeeeerike three! Oh well. As I was walking back to the car, I spotted the Red Fox! It had made its way all the way to the parking lot. It was obviously really tame and was looking for handouts. I watched it for a while, and got Em out of the car so she could have a look. That’s when it came right up to us. I thought it was going to try and get in the car, it was that close! We left the fox to scrounge through the piles of bird seed left on the ground in the parking lot and we made our way back to the cottage for our final night.
We had a long but uneventful drive home the next day. It was a quick trip but at the same time, a great and memorable trip. Em is still talking about the cottage, the hill and her favourite bird, the chickadee that landed in her hand. Until next time… Spruce Grouse, oh yes… you will be added to my park list!