With fall drawing to a quick close, Bob and I took advantage of the weather for one last autumn hike in Algonquin Park. We are always on the search for wildlife.
On an early November morning, the first signs of winter were in the air, so we were not surprised to find a thin layer of ice on most ponds.
I was all set for the cold weather, sporting gloves and a warm woolen toque that Bob had brought back for me from Berlin on one of his photo shoots.
A Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) was strutting along the same trail amidst the coloured leaves, which thankfully deadened our own footsteps so as not to alert the bird. This one is carrying nesting material in its beak. We have had many occasions over the years to see Ruffed Grouse when hiking in and around Algonquin Park, in northern Ontario. One of the best places to find them is along a hiking trail or a dirt road.
With gloves on, and camera over his shoulder, Bob gave me a quick smile before once again scanning the undergrowth for wildlife.
A little further on, two ruffed grouse emerged from the bushes and crossed in front of us. Like a lot of birds, Ruffed Grouse like to spend time along a dirt road, seeking out things like gravel or sand. They actually use the sand for dust baths, but in this case, the grouse were foraging for bits of food.
I didn’t want to startle the Ruffed Grouse, so had to remain very still. They are very elusive woodland birds, but this one crept ever closer to my lens.
Further in Algonquin Park, near Lake of Two Rivers, we happened upon this Ruffed Grouse eating buds while attempting to sit in a low bush. The grouse was intent on the task as it eagerly nipped off bits of vegetation. Ruffed Grouse are omnivores and therefore eat buds, leaves and berries, but they will also eat insects.
In this video that Bob filmed, you get a really good opportunity to observe the meticulous work of the Ruffed Grouse as it plucks off the best buds on the tree.
The Ruffed Grouse had a firm hold on the slim twigs of the bush, but threatened to lose its balance as it moved about because the small branches could barely support its weight.
Ruffed Grouse, which do not migrate, are a common year-round sight in Algonquin Park and the surrounding forests. This past summer, when driving into the dock at Black Lake in Haliburton County, we had occasion to see another one of these woodland birds.
A Ruffed Grouse stepped out of the green vegetation onto the road right in front of us.
A subsequent hike from the cottage found us at the edge of a bog, near Scrabble Lake, near Minden, Ontario.
Always prepared for the unexpected, I nearly jumped out of my skin when this water snake slithered over some rocks at water’s edge.
Also amongst the rocks was a tiny Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) working on a suntan. What a marvelous little creature. I hoped, as it lay there, that it maintained vigilance for any predators such as the water snake that was not too far away.
The thrumming of a Grouse could be heard in the undergrowth as we progressed through the bush. After finally pinpointing its location, there was only time for a couple of pictures before it vanished into a thicket.
Upon one occasion, when we returned to the cottage after an afternoon of hiking, we were saddened to find that a Ruffed Grouse had been killed when it flew into a glass window and broke its neck. What a loss of such a beautiful bird.
And so with summer behind us, we found ourselves back in the forest, hiking along the Oxtongue River, near Algonquin Park.
American Red Squirrels scampered about in the forest as they went about the task of stocking up food for winter. Only the week before, we had read that a team of Laurentian University biology researchers have discovered that a high percentage of Red squirrels in the Algonquin Park area, along with five other wild rodents including flying squirrels and deer mice, have a bacterium (Coxiella bernetii) that is known to cause ‘Q-Fever’ in humans and other animals. We are hopeful that all of these animals manage to survive the threat of this infection, and that something can be done to alleviate the problem.
Being late autumn, we observed numerous Pine Grosbeaks (Pinicola enucleator) during our time spent in and around Algonquin Park. Here you see a male of the species. They are actually members of the Finch family. What a beautiful bird – such a bright splash of color in the trees.
It is always a nice surprise to come upon any wild birds when hiking in the forest. Although some really stand out against the foliage, such as the Pine Grosbeaks, others like the Ruffed Grouse blend in so well with their surroundings that spotting them is not always easy. They are well suited for camouflage against their predators.
Checkout our recent sighting of a Raptor, a Coopers Hawk in Toronto, Ontario
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