Wild beavers we have sighted across Ontario

Wild beavers we have sighted across Ontario

Beaver swims down stream on Green River - Pickering - Ontario

With winter finally getting a grip on the land, Bob and I decided it was time for a hike on the Seaton Hiking Trail along the Green River near Whitevale, north of Pickering, Ontario.   Our outing proved worth the effort when we sighted wild beavers swimming up the river.

Jean in forest along the Green River

Massive vines can be seen hanging from the cedar trees along the Seaton Hiking Trail, which runs alongside the river for over 12 kilometers.  In some cases, the vines are substantial enough to bear an adult’s weight, and grow so as to create a swing.

Porcupine walks on deer track toward us

On one past hike along this trail, we came upon a Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) with its head down low, moving along a deer track towards us.   We, of course, watched its movements very carefully given that it looked  cute and cuddly, but knowing that its sharp quills  could be very dangerous.

Porcupine climbs tree in forest

The Porcupine was on a mission, apparently, as it quickly climbed up in a tree where it began to nibble the bark.  Porcupines are Canada’s second largest rodent, with beavers being the biggest.

Porcupine eating bark off tree limbs

In the world that I grew up in at Oxtongue Lake, Ontario, both porcupines and beavers were, and still are, very common animals seen out in the bush.  Porcupines are herbivores, with their favorite food being leaves and plants, however in the midst of winter, they switch to eating the  bark off trees.  This porcupine was doing a good job of stripping the limbs on this tree.

African Porcupine with long quills

When Bob and I were in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa, we were lucky enough to find some quills from a couple of different Crested Porcupines, which are the world’s largest porcupines.  These quills are upwards of 30 to 50 centimeters long (12 to 20 inches).  The  quills of our much smaller Canadian Porcupine are diminished in size when compared to those of the African species.  Canadian porcupines have quills that are only 5 to 10 centimeters long (2 to 4 inches).  Bob and I were thrilled to have found some quills of the African Crested Porcupines, but we were even more pleased that we didn’t bump into one in person (and I mean bump into one!!).

Green River - heavy current - Pickering - Ontario

But we hadn’t gone to the Green River expecting to see a porcupine.  We were hoping to see one of its bigger cousins, wild beavers.  We know they are active along the river, having observed them in the past.

Beaver heads towards Green River - Pickering - Ontario

This little guy was obviously making his way to the river with his haul.

Beaver in winter - Green River - Pickering - Ontario

The beaver paused on a shelf of ice at river’s edge after dropping his twigs into the water.  This fresh supply of food was destined for the beaver house further downstream.

Beaver swims in falling snow on Green River - Pickering - Ontario

Snow was beginning to fall as the beaver began swimming against the current in a northerly direction.  The beaver did not even hesitate as it edged into the ice cold water being so well insulated with its waterproof fur.

Beaver

There was a time in Canada, back in the 16th century, that the only business conducted was the Fur Trade.  It was the single most important business that involved both Canada’s aboriginal peoples who had trapped as a way of life for thousands of years, and by European explorers and settlers who turned to fur trading as a way of life.  Together, these two peoples paddled the rivers, set the traps, caught the animals, and then brought the furs back to the market.  The number one animal they all strove to capture was the Beaver.  Today, the beaver is the official emblem of Canada.

Beaver Hats - various types

The reason they hunted beavers was because their fur could easily be turned into the Fashion Statement of the Day, which was Beaver Hats.  This type of hat, in the 1700’s, was also popular because it was waterproof, enabling the owner to keep his or her head dry in a downpour.  Fortunately, today, silk hats have replaced beaver hats as the most desired type of hat in the marketplace.  And with mass conservation, and federal and provincial laws set down to protect beavers in Canada, the fat furry rodents are alive and doing very well all across our country.

Bob and Jean backpack canoeing in Frontenac Provincial Park

Each summer, Bob and I head out on back country canoe trips along the very rivers and lakes that were once the roadways of  Canada’s fur traders hundreds of years ago.

Beaver lodge - Ontario - Canada

One of our back country canoe trips was plying the waterways of Frontenac Provincial Park, in Ontario, where we spied this beaver house.  It is common to see beaver dams and beaver houses like this one on waterways all across the province.   Frontenac Park is a world of rarely seen birds, wildlife, and beavers.

Jean and Bob watch out for beavers

We didn’t stay in this location long enough to catch a glimpse of the beavers.

Deer in Frontenac Provincial Park - Ontario

Deer racing across field - Frontenac Prov. Park

Instead, we followed the scat of a deer – its faint trail through the deep grass – before pinpointing its prone body beneath an evergreen tree.  In the deep shade, the deer almost eluded us because of its stationary stance, only for the glimmer in its eyes.  In no time, the deer bolted and raced across the meadow behind us.

Jean and Bob watch deer running away

And as we watched it racing away, Bob drew to my attention that a Praying Mantis (Mantodea) had landed on my back!!

Preying Mantis on Jeans back

Bob got a couple of pictures and then we convinced him to move along!!

Beaver swims by us in Frontenac Provincial Park

Later, after we got our tent setup for the night, and with the loons calling out their song, a beaver decided to go for a late day swim right by our campsite.

Bob portages a canoe while outbacking

Bob, like so many of his fellow Canadians, just loves to pick up a canoe and then carry it on his back in what we call portaging.  Even I will carry it a short distance.  It is really just a part of  the way of life for many in my country.  In fact, outback canoeing actually keeps both Bob and I connected to our families’ histories.  Members of my family came to Canada in 1647,  when the predominant mode of transportation was the canoe.  Bob’s family, who came to Canada two hundred years later, also took to canoeing.  And so over 300 years later, canoeing in the world of the beaver is just a given for both of our families, and it is something we share with many fellow Canadians.

Marvin holding one of his newly crafted paddles

Even today, my dad, Marvin, at age 89, still loves to canoe, and each winter, he spends time gluing, carving, and crafting paddles for both his use and ours the following season.

In this video that Bob filmed, my dad explains to us just how he glued and made the paddle that he holds in his hand.  Everyone in our family has, at one time or another, been gifted with handcrafted paddles made by my dad.  They have even been known to appear as wedding gifts for our daughter’s outdoorsy friends.

Jean watches her step while portaging

When Bob and I engage in back country canoe trips, he most often finds himself carrying the canoe for miles, along with other gear.  I, on the other hand, am usually loaded down with everything imaginable!!  In this picture, I am carefully making my way down a wet stony trail.

Bob and Jean run a rapids - Ontario

Part of canoeing can involve, if it’s safe, the art of running rapids.  This is something that Bob and I take a lot of care in doing… no silliness and no running a rapids blindly.  It is necessary to walk the river edge along the rapids, note the rocks, plan our canoe route through them, and then carefully take to the water.

Bob and Jean canoe Ontario river

Running rapids is a thrill, but it is the quiet backwaters that I most look forward to.  I savour the peace and quiet knowing that it is a world of the unexpected.

Jean prepares to take a picture

Jean spots a Muskrat sitting on log in river

As we canoed along a channel in Frontenac Provincial Park one time, I was excited to see in the distance this small muskrat sitting on a sunken log.  We edged the canoe close enough to see that the muskrat was enjoying something to eat, and just when he felt no longer safe, the muskrat slipped beneath the surface of the water.  What a cute little guy.

Mother Loon and baby on lake

Pretty well every lake in Ontario has a family of loons that nest there.  Here, we see a mother Loon carefully protecting her baby.  It is the iconic lonesome call of a loon that every camper looks forward to.  Something of the past always accompanies the eerie strains of a loon’s mournful cry.

beaver swims in algonquin park

This beaver swam alongside our canoe as we made our way upstream.

Beaver on the shoreline of Oxtongue River

Seeing a beaver in the water doesn’t give you any idea just how big they can be.  We caught this specimen as it made its way from one body of water to another…sort of portaging like we do.  This one was along the Oxtongue River, near Oxtongue Lake in Ontario.

In this video, you get a chance to see the same beaver both in the water of Oxtongue River and on dry land.

Beaver heads inland from Oxtongue River - Ontario

Beaver dam in Algonquin Park - fall - Ontario

As the colors of fall came to Ontario this year,  Bob and I toured areas of Algonquin Park in order to appreciate the spectacular fall foliage.  One stop we made was adjacent to this swamp where a beaver had made a massive dam.

massive beaver dam in Algonquin Park - Ontario

The beaver dam stretches across the full width of the area creating a gigantic pond for the beaver to live in.

Beaver swims from dam, Algonquin Park, Ontario

We had waited for the better part of an hour, in anticipation of a moose stepping from the cover of the forest, but this beaver entertained us for the duration as he worked on the dam.

Winter on the Green River - Pickering - Ontario

Beaver takes time out for lunch on the Green River

We have been fortunate to see so many beavers over the years.  Hopefully, the beaver colony on the Green River in Pickering continues to thrive like those that are protected in the waters of Frontenac and Algonquin Parks.

Beaver exits Green River - Pickering - Ontario

As we observed this beaver, both he and his mate made routine trips into the brush in search of more green twigs and then back to the river.  They both worked relentlessly until we had to give up our surveillance due to dwindling late afternoon light.  It was particularly amusing to see them slip and slide down a short groove in the snow to speed their arrival to the water’s edge.  They worked the same route over and over again, perpetuating the old saying “busy as a beaver”.

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Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

11 comments

  • Don’t miss this, I think it airs March 28th

  • Hard to put into words how wonderful your work is for those of us who share the love and w onder of Canadien wilderness, but are unable to experience it firsthand. Thank you for sharing.

    • There are lots of people where we live who never venture beyond the city limits. I am sure this is common everywhere. Through our photos and stories, we hope to inspire some of them to get out and explore their surroundings. The world is a magical place.

  • Amazing Guys. Canada sure is beautiful ILka.

    • thanks for looking at our blog, Ilka. Bob and I have really been enjoying these past few months discovering the various resident birds and animals of our area.

  • From Heidi

    Bob, What an amazing and beautiful bunch of photos/films. I love the beaver running and slipping along the ice! You and your wife are obviously dedicated naturalists who watch closely the wild world. I am focused on beavers because they have such a massive impact on all wildlife, and by helping people see the good they do (and how to solve problems they cause) we can have a huge trickle down effect on the entire ecosystem.

    You photos are a wonderful adventure.

    Thanks, and I’ll link to them on the website today!

    Here’s a great poem about the ecological effect of beavers, set to my footage!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5jXZJa-NQ4

    Heidi Perryman
    Worth A Dam

    http://www.martinezbeavers.org

  • What a beautiful look at this important animal. Where beavers thrive, all is alive Increasing population density and diversity, augmenting songbirds and waterfowl, supporting wildlife. Beavers are the trickle down economy that works. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5jXZJa-NQ4

    Heidi Perryman, Ph.D.
    Worth A Dam
    http://www.martinezbeavers.org

  • Really wonderful shots of the Canadian experience. This is what life is about!

    • Yes, with climate change, Bob and I have been forced to do more hiking in the winter as well as in the summer. With less snow each winter, our opportunities for cross-country skiing become less and less, unless we drive for hours to get to it. We are finding it just as enjoyable to hike the trails in the colder months, and these outings actually provide better opportunities for observing wildlife.