Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

Snowshoeing the Spruce Bog Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park

Snowshoeing the Spruce Bog Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park

With snowshoes on Jean looks for beavers in Algonquin Park

Bob and I had never gone snowshoeing before, so when the chance to try out a pair presented itself, we seized it!  After skiing the Leaf Lake Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park, in Ontario, in the morning, we ventured over to the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail where we knew we could walk out on the bog and really give the snowshoes a workout.

Bob in Spruce bog in Algonquin Provincial Park

The weather had taken a turn for the colder since we had arrived in Algonquin Park, and whereas the creek through the bog had been totally open a couple of days earlier, it was now flash frozen along most stretches.

Jean's snowshoes in Algonquin Park

Those are not my bare legs peeking out at the top of my boots!  Those are my pink long johns showing at the bottom of my cross-country ski knickers.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was to attach the snowshoes to my boots, and how securely they remained affixed there.

Jean on snowshoes in Spruce Bog - Algonquin Park

Bob and I progressed cautiously over the frozen bog.  We took care to walk only where scrub bushes and grasses were sticking up through the snow, assuming this meant solid ground below.  The frozen bog provided good support for the snowshoes, but during summer months, walking on a spruce bog is much like walking on a water bed, with the area bouncing up and down with each step.

Frozen water in Spruce bog in Algonquin Provincial Park

The day before, other hikers had seen an otter here, consuming a fish, but with the creek’s surface now a glassy barrier to the running water, we figured our chances of catching the otter out and about were pretty slim.

Frozen stream in Spruce bog in Algonquin Provincial Park

At one spot along the creek, the brisk current had carved its passage beneath a ledge of snow and ice, and prevented the water from freezing.

Beaver lodge in Spruce bog in Algonquin Park

There are a number of beaver lodges situated along the creek and throughout the bog.  The largest lodge, on the far side of the wetland, rose high above the marsh, its domed shape resembling an igloo.  Beavers build their lodges with intertwined sticks, and late every autumn, they cover their lodges with fresh mud that freezes when the frost sets in.  The mud becomes almost as hard as stone, and serves as a secure barrier against wolves and wolverines; neither can penetrate it.

Jean checks out a beaver lodge in Spruce bog in Algonquin Park

Beavers do not hibernate, but store sticks and logs in a pile in their ponds, eating the tender underbark over the course of the winter.   Some of this stockpile is usually above water, and so the accumulation of snow acts as insulation to keep the water from freezing in and around the food supply.  The open water also provides a location where beavers can breathe when outside their lodge in the winter.

Beaver swims in bog, in Algonquin Provincial Park

We did not see any beavers taking advantage of the sun that winter’s day, but on other occasions, we have had the chance to observe members of the beaver family.

beaver eating along the Green river

Early one December, a pair of beavers was active along the Green River in Markham, Ontario.  Despite having a good stash of available food, they busily harvested fresh branches and small trees, which they lugged to the river and towed upstream.

Jean beside beaver lodge in Spruce bog - Algonquin Park

Beavers are known for their natural trait of building dams on rivers and streams, and constructing their homes or lodges in the resulting ponds.   As you can see, beaver lodges can be quite large.

Beaver lodge in winter in Algonquin Provincial Park

Spruce bog under snowstorm in Algonquin Provincial Park

By the time another unexpected snow squall swept in over the Spruce Bog, we were already circling back towards the bird feeding station at the outset of the trail.

Brown Creeper in Algonquin Provincial Park

What a pleasant surprise to find a Brown Creeper (Certhia familiaris or Certhia americana) working the bark of one of the neighboring trees.  When first you spot one of these small birds, you might think that your eyes are deceiving you.  It’s as if a piece of bark has come to life.

Brown Creeper on tree in Algonquin Provincial Park

Brown Creepers are deep brown streaked with greyish white.  They have a distinctly downcurved slender bill with a very sharp point, and a rather long, stiff and slender tail, the feather tips of which are sharply pointed.  Brown Creepers are also known as the American Tree Creeper and are the only member of the tree creeper family found in North America.

In this video Bob filmed, you get a chance to see the Brown Creeper moving quickly up the tree.

Brown Creeper in Algonquin Provincial Park

Brown Creepers forage on trunks of trees, advancing up the bark by jerky hitches.  They typically creep up a tree trunk with the tail pressed against the bark, and once reaching the top of the tree, they fly to the base of another and begin the process all over again.  When this little specimen took to the air, it resembled a leaf blown about by the wind.

Brown Creeper holds on to tree in Algonquin Provincial Park

Brown Creepers often join flocks of chickadees and nuthatches in winter, and at the nearby bird feeder, there were numbers of both those types of birds.  I guess there is safety in numbers and comfort in the company of others.

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Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

2 comments

  • Samuel de Champlain saw the Indians of the Algonquin Nation (Cree and Huron), use snowshoes. He was the first European to record seeing them used. Brown creepers go up the trunk, while nuthatches go down the trunk. So any insects that are missed by one, will be seen by the another.

    • thanks for your comments. It was indeed interesting to see the nuthatches and brown creeper working the same trees. Those insects don’t stand a chance!