I haven't been shooting a lot in 2022 because of work and fatherhood, but that's ok because Rosie is changing and growing everyday! Last week, we spent a few days up at the cottage in Golden Lake to get away from our routine. We've been pretty isolated recently since the cases had been high and Sally had a big of a running cough. Whenever we are up at the cottage, I try to make it to Algonquin. It's about an hour away from the East Gate from highway 60 so I can be there bright and early in the morning and be back just in time for Rosie's 2nd nap.
When I have just a few hours to hit up Algonquin, I try to be selective with the trails that I want to check out. Not wanting to do any big hikes like Mizzy Lake, my plan was to check out the Logging Museum, Visitor Centre and my go-to for birds, the Spruce Bog Boardwalk. It's a short 1.2km loop and it is perfect for birding. It was also cold as hell, so I didn't get stuck in a trail freezing my balls off!
Anyways, hitting up e-birds, I wanted to see some Canada Jays, Redpolls, Evening & Pine Grosbeaks (which believe it or not, I haven't seen before). I was also trying to see if I can find some lifers like the White-winged Crossbills, Red Crossbills, Spruce Grouse, and Black-backed woodpecker. I saw that there have been sightings of these birds at Spruce Bog Boardwalk so I thought I would start there.
My gear when when shooting -20 weather at Spruce Bog. Aviator hat from Mountain Warehouse, balaclava that I got from ordering at the Brogue Inn on St. Patrick's Day and gloves from Eddie Bauer.
When I got to Spruce Bog Boardwalk around 9:30am, I saw nothing. Some super aggressive chickadees and some blue jays right by the parking lot. I really wanted to see some Canada Jays. Two years ago, I saw some in this trail. After I finished the loop, I went back to the my car to warm up. I was getting ready to go to the Logging Museum, but I thought, I'm here already, might as well do the trail again.
Good thing I did. Almost right on queue 2 Canada Jays land right in front of me! Spent a good 30-mins just watching these amazing creatures. Also known as Whiskey Jack, the Canada Jay or Gray Jay was voted by Canadian Geographic as Canada's National Bird.
From Canadian Geographic:
Why the gray jay is our newest national symbol
The gray jay is found in every province and territory, but is not already a provincial or territorial bird. Several of the other front-runners in the National Bird Project, meanwhile, already had this designation, including the common loon (Ontario), the snowy owl (Quebec), the black-capped chickadee (New Brunswick) and the common raven (Yukon).
Gray jays are year-round residents of Canada — remaining in the northern forest when the majority of loons and Canada geese have flown south and even snowy owls have descended from the Arctic — and they are astonishingly good at making the most of even the coldest, darkest winter months. These tough birds are unique for nesting as early as February, while the forests are still thick with snow, and have been recorded incubating eggs in snowstorms and at temperatures as cold as -30 C.
They are important to Indigenous Peoples. The common moniker “whiskey jack” has nothing to do with the grain-based alcohols, but is rather an anglicization of the Cree Wisakedjak and similar variations used by nations in the Algonquian language family, which makes the gray jay Canada’s only bird commonly referred to by a traditional Indigenous name.
In some traditional Ojibwa stories, the trickster Nanabozho takes the gray jay’s form and leaves it with a playful, generous spirit. But it’s to the Cree peoples especially that Wisakedjak is a shape-shifter who frequently appears as the gray jay, a benevolent trickster, teacher and messenger of the forest. To many western First Nations, the appearance of a gray jay in the morning is a good omen, and its chattering and whistles an early warning to hunters of nearby predators. There are even Gwich’in guides in the Yukon who tell of gray jays singing from tree to tree to lead a lost and starving hunter home.
After my photoshoot with these Gray Jays, I bolted to my car since my hands were starting to get stiff from the cold. As I unlock my car, another pair of Canada Jays show up at the parking lot! Un-FRIGGIN-real! It is one of those sightings that kinda just get's you so AMPED, but also, makes me shake my head. I could've been just chillin in the parking lot, inside my car to photograph these beauties!
One cool thing that these birds do is store their food in "cache" around their territory. They mix their saliva and to preserve the food that they collect during the summer time and store them throughout the Spruce forest. There can be thousands of these food stash scattered around Algonquin and these guys know where every single one of them are.