Tuesday, August 20, 2013

East Side Story

Algonquin Park is divided into two very distinct halves. The West Side, where the highway and most of the activity is, and where I live and work for the summer, is of a higher altitude than the surrounding area, with a slightly but significantly cooler climate. The soil is a mixture of grain sizes deposited by glaciers. The rolling hills are covered with trees like Sugar Maple, American Beech, Yellow Birch and Eastern Hemlock, while lakes, rivers and bogs fill the low areas.

The East Side is dramatically different. The landscape is much flatter and lower in elevation, with sandy soils deposited by glacial meltwater. The forest is mostly Red and White Pine and poplars, interspersed with sandy lakes. The largest river in the park, the Petawawa, also flows through this area.

I was lucky enough recently to be able to spend quite some time exploring the East Side of the park and experiencing its drastically differently wildlife.

Radiant Lake is one of the most unique locations in the park. This sandy lake is large and very shallow and is part of the Petawawa River system. As if that wasn’t enough to make it a destination, there is an old townsite, Odenback, adjacent to provide one of the few large clearings in the forested landscape.

Radiant Lake is virtually the only good shorebird habitat in Algonquin, attracting species like these Least Sandpipers. 

We had a total of 9 species of shorebirds: 11 Least Sandpipers, 4 Baird’s Sandpipers, 3 Semipalmated Plovers, 2 each of Semipalmated Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper and Sanderling and singles of Black-bellied Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpiper.

Ths unique location provides the only habitat I know of in the park for the Boreal Snaketail. We had at least four, and this is the 93rd species of ode I’ve found in Algonquin Park. 

A more common species, but more surprising find for the location, was this Rusty Snaketail along the road nearby. 

This female Tule Bluet had her mate’s thorax eaten, leaving her with a useless abdomen stuck onto her neck.

Huge numbers of bullfrog metamorphs were present along the shores of Grand Lake.

 How many Bullfrogs do you see? 

At the outflow of McManus Lake I was very happy to find Arrow Clubtails. Although I couldn’t get close enough to catch one, I managed identifiable looks through binoculars. Ode number 94 for my Algonquin Park list.

At Lake Travers we heard an odd noise, and followed it to find a small bullfrog being swallowed by a water snake. I’ll post videos once I have a better internet connection.

Dragonhunters are a common species, but are incredibly impressive and I never tire of them. This species is named for its predilection for eating other dragonflies.

In the evening at Achray Campground, winged ants were emerging and unbelievable numbers of Aeshna darners were swarming over the anthills. One area about the size of your average dining room table had at least 2-300 flying less than a metre above the ground. I had a program to run during the peak of the swarm, but went out immediately afterwards with the group where they had a great time catching dragonflies. There is really nothing more fun than catching darners in a swarm!

Overall, I could not have asked for anything more for a few partial days of nature geeking.

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