This is the “late winter-early spring” time in Algonquin Park, featuring extensive snow cover and fully ice-covered lakes and ponds but also warmer temperatures and large bare areas where the ground is exposed to the sun.
There were more reports of boreal residents in this period due to more observers looking for them. SPRUCE GROUSE were detected at Spruce Bog Boardwalk (Mar 13, 20 and 22) and near Head Creek Marsh along the Old Railway Bike Trail between the Old Airfield and Cache Lake (Mar 20). Single BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKERS were at Spruce Bog Boardwalk (Mar 16, 20 and 22) and at the Old Airfield parking lot (Mar 22). CANADA JAYS were seen regularly at Spruce Bog Boardwalk and Opeongo Road from the winter gate northward. One BOREAL CHICKADEE was heard and seen at campsite 117 in Mew Lake Campground (Mar 20) but not observed there in searches afterward. It was the first report of this now apparently rare species, at least along Highway 60, since late February.
Some finches are becoming scarcer as most individuals have departed, while others may be starting to return. Two PINE GROSBEAKS at the Visitor Centre (Mar 20) were the last reported. Single PURPLE FINCHES noted at Spruce Bog Boardwalk and on Opeongo Road (Mar 20) were the first reported in the Park since late October. COMMON REDPOLLS continued to be seen, including 20 at the Old Airfield and 30 on Opeongo Road (Mar 22). A HOARY REDPOLL was found at the Old Airfield (Mar 22). Single flyover RED CROSSBILLS were noted (Mar 13 and 22). WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL sightings were of seven on Opeongo Road (Mar 18) and two on Spruce Bog Boardwalk (Mar 20). PINE SISKIN reports of five along Highway 60 (Mar 13) and two on Spruce Bog Boardwalk (Mar 20) were the first here since early December.
First-of-spring migrants included: Merlin (Mar 13); Red-tailed Hawk (Mar 18); American Robin (Mar 21); Wood Duck, American Black Duck, Common Merganser, Herring Gull, Bohemian Waxwing, Lapland Longspur (first March record ever), Snow Bunting, American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Brown-headed Cowbird (Mar 22); Mourning Dove (Mar 23); American Woodcock, Turkey Vulture (Mar 24); and Dark-eyed Junco (Mar 25).
The Friends of Algonquin Park Bookstore and Nature Shop in the Visitor Centre (km 43) is now open daily, weekdays 9 am to 4 pm and weekends 9 am to 5 pm. However, the Visitor Centre exhibits, viewing deck, restaurant and theatre are CLOSED. The Friends’ store provides Park information, day use and seasonal permits, wildlife sightings, books, maps and souvenirs. Free high-speed Wi-Fi, courtesy of The Friends, is available during operating hours. To maintain safe physical-distancing, real-time occupancy data are available online at https://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/occupancy.php and in-person prior to entry via a large LCD screen. As per public health guidelines, wearing of a face mask is required for entry.
Only the Algonquin Park Wild Bird Cam feeder is currently in operation (until Mar 31) at the Visitor Centre and it is best viewed via the live stream online at: https://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/virtual/webcam/wild_bird_cam.php
DIRECTIONS: Algonquin Provincial Park is three hours north of Toronto, via Highways 400, 11 and 60. Follow the signs which start in Toronto on Highway 400. From Ottawa, take Highway 17 to Renfrew, then follow Highway 60 to the Park. Kilometre markers along Highway 60 in the Park go from the West Gate (km 0) to near the East Gate (km 56).
Ron Tozer, Algonquin Park Naturalist (retired), Dwight, ON