Birder's Guide

MAR 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Birding Algonquin Park Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2017 24 When we think of birding Algonquin, we envision walking over thick mats of balsam and pine needles, breathing in crisp clean northern air, and glancing up to meet eye-to-eye with an inquisi- tive pair of Gray Jays. We think of working through flocks of Black- capped Chickadees, nuthatches, and kinglets, busily feeding along lichen-draped spruce and tamarack branches, and the excitement of hearing the nasally calls of an elusive Boreal Chickadee lurk- ing within. We recall strolling across soft, damp sphagnum moss, picking our way amongst tea-colored bog pools, and halting upon hearing the distant drumming of a Black-backed Woodpecker. In particular, we think of searching through thick conifers and suddenly encountering a male Spruce Grouse in full display, red eye combs fully engorged, tail spread wide and swishing. All the while, we are frequently alone in this treasured avian "gold mine", yet we are able to quickly and easily retreat to comfort at the end of each gratifying day of birding. Successful trips to most places by birders require careful prepa- ration and planning. While this can be enjoyable, with Algonquin one is pleasantly relieved of these duties. Algonquin is relatively large as parks go, at about 2,950 square miles (about 7,635 square km), larger than the state of Delaware or the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island. Yet all of the luxuries mentioned above are found along a single, easily accessible, 40-mile (65-km) stretch of highway that leads through the park. Navigation could hardly be simpler. Additionally, there are markers placed every kilometer along the highway, start- ing at the west gate and ending at the east gate, which makes it very easy to find and estimate the distance to specific birding lo- cations. Lastly, there is an unusually rich amount of information available on Algonquin's birds, and when and where to find them (see Further Information for more details). Algonquin is especially good for observing northern specialties, eastern warblers, and finches, partly because of its geographic lo- cation and elevation. Algonquin is in an area where the coniferous evergreen forests of the north mix with the deciduous broadleaf forests of the south. Also, the northern forests are accentuated by the park lying on top of a broad "dome" that rises 650 feet (200 m) higher than the surrounding area, putting parts of Algonquin at an elevation of 1,900 feet (585 m) and an associated cooler and more northerly climate. This yields an attractive mix of northern and southern habitats. For birders, this means seeing Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, or Black-backed Woodpecker as well as eastern war- blers such as Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue, and American Redstart. It also means seeing conifer seed-eating finches such as crossbills, as well as deciduous seed-eating finches like redpolls. As we said, Algonquin is one-stop shopping. Many of the best locations to observe the sought-after northern specialities, warblers, and finches are described in detail in the resources listed in Further Information. Rather than try to distill the excellent detail given in these resources, we aim to describe, n Cape May Warbler. Photo © Mike McEvoy n Common Loons on Lake Of Two Rivers. Photo © Peter Ferguson

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