Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Something a little different

A few days ago we re-visited parts of central Ontario and the southern range of northern Ontario. We do this 2-3 times a year, since our daughter and hubby live in North Bay.

It is always a treat to experience a landscape where forest, hills, lakes and rocks dominate instead of the flatlands of the extreme southwest.

We were hoping to catch some of the brilliant colours of autumn, knowing that the predominant hardwoods would have more colour in the southern parts compared to the more subdued colours of predominantly conifers of the more northern extent of our travels.

The weather was generally overcast, with occasional days of rain. I think during the 6 days we were away, the sun only came out for a few hours on two of those days. But the overcast conditions provided some saturated colours to enjoy.

Brooks Falls, a few kilometers north of Huntsville, and even fewer kilometers east of Hwy 11, is a favourite stop along the way. The Magnetawan River tumbles over and through a series of rocky rapids, including one drop of about 3-4 metres. It is very accessible, and one can park just a few metres from where your first glimpse of the falls can be had. This first image was taken more or less from the edge of the parking area. There was a light rain at the time.

Brooks Falls
 A fairly steep trail leads from the edge of the parking area to almost the water level, with several spots along the way to capture the falls. When the trail is wet and/or covered with leaves and needles, it can be difficult to navigate, so extreme care is needed especially when one has lots of expensive photo equipment to carry!

Our main destination was North Bay. Fortunately there are a few places to explore close at hand. One of my favourites is the 97 hectare (240 acre) Laurier Woods Conservation Area, right within the city limits. It can be good for birding as well as giving one vistas of a typical northern landscape. Being within the city, and very close to the traffic of Hwy 11, traffic noise is always present to some degree, but it gets buffered by the forest vegetation. A few scenes from along the several kilometres of trail follow.

There are two small lakes within the conservation area, one of which is maintained by beavers. From the lookout for the image below, I noted Common Merganser, Mallard, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal and Hooded Merganser.

Birds elsewhere along the trail were few, but included White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin, Common Raven and Downy Woodpecker. Migrant warblers were non-existent at the time I was there, but maybe if I had spent more time looking through my binoculars instead of through my landscape camera viewfinder, I might have seen some :-).

Another natural feature worth visiting while in the North Bay area is Duchesnay Falls. It is immediately adjacent to Hwy 17 at the western edge of the city. A trail runs along both sides of the falls and river, providing excellent views. The first image was taken from the Hwy 17 road allowance.

This next image shows the eastern offshoot of the main falls, which is worth visiting all in itself.

The main falls is featured in this short video clip, with a stopped action shot of this same site immediately below. (The original video clip was ~50 mb in size, but I got it re-sized to 2.4 mb to include here. However the quality does not show the clarity that the original does. But uploading a 50mb file here isn't an option. If anyone has suggestions, I'm open!)

 This next photo shows the shallow but busy set of rapids just upstream from the main falls, and are attractive in their own right.

I have always been interested in old growth forest. There is something very appealing to me about exploring a forest that is about as pristine as it gets, at least for the time we live in. One can read the descriptions of the early explorers to get a feel for the magnitude of the forests they encountered. Unfortunately the opportunities are few and far between to even get a basic feel for such forest conditions any more, and one has to actively search out the small remnants.

I acquired a recently published book entitled Ontario's Old Growth Forests, and take the opportunity to check out some that are highlighted in this book whenever I am in an area where they persist. One such site is just north of Marten River Provincial Park, which is about 60 km north of North Bay. An Eastern White Pine reported to be 127 cm in diameter has been seen in this small strip of forest a short distance from the highway. Other lesser sized pines are also present, as well as large, mature Yellow Birch. A forest reserve occurs along the eastern side of the highway, both north and south of Marten River PP. I took the opportunity to explore this for an hour or so, trying to take in the characteristics of what an old growth forest of this type can look like.

The White Pine in the centre of this image didn't measure 127 cm, but was in the 100 cm range as far as I could tell.

Old growth forest is more than just large trees, although large trees are often a primary characteristic. I plan to devote an entire blog (or maybe two?) to old growth forest in the future.

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