Great Egret

Great Egret

Monday, 6 August 2018

Around a big lake

To a southern Ontario resident, the most interesting part of our western trip was out through the prairie provinces. Nonetheless, the northwestern part of Ontario is intriguing as well, especially to someone who lives in the extreme flatlands of the southwest.

We didn't spend much time stopping and exploring, but due to the distance did spend a lot of time travelling through! Add to the fact that because of some tire troubles we spent more time than expected.

The north shore of Lake Superior is rugged. It is not surprising that parts of it were of great interest to the Group of Seven artists of a few decades ago.

At a few brief stops along the way I noted some butterflies.
Tawny-edged Skipper
 White Admirals were widely scattered. We don't get them in the southwest, as they are 'replaced' by Red-spotted Purple.
 There were lots of fritillaries, especially Atlantis, as shown next.

Fireweed was a common sight. It is most plentiful in areas of disturbance, including after forest fires. With the numerous fires taking place in various parts of Ontario right now, there should be no shortage of habitat for them in the next few years!

We ended up spending a weekend at Terrace Bay, about a third of the way between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, due to some tire issues and the fact that nothing was going to be open until the following Monday. So we made the best of it, checking out the well-known beach area. Those are the Slate Islands in the distance, which are believed to have formed as the result of a meteorite strike a very long time ago. It is now a day use provincial park, with no access except by boat. Lake Superior doesn't always look this docile.

In the town of Terrace Bay is a lighthouse replica of the one that is on the Slate Islands.

 It is open to visitors who want to climb up and see the lake. It is a nice view when it isn't foggy. This next photo shows the view of the lake from the top, with the Slate Islands off in the distance.

The Aquasabon River empties into Lake Superior near the beach. Just a short distance upstream is this accessible gorge and waterfall.
 This next photo shows where it empties into the lake.
Birds weren't terribly plentiful while we were there. I did see a few right outside our motel, including Chipping Sparrow.....
fledgling Chippie
....and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds, which was a little surprising since most range maps do not show that species as occurring along the north shore of Superior. However the eBird listing does not have it as rare.

The only bird I saw of real note in Ontario was a Northern Hawk Owl which flew across the road in front of me at one point.

The Serpent River was a pleasant opportunity for a break from driving. Most northern waterfalls are not the plunge type, but more of the cascade type which can be rather gentle, but still attractive.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip to experience some fantastic landscapes! It would definitely be worth a return to do some more serious photography.


  1. Looks like a beautiful area. Would be nice to visit the area someday.
    Regarding White Admirals, are they considered the same species as the Red-Spotted Purple? The latter is all I've been used to seeing here at home, but a couple weeks ago I found a White Admiral here.

    1. A good question, Jonathan. According to the reference material Red-spotted Purple is Limenitis arthemis astyanax and White Admiral is Limentis arthemis arthemis. So they are the same species, just different subspecies. Red-spotted is generally more southern in Ontario, and White is more northern. They have a fair bit of range overlap in south-central, eastern and even in central Ontario so there is a reasonable chance of seeing either one in those locations. I'm in the very southwestern corner, and have never seen a White Admiral this far south...yet :-).

    2. Interesting. Thanks for the information. Never know what one might find when out and about.

  2. Thanks as usual for opening our eyes a bit more Allen. We were across that same highway heading west a week and a half ago. Unfortunately (?) our tire troubles got us stopped just overnight in Wawa, in the overcast and rain. We'll be coming back through in a couple of weeks and will likely spend a little stopping time around Terrace Bay this time.

    1. Thanks, Gord. I appreciate your comments. As for the tires, I suspect that the heat of southern Ontario vs the cooler temperatures of north of Lake Superior can make a fair difference in the tire pressure. I think a couple of nights we were there it got down to about 8C which is obviously a far cry from some of the 30C+ temperatures of the south. I know that when we go to North Bay to visit our daughter in the mid to late fall period and it can get down close to freezing overnight there, my tire pressure sensors tell me they need air! Years ago when we didn't have tire pressure sensors we might have missed the effects of these differences.

      Have a great trip! We were initially planning to get to southern BC on our trip but for various reasons it didn't work out this time. Gotta have a reason to get back out there!

  3. What a great trip you seem to have had. Great scenery. Lovely for me to travel with you vicariously. Doubt we;ll ever be there in person.

    1. Thanks, Paula. There is no end to the wonderful landscapes and scenery in this huge country. Even after so many trips here and there across the country, there is still a lot that I haven't been to yet.