Friday, November 8, 2013

Arrowhead Provincial Park

Back in September, I was finally able to follow through on a promise to my boys to take them camping for a weekend up north.  It wasn't for lack of will or trying, but it was hard to find a weekend that would work.  Finally, a weekend was chosen and with a site booked list making, planning, and then packing started in earnest.  The weather forecast changed by the day and it included some rain and cool temperatures.  But we stuck with the plan.

We headed up to Arrowhead Provincial Park near Huntsville on Friday morning with the van packed with gear, three eager boys and a dad, and the canoe strapped on top.  The drive was pretty uneventful in the traffic department with the highlight of spotting a Pileated Woodpecker on a hydro pole on Hwy 11 just before Bracebridge.  After setting up camp and leaving the canoe down by the beach, we biked down to Stubb's Falls.  Along the way, I was surprised to bump into a couple (Ralph and Charmaine) I knew from a church we both attended when young people.  They were there the exact same nights as us, and about six sites down the same road as us.  Having them so close sure came in handy later in the weekend!

The falls were a great spot for the boys, lots of interesting rock formations for them to scramble around on.  But a highlight for me was a juvenile Great Blue Heron which seemed to love the fall's final plunge pool as its hunting grounds for the entire weekend.  We visited the falls every day, and it was there every time.

Needless to say, the boys were quite agreeable to stay at this location for lengths of time, building dams, walking in the cold water, and sliding on the rock slopes.  While they did that, I was quite happy to set up shop on a rock across the pool and hope I could capture the heron successfully catching a meal.  That never happened, but I did shot a few hundred pictures which I've filtered down to a smaller selection.

Here was the scene at the bottom of the falls with the heron seeming not to mind our presence.

juvenile Great Blue Heron at the bottom of Stubb's Falls

The boys building dams in the rocks.

Another activity the boys kept busy with
(their mom later wondered if I thought of their pants wearing out from sliding down the rocks)
These pictures are a mix of shots taken over the four days.  I perched on a rock just big enough for me and my tripod, getting cramped, kinked legs and tire shoulders from keeping my finger on the shutter waiting for plunges of the sharp bill.

My observation post.

Wing details


The stab!


Another try...
the plunge! But still nothing!

juvenile Great Blue Heron closeup.

After all that waiting, I never saw the bird catch anything, never mind try to get a picture of it. The first day we arrived and saw the heron at the falls, the couple we knew graciously agreed to watch the boys so I could race back to the site and grab my camera.  Ironically, when I returned the let me know I had missed the heron making a nice fish catch.  That would have been a nice shot!  But it was still enjoyable to be that close to a beautiful, large bird.  I'm pretty sure the fact that it was a juvenile was the reason I was able to get that close.

We did lots of hiking, biking, canoeing, and enjoying the sights at the park.  The nights were cold, temperatures going down to 2 degrees overnight one night, but we kept warm and enjoyed the outing.  Sunday night it rained hard, and our site flooded out.  Thankfully Ralph came to the rescue with a camping shovel and we trenched the water out of our depressed site and into the forest.

On one of our hikes we saw a Pileated Woodpecker, and I was able to get my first pictures of the bird.  It was eating berries from a tree (not sure what kind), and never gave me a nice clear view, but it was still exciting to see a bird not common to the area I live in.

Pileated Woodpecker eating unknonwn berries.

Pileated Woodpecker

Red Squirrel behind our camp site.

Here's shot of the camping gang.

We did a hike around the lake, without seeing much in the way of wildlife.  We did see what I had initially thought was a Loon way across the lake.  Later looking at the pictures and cropping them way in, I had a moment where I thought it could be a Yellow-billed Loon.  I think I'm wishing too hard, and a more realistic, though still a somewhat interesting conclusion that it is likely a Double-crested Cormorant.  I don't think this location nor habitat, namely a smaller, northern lake, would be considered normal for this bird. I'm open for corrections to the Yellow-billed Loon!!

Double-crested Cormorant???

Entering Arrowhead Lake from Little East River.

I'm looking forward to doing this again with the boys.  I've since bought some more camping equipment and I'm ready for the next adventure with the boys.  Hopefully next time my brother and his boys will join us too.

Till next time...
Keep enjoying HIS handiwork!


  1. It was at Arrowhead, along the Stubbs Falls trail that I encountered my first ever Pileated Woodpecker. I had to walk back from the falls to the campsite to get something for one of your younger brothers and had one of the youngest on a back carrier. While on a dark cedar treed part of the trail, out of nowhere a 'pterodactyl' (it seemed at that moment) whooshed past my head and gave me truly quite a fright! Not till later did I learn what it was. Yours was probably a descendant from the one I saw...30+ years (?) ago! ...Dad

  2. Unfortunately, it looks like a double crested cormorant. Yellow billed loon would be crazy good!

    1. I'm assuming I'm not alone in always hoping to find a rarity some day. A DCC is still uncommon for a "smaller" northern lake though don't you think? (consolation find?) :)


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