Birding is a very popular activity. The objective is to find and record as many species of birds as possible. Some birders go to other countries to add to their list. Many visit the west end of the District, where there is a great variety of birds.
I decided to take in this activity by driving to Lake of the Woods. Another reason for going was to check some birdhouses Margaret Kreger had set out some years ago.
I picked up Bob Saunders, an avid birder, who can identify most wildlife. He, Ilka Milne and Henry Van Ael have, in the past few years, identified several new species in this District. Other local researchers, like Michael Dawber and David Elder, have spent years discovering wildlife not identified before.
On a warm October day, we set out. A stop in Emo was rewarding as several hundred ring-necked ducks were feeding, in preparation for the long trip south. Also seen were many coots swimming in the lagoon.
Continuing on, we noticed the huge fields which resembled the mega-farms in Manitoba. North of Rainy River were even larger fields. There were thousands of geese everywhere.
Leaving the fields behind, we approached the river where red-headed ducks and more ring-necked ducks swam around in the water. A bonaparte’s gull flew by.
Away from the river, common birds such as chickadees, nuthatches, bluejays, and robins flitted about in the trees. A red-bellied woodpecker, rarely seen in the rest of the district, called out and then flew into a tree beside us.
Leaving the area, we took Highway 600. As we passed the Agassiz Peatlands Provincial Park, Bob told about his experience of the lost duck.
A researcher in Kentucky had contacted him asking if he could locate a monitoring device which he had attached to a duck. The signals coming from it indicated that the duck was dead and had expired in the peatland. So Bob, Ilka Milne and Henry Van Ael were up to the task, even though they had never been there before.
They found the park, but there was no welcome sign, nor path to walk on. They entered thick brush, moss and dead grass and wandered around very carefully, because many stories of people disappearing in the bog were told.
Not knowing where they were, but not lost, they gave up and left.
The next morning Bob returned, entering the peatland further north. Following the signals of the transmitter, he approached an island with many pine trees towering above the rocks on the island. Looking around he saw a few feathers and parts of a dick skeleton. A trail of feathers led him to a hole, possibly a den, where segnals indicated that the device for which he was searching, was underground. There was no way he was going to reach into the den. He had to give up and inform the researcher in the states that his monitor was going to be part of the peatland.
After this story was told, we continued to the birdhouse line south of Harris Hall. The houses were in excellent shape.
On the way home on Hwy 619, which passed through Spruce Lakes Provincial Park, we stopped to identify a small flock of birds ahead on the road. As we stood there, Bob heard the song of a boreal chickadee. I couldn’t hear them. Luckily two chickadees flew across the road and landed in a tree.These birds look like black cap chickadees, but have a brown cap.
The flock of birds we had seen had disappeared, as several cars passed by.
I deemed this trip a success as I had never seen a boreal chickadee before.