Monday, March 25, 2013

Early Spring in Petroglyphs Provincial Park

My birding destination on Sunday was Petroglyphs Provincial Park, which is about 40 km north of Peterborough as the crow flies. I chose Petroglyphs because it sits on the very southern edge of the boreal forest and there are some different birds that can be found flying around its forests. Heading off my short list of possible new birds included hairy woodpecker, brown creeper, golden eagle, barred owl, crossbills, yellow bellied sapsucker, and maybe if I was lucky, I would find the black backed woodpecker that I heard had recently been seen somewhere in the park.

Diagram of the crow flying

I reached Petroglyphs about 9:00 a.m. and there was a sign assuring me that I was at the right place After parking at the locked main gate, I headed off into the forest.

Sign at entrance of Petroglyphs Provincial Park.
I walked for a few hours. First on the main road and then on a trail loop. Here is a map of my hike with numbers marking the places I saw something interesting or different. (Please not that the trail is approximate and this map should not be used for any real navigational purposes)

The crow stopped flying and had a leisurely stroll
1) Besides the ravens croaking in the distance, here was my first encounter of the morning with a bird. I heard drumming to my left and I headed off into a wooded wetland (still frozen mind you) to see if I could find the source. It was a pileated woodpecker. While I already have seen this woodpecker species this year, I won't complain about seeing another on this morning.
2) I had just started thinking that there were no birds in the park when I heard drumming again. Off the trail, behind a tree, through the brush, and I still couldn't see what it was. Something flitted past me; red breasted nuthatches and chickadees. But what of the drumming? Then another pileated woodpecker flew over me.
3) I started to concentrate on animal tracks in the snow when, all of the sudden, the forest became alive with bird sounds. More red breasted nuthatches and chickadees! I am sure other birds were calling but I couldn't find them. Down the trail I headed again.
4) Something moved by a log off the trail ahead of me. Perhaps a grouse? Nope, just a red squirrel eating a nut.
5) I found a seat in the picnic area next to McGinnis Lake and stopped for a while and saw even more red-breasted nuthatches and chickadees. I trudged back through the snow to the main road and headed for the car.
6) I passed some other walkers (it was the first people I had seen all morning) and heard more drumming. I slipped off the main road and went the general direction of the sound. It was another pileated woodpecker. Were there any other types here? Once back on the road, I almost immediately heard more drumming. It was a hairy woodpecker! Much larger than the downy woodpeckers I had seen so many times before. And there was both a male and female moving from tree to tree. There were other woodpeckers here after all.

That was it. A little over 3 hours of walking, 5.8 km covered, 3 pileated woodpecker sightings, and 1 new species for the list: hairy woodpecker.

And for those of you not from Ontario who might be wondering what walking through the woods this time of year looks like? The trails are still snow covered (although I would bet for only another week or so) and there are still 2 and 3 foot drifts in places. It might be spring but it still looks a lot like winter.

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