Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Winter Weekend at Algonquin Park

When this blog was very, very new, I wrote about Grandma's birding club which had its inaugural outing on May 3, 1937. In the first picture, Grandma and her friends are sitting on the ground outside the cabin at the farm which is 5 miles outside of Aurora, Ontario. In another post I wrote about a birding birthday party held on the property in 1944.

In early 1942, a Gray Jay, also known as a Canada Jay or Whiskey Jack was seen at the farm. The Gray Jay is a bird of boreal and sub-alpine forests and is rarely seen as far south as Aurora. On January 11, 1942 the bird was banded by the Toronto Field Naturalists and the event was written up in the newspaper along with this picture of the bird.

I have never seen a Gray Jay and this past long weekend, my husband and I drove three hours north of Toronto to Algonquin Park for some winter trail walking and nature exploration. Birding has been very slow at the park this winter as there are few pine cones or berries around. Last winter large numbers of winter finches and grosbeaks were found all over Ontario but only a handful of sightings have been reported this year.

Gray Jay at Algonquin Park

Highway 60 runs west to east for 56 kilometers through the southern portion of Algonquin Park. Most of the 7630 square kilometers of this huge provincial park are inaccessible by road. But there are many trails along the highway where people can walk, ski or snowshoe in the winter and animals like moose, deer and wolves are sighted daily. At kilometre 10, we had a magnificent view of a Golden Eagle flying up in front of the truck. This eagle is not very common our area. We found no Gray Jays the first day and were a little overwhelmed trying to decide where to look for them. A helpful employee at the visitors' centre told us of a few places to start our search and we came back early the next morning.

Gray Jay
February 15, 2010

We found two Gray Jays who stayed in very close range for over half an hour. They are beautiful birds and are much larger than I expected. In my next post I will share more pictures and information about this pair of birds.


  1. Mexico Mom10:33 pm GMT-5

    Thank you for many more memories of my past. I well remember the banding of the Canada Jay. I felt sorry for the frightened bird. Too bad that in those days we had no coloured pictures

  2. I did not know that they were also known as Whiskey Jacks. My sisters in northern BC talk often of the friendly Whiskey Jacks who they hand feed much like the chickadees. Now I see where you get your love for birding. What a great family trait.

  3. Birding is in your blood Ruth.

    The gray jay is cute. I've seen them at Crater Lake, Oregon. But, alas, no pics.

  4. How beautiful Ruth! So glad you all were able to find some, AND get such great photos of them.

  5. What a special treat to be able to see this bird.I am glad you had this chance.The park sounds like a delightful place for a birder to walk.

  6. Congratulations of tracking down the Gray Jay.

  7. I love your bird photos, Ruth! That gray jay is too cute!

  8. We have gray jays here and they often follow us for a space when we walk across the highway. Once in a blue moon they tour through our yard and check the feeders out (usually the suet) but not often.

    Yes, it seems birding IS in your blood.

  9. Wonderful post! I so enjoyed the first picture. Everyone looked like they were having a grand time.

    I wish I knew more about birds. I find them fascinating.

    Thanks for sharing in the Remember Whensday meme this week.

  10. That is so neat. I bet birding clubs were more rare back then. Your grandma was quite a pioneer. I think sometimes we think we are the first people to discover the joy of watching birds :-) That is a lovely Jay. Wonderful photos of them.

  11. I love this story! and So glad u saw the Grey jays!

  12. Nice to read about your famlies ties to birding. This past weekend, my wife, Jean, and I, x-country skied in Algonquin Park, on the Fen Lake Ski Trail. It was a white, beautiful world and one of the best ski trips we have ever had. We saw many different birds, and animals, including a moose, a Great Grey Owl, and two Pileated Woodpeckers working on a spring nest. Come checkout our blog posting and videos at: http://frametoframe.ca/photo-essay-cross-country-skiing-algonquin-provincial-park-ontario/


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