Algonquin Provincial Park is one of Ontario’s greatest gems just 3 hours north of Toronto. It is in the area between the northern boreal forest and the southern deciduous hardwood forests. The diversity of plants and wildlife here attracts nature lovers from across the province all year round. My partner and I ventured up for a two-day trip to try and find some of the resident wildlife, as well as some of the boreal species that wander their way down this time of year.
Algonquin Visitor Centre
The day started with us on the road at 3:45 am aiming to be in the park for sunrise. We made the long drive and arrived at the Algonquin park visitor center just before 8:00 am. We kept our eyes open for any surprises like moose, owls, or wolves along Highway 60. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky with wildlife but treated to incredible views of the landscape with a fresh layer of snow. The visitor centre has a few bird feeders set up so that’s where we decided to make our first stop. We were treated to hundreds of Evening Grosbeak… HUNDREDS! It was quite the view to be seen. Other birds we saw included a handful of Pine Siskin and a few Common Redpoll. One Redpoll had ID features making it a good candidate for a Hoary Redpoll but flew away before we could get photos.
Opeongo Road and Cameron Lake Road
After a great start to the morning, we decided to head to Opeongo Road. The parking lot before Cameron Lake road is an excellent spot to see one of Algonquin’s most popular birds. Our national bird, the Canada Jay! Many people come to this spot to experience feeding Canada Jay’s from your hand! Most times they will find you first. Other species you can find here include Black-Capped Chickadees, Blue Jays, Hairy/Downey Woodpeckers, and both Nuthatch varieties. Cameron lake road is another great spot to look for wildlife. I have seen Black-backed Woodpeckers along the road and in previous winters, otters that the bridge!
Later that day I was at a different location taking photos of Canada Jays. A few pairs were following me so I took the opportunity to take my time and try and get even more photos! Eventually, I made it back to my car, only for my partner to inform me that two Pine Martens were crawling on my car while she was warming up! With a bit of patience, the Martens returned for a little photo shoot.
Mizzy Lake Trail
Our last stop for the day was at the Mizzy Lake trail. This trail is excellent to view wildlife all year round. After a quick lunch using my Jet Boil (highly recommend for back-country camping or hiking) we had a visitor in the parking lot, a Common Raven! These birds are extremely smart! Some research shows they have the IQ of a seven-year-old human. This bird gave us a show, probably hoping for a handout. They are one of my favourite birds! Their impressive size and repertoire of vocalizations are really something to hear and see!
Our hike down Mizzy Trail was uneventful for the most part. We heard rumours of a cooperative Otter at West Rose Lake so we committed to getting there. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on our side and we were empty-handed after a total of 8km hiked. We headed back to the motel to rest before another half day in the park.
Weldwood road to Mizzy Lake Trail
Our second day in the park was a little shorter so we decided to hit Mizzy lake trail once more for the otters on West Rose Lake as well as anything else we may see. This time we parked on a logging road called Weldwood Rd which was a little shorter and easier. It was a beautiful walk with a fresh layer of snow. Photo opportunities over the last few days were few and far between for white-winged crossbills until we noticed a small flock lower in a tree eating snow and foraging. It was one of the most exciting photography moments for this trip. We eventually made our way to West Rose Lake. Unfortunately, the otter dodged us for a second time, but that’s the way it goes with wildlife. Luckily we had another Raven to keep us company! After waiting a bit and having some tea on the trail, we decided to head back to the car. We saw a few more redpolls as well as some evening grosbeaks, but nothing unexpected.
After another 4km round trip hike, we decided to pack it in and head out for the 4-hour drive home. It was a fantastic last second trip exploring such a beautiful area. We saw a lot of awesome wildlife and made some more great memories. This won’t be the only trip this winter to Algonquin so look out for future trip reports! If you would like to check out my Ebird trip report for a detailed list of species you can find it here. If you are curious about the photography gear we used for shots like the ones in this post check out this post for what gear we recommend!