October 3, 2015 - Marathon to Rossport
October 4, 2015 - Rossport to Hurkett Cove
October 5, 2015 - Sibley Peninsula to Thunder Bay
October 6, 2015 - Thunder Bay to Rossport
October 7, 2015 - Rossport to Wawa
October 8, 2015 - Wawa to Manitoulin Island
October 9, 2015 - Nelson's Sparrow in Oliphant
October 9-10, 2015 - Manitoulin Island to Tobermory, Tobermory to Niagara-on-the-Lake
This is a trip report from my 10-day drive along the north shore of Lake Superior from October 1 to 10, 2015. I began in Sault Ste Marie and worked my way north and west to Thunder Bay, before retracing my steps back south towards Sault Ste. Marie. From I there I headed then south through Manitoulin Island, across to Tobermory, and south through southern Ontario to get back home to Niagara-on-the-Lake. The links above will bring you to that particular day of the trip. Any links in the text below brings you to the eBird checklist corresponding with that location.
October 7 was a memorable day for me as it provided the definitive highlight of the trip. And it wasn't even a bird sighting! I will get to that in a minute, but first, a quick summary of the birding that day.
It was gorgeous, calm sunny morning in Rossport. The hint of frost that had froze overnight quickly melted as the sun rose higher, and the sparrows and other songbirds were very active. Travelling with a small group of Black-capped Chickadees was a bright Nashville Warbler, while a Common Yellowthroat "chack"ed from some small shrubs along a marshy shore. My ears caught the distinctive loose trill of a Bohemian Waxwing as it flew over; my first of the trip and only second of the year.
Eventually I continued on the highway, enjoying the drive as it was a beautiful autumn day. I made a few stops in Schreiber, Terrace Bay, Neys Provincial Park, Marathon. and the Pic River mouth.
|Pic River mouth
|Lapland Longspur tracks at the Pic River mouth
Overall it was very slow and I did not find any notable birds. I followed a flock of Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs in the dunes, where their tracks remained. I did photograph this very cooperative Eastern Red Squirrel at the Pic River mouth, however.
|Red Squirrel - Pic River mouth
It was late afternoon by the time I hit the road, determined to make it to the Wawa area that evening. I was perhaps half an hour north of Wawa, cruising down the highway and listening to some tunes, when a medium-sized mammal appeared on the road up ahead! I slammed on the brakes, slowing to a stop as the cat stopped in the middle of the highway, turned around, and jumped back into the ditch. Luckily there were no vehicles going by at this point, so I came to a stop about 30 meters past where the cat had disappeared. It hadn't slipped past the edge of spruces at the border of the highway so I knew that it was in the ditch. In my haste, my camera fell off the passenger seat onto the floor of my car, my seatbelt became entangled in my phone charger and auxillary cord, and I nearly spilled coffee all over me. Additionally, my shoes were off as I had been on the road for a while. I grabbed the camera, jumped barefoot out of my car (which was still partially on the highway) and slowly walked back towards where the cat had disappeared.
Sure enough, crouched in the long grass at the side of the highway was a stunning Canada Lynx. I watched it but it didn't pay much attention to me; it was more interested in listening for the rustlings of small rodents in the grasses.
Eventually I positioned myself in a location to obtain some mostly unobstructed photos through the blades of grass. When it glanced at me its eyes seemed to stare right through me...
I had slowly maneuvered to a location with a better angle from the sun when I heard the distant rumbling of a transport truck way down the highway. I took a few more final photos of the gorgeous cat before I had to go back to my car and move it safely onto the shoulder.
Unfortunately the passing truck was enough to spook the lynx, and in a few quick leaps it silently disappeared into the spruces. I waited for a few more minutes but it did not reappear, so I continued on my way.
The lynx was certainly the trip's highlight at that point. Not only was I able to study it at close range for several minutes but I was able to come away with some photos that I was really happy with. Despite logging tens of thousands of kilometers in northern Ontario in the past few years, this was only my second sighting of a Canada Lynx. It was certainly an encounter I was thrilled to have experienced!