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Saturday, 20 March 2021

Winter in Algonquin

 Spruce Bog Trail In Winter.

Location: Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada
Address: Spruce Bog Trail
Date: Feb 2019
Website: www.algonquinpark.on.ca

 While Algonquin Park is known for moose and bears and wolves, in the winter it is all about the little guys.  We visited the Ontario provincial park with a goal to try and see one little critter who is quite active during the winter months.  We were on the trail of the American Pine Marten.

 Chickadee At Algonquin Park in Winter.

  We started our search on the Spruce Bog Trail as there had been reports of marten spotted here. A chickadee welcomed us as we started the trail. Things looked promising.

 Animal Tracks in Algonquin Park in Winter.

  We came across some small tracks in the snow.  Things looked even more promising.  We are not the best at identifying tracks, but we believe we have marten tracks in the photo above.

Grey Jay in Algonquin Park.

    Next we were greeted by one of the guardians of the forest. A grey jay flew to a nearby branch to watch us on our hike. "Can you show us where the pine marten are hiding?" we asked. The grey jay flew from branch to branch in front of us leading the way. After a short time he flew off. We didn't come across any marten, but we always enjoy a visit from a curious jay all fluffed up for winter.   

A Snow Fly Walking In Winter Algonquin Park.

  As we were scanning the snow looking for marten tracks we noticed something unexpected walking across the snow.  It was a snow fly.  We never expected to see insects during the winter months, but that is when the adult snow flies live.  They have glycerol inside them to prevent their bodies from freezing in the cold weather.

Pine Marten Fur in Algonquin Park.

  When we returned to the parking lot after our hike, we learned that we had just missed a pair of pine marten running around in the snow at the edge of the lot.  While we had been out on the trail they had been putting on a show.  We hung around for a little while just in case. Still we had no luck and decided to see what was going on at the Visitor Centre.

Porcupine In Tree At Algonquin Park.

    At the back of the Algonquin Visitor Centre is a large viewing area that looks out across the valley below.  We noticed a group of photographers interested in something in the distance.  In the center of the photo above is a porcupine at the top of a tree (trust us).  Unfortunately, there are not too many porcupine in Algonquin.  They are preyed upon by the slightly larger relative of the pine marten, the fisher.  Fishers themselves are a rare sighting in the park.
 
Common Redpoll in Algonquin Park.

  There is also a bird feeder behind the Visitor Centre which sometimes attracts martens looking to eat some of the bird seeds. It never disappoints as various birds come and go.  A common redpoll (above) is one frequent winter visitor. 

Pine Grosbeak.
Pine Grosbeak.

    Another bird we had never seen before is the pine grosbeak.  The male is the brighter red coloured one.   We had seen a lot of different things today, but it was still the martens we had our sights on.

Mew Lake Campground.

  We had one last place we wanted to try in our search for the marten.  We headed to Mew Lake Campground where there is an old airfield and of course camping.

A Pine Marten in Algonquin Park.

   No sooner had we pulled the car into a parking spot when we spotted something in the rear-view mirror.  At last!  A pine marten had just climbed over the snow bank and onto the road.

A Pine Marten in Algonquin Park.

   We stepped out of the car and the marten ran back into the woods.  We stayed still and it wasn't long until the marten showed itself again and continued searching through the snow.  A marten is about the size of a small cat but with much shorter legs.

Snow Fleas in Algonquin Park.

   After spending some time with our new forest friend, we started to head back to our car.  We noticed something that looked like pepper in the snow.  Upon closer examination we realized it was snow fleas or springtails.  Another winter insect.  As we watched them we could see the fleas hop off the snow and disappear into the air. 

  Suddenly, something flew near us and at first we thought it was a moth.  We had seen enough insects that day, why not a snow moth?  Something else flew towards us and we realized it was a group of chickadees.  They took turns swooping in and landing or almost landing on us.  They must have thought we wanted to feed them.  As they flew closer to our faces, we decided to take cover and call it a day.   It truly was a day full of small creatures, but the marten was definitely the cutest animal in the forest that day, or some might say any day.


Map of Our World
Algonquin Park (Mew Lake) , Algonquin Park (Spruce Bog)

Post # 297

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Our First Elephant

Elephant in the bushes of Balule Nature Reserve.

Location: Hoedspruit, South Africa
Address:  Balule Nature Reserve
Date:  October 2018
Website:  vivasafaris.com

  We travelled to South Africa in hopes of seeing as many different animals as we possibly could.  We travelled to the Balule Nature Reserve which is attached to the famous Kruger National Park.  On our first safari outing we received a big welcome from the largest land animal on the planet.

Impala Balule Nature Reserve

  The first animal we saw in abundance during our safari tour was impala.  These small antelope seemed to be hiding behind every bush.  Our guide shouted out "Impala!" at every single sighting.  An impala in the photo above is standing beside some evidence that elephants may have been in the area.

Guide Searches For Elephants In Balule Nature Reserve

  Our guide stopped our Safari Jeep and jumped out.  We had been told to keep every part of us inside the vehicle at all times and intended to do as we had been told.  Our guide looked off into the distance to confirm what she had seen.  "Elephant!" she shouted as she hopped back into her seat.  There is indeed a single elephant in this photo as well as the one at the top of the blog.  If the biggest animal walking on the planet could hide so easily we wondered about lions, leopards, snakes and more.

Elephant Hiding In The Trees.

  As we looked closer at the trees and bushes the shape of an elephant started to reveal itself.  Here is a close-up of the photo from the top of this blog.  There it was, our first wild elephant.

A Viva Safari Jeep.

   Another Safari Jeep joined ours as word of the elephant sighting spread.

Elephant at Balule Nature Reserve.

  As we watched in silence, the elephant slowly moved out from behind the trees and started to get closer to us.

Elephant At Balule Nature Reserve.

  The elephant moved closer still and into some nearby bushes.  The grey skin of the elephant started to blend in with the plants and ground and we could see how if it stood still, it might be hard to spot standing there.

Elephant Running Balule Nature Reserve

  The elephant started to trot quickly towards us and the safari jeep decided it was time to move.  A full grown elephant can weigh over 5,000 kilograms and stand about 10 feet tall.  The elephant suddenly stopped and struck a pose. We were able to admire the beauty of a truly wild elephant as we drove by.
 
Elephant In Balule Nature Reserve. 
 
     Elephants never forget and we will never forget the elephants.  Especially our first.


Map of Our World
Balule Nature Reserve

Post # 296

Monday, 25 January 2021

Kim's Convenience

Kim's Convenience In Toronto

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Address: 252 Queen Street East
Date: February 2017
Website:  www.cbc.ca

  A convenience store changed the outside signage in order to be used as part of a Canadian television show.  That show is Kim's Convenience and it first aired in 2016.  The show is now entering its fifth season and follows the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Kim as they try to run both the store and their family.

Mimi Variety is Kim;s Convenience.

   The real Kim's Convenience used to be known as Mimi Variety.  It is used for some external shots for the show even though most of the taping takes place in a replica store built inside a studio.  When we visited the real life location on Queen Street East,  it looked just like any other variety store in Toronto.

Kim's Convenience In Toronto

   The Kim's have two children, Janet & Jung.  Jung worked at HandyCar Rental.  In one episode Mr. Kim has a life size cardboard cutout of his son advertising the car rental business.  He puts it outside the front door and two neighbourhood kids steal it.  Mr Kim chases them out onto Seaton Street (above) to rescue his son's likeness. 

Kim's Convenience in Toronto

  If you find yourself in downtown Toronto you can pay a visit to the store.  Just don't expect to find Umma and Appa inside.


Map of Our World
Kim's Convenience

Post # 295