Algonquin Surprise

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Algonquin Surprise

Postby Peter C. on Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:54 pm

D. & I spent last weekend up in Ontario's "near North", specifically the Huntsville area. We spent Sunday, a day of ridiculously mild temperatures for the time of year (it got up to +4º up there!) in Algonquin Provincial Park. We did all the usual stuff along the Hwy #60 corridor - stopping at the Spruce Bog trail to look for grouse (there were a pair) and Gray Jays (alway obliging), and going to the Visitors Centre to see the big flocks of Evening Grosbeaks (we counted at least 60 there!). There were also really good numbers of crossbills, both Red and White-winged along the highway in various spots, which was a real treat - last time I saw a Red Crossbill was about 22 years ago!

However - the best sighting, by far, was not a bird at all. As we were leaving the Spruce Bog, I was walking a bit ahead on the trail, D. having stayed back to try to feed one of the Gray Jays. As I walked through a semi-open stand of spruces, lost in my thoughts, I was very surprised to find myself being stared at; about 10 m. dead ahead, in a bend in the path, a tiny face watched from behind a small ridge of snow:
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I got it in the binoculars - and knew, at once, that a) it was something from the mustilid ("weasel") family, and b) whatever it was, I had never seen one in my entire life before.

"Dawn", I called back over my shoulder, as calmly as I could manage, "you need to get here. Right. Now." She was only a handful of paces behind me, and scrambled up to the spot in a matter of seconds. The tiny mammal ducked behind the ridge for a moment, but soon popped up again.
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D., who is an actual biology student (as well as a seasoned world traveller), made this very clear, professional assessment of the situation:

"Oh my GOD, that is the cutest thing EVER!!!" (I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it).

I took about three photos, as we watched it do its "peekaboo!" act for a minute or so, alternately peering over the snow bank and ducking down again. It did not seem at all frightened, or the least interested in getting away; rather, it seemed to be expressing continual, undiluted astonishment at our presence - (up)"Oh! Look, a human!" (down); (up) "Hey! There you are, again! And look, another one, wow!" (down); (up) "WHAT?! They're still there? Unbelievable!" etc.

There were a couple of people behind us on the trail, who seemed to know what they were about; so I handed the camera over to D., and went to let them know what we had (and surely everyone would want to see this!). The man was able to confirm what I suspected - that this was indeed a pine marten, a comparatively "fluffy" relative of minks and weasels. While I was rounding them up, D. took some more good photos; the beast started to get interested in something off to the right of the trail.
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A few more people arrived, and we managed to get them "on" the marten. I could also hear a good many more people further along the trail, ahead of where the marten was, but, unfortunately, there was no way to alert them without walking right past it (and presumably scaring it off). Eventually, I think it decided on its own that it had better things to do than people-watch - some marten-y business to attend to - and scampered up a tree.
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We did not see any more of it after that, but - what a blessing (and what blind luck) to have been granted such an experience.

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Peter C.
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Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2006 7:29 pm
Location: Kitchener

Re: Algonquin Surprise

Postby wcleung on Sat Feb 25, 2017 9:44 pm

Your marten was so cute that I have been checking this post whenever I feel like a treat :)
Thanks for sharing!
Cheers, Debbie
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Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:34 pm

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