Birds and Beavers at Kenauk 2014

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Birds and Beavers at Kenauk 2014

KENAUK 7-12 September 2014

Being a brief and illustrated account of the most enjoyable wildlifing we know “West of Montreal”. This year was the 17th annual visit we have made to stay in the Kenauk nature sanctuary, now owned in good part by our friends at Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC). Always the same week of the year, always the same cabin on the same lake. When I say it’s the best wildlifing I really mean in the sense of it being the nicest and in the most pleasing setting rather than it being full of lifers … though we have had some wonderful birds here in the time we have been coming. Only 90 minutes drive from home, very isolated rented chalet with all facilities except electricity, canoes, motor boat, nobody else within miles and certainly no other buildings visible. The notes below mostly talk about birds, but beavers and squirrels and other critters are always a star attraction too. Bears are in the vicinity as are deer and moose and wolves and coyotes.

Our bird sightings relate solely to the second week of September which is the tail end of early south-bound bird migration.

According to eBird we have accumulated a patch list at Kenauk of 92 species of birds. Anyone interested can view the list at this page:

Note: there are more photographs than usual in what follows … consequently, I have put several into mini-albums which you can vies at full size by clicking on any thumbnail

Here is a corner of Kenauk:

The entry to Lac Hidden just beside the cabin we rent every year

The entry to Lac Hidden just beside the cabin we rent every year

And here is a small gallery of photos to show you how superb the whole place is …



Sunday 7

Temperature in the low twenties, blue sky with some clouds and a fresh breeze. Arrived and settled in by five in the afternoon. A cup of tea (of course) and then out for a turn in the canoe around Hidden Lake, a very hidden lake off the very much larger Lac Papineau accessed via a narrow channel. Very close to one beaver swimming along the same channel in the lilies etc that we were canoeing and later too close to another that did the huge tail slap “go away” warning.

Around 7pm we were sitting on the dock with the obligatory G&Ts, all very quiet and still when a third beaver came to investigate the food availability on the bank next to us and swam so close my lens was not able to focus on him. Beavers are a rather special feature of this place.

Finally a skein of 26 Canada Geese flew overhead going south.

Not cold at night but cool enough that there was an adequate excuse to light the log stove – summer is passing. Even if the days are pleasantly warm the nights are decidedly cooler all of a sudden.

Birds:  Great Blue Heron (2), Northern Flickers (4), Wood Duck (6), Belted Kingfishers (3), Loons (2), Chickadees, Blue Jays (6), Turkey Vulture (1), Canada Geese (26).

Mammals: Beavers (3) swimming close to the dock, so close at one point that my long camera lens could not focus on one of them which means he was within 5 feet. Wonderful.

Canadian beaver almost within touching distance

Canadian beaver almost within touching distance


Monday 8

In the small hours J heard the call of an Eastern Screech Owl.

Overnight the mercury fell noticeably and there was a thin wispy mist on the lake once we were up and about. Cloudy but when the sun briefly appeared it was warm so we are not yet into the fall. Blue Jays calling from all directions, a Wood Duck down the channel and small groups of BC Chickadees containing individual warblers, mostly seen only fleetingly and hard to identify, though a Black-throated Green was kind enough to give a good look.

Late morning, hot sunshine. A single Loon came into the bay via the narrows and swam around fishing though always too far off for anything but distant record photographs. It left the bay by the same route. Lunchtime a group of Common Mergansers (this time in camera range) emerged from behind the point and “ran” across the water in line ahead for about 100m and then settled down to swim in the normal manner. Never seen that before.

By the dock a painted turtle swam below the surface, came up very close, took one look at us and rapidly dived deep again. Smart brown butterfly, species to be determined later.

Took the kayaks for an outing and added a DC Cormorant to the list for the day – it had been dozing in the water beside a lily patch and took off as we approached, then circled several times in a big loop over our heads seemingly wondering what to do about us before deciding the best thing to do was to go elsewhere. Also heard several calls through the narrows from a loud Red-shouldered Hawk.

After dinner in bright moonlight sitting round a log fire by the lake J (my ears not being electronically amplified) heard distant Barred Owls calling.

Birds: Eastern Screech-Owl (1), Blue Jay (8), Wood Duck (6), BC Chickadee (12), Black-throated Green Warbler (1), Loon (1), Common Mergansers (5), Swamp Sparrow (2), Turkey Vulture (1), Double-crested Cormorant (1), Red-shouldered Hawk (1), Barred Owl (1)


Tuesday 9

A very bright morning with the hot sun rising over the narrows and a distant Wood Duck down in Hidden Lake. Mist Dancers rising from the still surface of the lake as the sun catches it. Blue Jays calling loudly to each other from all directions.

Gentle, warm wind from the SE presaged not many birds, as turned out to be the case today. We took the motor boat on an expedition to Ile-des-Pins where we spent a bit over two hours watching red squirrels and eating our luncheon. Two Loons, parent and juvenile, were in the waters around the island most of the time catching the fish that I failed to connect with on previous visits to Kenauk.

Later a circumnavigation of Ile-des-Indiens with a stop to say hello to the whale rock. On the rock was a long piece of very water-worn wood, one end of which looking like an eagle’s head. J was prevailed upon to roll up her trousers and paddle out to collect it as a souvenir … For a variety of reasons this may be our last visit to Kenauk for some years so one scavenged souvenir after 17 annual visits seems to be reasonable. It will have pride of place in our garden. While collecting the wood a small float plane landed on the water, bearing government insignia. It kept taking off, circling and landing and we decided someone was having lessons … on one take off they waggled their wings at J who happily waved back to them.

A TV on the way back was about it for birding. Afternoon tea and cake by the lake. Not a bad life … Then two TVs circled over the waterfall as we took tea. They passed us by so we must be OK for a while yet. By 4pm the wind had freshened a bit and swung to the NE … That may presage something less clement for tomorrow but it could also bring some more birds as compensation.

Just before dinner, sitting on the deck with G&T in hand, a brief observed group of small birds passed through, mostly high in the trees and almost impossible to look at in detail. Quote of few of the birds, but by no means all, were BCCHs and at least one of those fellows was “different” with a darker than usual  brown streaking to its flanks … Could it have been a Boreal Chickadee? Within its range but very much at the southern extremity though the forest mix is spot on. Was it or was it not?

Birds:  Wood Duck (2), Blue Jay (4), Loon(3), TUVU (1), BCCH (20), Boreal Chickadee (just possibly 1)


Wednesday 10

Normally I celebrate my birthday here, but this year the 12th is the day on which we have to pack and depart so celebration is not really in the cards. Accordingly, I am having a “not-birthday” this year on the 10th on the grounds that if it works for the Queen then it works for me. Today is the day when I celebrate being “almost, but not” 66.

Cloudy start to the day turning to warm hazy sunshine, very little wind. Before breakfast J saw a squadron of Common Mergansers working the margins of the lake close by … Well within good phot distance were it not for the inexplicable fact that the bid camera suddenly went belly up and decreed it was suffering from “Error 33” on pressing the shutter. WHAT?!

After a fatty cooked breakfast we went to check out Lac des Montagnes and Lac Jackson. On the beaver marsh by the turning to the former we added Belted Kingfisher, two Pileated Woodpeckers, a GB Heron and an American Kestrel that annoyed the other birds and perched nicely on a dead snag where, had it not been for error 33 I would have photographed it. At that point I dug out the scope and digiscoping adapter. A Northern Harrier did a high level fly-over.

Arriving back at our chalet we came to a sudden halt … In the inlet behind the chalet at the foot of the waterfall were 15 Common Mergansers and this time I had the digiscoper set up. Many, many photos including the classic Merg shot of a dozen of the birds all lined up on a log.

What a not-birthday, and still not lunch time.

The afternoon was a combination of testing the Adirondack chairs and a fungus and moss foray in the forest up beyond the waterfall. Clouding over … Before we left home on Sunday tomorrow was forecast to be rainy and that may well prove to be the case.

Birds:  Common Mergansers (15 + 2), Blue Jay(8), BC Chickadees (14), Black and White Warbler (1), Black-throated Blue Warbler (heard 1), Pileated Woodpecker (2), Belted Kingfisher (2), Great Blue Heron (1), Northern Harrier (1), Northern Flicker (4), Red-eyed Vireo (heard 1), Turkey Vulture (1), American Kestrel (1)

Two photo galleries for this day … first the lakes and birds we visited:

Secondly, the Common Mergansers:


Thursday 11

It rained overnight, heavily, and was mizzling with a vengeance in the morning punctuated by intermittent ‘blatter’. The boats were in serious need of baling … Looked like being a day for wellies and good books, preceded by a good breakfast, but late morning the rain stopped and occasional spots of blue sky were seen – mixed with a cooling wind. A walk to look at tiny orchids was the main highlight of the day.

Friday 12

Jolly cold, apparently only 4degC at 6am. Packed and away – a cold 25 minute boat ride down the lake.

Another terrific visit to our favourite place in Canada.

By |2014-09-14T14:47:09+00:00September 14th, 2014|autumn, birding, birds, conservation, environment, fall, mammals, migration|0 Comments

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