A note for our regular readers … This lengthy entry is more by way of a personal diary than an example of eloquently blogged travellers tales for the cognoscenti but if the text is a little tedious (which it won’t be) we hope that the (many) photographs will more than compensate. The format is as it is because the cabin at Kenauk has no electricity and so these notes have been compiled piecemeal via iPad and saved for a single dump to the blog on our return to civilization. Now, read on:
The end of the day
Saturday 11 September
This is our thirteenth visit to Kenauk in a row, always at Hidden Chalet. To commemorate this fact the management “arranged” to allocate us boat number 13 as well.
The weather forecast for the week is somewhat grey and damp but today has been gloriously warm and sunny which is exactly what was needed for the long trip up the lake in the motor boat to the cottage … Being a weekend there were a lot of fishing boats out and consequently a dearth of Loons who usually greet our arrival (though that was more than made up for in the evening).
Once settled in and after the ritual “nice cup of tea” on the dock we got the kayaks into the water (this year we brought our own rather than using the ones provided) and passed a relaxing ninety minutes pottering about the bay as the sun went down … This included a magical time watching four beavers happily munching on lily roots and ignoring our presence. Once we have seen the beavers we know we are back and although it will take couple of days to get used to the absence of the Internet a large glass of malt (Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban this year) beside a roaring log fire outside the cabin rather started to put the world to rights.
Today’s birds were exceptional - Turkey Vulture, Broad-winged Hawk, American Kestrel, American Robin, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, Canada Warbler, Black-capped Chickadee, Wood Duck, Red-breasted Nuthatch, (probable) Red-tailed Hawk, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Green-winged Teal and last of all a Common Loon flying overhead calling and calling … now there’s one of life’s magical moments.
And that’s why we come back every year.
(More information after this set of photographs …)
Two beavers having their supper of lily roots
The cabin seen from the foot of the waterfall
Sunday 12 September
Ratty’s birthday … 62 this year … Dry start with thin cloud cover, mild. Threat of showers.
About 08:30 a flock of mixed Chickadees and Warbler species milled around in the trees outside the cabin giving us good views while a Loon called from across the lake. Before breakfast we had ticked off Brown Tree Creeper, Black-capped Chickadee, Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow-rumpled Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Warbling Vireo, Belted Kingfisher and the ubiquitous Blue Jay. Half an hour later J added a Black-throated Blue Warbler that not only showed itself but also sang her a happy song.
We took the kayaks through the narrow channel to the main lake in search of a Loon … Which we found shortly before it was spooked by a speeding motor boat from the millionaires’ end of the lake. Musing about our small flotilla, memories of “Swallows and Amazons” came to mind with pleasure for R and to the sound of groans from J who was never a fan. Made it back for a late luncheon just ahead of the rain.
Rain … Lots of rain, heavy rain. Very reminiscent of Scottish rain and Scottish holidays of the past. After lunch it was clear that cabin fever was setting in. On with the waterproofs and away up the trail through the forest beside the waterfall that runs down to the lake just beside the cabin. Really nice walk and an excellent crop of fungi to admire along The way and then back to dry off, a well earned cuppa tea and a slice of fruit cake. The evening involved a log fire and a bottle of whisky.
Salmon and a bottle of superior New Zealand un-oaked chardonnay for dinner.
Loon preparing to tell us to go away
Loon in full throated "go away from my chicks" mode
Monday 13 September
Rain. Again. It is rare for rain to continue quite so persistently as it has since yesterday afternoon but down it came, steady and very wet. Clearly a morning for a solid breakfast while waiting for it to stop. As for birds … the cries of the ever present Blue Jays was about it, everything else was sensibly and silently hunkered down.
And then … Breakfast over the rain stopped and by a little after noon there was even sunshine. We sallied forth on the Great Loon Safari, coming up with two within a short distance from the cabin. While not very interested in us, they seemed used to boats and just carried on fishing for their lunch while we tried to sneak close enough for photographs … The second Loon warned us off, rising from the water with wings outstretched and wailing at us to back off … so we did. While out on the boat on this expedition we enjoyed a Raven soaring higher and higher on a thermal and a calling and wheeling Red-shouldered Hawk flying along the edge of one of the bays.
Then a photographic foray beside the waterfall to try and capture the moving water … that seemed to work rather well as these photographs demonstrate. This is a lovely stretch of water with plenty of interesting mosses, ferns, fungi and tiny flowers all around … quite a few rotten logs to crumble under your feet too as you step on and over them. The tripod made a good walking staff.
After luncheon a short visit to Jackson Lake where we had seen otters a couple of years ago failed to produce any this year but we found a small group of Common Mergansers and a couple of Belted Kingfishers plus an active little Swamp Sparrow. Anyway, the lake is a gem in any weather with floating lily beds and some lovely coloured trees
Back at the cabin an hour in the kayaks followed and added four Wood Duck to the day’s tally and later over tea three Ruby-crowned Kinglets … not bad for a day that started rather wet.
Steak with blue cheese and mushrooms to round it off … well, almost to round it off, because as we finished the meal we realized that the beavers had come out to do their sunset chores and we spent a pleasant twenty minutes watching four beavers swimming around the peninsula on which the cabin is placed visiting their territorial marker posts (easily visible in the day) and squitting a new dollop of beaver marker fluid on each just to warn off others who might be thinking of a territorial extension. As it got really dark we realized that over the heads of the beavers there were a number of bats skimming above the water catching heir suppers. Given that bats are seriously declining these days due the fungal white nose disease this was a truly welcome sight
A little later there was the sound of a group of Geese flying overhead in the dark, though whether they were Canada or Snow or something even more exotic is hard to say … there is a difference in the call, but who knows.
Chanterelle ... or not chanterelle?
The evening whisky
Tuesday 14 September
Started the (bright and cloudy) day with another small group of migrators moving through the trees and including Black and White Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Ovenbird and Golden-crowned Kinglets followed by quite a number of Yellow-rumped Warblers, BCChickadees of course and an overflying Common Loon.
Short digression … The spell checker on this iPad does not like the word ‘rumped’ and keeps trying to insist that we have been watching Yellow-rumpled Warblers
Then we went on the motor boat to tour the big lake (Lac Papineau) poking into various bays and inlets, checking the islands and rocks and pausing for a lengthy spot of birding and luncheon on Ile-des-Pins where we always try to visit. This very small island seems to attract concentrations of some interesting birds which we can see amongst the pines and cedars taking insects and generally refuelling. It’s a real gem (one year we saw a Black-backed Woodpecker) – pity about the small but intense rain showers that kept watering us.
The days tally of birds included seven Loons, including a pair of adults with two youngsters whom they were catching fish for. Others seen were Cape May Warbler, Ovenbird, Red-shouldered Hawk, Swainson’s Thrush (at the southern end of Ile-des-Indiens), Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Ring-billed Gull, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Wilson’s Warbler.
Then back for a “nice cup of tea” and a slice of J’s special Kenauk fruit cake. It’s nice to have constant sunshine while we are here but the regular succession of wet fronts passing through this season have meant that while our waterproofs have never been far from hand we have been blessed with some pretty neat birds dropping in each morning. Usually R spends a lot of time fishing but this year we decided not to bring the rods and it seems to have been a good choice in light of the birding opportunities. As we finished tea the rattle of a Belted Kingfisher draw our attention to him setting off up the waterfall
Late afternoon in a break between showers and for a change from kayaking we took out the regular (Canadian … for our English readers) canoe. Thee really are a lot of fun but much harder work to make them go, not at all as efficient. Very traditional though and a wholly different set of paddling skills. We also added more Wood Duck to our day list and a single Great Blue Heron flew over our heads.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (one of many)
Red-breasted Nuthatch collecting pine seeds to eat
The ubiquitous Black-capped Chickadee
After the birds cometh the storm
Wednesday 15 September
In the wee small hours before dawn J was woken by the call of an owl …. Very distinctive clear and wavering hoot which after consulting the excellent recordings on iBird was narrowed down to being either a Boreal Owl or a Northern Hawk Owl which in many ways sound similar. She feels the call was closer to that of the Hawk Owl, longer and more drawn put, yet the habitat is more suitable for a Boreal … And neither of them should be here at this time of year, although one of the field guides mentions that they could have a year round range more to the south of that which is confirmed were it not for the difficulty of finding and identifying them … the old “if nobody is looking then they don’t exist” problem. We won’t claim either for our Kenauk list but will be listening again tonight.
Great excitement and running about once we were up this morning … and we have added to the sum of knowledge of the biology of the beaver in proving that they eat yellow polypropylene rope! Calmly brewing a pot of morning tea R was interrupted by an excited J crying that her yellow kayak was bobbing on the other side of the lake and to come and rescue it, Strange thought Ratty, we wuz a boy scout, we can do knots, have we a voleur in the vicinity? On with the sou’wester and into the motor boat we went and a rescue was duly effected. Back on shore a careful examination of the scene of the crime indicated that the rope had been chewed through in the night and the only critters around here that we can pin the crime on are the beavers … big lads with strong teeth and polypropylene rope is actually tough stuff to sever. Harumph, and we thought they were our friends. Very unusual, presumably Mr. B came across this unknown and potentially tender morsel floating on the surface and decided to give it a try? At least he seems not to have then had a go at the hull of the craft.
The (now stewed) tea was welcome. Such excitement but at least it wasn’t raining. First bird of the day was a Blue Jay, jeering as they do. After all that excitement it was clearly time to throw out all ideas of a healthy breakfast and resort to a restorative fry-up and a big pot of coffee … while preparing this we commented on the wide and varied range of frying pans provided for guests. Quite a remarkable selection in all shapes and sizes and in large numbers – clearly they and the presence of the industrial sized BBQ on the deck speak volumes to the quality and style of cuisine normally ventured in this place. People are such philistines. Not that we don’t fry and grill, but one frying pan would be more than enough. At least people who come here are capable of managing at least one implement other than a microwave, thankfully not available.
Anyway, the day so far seemed dry and moderately bright though the wind had shifted to the north and become decidedly chilly. A day for local pottering and so Ratty and Moley set off for a lengthy walk to a small hill lake (Lac de Montagne) where a couple of years ago we had discovered fresh-water jellyfish … and if you don’t believe that scroll back two years in the blog where you will find photographs and a full biological description. Along the way we paused at an extensive beaver pond where we disturbed a couple of migrating Common Goldeneye and spooked a Great Blue Heron while a small group of Canada Geese flew over.
At the lake we were heading for we watched three Common Mergansers and then took one of the fishermen’s rowing boats and set off to the far need to see what we could see … and what we saw was a broken down landing, clearly rarely visited, and a moss covered picnic table in all it’s picturesque and photogenic glory. Also a great tangle of fallen and drowned trees with many interesting mosses and lichens and even a small natural bonsai growing on a rock with it’s roots in a rotting tree stump. Fascinating place. Walking back we heard calling Loons and added three White-throated Sparrows to the daily list. After luncheon the next new bird species was a single Eastern Phoebe.
And then, “oh, what larks” as an old friend of ours would (and often does) say … somehow managed to roll the kayak and dump oneself in the lake. Not, and here is the embarrassing part, performing some daring maneuver in white water, but did it while getting into the craft from the side of the dock. Getting into a kayak from a dock is a remarkably tricky and unstable procedure as has just been proved whereas getting in from a river bank is a doddle… at least the water was quite warm and the value of a life-jacket, even if you do look a totally uncool dork wearing one, has been proved as it ensured my hat and hearing-aids stayed dry throughout. Warm shower and a stiff whisky put the world to rights again. Big dinner and big bottle of wine still to come.
As dinner was preparing we went down to the dock to see if the beavers were around. They usually put in an appearance at sunset and the wind had dropped making the water glassily smooth. Right on cue a beaver swam across in front of the dock and then turned and cam up to within a few feet checking us out before turning away and carrying on with his chores … light levels were very low but pictures were obtained. Just before we went back to eat a big fish leaped put of the water near the opposite bank, not just once and was followed by a small brown head and narrow streak of wake in the water … what we were seeing was an American Otter catching his supper! What a magical end to the day.
Evidence of the crime - with tooth marks too
Was this the malefactor?
The view at mealtimes
Fairy garden #1
Fairy Garden #2
Thursday morning, after a last ceremonial circuit of the bay to bid farewell to the beavers, we leave for another year. This has been a really great year at Kenauk. Back again in 2011.
Kenauk - 2010