ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “wildlife

RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス), Rausu (羅臼), Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.17

Day 3 (1/2).

We woke up to another stormy morning in Utoro.  For the morning, we had seats reserved for a 3-hour Cape Shiretoko Boat Cruise to the eastern tip of Shiretoko Peninsula.  Due to strong winds and heavy rain, not a single boat was allowed out in the sea that day.  We had no choice but decided to leave Utoro earlier than planned, and crossed the Shiretoko Mountain Range to Rausu (羅臼) on the east coast of the peninsula.  On our way, we passed by Shiretoko Pass, the highest point between Utoro and Rausu where we could see the full view of Mount Rausu if the sky was clear.  Unfortunately, all we saw was rain, fog, fallen branches and flying leaves in the air.  Beyond Shiretoko Pass, we gradually descended to Rausu, the remote fishing village which also served as the eastern entry point of the Shiretoko National Park.  The rain began to cease as we approached Rausu.  With extra time to spare in Rausu, we decided to check out Rusa Field House, the interpretation centre providing information on the famous residents of the Nemuro Strait: whales and dolphins.

IMG_8897We quickly put all our luggage in the car and left Utoro under stormy weather.  We followed the Tran-Shiretoko Highway 334 heading towards Rausu via Shiretoko Pass.

IMG_8908As expected, we couldn’t see the mountain scenery along the way.  Instead, we drove cautiously on the winding Highway 334 under heavy rain.

DSC_4398Blocked by Shiretoko Mountain Range, Rausu was actually pretty dry, though the wind was strong and waves were high.

DSC_4409High waves had also prevented any boats sailing out to the sea from Rausu.

IMG_6526Though we could at least step out of the car to enjoy the coastal scenery.

IMG_8928Near the end of coastal Road 87, we reached the Rusa Field House.  It was very windy at the field house where strong wind from the Shiretoko Mountains channeled through the Rusa River Valley to the river mouth right by the Field House.

IMG_8930The Rusa Field House is a pleasant timber building facing the sea.

IMG_6543The Rusa Field House has a special focus on the wildlife at Shiretoko.

IMG_6550The upper mezzanine offers visitors binoculars and telescopes for whale spotting in the sea.

IMG_6557This beautiful map  of Shiretoko Peninsula in the Field House caught our attention. Although we couldn’t understand Japanese, we thought the map was showing two routes (winter and summer) over the mountains connecting Rausu and Utoro to the northwest.

IMG_6558While one side of the Field House overlooks the sea, the other side faces the Rusa River Valley that goes all the way up the mountains to Shiretoko Pass.  In the building, we could feel the strong wind from the mountains sweeping through the valley out to the sea.

IMG_6577Standing at a column base, the taxidermy of an Ezo Red Fox reminded us that red fox is a common sight in Shiretoko.

IMG_8939The Field House also showcases what is probably the most famous product from Rausu: the Rausu Kelp, one of the three most precious kelp in Hokkaido.

IMG_8940A hand-drawn illustration that shows the hidden connections between the life cycle of local salmon and coastal ecosystem of Shiretoko.

IMG_8943The Field House provides visitors information on current weather and coastal conditions of the area.  We could see the warning of high waves along the shore, urging people not to visit the coastal outdoor hot springs.  We decided to give up our plan of visiting the outdoor baths of Aidomari Onsen (相泊温泉) near the end of Road 87.

DSC_4413After visiting the Field House, we drove to the fishing village of Rausu.  At Rausu, the weather seemed fine and the sea pretty calm.  We spent quite a bit of time searching for a place to sample the fabulous local seafood.

IMG_8967In the afternoon, we checked in at our onsen hotel Rausu no Yado Marumi Ryokan (羅臼の宿 まるみ).  In the lobby, we were greeted by some of the most iconic animals of Shiretoko: Sperm Whale and Brown Bear.

IMG_8961Our guestroom offered fantastic panorama of the sea.

IMG_9018The dinner at Rausu no Yado Marumi Ryokan (羅臼の宿 まるみ) was probably the most satisfying hotel dinner of our Hokkaido stay.  Other than the “compulsory” seafood on our table as shown in the photo above, there were also a wide range of dishes made with local seafood and vegetables served in a buffet.

IMG_9067From our room, the sea looked peaceful and beautiful in late afternoon.  We silently wished for fine weather in the next day when we would have our last chance to sail out to the sea before leaving Shiretoko.

 

 

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SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖), Shiretoko Peninsula (知床半島), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.16

Day 2 (1/3).

Shiretoko Goko (知床五湖) or Shiretoko Five Lakes is undoubtedly the most popular attraction in the Shiretoko Peninsula, and the most accessible area in Shiretoko National Park.  Formed by prehistoric volcanic activities of Mount Io (硫黄山), the five small lakes in the dense forest below the series of Shiretoko Mountains has become the icon of the UNESCO World Heritage site.  The Shiretoko Five Lakes can be enjoyed from a 800m elevated boardwalk or by a short hike in the forest.  Shiretoko National Park is a natural haven for a diverse range of wildlife: Steller’s Sea Eagle, White-tailed Sea Eagle, Blakiston’s Fish Owl, Sika Deer, Ezo Red Fox, etc, but the most famous of all is undoubtedly the Brown Bears.  Shiretoko has the highest concentration of Brown Bears in Japan.  During the bear mating season from May to July, only guided hikes are allowed in the forest trails.  That was the reason why we had arranged a guided tour weeks before our actually arrival in Hokkaido.  We picked the day and time suitable for our vacation plan, selected a guide that could speak some English, and found a guesthouse in nearby Utoro to minimize transportation hassle.  Unfortunately we couldn’t predict the weather.

IMG_6334It wasn’t the brightest start for a hiking day.  Rain kept on pouring down when we get up for breakfast at Shiretoko Village Guesthouse.

IMG_8689To battle the wet and cool weather, a hearty breakfast was essential.

IMG_6343After half an hour of driving up the mountains in rainy conditions, we arrived at the Field House of Shiretoko Five Lakes, where we were to meet with our guide Mr. Suzuki.

IMG_8694At the Field House, a preserved specimen of a small bear reminds visitors “a fed bear is a dead bear”.  When a bear is being fed by visitors and loses its fear of humans, it would repeatedly enter human settlements, leading to its eventual death in human hands to prevent fatal attacks on humans.

IMG_6345A board at the Field House allowed tour guides to introduce themselves.

IMG_8704We put on waterproofed pants, jackets, boots and grooves provided by our guide Mr. Suzuki, and were led into a hall to watch a a short film introducing the national park and information on bear encounter.  Soon, three other visitors and us followed Suzuki out to the hiking trails in the rain.

IMG_8713We were excited to hike at the Shiretoko Five Lakes despite the poor weather.  Mr. Suzuki kept on reminding us a close encounter with a bear would lead to termination of the hike.  Though within our hearts we wished for a magical encounter with the iconic bears of Shiretoko.

IMG_6357The 2.5 hour hike basically took us to pass by the five lakes of Shiretoko under the Shiretoko Mountain Range.

IMG_8717Unfortunately, due to the poor weather we weren’t able to see the scenic mountains during our hike.

IMG_8716On his iPad, Mr. Suzuki showed us the same scenery in fine weather.

IMG_8725The Shiretoko Five Lakes reminded us of the wetland scenery in Ontario, Canada.

IMG_8731Throughout the hike, we spotted bear droppings a number of times.

IMG_8733According to Suzuki, the roots of these plants are popular food for the bears.  We could see many of these plants being pulled out by bears.

IMG_8739Sika deer were peacefully resting in the forest while we hiked out of the trail.

DSC_4325Sika deer is the most commonly seen animal in Shiretoko.

DSC_4333The last part of the hike led us to the elevated boardwalk that connected back to the Field House.

DSC_4344Too bad the weather didn’t allow us to witness the beautiful scenery of Shiretoko Five Lakes, though we did have an enjoyable morning of peaceful hiking.

IMG_8781The elevated walkway allowed us to enjoy the wetland scenery without damaging the vegetation of the fragile landscape.

IMG_8776Our guided tour ended at the boardwalk.  We slowly followed the elevated walkway back to the Field House to return the waterproofed outfit.


PIONEER OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE AND NATURE CONSERVATION, Kadoorie Farm (嘉道理農場), Hong Kong

On the northern slope of Tai Mo Shan (大帽山) at a place called Pak Ngau Shek (白牛石) in the area of Lam Tsuen (林村), 148 hectare of organic farms, botanical gardens and mature forests terracing up to the summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) reveal over half a century of efforts by the Kadoorie Farm (嘉道理農場).  Established in 1956, Kadoorie Farm has always stood at the forefront of Hong Kong’s agriculture, experimenting on new techniques and providing agricultural aid to farmers in need of support.  In 1951, the Kadoorie brothers (Horace and Lawrence) established the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA) in an attempt to help the sudden influx of Mainland farmers into Hong Kong during the Chinese Civil War in the late 1940’s.  They picked Pak Ngau Shek (白牛石) near Lam Tsuen (林村) to establish an agricultural facility engaging in experiments on profitable and effecting farming and animal breeding, and training the new farmers with their developed techniques.  Today, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (嘉道理農場暨植物園) diversifies their effort to promote organic farming, sustainable living, nature conservation and education.  They also run extensive rehabilitation program for wild animals in Hong Kong.

DSC_8597Linked by 9 km of roads and 8 km of trails, various highlights of the Kadoorie Farm spread over the slope of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山).

DSC_8603One of the big highlights at the lower section of Kadoorie Farm is the “Eco Garden” (生機園), exhibiting different types of self sufficient and compact farming in a community scale.

DSC_8607The garden presents natural and organic ways to maintain soil’s nutrients and insect control, and the best combination of vegetables for each season.

DSC_8611Other than its freshness and taste, the organic vegetables such as the purple cabbages are also beautiful.

DSC_8618Spherical bird scarers are hung over a cluster of rainbow chards in the Eco Garden.

DSC_8658A wavy fence separates the Eco Garden with the other terraced farms and botanic gardens.

DSC_8599Other than organic farming, more innovative planting techniques are also examined at the Eco Garden.  Some farming techniques that requires less space or soil may suit urban living well.

DSC_8631At the Piers Jacobs Wildlife Sanctuary, native mammals such as a Barking Deer or Muntjac (麂) have been rescued as an orphan and raised in the sanctuary.

DSC_8641The wild boar is also another rescued orphan at the sanctuary.  Both wild boars and barking deer can be found in the forests in and around Kadoorie Farm.

DSC_8659In the old days, pig breeding was an important work at the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Association (KAAA).  Today a few Da Hua Bai Pigs (大花白豬) are kept at the farm for educational purposes.

DSC_8671Amphibians and reptiles are both vulnerable groups of wildlife in Hong Kong due to habitat loss.  Kadoorie Farm has a few of the native species at the Amphibian and Reptile House and Reptile Garden.

DSC_8674Interesting pavilions and artworks are all over the farm, including a dragon boat pigeon house.

DSC_8687And also the fish mosaic at the Cascade Garden near the Chicken House.

DSC_8709As the farm terraces up the hillside of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山), the view to the surrounding landscape becomes more spectacular.

DSC_8721The Butterfly Path winds up the hill through dense forests and open terraces, following part of an old trail which led the locals up the hill of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) for a religious blessing.

DSC_8700In order to preserve the natural feel, there is minimal modern safety infrastructure provided at the Butterfly Path.

DSC_87329 km of roads circulate up and down the Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山), going through some densely forested areas, the habitat for some native species in Hong Kong, such as the barking deer.

DSC_8714… and the wild boar.

DSC_8750At 550m above sea level, the summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is the highest point in Kadoorie Farm.  For centuries, farmers came up to the summit to seek blessings from the goddess of Kwun Yum.

DSC_8752The summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) allows visitors to have fine view of the New Territories and even Shenzhen on a fine and clear day.

DSC_8757The summit of Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is at 1812 ft, or 550 m.

DSC_8759Kwun Yum Shan (觀音山) is sandwiched between Tai To Yan (大刀屻) to the north and Tai Mo Shan (大帽山) to the south.

DSC_8767Heading downhill, visitors can either take a shuttle bus or walk down a winding road.

DSC_8829Along the downhill road, sounds of monkeys can often be heard.  Occasionally visitors may spot monkeys jumping from one tree to another.


Hong Kong Wetland Park (香港濕地公園), Tin Shui Wai (天水圍), Hong Kong

Just a stone throw away from Lau Fau Shan, to the north of Tin Shui Wai New Town (天水圍) stands the 61-hectare Hong Kong Wetland Park (香港濕地公園).  Created as an ecological mitigation area to compensate for the loss of wetland in the new town construction, the Wetland Park is doubled as a tourist attraction with facilities including recreated wetland reserve for waterbirds and other wildlife, boardwalk circuits over the mudflats to offer a close encounter with the wetland habitats, and a visitor centre hosting exhibitions on wetland’s biodiversity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKnown as the “Succession Walk”, an elevated winding boardwalk takes visitors out to the water pond to closely appreciate various types of aquatic plants.

DSC_5245Different types of waterlilies are some of the highlights of “Succession Walk”.

DSC_5234At “Wetland at Work”, visitors can learn more about the crops produced from wetlands, such as the rice from rice paddies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFollowing the boardwalk deeper into the park, visitor arrives at the “Mangrove Boardwalk”.

DSC_5317At “Mangrove Boardwalk”, there is a good chance to have close encounter with some of the inhabitants of the wetland mudflats, such as the Bluespotted Mudskipper and Common Mudskipper.

DSC_5316Able to breathe through their skin, these amphibious fish are quite active on the mud, actively skipping around to defend their territories.  Staying in mud burrows allow them to keep moist and maintain their body temperature.

DSC_5378-2Another type of common inhabitant at the mudflats is the Fiddler Crab.  The male uses its small claw to feed and the big claw to defend.

DSC_5398Little Egret are common in Hong Kong, and can be seen in all seasons at the Wetland Park.

DSC_5418The boardwalk of Wildside Walk takes visitors to the far end of the park, where a few types of tranquil pools await both the visitors and dragonflies.

DSC_5433At some pools, algae completely covers the water like a soft green carpet.

DSC_5444The pattern on the algae looks like an abstract painting.

DSC_5458After a loop of the wetland reserve, one can return to the modernist Visitor Centre for further information.  The building is one of the few in Hong Kong extensively using exposed architectural concrete.

IMG_0842The lobby where visitors arrive is always busy.

DSC_5460One of the exhibit highlights is Pui Pui, a Salt Water Crocodile caught at Shan Pui River in 2003 when it was a juvenile.  It is believes that Pui Pui was an abandoned illegal pet from the area that had grown too big to handle.  Hong Kong Wetland Park became Pui Pui’s permanent home in 2006.

DSC_5503Other wetland wildlife on display includes freshwater fish.

DSC_5515Looking out of the Visitor Centre, one can fully appreciate the extent of the wetland reserve, a common type of ecosystem that once dominated large areas of Northern New Territories.

DSC_5522The modernist concrete architecture matches well with the peaceful landscape of the wetlands.

DSC_5525It is pleasant to appreciate the serene wetlands from the upper level of the Visitor Centre before leaving.

 


CRUZ DEL CONDOR, Colca Canyon, Peru

It was early in the morning. one by one, tour buses meandered through the winding road along Colca Canyon to arrive at Mirador Cruz del Condor, a popular destination in Southern Peru.  Everyone was anxious to arrive at the mirador (lookout) early in the morning, when warm air rose from the canyon, helping the majestic birds to take off for their flights from their cliff-side nests.  We arrived at the lookout at around 9:00am.  There were already many tourists gathering along the cliff for an unobstructed view of the gliding condors.

Condors are the largest flying land birds in the Western Hemisphere.  Their wing span can reach to over 3m wide.  These scavengers mainly feed on carrion of the South American camelids or domesticated livestock.  Andean condors become national symbols for a number of South American countries.  In Peru, condors had inspired many folklore and local beliefs.  Our guide told us that Andean condors were now threatened by secondary poisoning from the carcasses killed by local hunters.

We stayed at the mirador for about an hour, spending most of the time following the condors through our camera lens.  Before leaving, we also checked out the jewelry and souvenir stalls near the stone cross.

1Colca Canyon is about 1200m deep at Mirador Cruz del Condor

2Condors circling up against the canyon backdrop

3A condor flew right above us.

5The lookout at Mirador Cruz del Condor

6Condor at Colca Canyon

7Condor at Colca Canyon

8A cross monument at Mirador Cruz del Condor

9Condors, tourists and the cross.

10Whenever a condor glided above the tourists, it would arose excitement in the crowd.

11

Stone plaque at Cruz del Condor

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru

 


OCEAN PARK (海洋公園), Hong Kong

With 7.6 million admission recorded for year 2013-14, Hong Kong’s Ocean Park is considered to be the biggest theme park in Asia.  Since 1977, the Ocean Park had been attracting locals and tourists with its amazing aquariums, zoological facilities, amusement rides, shows and entertainment attractions.  With 91.5 hectares of land, the site is defined by two main areas: Waterfront and Summit, separated by the lush green hills of Nam Long Shan.

It has been 19 years since we last visited Ocean Park.  A revisit of the park after two decades was quite interesting for us.  In the old days, the park was renowned for its amusement rides, and shows of dolphins, sea lions and the orca named Miss Hoi Wai (海威小姐); today there are exotic animals and more cool amusement rides but Miss Hoi Wai was long gone.  Back then, the park served mainly the local Hong Kongers; now over half of the visitors are from mainland China.  As awareness of wildlife conservation grew in recent years, the park has also included educational interpretation for visitors.  However, as documentaries like The Cove and Blackfish which reveal the cruel reality of marine theme parks, visiting a place like the Ocean Park has become a controversial matter. There are increasing concerns over keeping wild animals in captivity while advocating wildlife conservation through its funded programs and educational interpretation throughout the park

We spent the entire day wandering around Ocean Park, first at the lower Waterfront area checking out the splendid underwater world of the Grand Aquarium and the rare mammals including giant pandas, red panda and golden snub-hosed monkey from the Chinese Province of Sichuan pavilion and the Giant Panda Adventure pavilion.  We then took a short cable car ride over Nam Long Shan to arrive at the Summit Area, where the distant scenery of Deep Water Bay and Aberdeen were equally impressive.  Up on the Summit, amusement rides and wildlife exhibitions scattered upon several platform levels.  We managed to see a number of wildlife exhibits before dusk, ranging from marine animals like jellyfish and sharks; freshwater fish like Yangtze sturgeons and Amazonian pirarucu; penguins, seals and walrus from the Arctic and Antarctic, etc.  We took the relatively new Ocean Express funicular back down to the Waterfront area, where we made a brief visit to the children friendly Whiskers Harbour and enjoyed the last moments of the Symbio, a show that featured a 360 degree water screen, lighting effects and fireworks at the Lagoon by the  park’s main entrance.

As we exited Ocean Park, we passed by the near completed MTR station.  After new features have been added in recent years, Ocean Park is soon to go through another phase of transformations: first will come the convenience of the subway station, and second the highly anticipated Tai Shue Wan Water World, projected to be completed in 2018, almost two decades since the last water park closed its doors.  Surviving through difficult economic times and competition from Hong Kong Disneyland Park, the ever-changing Ocean Park proved its resilience and ambitions.  In 2012, it received the Swedish Applause Award, a highly regarded international prize in the theme park industry.

3A Bathed in mysterious blue light, schools of silvery fishes swim in circles in a multi-storey glass cylindrical tank.  It is visually impressive and attracts all visitors’ attention at the Grand Aquarium designed by architect Frank Gehry.

2Red panda and giant panda at the Giant Panda Adventure pavilion.

3BThe cable car which links the Waterfront and Summit areas is an attraction by itself.  The relaxing 15 minutes ride offers spectacular views of Deep Water Bay and South China Sea.

4The Sea Jelly Spectacular pavilion display over 1000 sea jellies.

1Splendid jellyfish glows under the special lighting.

5Visitors walking through the glass tunnel while a rare Chinese sturgeon swims by in front.

6“I’m FINished with fins” – A smart slogan to request people to refrain from consuming shark fins.  Such education is crucial in Hong Kong where shark fin soup is still a luxurious delicacy in the banquet menu, even though there is increasing awareness among the younger generation.  Years ago documentary such as Sharkwater has already explained the devastating consequences to the marine ecosystem on earth as the result of massive demand and consumption of shark fins

7Close encounter with sharks at the Shark Mystique.  Sharks are one of those animals often got misunderstood.

8Amazonian pirarucu in the Rainforest Pavilion.  These giant freshwater fish can grow up to 4.5m long.

9Pacific walrus at the Polar Adventure pavilion.

10The South Pole Spectacular pavilion features king penguins, southern rockhopper penguins and gentoo penguins.

11Amusement rides are popular attractions at the Summit, including the “Hair Raiser”roller-coaster.

12Partial view of the Summit area.

13At Pacific Pier pavilion, a curious sea lion interacts with a spectator by following the visitor’s hand motions on the other side of the glass.

14Ap Lei Chau, Ap Lei Pai and Lamma Island at dusk.

15[left] a moon hanging above the Ocean Park Tower with slowly rotating viewing platform; and [right[ a seahorse decoration at the Ocean Express funicular station.

16“Whirly Bird” chair ride beyond the Ocean Express funicular station.

17Trampoline performance.

18[left] Cable cars bring visitors back to the Waterfront area from the Summit area in the evening when approaching closing time; [right] the light decoration of a small ferris wheel lit up in the evening at Whiskers Harbour.

19When the kids’ zone Whiskers Harbour left alone without kids.

20 A wooden horse of a carousel in Whiskers Harbour.

21 Water, fire, light and fireworks are the main components of the 360° water screen show Symbio.


WHEN MOOSE MEETS BEAVER, Algonquin, Ontario, Canada (3/3)

The sky was grey and the air was moist when we first hiked the Mizzy Lake Trail in 2007.  After seeing a wild turkey dashing across our path, we followed the trail to an open area surrounded by spruce bogs. The trail cut right through the bogs, with peaceful ponds lying along both sides. It was 7:30 in the morning and we were all by ourselves. Soon we discovered footprints on the muddy path, some probably belonged to a fox, and some were hoof prints of a much larger animal.  We continued to walk forward until we saw a dozen or so bare spruce trunks sticking out from the water.  Reflection of their white trunks stood against the grey clouds in the tranquil water was occasionally disrupted by touches of water insects.  Somehow the imagery touched us like a gentle poem.  We looked at the scenery for a while and took some photos.  As we turned our head back onto the trail, we immediately spotted something tall standing ahead.  It had its back towards us, but soon it turned its head and looked right into our eyes.  It was a tall cow moose, our first ever sighting of a moose.  It stared at us for half a minute, then walked slowly down to the spruce bog on the left, crossed the water to the opposite shore, and disappeared into the spruce forest beyond.  Moose, the largest animal in the deer family, is popular for wildlife sighting in North America.  The English name “moose” is a word borrowed from the Algonquian language back in the 17th century.   Spreading their two large toes to keep them from sinking, moose has adapted well living in the environment of spruce bogs, where they can walk on the peat filled marshland to feed on aquatic plants.

We saw beavers several times in Algonquin.  Sometimes with sticks in their mouth, sometimes without, always in quick motion swimming across the water.  But more often, we saw traces of their existence: pointed tree stumps, trunks with bite marks, mud and timber dams, and mounts of timber sticks in the pond.  Back in the 17th century, when a large area of North America was owned by the Hudson Bay Company, beaver fur was one of the major exports from the New World.  Nowadays, beaver has become a national emblem for Canada, appearing on the symbol and coat of arms of many organizations, companies and government departments, from Toronto Police to Canadian Pacific Railway, and has officially designated as the national animal in 1975.  In Algonquin, beavers are probably the only animals other than humans that know how to alter a natural environment to create their desirable home.  As the second largest rodent, beavers use their large teeth to harvest timber.  Along with stones and mud, beavers use the timber to construct dams to alter stream flow in order to create wetlands known as the beaver ponds.  A peaceful beaver pond contains water warmer than running streams, an ideal habitat for many wetland plants, frogs and fish.  It also serves as a moat for the beaver lodge to prevent wolves and other predators.  The longest beaver dam in record exists in Alberta, reaching up to 850m in length.

Spruce bogs and beaver ponds are two of the five major habitats found in the Algonquin Park.  The other three includes the coniferous forest, deciduous forest, and rivers and lakes.  Spruce bog is a type of wetland common in the north.  Its water is quite acidic and full of floating vegetation that slowly accumulates into a thick layer of peat.  Many birds frequent the bog,  and so as moose which come to feed and drink.   Beaver pond, on the other hand, belongs to the story of beavers continuously transforming the natural environment by building dams and ponds, creating a wetland that benefits many species and also serves as a natural filtration and stormwater system for the area.  A pond may last until the death of a beaver, or until a fierce storm hits and damages the dam beyond repair.  By then, nature will restore the area back to its original conditions, until the arrival of the next beaver to restart the cycle all over again.

00Moose sighting is popular on Highway 60, especially in early spring when the animals gather at the highway ditches to indulge  in a feast of road salt from melted snow.

1The coniferous forest (ie. spruce) and deciduous forest (ie. maple) are two of the five major types of habitat in Algonquin.

07AL02-03Rivers and lakes represent another major habitat in the park.

2Reflection of autumn foliage in a beaver pond.

3BA small beaver dam made of timber, rocks and mud is a highlight at the Beaver Pond Trail.

4Many species, such as some waterlilies, frogs and birds, thrive in the ecosystem of a beaver pond.

5Spruce bog is the other major habitat at Algonquin.

6Life and death of spruce trees mark the boundary of a spruce bog.

8Reflection of spruce forest in the bog water.

07AL03-05Spruce bog near our moose sighting location in early morning (First visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2007).

7Remnants of once a thriving spruce grove at the spruce bog near our moose sighting location in late afternoon (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).

9Spruce bog near our moose sighting location in late afternoon (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).

DSC_2160Young moose shook off water after crossing a small stream (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).  That afternoon, we joked with each other and placed our bet on whether we would have the same moose encounter that we had five years ago. We waited patiently and dusk was approaching. When we were about to leave, we spotted this young moose. It was truly a magical moment for both of us.

11Young moose gazed upon us curiously (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012)..

12This curious young moose walked from the wetland onto the trail. It seemed to be interested in us as it was slowly walking towards us.  The cow moose that we encountered five years earlier at the same spot reacted differently. It walked away from us into forest after it made an eye contact with us.    (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).

DSC_2202-2_01Bull and cow moose kept their eyes on the young moose while the young moose fixed its eyes upon us. We have vivid memory of each encounter with moose at Algonquin Park. The encounter becomes special and personal as each time there were only the moose and us. Every time, when we spotted the animal, we would keep our voice low and keep a distance from them as we didn’t want to disrupt or irritate them.  (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).

13After we had some good moments of moose encounter, we got to rush out of the Mizzy Lake Trail before dusk fell. We walked so fast that we were like racing with the sun. We’ll keep this peaceful image of Algonquin Park with us in mind no matter where we go.

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Read other posts on Parks of Southern Ontario
1.1 Land of Water and Forest, Algonquin Park, Ontario ( 1 of 3)
1.2 A Tale of Rocks and Maples, Algonquin, Ontario ( 2 of 3)
1.3 When Moose Meets Beaver, Algonquin, Ontario, (3/3)
2. Ancient Reef and Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
3. Algonquin Legend and Mazinaw Pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario