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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rebirth of flora and fauna in Ontario's parks makes springtime a great time to visit

   One-Tank Trip for April 16-17/11
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Spring is one of the best times of the year to visit Ontario parks with a rebirth of the flora and fauna.
   The lack of the thick summertime foliage offers a chance to see "rare park flora and fauna while wildflowers carpet forest floors," said Lori Waldbrook, Ontario Parks' senior marketing specialist.
   As well, salt-depleted moose seek roadside mineral pools while special spring events are underway, she added.

   Moose are on the loose in Algonquin Provincial Park and springtime is the best time to see them. (Ontario Parks)

Watch for Algonquin's moose jams
   The moose are on the loose and one of the best places to safely spot these majestic beasts is at Algonquin Provincial Park.
   That's where 3,400 moose live a generally elusive life but in the springtime they are attracted to mineral pools along Highway 60.
   The pools fill with salty runoff from winter highway maintenance that moose love for feeding after a salt-lean winter on twigs.
   A May "moose jam" is when you see 30 to 40 cars stopped at the side of the highway to watch the animals feed in a roadside pool.
   There's a chance to learn from Algonquin experts at a wildlife research event from May 27 to 30.

Tiptoe through the trilliums at Ontario parks. (Ontario Tourism)

   Trilliums, lady slippers among the blooming wildflowers
   Native wildflowers are in abundance in Ontario parks every spring and there is no better place to enjoy nature's beauty than on a trail.
   Tiptoe through the trilliums, lady slippers, trout lilies, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Dutchman's breeches and much more.
   In southern Ontario, native species begin to bloom in late April while in the more northern regions, these last well into June.
   The white trillium, Ontario's official flower, carpets many forest floors from now through mid-June depending on the location.
   Native wildflowers are in abundance every spring including these colourful trout lilies. (Ontario Parks)
   Great viewing spots include the appropriately named Trillium Woods Provincial Nature Reserve near Woodstock.
   There's an easy one kilometre trail winding through a Carolinian forest thick with trilliums every spring.
   Or, check out the Trillium Trail at Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville and the Rainbow Run Trail at Earl Rowe Provincial Park near Alliston where there's also a fish ladder used by rainbow trout to reach the Boyne River to spawn.
   The Spicebush Trail is a favourite walking spot at Rondeau Provincial Park, southeast of Chatham, and sprouts wildflowers such as the trout lily, trilliums, bloodroot, mayapple, hepatica and Dutchman breeches.
   Ferris Provincial Park near Campbellford has a guided trillium walk on May 1 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
   Presqu'ile Provincial Park, south of Brighton, is one of the top birding-watching spots as some 250 different bird species migrate to Ontario in the spring. (Ontario Parks)
   Our fine-weather friends are back
   More than 250 different bird species migrate to Ontario in spring.
   Studies suggest these returning snowbirds orientate themselves on migration routes using the position of the sun during the day and the stars at night as they sense the earth's magnetic field.
   On Lake Erie at Rondeau Provincial Park, there's the Festival of Flight from May 2 to 23 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
   This is the peak time for returning songbirds with activities including birder's breakfasts, lunches and guided hikes daily.
   Lake Ontario's Presqu'ile Provincial Park, south of Brighton, has recorded 333 species and more than 200 are sighted annually.
   The major influx of small birds occurs in May for warblers, tanagers, flycatchers and shore birds.
   Lake Huron's MacGregor Point Provincial Park near Port Elgin has the Huron Fringe Birding Festival from May 27 to 30 and June 2 to 5.
   There are guided day and evening hikes and workshops that include bird identification and nature photography.

Among the wildflowers are pink lady's slippers. (Ontario Parks
Icy adventures in the north
   Chill out with ice-out adventures as another spring rite of passage in Ontario parks.
   Many experienced paddlers favour Temagami's Lady Evelyn Smoothwater Provincial Park for an ice-out adventure.
   "While water safety is paramount, the park's Lady Evelyn and Makobe Rivers benefit from higher spring water levels and are best paddled at this time of year," Waldbrook said.
   Also up north is an opportunity to renew camera skills and learn new ones at digital photography workshops at Sleeping Giant and Kakabeka Falls provincial parks. www.superiorvisits.com

   If you go in the woods:
   To learn more about outdoor adventures at Ontario Parks: www.ontarioparks.com
   There's a parks blog filled with information on events: www.parkreports.com/parksblog


Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com

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