Lake of Bays Tracking

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It was a Friday evening after the August full moon – the Sturgeon Super Moon. This moon is named after giant fish that were traditionally caught in the Great Lakes at this time of year. A wolf howled twice in the night. Its low, longing call was deep and compelling. I woke and then dreamt of wolves circling my tent.

Wolf Howl Season

August is wolf howl season. Why? According to Algonquin naturalist Michael Runtz, the air is cool, calm and the sound carries well. Wolf packs have “rendezvous sites” where pups play and rest while the adults go on hunting forays. The adults and pups use howls to communicate over long distances. Howls also vocalize territory boundaries and communicate location and affection for other pack members. On Saturday morning, we adventured up the nearby forested hillside, tracking our way through hemlocks, hobble bush and pines.

Bark Sloughing

Black-backed woodpecker “bark sloughing”
Beak marks from a black-backed woodpecker

We observed “bark sloughing” sign from a black-backed woodpecker on the hemlock trees. Woodpeckers search for wood-boring beetle larvae by removing the bark from trees. To do this, the woodpecker repeatedly slips its pointed beak under loose bark and pries it off the tree. The exposed insects are then slurped up by the woodpecker’s long, barb-tipped tongue.

Sprinkles on a Marsh Cupcake

Vole scat on a marsh mound

Our route took us to a wetland with two deer beds in the soft sphagnum moss. We followed a bear trail and found an ant mound in a decaying stump. Vole scat decorated the top of the mound, like sprinkles on a duffy cupcake.

Marsh St. John’s Wort and a spittle bug!

I met a new wetland wonder – Marsh St. John’s Wort!

My curiosity was sparked and lo and behold – it had a spittle bug on its stem! I thought that the spittle bugs had turned into frog hoppers back in June but what a sweet surprise to find an August one. Yay!

Back in the forest, we embarked on a tricky challenge next – debris tracking in leaf litter with a myriad of deer tracks. We became lost in a maze of indentations. Fortunately, Alexis and magic tracking sticks helped us out. A woodland jumping mouse brought smiles while my group was pleasantly distracted by wild turkey feeding sign on Jack in the Pulpit bulbs. 

Red-backed vole cache

Red-backed vole (?) cache of Orange Mycena mushrooms and a caterpillar too?

While wandering back along a ridge, we discovered a cache of orange mycena mushrooms inside a log. The mushrooms had tiny incisor marks on them. I had just recently returned from a canoe trip in Algonquin Park where I had observed a red-backed vole near a cache of mushrooms. The sign was so similar that I wondered if it was the red-backed vole again. After doing some reading, I learned that these forest dwelling voles are omnivores rather than herbivores (like the meadow vole) and will eat a diet of seeds, berries, leaves, shoots, roots, lichens, fungi and insects. During my research, I learned that the orange mycena mushroom has antibiotic properties.

Pretty mystery plant

Kathleen drew my attention to a gorgeous flower with a star-shaped seed arrangement. Maybe a wild lettuce? After carefully tracking our way down the ridge, we were greeted by a raccoon in a tree, seemingly welcoming us back to cozy cottage time and a swim at the beach😊. Thank you, Michelle, for hosting us!

Showing 4 comments
  • Diana Clements

    Thank you Tamara!! I always learn new things from you! I have never considered that spittle bugs are a nymph that changes into something else. But it makes total sense! Looking forward to our next venture together!!

  • Alastair

    Great review Tamara – glad you mentioned the Deer beds as I was behind when you guys found them. They always make me think of the formulae for gauging the size of a Deer by certain measurements of the bed – page 267 of “Tracking & The Art of Seeing” by Paul Rezendes – for those interested.


    • Tamara Anderson

      Thank you for that tip! Another way to connect with deer that I have not thought to do.

  • Kathleen

    This is a lovely summary thanks Tamara.

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