MacGregor Point Provincial Park – Emily’s First Camping Trip!

As most of you know, Sarah and I like to be outdoors, and so will Emily!  Emily went on her first birding/hiking trip at maybe 2 weeks old (much to the dismay of our healthcare professional) and even spent a few days with us at Pelee this spring (much to the dismay of a passing tourist who under her breath mentioned “A little young, isn’t she?” — too young for what?  Fresh air?).  Emily is loving it so far, and so are we.  I want to teach her everything about the outdoors!

Emily sleeping the day away

We’ve been wracking our brains on what to do for a cheap and cheerful OUTDOOR summer vacation.  Well the idea came up about camping.  We only have a small lightweight tent for backpacking/canoeing so that wasn’t going to cut it.  We weren’t sure how it was going to go either with diaper changes in the middle of the night… night feeds, etc.  So I started looking at Yurts.  There was one available at MacGregor Point on Lake Huron – Perfect!

Last week we made our way up, stopping a few times at some small parks to feed Emily.  It worked out well for me because while waiting, I just picked up my bins and looked around.  Added some new birds in new counties!  It was a long day but we made it. We had been to the park many years ago, but I didn’t remember much about it.  This was the first time as birders, in the Bruce area as well.   I was looking forward to searching out a few new year birds and even the possibility of some life birds.

The first full day was just spent in the park.  We were seeing birds we hadn’t seen since early in the spring back home.  A new experience to see them on territory.  The highlight though was hearing the distinct call of a Northern Waterthrush, right behind me – literally 5 feet away while I ate my breakfast.  I turned around and spotted the singing male, followed by a female… and then their little “baby”.   The little wet spot beside our campsite was their territory.  Everyday they were there and every day we watched them.  I’ve never had such great looks (not great pics though)!

Northern Waterthrush
Fledgling Northern Waterthrush

The plan from the beginning was to take one full day and drive further north, in search of new birds.  First stop was Sauble Beach to see the nesting endangered Piping Plovers.  The fog was rolling in off the lake which added something to experience!  We noticed one adult with 2 young birds.  The adult was busy fending off the gulls.

Isaac Lake

After some lunch (for all 3 of us), we headed further north for a quick stop at Sauble Falls and then on to Isaac Lake – a wetland / large lake.  It was mid-day so I didn’t expect to see too much but wanted to see what it looked like.  I definitely will be back to this area!  We did pick up a few trip birds (Black Duck and Common Loon)… off to the next spot.

Showy Lady’s Slipper Orchid

Steve Pike had told me about a little known spot down a dirt road that after walking a semi-hidden trail you can find Showy Lady’s-slipper orchids in the middle of this forest.  His directions were spot on and we took turns going to look at the plants while Emily slept in the car.  There were only 2-3 plants still blooming but definitely worth the stop!

My main target bird for this trip was the Upland Sandpiper – a life bird.  Josh Vandermeulen had mentioned that he had seen one on Everatt Side Rd, just east of hwy 6.  We drove slowly down the road, checking every fence post but no luck.  Emily was hungry and getting restless.  We were about to give up when Sarah said, “I have to feed her, just pull over here.”  So I did.  Baby comes first.  While they were doing that, just for fun I pulled my scope out and started scanning.  A few Eastern Meadowlarks and then Bam!  Upland Sandpiper!!  Thank you Emily! This is the second life bird she helped me get this year (more about the other later).  Another flew out from the field.  A least 2 were in this area.

Family Picture

It was getting late in the afternoon but we made the decision to head a little further north to the southern edge of Bruce Peninsula National Park.  After a lot of driving around to find a good spot, we ate a quick dinner and headed out for a hike down to Georgian Bay.  What a gorgeous evening and spot.  On the way back south, I spotted a large Black Bear on the side of the road.  It bolted right back in the bush before I could get my camera out.  Fantastic day!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The next couple of days were spent in the campground itself.  I was hoping to come across a Pileated Woodpecker.  I don’t have a lot of luck with them in Ontario.  I’ve seen them easily in Florida but have had only fleeting glimpses back home.  One morning I got up early and went for a quick solo hike on the tower trail.  On the way back to the car, I looked up at a tree that I had passed earlier and said to myself “Perfect tree for a Pileated” – Sure enough, there were at least 2 possibly 3 picking away at “The Pileated” tree.  But again, only a quick look and they were gone.  Oh well.  At least I got a look — but no pic.  I felt a little guilty because Sarah didn’t get to see them… until we were leaving the park and 2 flew across the road, right in front of us (still no pic).

What a great vacation.  We ended up with about 80 species of birds in the Bruce area, a couple of porcupines, a bear, as well as a few butterflies and Odes that I still have to ID.  MacGregor Point is a great park and I know we’ll be back.  We’re already talking about going to the birding festival there next year.

Fire!  That must have been something to see
Still need to ID You… Any help?
Porcupine — Nom nom nom

5 thoughts on “MacGregor Point Provincial Park – Emily’s First Camping Trip!

  1. A meadowhawk – either White-faced, Cherry-faced or Ruby Meadowwhawk. To get to species requires a good look at the male hamules or female genital plates which are too small to see in most photos. The sex is either a female or a young male.

  2. Good for you for introducing Emily to “fresh air” from the start. We really do insulate our children way too much from nature these days, which I find really sad. So glad you are taking the opposite approach.

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