Beamer Hawkwatch 50th Anniversary

Bald eagle, Beamer Memorial Hawkwatch ©

2024 marks the 50th anniversary of the Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch. During early spring sightings of red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, Cooper’s hawks, golden eagles, red-shouldered hawks and thousands of turkey vultures are regularly recorded as community science data by the Niagara Peninsula Hawkwatch. The Beamer Memorial Hawkwatch is hosted in partnership with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.

Red-shouldered hawk, Beamer Memorial Hawkwatch ©

I’ve especially enjoyed visiting the hawkwatch tower for many years and this year I had the chance to go on Good Friday, March 29 2024. A little bird had reported that more than 6 golden eagles had been sighted above Beamer over the past two weeks, as well as more than 50 red-shouldered hawks also in migration northwestward from overwintering areas in the United States and Mexico. Golden eagles live in far northern Ontario, including along Hudson Bay and into the Arctic, so they are earlier migrators and red-shouldered hawks are wetland habitat inhabitant specialists and given that we’ve had a record warm winter the red-shouldered hawks headed back to emerging wetland habitats. While red-shouldered hawks are not classified as at-risk wetland habitats are quickly diminishing in Ontario due to expansion, industrial, infrastructure and residential development, and yet play an essential role in Ontario for water filtration, climate regulation, carbon sequestration, habitat for fish and waterfowl as well as for turtles, snakes, frogs, herons, songbirds, loons and even red-shouldered hawks. Golden eagles are classified as Endangered Species At-Risk in Ontario as a result of habitat disturbance including pesticides, poaching, mining and resource extraction. So, having the chance to see golden eagles is pretty exciting. I once had the chance to see a golden eagle a few years ago at Beamer. I was at the hawkwatch tower and a large flock of turkey vultures came through and in that flock of a dozen or so turkey vultures was a golden eagle that passed overhead above us gliding on the thermals.

Red-tailed hawk, Beamer Memorial Hawkwatch ©

For myself, the highlights really included the chance to spend time outdoors in a beautiful natural environment, hearing and seeing migrating songbirds and certainly the red-shouldered hawk, bald eagle, Cooper’s hawks, red-tailed hawks and 72 turkey vultures I had the chance to see.

Beamer hawkwatch tower, Beamer Memorial Hawkwatch ©
Turkey vulture, Beamer Memorial Hawkwatch ©

Here are notes I made from the watchtower as a guest among the official hawkwatchers that day;

Nature Photography Travel

Six Days in Quetico’s Wilderness – 2023

Dehavilland Beaver floatplane, Atikokan, 2023 © Noah Cole

August 20 2023

Lake Ontario to Lake Superior

Yesterday, after coming back to our neighbourhood from a family vacation, I spent the day unpacking, organizing and spending more enjoyable quality downtime with my immediate family. I prepared for the canoe trip and packed the gear and clothes I would want and need, including canoe trip clothing, gear, cameras, book, journal, toiletries, sunscreen, rain jacket, bug spray and compass too. I went over to my parents house to pack our bags there with my dad. We reviewed the food items, the tent, paddles, fishing liscence, our clothes and personal items, drybags, grill, ropes, kindling, camp knives, matches, first aid kit, wet weather clothes and warm clothes, packed up and were set and ready to go.

This morning, I got up at 4:30 AM to get ready to head out with Dad at 5:30 to fly up to Thunder Bay from Pearson on an Air Canada flight, and then to fly into Quetico on a float plane and begin our wilderness canoe excursion through Quetico Provincial Park.

Heart-shaped lake, Quetico Provincial Park, 2023 © Noah Cole

After flying into Thunder Bay, Dad and I easily got our gear and had a rental car within a half hour of landing. Then, we obtained the additional things we needed from the Canadian Tire in Thunder Bay (fishing rod, sunscreen, rainpaints, fuel canister) and Dad drove us to Atikokan and Canoe Canada, where we rendezvouzed with Shane who reviewed our route planning with us, and gave us fresh maps, PFDs, arranged the float plane, shuttle there and pickup for the end of the trip at Stanton Bay on Pickerel Lake. It was good to see him, it had been a few years. After coordinating at Canoe Canada, we were shuttled to the floatplane, a DeHavilland Beaver, and we headed into the deep wilds of Quetico Provincial Park.

Large forest fire burned area near lakes and wetlands, Quetico Provincial Park, 2023 © Noah Cole

We flew above the decommissioned Steep Rock Mine, and we flew above seriously vast areas that had been scorched and scoured by massive forest fires of more than fourty square kilometres in scale from recent major wildfires a few years ago. Yet, the forest is slowly returning. The forest landscape including trees like jack pine, red pine, fireweed and blueberries even bears and black-backed woodpeckers benefit from periodic forest fires. It was also impressive and seemed wonderful that large swaths of wetlands stopped the fire in some places, including the area just shy of Rose Island on Kawnipi Lake, and to see the immense multitude of expansive mighty and majestic extraordinary lakes stretching across every direction.

After 20 minutes, we landed on Basswood Lake by King Point, the most southerly point in Quetico and on the US/Canada border zone. We loaded the canoe from the floatplane and paddled into the embrace of the northerly Canadian wilderness waters of Quetico. Without embellishment, we soon saw two eagles and several loons and filled our water bottles from the fresh, pristine wide lake.

Cigar Island, Basswood Lake, Quetico Provincial Park, 2023 © Noah Cole

This evening, we have camped on Cigar Island, incidentally there too is an eagle’s nest nearby and we can often hear the call of the eagles and can see the young eagle by its nest in the pine. Here, there is a lot of forest on the island, exposed beautiful bedrock, smoothed by the glacier and weathered by the water and storms. There is a lot of magnificent lichen and beautiful moss. we were honoured to be greeted by a dragonfly, a grouse, a bird’s nest and the eagles own home here. We are so deeply honoured and truly glad to be here again, on the traditional territories of First Nations peoples and on historic canoe routes. Chi Miigwetch (A big thank you: Ojibwa). Soon after setting up camp and the tent, I made a sacred offering of sacred dogwood bark and thanked Gitchi Manitou.

August 21 2023

Basswood Lake to Silence Lake

Loon, North Bay – Basswood Lake, Quetico Provincial Park, 2023 © Noah Cole

Today, we gave thanks to the Eagles Nest and paddled across Basswood Lake to the furthest reaches of Basswood’s North Bay, where before paddling the channel to the South Lake portage, we were greeted by a loon close to our canoe. We then slogged up the beaver dammed channel, paddling through thick mucky waters, over beaver dams to the easy portage. We did about five short easy portages and one 350 metre portage through the “S” chain of lakes. Between West Lake and Shade Lake there was a very beautiful unnamed lake with nearly beyond imagination impressive reflections of magnificent pines. A creek from Shade Lake fed this lake, which had tall old Canadian Shield glacier smoothed cliffs, freshwater sponges, lichen, ferns and wildflowers I’d never been before. After a good lunch on Shade Lake, where I saw beautiful lichens I also don’t recall having ever seen before, we headed onward into Noon Lake, then Sultry and onto Silence Lake.

Magnificent reflections of tall oldgrowth pines, Quetico Provincial Park, 2023 © Noah Cole

We’ve decided to camp out on Silence Lake, where I had a lovely swim, saw a few warblers that I hope to relocate in the morning. I set up tent while Dad gathered firewood, and made fire and prepped dinner too. Dad was interested in portaging today and did really well carrying the canoe over several hundred-meter portages. I was concerned that his back or hip might hurt from the spinal nerve calcification, but he was portaging those well. He said the doctor explained that he could do any activity but not to overdo it, and if it hurt then to stop. Dad is great, he has such a loving and wonderful spirit. Today, though it was raining lightly, I didn’t mind as it was pleasant paddling weather and with great company and magnificent natural environment there was a lot to truly admire and appreciate.