A hidden Birdland

Contributed by Marion McLeod. (See also the post The Lost World, below).

Oh my, the Lost World! I am one of the “few oldtimers” who will recognize this title. I first heard about it from your aunt Helen and cousin Betsy in the early nineteen fifties. Betsy and I, as young teenagers, explored there, cautiously entering the narrow inlet in our little outboard, through the even narrower entrance between the high rocks and emerging into a wondrous, secluded bay surrounded by tall marsh plants, water lilies, and old half-submerged logs. It was indeed a superb hideaway!

Fast forward to 2004. I returned to Lost World with my friend Dorothy with whom I was monitoring the surrounding 10 km square for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas. We had examined a map of the area and concluded that there was an inland wetland beyond the Lost World bay. Determined to leave no birding spot unexplored, we set out in June, armed with our GPS, to try to locate this likely bird habitat.

You are quite right, Ancient Islander, there is a different feel about approaching this spot now with cottages built close to the entrance. However, the bay and mainland beyond have become part of the McRae Lake Conservation Reserve Area, so we did not feel we were intruding on private property.

Paddling our way through the masses of water plants matting the surface, we crossed the little bay and pulled up on the shore. Off we set, intrepid explorers, each harbouring inner fears of treading on rattlesnakes or encountering bears. The latter had definitely become more prevalent in the intervening years. We proceeded around a marsh, through a forest, and up a rocky incline, all the while silently questioning the veracity of our little GPS. On the verge of giving up, we suddenly emerged from the trees onto an extensive flat, smooth rock with the most breathtaking vista! The water extended beyond our sight to left and right, with high cliffs opposite, marshy areas, and who knew what around the corner

It was a wondrous discovery, and while it seemed a place of stillness, the bird songs began to fill our ears. Scarlet Tanagers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were the first that we saw. Suddenly the air was filled with a cacophonous quacking-barking sound! Was it a? Could it be? It was out of sight, so we quickly headed in the direction of the calling. There, in a new arm of this magical place, we saw a pair of Pied-billed Grebes, the female nesting on a surface mat of water plants! What a thrill!

We spent a long time here, finding new birds and recording observations. There were nesting Kingbirds, Wood Ducks, elusive American Bitterns in the tall marsh grasses, and Nighthawks swooping overhead. We returned three weeks later hoping to confirm breeding for some of these species and were delighted to find the Nighthawks sitting on eggs right on the ground, and baby Wood Ducks swimming after mom.

The following year, we again visited the place we had named Lost World Lake. This time we found the very old, overgrown beaver dam that had, we assumed, originally created this wetland. We saw Common Goldeneye, Black-crowned Night Heron, Ovenbird and a family of Brown Creepers among others. We did make passing acquaintance with a few rattlesnakes, but thankfully no bears!

A decade later, I introduced my two teenage grandchildren to “Lost World”, but given the very low water level then, access was difficult, and the shallow bay was almost impossible to penetrate. Sadly, we could not go beyond the entrance and they could only catch a glimpse of this special retreat. How I would love to see the Lost World Lake again, but for now, it remains vividly in my memory.

2 thoughts on “A hidden Birdland

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