Even getting to Thunder Bay from Southern Ontario took some time so most of the first day was spent in the car. We did manage to stop every so often to stretch our legs and at one location close to Thunder Bay we were able to find a Lead-Backed Salamander, a rare find for the area. As we got closer to Thunder Bay it was pouring rain, the air was filled with fog and it was pitch black out making the road especially dangerous. More so when a huge Moose decides to walk out right in front of the car.
Once we got to Manitoba and the treeline cut away we found ourselves in a depressingly uncharacteristic landscape. The first thing we set to do was try and find some Tiger Salamanders. We headed to one spot where we heard reports of Eastern Tiger Salamanders, after trekking through dense forest filled with ticks we turned up no sign of salamanders but did find a beautiful Plains Garter Snake, a lifer for me. Defeated we headed to the campground to set up our tents. The area we stayed was filled with Wood Frogs, being so far from Southern Ontario many of the Wood Frogs sported a greater diversity of patterns on their back then the Wood Frogs back home. many had stripes running down their body and dark blotches. That night we road cruised to see what we could find and while we did not find any herptiles doing this we did manage to road cruise a baby Goose.
Having seen photo records of Tiger Salamanders in one area north of the campground we decided to check it out. We hiked for a little ways and flipped almost every piece of cover we could find and lift. Despite our best efforts we could not find Tiger Salamanders in this area although we did come across a small wetland where I found some Boreal Chorus Frog tadpoles, another lifer for me! We then headed to the salamander capital of Canada; St-Leon. Here there have been reports of salamanders everywhere so we thought this would be almost a guarantee of finding one. Sadly despite the large salamander statue and education centre we found no sign of salamanders. We did however find an adult Boreal Chorus Frog which I photographed on mass.
In the morning I went for a little walk around the campground (trying to get signal) and found myself on a small path by the water. As I was walking through I noticed the shine of a turtle shell but the turtle seemed to have noticed me as I noticed it and dove into the water before I could get my camera out. Luckily though I now know they are in the area and where I can find them later, I saw an unusual looking Leopard Frog and headed back to camp. We soon set off to see what we could find dip netting some of the small ponds at the side of the road. As soon as we got out of the car at the spot we managed to find two Plains Garter Snakes. Dip netting the ponds we managed to find another unusual looking Leopard Frog and tons of birds such as American Coots and Yellow-Headed Blackbirds. As we got back to camp I went for a hike to see if I can see another Western Painted Turtle and hopefully get a photo. Today was not the day for that as I instead found another Wood Frog with a stripe running down its back and a Wood Frog with only one foot on its back legs. As night fell we went back to St-Leon to see what we could find at night. In the woods I heard a call that sounded reminiscent of the Grey Treefrogs back home but somehow different. I followed the calls which brought me to a small wetland filled with Chorus Frogs calling and one Cope's Treefrog.
In the morning I walked over to where I had originally seen the Western Painted Turtle and sure enough on the other side of the pond one large Painted Turtle was sitting there basking, I was far enough so not to scare it but close enough to get some half decent photos where you can make out its a different sup species due to the colouration on the front legs. Its unusual seeing Painted Turtles all over the place in Ontario and then coming to Manitoba where they are far and few between, in the area we were in at least. We soon traveled back to Ontario but not before making a few stops along the way to see what we could find. Once back in Ontario we stopped at one spot and saw some swans and stopped at the side of the road to photograph a large bull Moose.
While in Thunder Bay we checked to see if we could find Central Newts. We did not find any but did have an enjoyable hike through the Northern Ontario Forests despite swarming blackflies. We managed to see a Deer on the trails and on the way back to Southern Ontario we stopped to see a Black Bear where I got out of the car to photograph it better. I was not in any danger and closer to the car then to the actual animal, it didn't seem to have any fear of me and continued grazing on the grasses at the side of the road. Although we did not manage to find much in the way of Salamanders it was a great trip where I got to see a number of lifers both herps and birds, I got to see a part of Canada I wouldn't have been able to see otherwise and of course I got to spend time with some good friends.