|art by David Beaucage Johnson: |
Song for the Night Sun
It is August in North Muskoka. And in Algonquin Park. That means it is Wolf Howl Month – the time of year when the Park Rangers take out huge groups of eager enthusiasts into the dark wilderness night in the hopes of hearing wild wolves howling across the northern lakes. Why August? Because that is the time of year that the wolf cubs are old enough to be left mostly on their own (every bunch of kids needs at least one babysitter, however) while the pack hunts. And those puppies get left in an area known as a Rendezvous, where they can play at being big grown up wolves: hunting frogs, and squirrels, chasing a rabbit, splashing in the water, crawling through the bracken, doing all those fun things that kids like to do. They will stay on that rendezvous area, and that means that if the Rangers can locate a site that is accessible for the number of cars and people they will need to get within earshot, there is an excellent chance that the Rangers’ howls will be answered by the puppies. Wolf puppies, like kids, can’t do a lot of stuff yet, but they are learning to howl, and are darn proud of it. The adult wolves will answer and sing along with the youngsters, and the end result means a really good chance to hear something absolutely magical. Plus, people get to be outside, in the dark, away from ground light. You get to see the sky and the stars the way most of the so-called ‘civilized’ world will never see them because city lights drown out the sky.
The Algonquin Park staff put on one helluva program. They are superbly professional, and speak fluent "wolf." We bow down before them.
I can remember one year in Algonquin, in the dark, mid-August, listening to the wolves in concert, while the Perseid meteor shower streaked overhead. And then there was a loon... No wonder people come from around the globe to experience that kind of a moment.
|diorama at the Park Visitor Centre|
We go out every week with our guests -- in much smaller numbers! and in a less formalized program (we don't have the Rangers talking about the history of the Algonquin wolves, the research being done, the slides and video they show before taking people into the woods. It's worth going to the Park just for that presentation alone!)
We are very lucky this year, at Bondi Village, that we have a rendezvous site very close to the resort. Right along the adjacent creek in a narrow ravine. Ideal for a young wolf to explore, and close enough that when we stand on our lawn for our weekly Wolf Howl here, we’ve got a good chance of getting a response.
|Hannah made me this picture |
years ago... I still have it on the fridge.
Like last night. Clouds came in to smother up the stars, although we were able to explore Altair, Vega and Deneb, the Summer Triangle stars that anchor the constellations of Aquila, Lyra and Cygnus. I hooted for the barred owls: we have three hanging out on the northern hillside, who have usually been pretty good about hooting back. Last night, however, I was in danger of being an ‘utter fail’ in the Nature/Wildlife department: no stars to speak of... no answer from the owls... Nor did the wolves seem to want to say anything. So all the kids and the adults joined me, and we tried a group “pack howl”. I must say, the kids were outstanding... and the parents were nothing to sneeze at either. We sounded ‘fierce.’ We must have made an impression, because there were a few minutes of silence, and then there was one long low howl from the east. And then, along the western edge of the resort, along that self same creek in the ravine, we heard the pack sit up, take notice, tune their instruments and begin a fantastic, sustained howl. In counterpoint, the older wolves answered them from another site to the east, so we had two howls on the go at the same time, and could listen to the voices going back and forth.
One of the reasons wolves howl is to identify and bond the pack members – it is important that every member of the pack can recognize the voices of every other member of the pack. I doubt that I could identify the various wolves by their song, but then, my ear is pretty feeble compared to theirs. Which did not mean that we enjoyed their choir any the less. It was a superb feeling, and the guests were so excited. Being able to hear wolves in the Canadian wilderness is an iconic experience, a lifelong memory. Being able to say, as these kids can, that THEY called the wolves, and the wolves answered THEM.... that’s magic.