A 100% surprising summer!
By Éric Deschamps
Once again this year, I had the great privilege of visiting three Sépaq outdoor establishments, two national parks and, a first this summer, a wildlife reserve!
I want to share a look back at an incredible summer of exploration.
A rare bird in Oka
I started my summer by visiting Parc national d’Oka. When Sépaq asked me to set off to discover the flora and fauna of this park a mere stone’s throw from Montréal, I honestly didn't know how to react. I’d lived nearby for 25 years without ever setting foot there, believing that Oka was a beach destination rather than a camping and nature station.
But I was wrong. I spent four days there and I’m still in shock when I think of what I had the chance to observe in the park's diverse environments. I saw and heard over sixty species of birds. And that's without counting the numerous amphibians and the few mustelids I encountered!
I was even able to photograph three species of birds that I had never seen in my life, including the least bittern, an endangered wetland-dependent species that’s spotted only rarely. In the Grande Baie sector, a very well preserved wetland ecosystem, I saw not one, not two, but five little bitterns. I simply couldn’t believe my eyes: I was looking at several birds of this rare and endangered species in a park near the city.
In addition to the least bittern, I saw a myriad of typical wetland birds such as black-crowned night heron, green heron, great egret, great blue heron, American gallinule, pied-billed Grebe, and Virginia rail. I also had a surprise visit from an otter, who seemed as startled as I was by our encounter.
In addition to its wetlands, the park is full of impressive mature forests. I was particularly fascinated by the diverse forest and the immense trees in Calvaire d’Oka sector. In fact, I had the privilege of encountering two barred owls that were vocalizing at dusk.
The enchanting environment of Parc national d’Oka was definitely one of my favourites of the summer!
A curious family in Matane
A little later in the summer, I went to Réserve faunique de Matane, located right next to my home in Gaspésie. Having visited the reserve often, mainly its mountains, I was already familiar with the destination. This time, I was particularly excited to discover its many lakes.
To my great delight, I was able to observe a number of birds. And one species was practically everywhere, the common loon. Occasionally, I also saw black-crowned night herons, great blue herons, ring-necked ducks, bald eagles, goldeneyes, kingfishers, and many others.
As far as mammals are concerned, I was very spoiled! Indeed, I came across a beautiful female moose in the morning mist of blue-hour dawn. However, my most surprising encounter of the reserve remains without a doubt that of a curious family of otters, observed from my kayak while the youngest were playing in the water and eating small fish.
In addition to its breathtaking wealth of wildlife, the reserve charmed me with its magnificent landscapes and the fascinating colours of its daily sunrises and sunsets. I was able to enjoy these glories every day I was there.
Breathless in Fjord-du-Saguenay
Finally, I visited Parc national du Fjord-du-Saguenay, where I contemplated the majesty of the fjord in two specific sectors: Baie-Éternité and Baie-Sainte-Marguerite.
A few months earlier, while kayaking down the fjord, Baie Éternité had impressed me with its breathtaking cliffs and the beauty of its landscape. I was eager to return to this territory with more knowledge about the history of Fjord-du-Saguenay, which began over 350 million years ago! Just imagine!
Having read about the different geological episodes in the region, I had a better understanding of the glacial valley phenomenon behind the vastness of the panorama. Sailing through the fjord, I was able to see the fault and its vast rock walls with my own eyes. Today, exceptional animals, including the beluga whale, can travel and breed in the waters of the fjord.
In fact, I witnessed about thirty belugas at the surface in Baie-Sainte-Marguerite sector; some were just blowing and others were behaving in ways I had never seen before. I would have liked to have approached them by kayak, but during the calving period, it’s not recommended to do so. Even though they were too far away for me to take a picture, I enjoyed watching them through binoculars.
Add to this the dozens of harbour seals, spotted sandpipers, and common loons observed and photographed in the various sectors of the national park, and I once again noted the abundance of aquatic fauna in Fjord-du-Saguenay. However, it was the landscape and the great cliffs with their thousand and one textures that really impressed me during my stay.
For me, this place is a real paradise! You can find everything that nature has to offer.
In short, during the summer season, I discovered a very popular park that I had underestimated; I was amazed by the diversity of a wildlife reserve that I thought I knew; and I consolidated my love for the landscapes of a park I had already visited. If I had to sum up my summer in one word, I would have to say... surprising!
About Éric Deschamps
After beginning actuarial studies at Université du Québec à Montréal, Éric Deschamps made a decision that would alter the trajectory of his life. He dropped statistics, said goodbye to the big city in which he had always lived, and packed his bags. His game plan? To set out on an adventure. So he moved to Cap-Chat in Gaspésie to teach himself photography. Nowadays, camera in hand, he criss-crosses the forests of Quebec in search of snapshots that are one of a kind.
You can also follow his adventures on his Facebook page Nature en vue.