Early Morning at the Frink Centre

The note I left on the kitchen counter read “Good morning! I’ve gone to the Frink Centre to  look for Virginia Rails.  Pets have been fed.”

It’s always a good idea to get up early if you want to see wildlife.   That doesn’t mean I always do it.    But Monday, I took off for the Frink Centre.


Great Blue Heron greets me as I arrive at the boardwalk.

The HR Frink Centre is an outdoor education centre about 10 minutes north of Belleville, Ontario.   It boasts woodland trails, and an extensive boardwalk through a marsh absolutely brimming with life.

I have been to the Frink Centre countless times with classes of children, age 5-14.   It was always one of the highlights of the school year, and we were never disappointed. But going there early in the morning is a completely different experience.   Early in the morning, the Frink Centre reveals its secrets.

Frink Centre, Leslie Abram, Ontario, wildlife

Marsh wren skulking around the cattails

All kinds of creatures are hiding in the cattails.


Who are you?

If you stop, and wait, life will eventually show itself.

The boardwalk

As my note read, my real target for the morning was Virginia Rails.   I had heard through Terry Sprague’s Quinte Area Bird Report that family groups of these elusive birds were frequently being spotted.   Baby Virginia Rails?   Oh my.



As I walked down the boardwalk I noticed my friend Kenzo and his little dog Gordie were already there.   Kenzo goes to the Frink Centre a lot, with Gordie by his side.   He knows where all the creatures hang out.    So we waited together.


Painted turtle

We watched a turtle.


Looking good

Lots of frogs around too.


Woah there

Even this black water snake.


Baby Virginia Rail

Finally, from the edge of the marsh, we spotted some movement.   A little black juvenile Virginia Rail!   We remained very still as it made its way among the weeds, having its breakfast. They eat insects, insect larvae, fish, frogs, and small snakes.


Growing up

You can see it is starting to grow in some of the rusty coloured feathers of an adult.


Adult Virginia Rail

Speaking of whom, look who ran out onto the boardwalk!   I was so thrilled to see her, as my only glimpse of Virginia Rails in the past have been them peeking out of dense reeds.   They are notoriously secretive.


Pretty lady

Virginia Rails have many adaptations that help them be so secretive.   First of all, their feather patterns help them camouflage brilliantly.   When nesting, they build “dummy nests” to throw off potential predators.


Roll call

They are perfectly suited to live in their marsh habitat, with long toes, strong leg muscles, a laterally compressed body (they are skinny when viewed head-on) and extra-durable feathers on their foreheads to protect their heads when pushing through dense vegetation.


What a beauty

It was a really treat seeing Virginia Rails out in the open for the first time.  Although Virginia Rails are fairly common, they are rarely seen.   Worth getting up early for.

If you want a great morning walk, with guaranteed wildlife sightings, the Frink Centre boardwalk is a marvellous outing.  Here’s a link to their site, with directions:

Directions to HR Frink Centre  



  1. nice story Leslie and extremely productive viewing for sure. Today I cut down our 5 acres hay and grass land (and weeds). It wasn’t to long after I started when a red tailed hawk perched in a tree to watch the ground below. I believe it was a fledged bird almost on it’s own because a large red tail came in to join the hunt. I was seeing field mice making a run for it as well large green frogs. I was keeping an eye on them as I cut and they were making many attempts on the grd to catch breakfast. They were successful quite often and the young red tail actually swooped in front of the tractor with little fear after a mouse within 15 feet or so. Tonight at dinner Deb and I watched as a coyote perused the field back and forth looking as well for tender morsels. Our chickens were out and down wind of the coyote but after some time went by we tried to chase off the coyote. Birds of prey up close are a treat to watch ! Maybe next Aug the same thing might happen.

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