Mid-June means the emergence of some of my favourite bugs, including the most colourful of all the damselflies, the Rainbow Bluet. After hearing that a friend of mine had spotted some along the river at Hurdman Park I went there on June 17th to look for myself. It was a hot, gorgeous day with a bit of a breeze, and I had no objection to spending my lunch hour along the bank of the Rideau River. As soon as I arrived I spotted a couple of large dragonflies patrolling the river; at least one Common Green Darner was present, as usual, but the Prince Baskettail was a bit of a surprise. It, too, was flying up and down the river, only a foot above the water. However, it was flying a little further out than the Common Green Darner, which often came in close to investigate the vegetation along the shore. Occasionally the Prince and the Darner crossed paths with each other, and a battle would ensue which ended up with them trying to chase each other off at high speeds. It is at times like this when I realize that the dragonflies are not just insects, they are also animals, and behave just as any other animal would when a competitor enters its territory.
Marlborough Forest is not only a great place for birds and odonates, it is a wonderful spot for butterflies, too. When I arrived I spotted a couple of large butterflies fluttering through the parking lot as soon as I arrived; at least three White Admirals were basking on the sunlit gravel, though they kept chasing one another into the vegetation. I was hoping to get a photo of one perching on a leaf, but they were so active I wasn’t able to get any pictures. This Northern Crescent was much calmer, resting on a leaf while the much-larger Chalk-fronted Corporals hunted close by.
Today I left at 9:00 am – much later than I usually go out when I’m birding – to go dragon-hunting at Marlborough Forest. I had really enjoyed my outing there two weeks ago and wanted to see the Aurora Damsels and Brush-tipped Emeralds again. And while I didn’t think I would see the Twin-spotted Spiketail again, I wanted to go back to the bridge to look for Ebony Jewelwings.
When I arrived I checked the vegetation at the edge of the parking lot and found lots of Sedge Sprites, Chalk-fronted Corporals, three White Admirals and a couple of Northern Crescents, but no Aurora Damsels. This was likely because I had arrived earlier in the day than my last visit, and the western edge of the parking lot was still in shade.
On June 14th I attended the OFNC outing to Gatineau Park led by Justin Peter and Carlos Barberry. I had attended the same outing last year, and had so enjoyed the birds, bugs and scenery that I was not hesitant to attend this one.
The weather was a bit cooler this year; it was only about 14°C when I arrived at parking lot P8 along Meech Lake Road at 7:00 am. The sun was shining, and a few dragonflies were already flying – this time I brought my net in order to catch and identify them. Even better, this time I remembered to bring my camera’s memory card!
After my success in finding the first dragonflies of the season at the Beaver Trail five days earlier, I was eager to find some more and spent the last day of May on the trails of the South March Highlands where I’d had some luck before. I stopped at the Nortel Marsh first, hoping to find the Willow Flycatcher that I missed on my previous visit as well as a colony of Sedge Wrens that had taken up residence in the large sedge meadow north of the bike trail. I didn’t hear any Sedge Wrens singing, but I did find 27 species during my visit, including two Willow Flycatchers calling in the cattail marsh at the back, a Wilson’s Snipe perching on a stump, two female Purple Finches, two Brown Thrashers, one Marsh Wren, an Alder Flycatcher, three Bobolinks in the Equestrian Park, and two Savannah Sparrows in the same field as the Bobolinks.
The end of May and beginning of June is a great time for seeing babies of various wildlife species. A few days after I observed the Eastern Gray Squirrel carrying its offspring up a tree at the Beaver Trail I saw a few more baby squirrels – in my own backyard. I am used to having squirrels and chipmunks come to visit me, as I often give them peanuts to keep them out of my feeders (not that that stops them!); however, it was quite something to see Momma Squirrel visit with four babies in tow!
Young Eastern Gray Squirrel
The babies were about three-quarters of the size of mom, with long, sleek bodies and and thinner tails. Although Momma Squirrel wasn’t phased when I opened the door to throw out some peanuts, all of the babies scampered back toward the fence. One of the babies climbed to the top of the fence, so I grabbed my camera and took some photos.
Young Eastern Gray Squirrel
Young Eastern Gray Squirrel
When at last the squirrels realized I wasn’t going to step outside, they hesitantly joined mom on the patio to grab some peanuts. Mom is the largest squirrel at the bottom left.
Family of Eastern Gray Squirrels – May 30, 2014
When they visited me again the following day, Mom only had three babies with her. Hopefully the fourth was exploring somewhere close by, or had found a cozy spot in a tree to while away the afternoon. I am not sure how long young squirrels stay with their mother once they are weaned, which occurs at around 8-12 weeks; they are fully independent after 12 weeks. I saw one attempting to suckle, though the mother wasn’t interested, so I am guessing they are about 8 or 10 weeks old.
They were fun to watch, though they didn’t stay long. I hope they learn to avoid cars and outdoor cats as successfully as their mother has!
During the warmer months Ontario’s wetlands come alive with the music of nature. Birds are not the only creatures that sing or call in order to attract a mate; frogs do, too! In the spring and early summer large numbers of frogs migrate to bodies of water to find a mate. Some frogs, such as the Wood Frog and Spring Peeper, prefer temporary woodland pools, while others, such as the Green Frog, use any permanent water body from lakes to ponds to streams. Western Chorus Frogs breed in fishless pools of water that are at least 10 centimetres deep, such as rain-flooded meadows and ditches, while Bullfrogs prefer large, permanent bodies of water.
There are three general types of frogs and toads in Ontario: true toads, treefrogs and true frogs. Most people are familiar with true frogs such as Bullfrogs, Green Frogs and Leopard Frogs. These are the ones that can be seen sunning themselves on logs and lily pads or lurking among the emergent vegetation along the shore with just their eyes visible above the water’s surface. These frogs are large and conspicuous and impossible not to notice if you spend any time near the water during the summer.