I haven’t spent much time at Hurdman this past summer, but on August 7th I decided it was time to see if I could find the colony of Cherry-faced Meadowhawks that Chris Lewis, Mike Tate and I had observed during the August long weekend last year. I spent most of my lunch hour checking the feeder trail and the nearby field, and didn’t see any meadowhawks whatsoever. My best find of the day was actually a bird, a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker working on one of the tall trees at the beginning of the trail. Though I’ve been coming here regularly for four or five years now, this was the first time I’d seen one here. There were no other notable birds, though at least one Eastern Kingbird, two Gray Catbirds, a Yellow Warbler, and at least two American Redstarts were still present. Breeding season has come to an end; I didn’t hear any of the Warbling Vireos or Red-eyed Vireos that spend the summer here.
Although I haven’t been spending much time in my backyard this summer, I have spotted some interesting wildlife around. My flower garden this year seems to be a dismal failure at attracting butterflies or hummingbirds; most of the Cabbage Whites I observe keep flying over the yard rather than nectaring on any flowers, and the only other species I’ve seen lately were a Clouded Sulphur and a dark butterfly that might have been a White Admiral (I was looking out into the bright sunshine and couldn’t see it very well). Both of these were fly-overs, and spent no time investigating any of the flowers. I haven’t seen any odonates around since I noticed a female Common Whitetail in my neighbour’s front yard one day about a month ago while we were chatting.
Yesterday I finally made the trip to the Morris Island Conservation Area on the Ottawa River. I’d been wanting to go for a while, but just hadn’t found the time. Morris Island is a great spot for dragonflies, and Murphy’s Point Provincial Park reminded me of it in some ways….many of the odonate species were the same, and the topography appeared similar. I left early on the holiday Monday to spend some time birding before it warmed up; it was a little cool when I left, only 17°C, and the sun was still low in the sky. I took the back roads there, and was rewarded by a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a hay bale and two Indigo Buntings singing on the wires on the way.
Today marked the beginning of the August long weekend and I found some great birds and bugs to start it off. I went to the Richmond Lagoons first, curious to see if any shorebirds had shown up in the first cell. None had, but I heard a Common Gallinule squeaking in the reeds near the observation deck. There were lots of flycatchers around; I heard two Alder Flycatchers still singing away, and saw one unidentified flycatcher in the parking lot and two more in the shrubs between the first two cells. None of these were singing, and I couldn’t identify them from their call notes. I thought the one in the parking lot made a sound like the “whit!” of a Least Flycatcher, but the ones along the berm sounded similar, and when I checked my birding app on my phone the Alder Flycatcher’s call note didn’t sound much different from a Least Flycatcher.
My fiancé Doran and I spent a few days at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park towards the end of July. Neither of us had been there before; I had chosen it because it was only an hour’s drive from home, and contained a lot of southern species not typically (or easily) found in Ottawa such as Gray Ratsnakes, Yellow-throated Vireos, Cerulean Warblers, Golden-winged Warblers, Red-shouldered Hawks, and both cuckoos. I was also curious as to whether they had any southern odes or butterflies, and brought my net with the intention of finding out!
Today at lunch I finally had the chance to go look for the male Eurasian Wigeon that has been hanging out around the mouth of the Rideau Canal since the end of May. It is believed to be injured, and has been most frequently observed on the Ottawa River near the entrance to the locks or the grassy hill on the western bank near where the boats tie up. I had tried for it once, a few weeks ago, but didn’t see it; when I saw the weekly Ottawa report yesterday advising it was still there I decided to try again. It was a hot, sunny afternoon and for the first time in a week I didn’t have any obligations at lunch preventing me from going for a walk.
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.