My first target was the Northern Pintail spending the winter on the Rideau River in Manotick. On the way I stopped by Rushmore Road, where I encountered two Horned Larks – one of which was singing – and about two dozen Snow Buntings. There were no birds at the Moodie Drive quarry, and only the usual suspects along Trail Road. I checked the informal feeder area at the dump to see what was around, but the tree beneath which people used to scatter seed had been chopped down. A single Blue Jay was the only bird around.
On Sunday, September 4th I planned to go birding with Bob, Chris, and Mike along the Ottawa River. First, however, I stopped for a quick walk at Sarsaparilla Trail to see if any migrants had shown up here yet. This trail in the heart of Stony Swamp is not a migrant trap by any stretch of the imagination, but some interesting birds have turned up there over the years and it’s always worth a quick check. This proved to be the case when, at the boardwalk overlooking the marsh, a Great Blue Heron flew up out of the reeds at the end of the platform. A second bird, much smaller, quickly followed, and with its long bill, long neck, and beautiful warm golden-brown colours I immediately recognized it as a Least Bittern! It flew only a couple of feet into the reeds but quickly disappeared from view. This was a fantastic but completely unexpected moment, for I have never seen a Least Bittern before and wasn’t expecting to find one here of all places!
By the end of August, Hurdman is still a better place for bugs than birds, although even butterfly and dragonfly species are beginning to decrease. I haven’t seen many of either, with Eastern Tailed Blues, Cabbage Whites, Common Ringlets, and Northern Crescents being the only butterflies I’ve noticed in the second half of the month. The only notable dragonflies I’ve seen are Common Pondhawk and Shadow Darner, two species which aren’t very common in this area. There are still Eastern Forktails and Powdered Dancers around, too, but the skimmers seem to have all vanished.
When the birds are quiet – as they are this time of year, keeping their heads down and trying to keep their offspring alive long enough to learn how to fly – the insects are at their most abundant. Because adult insects generally have a short lifespan, the window of opportunity to see many species is relatively small. June is a great time to see a wide variety of butterflies and dragonflies and to look for the more colourful, interesting, or strange-looking bugs. Although Hurdman hasn’t been a great place for butterflies this year, it is a spot where I can easily lose a whole lunch hour in just a small area, investigating clumps of flowers for insect life. These are some of the insects I’ve seen on my outings in mid-June.