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. Continue reading →
I had less luck at Shirley’s Bay on Monday. I only observed 18 species, and both shorebird and warbler numbers were down. The three Red-necked Phalaropes were gone, but this time I saw a couple of Killdeer, a couple of Spotted Sandpipers, and a single Sanderling. In the woods I encountered one singing Eastern Wood-Pewee, two Red-eyed Vireos, two Black-and-white Warblers, and one of each of Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Palm Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. A little disappointed with the variety, I headed to the Bill Mason Center next where I hoped to find some interesting insects.
Excited by all the warblers and shorebirds observed at Presqu’ile on Saturday, I couldn’t wait to get out on Sunday and look for more migrants at one of Ottawa’s most famous birding spots, Shirley’s Bay. I didn’t get any photos, but I saw lots of birds; when I saw my first Magnolia Warbler in the woods, I knew fall migration had finally begun! Altogether I tallied 33 species at Shirley’s Bay, the best birds being three Red-necked Phalaropes, two distant Bald Eagles, one Great Black-backed Gull, two Bonaparte’s Gulls, a Cape May Warbler, and a Northern Waterthrush walking down the trail in the woods first thing in the morning, wagging its tail from time to time. At the dyke, I noticed 7 Great Egrets and counted 35(!!!) Great Blue Herons in the reeds on the far side of the bay.
On August 27th, five members of the OFNC led by Roy John drove down to Presqu’ile Provincial Park to enjoy a day of birding on the shores of Lake Ontario. Except for a few large banks of fog, the drive was uneventful. We saw one Osprey, two Green Herons in flight, and a couple of Great Blue Herons standing motionlessly in roadside marshes. Although a few more OFNC members met us at the park, I was surprised how few people had signed up given how wonderful Presqu’ile can be this time of year for birds, butterflies and dragonflies. The weather, too, couldn’t have been any better – blue skies and warm sunshine in the morning, followed by cloudy periods in the afternoon to prevent it from becoming too hot.
Summer is winding down, and there isn’t as much diversity in my garden, either in flora or fauna. I’ve seen at least two chipmunks in my yard, squabbling over the food I set out for them. The squirrels have taken over my birdfeeder, so if any birds are using it, they are doing so when neither I nor the squirrels are around. Chipping Sparrows are still around but are being seen less frequently, Cedar Waxwings are still in the neighbourhood, and every now and then a pair of cardinals shows up in the tree outside my computer room window. Best of all, half a dozen Blue Jays have started visiting in the morning looking for peanuts, and I saw my first Ruby-throated Hummingbird in my yard this year on Tuesday. I first noticed her sipping nectar from the meager Bee Balm flowers still in bloom before coming up to my back deck and feeding on the Scarlet Sage growing in the planter attached to my deck railing. She didn’t stay long, but it was a delight to see her.
Last weekend I decided to revisit Petrie Island to see how the Blue Dasher colony was doing and to look for other odonates. I had meant to go back earlier in the summer but never got around to it; any chance of re-finding the Unicorn Clubtail was long gone, but I still hoped to find some other dragonflies of interest.
As usual, I stopped by the marsh along the causeway first. Red-winged Blackbirds, Belted Kingfishers, a Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron, several Wood Ducks, and several Mallards were all present. There was no sign of any swallows, and I felt a bit sad to realize that they would soon be heading south.
The following day I visited Jack Pine Trail. I decided to go later in the day in the hopes of seeing some different species; however, there were few birds to be seen, with only common species such as Blue Jays, chickadees, robins and Cedar Waxwings along the trails. Fortunately, there were plenty of butterflies, dragonflies, and other unusual insects around to make up for the lack of birds. Common whitetails, Twelve-spotted Skimmers and White-faced Meadowhawks were the most abundant dragonflies, while Eastern Forktails were the only damselflies I identified. In the butterfly department, Cabbage Whites, Northern Crescents, a single Viceroy, and two skipper species – Least and Dun Skippers – were present throughout the conservation area. I also found two Eastern Tailed Blues in different areas, a species I had not encountered here before.
After leaving the Bill Mason Center I drove directly to the Morris Island Conservation Area. Chris and Bob had seen at least a dozen Halloween Pennants here earlier in the week, and I was eager to find them and to explore the conservation area further. This time I bypassed the trail through the woods and headed along the straight, wide trail to the large bay I had noticed on my last visit. Once it reaches the water, the trail forms a long raised causeway to the woods on the other side. Formerly used as a rail line, the causeway is s a wide open, flat gravel trail 1.5 km long which transects the conservation area. It was here that Bob and Chris found the Halloween Pennants; as soon as I reached the water I slowed down to examine the vegetation.
The following weekend I headed out to the west end. My goal was the Morris Island Conservation Area, but I decided to stop in at the Bill Mason Center first while I waited for it to warm up. Although the morning was sunny, it was cool enough to need a jacket. Few birds were singing as I entered the marsh. I heard no Swamp Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, or Yellow Warblers, although I saw two Yellow Warblers on my walk. I also saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a couple of robins in the marsh, but no rails or grackles or Red-winged Blackbirds. The blackbirds have left their nesting territories and can be found in large flocks in cornfields and other agricultural areas, returning to roost in nearby wetlands at night.
I spent the following weekend at Shirley’s Bay and Mud Lake. On Saturday, Melanie and I went birding together and started off our morning with a trip to the Shirley’s Bay dyke to look for shorebirds. We were not disappointed – we tallied 13 species, and 41 species total! Although it was only the first week of August, shorebird migration was in full swing! Our first shorebird species was an American Woodcock in the woods about halfway to the dyke. There were a few puddles on the path, and I was busy watching these instead of the vegetation next to the path. I was taken completely by surprise when a bird flew up from my feet and disappeared into the woods! I got enough of a glimpse of it to see the really long bill, the shape (it was definitely a snipe or a woodcock) and rusty red colours on the underside. Given its location (i.e. the middle of the woods rather than open marsh or fields) and the rusty colouration, it was certainly an American Woodcock…my first lifer of the day! Continue reading →