Back in September 2017 our region experienced an incredible influx of Painted Lady butterflies. When I visited the Eagleson storm water ponds one afternoon just past the autumn equinox, I was surprised to see so many Painted Ladies nectaring on the flowers, and later learned that this butterfly had had an exceptionally successful breeding season in the northeast. We did not see the same numbers of this migratory species last year (2018), so it seemed that the enormous 2017 population explosion – stretching from Ontario all the way to P.E.I. – was a one-time occurrence.
Back in 2011 I wrote about a visit to Andrew Haydon Park where I had the privilege to see both a Red-necked Phalarope and a Parasitic Jaeger. Today I had the opportunity to see another Red-necked Phalarope the same time a different jaeger was reported.
It was a cool, gloomy morning threatening rain, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out birding. At 10:00 I received a report that two Red-necked Phalaropes, as well as several Sanderlings, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Bonaparte’s Gulls, were refound at Ottawa Beach (Andrew Haydon Park East). Then, almost three hours later another report came in: a jaeger was also present at Ottawa Beach! It wasn’t a flyby, as so often happens with rare birds; instead it had landed and was resting on the water. That report settled my indecision, so I headed off to the river. Unfortunately by the time I arrived it was just a dark blob bobbing on the water near Britannia Pier, so I turned my attention to the shorebirds instead. I saw the Bonaparte’s Gull standing in the water, the Pectoral Sandpipers and Sanderlings near the mouth of the creek, and both Red-necked Phalaropes. One was foraging on the opposite bank, but the other was on my side of the creek only a few feet away!
This morning I stopped by the Eagleson Ponds to see if any new migrants had arrived. Other than one unidentified flycatcher and one vireo – possibly a Philadelphia Vireo – it was quiet, with no warblers seen. The Green Heron had returned, and I heard a Gray Catbird again, but there were fewer shorebirds and migrants than there had been the day before. The day was mild, with a thick, damp overcast sky, so looking for insects was out. I decided to head over to the Beaver Trail, which can either be fantastic for migrants this time of year, or very quiet. After a disappointing visit to Mud Lake yesterday, I was hoping the woods and swamps would be more productive.
By Labour Day weekend shorebird migration is well underway and some of the less common species start to arrive in our region. While the Eagleson storm water ponds are a great spot to find common species such as both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers and Semipalmated Sandpipers, the mudflats of the Ottawa River attract a variety of other birds, especially those that prefer tidal beaches and rushing water. Unfortunately, the water level of the Ottawa River depends not just the amount of rainfall we receive during the summer, but also the actions of the dam further upstream. We have received little rainfall this summer, as in most of our summers recently, however, this year the dam gates have remained shut so that the falling water levels have created the mudflats necessary to attract flocks of shorebirds. It has been great to see the sandbars emerge on the river on my daily bus commute along the Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway, and I was thrilled to see the mudflats developing at Andrew Haydon Park in recent weeks. This past weekend I went looking for shorebirds early in the morning, and the huge exposed muddy beach at Ottawa Beach was the best I’ve seen it in years. As long as the dam gates remain closed, this part of the Ottawa River shoreline will remain the best spot for viewing hard-to-find shorebird species throughout the fall given its accessibility.
Back in 2015 I wrote a blog post about the odonates I found at Andrew Haydon Park one weekday afternoon near the end of July. Since discovering the colony of Halloween Pennants at AHP in 2014, I’ve made it a point to visit this park each year during mid-summer; it’s much closer than travelling all the way to Morris Island to see this stunning dragonfly! So far I’ve only made it out to Morris Island once this year, and when I found no Halloween Pennants flying along the causeway I decided to visit Andrew Haydon Park specifically to search for this species. With the strange, slow start to the season I was bit apprehensive about whether these odes would even be around at AHP, but thankfully I found a few on each of my visits, and in good numbers, too.
During the first week of July my fiancé and I spent some time in Prince Edward County with my dad’s family. We rented a cottage on Loves Lane on Prince Edward Bay, a nice three-bedroom place with 8 acres of land only 20 minutes away from both Sandbanks and Picton. The weather was beautiful, and I spent most of my time getting to know the local residents. Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Robins, Northern Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, Eastern Kingbirds, Cedar Waxwings, a Red-eyed Vireo, and a Yellow Warbler were seen or heard around the property every day. Barn Swallows often hunted for insects above the bay, and a couple of times they even landed on the sandy bank at the edge of the swamp just beyond the cottage deck. We saw some great water birds from the deck, including an Osprey perching on the far side of the bay, a trio of Hooded Mergansers diving close by, Caspian Terns hunting for fish further out, six Mute Swans swimming by, a Common Loon that appeared in the bay twice, a mother Mallard that swam by with 11 babies in tow every morning and evening, and the occasional Green or Great Blue Heron flyby. A Merlin flew over the cottage twice, and the second time it appeared to be carrying a bird – a couple of agitated Barn Swallows were chasing it, making me think that the falcon had carried off one of their young.
While I was visiting the South March Highlands Conservation Forest last weekend I kept an eye out for other insects as well as butterflies and dragonflies. Flower flies (or hover flies) are one of my favourite types of insects. Some are tiny and hard to see, some are large and conspicuous, some are drab and some are brightly coloured. They are often striped with yellow and black, resembling bees and wasps, and many people fear them thinking that they, too, sting or bite. Flower flies rely on such mimicry to protect them from predators that would otherwise eat them, but are perfectly harmless to humans. They are often found around flowers in open areas such as parks, gardens, meadows, and sunny woodland clearings where they visit the flowers for nectar. Like hummingbirds, they often hover in place, their wings beating so fast they become invisible. They can dart forward and backward, making them fascinating to watch. Continue reading →