It’s been a long time since I’ve been dragon-hunting in Gatineau Park – well over a year, in fact. Even though the park is quite close to Ottawa and has great dragonfly diversity, I rarely venture across the provincial border. This is mostly because I’m wary about going alone, but also because the main roads in the park are closed on Sundays (my preferred day for travelling due to lighter traffic) as a result of the NCC Sunday bikedays. However, I’ve been really impressed with all the species Chris Traynor has been finding there, and so we decided to venture up there together one Sunday. Fortunately Chris knew a few alternate routes to get us to our destination, the Sugarbush Trail (which Chris calls “Clubtail Trail” after all of his great finds) near the Chelsea Visitor Center and Meech Creek.
I’ve had some interesting visitors to my yard so far this summer. I haven’t added any new birds or mammals, though I did see one new species of hover fly and one new lady beetle! The usual squirrels (many!) and chipmunks (up to three) visit me daily, looking to steal the peanuts out of my bird feeder. Two of the black squirrels are recognizable; one has only half its tail, while the other has a broken paw. The one with the broken paw has been visiting me over a year now, although she doesn’t come very often any more. I have also seen up to three rabbits in the neighbourhood, two large adults and one smaller one that I presume is a juvenile. I’ve seen the two adults in my backyard on a couple of occasions, usually early in the morning or at dusk when they come to feed on the weeds (this makes me wish they lived there full-time!). One morning while I was heading out to go birding I saw one of the rabbits sitting on my front lawn. Instead of eating weeds I was dismayed when he started nibbling on my Coral Bells.
After I got back from Nova Scotia I was looking forward to doing some birding and dragon-hunting at home. As I had a full work week I wasn’t able to get out until Saturday, July 18th. It was an overcast morning, not great for bug-hunting, so I made Andrew Haydon Park my first stop. It was too early for any songbird migrants to have shown up, but an adult Brant had been seen in the park several times over the past two weeks, and I was hoping that post-breeding dispersal had resulted in some other new arrivals.
I spent an enjoyable hour there, seeing 27 species in total. One of my highlights was watching four Caspian Terns hunting in the western bay along with two Common Terns. The size difference was amazing – the Common Terns appeared small and slender, while the Caspian Terns were larger and heftier. Several Purple Martins from the Dick Bell colony hunted insects in the sky, while one Great Blue Heron, two Great Egrets and three Hooded Mergansers hunted for fish in the river close to shore. A Lesser Yellowlegs and a Least Sandpiper had joined the resident Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers in the developing mudflats in the western bay.
We left Nova Scotia on July 11th, spending the night in Edmunston before starting the long drive through Quebec. We got an early start the next day, finding ourselves well ahead of schedule after grabbing breakfast on the road rather than eating at the hotel restaurant. So when we spotted some lookouts along the St. Lawrence River about two hours into our drive, we decided to stop and take a look. We found an exit near La Pocatière-Station (about halfway between the New Brunswick border and Quebec City) that had a parking area right next to the trail, and got out to have a look. Continue reading →
I was able to add quite a few butterflies to my Nova Scotia list just by walking around Iris’s property and checking the wildflowers along the dirt road on my morning walks. I used the Butterflies of Nova Scotia site to see which species are found in the province, and the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas checklist for descriptions of the butterflies. Fortunately, Nova Scotia has fewer species on its checklist than Ontario does, and as most of them are also found in Ontario, identification wasn’t too difficult. One species I was surprised not to see on the list is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail; in Cape Breton and on our boat tour I had seen several yellow swallowtails flying over the highway and even across the water of St. Ann’s Bay. I thought that they might be Eastern Tiger Swallowtails given the date (in Ontario they fly later than the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, which flies mainly in late May and June), but I realized later they could only be Canadian Tiger Swallowtails.
After leaving Cape Breton Doran and I spent the rest of our vacation in Greenwood. We stayed with Doran’s foster mother, Iris, just outside of town on the South Mountain; though at 275 metres in height, the “mountain” is the same height as the Eardley Escarpment in Gatineau. This granite ridge forms the southern edge of the Annapolis Valley and protects it from severe weather blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. There are plenty of fields and small woodlots along the roadways on top of the mountain, and small lakes and larger swathes of mixed forest beyond the main roads. Iris’s property consisted of a large yard with a small woodlot containing a swampy area at the back; if that wasn’t enough for me, there was a dirt road close by which was wooded on one side and had a dense scrubby meadow on the other. All of this made for some excellent habitat to look for wildlife.
On July 6th my fiancé and I left the Silver Dart Lodge early to take a boat tour to the Bird Islands, the best place to see nesting puffins and sea birds in Nova Scotia. The Bird Islands are located about 4 kilometres off of Cape Dauphin, between the end of the Cabot Trail and North Sydney. They consist of two large islands (Hertford Island and Ciboux Island) as well as the various small rocky outcroppings around and between them which are not large enough to merit the designation of “island” or have a name of their own. Hertford Island and Ciboux Island are both long and narrow, and lie in a straight line running from southwest to northeast. Hertford Island, which is the closer of the two, is approximately 1.1 km long by 120 metres wide, while Ciboux Island is approximately 1.6 km long by 120 metres wide. The islands themselves consist of rocky twenty-metre high cliffs, with grasses and stunted shrubs covering the tops. Numerous ledges and small caves in the cliff face provide ample space for a variety of breeding birds. I was excited when Doran suggested the tour, as two of the birds – the Great Cormorant and Black Guillemot – would be lifers for me.