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.
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.
In early July my fiancé and I spent some time in Nova Scotia, spending a night in Cape Breton before heading to the Annapolis Valley where he grew up. We decided to drive down to save on costs, spending the first night in Woodstock, NB as we did in 2008 and our second night in Baddeck on Cape Breton Island. There we stayed at the Silver Dart Lodge right above Bras d’Or Lake near the start of the Cabot Trail. The property was lovely, with single rooms in the main lodge and small chalets available for rent (we stayed in the main lodge). Situated on 90 acres, the property boasts a pool, a playground, a gazebo overlooking the small, rocky beach, and best of all, hiking trails in the woods.
We arrived in the early afternoon. Doran wanted to rest after the long drive from Woodstock, but I felt compelled to explore the property. I could hear the lovely song of a Northern Parula coming from the trees behind the lodge so I decided to start my exploration with a walk along the hiking trails. There was a charming wooden frame at the entrance of the trail; I spotted movement just above it and was surprised to see a very young robin perching on top of the frame.
Walking Trail at Silver Dart Lodge (click to enlarge)
On Friday, June 26 I took the day off work to go dragon-hunting at Morris Island. First, however, I stopped in at the Deschenes Rapids parking lot at the end of Woodroffe Avenue to go searching for not one, but two rare birds. The Little Egret was back after having spent some time wandering along the Jock River near Manotick, the ponds along Eagleson Road, the pond near Palladium Drive in Kanata, and however many unknown places in between. The egret has finally found a spot to its liking along the Ottawa River, spending the past few days at the mouth of Pinecrest Creek on the east side of Mud Lake or along the shore of Andrew Haydon Park in the mornings before flying off to spend the day elsewhere. In the evenings, it has been seen flying in to roost on Conroy Island, presumably because it feels at home with the colony of Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and Ring-billed Gulls that nest there. This pattern has become somewhat predictable, so that many people who missed it elsewhere have been able to see it.
In mid-June Chris Lewis received correspondence and photos from two members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists regarding their recent sightings of Rapids Clubtails along the Mississippi River. A couple of these clubtails were observed along the shore at Blakeney on June 15, 2015, while one or two others were spotted at the bottom of the power station discharge channel next to Metcalfe Park in Almonte. Chris was interested in trying to track these small dragonflies down, and so on June 20th she, Mike Tate and I headed out to Almonte.
The Rapids Clubtail flies between mid-June and mid-July and is considered rare and local because of its preference for fast-moving waters along various water courses. It was first discovered in the Ottawa area by Paul Catling in mid-June 2001 when he found them at the five-arch bridge in Pakenham and at the rapids near Blakeney. In 2009, it became the first Ontario dragonfly to be added to the endangered species list; the larvae are extremely sensitive to river degradation resulting from the building of dams and increasing pollution levels. While it previously inhabited four rivers in southern Ontario, the Rapids Clubtail is now found only along the Humber and Mississippi rivers.
Rapids Clubtail habitat in Almonte (click to enlarge)
Hurdman Park along the shore of the Rideau River is a great spot for birding, but is not one of my top destinations for ode-hunting. This is because species diversity is generally low, and most dragons and damsels found here can readily be found in other spots. The two species that make it worthwhile visiting after spring migration has ended are the Rainbow Bluet and the Cherry-faced Meadowhawk, both of which have colonies here that I discovered here several years ago and have seen every year since. It used to be a great spot for Springtime Darners early in the summer, though it has now been a few years since my last a confirmed sighting. This is the one species I truly miss, as Hurdman is the only spot I’ve ever seen these early-flying darners. The one other notable species that makes Hurdman visiting later in the summer, while the Cherry-faced Meadowhawks are still flying, is the Wandering Glider. I have seen these migratory dragonflies flying in small swarms with Common Green Darners in open areas in at least three different years, and hope to see them later this year when they become more common.
On June 14th I returned to Roger’s Pond in Marlborough Forest to see if I could find another Twin-spotted Spiketail flying along the creek. I had had one there last year on June 2nd, and wasn’t sure whether it was too late for these large, handsome dragonflies. In any event, even if I couldn’t find the spiketail, there were plenty of other Marlborough Forest specialties to search for, including Silvery Checkerspots, Aurora Damsels, and Brush-tipped Emeralds. None of these were present on my visit here with Chris and Lorraine, but should have emerged in decent numbers by mid-June. I spent some time scanning the vegetation surrounding the parking lot for the Aurora Damsels, and found only one – then quickly lost it. Mindful of the poison ivy growing at the edges of the parking lot, I wasn’t able to search the thicker vegetation at the back too thoroughly, but I did come up with a few interesting bugs.