Presqu’ile, Part II: Butterflies, Warblers and an Osprey

Orange Sulphur

After leaving the marsh boardwalk, Deb and I drove over to the picnic area on the lake shore to take in the view and use the facilities. A couple of outhouses backed onto a a field full of wildflowers, and the large number of butterflies and dragonflies patrolling the field immediately intrigued me. While the majority of dragonflies were Common Green Darners, one dragonfly appeared smaller and had dark patches on its hindwings, which seemed unusually broad. Unfortunately, the dragonfly wouldn’t land, and so I had to base my ID solely on its appearance on the wing. I suspected it was a Black Saddlebags, a species that is common in Presqu’ile but rare in Ottawa; the field guide confirmed my suspicion, resulting in my first lifer of the day.

The majority of the butterflies in the meadow were Clouded Sulphurs, a species common in both Presqu’ile and Ottawa. A few, however, appeared a deep orange colour in flight, and I guessed these were Orange Sulphurs. I had never seen one before, as they are not common in Ottawa, and so I spent a lot of time photographing them and trying to capture one with its wings open.

Orange Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

I managed to capture this individual with its wings partially open. Although the orange spots are not visible in this photo, it can be identified as a female by the yellow spots in the black border of the upper wing. The males have a solid black border with no spots.

Orange Sulphur

The only other species of butterfly that I saw in the field of wildflowers was this Eastern Tailed Blue.

Eastern Tailed Blue

Although Deb and I both enjoyed photographing the butterflies and insects, we were there to see birds. A couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers and chickadees in the conifers near the outhouses gave us two new species to add to our trip list, but we wanted more. We checked the lake but saw only a few gulls flying over; I took a couple of photos of the scenic shore.

Along the beach

Lake Ontario

We drove to the Lighthouse next. There is a short trail circling the lighthouse which is said to be one of THE best places in the park for seeing migrating songbirds; the tall trees and tangles of shrubbery provide ample shelter and food for migrating birds. We found a viewing platform which looks upon nothing but greenery; here we found birds galore, including American Redstarts, Wilson’s Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, Nashville Warblers, a Brown Creeper, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Blackpoll Warbler and an unidentified flycatcher which wouldn’t sit still long enough for a good look or a photo. We also heard a Winter Wren calling from the depths of the shrubs but never saw him.

Warbler Viewing Platform

We spent almost an hour watching the birds flit by; it was incredible to see so many in such a small area. Finally, we continued on our way, ending at Bayshore Road, where a number of private residences look out onto the water. Many of the residents have feeders, and at one we saw both Red- and White-breasted Nuthatches and a Downy Woodpecker. We returned the way we came, adding a Ruby-throated Hummingbird to our list. I took a couple of photos of the lighthouse before we returned to the car and continued on our journey.


The next stop was Calf Pasture Point. A small inlet here opens up into the larger Presqu’ile Bay, where we saw couple of Pied-billed Grebes and gulls in the water and not much else. A phoebe flycatching from some trees above the water provided our first identifiable flycatcher of the trip, and a Northern Flicker flying over caught our attention. Then we realized there was an Osprey perching in a tree across the bay eating a fish, and spent about half an hour watching him.

Juvenile Osprey

This bird of prey is a juvenile; adults have a solid black back and wings, while juveniles have white scaling on the back feathers. I had never seen a juvenile so close before, and thought the scaling gave him an elegant look.

Juvenile Osprey

While watching the Osprey, a couple of butterflies fluttered by. I saw a couple of Least Skippers in the grass at the edge of the inlet, a Red Admiral flying by, and this Question Mark which landed right at our feet.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

This is one of my favourite butterflies with its long tails, violet edging, greenish body and black and orange wings. They overwinter as adults further south, and then migrate north in the late spring. This generation usually appears in Ottawa in mid-June and flies until early July; a second generation emerges in late July or early August, and is seen until only mid-September.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

We were very happy to have seen the Osprey so close; the scope views of this magnificent bird were dazzling. So far our visit to Presqu’ile was everything we had hoped it would be, and we hadn’t even visited Owen Point yet!


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