Wildflowers on a rainy day

It rained again the following day. I couldn’t stand to stay indoors for the full day so I took my umbrella and went to the Beaver Trail to look for wildflowers and more spring migrants.

There weren’t as many birds around as I had hoped. A couple of Common Yellowthroats and Swamp Sparrows were singing in the marsh, and I saw one White-throated Sparrow, perhaps five or six chickadees, one Red-breasted Nuthatch and one White-breasted Nuthatch on the trails.

I had better luck with the wildflowers. There were quite a few trilliums growing along the western part of the trail – in fact, a lot more than I expected to see. Small, yellow Barren-ground Strawberry flowers and purple violets were abundant along the edge of the path.

Violet sp.

Near the observation platform at the back of the trail a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker flew across the trail right in front of me and landed in a tree right beside the trail. The birding seemed better here as I encountered a female Purple Finch and a singing Black-throated Green Warbler foraging in the shrubs right next to the boardwalk.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Because I wasn’t ready to go home yet, and because I wanted to look for more wildflowers I headed over to Monaghan Forest next. This small wood at the intersection of Moodie Drive and Fallowfield Road is a good one for native wildflowers, and when I arrived I saw lots of trilliums in bloom, several Trout Lily leaves poking up out of the ground (but no flowers; I am guessing it is too late in the season) and lots of Coltsfoot flowers gone to seed.


There were lots of small purple violets growing next to the trail, but the yellow flowers here were not Barren-ground Strawberries but yellow violets.

Violet sp.

It was fairly quiet here for birds, too, at least at first. I heard one Ovenbird singing in the woods, and a Common Yellowthroat and a phoebe singing near the hydro corridor. A pair of Killdeer flew over, and I heard a couple of chickadees. Still, there were a lot of other things around to interest me, such as the numerous fallen logs scattered along the trail. I turned a few of these over, hoping to find a salamander or two, and was thrilled when I actually found a Blue-spotted Salamander.

Blue-spotted Salamander

Although this species is the smallest mole salamander at 7-12 cm, it is larger than the Eastern Redback Salamander also common in the Ottawa area. Breeding in temporary and permanent pools and flooded ditches in wooded areas, the adults spend the summer below the ground’s surface in tunnels beneath stumps and rocks, only emerging in wet weather to feed. The larvae are aquatic and feed on aquatic insect larvae, tadpoles, and smaller salamander larvae. Transformation occurs in late August or early September.

Blue-spotted Salamander

The salamander took no notice of me so I hunkered down on the ground and took a couple of photos of him from each angle before replacing the log and continuing on my way. Further along the trail I found a red trillium growing among a cluster of white ones. Although these flowers tend to bend forward, making them difficult to photograph, this one was standing straight.

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)

I thought these tiny bell-like flowers growing near the parking lot were quite pretty, and thought they might be Lily-of-the-Valley until a friend told me they were a species of Toothwort. Toothwort is one of the spring ephemeral species which completes its annual growing cycle by the time the forest canopy develops and blocks out the sun. Monaghan Forest is a perfect spot for it as it prefers damp, open, rich hardwood woodlands; however, by mid-July no traces of this plant will remain.

Toothwort (Dentaria sp.)

I also found a large group of Forget-me-nots growing near the parking lot:


While photographing the tiny blue flowers, I heard a Black-throated Blue Warbler singing nearby. I left the trail in search of this stunning bird, and was delighted to come across a pocket of warblers foraging close by! I didn’t see the Black-throated Blue immediately, but recognized a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Black-and-white Warbler, a singing American Redstart, a Magnolia Warbler, and another handsome Blackburnian Warbler. When I finally saw the Black-throated Blue Warbler right in front of me, I was thrilled. I wish these warblers were more common here, as they are one of my favourites.

Then I saw a darker warbler flitting about the ends of the branches high overhead. It sounded like a Black-and-white Warbler, but when I got a good look at it I was thrilled to see a handsome male Bay-breasted Warbler! This was the first time I had ever seen a male in breeding plumage, and I was disappointed that he wouldn’t come down close enough for a photo.

My wildflower excursion turned out to be a great birding excursion, too, and I was especially pleased with the two year birds I saw, the Bay-breasted and Black-throated Blue Warblers!

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