Archive | June 2011

A Day in Quebec, Part I: Monty’s Bog

On June 18th, fellow OFNC members and butterfly enthusiasts Rick Cavasin and Larry Neily and I journeyed across the Ottawa River in search of butterflies and other wildlife around Luskville and the northwestern section of Gatineau Park. We had three specific destinations: a bog on private property (which we had permission to visit) known informally as “Monty’s Bog”, a marsh in Gatineau Park near Lac La Peche, and a meadow near the Luskville Falls parking lot at the base of the Gatineau hills. We were following in the footsteps of a group of fellow enthusiasts, including Peter Hall and Chris Lewis, who had made a similar trek a few days earlier. The goal of the outing was to find the rare and local Bog Fritillary. Monty’s Bog is the only known location in the Ottawa District where this butterfly can be found, and it has a short flight season of only a couple of weeks in mid-June. Larry and I also hoped to see the Elfin Skimmer, the smallest North American dragonfly, which Chris had described in her trip report as being the most common odonate on the bog.

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Insect-hunting at Hurdman

When the birds are quiet – as they are this time of year, keeping their heads down and trying to keep their offspring alive long enough to learn how to fly – the insects are at their most abundant. Because adult insects generally have a short lifespan, the window of opportunity to see many species is relatively small. June is a great time to see a wide variety of butterflies and dragonflies and to look for the more colourful, interesting, or strange-looking bugs. Although Hurdman hasn’t been a great place for butterflies this year, it is a spot where I can easily lose a whole lunch hour in just a small area, investigating clumps of flowers for insect life. These are some of the insects I’ve seen on my outings in mid-June.

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The Garden in June

The rest of my columbine flowers have begun to bloom, as has the Arrowwood Viburnum shrub in my backyard. Once again this shrub has become infested with aphids, and no matter how often I blast them off with a hard spray of water, they keep coming back. I am reluctant to use chemicals to rid the shrub of these pests, given that a number of other insects visit the flowers for pollen.

One insect in particular interested me. It was small, and I thought it was a winged ant at first. When I took a closer look, I recognized the body shape and the clear wings outlined in black. It looked a little like the Virginia Creeper Borer moth I had found at Hurdman two years ago, and I knew I had discovered a clearwing moth!

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A New Damselfly

The day after the BioBlitz, I visited a place I hadn’t been to in a long time: the marsh on Moodie Drive near Nortel. It’s a good spot to find Willow Flycatchers, Marsh Wrens, Least Bitterns (though I personally have never seen or heard one here), Alder Flycatchers and rails. So far I haven’t even heard a Sora yet this year, let alone seen one, and I was hoping to find one at the marsh.

It was a bit cool when I left, with a couple of light showers passing through; I thought I might have to turn around and go home, but fortunately the rain had moved on by the time I reached the parking lot on Corkstown Road.

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BioBlitz & Butterflies

On June 11, 2011, I participated in a BioBlitz in Russell, and spent the morning surveying an area which has been proposed for a new landfill. The people who organized the BioBlitz, many of whom live nearby, were interested in finding out how many different species of flora and fauna are present, and whether any are considered at risk. This area is mostly agricultural, with some forested areas and open, grassy fields. Bobolinks inhabit the grasslands and were of particular interest. This species, which nests primarily in hayfields, pastures, and wet prairies, has been declining in recent years because of loss of habitat, pesticides, climate change and farming practices. Farmers are cutting and mowing hayfields earlier in the season, and as a result, mowing-induced nest mortality has increased dramatically over the past 50 years.

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Jack Pine Trail in the evening

The Friday after my OFNC outing I took the afternoon off work and visited Jack Pine Trail. I had things on my mind and needed a distraction, and I knew a walk with my camera at one of my favourite trails would provide just the distraction I needed. It was after 3:30 when I got there; a little later than I planned, but still hot and sunny.

Just like my previous outing at Jack Pine Trail on Sunday, the first interesting thing I saw was not a bird, but rather a completely unexpected mammal – a raccoon on the ground near the OFNC bird feeder area. I think the raccoon had been eating some food left out for the deer when I startled him; I caught a glimpse of him galloping into the bush and then he was gone.

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A New Mammal at Hurdman

The following Tuesday was a beautiful day, so I spent my lunch hour at Hurdman Park looking for something to interest me. I heard a Common Yellowthroat singing in the field, a species which I hadn’t observed yet this year in this location; other than that, only the regular breeding birds were around. Dragonflies seen include Common Green Darner and Common Whitetail, while the most common damselflies were Powdered Dancer and Eastern Forktail. I didn’t get any dragonfly photos that day. Butterflies, on the other hand, were more plentiful, and I found several species; I even managed to take a few photos.

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An OFNC outing at the Jack Pine Trail

On Sunday, June 5th I led my third OFNC birding walk at Jack Pine Trail. This time I had only five people attend, perhaps because of the uncertain weather forecast for the day: cloudy with a chance of showers. It wasn’t raining when I got up, so the walk went ahead as planned. After finding no one waiting at the usual meeting spot at Lincoln Fields, I drove directly to Jack Pine Trail where, in the parking lot, the beautiful song of a Wood Thrush could be heard.

The smaller group made it easier to talk to each individual and ensure they all saw everything. Because the leaves had all filled out, I planned to concentrate on identifying birds by their songs and teaching the group the most common marsh and woodland birdsongs.

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A Garden in Bloom

My flowers have been slow to bloom so far, but when I returned from my trip to southern Ontario I was delighted to find that most of the Columbine I had started from seed last year was in bloom. I was thrilled with the colours that had blossomed: purple with a little bit of yellow in the center, white with purple stripes, red and yellow, pale pink, and even white. The flowers on two of my plants haven’t opened yet; I can’t wait to see what colours they will become!

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A Visit to the Beaver Trail

Early summer is a good time to visit the Beaver Trail in Stony Swamp. There is usually a wonderful diversity of butterflies and dragonflies, the birds are singing in the woods and in the wetlands, and the Red Squirrels and chipmunks seem tamer, often coming close in the hope of receiving a handout or two. I visited late in the afternoon, with the specific goal of photographing butterflies and dragonflies, starting my walk with a tour of the open wildflower alvar next to the parking lot. This area is usually good for dragonflies and butterflies, and I was not disappointed. I saw several Common Whitetails here and a couple of Four-spotted Skimmers. Later in the season this will be a good spot for meadowhawks.

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