Petrie Island and Mer Bleue

The next day the clouds moved in. I drove east to Petrie Island in search of marsh birds and migrants. When I stopped by the marsh along the causeway, however, the water levels were still high. I didn’t hear or see any rails, bitterns or Marsh Wrens; there were a few mallards and Tree Swallows, a single Great Blue Heron and that was about it. A couple of Yellow Warblers were singing in the shrubs and a pair of Red-wings were mating on the ground. Then I noticed a dark bird flying over the water on the other side of the causeway; it was my first confirmed Black Tern in Ottawa! I watched its graceful flight for a while before it vanished over the marsh.

Next I took the Basswood Trail on the western side of the island. Mosquitoes were annoying, and I heard more birds than I saw: Song Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, American Redstarts, Veeries, a House Wren, Warbling Vireos, a Blue Jay flying over, and a couple of Great Crested Flycatchers all made their presence known. I was especially delighted to hear a Northern Waterthrush and a couple of Blackpoll Warblers singing right where the trail ended in a large pool of water. You can hear both of them, along with a few of the aforementioned species, singing in this video I took (unfortunately I didn’t see any of the birds, so the video is purely scenic):

I retraced my steps back to the parking area and set off to explore the island. Along the way I found an Eastern Kingbird, a couple of Baltimore Orioles, a Gray Catbird gathering nest material, another waterthrush, and a few more Great Crested Flycatchers on my walk around the island. Then, in a stand of trees near the river I found a small flock of migrants. The majority appeared to be Blackpoll Warblers, but I noticed one Blackburnian and one Yellow-rumped Warbler among them. An Eastern Wood-pewee was flycatching in the same group of trees; this seemed unusual to me, as I normally only find them deep in the woods. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d seen a pewee along this part of the trail, and there was no mistaking his song. At one point he flew down to snatch a bug a couple feet away from my feet and then flew back up into the tree.

Eastern Wood-pewee

I couldn’t leave Petrie Island without stopping to take a few pictures of the turtles at the lookout. I counted at least 11 Map Turtles sitting on the logs out in the water; what was surprising to me was that they equaled the number of Painted Turtles.

Map Turtle

I spent some time driving around the back roads near Wall and French Hill Roads. The usual birds were present, including Bobolinks, meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, and a Northern Harrier; however, I was surprised when a raptor sitting in a field turned out not to be the expected harrier but a Peregrine Falcon! This was one of my most unusual finds of the day.

Peregrine Falcon

The last place I decided to check was the Mer Bleue boardwalk where a number of bog-loving butterflies and dragonflies not normally seen anywhere else can be found. As it was now lunchtime, the picnic area was filled with families. I didn’t linger in the area but instead proceeded straight to the boardwalk.

Mer Bleue Boardwalk

Two butterflies which had recently been observed here are the Brown Elfin and Jutta Arctic, neither of which I’ve ever seen before. I was paying close attention to the small insects flying in the vegetation next to the boardwalk and found several of these small, gorgeous moths.

Black-banded Orange Moth

I had no luck with the Jutta Arctic, but in one spot I found three or four Brown Elfins hanging out. As the day was overcast, they sat in the vegetation very close to the boardwalk until someone came stomping along and startled them into flight. They didn’t fly very far, perhaps just far enough to find a safer place.

Brown Elfin

Further along the trail I was surprised when a small, dark emerald landed on the boardwalk in front of me. I had seen few odonates on my outing, and stopped to check this one out. When I noticed the green eyes and the conspicuous rings along the abdomen I knew I had something different. I later identified it as an Ebony Boghaunter, an inhabitant of sphagnum bogs and swampy northern wetlands. Although a rare dragonfly in Ottawa, the Mer Bleue boardwalk is the best place to see it.

Ebony Boghaunter

My trip to the east end was a productive one indeed; one new butterfly, one new dragonfly and a lot of year birds made it an outing to remember!

Mer Bleue Boardwalk


One thought on “Petrie Island and Mer Bleue

  1. Pingback: Mer Bleue Part II: Wildlife | The Pathless Wood

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