It was back to work on June 2nd, and the following day I visited Hurdman Park at lunch. It was a beautiful early summer day, and I was looking forward to seeing what insects were flying and whether any new birds had returned. I heard my first Great Crested Flycatcher and saw my first Cedar Waxwings of the year at this location, and found a female Wood Duck with a brood of nine small ducklings on the river. The usual breeding birds were still making themselves known through song, including Warbling Vireos, a male Baltimore Oriole, several American Redstarts and even a couple of Gray Catbirds.
It was the insects, however, that made the outing interesting. I was glad to see that a variety of species were present, including a couple of colourful beetles and one unusual dragonfly.
In the butterfly department, Little Wood Satyrs had emerged, and I saw several Hobomok Skippers as well.
When I noticed my first mosaic darner hawking for insects over the path leading into the woods, I knew immediately it was too early for anything but the Springtime Darner to be flying. Last year I had seen only one of these dragonflies, my first, and it had been here at Hurdman. I felt lucky to find one again and spent some time trying to get a better photograph than the one I had taken last year.
These darners are usually found along slow-moving woodland rivers and streams, forested lakes, or patrolling over open fields near forest edges. They are fairly easy to identify; the Springtime Darner’s thorax has two straight yellow stripes bordered in black, and each wing has a small black patch at the base. To my surprise, I found a second darner further along the trail, and then a third and a fourth…I figured there were at least five individuals present and ended up with photos of several of them. I was delighted to see so many of them, and spent most of my lunch hour trying to photograph them.
When not looking at the darners, I found myself examining the flowers for insects feeding on the pollen. One such insect was a tiny, brightly-coloured beetle that I found in the center of a purple Dame’s Rocket blossom. At first I thought his face was yellow, but when I examined my photos later I realized he was covered in pollen!
Pedilus sp. on Dame’s Rocket
The Dame’s Rocket is one of my favourite early-blooming flowers with its lovely shades of lilac, pink and white.
Another beetle I found was the Spotted lady-beetle, one of our native lady beetles or “lady bugs”. This species is beneficial to gardeners as it feeds on aphids and other invertebrates. However, because Spotted lady-beetles are out relatively early in the season, they will supplement their diet with pollen from dandelions and other flowers. I took this photograph because it was the first lady beetle I had seen on something other than a dandelion!
Like many of our native lady beetles, the Spotted lady-beetle is slowly declining and disappearing across much of North America. Two of the factors which may be contributing to their decline are competition with the introduced non-native Asian Multicolored Lady Beetle and the increasing application of pesticides and herbicides to our crops and lawns. I don’t use chemicals on my lawns, and was happy to find one of these lovely pink lady beetles in my backyard earlier this spring.
The last interesting sighting of the day was not an insect but a mammal. I saw a muskrat swimming in the river close to the shore, and took a few pictures of him before he saw me and dove beneath the surface.
Early June is always an interesting time here in Ottawa; with so many new butterflies, beetles, dragonflies and other insects emerging, and so many mammals and birds at the peak of their breeding season, there is always something fantastic to see!