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.

I saw my first Common Ringlet of the year in this area as well; this is a grassland species which can be found in a number of grassy habitats, including roadsides, woodland edges and clearings, prairies, bogs, and even tundra.

Common Ringlet

A number of wildflowers were in bloom in this area, including Balsam Ragwort (a source of nectar for butterflies), Blue-eyed Grass, and even some wild columbine.

Balsam Ragwort

Wild Columbine

Although I didn’t see any butterflies nectaring on the ragwort or columbine, I did see a good number of species along the trail. A brief glimpse of a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail was all I got of this gorgeous species, and a White Admiral also flew by without allowing any photos. Two of the early skippers – Hobomok Skipper and Juvenal’s Duskywing – were present in sunny areas along the trail, and I got a nice picture of a Little Wood Satyr.

Little Wood Satyr

Dragonflies were well-represented in the boardwalk area by the first pond. I photographed two species of emerald perching on the vegetation and saw Chalk-fronted Corporals and Common Whitetails perching on the boardwalk itself.

Racket-tailed Emerald

The Racket-tailed Emerald and Beaverpond Baskettail are two of the most common emeralds seen in the Ottawa area, even though they are both gone by mid-summer.

Beaverpond Baskettail

At the next boardwalk I saw my first Dot-tailed Whiteface of the season, while Twelve-spotted Skimmers flew lazily over the pond. I didn’t find any water snakes this time.

As it was so late in the day, I didn’t observe a great many species of birds. A couple of Eastern Wood-Pewees and Red-eyed Vireos were singing in the woods, I heard a Great Crested Flycatcher near the edge of the wetland, and in the marsh itself I found a Common Yellowthroat, Swamp Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds. My most exciting avian encounter occurred when I found a Red-eyed Vireo foraging in the trees only a few feet above my head. When I began “pishing” he dropped even lower, allowing me a good look and a couple of photos:

Red-eyed Vireo

Although I usually do my birding/butterflying early in the day, it is a nice change to go out later in the afternoon; there seems to be a better variety of insects around. I’ll have to make it a point to go out later in the day more often!

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