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.
It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, even at 8:30 a.m. when we arrived. We parked at the side of the road, walked a short trail through the woods, found an almost non-existent side trail, and followed it to the bog. I found my first dragonfly immediately; this beautiful male Belted Whiteface was resting on a log right at the bog entrance. Note the small red patch around his waist; this explains its former name “Red-waisted Whiteface”.
The entrance to the bog was wet, with about a foot of standing water. We crossed a fallen tree trunk (with some difficulty; the log was covered with a thick layer of moss) to reach the bog surface, where we found a thick, spongy mat of moss and floating vegetation. As it was private property, there was no boardwalk, nor any interpretive signs; we squelched through the bog in our boots, sometimes sinking 8 or 10 inches! However, the bog was pretty stable, and a snowmobile trail cuts right through it so it was not as dangerous as one might think.
View of the Bog
Rick was the only one who had been here before, and he led the way to the snowmobile trail where he and the others had found a few Bog Fritillaries on their earlier expedition. We saw our first fritillary only a few feet in. As it was still very early, this butterfly spent more time perching than flying. This gave us an excellent opportunity to study the butterfly, which is much smaller than the Great-spangled Fritillaries I am used to.
Although the biting insects weren’t too bad, the deer flies were annoying enough for me to stop and apply bug spray early on. When I picked up my net, I was rather startled to see this Really Big Spider (perhaps a Dolomedes species?) sitting inside! He seemed quite content….until I tried to take his picture! Then he scurried into the shadows where I managed to take this one photo before he decided he didn’t like the attention and disappeared back into the bog.
Really Big Spider
Larry also saw a small rodent scuttle across the bog before disappearing into the vegetation. The previous group had seen a Bog Lemming, so perhaps Larry had found another one. I didn’t see it. I did see the worn Brown Elfin found by Rick, as well as several Common Ringlets. Another Bog Fritillary flew by, and landed quite close to us. I tried to get a photo of the underside of the wings, since most fritillaries are best identified by the pattern on the underside, but this was the best I could manage.
As Chris Lewis had mentioned, the tiny Elfin Skimmers were very numerous. Females are black and yellow, resembling tiny wasps, while males are covered in a bluish-gray pruinosity. The vast majority of the skimmers were females – we only saw a handful of males, and being so small they were difficult to photograph. They were easy to catch, however, and I caught this female in case it was the only one I would be able to photograph. This image also shows just how tiny (and how adorable!) these dragons are:
We also saw a couple of bluets; I tried to catch them and failed, so they will forever remain a mystery. However, Chris’s group did find one Boreal Bluet and five Hagen’s Bluet at Monty’s bog. Chalk-fronted Corporals, Sedge Sprites, Racket-tailed Emeralds, at least one Frosted Whiteface and at least one male Hudsonian Whiteface were also present.
We startled one Pickerel Frog during our walk. This rare species is rare in the Ottawa valley, but occurs more frequently in the upper Gatineau area where it prefers bog edges and cold water, and is more likely to be found in wooded areas than the Northern Leopard Frog.
There weren’t a lot of flowers on the bog. We came across a couple of small shrubs with pink flowers and the occasional Pitcher Plant.
I was really hoping to get some good photos of the Elfin Skimmers before we left, but their small size and habit of perching low among the vegetation made that almost impossible. I finally found one resting on a blade of grass with no other vegetation around it, and got some good shots. This was the only skimmer which posed for me, and I was disappointed that I was unable to get any shots of the beautiful pale blue males.
We didn’t walk too far in, for we weren’t sure how stable the bog was further out. We could see where it ended in a large pool of open water, and made sure we didn’t walk too close to the edge.
After about an hour and a half it was time to leave. As we made our way back to the tree trunk bridge, Rick spotted a new species for our day’s list: a Silver-bordered Fritillary. This butterfly is about the same size as the Bog Fritillary, but a lighter shade of orange. It also has silvery edges to its hind-wings, and a narrow black border which completely encloses a row of orange spots. It is found in bogs, wet meadows and marshes.
As we made our way back across the tree trunk, I noticed that another log close by was occupied by a small turtle sunning himself.
At first it felt a bit strange to be walking on solid ground again, but I adjusted as we walked through the woods back to the car. We found a couple of Little Wood Satyrs, a Juvenal’s Duskywing and a Dreamy Duskywing along the way, and this whiteface which looks like a female Hudsonian:
Possible female Hudsonian Whiteface
I also noticed a bright red beetle in the grass near where I had parked, and stopped to take a couple of photographs. An inhabitant of old fields, this Clay-colored Leaf Beetle couldn’t have a more inapt common name. However, its Latin name includes the word “laticlavia”, which means “having a broad crimson stripe”. This name seems a bit more appropriate!
Clay-colored Leaf Beetle
We removed our rubber boots and packed away our gear. Next on our itinerary was Chemin Sincennes near Lac La Peche, and, buoyed by our early success at Monty’s Bog, we had high hopes of making some more fantastic discoveries there.