Archive | July 2011

Algonquin Part I: Dragonflies and more Dragonflies

On July 23rd Doran and I drove to Algonquin Provincial Park where we would spend the next four nights at the Canisbay Lake Campground. I had booked two adjacent sites, one for us and one for my Dad who would be arriving the same day in his new trailer. We arrived first, in mid-afternoon, and quickly began to assemble our tents. While we were putting up our sleeping tent, a beautiful Compton Tortoiseshell drifted out of the woods and into our campsite. It flew off before I could get any pictures, but I was happy as it boded well for the campsite I had chosen. It was on the last road in the campground, and backed onto the woods. There was nobody behind us, and the woods were too dense to see my Dad’s campsite next door. Although there was no one on the other side of our campsite, we could see the campers on one of the other roads which ran parallel to ours. Other than that, our lot was very private and secluded. We could hear the beautiful song of a Hermit Thrush coming from the woods behind us, and a couple of American Redstarts flitted noisily above us in the trees. Both would be constantly present over the next four days.

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Moths of the Garden

I’ve been seeing lots of moths in my garden lately. Some fly out of the flower bed and land on the fence while I am watering the garden; others I’ve found nectaring on the flowers. It’s nice to know that even if I don’t see very many butterflies in my yard, other members of the Order Lepodoptera have found it to their liking!

There are lots of flowers in bloom now: Scarlet Sage, Bee Balm, Morning Glories, a few Scarlet Runner Beans, Butterfly Weed, Cleome and Veronica. So far I haven’t seen any insects at the Cleome, while the Veronica is a pollinator magnet. Lots of insects are drawn to the Butterfly Weed and Bee Balm as well.

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Mystery Damsel at Mud Lake

On one Sunday in mid-July Chris Lewis, Mike Tate and I went to Mud Lake to look for dragonflies. It was a beautiful warm morning, and we were hoping to catch up with the Blue Dasher and Halloween Pennant that Mike had found there earlier in the week. Both of these dragonflies were new for the Britannia list, and I was especially hoping to find the Halloween Pennant as it would be a lifer for me.

When I first arrived I noticed a large dragonfly zipping above the road near the top of the trees. When it landed in one of the dead trees I pointed it out to Chris and Mike. I could see the dark spots on the wings which identified it as a Prince Baskettail, one of my few sightings of this species.

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Revisiting Marlborough

In mid-July I visited Marlborough Forest with a couple of friends. Pat and Melanie had never been to the Cedar Grove Nature Trail, so I thought I’d introduce them to this wonderful trail. It was a warm, beautiful morning, and quickly grew very hot. The deer flies were annoying, but this time there were no swarms of Racket-tailed Emeralds, Common Pondhawks and Chalk-fronted Corporals to keep them at bay.

In the woods just beyond the parking lot we heard an Eastern Wood-pewee and a Red-eyed Vireo singing. Cedar Waxwings flew by overhead, and in the distance we heard a Blue Jay squawking.

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In search of a rarity

In early July, during the week, of course, a rare bird showed up on the Carp River floodplain near the intersection of Carp and March Roads. At first it was identified as a Glossy Ibis, a species I have never seen before, but as birders obtained better views of the bird they confirmed it was a White-faced Ibis. This was a first ever record for the Ottawa area, and given that I had already seen one before in Amherstburg last year, I decided not to try to see the bird until the weekend. Another contributing factor was that I was suffering from an allergic reaction to a couple of really bad insect bites on my legs from my outing at Petrie Island and was doped up on Benadryl. Further, the ibis often left the floodplain area between 6:00 and 7:00 pm to roost elsewhere and I couldn’t be sure that it would be there when I arrived after work.

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Garden Critters

My garden continues to host a number of fascinating insects, arachnids, birds and mammals. The blossoming flowers attract many of the insects; Columbine, Veronica, Cleome, and Morning Glories are all in bloom, as are the petunias (right) that I bought in the spring. My bird feeder draws the birds and mammals, mostly chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, squirrels and chipmunks. One night, however, I heard noises from the back garden and when I shone my flashlight into the darkness I saw two raccoons scrambling to climb up the fence! They had knocked over my small birdbath, so I’m not sure if they were after something to drink or just mischief in general. One seemed a bit smaller than the other, perhaps one of this year’s young, and after they climbed the fence they disappeared. I didn’t get any photos, but here are some of the other critters that have visited my garden in early July.

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Butterflies of the Burnt Lands

On July 9th I visited the Burnt Lands alvar via Ramsay Concession 12 near Panmure. I hadn’t been here in a few years, and was mainly looking for butterflies. I made a few stops along the way, such as Huntmar Road where I saw a family of five Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Gourlay Lane where I found a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a pair of Indigo Buntings. I used to visit the ruins here in previous summers as it is a good spot to see Indigo Buntings, but at some point someone blocked off access to the field leading to ruins with “No Trespassing” signs and signs asking people to call a certain telephone number if they saw anyone trespassing. I was disappointed, and soon left. On the way to Panmure I saw a couple of Northern Harriers on March Road near Carp, and a pair of American Kestrels and Eastern Meadowlarks near the Upper Dwyer Hill Road.

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More Dragonfly Discoveries…

I went back to Petrie Island the following day, July 3, 2011, to look for Blue Dashers and conduct a count. I started at the marshy area along the west side of the causeway where I observed two male Blue Dashers perching on vegetation above the water, occasionally flying out to chase another insect. I also heard a pair of Virginia Rails calling from among the cattails, and managed to coax one out into the open by playing a recording of its song. I wish that all of the rails were so easy to see! A Great Blue Heron and a single Wood Duck were also present, and again I saw a Green Heron flying to the back of the marsh. There was no sign of the Black Tern I had seen the previous day.

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A Dashing Discovery

After a relatively uneventful outing on Saturday I decided to head out to the east end on Sunday. I hadn’t been to Petrie Island in a few months, and as it’s one of the best spots for dragonflies along the Ottawa River I thought I would check it out see what was around. Petrie Island is also home to the Hackberry Emperor, a beautiful butterfly which depends on Hackberry trees as its larval foodplant. Petrie Island is the only place in the Ottawa area with a mature stand of Hackberry trees, and as such it is the only place in Ottawa where the Hackberry Emperor is found. I wasn’t sure whether this butterfly would be flying yet, but thought it would be worth checking.

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Celebrating Canada Day at Mud Lake

In Ottawa, Canada Day usually means festivities on Parliament Hill, music, parades, throngs of people and fireworks. I celebrate Canada Day a different way: by going out and appreciating the natural beauty of our great country. This is a great way to escape the crowds and enjoy the other things that Canada has to offer: the land, the wildlife, the richness of its biodiversity.

I spent the morning at Mud Lake, hoping to find some interesting dragonflies and perhaps an unexpected bird or two (such as the Veery I saw last July) if post-breeding dispersal has begun to take place.

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