A Day in Quebec, Part II: Ch. Sincennes

Our next stop was Chemin Sincennes in Gatineau Park, where the gravel road passes through some marsh habitat before coming to Lac La Peche. Peter’s group had found some excellent butterflies along the roadside, including a Long Dash Skipper, several Canadian Tiger Swallowtails, a couple of Silvery Blues, a couple of Silver-bordered Fritillaries, and an early Atlantis Fritillary. The odonata reported by Chris Lewis and Bob Bracken was even more impressive: Ebony Jewelwings, several Aurora Damsels, a Dragonhunter, Common Baskettails, Prince Baskettails, and several Belted Whitefaces. I was especially looking forward to seeing the Aurora Damsels and Common Baskettails as they would be lifers for me.

We had some excitement along Ch. Sincennes before we even got to the marsh. First, Rick was completely taken aback by a newly-erected toll booth and the $10 parking fee for all vehicles going beyond the booth. The booth had not been there when he and the others had visited the road only a few days earlier! After a short discussion, I fetched my wallet and paid the fee. Larry and Rick were kind enough to chip in.

Then, after we paid the toll and entered the park, I noticed a couple of small fledgling birds hopping around on the road. Concerned, I slowed to a stop and noted with a kind of horror that they weren’t able to fly at all. Then, when I realized an NCC vehicle was coming up fast behind me, I jumped out of the car and dashed over to the first bird, placed it on the shoulder, then grabbed the second bird and moved it out of harm’s way. I didn’t even have time to look at the poor birds and formulate any kind of ID. The NCC staff were not amused. They told me that the mother would probably abandon them now, since I had probably left my scent on them after handling them, and that they would probably die. I responded that I couldn’t just leave them in the road, where they were certain to be run over and killed, and that I had thought that the abandonment theory had been disproved (in fact it was; I wasn’t completely sure at the time, but later found it posted on Cornell’s website). This seemed to cut no ice with them, so I shrugged and got back into the car, my good feeling vanishing.

A few moments later Rick pointed out the marsh, so I parked the car at the side of the road. The first dragonfly I noticed was a gorgeous Racket-tailed Emerald as it landed on a leaf. There were quite a few dragonflies patrolling overhead – probably Prince and/or Common Baskettails – but I wasn’t able to get a good enough look to be sure.

Racket-tailed Emerald

We noticed a couple of damp spots in the road, and found a couple of White Admirals, Juvenal’s Duskywings and Northern Crescents “mud-puddling” at various spots. When one of the admirals flew up into the trees I stopped to take its picture.

White Admiral

Another species we found trying to obtain nutrients from the damp shoulder was a Silver-bordered Fritillary. This photo shows the distinctive pale edges of its wings for which it is named and the diagnostic narrow black border which completely encloses a row of orange spots.

Silver-bordered Fritillary

I was also able to get a nice photo of the underside of this species. The wings are a reddish-orange color with bright, metallic silver spots and a row of black or reddish-brown submarginal spots. In southern Ontario and southern British Columbia, this species flies from late May to September and has two broods. The Silver-bordered Fritillary emerges later farther north, where it has only a single brood. It is a common butterfly of wet meadows in eastern Canada and regularly visits flowers such as asters and daisies.

Silver-bordered Fritillary

We found a couple of Hobomok Skippers, a Northern Cloudywing, and a Long Dash Skipper in the vegetation along the side of the road. I didn’t notice any damselflies. We also saw a couple of large, yellow Canadian Tiger Swallowtails. When one landed I tracked it down for a photograph.

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail

I also noticed a pretty little scarab beetle on a Blue Flag blossom which hadn’t opened yet.

Flower Scarab Beetle

There were a few birds around, too, We heard a couple of Veeries singing in the trees beyond the grassy roadside, and saw one fly over. A couple of Common Yellowthroats were foraging in the trees and I managed to “pish” one out into the open. Larry pointed out a Broad-winged Hawk soaring overhead. I didn’t keep track of the birds that I saw; for the first time I was having far too much fun to record my sightings.

Then Rick noticed a dark orange fritillary land in a damp spot on the road. He said it was an Atlantis Fritillary – an early one – and we made our way over to it to take some photos. This was a lifer butterfly for me.

Atlantis Fritillary

The Atlantis Fritillary is medium-sized, only slightly smaller than the Great-spangled Fritillary. Generally darker than most other fritillaries, the upper side is a deep orange, becoming quite brown near the body. Females are light yellow or yellowish-orange. Both sexes have a solid black margin on the forewings and often on the hindwings as well, which helps to distinguish it from the Aphrodite Fritillary. The eyes are blue-gray, whereas in the Aphrodite Fritillary they are yellow-green.

On the underside, there is a distinct lighter submarginal band that doesn’t extend all the way to either row of silvery spots.

Atlantis Fritillary

After probing the ground for a short time, the Atlantis Fritillary flew up into a shrub where it perched for a long time with its wings closed. When it finally opened them I was able to get photo.

Atlantis Fritillary

There were very few dragonflies here which were willing to pose for the camera. I found this male Common Whitetail posing perfectly and took a quick photo; he is just beginning to gain the bluish-white pruinosity that this species is named for. The females look similar but have a different pattern on the wings.

Common Whitetail

I found another whiteface whose identity couldn’t be confirmed to the species level. This is either a female Belted or Crimson-ringed Whiteface.

Whiteface sp.

I thought the marsh was well worth the stop, but Rick didn’t think there were quite as many butterflies flying there as he had seen on his previous outing. He also noted that it appeared as though that they graded the road. While this made for some soft, moist dirt along the edges of the road which attracted some species, it also has thrown up some dust on the vegetation along the edges of the road. Perhaps this is why I didn’t see many damselflies, or the Aurora Damsels I was looking for in particular.

Still, I was quite happy with the Atlantis Fritillary, my second lifer butterfly of the morning….and we had one more stop to make before heading home!

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