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.


There were lots of birds on the lake, including several Wood Ducks and mallards, at least one Hooded Merganser, and several Canada Geese. I also saw one of each of the three herons that call Mud Lake home in the summer: Great Blue, Green, and Black-crowned Night-heron. An Osprey was sitting in a tree on the far shore, perhaps dining on a recent catch, and two Common Terns were sitting and vocalizing on one of the rocks in the eastern part of the lake. There were lots of dragonflies flying over the water, and in the vegetation I found several Widow Skimmers.

Widow Skimmer

Only the males have a white band on their wings; the females have only the broad black basal band. The male in the above photo is relatively young, and has not yet developed the bluish pruinosity of the older male shown below. This species is found in permanent ponds, lakes, marshes and occasionally streams.

Widow Skimmer

Other dragonflies seen include Dot-tailed Whiteface, Common Whitetails, Common Pondhawks, Chalk-fronted Corporals, Racket-tailed Emeralds, and a Canada Darner sitting on the railing of the “turtle bridge”.

A walk in the woods produced nothing as interesting as the Veery I found here last year. I heard a couple of Pine Warblers singing high up in the tall pine trees, came across two American Redstarts, and heard one Eastern Wood-pewee and several Red-eyed Vireos. The Cooper’s Hawks that bred here last here (and which had reportedly bred here this year) were nowhere in evidence. The only interesting insect I saw were a pair of mating Robber Flies.

Robber Flies

There were only a couple turtles visible at the bridge; a far cry from the 100+ I’d found basking on logs back in April.

Painted Turtle

I spent several minutes along the north shore of Mud Lake, checking the area where I had seen the Dragonhunter devouring a Widow Skimmer last year. There were no clubtails here, neither the Dragonhunter nor the Horned Clubtails which have been observed in the same area. A bullfrog posed nicely for the camera, however….

Bullfrog

…as did a Twelve-spotted Skimmer. The male is similar in colour to the Widow Skimmer, but has three dark spots on each wing with white patches in between. It is the number of black spots which give rise to this species’ name.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

On the Ridge I found a couple of Warbling Vireos, Gray Catbirds and a male Baltimore Oriole stuffing food into his offspring’s mouth. A groundhog on the lawn and a muskrat swimming in the lake were the only interesting mammals that I saw.

It wasn’t as great an outing as I was expecting, so I stopped in at the Rideau Trail on my way home. I heard an Ovenbird and a Common Yellowthroat singing, but the best bird was the male Scarlet Tanager sitting atop a tall tree in the alvar. I heard him first, calling “chip-bang, chip-bang” and was thrilled when I finally spotted him. I think it was the first tanager I’d actually seen this year; the rest I’d heard only.

Although my Canada Day outing was not as productive as I’d hoped, there were still two days left in the long weekend….and I intended to make the most of them!

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