I hadn’t been to the Beaver Trail in a while, so on the holiday Monday I decided to go and look for some Common Wood-nymphs, a beautiful, dark butterfly that I often see there in the latter half of the summer. At first the butterflies were slow to appear, so I spent my time watching for birds and dragonflies. To my disappointment, the pond by the V-shaped boardwalk was entirely dry….there was no water, and no dragonflies or water snakes or Common Yellowthroats. July was a dry month and water levels everywhere are lower than normal; still, I had hoped to find some water present, for there are usually lots of dragonflies around when there is.
The large pond at the back of the trail, however, hadn’t dried up, and there I found a few Twelve-Spotted Skimmers and Widow Skimmers. There was lots of Joe Pye Weed in bloom, and as a result, there were butterflies! I saw two Viceroys fly by, followed by a Mourning Cloak and a White Admiral. One of the Viceroys and the White Admiral stopped to nectar on the flowers, but too far from the boardwalk for me to get any photos.
Joe Pye Weed
The meadow was also productive. I found lots of bees here, and lots of meadowhawks as well. The only ones I noticed were the White-faced Meadowhawks, the males of which are distinguished by their bright white faces. Females are yellowish with dull, yellowish faces and are difficult to separate from female Cherry-faced Meadowhawks.
I only found two Common Wood-nymphs in the meadow, both of which very fresh. They like to nectar on the Wild Oregano that grows here, a beautiful low-growing plant with abundant pink flowers.
While walking through the meadow, I noticed this bright green katydid on a thin stick. It was quite large with long, thin antennae; much longer than a grasshopper’s. They are mainly nocturnal, and spend most of their time in trees and shrubs where they eat leaves. They sometimes eat other plant material, such as flowers, and have been known to feed on dead insects, insect eggs or slow-moving insects such as aphids.
The only other butterfly that I noticed in the meadow was the Dun Skipper, a plain, brown butterfly with a golden head (at least in males).
A few birds were around, including Northern Flicker, three Eastern Wood-Pewees, one Great Crested Flycatcher, a couple of Swamp Sparrows, two Baltimore Orioles, and the ever-present chickadee. A Turkey Vulture also flew over the trail; this was the first time I can recall seeing one here. I was hoping for more marsh birds, but only the Swamp Sparrows were singing and I didn’t see anything at the big pond.
There is a small opening onto the marsh by hydro towers, and I stopped here as well to see what was around. There were no birds and no butterflies, but I did see a damselfly fluttering among the vegetation. As best as I can tell, this is likely a Northern Spreadwing.
I saw a few other insects here as well. This small, black and yellow beetle looked beautiful against the pink flowers of the Joe Pye Weed.
Pennsylvania Leatherwing on Joe Pye Weed
A pale, tiny Ambush Bug is hiding in this flower. Can you spot it?
From there I went to Sarsaparilla Trail. There seemed to be even fewer birds here; I only saw one Wood Duck, two Pied-billed Grebes, and maybe two dozen mallards in the swamp, and I heard only one Red-winged Blackbird and one Swamp Sparrow here as well. The best bird, however, was the Purple Martin – there were about two dozen of them flitting about the skies above the water. These are easily recognized in flight as they are the only swallow we have which has a dark belly. I also recognized their musical calls from my time spent at Dick Bell park watching them feed their young. This was the first time I’ve ever seen this species here, which is not surprising given that they nest in man-made bird houses rather than in natural cavities.
I also had my best non-avian sighting at the end of the boardwalk, too; a Snapping Turtle was busy devouring a dead fish not three feet from where I stood!
Stony Swamp has something to offer in all seasons, which is why I find myself returning here time and time again. Every time I visit one of its trails I find something interesting!