Hurdman in early August

I went to Hurdman Park twice in my first week back to work after my holiday; I hadn’t been there in a while and I was curious as to whether much had changed since I’d been away. During my visit it became clear that summer is definitely waning here in Ottawa – the birds are no longer spending energy on singing and defending territories. I heard a cardinal, a couple of Song Sparrows and a Red-eyed Vireo singing, but the Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts, Least Flycatchers and Common Yellowthroats have already ceased. I noticed one redstart foraging in the woods along the feeder path, but saw none of the usual Eastern Kingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Baltimore Orioles, woodpeckers, nuthatches or Yellow Warblers. I assume that the chicks have all fledged and the birds have left their nesting areas in search of more abundant food sources in order to prepare for the long journey south soon to come.

The most interesting birds that I found on my first visit were the pair of Black Swans on the river near the 417 bridge. These birds are not native, nor are they wild; they are owned by the City of Ottawa and roam the Rideau River freely during the summer. This was the second time I had seen them here this year.

Black Swans

Eastern Forktails and Powdered Dancers were common along the trails, and I found a few Stream Bluets in the vegetation near the river. A large Common Green Darner and and unidentified mosaic darner were the only dragonflies that I noticed. There weren’t many butterflies flying, either; I saw about half a dozen Cabbage Whites, one Common Ringlet, and one blue (probably an Eastern-Tailed Blue, though I didn’t get a good look at it).

Despite the scarcity of butterflies and dragonflies, I did come across a few really neat insects. The first was a Milkweed Leaf Beetle seen on a Common Milkweed plant next to the bike path. It was larger than a lady beetle, and at first I thought it was a Japanese Beetle which is often abundant here. I took a closer look, and was delighted when I realized it was a native Milkweed Leaf Beetle instead, welcoming the opportunity to take a couple of photographs. This was only the third time I’d ever come across these colourful beetles.

Milkweed Leaf Beetle

There were about 20 of these beetles on the milkweeds and in the grass, many of which allowed close-ups with my camera.

Milkweed Leaf Beetle

The other insect I found really interesting was this Pelecinid Wasp, a long, thin black wasp which bears no resemblance to the wasps found gathering pollen from flowers in one’s garden. These distinctive wasps are found in forests, especially deciduous forests, and the female is easily identified by its long six-segmented abdomen which is about five times the length of the rest of the body. The larva are parasitoids of insect larvae that feed on decomposing wood. The female wasp uses its ovipositor to detect host larva, such as scarab beetles and wood-boring insects, inside the wood or soil and then lays one egg on each. The Pelecinid larva burrows into the beetle larva, killing it, and feeds on its remains until it pupates there in soil.

Pelecinid Wasp

On Friday I didn’t find any unusual birds or butterflies, but a couple of colourful insects caught my attention. I was watching the flowers along the bike path for Eastern Tailed Blue butterflies when I found this red bug instead. You can tell from the shape of the wings that it is one of the true bugs rather than a beetle. As best as I can tell it is a plant bug of the genus Lopidea.

Lopidea sp.

There are always lots of bees and wasps at Hurdman, but this year I haven’t spent much time photographing them. When I came across this sweat bee feeding on the bright yellow Helianthus flower I immediately stopped to photograph him. I love how his yellow and green colours match the colours of the flower and the background!

Sweat Bee

Although there is still at least one more month of summer left, I can’t help wishing that fall migration was under way. I’m looking forward to seeing some different species of birds and photographing something other than insects for a change. Although shorebirds have already been reported from Shirley’s Bay, they typically don’t stop in at Hurdman as there are no mudflats along the Rideau River here. It should be a good spot when songbird migration begins, but that won’t be for a couple of weeks yet. Now that all the summer residents are leaving, it will be nice to see something different.

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