Halloween in August

After leaving the Bill Mason Center I drove directly to the Morris Island Conservation Area. Chris and Bob had seen at least a dozen Halloween Pennants here earlier in the week, and I was eager to find them and to explore the conservation area further. This time I bypassed the trail through the woods and headed along the straight, wide trail to the large bay I had noticed on my last visit. Once it reaches the water, the trail forms a long raised causeway to the woods on the other side. Formerly used as a rail line, the causeway is s a wide open, flat gravel trail 1.5 km long which transects the conservation area. It was here that Bob and Chris found the Halloween Pennants; as soon as I reached the water I slowed down to examine the vegetation.


I hadn’t walked far before I found my first Halloween Pennant. Like many members of the skimmer family, this dragonfly perches on top of twigs and stalks of vegetation where it waits for a suitable prey item to fly by. Slightly larger than the similar-looking Calico Pennant, it is more orange than red, and has more markings on the wings.

Halloween Pennant

The first one I found quickly flew out over the water and landed on a stump protruding from the water, so I set about looking for more. I found about half a dozen altogether, including several cooperative individuals which allowed me to take some close-ups with my camera. As a result, I didn’t even need to use my net!

Halloween Pennant

I intended to walk down the length of the causeway, but only managed to reach the halfway point – a small wooden bridge where a number of people were fishing – as there was so much to see. I had forgotten that I had read that the causeway is a good place to find Northern Water Snakes basking in the sun; I startled one near the water’s edge, and it quickly uncoiled itself and slid into the water. I watched it swim across the bay and was unable to get any photos. I’ll have to remember to look for them next summer when I return!

The Causeway

Looking back towards the park entrance:

The Causeway

Several clubtails were using the causeway as well. To my surprise a Dragonhunter landed right in front of me. I started creeping up on it get some photos but he didn’t stay long. This has been a good year for seeing this species!

Dragonhunter

As it was growing hot, I sat down on the rocks near the bridge to drink some water. A Black-shouldered Spinyleg also found the area to his liking and spent some time on the rock beside me. I counted at least four of them along the causeway.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Once I had finished my snack and my water it was time to leave the causeway. I stopped to photograph more Halloween Pennants on my way back.

Halloween Pennant

Other dragonflies seen here were Common Green Darner, Common Pondhawk, Widow Skimmers and a Slaty Skimmer. It appears that the Blue Dasher invasion hadn’t reached Morris Island.

Slaty Skimmer

A Green Frog in an uncharacteristic position also caught my attention.

Green Frog

I followed the trail through the woods along the other side of the bay. I didn’t encounter any snapping turtles this time, but I did find a millipede in the middle of the path.

Millipede

There were no new dragonflies along the small boardwalks, but I did find a large spider sitting in a shrub. It was sitting out in the open until I dropped my net; the vibration sent it scuttling to safety, and I just happened to see the movement. It was almost as large as my hand, but because it had darted beneath a few leaves I wasn’t able to get any photos showing its full size.

Spider

Upon closer inspection I noticed an egg sac in the middle of the web; there were lots of tiny spiderlings were spilling out of it. I’ll have to check this area next year to see if I can get a better look at these spiders and identify which species they are!

Egg Sac with spiderlings

I decided not to explore any further, and turned around to leave. On my way out I stopped to check the large map to get an idea of just how large the conservation area is. It was much larger than I had expected – on my previous visit I had explored the trails marked in blue and white; today I only got as far as the orange “X” along the causeway. I hadn’t realized that the trails continue on the other side of the bay!

Map of the Conservation Area

Next year I will definitely have to return to explore the yellow and orange trails. I’d also like to visit earlier in the season during the breeding season to find more birds and butterflies as well. Morris Island is a beautiful place, and well worth the drive!

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One thought on “Halloween in August

  1. Pingback: Unusual Finds in the West End | The Pathless Wood

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