Revisiting Petrie Island

Last weekend I decided to revisit Petrie Island to see how the Blue Dasher colony was doing and to look for other odonates. I had meant to go back earlier in the summer but never got around to it; any chance of re-finding the Unicorn Clubtail was long gone, but I still hoped to find some other dragonflies of interest.

As usual, I stopped by the marsh along the causeway first. Red-winged Blackbirds, Belted Kingfishers, a Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron, several Wood Ducks, and several Mallards were all present. There was no sign of any swallows, and I felt a bit sad to realize that they would soon be heading south.


A pair of Wood Ducks were feeding right by the base of the causeway. Both were juveniles, and both swam casually away from me when they realized I was watching them. Adult Wood Ducks are much warier and fly off screeching when they see someone close by.

Wood Duck

I received a surprise when I noticed a brown “stick” amongst the vegetation and discovered it was an American Bittern instead! This is the first time I’ve ever seen one without being alerted to its presence either by flushing or vocalizing. If the reeds had been dead and brown instead of bright green I never would have noticed him.

Can you spot the American Bittern?

In the woods the usual Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Gray Catbirds, Song Sparrows, Warbling Vireos and Red-eyed Vireos were present, many of which were still singing. I also encountered one Baltimore Oriole, three House Wrens, one Yellow Warbler, one Common Yellowthroat and several robins – mostly juveniles – on my walk. I checked the marsh along the Turtle and the William Holland Trails and was delighted to see lots of Eastern Forktails, Blue Dashers, Slaty Skimmers, Common Pondhawks and Widow Skimmers near the water. I also noticed a few spreadwings and managed to both catch and photograph them – all of them turned out to be Swamp Spreadwings.

Swamp Spreadwing

The only butterflies I noticed were Least Skippers, Cabbage Whites, and crescents. If the butterflies weren’t terribly interesting, the birds sure were. Near the end of the William Holland Trail I found a pocket of migrants including a beautiful male Black-throated Blue Warbler, a couple of Cedar Waxwings, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The warbler was trying to sing, which was what alerted me to his presence. I could hear the buzzy “beer…. beer…. beer… beeeee” with its final up-slurred note coming from the woods and went to investigate. There I found him hopping about the shrubbery, ingesting a blue Buckthorn berry and then either losing it or spitting it out. I tried to take a couple of photos but the shadows were so deep that they didn’t turn out well.

In the pond at the end of the trail I found a couple more Blue Dashers, including this cooperative male. He actually let me take a few macro images from only a couple of inches away.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dashers are normally wary creatures, “dashing” away before you can get too close. This one didn’t. He was an older individual, for the beautiful blue abdomen and striped yellow thorax were covered in a bluish-gray pruinosity. I didn’t see any females on this outing, and while I didn’t conduct a count this time, it seemed there were far more Blue Dashers around today than there were back in early July. Chris Lewis said on one of her outings to Petrie Island she counted at least 80 of them!

Blue Dasher

I am really curious as to whether these dragonflies will turn up again here next year. Petrie Island is a wonderful place for birds, mammals, reptiles, butterflies and dragonflies throughout the warmer months, and I am definitely going to try to visit this wonderful place more often next year, and see what else is around!

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2 thoughts on “Revisiting Petrie Island

  1. Hi – your website is awesome – I used to live in Ottawa but am now living in Victoria BC – I saw my first wood duck today and got some photos but no really good ones – it was a female and it seemed her head was constantly moving – Heather Hess

    • Hi Heather, nice to meet you! And thanks for the compliment! I haven’t been to BC since I was a kid (long before I became interested in birds and nature) and would love to return. The Steller’s Jay is one of my most-wanted western birds, along with Mountain Bluebird! I was actually out west in July to attend my sister’s wedding in Jasper, so if you look you will find my blog posts from Alberta.

      Most of our Wood Ducks have flown south, but there is one female hanging around Mud Lake which appears to be injured. I love those birds, and hope she survives the winter okay. Wait till you see the males!

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