Warbler watching

I’m glad I took Tuesday off for it turned out to be the most spectacular warbler day of the season. I started off at the Rideau Trail, expecting only four or five species, and ending up with 12! I came across a large flock in the trees between the hydro cut and the boardwalk, and spent almost an hour watching them. The usual American Redstarts, Black-throated Green Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Magnolia Warblers and Black-and-White Warblers were present, as were one Common Yellowthroat, one Nashville Warbler and less common species such as Blackburnian Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and two Bay-breasted Warblers.

Even more astonishing was the Canada Warbler that I heard singing, but couldn’t find. This warbler has a distinctive song – a short, unmusical chip followed by a jumble of staccato notes – and I knew as soon as I heard it that it couldn’t belong to anything else. Although I tried, I couldn’t find it among all the foliage. I didn’t get all that many photos, either, other than this one of a cute Bay-breasted Warbler.

Bay-breasted Warbler

A couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches and two House Wrens were also good finds at the Rideau Trail. There were no Winter Wrens yet…perhaps soon! A quick stop at Sarsaparilla Trail yielded no warblers, but I did see a couple of Pied-billed Grebes and two Green Herons perching on some dead trees. This was the first time I’d ever seen Green Herons here before.

From there I went to Mud Lake, entering from Howe Street to look for the Carolina Wren. My search met with no success; however, a Wild Turkey in one of the backyards next to the trail was quite a surprise!

Wild Turkey

I made my way to the Ridge, where I found a Band-winged Meadowhawk and a couple of darners, including two Canada Darners in a mating wheel. Can you see the difference in the shape of the thoracic stripes?

Lance-tipped Darner

Canada Darners

To my delight, there were lots of warblers here as well. Again I tallied 12 warblers, including a few I hadn’t seen at the Rideau Trail. These included two Northern Parulas, two Blackpoll Warblers, one Palm Warbler and one Yellow-rumped Warbler, bringing my day’s total up to 16 which is the most I think I’ve ever had in one day! I also heard another Canada Warbler singing and this time I managed to spot him, though for only a few seconds. This was one of my highlights of the day.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Interestingly, the Canada Warbler was only one of many warblers I heard singing that day: the Common Yellowthroat at the Rideau Trail, the Northern Parula at Mud Lake, a Black-throated Green Warbler and an American Redstart were also singing. After feasting my eyes on these lovely songbirds I spent some time trying to photograph them. As they were all actively foraging, this was quite difficult, but I got a few pictures worth sharing…including one of this Tennessee Warbler, a species I don’t frequently encounter.

Tennessee Warbler

I also photographed another Bay-breasted Warbler with enough reddish streaking along the sides to easily identify him. Without this field mark I’d have to relegate him to the unidentifiable “Pine Bay-poll” complex, which is my name for a group of confusing fall warblers which all look similar during the fall: the Pine Warbler, the Bay-breasted Warbler and the Blackpoll Warbler.

Bay-breasted Warbler

I went down the river behind the Ridge, where a Common Merganser was swimming in the channel and about ten juvenile Wood Ducks were loafing on the rocks. The light was much better today for pictures:

Wood Duck

These pretty pink flowers were growing near the water, and I stopped to take a picture of a colourful wasp on one of the flowers.

Wasp sp.

I also saw a long-legged crane fly in the same area, though I’m not sure which species. Many people believe these flies to be giant mosquitoes. While they do belong in Order Diptera (the true flies) with the mosquitoes, they are not mosquitoes and do not bite. Nor do they eat mosquitoes as their common name (Mosquito Hawk) suggests. It is believed that they feed on nectar or they do not feed at all, living only a few days as adults to mate and then die.

Crane Fly

After that I decided to leave the same way I had arrived, rather than walking around the lake. On one of the side trails I came to an open area filled with blooming goldenrods. The insect life here was amazing, with numerous bees, wasps, Cabbage Whites, etc. all feeding on the blossoms. To my surprise I encountered a Leonard’s Skipper here. According to Ross Layberry, the only other record of this species from Mud Lake is undated, from someone who left the area 15 years ago.

Leonard’s Skipper

Another nice surprise was this funky-looking beetle. One of the long-horned beetles, the adults feed chiefly on goldenrod pollen. This species lays its eggs under the bark of black locust (Robinia sp.) trees, and the larvae tunnel into the tree’s trunk and branches, weakening the tree and making it susceptible to wind breakage.

Locust Borer Beetle

I also managed to photograph my first Green Lacewing in this area. These tiny insects are quite striking with their netted lace-like wings, soft green hue, and golden eyes. Found primarily in fields, gardens, and forest edges, adults feed on pollen and nectar from flowers and the honeydew secreted by aphids. They are a gardener’s best friend, because their larvae – sometimes called “aphid lions” – are fierce predators of aphids!

Green Lacewing

Again I failed to find the Carolina Wren in the woods along the western edge of the conservation area, but given the number of interesting bugs and warblers I had seen that day, I considered it a resounding success!

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