Bug Hunting in Late Summer

White-faced Meadowhawk

I returned to Mud Lake in mid-August in the hope of finding some interesting dragonflies. It was a much a nicer day than we’d had for the OFNC dragonfly outing, but there were fewer dragonflies flying, and nothing as interesting as the Spot-winged Glider and Swift River Cruiser we’d found two weeks ago. June and July are the best months for finding a good diversity of odonates; by mid-August a number of species have already finished flying for the year, including many emeralds and common summer species such as the Dot-tailed Whiteface. However, other species are just becoming abundant around this time, such as the mosaic darners, and it was these that I was hoping to find.

While I didn’t see any darners at Britannia, I enjoyed watching a couple of Bronze Coppers near the shore of Mud Lake. These butterflies are usually found near wetland edges, and Mud Lake is a good spot to find them as they are considered local and uncommon. Males and females differ in appearance, at least on the upperside; the male forewing is coppery brown with a purple iridescence, while the female has an orange forewing with black spots and a dark border.

Bronze Copper (female)

Bronze Copper (male)

I didn’t see anything else of interest at Mud Lake, so I drove over to the Bill Mason Center next. I hadn’t been there since before the drought, and wasn’t surprised to find that most of the wetland had dried up, except for a few puddles. I saw and heard very few birds in the marsh, but a beautiful Viceroy at the beginning of the boardwalk caught my attention. The Purple Loosestrife it was nectaring on is one of the few plants to have successfully withstood the drought of July.

Viceroy

In the woods I came across a group of Red-eyed Vireos foraging about six feet above the ground and flushed a Veery from a dense patch of vegetation. I walked to the sandy pit where I flushed another bird, this one a Spotted Sandpiper walking along the water’s edge. There were a large number of dragonflies in the vegetation here, most of them meadowhawks; a male Calico Pennant and a single Lance-tipped Darner were good finds. A couple of Azure Bluets were also present.

Lance-tipped Darner

I don’t have a lot of good meadowhawk photos, so I spent some time photographing the male White-faced Meadowhawks in the vegetation. These dragonflies prefer to perch instead of fly when hunting food, and with their bright white faces, black legs and cherry-red bodies, they are one of our prettiest dragonflies. Many of the leaves were in the process of turning from green to red, and I thought these colours made for some fantastic backgrounds.

White-faced Meadowhawk

White-faced Meadowhawk

This is my favourite photo from that day:

White-faced Meadowhawk

I also checked out the field at the back of the trail but didn’t see any new dragonfly species. I did come across a couple of birds which were calling persistently, making me think of newly fledged birds begging for food. When I managed to locate one in a tree, I wasn’t able to identify it; it was a non-descript brown bird, similar in colour to a female House Finch without a House Finch’s distinct streaks and thick bill. I snapped a photo of it anyway, hoping to identify it later. It wasn’t until I looked at my photos on the computer screen that I noticed something I hadn’t been able to see in the field: both the tail and the wings showed traces of blue! There was no doubt as to the bird’s identity now – it was an Indigo Bunting!

Indigo Bunting

These birds alone made my trip to the Bill Mason Center worthwhile, even though I was primarily looking for bugs; the Indigo Bunting is one of my favourite birds, and one I don’t see as often as I wished. I was also pleased with my meadowhawk photos. Although the White-faced Meadowhawk is a species I do see often, I tend to overlook it as it’s so abundant. My pictures from my outing prove it’s worthwhile photographing the common species, too!

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