I spent some time at Roger’s Pond last weekend hoping to find some of the Marlborough specialties. I struck out with respect to a number of them (Silvery Checkerspot, Brush-tipped Emerald, Calico Pennant, salamanders and Mink Frog – though I think I did hear one calling) but still found some interesting species. I tallied 23 bird species in all, including two Black-and-white Warblers and a Nashville Warbler, all of which I managed to see, a Black-throated Green Warbler, an Ovenbird, two Veeries, a Pied-billed Grebe, a Great Crested Flycatcher, and an Eastern Wood-pewee.
June is my second favourite month of the year, right after May. Although migration is over, the birds are singing on territory and more butterflies and dragonflies have begun to emerge, adding interest to my outings. This year, however, is turning out to be a poor one for butterflies, partly because the drought last summer killed off a lot of the larval food plants, and partly because of this year’s cold, wet spring. I only saw a couple of blue butterflies this spring – a couple at Hurdman and one at Shirley’s Bay – but didn’t get close enough to photograph or identify them. Cabbage White numbers seem to be low, and I’ve seen only three Canadian Tiger Swallowtails this spring, all of which flew over my head without landing.
On June 15th I participated in the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club (OFNC) excursion to Gatineau Park led by Justin Peter. Although cool at first (it was only about 12°C when I left at 6:00am), the sky was clear and it quickly warmed up as the sun rose higher in the sky. We spent the first half of the outing birding along Meech Lake Road and the second half along the trail at the end of the Champlain Parkway. We met at a parking area (P8) along Meech Lake Road where we heard A Pileated Woodpecker, a White-throated Sparrow, an Eastern Phoebe, and an Alder Flycatcher as soon as we got out of the car. A lovely male Purple Finch landed in one of the large trees next to the parking lot, and we saw a Common Raven fly over carrying food in its mouth. A couple of Chipping Sparrows, American Goldfinches, Yellow Warblers, and Red-winged Blackbirds also made an appearance.
On the second Sunday in June Chris Lewis invited me to go dragon-hunting with her and Mike Tate at Mud Lake. I didn’t have the car and had to rely on the bus; OC Transpo’s Sunday schedules can be horrendous, but I managed to get there without any trouble (though I had to leave the dragonfly net at home). Chris, however, let me borrow one of hers.
We spent most of our time searching for odonates along the northeast shore of the lake. Clouds of Hagen’s Bluets were resting in the vegetation; they flew up into the air as we walked by, some the almost colourless shade of purple of a teneral, others the deep blue and black of a mature adult.
Migration is over, and most of our birds are engaged in the business of breeding. Though it’s rare for me to find birds nesting on structures that aren’t man-made (e.g. Osprey, phoebes, bluebirds) this year I’ve found two: an American Redstart and an Eastern Kingbird.
While kingbirds are known to nest out in the open, redstarts are usually more secretive, building their nests in the fork of a tree or a shrub at least two metres above the ground. The tightly woven open cup is typically made of grasses, bark strips, hair, leaves, twigs, or mosses, all glued together with spider silk. Male American Redstarts do not attain full breeding plumage until their second year and, while they may sing and defend small territories in their first year, they typically do not find a mate. Once they have attained breeding plumage, some males will mate with two females at the same time. These males hold two separate territories up to 500 metres (1,640 ft) apart. Once his first mate has finished laying all her eggs has begun incubating them, the male proceeds to attract a second mate in his other territory.
Although I saw my first dragonflies of the year just outside of Cambridge on May 9, 2013 (three Common Green Darners and one unidentified ode flying above a pond at the Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area), I didn’t see my first dragonflies in Ottawa until May 18th. The weather in May was not conducive for dragonflies or butterflies to emerge, as it was too cold and too wet for most of the month. Further, the rain has continued well into June, making it a strange month for dragon-hunting, as some species emerged later than usual, while others appeared much earlier than usual.