Summer Wildlife

Belted Whiteface

Belted Whiteface

Summer’s a great time to see a variety of wildlife. Although the birding is usually slow up until about mid-August, there are lots of other creatures around to make any outing enjoyable. I’ve had some good luck at Sarsaparilla Trail over the years, encountering a variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and bugs. It’s a small trail, but the grassy clearing near the trail entrance, the mixture of deciduous and coniferous woods, and the large pond provide a number of interesting habitats where just about anything can be found.

I usually visit Sarsaparilla Trail on my way to and from other trails, especially during migration. In the summer I spend more time at the pond watching the dragonflies and the water birds from the platform at the end of the boardwalk. On one recent outing I found a chipmunk sitting at the top of a small shrub, nibbling on something. Although I know they are agile climbers, it still surprises me to see them in trees, shrubs, and even the side of the neighbour’s house!

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

At the pond I’ve seen a Green Heron hunting from a fallen tree on the northern edge of the pond, and three Belted Kingfishers flying back and forth from tree to tree. On another occasion I watched a family of Pied-billed Grebes, including four young birds with striped faces, dive for food in the middle of the pond. I haven’t seen them often this summer, so it was nice to see that they have had a successful breeding season. On Saturday I saw a Yellow Warbler fly across the pond; this is the first time I’ve recorded this species here.

There weren’t as many odonates at the boardwalk as I had seen earlier in the summer, though a good number of species were still present at the end of July. A few Twelve-spotted Skimmers, several Widow Skimmers, an Eastern Pondhawk, a Common Green Darner, one unknown spreadwing, a single bluet, a couple of meadowhawks, and a couple of Belted Whitefaces sitting were all present during the final two weekends of July.

Belted Whiteface

Belted Whiteface

While photographing the Belted Whitefaces I noticed another predatory insect, a Robber Fly, perched on another railing.

Robber Fly

Robber Fly

Turtles are usually plentiful on the logs around the edges of the pond. A couple of times I’ve seen a Painted Turtle basking on the logs close to the observation platform.

Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle

It took me a while to realize that the turtles weren’t alone, and that a Northern Water Snake was basking on another log close by!

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

On my way back to the car I noticed a large dragonfly zip by me and land on a tree trunk. It was a mosaic darner, but I couldn’t tell which one; I caught it and identified it as a Canada Darner.

Canada Darner

Canada Darner

I stopped by the Beaver Trail after that to check out the ponds, but very little was flying. I had better luck in the wildflower meadow where I caught this Lance-tipped Darner. You can see the difference in the shape of the thoracic stripes in these photos. The Lance-tipped Darner has a stripe with a faint indent, while the Canada Darner has a stripe with a large notch in it. The Canada Darner also often has a small coloured dot between the two thoracic stripes.

Lance-tipped Darner

Lance-tipped Darner

Here is a close-up of the Lance-tipped Darner’s face:

Lance-tipped Darner

Lance-tipped Darner

On July 22nd I visited Hurdman and found a new species for my local odonate list, a Black-shouldered Spinyleg resting on a concrete barrier at the water’s edge. This was the first clubtail I’ve seen at Hurdman, and it surprised me because I’d only seen this species along the Ottawa River.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

I was off work on July 26th and bought myself a small magnifying lens for examining dragonflies. A hand lens is essential for identifying some species, and I figured it was time I learned to ID bluets, spreadwings, meadowhawks, etc. I went to Mud Lake afterward and didn’t need the lens to identify this large Swift River Cruiser hanging from a shrub. It had been flying over the open field near Rowatt Street with a couple of Common Green Darners, and when it landed I tracked it down.

Swift River Cruiser

Swift River Cruiser

A close-up of her face:

Swift River Cruiser Close-up

Swift River Cruiser Close-up

I returned to the same area at the edge of the lawn where Chris and I had spent much of the OFNC dragonfly outing earlier in the week to look for bluets. I caught a few and spent some time learning how to ID them. To ID these fellows you need to look at the shape of the claspers at the end of the abdomen; they are so small they are impossible to see in the field, and even photographing these tiny structures is difficult. The hand lens really helps to get a good, clear look at them.

The first one that I caught was a Hagen’s Bluet; the second was a Marsh Bluet. The rest of the bluets that I caught were all Hagen’s Bluets. I caught this one, identified him, then watched where he went after I released him to take a couple of photos.

Hagen's Bluet

Hagen’s Bluet

It’s been a fabulous week for bugs and other wildlife…but I can’t believe how fast this summer is going!

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2 thoughts on “Summer Wildlife

  1. I see you’re catching up on your backlog at a fast pace 🙂

    I like the chipmunk pictures and the turtle. I’m impressed you managed to spot that extremely well-camouflaged snake!

    • That little chipmunk was sooo cute. I’m not sure what he was eating (well, stuffing his cheeks full of). Seeds perhaps? I didn’t see any obvious ones.

      The snake surprised me too. It’s tail was sticking out on the sunny part of the log and that’s what caught my attention. I cropped it out of my photo to show the head. He was a long fellow!

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