Grundy Lake Part II: A Lifer Dragonfly!

Lake Darner

Lake Darner

By the second day of our camping trip at Grundy Lake Provincial Park we had become aware of just how BUSY a park it was. The roads were filled with people walking dogs, people strolling to the bathrooms or the lake, people driving cars or trailers, people on bikes, and kids on bikes from sun-up to sun-down and even after that. There also were lots of people hanging out at the sandy beaches on Grundy Lake every time we drove by. Fortunately we had booked a site in a radio-free campground, so we weren’t disturbed by people noise at night. Instead, we often heard the loons calling on the lake and the horn of a train that passed by so frequently that we wondered if it was just driving back and forth through the same intersection all day and all night long.

Early mornings were quiet as well. Each day I awoke to the sound of the Black-and-White Warbler singing away at the back of our campsite, sometimes accompanied by the Red-breasted Nuthatches, sometimes by other birds I was too lazy to get out of bed and identify. Later in the day, the grackles would descend on the area and then spend a couple of hours walking through the campsites looking for food – even going so far as to fly up on top of people’s picnic tables. Sometimes, if I didn’t look directly at them, they would walk right by me while I was reading in our campsite. Blue Jays called noisily from the woods, and I even heard an Eastern Wood-pewee calling once or twice on our second morning. That same day I saw a Turkey Vulture soar over our campsite and watched a small flock of songbirds foraging in the trees, including a couple of American Redstarts, a few Black-capped Chickadees, a Red-eyed Vireo, and Magnolia Warbler.

On that second morning, I went for a walk to the pet exercise area before Doran woke up. I saw not one, but five Common Loons swimming in the middle of Gurd Lake. I also managed to find two Canada Darners resting in trees, waiting for it to warm up.

Canada Darner

Canada Darner

I didn’t see the hummingbird again, but on my way back to our campsite I finally managed to catch a glimpse of the Black-and-white Warbler creeping along a tree branch in a tree not far from our site.

Afterward, Doran, Dad, Sharon, Ashley and I went for a walk along the Gut Lake Trail, which is the most popular trail in the park. Again, it sounded like a good place to take my dragonfly net with me. The description in the guide reads: “This interpretive trail, that will take you 1.5 hours to walk, is 2.5 km and travels by two different areas: the rugged rock of the Precambrian Shield (which supports most of the life in this area), and the lakes, streams and wetlands which drain excess water into Georgian Bay. Like all of the trails, there are many points that are ideal for photos, rest stops, or a picnic. If you walk quietly, you may see Great Blue Heron, birds, amphibians, fox, deer and moose”.

Gut Lake Trail

Gut Lake Trail

The start of the trail crosses over a creek and then follows Gut Lake to its south end. I saw two Violet Dancers on this part of the trail, one resting on the bridge crossing over the creek and one sitting on a rock ridge overlooking the lake. A good number of people were walking on the trail or sitting on a huge cliff where cliff jumping is apparently a popular sport.

Gut Lake Trail

Gut Lake Trail

Gut Lake Trail

Gut Lake Trail

Glaciers retreated from this area approximately 10,000 years ago. Evidence of the glacier’s retreat and boulders deposited by glacial melt-waters are visible along the first half of the trail.

Gut Lake Trail

Gut Lake Trail

We found another creek at the southern end of the trail, though the water was very low. From the rock-strewn bottom it looked as though the water is channeled through a series of rapids before exiting (or entering the lake). Beyond the rapids, the creek entered an open area with dense vegetation. It looked exactly like the kind of spot where you would expect to find a moose drinking in the water…..or swarms of dragonflies zipping through the air. I saw neither, but a large yellow butterfly (perhaps an Eastern Swallowtail?) flying by made for a lovely sight.

Creek at the end of Gut Lake

Creek at the end of Gut Lake

Cardinal Flower grew profusely along the edge of the creek. It looked like a good spot for hummingbirds, too!

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower

At that point the trail left the water’s edge and doubled back toward the parking lot through the forest. Dad was leading the way when he startled a snake at the edge of the trail into hiding; he didn’t get a good look at it, but said it wasn’t a Garter Snake.

I saw a couple of darners patrolling in some of the rocky clearings, and when Doran said one looked “huge” I managed to catch it while it flew by. I didn’t think much of his comment at the time, as darners are very large dragonflies compared to the meadowhawks we’d been seeing. However, his comment would prove to be prophetic as the darner I had caught wasn’t the Canada I had been expecting.

Lake Darner

Lake Darner

The stripes on the thorax didn’t look quite right. The “handle” at the top of the first stripe appeared to be broken off, forming a small triangle a slight distance away from the vertical stripe. The spot in between the two stripes was also missing.

Lake Darner

Lake Darner

I took a look at its face and was thrilled to see the dark cross-stripe. None of the darners I’ve seen in Ontario (Shadow, Lance-tipped, Black-tipped and Canada) have a black cross-stripe, which meant this was something new.

Lake Darner

Lake Darner

I wanted to get a photo of the dorsal side of the dragonfly, but since I had accidentally let yesterday’s Canada Darner go while attempting to hold the legs, I contorted my hands to get this image. Although I couldn’t see the markings on the first two segments, the tenth segment was clear. The two spots on the final segment appeared fused together, which was the final field mark I needed to identify this dragonfly: a female, green form Lake Darner! I didn’t have my Algonquin book with me at the time, so I had to identify it back at the campsite. It was then that I learned that the Lake Darner IS larger than the Canada Darner, so when Doran mentioned that it appeared huge, he was right!

Lake Darner

Lake Darner

We didn’t see much wildlife on the rest of our walk. I saw a goldfinch and a Turkey Vulture flying over, and heard some Black-capped Chickadees and a Pine Warbler in the woods.

Gut Lake Trail

Gut Lake Trail

The walk was beautiful, however, and I could see why this was considered the most popular trail.

Gut Lake Trail

Gut Lake Trail

Gut Lake Trail

Gut Lake Trail

After we finished the walk and were heading back to the car, I heard a pair of young corvids calling incessantly from an evergreen next to the car. They sounded like young crows to me, but when we got a good look at them we saw the thick, heavy bills of Common Ravens. An adult was perched in a tree above them, seemingly paying no attention to them.

Later in the afternoon we decided to go swimming. It was a hot day, and although the others went swimming, I spent some time wading in the water looking for bugs and frogs in the vegetation near the shore. I didn’t see anything in or near the water, but I did hear a Golden-crowned Kinglet calling in the evergreens behind the beach and see a little Tiger Beetle running along the sand.

Tiger Beetle

Tiger Beetle

After our swim, Dad cooked us some filet mignon and fried some mushrooms covered in garlic butter, our best meal of the trip. We also went to the store just outside of the park to look around and buy some ice cream. So far we’d had great weather for our trip, though this was supposed to end with a forecast of thunderstorms that night. We battened down the hatches before going to bed, preparing ourselves for a wet, noisy night. Not long after we turned in we heard some distant thunder, saw a few flashes of lightning, and then the rain began. Only a few minutes later the raindrops tapered off, and the thunder moved off. That was the extent of the storm. It didn’t even rain long enough to wash the dust off our car!

I went to sleep listening to the sound of the train rather than the sound of a storm.

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2 thoughts on “Grundy Lake Part II: A Lifer Dragonfly!

    • Hi Mary Anne!

      No, it wasn’t a Cloudless Sulphur, though that would be nice to see. It was a swallowtail, and given that it’s too late in the season for Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, I’m guessing that it was an Eastern. I’m not familiar with what else they might have in that part of Ontario, though. I wish it would have landed so I could photograph it!

      Best,
      Gillian

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