Owl and Odes

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

The weekend after we got back from Grundy Lake, Chris Lewis invited me to go dragon-hunting. We were just heading out to the Bill Mason Center when we got a call from Bob Cermak and Bernie Ladouceur, who were doing a Seedathon that day in order to raise funds to keep the OFNC birdfeeders stocked over the winter. The goal of a Seedathon is to find as many species as possible within 24 hours, and ask sponsors to donate either a lump sum or on a per-species basis. They had just received a tip about an Eastern Screech-Owl sitting in a relatively accessible area and thought we might be interested. Chris and I delayed our plans to go to the Bill Mason Center long enough to get directions to the owl, and then set out to find it.

I haven’t seen a Screech-Owl since the one that was discovered at Mud Lake in 2010, and was excited to finally have the opportunity to see another one. This one was in a heavily wooded area just off a seldom-used trail, and it took a bit of luck using the markers Bob and Bernie left along the trail to find him. It was a juvenile, as evidenced by the downy feathers on its face and the lack of tufts.

Eastern Screech-owl

Eastern Screech-owl

The Eastern Screech-owl is a scarce permanent resident in Ottawa, and one that is often difficult to find. It is active at night, when it is more often heard than seen, giving a trilling or whinnying song from dark woodlots. However, this owl can sometimes be spotted resting in the opening of a tree cavity during the day or, as this one was, sitting on a branch close to the trunk.

Eastern Screech-owl

Eastern Screech-owl

We didn’t stay long as we didn’t want to disturb the young owl, and continued on our way to the Bill Mason Center. There weren’t a lot of species flying at the old, disused quarry, but we did see a lot of Azure Bluets and Eastern Forktails, a couple of Common Whitetails, a couple of Common Green Darners, and a couple of male Calico Pennants.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

We spotted some large, dark meadowhawks, and Chris quickly identified them as Saffron-winged Meadowhawks, a species we had missed at Bruce Pit last weekend. Chris sometimes refers to these guys as “Chocolate-faced Meadowhawks” because of the dark colour of their faces.

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

We saw quite a few of them patrolling the shoreline, zipping over the sand, or getting into altercations with each other. They are much more active than the other meadowhawks, and I began to despair of getting a decent picture of one. Then I found this fellow, who seemed content to just sit and wait. You can see the yellow-tinted leading edge of the wings that gives this species its name. This coloration tends to fade in males as they mature but remains in females. I didn’t see any females while I was there; that would have been a first for me.

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

Like the Autumn Meadowhawk, the Saffron-winged Meadowhawk has a plain abdomen with very little markings.

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

Common throughout northern United States and Canada, the Saffron-winged Meadowhawk can be found in open ponds and lakes, especially those that are poorly vegetated, shallow, sandy or gravelly. The Bill Mason Pond and Bruce Pit are certainly good examples of its preferred habitat! Walker and Corbet (1975) state that it is the meadowhawk species most tolerant of alkaline conditions.

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

We found a few darners flying about the western edge of the pond. They seemed to patrol the same circuit over and over, and after one or two failed attempts on both of our parts Chris managed to catch one. It turned out to be a Canada Darner. We found a few more on our way back to the car, including this one clinging to a stem during a strong gust of wind.

Canada Darner

Canada Darner

Another interesting insect that we found was this Pelecinid Wasp. It is a female; males are much smaller and are seldom encountered. What looks like a long stinger is actually an ovipositor. The female wasp inserts it into the soil, uses it to detect the larvae of scarab beetles, then lays eggs on the larvae. Once they hatch, the wasp larvae kill, then feed on the beetle larvae, in the soil.

Pelecinid Wasp (Pelecinus polyturator)

Pelecinid Wasp (Pelecinus polyturator)

It was a great day to be outside, and the owl and the Saffron-winged Meadowhawks were definitely the highlights of our outing. This will probably be the only time this year that I see these two species, which makes me feel both sad and fortunate at the same time.

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5 thoughts on “Owl and Odes

  1. Hi Gillian:

    I love the juvie screech-owl, great find. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one, too. You’re right, they’re more often heard than seen.

    I’m lucky in that there are mountains 10 minutes walk from my apartment here, and at nights I have consistently heard up to three oriental scops-owls calling. They’re similar to screech-owls, all cryptic plumage and nocturnal. I’ve yet to actually see one, but I’m getting closer. Now if I could just relocate the Eurasian eagle-owl that Mel and I heard there a few weeks ago….that would be a great find!

    Pat

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