It has been a while since I’ve spent any real time at Jack Pine Trail looking for odes, so when the weather promised to be warm and sunny on Sunday, June 29th I decided to take my net and see what was around. I recalled Chris Bruce mentioning a few years ago that he’d seen spiketails in Stony Swamp near the back of Jack Pine Trail and along the trail that emerges onto West Hunt Club Road; as there is a swift-moving, shady stream near the intersection of these two trails I thought it might be worth checking out.
It was a good day for birds. I heard a pair of Virginia Rails calling in the marsh, and Ovenbirds, Purple Finches, Eastern Wood-pewees, Red-eyed Vireos, and a Great Crested Flycatcher were all singing. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers were working in the same area, one on an upright tree trunk and one on a fallen log, and I heard two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers calling to each other a little further along.
On June 28th Chris Lewis, Mike Tate and I spent some time searching for dragonflies at Bruce Pit and Mud Lake. Mike and I arrived at the Bruce Pit first, and when we heard an Indigo Bunting singing in the trees south of the parking lot we went to get a closer look. Not only did we see the beautiful blue male Indigo Bunting, we also found our first White-faced Meadowhawk of the year. This was a bit of a surprise as the meadowhawks are late-season odes that fly well into September and October….it seemed a bit wrong to find one in June! Chris arrived shortly after this discovery and from there we made our way down into the pit. Cattails had grown up along the southwest corner of the pond, making it difficult to navigate. The Marsh Wrens, however, loved this new habitat…we heard at least four of them singing in the reeds.
The marsh that runs west from Moodie Drive to the area behind the Nortel campus is usually productive for a variety of breeding birds in the warmer months of the year. I visited the area again on the morning of June 22nd, still hoping to see or hear the Sedge Wrens that had taken up residence there. Two Savannah Sparrows were singing in the field south of the parking area, and a number of Tree and Barn Swallows were flying overhead as I made my way down the path that skirts the edge of the marsh. I saw a Northern Flicker, two Purple Finches, an American Redstart, and heard several Warbling Vireos, Song Sparrows, and a single Willow Flycatcher.
On Saturday, June 21, 2014, a group of OFNC naturalists led by Robert Alvo and Jakob Mueller visited Opinicon Road and the lands around the Queens University Biological Station (“QUBS”) for a day of birding and herping in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. Although not even two hours away from Ottawa, this area is rich in fauna typically found in southern Ontario, and our goal was to see some of these species. Targets included Gray Ratsnake, Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Red-shouldered Hawk, Black-billed Cuckoo and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The drive down to Opinicon Road was uneventful, and our first stop of the day was a beaver pond just south of Chaffey’s Locks.
Mid-June means the emergence of some of my favourite bugs, including the most colourful of all the damselflies, the Rainbow Bluet. After hearing that a friend of mine had spotted some along the river at Hurdman Park I went there on June 17th to look for myself. It was a hot, gorgeous day with a bit of a breeze, and I had no objection to spending my lunch hour along the bank of the Rideau River. As soon as I arrived I spotted a couple of large dragonflies patrolling the river; at least one Common Green Darner was present, as usual, but the Prince Baskettail was a bit of a surprise. It, too, was flying up and down the river, only a foot above the water. However, it was flying a little further out than the Common Green Darner, which often came in close to investigate the vegetation along the shore. Occasionally the Prince and the Darner crossed paths with each other, and a battle would ensue which ended up with them trying to chase each other off at high speeds. It is at times like this when I realize that the dragonflies are not just insects, they are also animals, and behave just as any other animal would when a competitor enters its territory.
Marlborough Forest is not only a great place for birds and odonates, it is a wonderful spot for butterflies, too. When I arrived I spotted a couple of large butterflies fluttering through the parking lot as soon as I arrived; at least three White Admirals were basking on the sunlit gravel, though they kept chasing one another into the vegetation. I was hoping to get a photo of one perching on a leaf, but they were so active I wasn’t able to get any pictures. This Northern Crescent was much calmer, resting on a leaf while the much-larger Chalk-fronted Corporals hunted close by.
Today I left at 9:00 am – much later than I usually go out when I’m birding – to go dragon-hunting at Marlborough Forest. I had really enjoyed my outing there two weeks ago and wanted to see the Aurora Damsels and Brush-tipped Emeralds again. And while I didn’t think I would see the Twin-spotted Spiketail again, I wanted to go back to the bridge to look for Ebony Jewelwings.
When I arrived I checked the vegetation at the edge of the parking lot and found lots of Sedge Sprites, Chalk-fronted Corporals, three White Admirals and a couple of Northern Crescents, but no Aurora Damsels. This was likely because I had arrived earlier in the day than my last visit, and the western edge of the parking lot was still in shade.
On June 14th I attended the OFNC outing to Gatineau Park led by Justin Peter and Carlos Barberry. I had attended the same outing last year, and had so enjoyed the birds, bugs and scenery that I was not hesitant to attend this one.
The weather was a bit cooler this year; it was only about 14°C when I arrived at parking lot P8 along Meech Lake Road at 7:00 am. The sun was shining, and a few dragonflies were already flying – this time I brought my net in order to catch and identify them. Even better, this time I remembered to bring my camera’s memory card!
The Ebony Boghaunter is a rare dragonfly that spends its life in the forested sphagnum bogs of the northeast. It is a small dragonfly, approximately 1.1 to 1.4 inches in the length, and is black with white rings near the base of the abdomen. The face is dark metallic brown; males have bright green eyes while females have gray eyes. In Ottawa their flight season occurs in May and June, making them one of the earlier species on the wing. Because of their preference for acidic bogs, fens and wetlands dominated by sphagnum, they are not easy to find. Fortunately eastern Ontario is home to two large bogs, Mer Bleue and Alfred Bog further east, both of which have boardwalks that provide access onto the bog. Mer Bleue is close to the city and the only place I’ve ever seen them. These small emeralds are not as skittish as other dragonflies; look for them perching on tree trunks or on the boardwalk itself where they can be easily approached.
When I went to Hurdman last week, I was looking for odonates as well as birds. They are beginning to emerge now that the warm weather has arrived, and on Monday, June 2nd I saw a few Eastern Forktails as well as a Racket-tailed Emerald. Then, while watching the river from a shady spot, a jewelwing species startled me by flying right toward my face; I didn’t realize it was a damselfly at first and thought it was a wasp! For some reason, the first time I see a jewelwing in flight each season, the fluttering all-dark wings confuse me into thinking it is a different type of insect entirely. By the time I realized what it was, it had vanished. Given the entirely black wings, it was likely an Ebony Jewelwing, a species I’ve only seen at Hurdman once before.