Afternoon at Stony Swamp

Baby Red Squirrel

Baby Red Squirrel

I usually don’t go out for walks in the late afternoon, but decided to spend some time before dinner at one of my favourite trails on the last day of May. I thought I might hear or catch a glimpse of some of the more secretive marsh birds at Jack Pine Trail; while I did hear two Virginia Rails, I wasn’t able to see either. I also heard four Eastern Wood-pewees and four Ovenbirds in the woods, and didn’t see those either, although it was good to hear their songs. Other warblers still singing at 4:00 in the afternoon included a Pine Warbler, a Black-throated Green Warbler, a Nashville Warbler, and several Common Yellowthroats.

When I got to the feeder area (the feeder has been taken down for the summer) I spotted a couple of small Red Squirrels gathering food near the edge of the trail. One chased the other off and ran up on top of the large stump at the intersection of the two trails. It appeared to be very young.

Baby Red Squirrel

Baby Red Squirrel

From there I took the inner loop through the open deciduous woods and found an Eastern Comma and a baskettail flying about the sunny opening. I caught the baskettail with my net and was surprised to identify it as a Spiny Baskettail; I had expected it to be a Beaverpond Baskettail, which is common and widespread, compared to the uncommon Spiny Baskettail.

Spiny Baskettail (female)

Spiny Baskettail (female)

A close look at the reproductive structures on the underside of the abdomen is necessary in order to differentiate the two early-spring baskettails. Female Spiny Baskettails can be identified by their long appendages and genital plates bent inward in the middle.

Spiny Baskettail (female)

Spiny Baskettail (female)

The only other odonate species I found at Jack Pine Trail were Twelve-spotted Skimmers, Four-spotted Skimmers, Racket-tailed Emeralds, and Taiga Bluets. Butterflies, too, were scarce. I saw a Viceroy along the back of the trail, a Common Ringlet in the meadow and an Arctic Skipper at the edge of a marsh off-trail where I had walked after hearing the crows mobbing some sort of predator. Although I never did find the source of their ire, it was neat being in a spot I had never seen before.

Viceroy

Viceroy

I also saw a large Fishing Spider sitting on the trunk of a tree. I’m not sure of the exact species (Dolomedes tenebrosus?), but it was large enough that I decided to keep my distance while photographing it, even though I wanted to put my hand next to it for a size comparison!

Fishing Spider

Fishing Spider

A little further along the trail I came across another baby squirrel, though this one was smaller and paler than the first one. It looked as though it hadn’t been out of the nest for very long. I am not sure whether it is so pale because it is so young and will eventually develop the characteristic rust-coloured fur of adult Red Squirrels, or if it is genuinely leucistic. This was at least the third pale gray baby Red Squirrel that I’ve seen this spring, which is why I thought that there might be another reason besides leucism.

Baby Red Squirrel

Baby Red Squirrel

Baby Red Squirrel

Baby Red Squirrel

I didn’t see much else on the trail, but I was happy to see a Red-breasted Nuthatch and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. At the parking lot, a Juvenal’s Duskywing flew by and landed in a tree.

Juvenal's Duskywing

Juvenal’s Duskywing

A few days later I decided to go for a walk at Sarsaparilla Trail after dinner. The trail was pretty quiet, but I did find one interesting bird: a Yellow-rumped Warbler singing in the conifers just beyond the bench at the trail’s entrance. As it was the third day of June I wasn’t sure whether it was a late migrant, or if it intended to spend the summer here. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard one at this trail in June before; two years ago I’d had one in the same area on June 16, 2012.

Even more interesting to me was a female Painted Turtle laying eggs along the gravel path. Although I’ve seen Snapping Turtles laying eggs before, I’d never seen a Painted Turtle doing this.

Painted Turtle laying eggs

Painted Turtle laying eggs

A close-up of the eggs:

Painted Turtle laying eggs

Painted Turtle laying eggs

The only insects of interest I saw were a Dot-tailed Whiteface, a couple of Chalk-fronted Corporals, a Viceroy Butterfly, and this 14-spotted Lady Beetle.

14-Spotted Lady Beetle

14-Spotted Lady Beetle

Although the early morning is my favourite time of day, I love going out at in the late afternoon every now and then to see what wildlife species are around. I didn’t see much on these two occasions, but the baby Red Squirrels, the Spiny Baskettail, and the Painted Turtle laying eggs made my outings memorable.

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