Although many birders consider the breeding season to be rather slow, I enjoy going out in June and July as many of our breeding birds are still singing, and there is always a chance of finding an active nest or some newly fledged birds being fed or taking their first flights under the watchful eyes of their parents. These months are also good for seeing butterflies and dragonflies, so even if I don’t find any baby birds, there is always something interesting to catch my attention!
I was still on vacation on Friday, July 25th and went to Mud Lake with the hope of seeing some interesting odonates. I came up with a good list, including Northern Spreadwing, Marsh Bluet, Hagen’s Bluet, Powdered Dancer, Eastern Forktail, Common Green Darner, Eastern Pondhawk, Dot-tailed Whiteface, White-faced Meadowhawk, Autumn Meadowhawk, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Widow Skimmer, and Common Whitetail. I did not see any clubtails.
My fiancé Doran and I spent a few days at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park towards the end of July. Neither of us had been there before; I had chosen it because it was only an hour’s drive from home, and contained a lot of southern species not typically (or easily) found in Ottawa such as Gray Ratsnakes, Yellow-throated Vireos, Cerulean Warblers, Golden-winged Warblers, Red-shouldered Hawks, and both cuckoos. I was also curious as to whether they had any southern odes or butterflies, and brought my net with the intention of finding out!
Today at lunch I finally had the chance to go look for the male Eurasian Wigeon that has been hanging out around the mouth of the Rideau Canal since the end of May. It is believed to be injured, and has been most frequently observed on the Ottawa River near the entrance to the locks or the grassy hill on the western bank near where the boats tie up. I had tried for it once, a few weeks ago, but didn’t see it; when I saw the weekly Ottawa report yesterday advising it was still there I decided to try again. It was a hot, sunny afternoon and for the first time in a week I didn’t have any obligations at lunch preventing me from going for a walk.
The spreadwing damselflies are some of my favourite damselflies (along with the jewelwings and Violet Dancers and Aurora Damsels and Vesper Bluets and Rainbow Bluets…can I help it that there are so many beautiful and unique damselflies to admire?!) These past few weeks I’ve been able to see five different species, all close to home. Normally when I want to see spreadwings I think of Petrie Island, which usually has an abundance of them, but it seems that all but one of the nine species we have in Ottawa can be found elsewhere, in places like the Richmond Lagoons and Bruce Pit. The only species I haven’t found anywhere other than Petrie Island is the Swamp Spreadwing.
If you are a dragon-hunter in Ottawa, summer isn’t the same without a stop at Petrie Island in July. It is a great spot to see a number of species that are difficult to find elsewhere, so I try to get out there a couple of times each season. On July 6th Chris Lewis, Mike Tate and I visited Petrie Island together. The weather was not the greatest – the sun danced in and out of the clouds all morning, and it grew very hot and humid as the morning wore on. By the end of our two-and-a-half hours there, we were hot, sticky and uncomfortable and I only wanted to go home to my air-conditioned house. The intermittent overcast conditions meant that we didn’t see as many species as we would have liked, but we did manage to see several Petrie Island “specialties”. The birding was good, too, though we didn’t see anything really exciting. An Osprey was the best bird of the outing, though the usual House Wrens, Tree Swallows, Common Yellowthroats, American Redstarts, Eastern Kingbirds, and Great Crested Flycatchers were present.
It was sunny and warm this morning when I woke up, so I decided to head over to the Beaver Trail to see if any interesting butterflies were flying. The meadow there is a good spot for skippers, fritillaries and Common Wood Nymphs, and I’ve seen Monarchs nectaring there on the milkweeds and Viper’s Bugloss in the past. I also thought it would be a great idea to see what dragonflies were flying, in case there were emeralds flying there that I’d overlooked in the past.
When I arrived the first birds I heard were an Eastern Wood-pewee and a Broad-winged Hawk, which surprised me as I had just heard one at the Rideau Trail last weekend. I also heard a Red-shouldered Hawk’s whiny call, but the sound was coming from across the beaver pond and because of the distance I couldn’t tell if it was actually a Red-shouldered Hawk or a Blue Jay imitating it. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard either hawk here before.
Although it’s my usual tradition to go to Petrie island for the Canada Day holiday, this year I returned to Jack Pine Trail with Mike, a fellow dragonfly enthusiast, to look for the emeralds and Arrowhead Spiketail I had seen there two days earlier. We met in the parking lot at 8:00, and already it was hot and sultry – the forecast called for thunderstorms later in the day, and we only had a few hours of sun before the clouds rolled in.
On our way to the back of the trail system we found a very brown Snowshoe Hare and two small toads in the middle of the path. The hare hopped away into the undergrowth before I could turn my camera on, but the toads were more cooperative. It seems to be a good year for them.