Exploring the Carp Hills

Baltimore Checkerspot

Baltimore Checkerspot

On June 7th I headed west to Dunrobin, still hoping to find some more birds for my year list. My plan was to stop in at Pinhey’s Point first, a historical site along the Ottawa River that I’d never visited before. I’d heard there were Cliff Swallows nesting there, and as I haven’t seen one of these birds in Ottawa in years, I was hoping it would be an easy tick. I was also still hoping to find the Golden-winged Warblers and Eastern Towhees that breed along the Thomas Dolan Parkway, plus whatever interesting butterflies and dragonflies that were flying – I’ve had both Baltimore Checkerspots and Horned Clubtails at the Stonecrest Trail, and was eager to see both again.

Pinhey’s Point was a beautiful spot, and the Cliff Swallows were easy to find – I noticed several swooping through the air near the buildings close to the river. It was easy to find their intricate mud nests along the north side of one of the buildings, and I even observed a couple of these birds flying in and out of them, giving evidence of their occupancy. It was an easy tick, and the visit was made even more interesting by the birds inhabiting the grassy fields lining Pinhey Point Road. I saw a couple of male Bobolinks giving their flight displays and an Eastern Meadowlark singing on a telephone wire. I was hoping there might be a few Grasshopper Sparrows or a Clay-coloured Sparrows around, but the only grassland sparrow I heard was a Savannah Sparrow.

From there I drove west to the Thomas Dolan Parkway, then south over the bridge that crosses Constance Creek. I slowed down to see if there were any Osprey in the nest (one adult was indeed visible) when I spotted a large Snapping Turtle at the side of the road. Concerned because of its proximity to the road, I pulled over and watched to see where it was headed.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle

As I feared, it began crossing the road. The speed limit is 80 km/hr along this stretch, and with a couple of vehicles coming I wasn’t sure it was going to make it. As the turtle drew closer to the yellow line I stepped out into the road, waving my hands over my head and pointing at the turtle on the road. The first car slowed, and the turtle stopped a mere foot away from the center line and drew its head into its shell. The second car stopped, and the driver took his cell phone out to snap a few pictures! The turtle decided it didn’t like the road or the attention and headed back the way it came. I watched with relief as it climbed down the embankment and disappeared into the water.

My next stop was the trail at the end of Stonecrest Road where I had seen my very first Golden-winged Warbler several years ago. I did not have much luck with the birds, though I was delighted to find a Baltimore Checkerspot close to the same spot where I’d had one before.

Baltimore Checkerspot

Baltimore Checkerspot

I stopped at a few other places along Thomas Dolan Road but did not find either the Eastern Towhees or the Golden-winged Warblers. The best bird of the day was an Indigo Bunting, though I only heard him singing – I couldn’t spot him high up in the tree top. The usual birds were present on the ridge, including Alder Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Veery, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Field Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak at various stops. I did not see or hear any Common Nighthawks, unlike my visit last year.

In one wet grassy area I was surprised to find a female or immature Calico Pennant. I had never seen one here before, which made it a great find; also, this was a new species for my dragonfly year list. It always surprises me to see how short its body is compared to the span of its wings.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

Arctic Skippers seemed to be having a good year, for this was the third location where I’ve seen one in recent weeks.

Arctic Skipper

Arctic Skipper

I didn’t find any Horned Clubtails during my ramble, but I did see a few Dot-tailed Whitefaces, several Common Whitetails, and a female Eastern Pondhawk. This was another first for me this season, and worth stopping to photograph. I love how the gorgeous lime green colour of the body blends in with the vegetation. Males are powder blue, and are much easier to see when perching on a leaf.

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

I didn’t have any luck photographing the birds I saw. However, it’s still a great place to spend a morning searching for birds and bugs in the early summer, and I always enjoy my visits even when the birds aren’t cooperating.

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