Along the St. Lawrence

Elderberry Borer Beetle

Elderberry Borer Beetle

We left Nova Scotia on July 11th, spending the night in Edmunston before starting the long drive through Quebec. We got an early start the next day, finding ourselves well ahead of schedule after grabbing breakfast on the road rather than eating at the hotel restaurant. So when we spotted some lookouts along the St. Lawrence River about two hours into our drive, we decided to stop and take a look. We found an exit near La Pocatière-Station (about halfway between the New Brunswick border and Quebec City) that had a parking area right next to the trail, and got out to have a look.

St. Lawrence River near La-Pocatiere

St. Lawrence River near La-Pocatiere (click to enlarge)

The shore was rocky, with a steep drop to the water’s edge; there was no way to get down to the river. We walked to the little lookout and scanned the water. I saw several gulls and a duck close to the shore, and was surprised when I realized that the duck was a male American Wigeon – a species that often passes through Ottawa during migration, but does not breed there during the summer. I couldn’t make out anything along the far shore as it was blanketed in a heat haze.

St. Lawrence River near La-Pocatiere

St. Lawrence River near La-Pocatiere (click to enlarge)

A little further out I noticed five large white birds floating on the water. They weren’t gulls, but Snow Geese! I have never seen Snow Geese in Ottawa in the summer before; although decent numbers of them pass through the Ottawa region during migration, our numbers are very small compared to the number of geese that pass through Quebec on their way to their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra. When I looked down the shoreline I saw a few more huddled together in a small group.

Snow Geese

Snow Geese (click to enlarge)

Apparently quite a few Snow Geese spend the summer along the St. Lawrence, at least according to eBird; while the majority of reports of Snow Geese in July and August are from 2015, there have been a few reports from previous years as well. Of course, this could be the result of more people using eBird in 2015 rather than a sharp increase in the number of Snow Geese actually summering along the St. Lawrence, though given the population expansion of this species it is likely a combination of both.

Snow Geese

Snow Geese (click to enlarge)

We followed the trail through a small wooded area adjacent to a wet meadow. We heard and/or saw a Red-eyed Vireo, two Veeries, a small flock of Cedar Waxwings, five Common Yellowthroats, an American Redstart, a pair of White-throated Sparrows, and several chickadees, Song Sparrows, and goldfinches. Unfortunately the trail ran quite close to the highway at that point, making it difficult to hear the birds over the traffic noise. I only saw one dragonfly, a meadowhawk, and a couple of small blue butterflies. Doran pointed out a rather large bug flying by, and when it landed I was intrigued to recognize it as a spectacular orange and metallic blue beetle of some sort.

Elderberry Borer Beetle

Elderberry Borer Beetle (Desmocerus palliatus)

It wasn’t until after I got home I was able to identify it as an Elderberry Borer Beetle. This was the first time I’d seen this brilliantly coloured long-horned beetle, a species that lays its eggs exclusively in the living stems and roots of Elderberry plants. The larvae feed on the juices of the plant for two years until they pupate and emerge as winged beetles. The adults feed on pollen and are typically found on flowers, especially those of Elderberry. This one rambled along the plant on which it landed but did not seek out any flowers.

Elderberry Borer Beetle

Elderberry Borer Beetle (Desmocerus palliatus)

The only other interesting bug I found was this Virginia Ctenucha Moth. Although common, I rarely get to photograph them in such a pretty setting.

Virginia Ctenucha Moth

Virginia Ctenucha Moth

Our brief stop turned into a 50-minute walk; although quite hot, it was worth getting out of the car and exploring this small area along the St. Lawrence!

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