I spent an enjoyable hour there, seeing 27 species in total. One of my highlights was watching four Caspian Terns hunting in the western bay along with two Common Terns. The size difference was amazing – the Common Terns appeared small and slender, while the Caspian Terns were larger and heftier. Several Purple Martins from the Dick Bell colony hunted insects in the sky, while one Great Blue Heron, two Great Egrets and three Hooded Mergansers hunted for fish in the river close to shore. A Lesser Yellowlegs and a Least Sandpiper had joined the resident Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers in the developing mudflats in the western bay.
I found the Brant without any difficulty. It was swimming by itself in the western pond when I first saw it, and when I later returned to the area it was sitting on the lawn, preening. I am not sure why it appears to have a large dent on top of its head; although it looks like an injury, it did not act as though it were injured. Brant are more commonly seen along the river during migration, when up to a couple hundred may briefly pass through before departing on their journey. In the fall, it is common for juveniles to spend a few days feeding on the grassy lawns of Andrew Haydon and Dick Bell Parks before leaving. Having one spend the month of July in Ottawa is unusual.
From there I headed out to Shirley’s Bay to catch some of the shorebird action. I was surprised when I found this Snowshoe Hare drinking from a puddle on the concrete near the picnic shelter.
It noticed me watching it, but sat motionlessly on the concrete while I took a few photos.
Then someone else came along and frightened it. The hare bounded toward the tall vegetation at the edge of the lawn, then paused in the clover before disappearing.
The birding was pretty good, too. I saw a Northern Waterthrush in the woods on my way to the dyke and heard a pair of Wood Thrushes singing. There were several Blue-winged and Green-winged Teals on the mudflats, along with about 20 Lesser Yellowlegs, 5 Least Sandpipers, and one Pectoral Sandpiper. I saw both an Osprey and a Bald Eagle fly over while a Caspian Tern hunted in the bay beyond the grassy spit. Altogether I tallied 35 species.
I went back out later that afternoon to look for odes and butterflies. The sun had finally come out, and I thought I would start at Jack Pine Trail to see if I could find the swarms of Brush-tipped and Williamson’s Emeralds I had seen there last year. I found no dragonflies worth mentioning – it was a terribly disappointing visit – but a few Eyed Browns and a Black Swallowtail helped make up for the lack of odes. Later I found out that it can take the larvae of the emeralds up to four years to mature into adults. This means I might not see them again (at least in the same numbers I saw last year) until 2018!
The Rideau Trail can be good for butterflies, so I spent some time looking for the Coral and Banded Hairstreaks I had seen there in the past. I found one Long Dash Skipper and a few unidentified skippers in the trail beneath the hydro towers but was unable to find any hairstreaks.
I checked the boardwalk and had much better luck when I found a Summer Azure and a pair of Common Wood Nymphs mating. While these butterflies are abundant at the Beaver Trail on Moodie Drive, I can’t recall ever seeing any on the Rideau Trail, and I’ve never observed them at either Sarsaparilla or Jack Pine Trail. I remember being very happy last year when I finally managed to photograph one with its wings open.
I was eager to repeat that experience and drove over to the Beaver Trail. A beautiful clearwing hummingbird moth was feeding on some flowers near the parking lot; I was unable to get any photos and am unsure which of the two species it was. A few more Summer Azures, a Mustard White, and a Red Admiral were also present along the trail. I got to the meadow and spent some time watching the butterflies among the flowers, including several Common Wood Nymphs, what might have been a Dun Skipper, a worn fritillary, and a Viceroy.
The meadow was full of pollinators; not just butterflies and bees, but hover flies, wasps and beetles as well. I spotted this colourful longhorn beetle on some Queen Anne’s Lace and spent some time trying to photograph it. It spooked easily; if I got too close it would disappear beneath the tiny florets and hide there until I moved away. I wasn’t able to get close enough for a macro photo, and had to take this one from a distance.
The other bugs that intrigued me were these tiny wasps. My best guess is that it is an Ichneumon species based on thread-like waist, the long, narrow abdomen, and the long ovipositor. What looks like a stinger is actually a structure (called an ovipositor) used for depositing eggs into wood in which other wood-boring insect species have already laid their own eggs. The Ichneumon wasp larvae feed on the other insect larvae as they develop, helping to control insects that are sometimes considered pests.
Several wasps had much shorter bodies; I am guessing these are the males.
Although it was terribly hot, I had fun searching for insects among the flowers. I was disappointed that there weren’t too many dragonflies around; however, the butterflies and other bugs helped to make up for their lack.