Revisiting Hurdman

Silvery Blue

Silvery Blue

As migration progresses and the weather turns warmer, I find myself going into “birding withdrawal” during the work week. Fortunately I was able to visit Hurdman Park at lunch time a couple of times this month in order to keep the symptoms of withdrawal in check. On my visit of May 11th last week I decided to visit the western part of the park since my normal route along the “feeder path” is now blocked due to the construction of the LRT station. Today I started my visit on the western side, but when that proved relatively unproductive, I ended up walking beneath the transitway bridge to the eastern side in order to check the tangles along the feeder trail. Although I managed to find some good birds and other interesting wildlife on both days, my visit today was by far the more rewarding of the two.

Last week my best bird was a surprise Northern Rough-winged Swallow perching in a dead tree near the river. I saw a couple of swallows swooping along the river, and was fortunate to be close to the tree where I saw one land. I took a few photos to confirm its ID (neither of which are worth posting) as this was a new bird for my Hurdman list – no. 114, to be exact.

The usual breeding species such as Least Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler and American Redstart were singing throughout my visit. Although I was looking forward to the return of the resident Eastern Kingbirds, I did not see or hear them. I did, however, see a White-throated Sparrow – a migrant species that does not breed here – along the bike path.

I continued my walk into the woods where I saw a Pileated Woodpecker and two migrant warbler species: a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Palm Warbler. These two species brought my day’s list up to 12 species, a surprisingly low total for a day during the peak of songbird migration. At least the butterflies made up for the disappointing number of bird species – I saw a Black Swallowtail fly by, but it did not stop and allow me to take any photos. This Juvenal’s Duskywing was slightly more cooperative, though I was not able to get a head-on photo with its wings spread out:

Juvenal's Duskywing

Juvenal’s Duskywing

I also found a cooperative Eastern Tailed Blue near the river. This small blue butterfly is distinguished from our other “blues” by the orange spots on the hindwings and the two small tails.

Eastern Tailed Blue

Eastern Tailed Blue

Unlike Northern Spring Azures, Eastern Tailed Blues often sit with their wings partially spread, allowing us a glimpse of the bright sky-blue colour of the upper side of its wings. This one appears to be obtaining nutrients from the damp soil.

Eastern Tailed Blue

Eastern Tailed Blue

All of these species were new for my year list. Although I was hoping to see my first Eastern Forktails of the year, I observed no odonates at Hurdman Park on either visit.

Today’s visit was much better for birds – 30 species in just over an hour. My strangest observation, however, was that of a Red Fox trotting along the bike path toward me. I was walking along the path between the transit station and the river when I first noticed it. I thought it was a fox at first, but then when I saw a cyclist come up behind it I began to wonder if it were a dog instead. But no, the cyclist passed it, and the animal kept coming toward me – definitely not a dog, but a fox! I grabbed my camera out of my bag and reeled off two quick shots.

Red Fox

Red Fox

At that point it zigged to the left and disappeared down into the ditch between the bike path and the construction zone. I thought this was strange, especially as a construction worker was sitting in a truck on the other side of the ditch. I slowly crept up to the edge and looked down into the ditch and found no sign of the fox. However, a small culvert revealed the source of its escape, although it seemed too small for an animal its size. I was delighted and baffled by the fox’s appearance and disappearance, as these mammals rarely show themselves when I’m around.

Red Fox

Red Fox

The Eastern Kingbirds had returned to Hurdman; I counted four of them altogether, including this one sitting in the grassy area next to the bike path.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

Two Common Mergansers and a Double-crested Cormorant were swimming on the Rideau River, while a Spotted Sandpiper called from somewhere along the riverbank. Gray Catbirds had also returned – four of them – and I heard an Eastern Phoebe calling from somewhere across the river. Best of all, I tallied seven species of warbler. After a disappointing visit to the western woods, I took a side path to the feeder trail on the eastern side which proved a hotspot for these tiny woodland birds; the pocket I found there is the main reason why my usual 45-minute outing turned into one of almost 70 minutes! I found two Black-throated Blue Warblers (both females), two Black-throated Green Warblers (including one that was singing), a Palm Warbler, a Black-and-white Warbler, and at least ten Yellow-rumped Warblers in addition to the usual Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts that breed here. The Yellow-rumped Warblers were moving through the trees next to the river as well as along the feeder path. Other migrants included a single White-crowned Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow.

The butterflies were also interesting, and more cooperative for photos than the birds. I found another Juvenal’s Duskywing, and this one was willing to perch with its wings open this time.

Juvenal's Duskywing

Juvenal’s Duskywing

A blue butterfly flitting among the vegetation appeared to be too large to be an Eastern Tailed Blue, and when it finally settled I was delighted when I recognized it as a Silvery Blue.

Silvery Blue

Silvery Blue

This species has the shortest flight season of our three blue gossamer-winged butterfly species as, unlike the other species, it is only a single-brooded species – that is, only one generation of adults fly each season. Adults fly from early May to early July in southern Canada, though I almost never see them in July. Like the Eastern Tailed Blue, this species also frequently perches with its wings partially open, revealing the silvery pale blue colour that gives this species its name.

Silvery Blue

Silvery Blue

The underside is gray, with a distinctive single row of black, white-rimmed spots on each wing. It lacks the orange spots of the smaller Eastern Tailed Blue, and has a much cleaner appearance than the Northern Azure.

Silvery Blue

Silvery Blue

It continues to amaze me just what a wonderful spot this park is for wildlife of all sorts, considering its location in the middle of the city. Virtually unmaintained by the city (some of those interior trails are almost impassable now), Hurdman proves that if you leave a large green space alone, and let it revert to its natural state, an abundance of creatures will use the space, finding ample food and shelter whether they are temporary visitors passing through or permanent residents that breed there year after year.

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3 thoughts on “Revisiting Hurdman

    • Silvery Blues do perch with their wings open from time to time – if you spend enough time watching them, eventually you’ll be able to see this. Unfortunately, the azures NEVER do this, which makes it hard to understand why they’re called “azures”.

  1. Yeah, I guess it’s the Azures I’m thinking of. They always, always clap their wings shut the instant they land. I did have an Eastern Tailed Blue show off its colors for me recently, though.

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