Jack Pine Specialties

Wood Frog

Wood Frog

The day after the excellent snaketail adventure in Gatineau Park, I headed over to Jack Pine Trail to see if any of its unique dragonflies were on the wing. Two years ago I found a healthy population of Brush-tipped and Williamson’s Emeralds, and Arrowhead Spiketails are regularly seen along the stream at the back. Although I’d heard that it takes four years for Williamson’s Emerald larvae to mature, I had hopes of at least finding the Brush-tipped Emerald; I still think it’s amazing that all these wonderful dragonflies live and breed so close to home. I was also hoping to find some spreadwings, as I’ve seen both Northern and Emerald Spreadwings along the trails here in the past – though none in the past couple of years.

Fortunately the Brush-tipped Emerald was easy to find. I saw a couple of emeralds flying in an open sunny area and noticed one that looked worth catching. I am not sure what it was, or what I saw, that made me realize it was different, as they fly pretty fast; I have caught Brush-tipped Emeralds at Roger’s Pond based on the same hunch. I swung the net, and was surprised when the dragonfly that I caught was, in fact, a Brush-tipped Emerald.

Brush-tipped Emerald

Brush-tipped Emerald

This one was a female, identifiable by its small size, the shape of the yellow markings on the thorax (a short stripe in front of a smaller oval) and the shape of its ovipositor (not visible in this photo). The yellow marks on the thorax are usually dull, and the brightness of these ones indicate that she had just emerged recently. Although I hoped to find one perching, this was the only Brush-tipped Emerald that I saw.

Although I normally proceed straight to the stream at the back, I decided to check out the boardwalk first. The pond is becoming overgrown with cattails, so there wasn’t much to see; however, a male Green Frog calling from the water caught my attention. I spent some time trying to photograph him with his throat puffed out during each call, but only managed one blurry shot. Not long after that I saw him hop toward another frog – a female, evidently – and mate with her. She wasn’t impressed when he tried to mate with her a second time; she swam out from under him just as I snapped this photo.

Mating Green Frogs

There wasn’t much insect life at the pond, so I continued on my way toward the back of the trail. I didn’t see any spreadwings in the sunny patches in the woods, but I did see my first Canada Darner of the year.

Canada Darner

Canada Darner

The stream at the back was much more interesting. I checked the open clearings first to see if any Arrowhead Spiketails were perching in the vegetation – this is where I usually find them, but I had no luck there. I watched the stream for a while to see if any males were patrolling up and down the water course. Again I had no luck, but I spotted a jewelwing at the back where the stream curves away into the woods. It was a female, but the wings were pretty dark so I wasn’t sure whether it was a River or an Ebony Jewelwing. I tend to find lone Ebony Jewelwings in strange places (Hurdman, Mud Lake, Andrew Haydon Park), and, as such have more experience with these than River Jewelwings, and the wings seemed completely dark when seen in the bright sunlight. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that the outer third was indeed darker than the inner two-thirds, and that the wings were long and not as rounded as the Ebony Jewelwing. Finding this River Jewelwing was a complete surprise, as I’d never seen any jewelwing here before and would have expected Ebony, rather than River.

River Jewelwing

River Jewelwing

Another surprise was this small Wood Frog sitting in the water. I usually see these guys in the woods more often than I see them in the water, and again, I’d never seen this species at Jack Pine Trail before. I’ll have to make it a point to visit in the early spring to see if I can hear them calling during mating season.

Wood Frog

Wood Frog

With no signs of any Arrowhead Spiketails, I headed back to the main trail where my attention was captured by a couple of skippers. One was a Hobomok Skipper, but the other was a Long Dash Skipper.

Long Dash Skipper

Long Dash Skipper

I continued my walk down the main path to the marsh at the back, and finally found my Arrowhead Spiketail flying over the stream near the culvert. It perched in the sun, allowing me to get a few decent shots before it flew off again. I was happy to see that the colony was alive and well, as this is the only reliable place that I know of where they breed.

Arrowhead Spiketail

Arrowhead Spiketail

Fortunately it didn’t go very far; it circled the small pool of water below the culvert and perched again. The way it perches vertically with its body angled out is characteristic of this species.

Arrowhead Spiketail

Arrowhead Spiketail

I didn’t see any other dragonflies or butterflies worth noting, but there were plenty of birds around to add to my enjoyment of my visit. An Eastern Phoebe was nesting near the outhouse, and had four chicks in its nest. A Nashville Warbler singing in the area just beyond the feeders was a surprise; it’s been a long time since I’ve heard one singing here once migration has ended. A Black-throated Green Warbler was also nice to hear – either they shut up early, or don’t stay very long, for I don’t often hear them singing very long in the woods at Stony Swamp despite the excellent mixed deciduous-coniferous breeding habitat. The usual Ovenbirds, Common Yellowthroats, White-throated Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, and Red-eyed Vireos were present, and a Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, two Purple Finches, and over a dozen Cedar Waxwings were great to see and/or hear. Interestingly, I didn’t hear any Eastern Wood-pewees, a bird that is usually quite vocal at Jack Pine Trail with multiple singing individuals. Altogether I ended up with 26 species on my ebird checklist.

After that I headed over to the Beaver Trail. Almost as soon as I arrived I heard the Eastern Wood-pewee that I missed at Jack Pine Trail. Their song is one that I look forward to hearing in the summer; the forest soundscape would not be the same without this flycatcher’s hopeful song.

I headed straight to the observation platform at back of the trail system to check out the beaver pond there; the best ode I found was a Fragile Forktail, and it was cooperative for a few photos.

Fragile Forktail

There wasn’t too much flying at the pond, so I tried the V-shaped boardwalk next. There I found the Belted Whiteface I was looking for during my “dragon blitz” a week ago. I am not sure why they are so common at the Beaver Trail and Sarsparilla Trail, and absent from Jack Pine Trail; like the other whitefaces, including the ubiquitous Dot-tailed Whiteface, this species prefers marshy, vegetated ponds and lakes, and may be found in small forest openings away from water in order to forage.

Belted Whiteface

Belted Whiteface

I didn’t have a lot of time, so I finished my walk quickly. The only other insects of interest were a male Northern Crescent begging to have its picture taken and a European Skipper.

Northern Crescent

Northern Crescent

I usually don’t pay too much attention to either species, as they are so common; the Northern Crescent has the added disadvantage of being almost identical to the Pearl Crescent, making it difficult to tell these two species apart. It has become so difficult, even with photos, that I have just about given up on differentiating them.

In comparison, the European Skipper emerges in such large numbers that it is difficult to pick out other skipper species in the same area. If you have ever patiently tried to sort through hundreds of Yellow-rumped Warblers in September trying to find a Cape May or a Magnolia Warbler, you will know what this feels like.

European Skipper

European Skipper

Even though the Beaver Trail was not as productive as I had hoped, I was really pleased with all the neat frogs and bugs I found at Jack Pine Trail. From the Wood Frog and River Jewelwing which I’ve never seen there before, to the Brush-tipped Emerald and Arrowhead Spiketail I seldom see anywhere else, it was a great day to find some of the trail’s specialties.

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