I was happy to have the car during the last weekend of July, and I made the most of it. My first stop was the trail on West Hunt Club (P11) as I wanted to check out the pond there. Ottawa has been stuck in drought for a while now, and water levels have been dropping in all my favourite conservation areas. I thought the pond might be a good spot to look for shorebirds.
I had a really good walk there, seeing and hearing 28 species of birds. Highlights included a Double-crested Cormorant flying over (new for the trail) and two Broad-winged Hawks calling in the hydro cut area. Eventually I saw them both fly over and disappear into the woods on the north side of the clearing.
I was car-less this weekend, as Doran spent most of it in Petawawa visiting friends. Unfortunately the best bird- and bug-watching trails are all difficult to reach by bus on a Sunday, so even a trip to one of the closer spots – such as Mud Lake or Andrew Haydon Park – was out of the question, as either would take two buses and much walking just to get there. And, given the high temperature forecast for today (almost 30°C) and the lack of air-conditioned food and washroom facilities nearby, I didn’t feel up to a long excursion. That left a walk around the neighbourhood as my only option, and fortunately the Emerald Meadows storm water ponds are close by. The ponds have been under construction for over a year now, but I haven’t seen any heavy machinery or workers there in ages, and none of the large gaps that appeared in the plastic orange fences surrounding the construction site have been repaired in weeks. As I’ve noticed people walking their dogs or jogging along the paths inside the construction zone, I thought it would be all right to take a look.
On July 17th, Chris Lewis and a few other friends and I went dragon-hunting at Petrie Island. Although the morning started out cool, it quickly warmed up, and as a result we saw lots of great bugs. We started our outing by searching the vegetation between the parking lot and the first small bay, usually a productive area for some of the smaller dragonflies and damselflies. This is the only spot at Petrie Island where I’ve seen Vesper Bluet and Orange Bluet, and we spent a good half hour examining the shrubs for these small damselflies. Although both species are considered common in the Northeast, Petrie Island is the only place where I’ve seen them. However, both species are more active later in the day, and since I usually do my birding in the morning and early afternoon, it is possible I’ve missed them in other places.
Butterflies aren’t the only creatures I was looking for on my day off on Friday – I spent a lot of time watching birds, dragonflies, frogs, and other insects, too. Before I found myself captivated by the butterflies in the field next to the Hilda Road feeders, I spent a lot of time wandering around the trails at Shirley’s Bay and came up with a decent list of birds – 22 species in just over an hour, including several open-field and scrub-land species such as House Wren, White-throated Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Gray Catbird, American Redstart, and Yellow Warbler.
Even though we’ve reached the halfway point of the butterfly season, with many early species already gone for another year (including Henry’s Elfin and Juvenal Duskywing), mid-July is still a great time to see a wide diversity of butterflies and moths. I took Friday off work to do some birding and bug-hunting along the Ottawa River and was pleasantly surprised by the various species of lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) I found. Birds and dragonflies were also plentiful, but I took so many pictures that I will save them for another post!
I started the morning at Shirley’s Bay after dropping my fiance off at work. The trails east of the boat launch and the open fields near the Hilda Road feeders are a good spot to find different insects; I’ve seen Prince Baskettails, Halloween Pennants, Giant Swallowtails, and Banded Hairstreaks in this area, though my favourite six-legged discovery was actually a moth: the stunningly beautiful Scarlet-winged Lichen Moth (Hypoprepia miniata). It was probably too early in the season to see another one of these bright red moths, but I did find some other interesting and beautiful bugs.
Once again we had a cooler than normal weekend in Ottawa, and this time it was completely overcast with torrential downpours on Saturday. I only managed to get out for a few hours each morning, and didn’t see a single dragonfly. With the weather so uncooperative for dragon-hunting, I decided to spend my time birding instead – and what better weekend to look for water birds? I was especially hoping to see some herons, as I’ve noticed an unprecedented number of Black-crowned Night-herons flying around lately – a pair near the storm water pond at Mud Lake, one near the War Museum on Scott Street, one along Old Richmond Road in Stony Swamp, two from my back window (a new yard bird!) and one flying along the creek at Moodie and Highway 417 on two separate occasions.
After getting lucky with the Banded Hairstreak on Friday I decided to try for another hairstreak butterfly in a different location nearby: the Acadian Hairstreak. In July 2014 I had found a small colony of these small, gray butterflies at the Bruce Pit and hoped to find them there again this year. It’s also a good spot for birds and dragonflies, so I decided to bring my net and spend some time there. As the “pit” itself has become overgrown with cattails, I decided not to walk down to the water, but to check the meadow above it instead. This turned out to be a wise decision as there were a number of tiny toads at the water’s edge and I didn’t want to accidentally step on any.
I haven’t visited the South March Highlands in a long time – not since April 2015. However, the weather this morning was poor for dragon-hunting (only 13°C, with more clouds than blue sky showing above and a brisk wind blowing), and as a Blue-winged Warbler had been discovered breeding there with a Golden-winged Warbler last month, I thought it was long past time to pay a visit.
The woods were still fairly dark by the time I arrived at 6:45. One of the first birds I saw was a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the gloomy woods, and one of the first birds I heard was a Wilson’s Snipe keening in the marsh close to the Brady Avenue entrance. The Blue-winged Warbler nest was a good 2 or 3 kilometers along the bike trail, and as there wasn’t much to see in the dark forest, I covered the distance in good time. Birds of note included a Great Blue Heron and a Black-crowned Night-heron at Confederation Bridge, a Wood Thrush chasing a Blue Jay, a family of Baltimore Orioles, at least four different Scarlet Tanagers calling, and two Pine Warblers and three Black-throated Green Warblers singing. I wasn’t able to get photos of any of them.
July has arrived, and today’s weather was typical of summer – hot and sunny for most of the day with thundershowers rolling in later in the afternoon. Fortunately there was no humidity, which made my morning in Stony Swamp looking for breeding birds and bugs comfortable.
It was clear from my outing today that we are at the peak of the breeding season, one of my favourite times of year. Although some birders become afflicted by the “summer birding doldrums” in the period between when the birds stop singing and songbird migration starts in the fall, I was surprised to find that the doldrums have already been referenced in both eBird’s latest monthly challenge and in every OFNC bird sighting report since June 16th. There are too many birds around – including nestlings and the newly fledged young following their parents about – and still so many birds singing right now that I probably won’t become desperately bored until about mid-August when I start longing for the first wave of warblers and insectivores to arrive.