Post Breeding Dispersal

Eastern Kingbird

On the first day of the long weekend I decided to look for odonates at Mud Lake. Specifically, I wanted to find some spreadwings, Fragile Forktails, darners, big river clubtails, or Swift River Cruisers, as I hadn’t seen any of these yet this season. I ended up seeing a couple of Slender Spreadwings, a few skimmer species, one big river clubtail perching on a rock in the river (likely a Black-shouldered Spinyleg), and little else in the way of odes. Unfortunately my best dragonfly of the day turned out to the first one of the day, a skimmer that flew in from the lake, landed, and hung from a leaf about two feet above my head. I could only see the underside and I registered only two things: that it had large coloured patches on the hindwings, and that it appeared red. My first thought was that it was a Calico Pennant, but the spots didn’t look quite right, and the dragonfly seemed larger than a Calico Pennant. I moved around the shrub to get a view of it from the top, but the dragonfly flew off before I could get a photo or even a better look. Only later did I wonder if it was a saddlebags of some sort, or perhaps even a Widow Skimmer whose colours I’d misjudged. I’m not sure what it was, but I really regretted not getting a photo or better look.

My best butterfly sighting was that of a Giant Swallowtail fluttering around the entrance to the trails on Cassels Street, and although I looked for it in the open area later, I could not relocate it.

My best insect in the miscellaneous category was much more cooperative. I was in the woods when I saw a largish bug fly by and land on the trunk of a tree. I recognized it as a wasp, though it wasn’t until later that I identified it as a Pigeon Tremex Horntail (Tremex columba). I thought it was a species I had photographed before, though I couldn’t locate any pictures or mentions on my life list. I was wondering why the name sounded familiar, and after reading about it, something finally clicked.

Pigeon Tremex Horntail

The Pigeon Tremex Horntail lays its eggs in dead and dying wood, where the wood-boring larvae develop and finally emerge as flying insects. However, the horntail larvae are often parasitized by other wasps which lay their eggs in such wood – including the giant Ichneumon wasp Megarhyssa atrata. In June 2016 some of my friends and I came across a log in Gatineau Park on which four females were busy laying eggs. It was neat to see the predator back then; it was great to finally meet the prey.

A few Widow Skimmers and Blue Dashers were buzzing about the surface of Mud Lake, and I spotted a Common Green Darner and Twelve-spotted Skimmer as well. Along the fence line behind the filtration plant this female pondhawk preferred the chain-link fence as its perch.

Eastern Pondhawk

I was hoping to find some insects to photograph, and I did; I wasn’t expecting any birds other than the usual breeding species, and here I was surprised, for a large number of songbirds had moved into the area that I definitely wasn’t expecting for the first weekend in August. It is too early for migration, but not for post-breeding dispersal; this occurs when birds start moving around, leaving their nesting areas for good feeding areas close by. Usually we start to see movement from insect-eaters such as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Baltimore Orioles, flycatchers, warblers and swallows; I found two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, ten species of warbler, five species of flycatcher (though the empid will have to remain identified as I only saw it briefly in flight), and two Baltimore Orioles.

Baltimore Oriole

Warblers included mostly American Redstarts and Yellow Warblers, both of which breed in the conservation area, and Cape May Warblers. I also heard a Northern Waterthrush, and saw a Black-and-white Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Tennessee Warbler. All these breed within the region.

I heard one Eastern Wood-pewee and a couple of Great Crested Flycatchers, and saw at least one Eastern Phoebe. A pair of young Eastern Kingbirds had taken up residence in a tree at the southern edge of the lake; they were obviously newly fledged birds, as they kept vocalizing until a parent returned from the lake with food for them to eat.

Eastern Kingbird

The usual Mallards, Wood Ducks and Canada Geese were present; the young Wood Ducks were almost fully grown. While checking the river for odes I saw this Hooded Merganser resting on a rock not too far from the shore.

Hooded Merganser

I also couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of various flowers in bloom.

American White Waterlily

Variegated Pond-Lily

Bittersweet Nightshade

While I was nearly finished my walk I looked up and happened to notice a nest in a shrub above my head – and it was occupied! This Cedar Waxwing is coping with the heat by opening its mouth. Cedar Waxwings, like American Goldfinches, nest late in the season compared to other songbirds. Cedar Waxwings nest in the latter part of the summer in order to take advantage of the abundance of berries and fruits that are not available in the spring. Indeed, birds such as the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles I saw were busy feasting on the berries growing along the trail.

Cedar Waxwing on nest

I had a great time on my walk at Mud Lake, and left only because the clouds were moving in and thunder was rumbling in the distance. I never did make it around to the eastern side of the lake where I saw my last Fragile Forktail, but hopefully I’ll be able to find some when I return!

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