Last Days in Prince Edward County

Chipping Sparrow

On July 4th I woke up and went for my usual early morning walk up to Morrison Point Road. I saw a Great Crested Flycatcher carrying food along Loves Lane, followed by a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and two Hairy Woodpeckers in the same patch of woods; the Hairy Woodpecker was new for my Prince Edward County list. Along Morrison Point Road itself I observed the usual species, including two Indigo Buntings, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Yellow Warbler, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Gray Catbird, and a Field Sparrow….I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of the Red-bellied Woodpecker, but again it was not to be. Five Barn Swallows were hunting in the fields near the barn, while two Killdeer roamed the grounds near the pond behind it.

I also came across one of the largest Leopard Frogs I’ve ever seen along the side of the road. A second one was nearby, squashed on the road by the car, and I hoped this one didn’t meet the same fate.

Leopard Frog

On my way back I noticed a couple of birds perching on the telephone wires near the farmhouse at the turnoff to Loves Lane. They didn’t look like blackbirds, and when I got closer I realized they were something much more interesting: an adult and juvenile Eastern Bluebird! These were also new for my Prince Edward County list, and as this isn’t a species I see very often in Ottawa anymore, I decided to get closer and try for a few photos. The adult immediately flew to a wire closer to the house, but the juvenile stayed where it was. The only resemblance to the adult it would become was the small eyering, and if I had seen this species without the adult next to it I’m not entirely sure I would have been able to identify it!

Eastern Bluebird (juvenile)

By the time I got back the cottage my Dad and Sharon were discussing a trip to Sandbanks Provincial Park. I was eager to go, although it wasn’t until after lunch that we got on our way. When we arrived we stopped by the Visitor Center where I purchased a couple of checklists for odes and butterflies. We also asked the park staff about the best trails for seeing wildlife (including snakes, my dad’s favourite reptile) but unfortunately the best-sounding trail, the Cedar Sands Nature Trail which follows the Outlet River and looks out upon a marsh, was closed. We opted to try the Woodlands Trail, a 3.5 km linear trail that traveled through old agricultural fields and “a mature, deciduous woodland where giant oaks and maples tower overhead”. Although there were supposed to be plenty of opportunities to view wildlife along this trail, we didn’t see much; however, it was terribly hot out, and with the sun burning down from a cloudless blue sky it seemed most of the wildlife was in hiding. I counted only 13 bird species, all of which were common in Ottawa; these included Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos, Eastern Kingbird, Field Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, and a pair of Chipping Sparrows, one of which was an adult feeding a fledgling.

Chipping Sparrow (juvenile)

The best insect I saw was a Prince Baskettail which deigned to land in a tree high above my head.

Prince Baskettail

We didn’t do the whole trail as there wasn’t much to see. We turned around, went back to the car, and drove to the Dunes Beach Day Use Area. This sandy beach was one of three natural sand beaches in the park, and it was crowded. We hadn’t brought our bathing suits, so we sat on a shady bench over-looking the water and took in the view. My eyes were drawn to the damselflies resting on the vegetation a couple of feet out…the usual blue and black bluets were out, and I saw one I recognized, the Stream Bluet. Its abdomen is more black than blue, and the unique pattern of blue on the final segments help to identify it without needing to catch it.

Stream Bluet

I also noticed a more colourful damselfly flying around. It was a reddish-orange colour in the shadows, and when it finally landed I was thrilled to identify it as an Orange Bluet, a species I normally have to go to Petrie Island to see in Ottawa.

Orange Bluet

We wrapped up our visit with a stop for ice cream, and then made our way back to the cottage. It wasn’t a long trip, with few species seen due to the late start and the heat. It does seem like a nice park, and I would love to go back again sometime.

The next morning I went out for a drive. My goal was a rural road called “Jackson’s Falls” which had its own eBird hotspot and whose fields were inhabited by all sorts of grassland birds, including Grasshopper Sparrow. First, though, I stopped in at Black River Bridge along the way, as it was only a few minutes from the cottage and looked promising for water birds. Although there was only a short section of public property where I could walk along the water, I found 15 species of bird (including Mute Swan, a Belted Kingfisher, and a Pine Warbler singing in the pines next to the ice cream store) and several dragonflies, including Eastern Pondhawk and a very fresh teneral Widow Skimmer.

It was already hot by the time I reached Jackson’s Falls Road, and I slowly drove down the dirt road with my windows open listening for birdsong. I heard an American Redstart almost as soon as I turned onto the road, as well as a couple of Savannah Sparrows.

Jackson’s Falls Road

The Savannah Sparrow was the most common sparrow along the road, and I heard at least 8 of them. One Chipping Sparrow, six Song Sparrows, and four Grasshopper Sparrows were also present, and the number of Grasshopper Sparrows tripped the eBird filter. I noted in my checklist that this was not an over-count; I did in fact hear four distinct individuals on my drive, two of which were seen: two were singing (one seen) in the field in the first large grassy field coming from the south; a third one was heard in a darker green field with leafy vegetation just beyond the first field; and a fourth one was heard and seen in the grassy field after that. The fourth sparrow was close enough for some photos, although the sun was not in the best position for photography.

Grasshopper Sparrow

There were also several Bobolinks, all of which appeared to be part of the same flock. Both males and females were carrying food.

Bobolink (male)

I’ve never photographed a female Bobolink before; they look quite different from the males.

Bobolink (female)

Other birds seen or heard along Jackson’s Falls Road included four Wild Turkeys, a Killdeer, a Great Blue Heron flying over, a family of Common Ravens cavorting together, several Barn Swallows and a Tree Swallow, two Eastern Meadowlarks, a couple of Common Yellowthroats, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and an Indigo Bunting. At the north end of the road the fields gave way to a small woodlot, and I heard Red-eyed Vireos and Eastern Wood-pewees. A couple of raccoons crossed the road in front of me, disappearing into the brush. There was what looked like a small quarry pond at the northern end, but no waterfalls (and no birds in the water).

I returned to the cottage after that, and spent some time outdoors with my camera. I found another White-spotted Sable moth resting on the ground; I don’t seem them often in Ottawa, so seeing a couple on this trip was very nice.

White-spotted Sable

A larger moth fluttering along caught my attention, and when it landed on the trunk of a tree I was able to follow it and mark its location. This was a good thing, as its cryptic colouration made it difficult to see against the bark. The Cherry Scallop Shell Moth was a new moth for me; apparently it is considered a pest, as the larvae can defoliate cherry trees.

Cherry Scallop Shell Moth

On the water two Mute Swans swam right into our bay, and spent some time near a cottage a little further along the shore. The mother mallard and her eleven ducklings swam back and forth a couple of times, and even a loon swam into the bay to look for fish!

Common Loon

A couple of Caspian Terns diving for fish were unmistakable, and a Belted Kingfisher gave its distinctive rattle as it flew across the bay. My Dad also found a baby Snapping Turtle walking along our small bit of beach….perhaps a descendant of the one I saw on my first day!

Baby Snapping Turtle

That was our last full day in Prince Edward County. The weather was hot and sunny the whole week, which made for some great outings and great photography. Although I wasn’t able to explore the county as much as I would have liked, I did enjoy the parts that I saw and the wildlife that was around. Altogether I tallied 69 bird species, and added one new reptile, the Eastern Milksnake to my life list. Although I saw no new butterflies or odes, it was great seeing species that can be difficult to find in Ottawa, including the Silver-spotted Skipper, Emerald Spreadwing, Orange Bluet, and Amber-winged Spreadwing. I highly recommend a visit to Prince Edward County, and would love to visit it again someday.

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