Archive | September 2020

Migration Highlights from September

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

I have truly enjoyed these past few months working from home. Without the daily two-hour commute, I have been getting out as often as I can before work and at lunch to take advantage of the quiet weekday trails close to my house. With the arrival of September, however, I’ve been less focused on insects and more interested in birds. Migration has started, though so quietly it is hard to tell when post-breeding dispersal ended and true southward movement of the birds began. I’d already seen some good birds in the last few days of August, such as a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk at Sarsaparilla Trail, a Red-necked Phalarope at the Moodie Drive quarry, and a Cape May Warbler in my own backyard, but I was eager to get out and see large numbers of songbirds flitting through the trees in various migrant traps, and start creating eBird lists with 40 or 50 different species.

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Wildlife Around the Garden

Eastern Tailed Blue

Back when the lockdown started in March and the provincial parks, national parks, and local conservation areas started closing, I thought I would be spending the summer in my own backyard. It’s a nice enough yard, but it’s quite small and doesn’t boast the number of fauna of the even the small urban parks nearby. If I had known when we bought our little townhouse in 2003 that one day in the not-too-distant future I would consider myself a naturalist, I would have looked for a house with green space behind it or at least a park next door to increase the number of species that visit my yard. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

When the local lockdown restrictions finally lifted in late May, I was able to enjoy my summer visiting new and well-loved places beyond the boundaries of my neighbourhood and seeing the amazing wildlife of the Ottawa region.  As such, I didn’t spend as much time at home as I thought I would.  This is in part due to the fact that I spent the summer working from home – perhaps if I had been going to the office downtown every day I wouldn’t have felt the desperate need for escape on the weekends, looking for a much-needed change of scenery.  I was able to watch the birds and squirrels from my office window, but didn’t spend much time getting up-close-and-personal with the bugs and other critters. Still, I was able to eat lunch outside on occasion, and spent some of the nicer weekend afternoons working on the garden. Even just walking out to the car sometimes I found a few things of interest!

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Bruce Pit Specialties

Gray Treefrog

Although Bruce Pit is chiefly known as a popular dog park, the walking trails around the pond (which are not part of the off-leash area) are great for finding all kinds of interesting flora and fauna. I usually make a couple of trips to the pond each summer, looking for specific butterflies, frogs and odonates which are difficult to find elsewhere. Although it’s been a few years since I’ve seen some of the more unique insects – including American Copper, Eastern Red Damsel, Amber-winged Spreadwing and Saffron-winged Meadowhawk – other frog and insect populations are still doing well.

My first visit of the summer occurred on July 5th in the hope of finding an Acadian Hairstreak at the base of the toboggan hill – the only place I’ve ever seen one in the west end. I hadn’t seen any here since 2014 and 2016 and doubted they were still around, especially after I saw how few wildflowers were left to grow near the marshy area in my failed attempt to see them last year. I failed again on this visit, too, but proceeded to check a few other spots where the milkweed was blooming as these flowers are known to be insect magnets.

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Orange and Yellow Sulphurs

Orange Sulphur

Orange Sulphur

Back in March, when my law firm’s downtown office shut down and I began working from home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, I had expected some semblance of normal life to return by the fall. I had guessed that by September the office would be open again, and that once again I would lose two hours of my day to the daily commute. I was wrong, however, and Covid-19 cases are climbing once again in an indisputable second wave. My law firm is still not fully open yet; however, I’m back at work downtown providing administrative support for a lengthy civil trial. The trial is taking place over Zoom, with the judge, court staff, court reporter, both sets of counsel, both sets of experts, and all parties to the lawsuit participating via videoconference. Once again I’m a slave to the city’s public transportation schedule, and while I’m really happy that both the bus and LRT are virtually empty, I’m not thrilled to lose those precious two hours and almost all of my weekday birding time as a result. I am really hoping that when life does return to normal one day, full-time attendance in the office won’t be mandatory and that I will still be able to enjoy at least a couple days a week working from home and getting out for birding walks in the morning and butterfly walks at lunch.

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