June is my favourite month of the year. This is the month when most insects begin to emerge, their bright wings bringing life and colour to forests, meadows, ponds and backyard gardens. Birds are in full song, and the air is fragrant with all the flowers in bloom. While butterflies and dragonflies become my main focus this time of year, this month I had a second agenda: to continue to look for evidence of breeding for the third Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas. Since I am still working from home as a result of the pandemic, I devoted my morning weekday walks to looking for birds and my longer weekend excursions to looking for all types of wildlife, particularly dragonflies. I thought birding would become boring once migration ended and the resident birds settled down into the more predictable routine of nesting season, but to my surprise I was wrong.
This morning I went for a walk at Monaghan Forest, hoping to find the Northern Waterthrushes I’ve heard singing there in years past. Although this species was reported in our square in the previous atlas, it was only as a “possible” breeding species as it was observed in its breeding season in suitable nesting habitat – no additional nesting evidence was determined. I was also hoping to see the Bank Swallows I’d seen last year at the quarry, as I was still missing this species for my year list. In addition to these two species, I was hoping to find a number of other interesting species – from Black-throated Green and Black-and-White Warblers to Scarlet Tanagers and Wood Thrushes. If was I was lucky I might even see some falcons and hawks soaring above the quarry – it is suspected that Peregrine Falcon nests there, and it would be terrific if we could confirm evidence of breeding in our square.
The more you look, the more you see….this is a common theme among those of us who spend our time outdoors with a camera or binoculars, looking for birds, bugs, or just about any facet of nature. The longer a person spends searching an area, whether a quiet bay on a lake, a small urban park, one of the best-known birding hotspots in the city, or even one’s own backyard, the more species a person seems to find – whether they be colourful wildflowers, a new dragonfly or butterfly, small insects they’d never noticed before, or birds that would have been missed if they’d left after that first cursory glance. This, to me, sums up the joy of going outside – it’s a treasure hunt where, instead of targeting one specific thing, any colourful or interesting creature that catches my eye is a treasure! It’s one of the reasons I return to the same spots again and again – to see what “new treasures” might be found there. So of course when I got tired of being indoors at the cottage we rented on Prince Edward Bay in Prince Edward County, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk.
By late May/early June most birds are exactly where they want to be, having claimed a territory and found a mate with which they will raise their offspring over the next few months. Even so, by Victoria Day several migrants are often still passing through the region; it’s still worth looking for late migrants even into the beginning of June, as migrating birds may stray off-course or get caught up in a bad weather system which may temporarily halt or divert their journey. With the lingering cold north winds and temperatures reluctant to hit the 20°C mark, it’s no wonder that there are plenty of songbirds which haven’t yet settled on a territory of their own. Continue reading →
In late August I took my usual trip to southern Ontario to see my Dad. As usual, we spent a few days at his trailer in the Pinehurst Lake Conservation Area. The birding was fine, although this time there were no flocks of migrants moving through; instead the birds still seemed busy with raising and feeding their young, even this late in the summer. For example, I saw a Red-eyed Vireo feeding a Brown-headed Cowbird, a young Indigo Bunting following its parent around, and a House Wren carrying food. We didn’t see the Broad-winged Hawk family this year either, which was disappointing. However, the insects were fascinating, and I found a lot to photograph.
After another rainy week the sun finally came out on Sunday. My plan was to do some birding and dragon-hunting close to home, starting with a visit to Trail 26 in Stony Swamp. This is the one off of West Hunt Club (Trailhead P11) that runs south to connect with the Jack Pine Trail system; I don’t visit it very often as it doesn’t have any boardwalks, which I prefer when looking for dragonflies. Still, it’s an under-birded gem that deserves more attention, especially in summer when the breeding birds are in full song. I tallied 28 species in just under two hours, with an additional species heard that I wasn’t sure of.
I returned to Mud Lake in mid-August in the hope of finding some interesting dragonflies. It was a much a nicer day than we’d had for the OFNC dragonfly outing, but there were fewer dragonflies flying, and nothing as interesting as the Spot-winged Glider and Swift River Cruiser we’d found two weeks ago. June and July are the best months for finding a good diversity of odonates; by mid-August a number of species have already finished flying for the year, including many emeralds and common summer species such as the Dot-tailed Whiteface. However, other species are just becoming abundant around this time, such as the mosaic darners, and it was these that I was hoping to find.