At last, Saturday arrived. Our last morning in Costa Rica, and our last morning at the beautiful Occidental Grand Papagayo resort. The final hours of our wonderful trip to the tropics were trickling through the hourglass, and I was sad to see it coming to an end. I got up, started packing up as much of my stuff as I could without disturbing Doran, then went out for a quick walk to the red-flowering trees – my favourite bird-watching spot on the resort. I still hadn’t given up on seeing those Squirrel Cuckoos again.
After our swim Doran and I had time to go back to our room before lunch, then headed up to the dining room shortly after noon. As mentioned before, the days seem longer in Costa Rica – it was just lunch time and already I’d gone on a walk and had a swim in the ocean; it felt like a full day when it was barely even 12:00pm! Lunch was quite tasty, as were all our meals at the Occidental. The buffet menu was quite good, and varied every day so we didn’t get tired of eating the same thing. My only disappointment was that the pineapple mint and pineapple ginger juices at breakfast weren’t available every day, nor were they available at lunch. Once we were done eating we headed out a different way, passing by the tennis courts to see what the rest of the resort looked like – it was definitely too hot and humid to play beneath the sweltering tropical sun, and the courts were empty.
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.
On Sunday August 9th I made plans to go birding and dragon-hunting with Chris Lewis. Our plan was to meet at Shirley’s Bay at 8:30, but I was up early enough that I had time for a quick check at Mud Lake before our meet time. A few early migrant warblers had been found along the river, and I was hoping to spot a few. My goal was to check the scrubby field west of the lake and the ridge quickly before driving over to Shirley’s Bay.
I was able to add quite a few butterflies to my Nova Scotia list just by walking around Iris’s property and checking the wildflowers along the dirt road on my morning walks. I used the Butterflies of Nova Scotia site to see which species are found in the province, and the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas checklist for descriptions of the butterflies. Fortunately, Nova Scotia has fewer species on its checklist than Ontario does, and as most of them are also found in Ontario, identification wasn’t too difficult. One species I was surprised not to see on the list is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail; in Cape Breton and on our boat tour I had seen several yellow swallowtails flying over the highway and even across the water of St. Ann’s Bay. I thought that they might be Eastern Tiger Swallowtails given the date (in Ontario they fly later than the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, which flies mainly in late May and June), but I realized later they could only be Canadian Tiger Swallowtails.
When I returned to Ottawa on May 15th I was happy to hear that dragonfly season had begun – fellow OFNC member Chris Traynor had already reported seeing a Hudsonian Whiteface, American Emerald, and a baskettail species (likely a Beaverpond Baskettail) the day before I returned. Last year I didn’t have my first real dragonfly outing until May 31st (chiefly because I was away in Florida the weekend before that), but even so this seemed early.
Eager to see some dragonflies, I checked a few trails in Stony Swamp early on Saturday morning, but found none – though it was warm, the sky was too overcast. I did, however, observe a couple of new birds for my year list, including an Eastern Wood-Pewee, Alder Flycatcher and Clay-colored Sparrow at Jack Pine Trail and a Black-throated Blue Warbler at the Beaver Trail. I was also pleased to hear two Brown Thrashers at Jack Pine Trail, a species I have never observed there before, and a total of nine warbler species including Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Pine Warbler and Black-throated Green Warbler. In addition to these, a singing Black-throated Blue Warbler and a Yellow-rumped Warbler were at the Beaver Trail.
Today marked the beginning of the August long weekend and I found some great birds and bugs to start it off. I went to the Richmond Lagoons first, curious to see if any shorebirds had shown up in the first cell. None had, but I heard a Common Gallinule squeaking in the reeds near the observation deck. There were lots of flycatchers around; I heard two Alder Flycatchers still singing away, and saw one unidentified flycatcher in the parking lot and two more in the shrubs between the first two cells. None of these were singing, and I couldn’t identify them from their call notes. I thought the one in the parking lot made a sound like the “whit!” of a Least Flycatcher, but the ones along the berm sounded similar, and when I checked my birding app on my phone the Alder Flycatcher’s call note didn’t sound much different from a Least Flycatcher.