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Birds and Bugs with Eastern Ontario Birding

Hickory Hairstreak

On July 8, 2017, I attended an Eastern Ontario Birding tour with Jon Ruddy that crossed four counties in the southwestern and southern portion of eastern Ontario in an effort to find some of the harder-to-find breeding birds. Target species included American Bittern, Least Bittern, Common Gallinule, Upland Sandpiper, Black Tern, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Black-billed Cuckoo, Willow Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow-throated Vireo, Sedge Wren, Blue-winged Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Cerulean Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Indigo Bunting, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Clay-colored Sparrow. However, fortunately for me, Jon’s tours aren’t just limited to birds; his description noted that we would be birding “in prime insect and herptile (reptile and amphibian) country as well. During our previous tour(s), we have seen four species of Swallowtail, Monarch Butterfly, Viceroy, many species of dragonfly, and an excellent variety of herps, including Gray Ratsnake, Eastern Ribbonsnake, Five-lined Skink, Pickerel Frog, Red-backed Salamander, and so on.”

He had had tremendous luck finding most of these target birds on the same tour at the end of June, so I was excited at the chance to see some of these difficult-to-find species. I was also looking forward to adding some new species to my county lists for Lanark, Lennox/Addington, Frontenac, and Hastings.

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Lepidoptera Along the River

Coral Hairstreak

Coral Hairstreak

Even though we’ve reached the halfway point of the butterfly season, with many early species already gone for another year (including Henry’s Elfin and Juvenal Duskywing), mid-July is still a great time to see a wide diversity of butterflies and moths. I took Friday off work to do some birding and bug-hunting along the Ottawa River and was pleasantly surprised by the various species of lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) I found. Birds and dragonflies were also plentiful, but I took so many pictures that I will save them for another post!

I started the morning at Shirley’s Bay after dropping my fiance off at work. The trails east of the boat launch and the open fields near the Hilda Road feeders are a good spot to find different insects; I’ve seen Prince Baskettails, Halloween Pennants, Giant Swallowtails, and Banded Hairstreaks in this area, though my favourite six-legged discovery was actually a moth: the stunningly beautiful Scarlet-winged Lichen Moth (Hypoprepia miniata). It was probably too early in the season to see another one of these bright red moths, but I did find some other interesting and beautiful bugs.

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Among the Flowers

Acadian Hairstreak

Acadian Hairstreak

After getting lucky with the Banded Hairstreak on Friday I decided to try for another hairstreak butterfly in a different location nearby: the Acadian Hairstreak. In July 2014 I had found a small colony of these small, gray butterflies at the Bruce Pit and hoped to find them there again this year. It’s also a good spot for birds and dragonflies, so I decided to bring my net and spend some time there. As the “pit” itself has become overgrown with cattails, I decided not to walk down to the water, but to check the meadow above it instead. This turned out to be a wise decision as there were a number of tiny toads at the water’s edge and I didn’t want to accidentally step on any.

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Canada Day Breeding Birds and Butterflies

Gray Comma

Gray Comma

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.

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Dragon-hunting: Petrie Island Specialties

Blue Dasher

If you are a dragon-hunter in Ottawa, summer isn’t the same without a stop at Petrie Island in July. It is a great spot to see a number of species that are difficult to find elsewhere, so I try to get out there a couple of times each season. On July 6th Chris Lewis, Mike Tate and I visited Petrie Island together. The weather was not the greatest – the sun danced in and out of the clouds all morning, and it grew very hot and humid as the morning wore on. By the end of our two-and-a-half hours there, we were hot, sticky and uncomfortable and I only wanted to go home to my air-conditioned house. The intermittent overcast conditions meant that we didn’t see as many species as we would have liked, but we did manage to see several Petrie Island “specialties”. The birding was good, too, though we didn’t see anything really exciting. An Osprey was the best bird of the outing, though the usual House Wrens, Tree Swallows, Common Yellowthroats, American Redstarts, Eastern Kingbirds, and Great Crested Flycatchers were present.

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Summer Butterflies

Acadian Hairstreak

Acadian Hairstreak

It was sunny and warm this morning when I woke up, so I decided to head over to the Beaver Trail to see if any interesting butterflies were flying. The meadow there is a good spot for skippers, fritillaries and Common Wood Nymphs, and I’ve seen Monarchs nectaring there on the milkweeds and Viper’s Bugloss in the past. I also thought it would be a great idea to see what dragonflies were flying, in case there were emeralds flying there that I’d overlooked in the past.

When I arrived the first birds I heard were an Eastern Wood-pewee and a Broad-winged Hawk, which surprised me as I had just heard one at the Rideau Trail last weekend. I also heard a Red-shouldered Hawk’s whiny call, but the sound was coming from across the beaver pond and because of the distance I couldn’t tell if it was actually a Red-shouldered Hawk or a Blue Jay imitating it. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard either hawk here before.

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Jack Pine Trail Emeralds

Banded Hairstreak

Banded Hairstreak

It has been a while since I’ve spent any real time at Jack Pine Trail looking for odes, so when the weather promised to be warm and sunny on Sunday, June 29th I decided to take my net and see what was around. I recalled Chris Bruce mentioning a few years ago that he’d seen spiketails in Stony Swamp near the back of Jack Pine Trail and along the trail that emerges onto West Hunt Club Road; as there is a swift-moving, shady stream near the intersection of these two trails I thought it might be worth checking out.

It was a good day for birds. I heard a pair of Virginia Rails calling in the marsh, and Ovenbirds, Purple Finches, Eastern Wood-pewees, Red-eyed Vireos, and a Great Crested Flycatcher were all singing. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers were working in the same area, one on an upright tree trunk and one on a fallen log, and I heard two Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers calling to each other a little further along.

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