June is one of my favourite months. Normally the weather is hot and sunny by the time the solstice rolls around, the birds are all in full song, and butterflies and dragonflies are emerging in woodlands, fields and wetlands. However, the weather this month has not been great. The rain from May continued on and off this month, keeping water levels of the rivers and ponds higher than normal, and likely delaying the emergence of many insects. The weekends have been nice, at least; I’ve been able to get out early in the day in order to look for new birds for my year list and any butterflies and dragonflies that may have emerged. While my enthusiasm has certainly declined since our amazing trip to Costa Rica, I’ve found myself regaining interest in visiting trails and conservation areas close to home, hoping to find some species I haven’t seen since the previous summer.
The day after my trip to the Bill Mason Center, I made plans with Chris Lewis and Chris Traynor to head out to the Cedar Grove Nature Trail in Marlborough Forest to look for odes around Roger’s Pond. I would be co-leading an OFNC outing there the following weekend with Jakob Mueller, a reptiles and amphibians guy, and wanted to get an idea of the dragonflies and damselflies that were flying. As we weren’t meeting at the parking lot there until 8:30, I headed out to Sarsaparilla Trail first, then the Rideau Trail for a quick look around.
On the first day of August I headed over to Jack Pine Trail. It’s been almost a month since I last visited this trail, and while I didn’t expect to see many dragonflies, I hoped the birding at least would be good. Fortunately, it was excellent – even in the middle of breeding season I tallied 24 species in about three hours. As soon as I got out of the car I heard a pair of Broad-winged Hawks calling from the woods across Moodie Drive. I wasn’t able to see them, but I recognized their clear, distinct two-note whistle. After seeing a pair at Trail 26 only two days ago, it made me wonder how many pairs were breeding in Stony Swamp. Could these be the same birds, or at least part of the same family? Or was there more than one breeding pair in this area?
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.
When Chris Lewis suggested a dragon-hunting excursion on Saturday, I was eager to go. We had to make the extremely difficult choice between Morris Island/Fitzroy Harbour and Gatineau Park, but as Chris Traynor had recently found all sorts of amazing odes at Gatineau Park (including Maine Snaketail, Riffle Snaketail, Mustached Clubtail, Dragonhunter, Horned Clubtail, Dusky Clubtail, Lancet Clubtail, Beaverpond Clubtail and Eastern Least Clubtail) earlier in the week, we decided that a morning in Quebec sounded much more appealing. I met her at her place, and with the assistance of Siri, we navigated the Gatineau Park road closures up to the Sugarbush Trail with none of the frustration I encountered the previous week.
On the first Saturday in June I made plans to meet Chris Traynor at the parking lot of the Sugarbush Trail in Gatineau Park to look for dragonflies. He has re-named this trail the “Clubtail Trail” due to the large number of clubtails that breed there, and I was eager to find some new species for my life list. Unfortunately our last visit there wasn’t terribly productive due to the overcast skies; the weather on Saturday was much nicer, sunny and warm even in the morning.
As we weren’t planning to meet until 9:00 am, I stopped by Sarsaparilla Trail first to check out the birds there. This turned out to be a fantastic idea as I heard a Least Bittern calling somewhere in the reeds to the north of the boardwalk and a Virginia Rail grunting somewhere on the south side. Other species included Brown Creeper, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, a couple of Tree Swallows, a Marsh Wren singing in the reeds at the end of the boardwalk (the same one from last year?), a couple of Yellow Warblers, a White-throated Sparrow, and two Purple Finches.
It’s hard to believe that it’s mid-summer now; July is over, August is here, and songbird migration is only a few weeks away. When it comes to insects, I’m not thinking as much about seeing the first species of the season as I am wondering whether each individual (except for the darners and meadowhawks) is my last of the season. There are some species I seem to have missed completely this year, such as Emerald Spreadwing (which has a flight season from mid-June to mid-August), Horned Clubtail (mid-May to early July), Stream Cruiser (late May to mid-July), and any of the hairstreak butterflies (the peak of their flight season occurs in the first half of July). This is the result of a combination of bad luck and bad weather; I missed most of these bugs when I went looking in places where I have seen them before, and when I wanted to return later, the cold, overcast and/or rainy weather on the weekends prevented me.
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.