Most naturalists who have heard of Terry Carisse Park along the Jock River associate it with birds – particularly the Hooded Warbler that spent a few days there in May 2014. As a rare bird for Ottawa, this discovery put this small riparian park on the map for many Ottawa birders. Other people may associate it with the Osprey nest there, although the Osprey haven’t nested there for a few years now. I myself have returned regularly to this park in the spring and fall to look for the Rusty Blackbirds that often stop over here during migration – in May 2021 I found at least 50 of these declining birds feeding on the lawn and perched in the trees that line the river bank. Because of the thick shoreline vegetation, the wooded swamp to the north, and the open grassy areas dotted with conifers it is a good place to look for birds during migration. I had never been here during the summer breeding season, and it occurred to me this summer that it might be a good spot to look for odonates. I started my summer ode survey on July 2, 2022, continuing through early August, and found more species than I expected – including some species I’ve only seen at Petrie Island or Morris Island Conservation Area!
A few weeks ago I first noticed a large black and yellow bug spending time at my “Victoria Blue” Salvia flowers. It would fly from the plant at one end of my garden bed to the plant at other end before flying over the fence to the neighbour’s yard. A few minutes later it would fly back over the fence into my yard, visit both plants, and then disappear again. It was so quick I wasn’t able to photograph it, but it had a habit of hovering in place, so I thought it was a large hover fly of some sort.
Then, last weekend, I noticed several of these large bugs, all following the same route over the neighbour’s fence into mine. For some reason I have thistles blooming in my backyard, and they were visiting both the thistles and the Salvia. It was an overcast day, so they weren’t moving as fast as they usually do. I grabbed my camera and went out to photograph them. To my surprise they weren’t hover flies, they were bees – European Wool Carder Bees – a new species for the yard!
In September 2016, I started a project on iNaturalist to document the non-avian species I’ve found at the Eagleson Road ponds just after the reconstruction that took place in 2015 and 2016 was completed. I was chiefly interested in the mammals and odonates (I use eBird, of course, for birds), largely in part because I wondered if the beaver would be back after its lodge was destroyed and if there were any Rainbow Bluets or Fragile Forktails left. Then, seeing the extensive wildflower plantings after the reconstruction, I began to wonder what species of butterflies might feed here. Since then I’ve started documenting all kinds of insects, turtles, plants and mammals that I can identify on my own, and even some that I can’t…one of the functions of iNaturalist is to connect experts and knowledgeable nature enthusiasts with those who aren’t as experienced in order to assist with identifications. I have hesitated to use the site for this purpose, because identifications are done entirely by volunteers, and (a) there is no guarantee that your species will be identified, particularly for lesser known or more difficult genera (for example, I have some photos of Red-blue Checkered Beetles from July 2016 that have yet to be confirmed); and (b) there is no guarantee that the observation will be identified correctly. Generally the more people who add their identification to an observation, the better; the main identification is decided by a two-thirds majority, and once it has received two or more confirmatory identifications it is considered “research grade” and can be used by scientists for their own projects.
During the August long weekend I visited the Eagleson storm water ponds a couple of times to check out the shorebird habitat – the southern pond is starting to dry up, leaving a huge swath of the smelly, muddy pond bottom exposed. The usual Spotted Sandpipers and Killdeer were present, but at least four Lesser Yellowlegs, one Greater Yellowlegs, and five Least Sandpipers had joined them. It’s still early in shorebird migration, so I expect the diversity will increase as the season progresses.
The number of herons hunting at the ponds has also increased lately, which is typical this time of year as the birds disperse from their breeding grounds to look for good feeding areas. At least two Great Blue Herons, two Great Egrets, and three Black-crowned Night Herons are around; I haven’t seen any Green Herons yet so far, but expect they will show up shortly. Because there are so many herons here, and because they perch and feed out in the open, they make excellent targets of study; I shouldn’t be surprised that they are starting to draw the attention of local photographers. I ran into one this weekend specifically to photograph the egrets and herons; doubtless there are others.
Although I went birding this morning, it was the bugs today that stole the show. The temperature reached an unseasonable 18°C, and with the sun shining brightly until about mid-afternoon, this was probably the last nice day of the year. We haven’t had any hard frosts yet, so a lot of insects were on the wing today. I overslept, so I skipped my usual walk at the storm water ponds and headed out to Old Quarry Trail around 9:00 to search for Black-backed Woodpeckers. I didn’t find any, although I was happy to find a Pileated Woodpecker and a couple of Fox Sparrows deep in the woods. This is one of my favourite sparrows, with its rusty red spots on its chest and red face and back.
I also found a singing male Purple Finch at the boardwalk and saw an accipiter fly over – it seemed small, so perhaps it was the same Sharp-shinned Hawk I saw last week. There were still several Golden-crowned Kinglets around, and I heard one or two Ruby-crowned Kinglets as well.
On Sunday of the Labour Day weekend Chris Lewis and I spent the morning and early afternoon looking for birds and bugs. We met at Mud Lake at 7:00 am to check out the warbler action, then headed over to Trail 10 once the day warmed up and the trails started becoming busy. Once we were finished there, we returned to Mud Lake to look for odes. It was a good morning with a lot of walking, and we saw a lot of different things.
Our first visit to Mud Lake lasted just over an hour. We started out at the ridge, where the sun was just hitting the highest branches of the trees. The warmth of the sun stirs the insects into activity, which then attracts all sorts of insectivores looking for food. We did see a good number of birds in the tree tops, including a couple of Nashville and Cape May Warblers, several Tennessee and Yellow-rumped Warblers, and at least three Eastern Phoebes. Warbling Vireos were still singing, and a couple of Red-eyed Vireos were foraging low enough in the trees to identify them without hearing their familiar song.
On the Friday before the Labour Day long weekend we got to leave work early. It was a beautiful day, so I decided to bring my birding gear and head out to Mud Lake after lunch. Migration is well under way now, and there’s no better place in the city to take it all in than Mud Lake – particularly since it’s one of the few places I can get by bus during the week. I knew I had plenty of time to wander around before my express bus to Kanata started running, so instead of going straight to Mud Lake, I took the 87 to the base of Woodroffe Avenue and walked across the parkway to the Deschenes Rapids lookout. Only four days ago I’d spotted an adult Bald Eagle perching in a tree above the small inlet here during my morning bus ride – an awesome bird for my bus list, and the main reason why I decided to start my afternoon adventure here.
In July I wrote a post called “Among the Flowers” after finding a fantastic number of insects – including bees, beetles, odes and butterflies – in the wildflower meadow at Bruce Pit. Seven weeks have passed since that visit, and when I returned for a visit yesterday, I had no choice but to follow up that post with this one. The flowers in bloom have changed since that early-July visit, but the insect diversity has not – despite the lateness of the season, there were a fantastic variety of bugs there lurking among the flowers.
I originally chose to visit Bruce Pit in the hope of seeing some darners there – I’d seen none at Mud Lake earlier that morning, and recalled that Chris Traynor had found some Variable Darners late in the season last year (September 18, 2015) along the hydro cut. My plan was to spend some time near the water looking for spreadwings and skimmers, then check out the hydro cut for darners. I didn’t find much around the water – there were lots of Lyre-tipped Spreadwings still present – so I headed up into the field just above the water.
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.
On Saturday, August 8th I spent my morning in the west end, heading out early (6:40 am) to the Richmond Lagoons before returning to the unnamed Stony Swamp trail on West Hunt Club Road. According to the official NCC map, this trail, which starts at parking lot no. P11, is designated as Trail #26. This is where I had the Black-billed Cuckoo on July 26th and found a good number of birds to add to the eBird checklist for this site. I wasn’t sure if I could repeat that feat, but it seemed worth a try.
The Richmond Lagoons were very rewarding, though difficult to navigate as the side trails had not been mowed in some time. Worse, the dreaded Wild Parsnip has invaded the area. I first noticed huge swathes of this plant along the side of Highway 417 just outside the city while driving back from Nova Scotia in mid-July. Since then I’ve noticed it growing in the ditch along Old Richmond Road and small patches at Mud Lake (right where Chris and I started our dragonfly walks a few years ago) and Trail #26. This plant has gained a bad reputation for its phototoxic properties – if get the sap on your skin and are then exposed to sunlight, it will burn you.