The weather was fantastic all three days, and although most birders would agree that a cold north wind would have helped to bring in the migrants, I don’t think too many people complained about the hot, sunny 27°C afternoons.
In Search of the Boghaunter
Easter Reptiles and Amphibians
Petrie Island and Mer Bleue
We started off the morning at Mer Bleue. It was very warm and humid, and thick, dark clouds kept blocking out the sun. Although it constantly looked as though it might rain at any time, we were lucky that it held off until the afternoon, after our outing had ended.
Happy World Wetlands Day!
While most people know February 2nd as Groundhog Day, few people realize that it is also World Wetlands Day. World Wetlands Day originated in the Iranian city of Ramsar on February 2, 1971 with the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, an international treaty that promotes the conservation of wetlands and their resources. The first modern treaty designed to protect natural resources, 2,083 sites comprising 488 million acres of land have been designated as wetlands of international significance under the Ramsar Convention.
The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”. “Wetlands” is a term that is defined broadly by the treaty, and includes lakes, rivers, swamps, marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas, tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, as well as human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.
Mer Bleue Part II: Wildlife
Two unique butterflies and one rare dragonfly call the Mer Bleue bog home: the Brown Elfin, Balder’s Arctic (formerly known as Jutta Arctic) and the Ebony Boghaunter (formerly known as Fletcher’s Dragonfly). When I visited the bog a year ago I only found two of those species – the Brown Elfin and the Ebony Boghaunter. This time I spent a little more time on the southern section of the boardwalk, accompanied by the songs of the Lincoln’s Sparrows and Palm Warblers, both of which breed in the bog, as I rambled along. I saw a number of small moths flying amongst the vegetation, and every time one came close to me I got my hopes up that it was the small Brown Elfin butterfly. Then I saw two larger, darker butterflies battling together above the bog. They flew toward me, too busy pecking away at each other to notice me, coming close enough to touch. I didn’t get a good enough look at them to identify them before they drifted away.
Mer Bleue, Part I: Ecology
Sphagnum moss, also known as peat moss, forms the heart of the 3,500-hectare bog. This plant thrives in the cool, acidic, oxygen- and nutrient-poor conditions that characterize northern bogs. When it decomposes, it forms layer upon layer of dead organic matter (called peat), the bog substrate. Because the sphagnum moss tends to grow fastest in the center of the bog, the peat accumulates below and the water table rises. The high water table allows wetland plants to keep growing and for peat to accumulate, increasing the size of the dome over thousands of years. The Mer Bleue bog is about six metres thick in the center of the dome and has taken thousands of years to develop.
Petrie Island and Mer Bleue
The next day the clouds moved in. I drove east to Petrie Island in search of marsh birds and migrants. When I stopped by the marsh along the causeway, however, the water levels were still high. I didn’t hear or see any rails, bitterns or Marsh Wrens; there were a few mallards and Tree Swallows, a single Great Blue Heron and that was about it. A couple of Yellow Warblers were singing in the shrubs and a pair of Red-wings were mating on the ground. Then I noticed a dark bird flying over the water on the other side of the causeway; it was my first confirmed Black Tern in Ottawa! I watched its graceful flight for a while before it vanished over the marsh.
Mer Bleue on the First Day of Spring
Deb and I returned to the east end on Sunday. Now that the Canada Geese have arrived in massive flocks, we wanted to check out the traditional spring flooding areas along Milton and Frank Kenny Roads to see if we could come up with a Snow Goose, Killdeer or some puddle ducks among the flocks. We found the geese without any problem….there must have been over 5,000 at each spot along the Bear Brook floodplain! Despite spending a great deal of time scanning the flocks, however, the only other species we could come up with was Ring-billed Gull. We didn’t even see any mallards.
There were a few other birds of interest around, including a couple of flocks of Wild Turkeys, a single Horned Lark on Giroux Road, and a couple of Red-tailed Hawks at the same spot on Russell Road although on opposite sides of the road. We also had our first muskrat of the year swimming in a water-filled ditch on Milton Road and three deer on Giroux Road.