Mud Lake and Andrew Haydon Park are usually excellent places to find different species of dragons and damsels throughout the summer months. In both 2015 and 2019 I had a good number of species at Andrew Haydon Park in late July, and an OFNC dragonfly outing at Mud Lake on July 21, 2013 also netted some fantastic species. I was hoping for some similar luck on an ode-hunting trip on July 24th, but this time I found fewer species and fewer individuals overall. I am not sure why there seem to be so few dragonflies around good pond habitat these past two years (such as the Eagleson ponds), but the trend is concerning.
My first stop was the shoreline at Mud Lake where I hoped to find some large river clubtails perching on the rocks in the channel behind the filtration plant. When I arrived I was happy to find two dragonflies perching on the rocks right away, and managed only to photograph one before a couple of people came along and scared them both – while I’m certain one of them was a clubtail, the one I photographed turned out o be an Eastern Pondhawk. The clubtail did not return, although I saw a couple flying out over the water several times on my visit.
It’s been a good season for hard-to-find dragonflies at the Eagleson Ponds. Ever since I discovered both Eastern Amberwings and Saffron-winged Meadowhawks here in 2017 I’ve been spending more time here later in the day looking for odes, rather than doing a quick search for birds first thing in the morning before heading elsewhere. The Covid-19 pandemic has made that even easier for me, as I am still working from home and can get out at lunch time for a quick check when the temperature has warmed up enough for many odes to be flying.
Mid-summer seems to be the best time for seeing a variety of odes at the ponds. While I have seen a few early-season species here, such as the Taiga Bluet and Spiny Baskettail, most odes that breed here don’t emerge until later in the summer. I’m not sure if the late start to spring had anything to do with it, but up until the end of June I found very few dragonflies here – skimmers are usually abundant throughout the season, but on June 30th I recorded a single Dot-tailed Whiteface and a single Twelve-spotted Skimmer along with a couple of Common Green Darners and Prince Baskettails that refused to land. Even the Eastern Forktails seemed down in numbers.
Gatineau Park is a special place for dragonflies – many species of the National Capital Region can be found there that aren’t found on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, while others seem to be much more common there than in Ottawa. Chris Traynor has been exploring the park quite a bit these past couple of years, searching for dragonflies that breed in the quiet lakes, sluggish streams, and fast-flowing creeks of the Gatineau Hills. Not surprisingly, he has found a good number of species that have not been reported in Ottawa, such as Eastern Least Clubtail, Mustached Clubtail, Beaverpond and Harpoon Clubtails, and even a couple of snaketails. Many of these species prefer clear, swift-moving streams with rocky bottoms, which might be the reason for their absence in Ottawa; the Ontario side of the National Capital Region is relatively flat, with more marshes and slow-moving, mucky streams winding through suburbs and forest rather than down the foothills and escarpments which form the Canadian Shield. One of Chris’s best finds was a portion of Meech Creek where Zebra Clubtails and Fawn Darners are quite common, with the occasional Dragonhunter and Violet Dancer. I accompanied him twice to this magical spot, once during the August long weekend last year, and once again this year. As I never did get around to posting those photos last year (remember I mentioned I’d fallen behind?), I will incorporate both sets of photos in this post.
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.
Chris Lewis and I had such a great time dragon-hunting in Gatineau last weekend that on June 25th we decided to hit several spots west of Ottawa to search for several local and unique species. On our list of locations were the Quyon Ferry Dock near Fitzroy to look for big river species, Morris Island for clubtails and skimmers, and Pakenham, Blakeney and Almonte for Rapids Clubtail. Before heading out to the Quyon Ferry Dock we stopped in at the fields near Constance Bay to look for Upland Sandpipers. We got lucky and found four. Not only did we see a couple of them flying over the fields, giving their distinctive call, we found one standing right on the shoulder of the road! Unfortunately we caused it to flush before I could get a photo of this bird; I still have yet to photograph this speices. Indeed, this was the closest I’ve ever come to one of an Upland Sandpiper, which are difficult to find as they breed and feed in dry grasslands rather than muddy shorelines.
On the first day of June I brought my camera to work with me and headed over to Hurdman at lunch, hoping to find some interesting butterflies and odes to photograph. Hurdman can be a very “buggy” place, so I was sure to find something interesting; at that time I still hadn’t seen my first damselflies of the year, and Hurdman is a great spot to find Eastern Forktails, Elegant Spreadwings, Powdered Dancers, Stream Bluets and Rainbow Bluets during the month of June. However, with the closure of the transitway between Hurdman and Laurier stations, as well as the detours and increased traffic on Nicholas Street resulting from the sinkhole on Rideau Street, it now takes much longer to get there so I am no longer able to spend as much time there on my lunch hour as I would like. Getting around downtown has become and adventure, and timely bus schedules have become the first casualty of all the construction.
On Friday, June 26 I took the day off work to go dragon-hunting at Morris Island. First, however, I stopped in at the Deschenes Rapids parking lot at the end of Woodroffe Avenue to go searching for not one, but two rare birds. The Little Egret was back after having spent some time wandering along the Jock River near Manotick, the ponds along Eagleson Road, the pond near Palladium Drive in Kanata, and however many unknown places in between. The egret has finally found a spot to its liking along the Ottawa River, spending the past few days at the mouth of Pinecrest Creek on the east side of Mud Lake or along the shore of Andrew Haydon Park in the mornings before flying off to spend the day elsewhere. In the evenings, it has been seen flying in to roost on Conroy Island, presumably because it feels at home with the colony of Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons and Ring-billed Gulls that nest there. This pattern has become somewhat predictable, so that many people who missed it elsewhere have been able to see it.
Hurdman Park along the shore of the Rideau River is a great spot for birding, but is not one of my top destinations for ode-hunting. This is because species diversity is generally low, and most dragons and damsels found here can readily be found in other spots. The two species that make it worthwhile visiting after spring migration has ended are the Rainbow Bluet and the Cherry-faced Meadowhawk, both of which have colonies here that I discovered here several years ago and have seen every year since. It used to be a great spot for Springtime Darners early in the summer, though it has now been a few years since my last a confirmed sighting. This is the one species I truly miss, as Hurdman is the only spot I’ve ever seen these early-flying darners. The one other notable species that makes Hurdman visiting later in the summer, while the Cherry-faced Meadowhawks are still flying, is the Wandering Glider. I have seen these migratory dragonflies flying in small swarms with Common Green Darners in open areas in at least three different years, and hope to see them later this year when they become more common.
Yesterday I finally made the trip to the Morris Island Conservation Area on the Ottawa River. I’d been wanting to go for a while, but just hadn’t found the time. Morris Island is a great spot for dragonflies, and Murphy’s Point Provincial Park reminded me of it in some ways….many of the odonate species were the same, and the topography appeared similar. I left early on the holiday Monday to spend some time birding before it warmed up; it was a little cool when I left, only 17°C, and the sun was still low in the sky. I took the back roads there, and was rewarded by a Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a hay bale and two Indigo Buntings singing on the wires on the way.
My fiancé Doran and I spent a few days at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park towards the end of July. Neither of us had been there before; I had chosen it because it was only an hour’s drive from home, and contained a lot of southern species not typically (or easily) found in Ottawa such as Gray Ratsnakes, Yellow-throated Vireos, Cerulean Warblers, Golden-winged Warblers, Red-shouldered Hawks, and both cuckoos. I was also curious as to whether they had any southern odes or butterflies, and brought my net with the intention of finding out!