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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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Red-eared Sliders

Red-eared Slider

Red-eared Slider

I was happy to have the car during the last weekend of July, and I made the most of it. My first stop was the trail on West Hunt Club (P11) as I wanted to check out the pond there. Ottawa has been stuck in drought for a while now, and water levels have been dropping in all my favourite conservation areas. I thought the pond might be a good spot to look for shorebirds.

I had a really good walk there, seeing and hearing 28 species of birds. Highlights included a Double-crested Cormorant flying over (new for the trail) and two Broad-winged Hawks calling in the hydro cut area. Eventually I saw them both fly over and disappear into the woods on the north side of the clearing.

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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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Stony Swamp Odes

Frosted Whiteface

Frosted Whiteface

Although it’s my usual tradition to go to Petrie island for the Canada Day holiday, this year I returned to Jack Pine Trail with Mike, a fellow dragonfly enthusiast, to look for the emeralds and Arrowhead Spiketail I had seen there two days earlier. We met in the parking lot at 8:00, and already it was hot and sultry – the forecast called for thunderstorms later in the day, and we only had a few hours of sun before the clouds rolled in.

On our way to the back of the trail system we found a very brown Snowshoe Hare and two small toads in the middle of the path. The hare hopped away into the undergrowth before I could turn my camera on, but the toads were more cooperative. It seems to be a good year for them.

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The Anhinga Trail

Cooter sp. (Pseudemys sp.)

Cooter sp. (Pseudemys sp.)

After leaving the Visitor Center we headed to the Anhinga Trail because I’d heard it was a great spot for both birds and alligators, and because it was close by – the other trails I wanted to see, such as Eco Pond, were an hour’s drive away. As we drove through the park the landscape appeared very flat and grassy; we were only a few feet above sea level. There were some trees scattered about, but overall we didn’t see much wildlife, unless you counted the giant grasshoppers on the road, and the crows and Red-winged Blackbirds foraging along the shoulder – presumably feasting on the road-killed grasshoppers.

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Red Faces and Amber Wings

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

On the Friday before the August long weekend I spent half an hour of my lunch break at Hurdman. I would have stayed longer but several dark, threatening clouds began moving in and I got caught in a brief shower. I didn’t expect to see many migrant birds yet, but at least three Eastern Kingbirds were around, and when I started pishing in the woods two American Redstarts, two Red-eyed Vireos, a Gray Catbird, and a Yellow Warbler all popped into view. All of these guys will be leaving in another month or so, though some (such as the Yellow Warbler and Eastern Kingbirds) will be leaving sooner rather than later. There weren’t many butterflies around, but I saw an Eastern Tailed Blue along the path between the bus station and the bird feeders (all of which are empty in the summer) as well as a couple of Ambush Bugs. These tiny predators sit motionlessly in flowers such as Queen Anne’s Lace and wait for unsuspecting insects to land on the colourful flowers.

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Return to Petrie Island

Vesper Bluet

Vesper Bluet


On Sunday I returned to Petrie Island with Chris Traynor, a friend from the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club who has recently taken an interest in the odonata. He was so intrigued by the Vesper Bluet photos I posted on Facebook that he decided to try and find them for himself; I offered to meet him there as I wanted another chance to see them, as well as the Swamp Spreadwings and Unicorn Clubtail. I had also just gotten a new camera, the Sony Cybershot DSC-HX200V, that I wanted to try out. It has a 30x zoom and a few other bells and whistles I was hoping to play with.

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