Over a century ago, hundreds of thousands of Trumpeter Swans ranged across North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific. However, because their skins and feathers were greatly valued by European settlers, the swans were hunted and harassed to the point where, in 1933, the North American population hovered briefly on the edge of extinction, with only 77 breeding swans in Canada and 50 in the United States. The last known Trumpeter Swan in Ontario was shot in 1886 by a hunter at Long Point on Lake Erie. Although the inclusion of the Trumpeter Swan in the Migratory Birds Convention of 1916 helped prevent the population from sliding into extinction by putting an end to the hunting of this species, it remained absent from Ontario for many decades.
After returning from southern Ontario I was eager to go birding and see if songbird migration had started yet. The Magnolia and Canada Warblers had whetted my appetite, so the day after my return I headed out to see what was around. A stop at Sarsaparilla Trail netted 23 species, including a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Gray Catbird calling at the edge of the marsh (it’s not often I observe these birds here), a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a Black-and-white Warbler right near the parking lot. There wasn’t much around the pond, though a Double-crested Cormorant flying over was a bit of a surprise….I’ve never seen one on the pond before.
From there I went to Mud Lake. I spent 3.5 hours there and doubled the number of species seen at Sarsparilla Trail. I was hoping to find some flycatchers, particularly the Yellow-bellied or Olive-sided Flycatchers, and parked at Rowatt Street so I could check the scrubby field west of the lake. There I found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and an Empidonax Flycatcher that flew off too fast for me to ID.
I left southern Ontario dark and early on Saturday, August 23rd. By 8:30 am I had made it to Brighton and decided to stretch my legs at Presqu’ile Provincial Park, a great spot to see shorebirds along Lake Ontario in the fall. It was cloudy but humid by the time I arrived at my first stop, Owen Point, and the mosquitoes were pretty nasty. I didn’t see much along the trail until I reached the last lookout, where I spotted an Empidonax flycatcher in the vegetation. It flew off before I could form any sort of impression of ID. A fellow birder kindly pointed out a couple of shorebirds at the tip of Owen Point and allowed me to spray up with his bug spray. I saw the Black-bellied Plover at the tip but couldn’t see the Ruddy Turnstone he had mentioned; at my feet, two Semipalmated Sandpipers and two Semipalmated Plovers were foraging along the water’s edge.
On Tuesday I left Dad’s trailer at Pinehurst and drove north to Kitchener, where my Mom and Step-Dad had been living since winter. I hadn’t been to their new apartment, and was interested in the birding opportunities nearby. Mom told me that there was a community trail within walking distance of their apartment, though she hadn’t been there before. We visited the trail on Wednesday, and enjoyed the walk alongside a shallow, swift-moving creek through a tangle of trees and shrubs. The riparian zone looked perfect for migrating songbirds, with lots of dense vegetation for them to find cover. There were also a few open places filled with wildflowers such as Spotted Jewelweed, goldenrod and Joe Pye Weed which looked great for butterflies and perhaps hummingbirds.
On August 16th I drove from Ottawa to southern Ontario to spend a week with my family: three days with my Dad in Cambridge and four days with my Mom in Kitchener. Both of my parents are nature lovers, so a lot of my time with them was spent outdoors.
It’s a been a really long time since I have spent any time in southern Ontario in late August, so I was eager to discover what kinds of interesting birds and bugs would be present. I didn’t see any new birds, but I did get one new butterfly and one new damselfly for my life list, and I saw two additional dragonflies that I’ve only seen once before.
I haven’t spent much time at Hurdman this past summer, but on August 7th I decided it was time to see if I could find the colony of Cherry-faced Meadowhawks that Chris Lewis, Mike Tate and I had observed during the August long weekend last year. I spent most of my lunch hour checking the feeder trail and the nearby field, and didn’t see any meadowhawks whatsoever. My best find of the day was actually a bird, a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker working on one of the tall trees at the beginning of the trail. Though I’ve been coming here regularly for four or five years now, this was the first time I’d seen one here. There were no other notable birds, though at least one Eastern Kingbird, two Gray Catbirds, a Yellow Warbler, and at least two American Redstarts were still present. Breeding season has come to an end; I didn’t hear any of the Warbling Vireos or Red-eyed Vireos that spend the summer here.
After leaving Andrew Haydon Park I headed over to the Old Quarry Trail to look for woodland species. I didn’t see any unusual birds, but as I walked through some sunny patches in the woods I began to notice several tiny spreadwing damselflies fluttering about the vegetation. As I wasn’t expecting to find any interesting odonates, I had left my net in the car. The further I walked, however, the more I saw and so I stopped to photograph them and identify them as best I could without a net. Most seemed to be Spotted Spreadwings, but there were a few Northern/Sweetflag Spreadwings among them, too. Without being able to examine them closely I couldn’t be certain which species they were.
After seeing three species of shorebird at Andrew Haydon Park last weekend, on August 9th I decided to spend some time looking for more. I planned to return to Andrew Haydon Park to check out the developing mudflats, but I also had a shorebird spot in my own neighbourhood that I wanted to visit first. After returning home from our camping trip to Murphy’s Point, I noticed that one of the stormwater management ponds in Emerald Meadows had been dredged and that there was construction equipment next to one of the large sewer pipes feeding into the pond. By Saturday, July 26th, the construction equipment was gone so I paid the area a visit. The pond had been reduced to a large expanse of mud with a wide channel of water running down the middle toward the pipe. I wasn’t surprised to see several mallards foraging in the water; however, the Green-winged Teal feeding in the muck with the mallards was a surprise. This was the 48th species I had seen in the storm water management pond area since I started keeping track a few years ago.
Although I haven’t been spending much time in my backyard this summer, I have spotted some interesting wildlife around. My flower garden this year seems to be a dismal failure at attracting butterflies or hummingbirds; most of the Cabbage Whites I observe keep flying over the yard rather than nectaring on any flowers, and the only other species I’ve seen lately were a Clouded Sulphur and a dark butterfly that might have been a White Admiral (I was looking out into the bright sunshine and couldn’t see it very well). Both of these were fly-overs, and spent no time investigating any of the flowers. I haven’t seen any odonates around since I noticed a female Common Whitetail in my neighbour’s front yard one day about a month ago while we were chatting.
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.