In late July I got an invitation from the OFNC’s Conservation Committee to attend a small BioBlitz on the Quebec side of the river on August 28th. A BioBlitz is an intense survey that takes place within a short amount of time that attempts to record all the living species within a designated area. I’ve attended a few BioBlitzes before and generally enjoy them; it gives me the chance to see new places that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to access, and spend time with individuals with other areas of expertise during the survey. I am not a big fan of some of the newer types of BioBlitz which invites the public to come along and asks the experts to lead small groups during the survey – it seems to me that the purpose of these BioBlitzes is more to engage the public and introduce them to the types of flora and fauna that are present in familiar or well-known areas rather than to survey new areas for a particular purpose. I turned down the one opportunity I was given to attend one of these types, so perhaps I’m wrong about this.
When I woke up on Sunday, I knew it was going to be a good day as soon as I looked out the back window and saw a Blue-headed Vireo and a Black-throated Green Warbler in a neighbour’s tree. Both species were new for my (seen from the) yard list, but that’s not what made me so happy; it is the fact that these birds appearing in my wide-open neighbourhood with no real tree canopy could only mean that migration had finally resumed! If I was seeing these kinds of birds in my own neighbourhood, who knew what birds could be found in more migrant-friendly habitat! That morning I planned to attend Jakob Mueller’s OFNC outing to Sheila McKee Park along the Ottawa River. I had never been there, but I was guessing that if it was anything like Shirley’s Bay, I might see all kinds of birds!
On Saturday, June 21, 2014, a group of OFNC naturalists led by Robert Alvo and Jakob Mueller visited Opinicon Road and the lands around the Queens University Biological Station (“QUBS”) for a day of birding and herping in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. Although not even two hours away from Ottawa, this area is rich in fauna typically found in southern Ontario, and our goal was to see some of these species. Targets included Gray Ratsnake, Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Red-shouldered Hawk, Black-billed Cuckoo and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The drive down to Opinicon Road was uneventful, and our first stop of the day was a beaver pond just south of Chaffey’s Locks.
On June 14th I attended the OFNC outing to Gatineau Park led by Justin Peter and Carlos Barberry. I had attended the same outing last year, and had so enjoyed the birds, bugs and scenery that I was not hesitant to attend this one.
The weather was a bit cooler this year; it was only about 14°C when I arrived at parking lot P8 along Meech Lake Road at 7:00 am. The sun was shining, and a few dragonflies were already flying – this time I brought my net in order to catch and identify them. Even better, this time I remembered to bring my camera’s memory card!
After I left the Brant at Dick Bell Park I continued on to Shirley’s Bay. I spotted a pale bird gliding low over the field on the west side of Rifle Road and was thrilled to see a male Northern Harrier gracefully hunting for small mammals. I sometimes see these birds flying over the marshy spit on the bay; I think this was the first time I’d seen one flying over the nearby fields.
I parked at the boat launch, called to get permission to go out on the dyke, and then took the trail through the woods since the river was so high. Unlike the last time I had visited Shirley’s Bay, there were very few birds in the woods. I heard a couple of robins, saw a couple of chickadees, and had three Blue Jays fly over and that was it….there was nary a migrant to be seen.
Although the weatherman promised sun on Sunday, I woke up to a cool, cloudy and gusty morning, which meant the chances of seeing any butterflies were slim. When it looked as though the clouds were beginning to break up around mid-day I decided to head out anyways. Rick Cavasin had reported several interesting species at Marlborough Forest a few weeks ago, including Eastern Comma, Gray Comma, Green Comma, Mourning Cloak, and Compton Tortoiseshell. Although I usually don’t visit the Cedar Grove Nature Trail this early in the year, I wanted to see if any of these were still around.
It rained again the following day. I couldn’t stand to stay indoors for the full day so I took my umbrella and went to the Beaver Trail to look for wildflowers and more spring migrants.
There weren’t as many birds around as I had hoped. A couple of Common Yellowthroats and Swamp Sparrows were singing in the marsh, and I saw one White-throated Sparrow, perhaps five or six chickadees, one Red-breasted Nuthatch and one White-breasted Nuthatch on the trails.