Friday, 20 July 2018

Bluet Surprise - Eastern Ontario

I was down in the Kingston area for the first part of this week doing some more insect surveys on various properties and had an unexpected odonate discovery.  While I was on one property that was altogether fairly boring, I decided to check a small drainage ditch that fed into a small wetland for damselflies.  I saw a few bluets, was able to capture one and then went about the process of identifying it (looking at its genetalia).  At first I thought it was a Familiar Bluet, but the appendages seemed to fit better with River Bluet, a species that is only known from a few locations in Ontario, mostly near the GTA and further west.  After looking at it the photos more closely at home, I was fairly convinced that it was indeed a River Bluet, and after posting it to iNaturalist, other folks concurred.

This species is designated as S2 (Imperiled) in Ontario.

River Bluet

The Red Bubble is my observation of River Bluet
This was a new species of odonate for me and just goes to show that there is interesting things to see even in the most boring of places!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Dragon Hunting in T-Bay

My real purpose for my Northern Ontario trip was to carry out dragonfly surveys in the Thunder Bay area.  We teamed up with Colin Jones and Mike Burrell from the NHIC and spent a solid 4 days of field work on several good rivers looking for Rapids Clubtail, a species recorded just across the border in Minnesota, but not as of yet in Northern Ontario.  Although we did not find the species on these rivers, we still found lots of other interesting species.  Below are a few of the interesting observations from our time in this wonderful area.  Due to low water levels, canoeing was all but impossible except in a few reaches of river.  The upside was that there were next to no biting insects, a very strange thing indeed for June in Northern Ontario.

The Arrow River was a beautiful, clear flowing, boulder-strewn river that was difficult to walk.

The Whitefish River seemed to have the most suitable habitat for Rapids Clubtail, and was also great for other riverine species such as snaketails and a few clubtails.

We paddled a short stretch of the Little Whitefish River.

The Pine River was very low and could barely be called a river in most spots south of Hwy 61.

The Pigeon River was also a really interesting river that forms the border between Ontario and Minnesota.  In the photo below, Canada is the rock on the right side of the water, the US is on the left.  It would have been easy to walk across in most spots, but we saw what happened to that jogger out west!

Horned Clubtail

Arctic Skipper

Riffle Snaketail

Rusty Snaketail

Mustached Clubtail

Macoun's Arctic

Twin-spotted Spiketail

Twin-spotted Spiketail

Swift River Cruiser

Swift River Cruiser
 This was quite the surprise.   Mike snagged this nightmarish Sea Lamprey in his insect net for a photo op.  This is a nasty invasive species that attacks native fish species.

Check out those teeth!  We didn't test it out to see if it liked human...

I will leave you with a nice photo of Lake Superior from Old Woman Bay.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Rainy River Specialties!

Ken and I made a quick detour to Rainy River prior to heading over to Thunder Bay.  Rainy River is located in northwestern Ontario, close to the Manitoba border.  This was my first trip to Rainy River and I was not disappointed! This area is really unique in Ontario in that it feels more like a western prairie province.  The area is very flat and dominated by agricultural lands, predominantly hay fields and pasture land.  Highlights included hundreds of Franklin's Gulls and American White Pelicans as well as nearly 100 Le Conte's Sparrows and Sedge Wrens! Black-billed Magpies also made an appearance as well as several Western Meadowlarks.  Our best bird in Rainy River was a Dickcissel.  We even swung by the Spruce Islands and bagged a few Connecticut Warblers!

Here are a few photos I snapped during our time out here.

I never get sick of seeing pelicans!

Franklin's Gull is a species that I have only seen in Ontario a few times, so seeing them in such abundance and in breeding plumage was great!

This Yellow-headed Blackbird flew right over our heads!

A young Brewer's Blackbird begs for food.

Western Meadowlark

Black-billed Magpie

This meadowlark was calling a pretty textbook Eastern Meadowlark song, and that is what we put it down as.

Sharp-tailed Grouse.

Ken heard this Dickcissel singing as we were driving along the road! A real treat to see and quite rare up here.

Sandhill Crane

Shoreline at Lake of the Woods.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Northern Ontario Adventures: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!

Ken and I had only been on the road for a few hours, on our way back from an awesome week in Northern Ontario doing dragonfly surveys, when we stumbled across the best find of the trip: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher! We had just passed Terrace Bay, along the shore of Lake Superior when Ken and I spotted a bird perched on the wires along Hwy 17.  As it got closer we both realized what we were looking at, and after a few expletives, screeched to a halt on the side of the highway.  We turned around and were afforded great looks at this wonderful bird, the first I have ever seen in Ontario! Mike, who was driving back in a separate vehicle just ahead of us missed the bird at first pass but we frantically called him and he came back and saw it too.

This bird has a wonderfully long tail that in flight splits apart like the blades on a scissor, hence, the name.  We enjoyed great views for approximately 15 minutes before it flew high across the highway and into a spruce tree before disappearing.

This is a very rare species in Ontario that typically breeds from Texas north to Nebraska in grasslands.  I sure didn't expect to see it on the side of a densely forested highway at the end of June in Northern Ontario! 

What a great capstone on an amazing week! I have lots more material from our stop in Rainy River to our dragon hunting on the rivers near Thunder Bay, so stay tuned!

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Eastern Ontario Dragonflies and More!

This past week I was down in the Kingston-Napanee area for work (if you can call it that!). I spent most of the week canoeing and wading down the Napanee and Salmon Rivers looking for rare dragonflies! These rivers are both beautiful, as you can see in these photos.

On Monday, my Dad and I surveyed an 8km stretch of the Napanee River from Yarker to Camden East.

Lancet Clubtail

Cyrano Darner
The Salmon River was my favourite of the two.  The stretch between Forest Mills and Kingsford is beautiful and secluded.

Horned Clubtail

Eastern Least Clubtail

Springtime Darner

Northern Watersnake swallowing a fish
Check out this video to get a sense of how amazing this area is!

On the way home I stopped on the Nith River to look for Rapids Clubtail, an Endangered species in Ontario.  I was lucky enough to find 15 males at a species that has had them in the past.

Rapids Clubtail

Rapids Clubtail

Rapids Clubtail habitat
Next Wednesday I head up to Thunder Bay with Ken to do more awesome dragonfly work!