Saturday 27 June 2015

Summer Insects

I was down in the Chatham area the other day and had the chance to net some interesting insects!  Of particular interest were the damselflies, the smaller more delicate relatives of the dragonflies. Despite their small size, damselflies have patterns and colours every bit as beautiful as the dragons, the details are just much smaller!  Probably the same reason I liked micro-machines when I was little.

The first interesting species I encountered was Rainbow Bluets.  I photographed this male and you can sure see why they have such a name!  Beautiful orange, green, blue and yellow colours across their bodies.

Rainbow Bluet - Male
Here is a female Rainbow Bluet, not as stunning as the male, but the subtle green colour is still nice!

Rainbow Bluet - Female
Mating Rainbow Bluets
I also found this female Blue-tipped Dancer, a species ranked as S3 in Ontario (vulnerable).
Blue-tipped Dancer
There were also some nice butterflies including the equally tiny hairstreaks such as these Acadian and Striped Hairstreaks!
Acadian Hairstreak
Striped Hairstreak
We also saw this Question Mark butterfly (yes that is actually it's name) named after the question mark shaped markings on the underside of the wing.

Question Mark
I also had some time for birding and added two new species to my Ontario year list including Acadian Flycatcher (shown below) and Dickcissel!  I have hit 240 for year birds in Ontario, 30 more to get to my goal of 270, I think that is still well within reach!

Acadian Flycatcher
 Acadian Flycatcher is an Endangered species in Ontario and is one of those Carolinian species that barely reaches the country.  I heard this one in Rondeau Provincial Park while driving, its distinctive "Peet-sah" call is like no other species.

Monday 22 June 2015

Northern Ontario Wildlife

I have returned from the Kapuskasing region after a 12 day trip for work.  Overall it was a great trip and I had time before, after and during work to see plenty of wildlife!  I was able to see several of the boreal bird species such as Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, Olive-sided Flycatcher and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.  I also found out that birding can be a dangerous sport as I broke my thumb by shutting the truck door on it while trying to keep it from slamming too loudly!  As always, I will let the photos do most of the talking.

The mighty Kapuskasing River

We were lucky enough to spot this cow Moose and her two calves on the edge of the river right near our campsite.  They watched us curiously until we got too close and mom ushered the calves into the woods.

Black Bear are incredibly common up in the Kapuskasing area. Evidence of them is everywhere and we saw 12 on this trip including a mother with 3 cubs!  We also saw a Gray Wolf run across the road in front of our truck but it was too fast to get a photo.

This one was out in the open but ran into the brush when we got out of the truck to snap some photos. I think he was annoyed that we made him have to wait so he could go back to munching grass in he meadow.

We saw lots of ducks on the river including Common Goldeneye such as this female and her puffball babies that would occasionally dive beneath the surface for a second or two at a time.

Olive-sided Flycatcher were fairly common in suitable habitat.  This bird brought my year total for Ontario to 238 species!  Note that distinctive "vest" which is a good field mark for this species.

Mornings bird watching before work were chilly at times.  This morning it was 3 degrees!  Hard to believe in June!

One of the target species of the trip, the globally rare Broad-tailed Shadowdragon.  This one had just emerged from its exuviae from the water.  This is the casing which held the final larval stage of this species as it transitioned from a water dwelling nymph to a airborne killing machine! This species feeds at dusk in areas of the river containing fast moving whitewater. 

Another great species, the Uhler's Sundragon.

At this time of the year, the river banks are blanketed in areas with larvae emerging.  This Boreal Snaketail is halfway out of its casing,  

Boreal Snaketail.  This one is still young and the markings are in the process of really showing up.

Mustached Clubtail were very common on the river.

Overall it was a great trip with some excellent wildlife viewing! If you can stand the biting insects, the north has a lot to offer at this time of year!  I have lots more photos which I may add at a later time.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Northern Odonata

Things have been slow from a natural history perspective on my end lately as the doldrums of summer settle in.  I will be going on a 12 day trip to Kapuskasing tomorrow to try to wrangle dragonflies for work, so unfortunately the blog posts will have to be put temporarily on hold.  I should have plenty of good photos to show when I return!

That is all for now!

Zebra Clubtail

Monday 1 June 2015

Huron Fringe Birding Festival

This weekend I went up to Macgregor Point Provincial Park to lead hikes for the Huron Fringe Birding Festival.  I had a great time and was able to get my group great views of Upland Sandpiper, Orchard Oriole, Golden-winged Warbler, Peregrine Falcon and many others!  I was supposed to shift the focus from birds to insects in the afternoon, but the weather didn't cooperate, with temperatures plummeting to 9 degrees by the afternoon with off and on rain.  In any case, we just continued to bird watch through the afternoon.

I went up to the area on Friday to scout the locations and also stopped at Sauble Beach to see the resident Piping Plovers that breed here. This species is Endangered in Ontario, and only breeds in a few locations.  We can now add Toronto Islands to the list of places, as a pair was discovered nesting there this past week, the first time this species has nested on Lake Ontario since 1934!

I snapped a few pictures of the Sauble Beach plovers and a few of the Golden-winged Warblers.

Piping Plover pair

Piping Plover habitat is beach habitat. Unfortunately for these little guys, people also love beaches!

Golden-winged Warbler

This is also prime turtle nesting season in Ontario, and I had both Painted and Snapping Turtles laying eggs on trails and roadsides.  Watch for these guys on roads and where possible help them across. Remember, they may have been around a lot longer than you, respect your elders! I saved two on the way up to the Huron Fringe.

Midland Painted Turtle
 Check out the algae on this Snapping Turtle's back!  You can also see some leaches on the back of her shell.
Snapping Turtle